Peaking Goddess Collective - Recording Sessions May 2011
Over the last few years I'd bumped in Ajja several times on the road in Brazil, The U.S and Switzerland as we seemed to be getting booked at the same festivals.
In particular we'd met twice at Universo Paralello in Brazil. UP is a festival which runs on Brazilian time - which means there's a lot of time for stringing a hammock between two coconut palms, hanging out and chatting to other artists (which is one of the nicest aspects of UP for me).
I'd previously met and hung out with Dan (a.k.a Dymons)and Pearce (a.k.a. Flooting Grooves) on the road, backstage at gigs when we'd been booked to play the same parties and at the last Universo Paralello I attended I finally met Moreno (a.k.a Master Margherita) who together with Dan, Pearce and Ajja comprise the Peaking Goddess Collective.
At that UP we'd actually planned for me to join them onstage as a guest during their set.
This was to be after my guesting on guitar onstage with OOOD in their set. Alas it wasn't to be. Between finishing a fun and funky set with the OOOD boys and beginning with PGC I keeled over, and had to be dispatched to the medical tent for treatment for a rare and interesting tropical pathogen that I'd picked up via a food stall onsite - but let's not go there - the long and the short of it is that the PGC boys invited me to guest on the recording sessions for the new album by The Peaking Goddess Collective .
Rather than the approach they'd used on the previous album which was creating the ideas and sending the tracks around by ftp for various members to add ideas to, the guys wanted to try a different approach for the new album and to somehow include the spontaneity, improvisation and interactivity that you only really get when creating music live.
The vibe during the sessions was good humoured and fun and as a consequence we managed to create and record a whole lot more music than just the original goal - which was to record live instrumental performances against the previously created basic tracks for the new PGC album. Some of the extra tracks that started out as jams will be released seperately.
As mentioned the sessions were for originally for the new Peaking Goddess Collective album which I suppose could be described as Trance at "progressive" tempos.
We took three passes at each of the backing tracks for the new PGC album, taking a quite radically different approach for each take, each with a different vibe (melodic, textural/trippy and cinematic). This gives us options for sounding out the best vibe for each of the track and gives plenty of options for different or alternative mixes.
We also recorded quite a lot of spontaneous ambient/psychedelic and dub pieces. Also some funk and other stuff. It was a very creative session with a huge amount of musical ideas continuously flowing out. We've booked another studio session later in July to further explore some music that we didn't have time to record.
Here's an example of some of the weirder sonic territory we explored during the sessions. I guess it could be described as
And something a bit more straight ahead; the band jamming in a late 70's cop TV show vibe...
How the session were set up is that each instrument was fed into a mixer and recorded onto it's own stereo track in Logic on a Macbook pro with two MOTU Ultralite audio interfaces attached.
Given that the bass was sequenced on many of the tracks, Moreno was available to work the mixer, having each instrument source seperately available to send to his array of effects which were:
1. Kaoss pad and
2. Ableton on a laptop set up as a effects processor with a Korg NanoKontrol providing real time control via midi.
I also had my guitar signal going through my laptop using Ableton as a FX processor also using a NanoKontrol)
Moreno's dub delay and FX performance output was also recorded onto it's own track in Logic.
Drums were recorded to audio using the Roland's internal drum sounds as well as midi. This gave us the option to use the recorded drums in the mixdowns or remap the midi drums to a quality drum kit VSTi such as Addictive Drums which handily has a drum map available for the Roland drum kit we were using, which saves a huge amount time and lot of work
The main roles of the personnel were:
Moreno - bass guitar, desk and dub FX tweakery
Dan - Roland midi drum kit and an extraordinary array of weird ethnic percussion pieces
Ajja - electric guitar, FX, technical whiz and high level computer boffinry
Pearce - flute, vocals
Billy - electric guitar and FX
Though as everyone plays multiple instruments the roles shifted. For example Dan played guitar and bass on some jams, Pearce played percussion, I played bass on a couple of tracks etc...
Using different computers with different DAW's, how did you keep everything in time?
Well first, all the instruments were recorded live into one computer.
The other laptops were used for fx processing of individual instruments, running Ableton as a glorified FX processor (a job at which it excels at btw)
When we played against tracks with a known tempo, for example when recording live takes against the tracks for the new PGC album, it works well just to enter same the tempo as the master computer into Ableton at the start of recording of each new track in order to sync delays etc.
Did you have a main clock and midi cables connecting everything?
Not exactly. But Ajja being the extremely capable techno boffin that he is did set up a series midi feeds to enable other laptops and guitar processors to be synced to the master computer.
Cosequently Ajja's guitar processor's delay time was always synced to the master tempo. My guitar FX processor doesn't have a 5 pin DIN midi in socket so I didn't use mine. This just meant that I had to enter tempos manually into Ableton running on my laptop at the start of each track, Not sure whether Moreno used his mid feed for the his laptop/Ableton and the desk FX.
Any sort of metronomes used for the performance recordings?
No. But there was one track in which a drum loop was used. "Amazonia in Dub"
Other times Dan set the tempo (the old fashioned way) by playing drums which we played along with. In this case the master computer just recorded like a multitrack tape recorder recording a live band.
An interesting technique that the guys had used before, and which was new to me btw, was using a delay to set the tempo (which was related/sync'd to the recording computer's tempo) This was used on several the improvised ambient pieces.
For example, Dan picked up the Moreno's bass and after a bit of noodling started playing a dub line. The bass was going through a delay and so naturally he played off that rhythm and ended playing a part that was locked to a tempo (which was determined by the main recording computer) The bass was being recorded dry without the delay (giving the option to add it in later - or not.) So when we started to play along, we were all in time with the computer's tempo.
The result was "Ragga Dagga Doo" (see above music player)
So even on tracks as non-rhythmic as that, the delays and parts are still somewhat related to each other. And most importantly all the parts are recorded into the project at the master tempo of the Logic project. It's a great technique to use playing ensemble, works for anything but particularly suitable for ambient pieces becuase it allows the players to concentrate fully on creating the spacey vibe without the annoying distraction of a click track or a drum loop.
Another example: often Ajja plays guitar parts which work off the rhythm of his delay so sometimes Dan's drumming tempo would be determined by Ajja's part - which would be then be related to the computer's recording tempo. The fact that all the audio parts are multi-track recorded into the Logic project at the project's master tempo makes it much easier to overdub and mix down later.
All the personnel involved in The Peaking Goddess Collective are active and accomplished music producers all having released at least one album with their own Trance and electronic music projects:
All also happen to be musicians in the more traditional sense, being instrumentalists and schooled in music theory - to one degree or another.
There's an interesting dichotomy between these two methods of creating music.
On the one hand, when creating music using modern production methods you have total control over every single detail of the sound in the composition to the nth degreee, but absolutely zero spontaneity. It's a serial, one-thing-at-a-time process.
On the other hand, with live improvisation you create sound in real-time with 100% spontaneity, flexibility and in-the-moment creativity, but no control of the sound after it emanates from your instruments. In the case of playing with other musicians, it's also an interactive parallel process.
The way I see it, the two approaches are extremes:
These Peaking Goddess Collective sessions are about exploring some of the middle ground; attempting to capture the magic of creative real-time spontaneity and human interaction and combining it with the power of modern tweakage and post production tools. In time, more material will get mixed and become available so you can listen to the result of our experimentation...
Black and white shots by Carol Alkabes: www.bobbyalkabes.com