Musical safari into uncharted territory Jun 23 by J.I. Agnew in Producer's Notes, Recording Reports

CHASING BONE Direct-to-Master Session

CHASING BONE and the Direct-to-Master recording concept turned out to be highly compatible. A trio of young, creative musicians, who travelled from Paris, France, to a tiny village in the north of Greece in search of the analog sound, a vacuum tube mixing console, and a 1⁄4″ tape machine joined forces to capture the moment in the most honest way.

It didn’t take long for the magic to happen. Panos, Giannis, and Felix knew what they were doing, and they were doing it quite eloquently. The sound was already 99% of the way there, in the room. I used very few microphones, and no equalisers. Some vacuum tube microphone preamplifiers, the signals mixed on a vacuum tube mixing console and a light touch of a vacuum tube compressor to complete the picture. The mixing and adjusting was done on the fly, while the band was performing. The result was captured directly on the stereo master tape, with four out of five pieces done in one take, and two takes of ‘Flying Bottles’ to choose from for the final release. The master tape was reproduced for direct conversion to DSD for this release.

When I first talked to the band, some months prior to the recording, I was expecting some sort of jazz music. What was captured, however, far exceeds any limits of musical categorisation, incorporating elements from a huge variety of styles, scenes, and time periods, performed with an air of confidence betraying enviable levels of virtuosity, in exactly the right dosage. There might even be some jazz in there… Wait, stoner rock! No, hardcore punk! Ambient? Have I heard this before in a film? A documentary film about cuban music? Did someone just scream? How many instruments are there in there? A rewarding musical safari into uncharted territory awaits ahead for those of you able to survive the intro : A humbling reminder that nothing good comes easy!

What’s the matter? Afraid you might hear something? You most certainly will! ‘State of the Underdog’ is guaranteed to provide you with what I could only describe as a ‘near- life experience’.

Artist Note

CHASING BONE, is an instrumental trio based in Paris, France, consisting of two expatriate Greek musicians along with a French bass player. Guitarist/composer Panos Anastasiadis, drummer Giannis Grematas and bassist Felix Masson went through various musical experiences in Greece, Sweden, Germany and France. With this power trio they are developing their own brand of post-no-wave guitar textures with a fierce and colourful rhythm section. CHASING BONE blends heartfelt melodies, free noise improvisation, dark ambient and craftily built compositions.

They have been performing in alternative venues and renowned jazz clubs around Paris such as Sunset and Instants Chavirés. In April 2017, they recorded their debut album titled “State of the Underdog” at Magnetic Fidelity studio. Following the vinyl record release in the fall of 2017, they plan on touring Southern France, Italy and Greece.

Panos Anastasiadis: “With this record, we had the chance for the first time, to listen to ourselves close to what we had in mind…

For a band who wants to have a live recording, which is not digital, not cut, not looped, which is not on a computer, that is there, with the band playing all together, Jesus was the guy. He does not interfere at all like other sound engineers would do in the digital world. He just launches the recording, he mixes live with us, after that he can’t do anything. He knows the needs of the musicians and of each band he’s working with. That’s why he left us warming up for two days before starting the recording process, mainly I think to get the feeling of what we do. The first day was just about setting up the recording room; the second day, we did the balances with more precision between each instrument; the next day in the morning for half an hour we did some tests with the tapes, we finally put a bit of a compressor because otherwise our dynamic range was bigger than expected and would not sound as tight as we had in mind. Side A was recorded in one take. Then we did a couple of takes for side B and it was ready: two-three hours…

When you make a digital recording, you need to spend a lot of time for mixing, pre-mastering… And I hate that ! I think it’s quite opposed to the nature of improvised music. So we went to Jesus’s Magnetic Fidelity studio actually because I knew that it would take us a maximum three days to make a record, and it would be there at the moment, not spending weeks afterwards listening to it and getting bored of it…

My favourite tune on the record is ‘Flying Bottles’… There are some free parts in there which change every time and I think that we were able to capture a good one for the record. In that part which lasts like five-six minutes, where we all improvise together in a free context, there are many influences, from classical music and Messiaen’s inspiration by birds, to no-wave of the 70’s in New York, to college rock music…

Mistakes are what make music beautiful and humane. When you write, compose the music, and then go to the studio, you need the people around you to tell you when to stop, because otherwise it’s quite difficult to leave the mistakes in there… Because you are too much into it and you have a very specific idea about many parts, how they’re supposed to sound, technically and in terms of sound. Two days before we got into the studio, I told Felix to stop me in case I was going into that direction… If we do three takes and there is a good one, to avoid the process of searching for perfection… So I know exactly in which parts of which tune there are mistakes, even in terms of tempo or sounds that should not be there, some improvised solos that have weird parts which we did not intend to be there… But we keep them because it’s honestly what happened at a very specific moment.

We rehearse a lot, in the past we’ve spent a week in the countryside, where we rehearsed like twelve hours every day. When you go through such intense situations for two-three days… Everytime we do something like that, I know that something changes between me and the guys… We really work, they’re really into what we’re doing, so the level becomes higher immediately. When you have rehearsal once a week in Paris, where each one comes from his place, just plays for two hours and then go back, it can’t be the same… When you stay at the same house, the same garden, and wake up every morning and work together for eight hours, it’s not shallow, it becomes deep…

The point of the cover is not to describe the music, because for me image and music are two different things that can go together, but you can never fully describe music through visual art. We chose this one because it’s a painting, it’s not just a picture, and although it does not describe the music, it reflects the title of the album, ‘State of the Underdog’… It’s made of concrete, it gives an urban feeling, depression, isolation, something harsh, primitive, and it’s grey, it can be a prison cell… ‘State of the Underdog’, it is the state of the outsider. And Chasing Bone is about chasing
nothing… It’s the cover that we needed for this record, not very optimistic, but I think you pay attention to it.

I don’t really care about commercial success, we just want people to listen to this album. Even if they do not like the music, I would like them to give it a chance. I want them to really listen to it, not in their car, on an airplane or a train, not while cooking or washing the dishes… They must listen to the music not through the speakers or headphones of a laptop, but through a decent sound system. Half of it is the recording process and then it’s how you listen to it and in which context. I don’t think it’s a record than can be played at a club, it’s a personal thing that you need to listen to carefully to get what it has to say… if it has something to say…» (Thessaloniki, April 2017)

J.I. Agnew

J. I. Agnew is an Analog Mastering/Disk Cutting Engineer at Magnetic Fidelity. He also works as an Analog Audio Electronics Designer at Magnetovolt. He studied Audio Engineering and Music Technology, received an MA in Sonic Arts and Media Production, and went onto PhD-level research in Analog Synthesis Systems.
Jesus spent a decade as an internationally touring musician and also taught various Audio Engineering Subjects in academic environments and conferences. He has extensive work experience in recording, mastering and media production facilities and is a member of the Audio Engineering Society.

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