NEWS

15 Dec 2018
About Recording ‘We’re rolling…” Mark’s voice comes from the...





















About Recording 

‘We’re rolling…”

Mark’s voice comes from the corner. Phil catches my gaze; I say, “1, 2”, and silently mouth the “3”, so the word doesn’t make it onto the recording. And we’re away.

We’re enveloped in the warmth of Mark Tucker’s studio, The Green Room, deep in the Blackdown Hills on the Devon / Somerset border. Phil and I sit facing one another, from either side of a thrumming wood burner, each surrounded by microphones. Phil has his family of guitars ranged around him; I alternate for these first songs between banjo and tenor guitar. The violins and harmonicas are waiting in the wings. Everything has been restrung, we have spent an intense week preparing, and it feels a relief to finally be here, getting on with it.

This morning we drove the 40-ish minutes from our home in Exmouth, the road sweeping up across the winter common, estuary and sea falling away to the sides; then racing along the a30 and delving deep into lanes to the studio. I watched a buzzard tumble upward towards us as we negotiated the treacherous driveway, a steep ramble down from the nearest road. Mark’s place feels satisfyingly far from the world.  An ever evolving project that has grown from a single small space, to a large and beautiful live room - and forthcoming building work will add further recording space, control rooms, and accommodation. Yet, despite these variations in the layout, the atmosphere remains the same. A space away from distractions, where you can find the thread of your song, and follow the singing of it to where it needs to go.  


The room we are in is large, and full of music. Mark’s wife Michelle has an unerring eye for design, and so both the house and studio are immediately inspiring places. Embraced by deep red walls, the studio matches rich velvets to Indian throws, patterned rugs rest under vintage amps. Books on tube amps and Bob Dylan vie for space with the shelves of records that have been made here. Fairy lights gently illuminate the instruments hung across the back wall. Animals come and go. Ned, the dog, is far too naughty for admittance; and Cookie the black and white cat is sometimes so enthusiastic about pursuing a career in music production (aka joining in) that he has to be ejected; but Mushka is a constant and mysterious presence, napping somewhere warm, dreaming of his adventures as Macavity the Mystery Cat.  


There are as many approaches to recording as there are songs to record. Between our own albums, various sessions and other projects, we have tried many different things, and worked in many wonderful studios. Layering, multitracking, infinitely dissecting. The old ways, of recording everything mostly live to wonderful warm tape, have generally ceded to a million variations of digital. Usually this means multi tracking - each part recorded separately, achieving maximum control and editing possibilities. Individual notes can be tuned, moulded, cut out entirely. Takes can be spliced together to get the best version. Rhythmic cohesion is ensured by playing along to a click track.  


Of course, this level of detail makes perfection not only achievable, but expected. However, we have found that the best producers know when to draw a line during editing. Perfection is not a human characteristic, and while you may nudge and autotune and shape a piece infinitely, you may in the process remove that indefinable something, the music itself. The warmth and life of band recordings from the 1960s and 70s are testament to this. Sadly, with few major label funded album sessions, it is an impossibility for most bands to take time in a studio to experiment, write, and record live (let alone to tape, which is now very expensive). This, plus the modern ease of home recording, has evolved the common approach to album making. For me and Phil, on previous projects, we have meticulously planned and drafted at home. We have imagined whole landscapes of sound, making the most of our (ever growing!) instrument collection, layering dobros and harmonicas, fiddles and banjos.  


But for Feather, we began to talk of a different approach. Something that would capture the energy of our live show; a directness that people instinctively respond to. Arrangements that would reflect what we do live - plenty of multitasking, but still achievable between two people. Harking back to those classic records from the 60s and 70s.  


We are lucky to know Mark. He has accumulated a deep, deep well of knowledge through recording and producing many varied musicians and working widely across the industry. He hears sound in a truly remarkable way, considering elements of tone and range that to most people belong in the realm of bats. He doesn’t just have an extensive collection of gear - common to many audiophiles - he really knows how to use it! The exact spot to place a mic, the exact right mic to use, how to process the sound in exactly the right way. He is a precision craftsman of sound, but also brings the artists ear, knowing the aesthetic importance of his choices, as well as the technical value.  


And he was excited about our project. The atmosphere his studio would generate around the music was just right. He had ideas for reverbs, for how to approach recording the core of each track ‘live’. We would decide what lay at the heart of each piece - what was playing the chords, the backbone - and record those instruments simultaneously. Keeping lines of sight clear, just as we would at a show, to signal to each other, and retain the improvised element. Some vocals would be live, some would be overdubbed, to get the sound just so. Minimal editing - and no click tracks. 


We were nervous as our studio time approached. Never had we felt so unprepared to go and record. Yes, the songs were there, they had grown strong and we were happy with them - but. It was a big risk. We had chosen to risk in order to experiment, to go in while the songs still felt wild under our fingers, rather than over rehearsed and tired. One of the most important things I have learnt about recording is that you should not embark on an impossible quest for the perfect take - it will very swiftly descend into red light fever and endless frustration. Instead, you must accept that, as with a live show, this is simply the record of a moment, of one (good, admittedly!) instance of your playing. There will be other records, other moments. Letting go in this way allows freedom and humanity back into your playing.  


And the first week of recording has been magic. It feels like the perfect place, the perfect time, to hunker down and make. We sit opposite each other, finding the right chords, taking our time. We eat vegetable soup, pasties; occasionally someone puts another log on the burner. Cookie takes part as much as he is allowed to. Mainly we listen, and listen again, feel our way through the maze of the song.  

Crows wheel aimlessly in a dirty white sky. The trees look cold without their leaves. It is Midwinter, and we are here, mining for warmth, holding out for hope. 


Support Edgelarks’ crowdfunder to make Feather at www.indiegogo.com/projects/feather-a-new-album-by-edgelarks

Mark Tucker’s studio is The Green Room - https://www.facebook.com/themarktucker/


13 Dec 2018
Phil’s biggest fan. #feather #day4 #excellentpuns If...



Phil’s biggest fan.
#feather #day4 #excellentpuns

If you’d like to contest this biggest fan, our crowdfunder is still running at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/feather-a-new-album-by-edgelarks
https://www.instagram.com/p/BrVA4A0lRO5/?utm_source=ig_tumblr_share&igshid=1ch6qlpou0dne

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NEW ALBUM : EDGELARKS
Released Oct 6th, 2017

Edgelarks fly in on the tailwind of BBC award winning duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. The new band name comes with a new project, taking the roots of their previous work - British traditional musics, Indian classical slide guitar, stomping roots beatbox harmonica party; adds a strong stem of original writing; and runs wilder with each gig.

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