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home of Nick Maldini – producer/arranger/writer/musician

The Purgatory Players – “Deserts” ALBUM MIXING

 

 

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The Purgatory Players – Deserts

 

http://open.spotify.com/album/5KfHTHjlmqDtKr1ICoKl1m

Recommended listening:

Fear Him Through The Metals
The Waltz and The Pivot
Eulogy For All Saints

The Album

I spent a chunk of August 2012 mixing the début album by The Purgatory Players.  The band consists of drums, bass/double bass, guitar, piano, viola, harmonium, and are headed up by lead signer/writer Robert George Saull. In Deserts, they have created a stunning piece of work, where song craft takes centre stage.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Robert a few times over the past couple of years and it’s been really interesting watching his song-writing develop.  He has a distinctive sound, a great ear for melody and quite a way with words.  When it’s at it’s best (check out “Fear Him Through The Metals” and “The Mountain Relit”) it really is very special indeed.  The songs veer from intimate guitar and voice numbers, to massive bells-choirs-pianos-organs-trumpets sections, and everything in between.  One of the most beautiful moments on the whole album is closing track Eulogy For All Saints.  It features a choir and Robert and that’s it.  He delivered a haunting lead vocal which provides the perfect end to the album.

When the band approached me earlier in the year, the album was pretty much all recorded. The recordings need a fair bit of tidying up in terms of timing and bits of tuning (the band’s ex-drummer Andrew Hirst did an awesome job with a big chunk of this editing) and the some of the individual tracks needed cleaning up – because everything was tracked in a bedroom studio, there was quite a bit of noise on everything – especially the guitars.

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The Purgartory Players – LLEW (VIOLA/KEYS) NEIL (BASS), ROBERT (GUITAR/VOCAL), JULIE (TRUMPET), JAMES (THE NEW DRUMMER)

 

Tracking the Choir

The band also wanted to do a bit more tracking. Robert wanted to redo a couple of vocals, and add some guitar, and he also wanted a choir on a couple of the tracks.  With Robert’s guidance, I arranged the parts and enlisted the help of some choral friends of mine and about 8 of us tracked three songs in one very very warm session in early august.

Pre-Mix

Before I started mixing, the band gave me free-reign to add and take away what I wanted from the arrangements.

In practise, this meant adding all sorts of organs and strings woodwind and percussion to many parts of many tracks.  I added crash cymbals to pretty much every track as Andy only used a crash/ride and hi-hat setup which left some of the bigger moments in the tracks wanting.  I did a fair amount of fiddling with arrangements too (taking away a guitar here, distorting a bass there, shortening a middle eight over here again) to make the songs’ sonic progressions as tight and arresting as possible.

Mixing

I spent about a day on each track, and then a few hours doing tweaks.  A lot of the tidying up of audio (getting rid of hiss on the guitars, cleaning up the vocal track to get rid of headphone bleed, seperating the stereo recorded double bass to mono files to sort out phasing issues) happened as I went along.

The drums sounded ok on the whole.  The best thing about them was the performance.  Andy is a great player – full of invention and energy and very musical in his approach and performance.  The sound wasn’t as full bodied as was required and the snare wasn’t quite the right sound for a lot of the tracks so I ended up triggering snare samples and kick samples on most of the tracks, just to give it a bit of extra power where it was needed.

I mentioned breifly that the double bass was delivered to me in stereo.  I think it was miced from the rear and the front and then these mics were panned right and left.  It sounded strange in stereo, and when I summed them to mono, there were some serious phase issues.  I ended up seperating out the stereo file into two separate tracks and using just the front one.

The guitars were noisey – in terms of hiss – and needed work to beef them up.  There was only one guitar on each track (Robert is the only guitarist in the group), and this made the tracks sound a bit emaciated.  It was crying out for some double tracking to give the guitars some power, so I did some clever editing – layering guitars from different choruses over the top of one another to make it sound as though they were recorded in different takes, etc.

Trumpet.  The trumpets were tracked by the inimitable Alan Smyth at 2Fly in Sheffield and arrived sounding lovely.

Robert has a very distinctive delivery and his vocal sounded great.  He has a great range of delivery – from whispered to screeched. It did a lot of subtle distortion and warming on them.  The reverb was generally just a nice sounding plate, and I’d add a bit of delay here and there as well – automated to ebb and flow with the song.

Samples.  The band were keen to use a few samples.  Bassist Neil Heppleston put together some amazing sounds for The Waltz And The Pivot (reminiscent of Tomorrow Never Knows, by The Beatles) to which I added some reversed vocals and deep sub bass washy bits.  Robert had found this amazing recording of an Imam calling the faithful to prayer in Istanbul.  We used it one two tracks, Ibrahim, Yet Eternity and How We Grew Up.  The recording was incredible but was in the wrong key.  Luckily, all it took was a semi-tone nudge upwards and it slotted in beautifully to both songs.  Boom.  My favourite sample is probably the owl at the start of White Mirrors. Oh yes.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, I didn’t really mean to write this much, and I meant it to be far more technical.  Next time, I’ll probably include screenshots of the projects I’m working through to give a bit more insight into proceedings.

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Screaming Maldini in The Guardian

My group, Screaming Maldini, were today featured in the Guardian’s New Band Up North blog.  The article can be viewed by clicking here.  I make a fairly wild assertion about ABBA, but I’m sticking to it!

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This promo shot was taken at Surprise View, just outside Sheffield in the Peak District. We don’t look too bad considering it was 8am on a sunday morning and freezing cold

Featured on there is our current single, “Summer, Somewhere” which was written and produced by me at Sounds Like Screaming.  We released it on October 18th and it’s picked up some radio play from 6Music and XFM.

Also featured in the article is an a capella flashmob version of the track.  It wasn’t strickly a capella as it featured two guitars, a trumpet and a flute as well.  I arranged the parts and got the singers together – we’re really lucky to know some of the absolute best singers in the city, and they were generous enough to lend us their skills for an afternoon!  Here it is…

Jim Ghedi and Neal Heppleston – ALBUM RECORDING

PRODUCER: Nick Maldini, Jim Ghedi and Neal Heppleston
ENGINEER: Nick Maldini

New Album!

Just a quick one about a project that I started very recently.  I’ll be recording and mixing the debut album of Sheffield folk-savants Jim and Neal.  It’s going to be one hell of a project.  Their basic line up is acoustic guitar and double bass.  However, Jim and Neal are really keen to make the album as expansive and experimental as possible.  We’ll therefore be using a whole host of extra musicians – from strings to brass to singers to drummers – to bring the music to life.  Can’t wait to get it rolling.

Tracks will feature huge orchestral 15 minute epics, intimate double bass solos, and everything in between!

TRACKING:

We have just begun tracking, and are laying down some acoustic guitar which will form the foundation of the album.  Then we’ll build from there.

Laying down some acoustic guitar with Jim

SOUNDS:

I produced their debut EP earlier in the year.  This is a track from it called Mist On The Morning.

Recording Albion

The Albion Christmas Disc

PRODUCER: Stewart Campbell and Nick Maldini
ENGINEER:  Nick Maldini, Assisted by Mike Hukins
EDITED AND MIXED: Nick Maldini
TRACKS: The Truth From Above, 
        Salutation Carol, 
        Away in a Manger, 
        The Angel Gabriel, 
        Advent Antiphons,
        Sussex Carol

ALBION‘s musical director, Fraser Wilson, approached me a few months ago to engineer a disc of christmas music for the choir.  The disc features new arrangements of some traditional Christmas pieces.  Fraser is a very gifted director and arranger (he arranged all of the music on the record) and the choir are very very good (comprising some of the best singers in Sheffield who are largely drawn from the Cathedral and the University) so I didn’t hesitate.  I suggested Stewart Campbell to help produce the album.  Stewart singas with me at Sheffield Cathedral and is a stunning musician with a great ear so was an obvious choice.  Mike Hukins – a post-grad at Sheffield University – helped engineer the sessions.  He’s a whiz with Cubase and was invaluable to have around. Adrian Moore from the university’s Music Department very kindly lent us some microphones for the project.

The Sessions:

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Tired but satisfied after the second evening session at Millhouses.  Mike Hukins and me are crouching in the centre.  Stewart Campbell is far right.

We recorded over two 3-hour evening sessions at Holy Trinity, Millhouses in Sheffield using five close mics (AKG C414s) picking up two singers each, two Neumann 184’s as a stereo pair about 15 feet back from the choir, and a further stereo pair (two Rode NT1s) about 40 feet away.  This final pair picked up the glorious acoustic of the church, and bought the recordings to life when mixed in subtely underneath everything else.

A Second session evening took place the following week at St Matthew’s Carver Street.  During this session we tracked two soloists (Jennifer Atkinson and Jessica Brown).  We only had 2 inputs to play with on the laptop, so we place an NT1 as a close mic (about 3 feet away from the singer) and another NT1 about 30 feet away to pick up some of the acoustic.The church had a very different (and far less pleasing) acoustic, a fairly busy road outside, and a loud group meeting going on in the hall.  This meant that we couldn’t really use the room mic at all, and nearly every take was interrupted in some way or another.  a far cry from the peaceful surroundings of Millhouses.  The differing acoustic presented a few problems on mix down, and I had to custom build a reverb patch to match that of the church in Millhouses.  The results were fairly successful though.

A third session took place in the Holy Spirit Chapel of Sheffield Cathedral during which we recorded 30 singers from Malin Bridge Primary School.  They sang the first verse of Away In A Manger.  We later edited this together with Albion’s version of the track.  It will form part of a special edition of the CD.  We used one stereo pair of NT1s positioned about 10 feet away from the singers.  This captured a good mix of

Editing:

We edited all the tracks in one five hour session.  Most of the singing was great – it was just a case of finding the absolute best bits and fitting it all together. Getting edits to sound invisible in a choir recording is always challenging – just because of the nature of the sound – and it was made more so on this project because we used so many microphones and because the acoustic was sizeable.  The end results were great though.

Stewart and me, mid-session. Using Cubase to edit takes together

Mixing:

Myself, Stewart and Fraser tackled the mixing in one session.  The focus was getting a pleasing balance between the close mics and the room mics, and also trying to subtly enhance the already very good dynamic contrasts in the singing.  The mics sounded amazing and we wanted a really natural sound so I did very little with EQ.  Just rolled off the very low end on the room mics to get rid of the odd road rumble and the somewhat noisy central heating.

Stewart Campbell, Fraser Wilson and me at Sounds Like Screaming having just completed mixing.

Albion:

ALBION sings the musics of “these islands” – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales… The choir draws its inspiration from music and words ancient and modern, and from a deep connection to the land and its peoples.

Working without a conductor and singing largely from memory, the choir strives to create a natural, beautiful sound that springs from a place deep within.

The music is drawn from these islands’ rich traditions of folksong, plainchant, madrigals, and partsongs, and from a literary heritage that spans a millennium and covers Burns, Blake, Chaucer, Traherne, and Owen. Albion’s repertoire is composed and arranged by Fraser Wilson.

In their unique performance style, the singers aim to communicate directly and sincerely with an audience, sharing in a unique and moving experience of beautiful, timeless music.

The Beginning

Salut.

I’m Nick Maldini.  I’m a producer and a songwriter and a singer and I play instruments.   I’m currently building a studio and this will be it’s online home in the very near future.

If you click on the links above, they say some words about me.

I’ve labelled them so it’s dead user-friendly and that.

If you want to know about me, you click ABOUT. If you want to contact me, you click CONTACT*.  If you want to see the people that I’ve worked with in the past, and somewhat of a discography, just click on CLIENTS. And all that.

NM

*Although that link is quite misleading: ideally, clicking CONTACT would take you straight to my actual face right now in the present so that you can speak to me directly, in the face.  But it doesn’t.  It takes you to my email address and then you have to write a bloody email before you can even think about getting anywhere near my face.  Sorry about that.  What I will do though is promise to read the email, and, if we like each other, we’ll definitely have a meeting of faces and it will be glorious.