DIY Album


Do It Yourself music album.
As an indie music band, we don’t have any producer / manager / artistic director / label / distributor / booking agency / designer / … which technically means, we have to do all that stuff by ourselves. It’s a bit like being an actor, one day you’re a photographer, the next day a sound engineer… or at least, we try to be !

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Celebration time! We’re featured in fRoots’s album choices again!


It’s a great honour not only to get a really good review in fRoots current issue (available from today for subscribers, on sale on the 20th), but also we got chose among “album choices of the month playlist

fRoots review on Astrakan Project B

 

The review for our first album in 2013 came like a surprise, we had never played in the UK, were not distributed, had got actually absolutely no review in France, it felt really like a recognition for us. For our album B, we weren’t sure fRoots would like it, it’s much darker, and rock. Yet they still recognized that it is nothing but 100% traditional Breton music, and this is truly a very nice surprise again!

 

 

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

I’ll be waiting…


Since last album, I had forgotten this odd “in-between” time after the album’s release. The time it takes to go from “the release” to “what’s next”.

Since the album’s release then, a couple of fans bought it straight away,  fans that follow us regularly, that were waiting for it- you’re probably among them: big thank you! :). It’s a big reward when the first orders come in. (and a relieve also, let’s be honest !!! )

songlines 4 stars review
Our first album’s review in Songlines magazine in 2013

In the meantime also, we keep sending albums+press reviews to magazines and radios, although net-works can be powerful, traditional media have their audience for which they will select the music they think they will like. And from previous experiences we know how it brought attention from people that now follow us on a regular basis. Because this is the concrete real outcome of a good review, it isn’t about praising our musicians’ ego with nice and pleasant words. It really can help to spread the word around our project, and make it successful, help to touch more people and also be a plus when it comes to book new gigs and concerts.

Being aware of that brings a tiny bit of pressure.

What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t play it?

And there is also something we all know, nowadays, everything goes pretty fast. In the case of radios, either our music will get played straight away, either it will never be. All of this has a direct crucial impact on the music we might or might not be able to create and play in the up-coming month. Not that we would stop playing music!!! 😀 But we have the intuition that a slightly bigger audience would inspire us quite a few new cool projects!

So… we’re waiting…

§ Simone

astrakan breton world music on facebook

DIY Album, Sound & Video

Making new from old AKA dare to sacrifice


Our album is right now being manufactured, it’s a big achievement already! We still have a lot to do, but we can be more relax since the first big deadline is over (and we made it! 🙂 ) And since we were so busy last week, here’s a sneak-pick on how we created the album cover.

Our music too is pretty much also about “sacrificing” ancient (and beautiful) a-capela songs to turn them into new pieces. Sometimes we barely dare to. For some tunes, including some on next album, we waited for years before we dared to. Not by fear really. But because it’s sometimes hard to transform a song into a new tune that will at least compete with the original version.

§ Simone

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

What else do you need to release your next album?


… You need Gesso!!! Or at least, I need gesso!

What? Gesso is a primer used to coat canvasses or paper before painting, especially loved and treasured by artists that love multiple layers and materials as well as heavy textures. Well… like me! I love gesso. And I still don’t know how I run out of my precious primer, (well, no, not completely, I still have some black gesso 😉 ) , and not only I run out of gesso, but also I haven’t found so far any art-shop in my area in Greece (around Kavala, if you happened to be reading and know one, please! Don’t let me down, leave me a comment!).

Not only did I run out of gesso, but I’m painting for next album cover (ho, here comes the album!), so, what can I do?
DIY homemade gesso primer

So what else than go back to the old Do It Yourself method. Yes. Again. I found an easy recipe here. Basically baby powder+white glue+water. I chose to add some very white paint. I’ll wait until tomorrow to allow it to settle.

I sometimes wonder if I haven’t been cursed for really needing again and again to find last minutes creative solutions. Do I really wish things would be different? Noooooo ! 😉

§ Simone

Buy Astrakan Project debut album

 

DIY Album, Sound & Video

How to chose the right track order for your album?


Although we could have been tempted by this method :

… we went back to the one we used for our first album instead !

The way we organised tracks is something we pay a lot of attention to, we discuss it, we write it down, imagine it… And so far we are happy with what we came up with.

I‘m not pretending there was no other possibility, but in our minds, it all comes down to perception. A song will be heard and felt in a different way if it comes as the opening of the album, or after another track, and it also depends on which track.

We like to think about an album as a travel to our world. In the opening, what we want to do is to welcome the listener, almost take him by the hand. Then the journey can begin! We like to imagine and believe that an album can also be heard as a whole piece, not only track by track, but that when you listen to it, the story you hear is different.

You may now be wondering, how will next travel be? Maybe darker than the first one, maybe more powerful, but still as joyful as we are!

§ Simone

 

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Your album isn’t ready yet + mind-mapping for self-produced album


I know that people don’t have any bad intention behind the question, and we musicians love to get questions about “how things are going”. Or at least, the intellectual side of me knows it.

I know sometimes people are just super exited to hear it. But how can you explain that there is no way it could be done quicker ? That going to the studio is just such a tiny wee(1)  little part of all what we do?

Who said again that a picture worth thousand word? 😉

your album is not ready yet
Your album is not ready yet? [click for HR image – it’s really large!]
Scary, hey ?

Although largely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep last night – maybe because we recorded until late one more ghosty gwerz that kept on haunting me (this one is about Yugoslavian wars, and is really painful to work on).

I suspected also that as the deadline is approaching (we’ll be leaving for next UK tour by the end of September), I’m probably also getting nervous about all that needs to be done. It’s not our first self-produced album for sure. But a few things add a bit of spice to the all adventure…

  • Music and technique-wise, our level of expectations has considerably raised. Mixing and blending the sounds together is part of our music, and thus takes much more time than for an acoustic project for instance.
  • Learning from previous launching campaigns, we want to get the best out of our release and try to plan ahead for a decent release impact – in a way, when we were younger, there were so many aspects we didn’t suspect that we were pretty relax about!
  • Instead of manufacturing 500 of pieces each time (and then eventually re-manufacture afterwards), we decided to invest on 1000 in one go, to save money, but then, we have to plan for when and WHERE we can get it delivered… and stored!
  • Since our activity is increasing (more touring, more sales, other projects), we have to switch to a decent legal status… and I wonder if this isn’t the most epic part of this particular release?
  • It’s the second album with Astrakan Project. I’ll write back about it, but well. It’s kind of an extra little source of pressure.

It kind of relieved me to get this end-less to-do-list organised in a visual way, kind of mind-mapping out things so that I don’t forget anything. And well, although it might look scary at first, it really helped me to see that a lot as been done, and also now, I know which part I was not paying enough attention too. The legal status part of course!

Back to work – our album isn’t released yet!

§ Simone

(1) wee=little if you haven’t spend some time in Scotland. And if you understood it, I want to play there! I want to go back to Scotland, if you have any place to suggest for next October, you’ll make my day!

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Some work in progress art work for next album


Last Astrakan Project album (2012) was the first album ever I used my art work for. With the exception of Yann’s portrait, I did not specifically create the paintings for the album, but once they were finished (they were created between March and June 2012 whilst the album was to be released in September), there was absolutely no doubt in our minds they belonged to the album.

For our upcoming album, I had no idea so far. Absolutely zero! I even hadn’t been drawing much lately because I kind of wanted to get first an idea of what to paint… for the album!

Ha ha ha! Inspiration just doesn’t seem to work for me that way! Last week-end I started to doodle inspired by Shamanistic Sami drums from northern Scandinavia, like this one:

sami shaman drum blue
Prob. 17-18th C. Norwegian Sami People Drum. During rituals a ring was moved around on the drum membrane. Predictions and conclusions were made based on rune itself and the path that the ring took in selecting it.

I loved the very stylish way animals and people get depicted, but above all the way they depict a world, they tell a story that you can follow. And I kind of got inspired… So inspired that

While composing music we often get into the same inspiration process, if we try to pull it too hard, nothing really happens, when we let go off the pressure about “this needs to be done”, then only ideas start to flow.

Truth is, most brilliant ideas aren’t really ours…

…best ideas come to us – if we allow them to.

Back to painting!

§ Simone

DIY Album

Tales of dark romance and doomed love / album review from Songlines


Here is the complete review we got in Songlines issue n.93 last July. We’re extremely proud to have been reviewed in such a prestigious review… and even got 4 stars **** !

Tales of dark romance and doomed love

This album has nothing, as far as one can tell, to do with the town on the Caspian Sea or hats. The core of this album is enjoyably gloomy traditional Breton singing, from the pure voice of Simone Alves with her partner Yann Gourvil in charge of instruments and programming. The duo’s songs are peppered with Celtic myth and legends, but mainly about doomed love and death. A sample lyric, translated from the Breton, as a lover decides to kill himself after his beloved dies « We’ll lie in the same grave since we haven’t in the same bed, we’ll be married in front of God since we haven’t by the priest. » What is unusual, and probably unique is the « oriental » colours added to the songs (the duo lived in Istanbul for a while) with Yann Gourvil playing oud and saz as well are more usual folk instruments.

Stand-out tracks include « 1932 », which is an effective evocation of the misery of a failed harvest when there’s no bread, while « mouezhioù » sounds a little Bulgarian and is an atmospheric song about a woman who bitterly regrets marrying a drunkard. The electronics used on songs like « Kreñv ‘veld ar garantez » are generally subtly interwoven although at time the drum machines stands out, and not in a good way. By the end of this compelling, if at times slightly claustrophobic, record there is a slight sense that some other players would have added a more rich sonic palette. Still, there are some superb songs rendered in an original way, which suggests considerable potential. The cover Art Work is intriguing too.

Track to try : 1932

Peter Culshaw

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DIY Album

Recording & mixing guitar : My own recipe


Even if there might be a perfect way to record electro-acoustic guitar and electric guitar, I assume mine is not perfect. Below I explain the way I recorded and mixed the acoustic and electric guitar on the album, with extremely cheap gear and stuff.

What I used for the recording itself :

  • USB soundcard (E-MU tracker pre, probably the cheapest one ever) with two Jack/XLR input and a stereo output for direct monitoring (i.e. without latency).
  • Headphones
  • Korg ToneWorks Pandora Box (a very cheap multi-effect device that I got from my guitar teacher Yann-Guirec Le Bars almost for free, some years ago)
DSC_0285
The USB soundcard, the headphones and the Pandora Box
  • Of course a Laptop (Mine is 2GHz AMD Athlon Dual Core, 4GB RAM, Windows 7-32bits)
  • Microphone : Behringer B-1 (Also used for percussions and vocal, actually for all the instruments of the album !)
  • One microphone stand.
DSC_0286
The microphone listed above.
  • 2 Jack cables, one XLR cable
  • And the music recording software, the wonderful Cubase SX3 !!

Of course the microphone has to be put in a suitable way next to where the right hand will touch the strings… Listening carefully with isolated headphones can help to find the best setting.

DSC_0288
Microphone setting for acoustic recording

Okay, now let’s talk about the recording itself, for acoustic guitar first. I record two mono tracks, one with the microphone and one from the Pandora Box.

01
Two guitar tracks

The upper track is the one from the microphone, the lower is that from the Pandora Box. See for each track the routing I used (Microphone on right-in, Jack on left-in).

Then, each track will be doubled. Jack track 1 will be sent to the right output, and its copy to the left output. Then Microphone track 1 will be sent to the left and its copy to the right. The levels of the two copies have to be reduced in order to separate them in the stereo output. I also add a time delay of say 15-20ms to those two tracks to enhance the stereo effect.

02
Then both tracks get doubled, a time delay of 15ms is added to the two copies.
03
The mixer shows the routing and levels used for each track…

And of course, basic effects such as compression should be added to each track…

04
“Multiband compressor” effect.

Reverb, delay, flanger etc… are also possible, only your ears can tell you what is missing, in case something is actually missing !

And what about electric guitar ? Let me show mine :

DSC_0285
My electric guitar ??

Yes, I know, this is not really what we can call an electric guitar, I have a nice Kort electric guitar but I left it in Brittany, we have to reduce the amount of luggage when travelling from Brittany to Istanbul ! But here is the Pandora Box, EXTREMELY helpful ! So, Pandora has a stereo output, I use a special cable to split it in two mono outputs that will be connected to the soundcard as follows :

DSC_0286
The way Pandora is connected to the soundcard, see the two thin cables on the left.

Then, I only use two tracks, one for each mono output. From Cubase, one is sent to the left output, the other to the right. Some examples of what it sounds like here or here !

I used exactly the same kind of procedures for electric baglama and electric ‘ud. For acoustic ‘ud I only used the microphone and two tracks.

Well, I’m quite satisfied of the result so far, even if this surely has to be improved ! Would you have any useful advice, please let me know, all suggestions are welcome 🙂 !
§ Yann

Buy Astrakan Project debut album

DIY Album

I pealed the potatoes : recording@home advantages


1 Comment

A recurring question is “Should we record at home or in a studio ?”. Both have obvious advantages, I won’t try to say that you shouldn’t go to a studio, but I’ll try to highlight the advantages of home recording…

Okay, let’s assume your songs are ready, and that time has come to record them for your next CD :

DSC_0257
The raw songs

When you start recording, you may realise you need some more practice in order to make the songs “cleaner”… If you’re already in the studio, it simply means this is too late, because you have paid to be there.

DSC_0258
The songs are ready !

Now, if you record yourself, you can choose whether you want to record instruments in this order :

DSC_0262
Instruments order, first proposal.

or this one :

DSC_0261
Instruments order,  second proposal.

The only way to make sure the order will be yours is to do it yourself ! Or if you don’t know, at least you’ll have enough time to try different possibilities. Don’t forget also that in a studio, one more person at least (the sound engineer with his own tastes, preferences, experience) will probably get involved into your project. This can be your own choice since he can be VERY helpful to you and make you highly benefit from his own experience and technical knowledge. This is something you have to take into account very seriously before taking your decision.

And what about the tools / softwares / hardwares you will be using ? Those of the studio are most probably far better than yours !

DSC_0263
Tools and hardwares, can you guess which one belongs the studio ?

The good point is that you will make all your best to get the best from your own tools (the yellow one) ! Also, it depends on what you need to record. A guitar or a voice can be recorded at home very easily. If you plan to record black metal drums with double pedal, I would strongly advise you to go to a metal experienced studio, definitely !

You need also time for recording, and the more time you spend in the studio, the more you pay, unless a powerful label is doing it for you 🙂 . And you NEED time to try different things, sounds, effects, mix etc… When time gets shortened, in most cases the final result will not sound as good as expected…

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Available time for the recording is extremely relevant !

At the end, with home recording you may end up with this :

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Your home made recording is over !

But by going to the studio you may end up with that (which is also good by the way but maybe not exactly what you had in mind) :

DSC_0269
The studio recording.

And the same advices should apply for the mastering !

DSC_0267
Did you make your mastering yourself ?

§ Yann