Buffalo Typewriter Sewing Machine - Part 2

Just finishing off my reflections on the session here with a review of the final 5 tracks, which were recorded on the second day:

11. The Champ

I felt we needed some 3/4 hard rock, so I laid down a beat without a click track using Native Instruments' Battery driven from the keyboard. I'm getting better at doing this, and until such time as I get the money and space to buy an electronic drum kit (maybe never), I'm gonna have to carry on getting better. I think once again BSM delivered a killer vocal here. The bass/rhythm guitar backing (from Sewing Machine and Buffalo respectively) rocks out. I enjoyed laying down some hot lead guitar.

12. Toss the Torpedo

Lyrics here derived from Brother Buffalo typing things into the predictive text input of his mobile phone. I'm not sure how else you could come by this sort of stuff. I think this sounds great until I came in with a ludicrous 'horn section' part in a 'whole tone' scale. What happened was that on the patch in Native Instruments Kore, you could actually use a knob to control what scale you were playing in, so I became obsessed with that. Started out in Whole Tone and ended up in "Messiaen IV". And I think that killed the track somewhat. Oh well, we live and learn.

13. Drone Structure

I was really pleased with this one - the Reaktor ensemble "Synth-in-a-Case" (an EMS Synthi AKS clone) provided the basic 'drone structure', to which we added guitar, bass, and ring-modulated slide guitar. It's a rip-off of Experimental Audio Research to some extent but I'm still proud of what we did here.

14. Into the Arms... of the X Factor

Yet another of my free-form story excursions over the top of a tasty backing track. I found a Rick Wakeman style 70s synth patch on Native Instruments' Pro-53 and just went for it. Very funky bass from the Sewing Machine (via the MXR envelope filter pedal) and great guitar from the Buffalo. Nice.

15. Angels of Anarchy

To round off, another great little drone tune - this time more in the style of Spacemen 3. But did the Spacemen ever use melodica and recorder? I don't think so.

So overall, almost certainly the best session I've ever been involved in. Much longer than most of our previous ICS efforts at 56 minutes in total, and perhaps a hard stretch to listen to in one go. But well worth it.

In terms of the technicalities of recording, we used Brother Sewing Machine's "Plan-C" recording set-up and it worked extremely well. It was an experience to be working with a nice mic - AKG I think it was, a step up from the SM58 I normally use. His monitoring and hardware input channels were also top quality. And he had several sets of headphones! Sequencer-wise, I can't pretend to understand much of Cubasis (which is the preferred package of both the Sewing Machine and the Buffalo) but BSM knew his way round it like the back of his hand. Aside from a couple of easily corrected sync problems, everything ran smoothly.

I must also thank BSM and family profusely for feeding and watering us for 2 days, and his next door neighbour for accommodation!

Do we want to do it again? U Betcha!


Buffalo Typewriter Sewing Machine - part 1

Just posting an in-depth review of the session by Brother Sewing Machine, Brother Buffalo and myself which took place on the weekend of 3rd and 4th January up in Matlock, Derbyshire and which is currently available on the 'listen to the songs page' at Burning Lodge (and will be posted on the Buffalo Typewriter site once we get it up and running properly, i.e. once I get enough time to get the files FTPed on the site. I hear very faint cries of "SORT IT OUT!" But anyway...

I think this is the best session I've ever been involved in. Now I do tend to say that most months - which is either a good sign, or a sign that I'm insane - but this time I've just listened back almost 2 weeks later and it now sounds much better, to my ears, than it did at the time. And I thought it sounded pretty good at the time...

The quality level is so high that I feel a track-by-track account is certainly helpful. I'll round up any thoughts on technical issues relating to the session at the end.

1. BTSM Theme

This laid down the general vibe for the faster tracks of the session - funky, a bit messy, killer beats from Brother Sewing Machine's seemingly endless collection of loops. That's Brother Buffalo laying down some killer megaphone vocals for ya, and Brother Sewing Machine on the fuzz-bass and melodica (oh yes, the melodica saw heavy use... I laid down some effected clavinet and also a 70s-fusion style synth line using the trusty Korg MS10 - then decided to overdub some screaming guitar over the top as well. Nice start.

2. Party

Here, for the first time in the session, we encounter the utter brilliance that is Brother Sewing Machine in balladeer mode. The lyric is improvised, like most of the session. The chord sequence is the kind of thing I like - 3 pretty standard chords with a slightly odd 4th chord thrown in (G minor/major 7th I believe it is) with Mellotron string samples to give that slight early King Crimson ballad feel. The guitar playing on this (Brother Buffalo) is brilliant.

3. Cybernaut Banjo Man

For this one I think we were trying to do a Damo-Suzuki era Can and throw all our electronics into the mix against a 'motorik' beat. The initial bassline is on the Novation Super Bass Station, which will be taking a trip to the synth service centre soon as more and more of the buttons are failing. I picked up an egg shaker just to hold the beat down a bit more in the absence of a live drummer. The second synth arpeggiator line which is in 7/8 sounded a bit like some kind of robotic banjo to my ears - hence the 'cybernaut banjo man'. Brother Sewing Machine overdubbed another synth line which I then processed in real time using a Zoom 1201 effects unit. I love this one.

4. No Lane Markings

For this one we are into the type of classic chord sequence which Brother Buffalo does just about better than anybody, with those warm major 7ths. Something I've always been lacking is a decent electro-acoustic guitar, but fortunately BSM has a great Yamaha which I just jammed on through the whole thing. The singing here is Brother Buffalo on the verses and BSM on the choruses, which is the reverse of the Buffalo Typewriter Sewing Machine prototype 'Baby Lend' from the October 'Live Lodge' sessions. The backup singing on the choruses didn't quite come off in technical terms but I like it because it reminds me of 70s bands like Man who attempted a harmony vocal, didn't quite have the vocal chops to get there but still managed to thicken the sound up. I was also very pleased with Brother Buffalo's combined piano/synth strings patch. I don't normally like blended patches like that as they remind me too much of 80s workstation keyboards and the rather gloopy sounds associated with the likes of the Korg M1, but here it works well.

5. Big Fat Dirty Beat

The backing loop for this came about because BSM had a loop which he'd constructed for one of the earlier songs but it didn't quite work so we held it over for later use. But when he loaded it in it was glitching all over the place, but it actually sounded fantastic! So we proceeded to play all over it. As with many of the tracks, there is A LOT going on here, and perhaps 7 minutes was pushing it, but it's certainly rock'n'roll. I'll freely admit that the lyrics are ludicrous. In terms of instrumentation we've got:

  • fuzz guitar

  • heavy bass

  • stylophone

  • vocoded stylophone(!)

  • melodica

  • about 5 minutes in, some weird ring modulated guitar sound I found using Native Instruments Kore to process the guitar and I've saved the patch as it was a classic, but I've no idea how the hell I found it.

  • nutter singing through a megaphone

...And that's not the half of it. Perhaps you had to be there...

6. My Life's Love

This is more your standard organ-based ballad - I think we were trying to get back to Planet Earth with this one. Again, nice vocalising by the Sewing Machine. Killer recorder solo from Brother Buffalo on this one.

7. Limbo

Jeez, this one really is off the wall. I recorded a small tale over the top of this but it didn't seem that interesting so I thought it would be best to reverse it and keep the rest the right way round. (We may have been better off doing it the other way round, of course!) LOVE the flanged drum sound BSM gets here. That's Brother Buffalo having a go on the Korg synth for the first time and he doesn't disappoint. I'm responsible for the slightly bizarre mellotron choir riff.

8. Vocal Turds

I'll stick my hand up and say that this is probably the weakest lyric EVER recorded. Goddamnit, I was low on ideas. But I'm pleased with the slide guitar sound. I was trying to get the most chorused guitar ever and I got kind of close.

9. Lonely Sea

I just love this one. It's that early Roxy Music combination of a soft ballad with eccentric background instrumentation. The synth plays a slow random - but diatonic - sequence while I vary the delay time and filters to give that 'sea-wash' effect. I'd be so up for doing this live.

10. Dire Tonic Man

This is a satire about a guy who is scared of stepping outside the box musically. I feel there's the makings of a decent pop song somewhere here. I was also very pleased with the synth pad I got here, which I think is a combination of a Korg Polysix emulation and Arturia's CS80V. It's got 'early 80s stadium band' written all over it. I had a laugh singing the lyrics for several of these songs, but I think this one especially.

OK, I'm knackered and the post is long enough now, so I'm going to post my thoughts on the other 5 tracks from the session and some overall impressions tomorrow. Enough to be getting on with here for now.

Welcome back to the Ball

Hi folks, and sorry for not posting for over 8 months!

The Golf Ball will be back on the scene in a big way in 2009. For a start, having done a session every month for Burning Lodge last year, there is a lot of music to catch up on. Due to space constraints on the Burning Lodge website, sessions are now being taken down approximately a month after they're uploaded. But don't worry... later this month when the Buffalo Typewriter site is up and running (at which point I'll post a link), all previous Brother Typewriter material will be made available for download until the site runs out of space (probably some time during 2011, at which point I'll make the most recent sessions available and the rest on a rotating basis). That's of course in addition to selected BT tracks being available on dilated choonz.