Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Russel Elevado & D'angelo: Analogue Messiahs or Martyrs

D'Angelo and Russell Elevado /
Originally posted at Tingen.Org

The liner notes of D’Angelo’s third album, Black Messiah, contain the following striking pronouncement: “No digital ‘plug-ins’ of any kind were used in this recording. All of the recording, processing, effects and mixing was done in the analogue domain using tape and mostly vintage equipment.”

It’s the kind of statement that’s rarely seen these days yet that was not uncommon in the nineties, when many people were resisting the digital revolution, convinced that analogue sounded superior. The recording medium war that was raging at the time had started rather belatedly, as most people had initially bought into the digital-is-superior ethos that accompanied the new medium’s introduction in the late seventies. Those who listened with their ears rather than their minds eventually noticed that the new digital emperor was rather lacking in clothes.

As we all know, digital did, eventually and very gradually, get its act together, to the point that fifteen years into the new millennium the analogue versus digital discussion has become virtually non-existent. Almost everyone agrees that today’s pro audio digital gear sounds as good as analogue, and with the obvious and overwhelming practical advantages of DAWs over analogue gear and it’s a small wonder that the latter looks like a sure addition to the ever-lengthening roll call of extinct species.

Russell Elevado at Henson studios in Los Angeles


However, in arguably one of the ultimate cases of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, a few analogue diehards are holding out, still arguing that analogue remains the superior audio recording medium. Their arguments mostly center on sound quality, but also often include the view that analogue’s very limitations are actually good for the creative process, while conversely digital’s millions of options and mix recalls, instantly accessible at the touch of a button, are said to encourage lack of decisiveness, imagination and soul-sapping, sterile perfectionism. And while the pro audio analogue proponents are in a small minority, there is general consensus that consumer-level digital has introduced game-changing woes such as precipitous album sales, lossy formats and loudness wars. The digital emperor still is rather skimpily dressed.

On the phone from MSR Studios in New York, Russell Elevado, the main engineer and mixer on Black Messiah, explained why D’Angelo and he continue to belong to the dwindling camp of analogue diehards, and why Black Messiah wears its all-analogue declaration as a badge of honour. Very notable is the fact that it has the word “plug-ins” in quotation marks, as if describing something unknown, suspicious, and smelly, held aloft between the fingertips of one hand, while holding one’s nose with the other. The extremity of the statement is puzzling in itself: why would anyone not want to use any plugins on a mainstream album released in 2014?

“Primarily it is about the sound,” began Elevado. “Analogue just sounds better. I feel even more strongly about that now than I did a few years ago. Digital sounds OK, but I still don’t like the workflow. I hate mixing in the box, for example. All the great albums I have done were mixed on an SSL, using SSL automation. In recent years I’ve had to get used to doing automation in Pro Tools when I’m working on a smaller console with no automation. But I would and will not compromise on using a desk”

“With regards to plugins, I get the arguments all the time that the new generation sounds as good as the analogue gear they often emulate, and that what you record goes to CD or a lossy format in the end anyway, and so why not use these new plugins, especially as it’ll make a recording project easier and cheaper. My reply is that I have over the years invested a lot of money in analogue gear, with some of the best vintage mics and outboard, so why would I buy a plugin package that might or might not be obsolete in a few years? My gear will never be obsolete, and for me it’s funny when people tell me how great their plugins sound because they emulate this or that tape machine or tube compressor, because I have all that stuff! I don’t need to get a plugin of it. I have the originals!”

“My gear is the reason I call myself an ‘analogue gypsy,’ because a lot of my time goes into carrying it around. Every time I go to another studio, I pack my gear into my car. It may take two or three trips, and a few hours to set up, because I don’t trust anyone to transport my gear. That’s how committed I am to the sound. When I get requests from people who want me to do something for them on a more limited budget, I tell them that I’m happy to think with them for solutions, but I can’t give them what they want unless I can use my gear and mix on a desk.”

“I encourage people who want to work with me to make decisions based on a “final mix” mentality. So once we leave the studio, there is no need to go back and change anything. It’s about commitment. Up until 2000, that was the mentality. For me to revise the mix requires paying for the studio again and ‘recalling’ the settings manually on the outboard gear and console. It costs time and money. The only concession I make is that I’ll print instrumental and a cappella versions of the mix, to give people some options. I’ll print stems only on rare occasions. No-one else has the right to do recalls of my mixes. Trying to change a mix after the event is like trying to paint over someone else’s painting. For me a mix is a performance, or a sculpture. Once a sculpture is done, it’s unheard of for someone else to take a chip off it. My approach is very old school. Luckily there are enough people willing to accept my way of working, and they’re usually very happy in the end.”


Continued after the jump...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Leo Pellegrino of Too Many Zooz - FULL Brasshouse, Moanin, Better Git It In Your Soul

Originally posted by: minookamary
Published on 2 Sep 2017
This is the full 20 minutes of the end of Prom 53: Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited - Thu 24 Aug 2017 Royal Albert Hall - Gives a better perspective of the energy in the last 20 minutes of show and audience reception. Brasshouse,Moanin, Better Git It In Your Soul – Leo Pellegrino Leo P of Too Many Zooz (formerly of Lucky Chops) -BBC Proms 53 Mingus Metropole Orkest with incredible conductor Jules Buckley August 24, 2017 – Royal Albert Hall London

• Leo Pellegrino (bari sax) at • Christian Scott (trumpet) • Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet) • Bart van Lier (trombone) • Hans Vroomans (piano)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summerjam 2017 Kabaka Pyramid, Damian Marley,

Tek een Kabaka Pyramid working Sumerjam.
Gwan Bebble Rockers.

Gwan Roslyn! Gwan Sherieta
Posted by Wango Hagi

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kabaka Pyramid - Can't Breath

Absolutely Dope 

From The forthcoming 'Contraband' album, Ghetto Youths International release visuals for Kabaka Pyramids first single Cant Breathe

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

The LargeUp Interview: In the Mix with Engineer David Kennedy

Originally post at
Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley
The credits for A Tribe Called Quest’s We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service are extensive. With names like Kanye West, Elton John and Jack White involved with one of our favorite albums of 2016, you might miss the name Dave Kennedy, who mixed the sixth and final album from the iconic New York rap crew, along with Blair Wells and Q-Tip.
We didn’t. Kennedy, also known to us as David Kennedy, or Dawit Kennedy, has been a mainstay in studios in New York and Jamaica since the 1980s, having worked on projects as varied Keith Richards’ Talk is Cheap, Brand Nubian’s All For One and Shinehead’s Sidewalk University, as well as A Tribe Called Quest’s last previous album, 1998’s The Love Movement. Though his background is primarily as an engineer, he’s also produced tracks for Patra and Mos Def. (Check his full discography here).
Born in New York City and raised primarily in Jamaica, Kennedy began his career as an engineer at Byron Lee’s Dynamic Sounds in Kingston, after graduating from NYC’s Institute for Audio Research. His career in recording has never been typical. It was a chance encounter with Bob Marley, and subsequent time spent around the late legend in Miami, that encouraged him on his career path. In his younger days, Kennedy even moonlighted as a model — one of the first in that profession to sport a head of dreadlocks. More recently, Kennedy returned to Jamaica to set up his own recording facility, Cedar Hill.
On the morning of the release of We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service in November (and three days after the surprising results of the U.S. election), I spoke with Kennedy about working on Tribe’s swan song; the album’s timely message; his experiences working with Bob Marley, Keith Richards and Puff Daddy; and the deception of digital technology.
LargeUp: This album seems to refer directly to the present moment in a way that seems uncanny. I wonder if there was a thought when this album was being made that we should put this out the Friday after the elections.
Dave Kennedy: It had me tearing up this morning, understanding it. Had things turned out politically different, I don’t think it would have rung as true. There is a science behind the 11/11 [release date]. I never really heard the whole album until yesterday. To be honest, lyrics are the last thing I listen to when I work. I approach my job technically. I leave the creativity to the producers. But I listen in, and watch what’s going on. [As far as the message] We’d talk about stuff, and which things needed to be addressed and we’d watch the political landscape unfold, and the bets were on as to who was winning, but I don’t think they had any of this in mind. I’m sure what they wrote lyrically was relevant for the day and I guess it’s timeless because it will be relevant today and probably tomorrow. Everybody involved – you hear it from Busta, you hear it from Consequence — felt this was the most important thing to happen for hip-hop. Getting these minds back together, it was like a nuclear reaction.
LU: It’s been a while since I felt like I had to listen to an album the minute it dropped, and then listen back. But I had to with this one. I mean, I hardly listen to albums, period, anymore. How did you get the call to be on this project?
DK: I had moved back to New York for a while. I reached out to some old heads, because I was getting stir crazy, and I reached out to [Q-Tip friend and collaborator] Gary Harris. Gary put me in touch with Q-Tip, and Tip was like, “You gotta come through.” I go over to his place [in New Jersey] and he’s got the whole studio set up, all pistons firing and he said, “I need your help,” and I said, “I’m down for whatever.” He had so many people helping him, I didn’t really understand where I fit in. I said, “ When you’re ready for me, call me.” He called me to help do the mixes, and the rest is history.
LU: Were you recording the sessions or just called in for the mixing?
DK: I left New York in May, so I was in and out some of the production sessions, but once I left in May, I said call me when you’re ready to mix and I’ll come back and do it. Blair Wells his co- producer handled most of the tracking, and he and I handled the mixes when it came time to push it out.
LU: With The Love Movement, you had done all of the engineering, right?
DK: I did all of the tracking and mixing on The Love Movement.
LU: How were these sessions and working on this project different? I imagine quite a lot.
DK: Wow. The big difference is digital technology. We had digital back then but it was limited to drum machines and samplers. Pro Tools was just coming in. So it was basically an analog effort. We had tape running, we mixed through the console, we used what outboard was there. We didn’t have plug-ins and all those wonderful tools. The introduction of digital changed the game for everything. [Q-Tip’s] process now is never ending, because you can keep changing right down to the last minute, which was essentially what was going on. It really was quite a long process to actually stop producing. While we were mixing, we were still doing over vocals, changing drum kicks, changing snares and timing. All these things were still going on. If it didn’t feel right, it wasn’t right. That was a luxury that digital afforded us, but I think it loses a lot in terms of audio. I didn’t really like how The Love Movement sounded. I think this was one sounds and feels a lot better. I’m sure the production and the headspaces were totally different. In terms of the audio, this is a better-sounding album.
LU: What didn’t you like about the sound on The Love Movement?
DK: I don’t think we mixed it in the right room. We mixed it in the room we tracked in. The board we tracked it on was a great tracking board but the room wasn’t suited for a mix. It was a Sony room at the time. The mix kind of came out “bright.”
LU: One thing that’s been talked about with this album is that all of the collaborators were working together in the same room, as opposed to working through e-mail, like so much music today. On the engineering and the sound side of things, what came from that approach?
DK: Wow, it’s evident on the tracks. I remember working [with artists] years ago. The tape would loop back, rewind, play again, and these guys would sit down, pen and paper in hand, and write for hours. I would just sit there and watch the tape spin, try and do something else, keep myself occupied, and wait for them to come with their stuff. [Tribe has] a different type of focus. They have this back-and-forth energy that they feed off of, and it keeps them razor sharp. One can say something and they all say, “This is dope,” and the next one says something that makes them go “Wow, that was doper than my shit, so I gotta go do my shit back.” They will keep re-honing it and re-honing it. Sometimes, they go home and come back and someone says I gotta spit my verse over now. And this goes on and on.