Recorded where…?

These five al­bums were recorded in the strangest of places

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The ubiq­uity of dig­i­tal work­sta­tions these days means that, with a smart­phone and an app, any­one can make a crude bed­room record­ing sound like it was done in a cathe­dral. But when it comes to re­verb, noth­ing com­pares to the real thing. Here are five ex­am­ples of in­no­va­tion in pur­suit of sonic per­fec­tion.

A DRY WELL Nils Frahm – All Melody (2018)

For Ger­man mod­ern-clas­si­cal com­poser Nils Frahm, a break in Mal­lorca de­vel­oped into a self­im­posed bus­man’s hol­i­day.

“I was stay­ing in an old stone house, when I heard a wa­ter drop fall­ing with this ’80s, Blade Run­ner re­verb. It sounded in­sanely ar­ti­fi­cial,” he told Crack mag­a­zine. “In the cor­ner of the liv­ing room, there was this well, in­side the house.” Frahm then set up a quasi stu­dio, plac­ing a speaker and mi­cro­phone in­side the well, pick­ing up its nat­u­ral re­verb to glaze the mu­sic.

BY A LAKE John Mar­tyn – One World (1977)

In the notes for An­other World, a col­lec­tion of stu­dio out­takes from One World, en­gi­neer Phil Brown dis­cusses how he and pro­ducer Chris Black­well achieved the orig­i­nal record’s mag­nif­i­cent sound at a Berk­shire farm­house.

“The house was al­most to­tally sur­rounded by a flooded dis­used gravel pit. We hired a PA sys­tem and set the mon­i­tor stack up on the far side, point­ing out across the lake. “I used two Neu­mann U87s on the op­po­site side, to mike up the sound com­ing back off the lake. A fur­ther two were placed close to the wa­ter’s edge – these picked up the sound of wa­ter lap­ping, and a dis­tant stran­gled sound on the gui­tar which was per­fect for lead so­los.”

The pair set­tled into a rou­tine of work­ing through the night, bat­tling damp night air in pur­suit of ul­ti­mate am­bi­ence: “Those quiet hours be­fore dawn cre­ated the most mag­i­cal at­mos­phere for record­ing, re­sult­ing in two of our clas­sic mas­ters: One World and Small Hours.”

A SWIM­MING POOL Sigur Rós – () (2002)

Hav­ing de­cided against a dis­used NATO track­ing base in the Ice­landic moun­tains, avantrock group Sigur Rós opted to con­vert a dis­used 1930s swim­ming pool, re­quir­ing the roof of the build­ing to be tem­po­rar­ily re­moved to ac­com­mo­date its mix­ing desk. Sund­lau­gin was opened as a com­mer­cial record­ing fa­cil­ity a decade ago, how­ever, its early life as a stu­dio was spent craft­ing the lus­cious re­verbs of Sigur Rós’s () al­bum.

A COF­FIN Sunn O))) – Báthory Erzsé­bet (2005)

In­stead of adding re­verb, the lo­ca­tion for record­ing Sunn O))’s Báthory Erzsé­bet ac­tu­ally dead­ened the sound. For the Black One, the drone metal duo en­listed Xasthur vo­cal­ist Malefic, then locked him in­side a cof­fin with a mi­cro­phone. Per­haps the mo­ti­va­tion was to tempt a ter­ri­fy­ing per­for­mance out of the front­man, but as the arid vo­cal track cuts through filthy gui­tar drones, it cre­ates an un­nerv­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion that nearly drags you into the cas­ket with him.

POMPEII Pink Floyd – Live at Pompeii (1972)

Film­maker Adrian Maben was work­ing on an idea for his Pink Floyd fea­ture while hol­i­day­ing in Italy. “I lost my pass­port some­where in the ru­ins of Pompeii,” he re­called. “I rushed back to the gate and ex­plained to the guards what had hap­pened. They let me in and I re­turned alone, re­trac­ing my steps along the empty streets, back to the am­phithe­atre. It was filled with echo­ing in­sect sounds and fly­ing bats and I knew this was the place for the film. Some­how, it all came to­gether that evening in the an­cient city.”

The band agreed, on the pro­viso that ev­ery­thing must be recorded live, and a unique con­cert film was de­vel­oped. The sonic ef­fect is sub­tle, but re­flects the vast­ness of this empty gallery. Maben never did lo­cate his pass­port.

In the pur­suit of per­fect sound, any lo­ca­tion will do

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