Keep Everything: Audio Hording

When magnetic tape was the only available medium, recording was a deliberate action, even within the realms of the experimental. Hard drives may be finite devices, but even at high resolution, terabytes of storage can allow the user to feel otherwise. Years ago I would have a stack of DAT tapes ready to pop in and leave running throughout sessions to capture the action on the mixbuss in case of a missed gem, however compromised its quality. In writing this I’m wondering whether I ought to dust off the old DAT beast and reinstate this system.

What brought this to mind is a recent editing session for the Ghost Smoke album. Funnily enough the ‘magic’ was caught on tape, which I then transferred to digital when the chance arose. The end sectiIMG_5746on of the songĀ Redrum has a multi layered vocal that I felt needed some brash distortion, and having dismissed a selection of distortion/fuzz pedals I settled on a LEM Baby (Univox) solid state mixer which does a fine line in ear-torturing distortion. It also has a tape echo attached, but this was left off for the mix and substituted by a delay pedal at the input (an Electro-Harmonic Memory Boy). The vocal parts needed editing so, spotting an opportunity for sonic oddities, I left the tape echo running and removed the erase head that normally wipes the tape loop ready for a fresh echo round. IMG_5768The LEM Baby tape loop is very long, taking around a minute to repeat. The editing lasted a good few minutes, leaving the tape saturated in the massed vocals, devoid of any synchronous aspect. On top of this, the tape loop is knackered and the moving parts in need of lubrication, which causes hideous slurring (traditionally called ‘wow and flutter’).

Once I’d finished editing I listened back to the tape and found a slurred, blurred and fuzzy mash of vocals, well worth capturing for some other purpose. In fact it quickly became obvious this would become a useful textural enhancement within the song. Boom! Very little effort and a whole new, somewhat creepy, mix element. With a dash of filtering and reverb, here is the tape loop noise in question…