Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Near Femme Sound Experiment: Weird Is Easy, Interesting Is Hard

Back in February I conducted a recording experiment, a sort of improvisation exercise. I set out to record a neo-psychedelic, experimental noise-pop song (that shit was all the rage, son), but only by using limited means.

Why the limited means, you ask? For purely selfish and shallow reasons, of course!

Rationale aside, I set up some strict rules for what was to become the recording:
1. It had to be constructed one track at a time, with no regard to what was to be recorded later.
2. My Korg MS2000 synthesizer and my voice had to be the only instruments used.
3. Every performance had to be improvised.
4. All recorded tracks had to be first takes, no do-overs.
5. No more than 8-tracks were to be used for the recording.
6. A mixer, an audio interface, and any effect within the digital audio workstation were fair game.
7. The recording had to be finished in one night.
Now, the disclaimer:

While I have been playing guitar since I was about 14 years old, I don't consider myself a musician, I'm certainly not well-versed with a keyboard, I cannot sing to save my life, and I am a crummy audio engineer. However, I am capable of faking nearly all of these things. Fake it 'til you make it, I always say.

So without further justifications, here's the finished product, nearly three hours' work. Turn it up in your headphones, this baby is barely mastered and there's a lot of stuff going on below the surface:

<a href="http://nearfemme.bandcamp.com/track/the-laissez-faire-twist">The Laissez-Faire Twist by Near Femme</a>

So, what did I learn from this exercise?
1. Restrictions aren't a bad thing, especially when they're self-imposed.
2. When you can't make lyrics up on the go, just make unintelligible sounds (aka The Sigur Rós method)
3. Cool sounding synths cover up poor musicianship, but only to a certain extent.
4. The manner or process in which music is made is inconsequential to the final product.
5. Faking it is easy, making it interesting is not.
Am I happy with the finished product?

Sure, it met my expectations. And I'm actually quite pleased with the last 30 seconds or so of the recording, it turned out way more melodic than I could have predicted. It definitely created enough jumping-off points from which a song could be constructed. Consider it a rough draft, or demo.

Will this get me an opening spot for Animal Collective, or a "Best New Music" tag on Pitchfork?

Maybe, but only if I was 10 years younger and shared a Williamsburg apartment with the Hipster Grifter. But even then, probably not.

Did I actually learn anything?

Not really, but it was fun and I'd do it again. You should do it too.

If you're a glutton for punishment and you'd like to download this recording in a variety of formats, you can do so here.

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