The Morning Benders

I was really taken with this video; real people, in a real room, singing and playing together in real time! This kind of production is becoming rarer by the day and there are some good reasons for this. The additional prep-time it takes to teach a multitude of people when to start and stop is pretty obvious, but it is also exceptionally difficult to edit this type of session because of the bleed from various sources into mics designated for a different source. For example, if the snare drum is off on the drum track, you can move it, but then you’ll still be able to hear the error on the vocal track and the corrected hit on the drum track; this sounds bad.

So, you’re basically left with whatever is captured on one take. This can be a nerve-racking experience, but it can also lead to pretty amazing moments being captured that would otherwise be “fixed” in a modern, non-linear editing process.

This video seems to support the now-novel idea of capturing a real moment in time as apposed to using the recording process as a method for achieving an ideal that only exists on Steely Dan records. It is a very unique piece of music, and that, in and of itself, is a rarity these days.






Yours Truly Presents: The Morning Benders “Excuses” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

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Matt Butcher

When I was living in Florida, I had the great pleasure to play in a band called the Heathens. Besides having a drummer who played harmonica and sang, we also had a real live banjo player! I was in seventh heaven.

The band was lead by songwriter Matt Butcher who had come to Florida from England when he was about 9 years old. This left him with him a curiously crisp accent and rendered him, essentially, a foreigner in a state inhabited by transients fleeing the Great American Somewhere (ask 10 people anywhere in central or southern Florida where they’re from, and maybe 1 will say Gainsville; the rest are assuredly from New England or the Mid Atlantic).

In this atmosphere, Matt soaked up American culture and, having learned guitar through high school, promptly started several grip n’ rip indie rock bands. I still have a 7″ 45rpm from his group On Cassette that is one of my most prized possessions.

Once Matt and several of his Orlando music buddies realized that they were all closet country fans, the cat was out of the bag and the Heathens coalesced around Matt’s songwriting which was already taking on stronger and stronger Americana influences. They came into an open mic I was running, I sat in on slide and they hired me on stage.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the group less than a year later when I relocated to New England. The Heathens went on to release a fine album titled Big White House and pulled some impressive reviews following their debut at the South by Southwest music festival.

The band broke up in 2006 and Matt went on to a solo career, releasing Me And My Friends in 2008.

What’s so striking about Matt’s music is his songwriting, which is shockingly good and only getting better. I was sold on his talent when I heard his song, “Two Chimneys”:

This Christmas is tearing me in half,
Two trees to cut down, to presents to be had,
Two chimneys for Santa to squeeze down.

There aren’t very many young songwriters willing to tackle a subject like divorce via a Christmas song, but that is exactly the kind of songwriter Matt is. He is totally unafraid to take a hard look at any given subject and treat in a way that is accessible to everyone, and he does this without resorting to cliches & meaningless platitudes about his current emotional state. This stuff cuts deeper, like, way deeper.

On Me And My Friends, Matt tackles loss, addiction and the frailty of the human condition. Songs like “Keep It Together” speak powerfully to the malaise that comes with a bad habit:

I’m writing a letter to myself,
To read out loud in times of poor health,
When the urge is strong and resolve is weak,
It reads, “keep it together, boy,”

[...]

Flesh fights the soul,
Like the north and the south poles,
Both desperately reaching for the polarities.

You can hear Me And My Friends in its entirety here:

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You can download Me And My Friends at Matt’s website for whatever price you think is fair.

The following is from a correspondence interview with Matt from early 2010.

–:–

These songs seem very cohesive. Did you write them all at once?

The songs were written over five or six years. I wrote the title track
when I was eighteen, while Grace on a Greyhound (the last tune to be
written for the record) was written during the recording process.

This record is much darker than your outings with the Heathens. Was that intentional?

I didn’t consciously set out to make a dark record. I did set out to
make an honest one. When selecting the songs, I chose the ones that
meant the most to me personally. My early twenties were somewhat of a
turbulent time in my life and I think the tunes reflect that.

How did your backup band come together?

The Revolvers came about very organically. I knew what I wanted on the
record, instrumentation wise. Everyone came around at the right time.
It was a fantastic bunch of guys… big talent and very little ego. I
am actually playing with some different people on this next record,
but not for any negative reasons regarding the Revolvers. I like to
change things up…

Were there any particular artists you’re inspired by or compare yourself to?

I don’t really compare myself to other writers. I think it can be a
bit destructive to compare one’s art to another..There are certainly
many I am inspired by. Lately I have been listening to a lot of Townes
Van Zandt and reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy.

This record is quite a departure from your earlier band work. What prompted the new direction?

I think the songs dictate the direction of my music. I try to create
the most organic environment for the words to sit in. It has to feel
natural. I don’t think about it too much as it is happening, but I
know I have evolved as a songwriter and musician. I think my next
record will prove to be a bit different [than Me and My Friends]…

Crepitation Contest

Crepitation Contest

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New Collin Herring Album

In all fairness, this is really an EP.  It clocks in at just over 30 minutes and, even with the brevity notwithstanding, it’s not his best effort.

That said, Ocho is still better than 90% of the crap coming out of Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, where ever – and Collin Herring is still the best songwriter you’ve never heard of (unless, of course, you’re an avid reader of kellerglass.net, in which case you’re “hip” and “in-the-know”).  Hell, the second track on the record is worth the price of admission; and, if you don’t feel like dropping coin for the whole kit & caboodle, you can always pick and choose the tracks you want at CD Baby or iTunes.

I also dug up this delightful video of the recording process from his Myspace site.

…more on the EP/Album/Record/LP semantics nightmare later…

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Compression vs. Compression

I heard the piece embeded below on NPR and it resurrected an old bone of contention for me: the use of the word “compression”. In said story, the word compression is used to describe two very different concepts. One is audio compression, whereby dynamic range is reduced, making soft sounds louder and loud sounds softer. The other is digital compression in which file sizes are reduced in order to accommodate limited storage space or bandwidth. More specifically, the story discusses “compression” of hi fidelity sound files into the MP3 format.

I would argue that the word “compress” canotes that the resulting product constitutes the same material as the original, uncompressed item, only in a smaller form. Id est, if 1 gallon of gummy bears is compressed into a shape that is 1/2 gallons in volume, none of the original gummy bears are missing. They are simply in a denser form than when you started.

That is NOT how MP3 “compression” works. The MP3 format is based on the idea that there is data in a music file that is either redundant or ancillary and can be removed without noticably altering the sound of the original file. Given that CD-quality files contain a higher frequency range than most people’s hearing and that it requires very little data to reproduce certain sounds (very quite sounds, in particular) this is a solid theory. However, like many theories, this one gets royally screwed up in practice.

Audio files are created by taking snapshots of a sound source’s volume at regular intervals. For example, at CD quality, we take a 16 bit sample 44100 times per second. We’re using 705,600 bits per second to document a mono sound source, whether it’s the crescendo of Beethoven’s 9th or total silence.

When making an MP3, we make the correct assumption that you can reproduce a moment of silence using a fraction of the bits originally used to capture that auditory moment. You can also remove elements at the top and bottom end of the human hearing range without any perceptual difference, because many people cannot hear those frequencies to begin with. The trouble starts when you cut into frequencies that people can hear and this missing data is often perceived either as added noise, distortion, or a “thinning” of the sound.

And so I ask you, does what I just described sound like compression to you? What if a compression sock, instead of gently constricting your leg, simply shaved off parts of your leg. Would you agree with the manufacturer’s definition of “compression” then?

MP3s and similar “lossy” files have their place, but to call them compression is misleading. I think “digital reduction” would be a much better term. I have no doubt, however, that this is a losing battle. The offending use of the word is even codified in Merriam-Webster’s definition, “To reduce in size, quantity, or volume as if by squeezing <compress a computer file>”. Ugh…

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New Release, Northern Town

<a href="http://mobjackmusic.com/track/northern-town">Northern Town by Mobjack</a>

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