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Topic: Superb music. Terrible production.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
Yann Offline




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Posted: Jan. 30 2017, 07:25

Quote (Satyagraha @ Jan. 30 2017, 06:05)
Indeed. It has a dynamic range of around 12dB, which is the same as the original Ommadawn. For comparison, MOTR has a dynamic range of 6dB, which is considered very compressed, but sadly standard in modern-day mainstream mastering. But not as bad as Radiohead's latest single, which has an awful dynamic range of 3dB. I can't understand why they are destroying their music like that.

Do you realize that nobody has criticized the dynamic range or the compression in the album? What has been criticized is the recording and/or the EQ, which is a very different thing.
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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Jan. 30 2017, 09:49

Quote (qjamesfloyd @ Jan. 30 2017, 08:51)
I think a big problem with a lot of Mike's fans is they waste to much time thinking about the production and recording of instruments, and forget what is really important, the music!!!

This is why I was wary of joining in with this at all, I think it's possible to get too wrapped up in one aspect or other and miss a more enjoyable bigger picture.

That said...I wouldn't call thinking about production and the recording of instruments a waste of time, considering people pay me to do it. ;) I think if this discussion can serve to help people form their own ideas about sound and how music can be presented, that's actually a great thing. I learned a whole lot from listening to Mike's recordings and if that experience can help others here, that's cool. If it's just going to get everyone wound up, though, it may be time to leave the topic alone and enjoy some music :)

Quote (Jesse @ Jan. 30 2017, 11:05)
Amarok mixed properly?! did you hear those big stabs at the beginning?

That's exactly what I've been trying to get at - it's not a matter of right or wrong, but whether a mix (and master) serves the artist's intent. I would say that the mix is doing its job perfectly there - it's designed to shock and be unpleasant, and considering you're saying it makes your ears ring, it seems it's doing exactly what Mike wanted (though his target was Simon Draper rather than you specifically). ;) So...in that instance, I'd say it's not a question of Mike and Tom Newman's abilities as engineers, but of whether you feel like they were following an artistic intent which leads to an enjoyable experience for you. I love it personally, but I think even those of us who are fans of Amarok wouldn't call it an entirely easy listen...

I'd also be wary of talking in terms of 'perfect' when it comes to mastering, if that means we take a blanket approach which we feel ought to be applied to every recording. It's again a case of serving the intent of the recording, and I suppose if we were to take a Justin Bieber album, the intent would be very different from Return to Ommadawn. I personally find that those super-squashed pop mixes/masters can get tiring to listen to long-term (that's also a matter of their tonal balance and often their musical content though), but I think it could probably be argued that they appeal to their audience and serve a certain purpose. As I already hint at there, it can be tempting to blame mastering for it, but we don't always know what was done at the mix stage (and really, if you do want to absolutely squash it, you're likely to get better results doing that at more than one point in the process). I personally prefer to take the work of Bruce Swedien (recording/mix) and Bernie Grundman (mastering) with Michael Jackson as a benchmark for pop recordings, they have more life to them, while still translating well and having a good 'slam' to them.

Compressors are misunderstood creative tools, I think - they should be thought of as something to alter the dynamic shape of a sound, rather than as some kind of automatic volume control. Mike demonstrates that quite well with his compressed electric guitar near the beginning of Part One, with its softened, sustaining sound (but also demonstrates how a compressor can raise the noise floor considerably...). Their effect on transients can affect the impression of brightness with some sounds, particularly as our brains gain a lot of information from the initial portion of a sound - the more someone can really get a handle on concepts like that, the more I think they take their mixes interesting places. I think it's also really important to see how things like the response of elements in the chain like the diaphragm of a moving coil dynamic microphone or valves in an amplifier stage can also have similar functions in modifying these characteristics of sounds.

That's maybe starting to ramble off topic, but I'm just hoping to bring a bit of background into this and encourage more thought about how all the elements in the recording chain and the creative choices in the process combine to form a final outcome...and that creating a mix (and piece of music in general) is a matter of understanding the listener and combining that knowledge with an artistic intent.

I think the point of discussion here is really of what Mike's intent might have been (which can be hard to know without fully quizzing him about it) and whether the listeners here feel like he's conveyed that to them successfully. I guess the 'Peace' section of Tubular Bells Part Two comes to mind, where the rhythms are wobbly, the organ crackly, and Mike's breathing is quite audible. It's all 'wrong' and yet for me, it all adds up to something which paints a picture of intense fragility...to me, it's somehow very right.

Do Mike's choices on Return to Ommadawn add up to a similar effect, or are listeners feeling they're not serving the overall picture that the music seems to be painting?
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hubert Offline




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Posted: Jan. 30 2017, 11:24

Guys, it's ok if you don't share the same opinion. The vast majority of RTO reviews and feedbacks are very positive, so obviously what bothers a handful of people here doesn't do so with everyone else, that's cool.

On the other hand the same issues have been brought up fairly consistently - by far less people, but consistently. That's cool too.

Telling someone that he's wrong or that his equipement is faulty because the mixing or production is not to his taste is not particularly constructive.

Quote
I think a big problem with a lot of Mike's fans is they waste to much time thinking about the production and recording of instruments, and forget what is really important, the music!!!


Actually I totally agree with you. For this particular album, in my case, the overly crispy-trebly-recorded guitars and the lack of flow in the playing took me out of the music. I didn't really spend time thinking about it.

This wasn't the case with tubular Bells, for example, where the imperfections have a "warmth" that I find very absent from RTO.

I'm pretty familiar with the recording/mixing process, being in that field myself too, and I think Korgscrew summed it up well: it's a highly subjective area, and in the end it's about whether or not it serves the music. For some people it will, for others it won't. There's not much point arguing about it, but it's interesting to discuss it.
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qjamesfloyd Offline




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Posted: Jan. 30 2017, 12:14

I think Mike was going for feeling and emotion with this album, he has even stated there wasn't much tidying up with this album, so, he was going for a raw approach, and for me I like it.

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Yann Offline




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Posted: Jan. 30 2017, 14:05

Quote (qjamesfloyd @ Jan. 30 2017, 12:14)
I think Mike was going for feeling and emotion with this album, he has even stated there wasn't much tidying up with this album, so, he was going for a raw approach, and for me I like it.

That's great. But now that the album has been already composed and it's not gonna vanish or disappear... well, maybe a better produced version would be even better  :)

Not now, since now Mike's focused in composing and he's got back the muse. So, let him make music. But... some years from now, a new recording, or even an unplugged or a live version playing with variations, that would be so good.
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hellegennes Offline




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Posted: Jan. 31 2017, 11:51

Quote (Jesse @ Jan. 30 2017, 07:05)
Quote (hubert @ Jan. 29 2017, 13:45)
I'm actually with Yann on that one. The melodies and arrangements are wonderful, but the aesthetic choice of how of the instruments were recorded  and mixed is very unpleasant to my taste.

I know Mike mentioned he purposely left the performance quite raw, but frankly I find it very much left at the unfinished stage. There are recording issues all over the place (the accoustic guitar is often distorted, there are digital artifacts in a number of places too), and even the playing is nowhere near what Mike can do if he spends the time (there are timing issues everywhere).

By contrast, Amarok is an example of an album that was amazingly well recorded and performed, while still retaining the human element. Ommadawn is another one, although from a different era.

To me RTO is a "promising demo". Great arrangement ideas (if perhaps "Oldfield by the number"), interesting melodies, perhaps a bit disjointed, but with a bit of work and proper recording it could make a fantastic album.

Now, for the record, I am a huge fan of Mike's music. I got into guitar playing thanks to him, and to this day I believe he is one of the most innovative, original, and talented guitar player out there. That's why RTO feels so unfinished to me.

Amarok mixed properly?! did you hear those big stabs at the beginning?
hello ringing ears/damage.

personally i find the RTO guitar to be recorded somewhat raw and the plucking is very audible, but i kinda like that

Yep. Amarok has some big timing problems too.
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sparkymarkyb Offline




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Posted: Feb. 05 2017, 17:51

I first listened on headphones, and found it way too raw and not very well mixed.

Second time I listened was on my hifi system which is made from a mid-'90s computer amplifier attached to some mediocre Toshiba speakers from the late '70s and powered by USB!;)
And it sounded much more coherent.

Third time I listened, I was driving, and it all staarted to make sense...

Either this is a great album to listen to on car speakers, or I am getting used to the music...
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Yann Offline




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Posted: Feb. 06 2017, 10:37

Quote (sparkymarkyb @ Feb. 05 2017, 17:51)
I first listened on headphones, and found it way too raw and not very well mixed.

Second time I listened was on my hifi system which is made from a mid-'90s computer amplifier attached to some mediocre Toshiba speakers from the late '70s and powered by USB!;)
And it sounded much more coherent.

Third time I listened, I was driving, and it all staarted to make sense...

Either this is a great album to listen to on car speakers, or I am getting used to the music...

Yeap, happening to me too. Maybe when you have listened a few times the album your brain start to filter the sounds, like when you have a clock in the room and after some time you don't listen the "tick tack" anymore...
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Jesse Offline




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Posted: Feb. 06 2017, 15:32

I kinda start noticing the timing issues more and more now, like in some parts it feels a bit lazy. I love the album, but it does feel sloppy sometimes. Also, at times it excites me as feeling 'Live', but I'm a bit torn.

It feels more alive than TB2, but also maybe a bit too much!
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hubert Offline




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Posted: Feb. 08 2017, 23:43

Yes, I did the same, I first listened to it with headphones. It was both a nice experience because it was new music by Mike, and a bit traumatic too because of the rawness of the recording :-)

It certainly sounds better with some speakers that "warm" the sound.

After a couple of weeks of listening I find it a pleasant album with tons of good ideas, but I still have trouble with that "unfinished" feeling that I get every time. But hey, that's just my taste.

In the end I'm grateful that Mike is still making music, and especially music that makes him happy.
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First_Excursion Offline




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Posted: Feb. 09 2017, 01:44

Quote (Korgscrew @ Jan. 28 2017, 09:15)
I get the impression that Mike sees Ommadawn as something he did predominantly on his own, whereas my impression from talking to and reading accounts from people who worked on it is that it was actually quite a collaborative effort.

I think this is an important detail about probably all of Mike's best work.  Mike has some terrific ideas, but I think he was at his best when he was prepared to bounce them of others and perhaps take advice and a little sanity check here and there. Mike has worked with several very talented collaborators and I can't easily dismiss the influence this had on his earlier stuff.
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Marky Offline




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Posted: Feb. 16 2017, 14:20

Quote (qjamesfloyd @ Jan. 30 2017, 12:14)
I think Mike was going for feeling and emotion with this album, he has even stated there wasn't much tidying up with this album, so, he was going for a raw approach, and for me I like it.


I agree with this. I'm not technical. I also think it is warm music, unlike a previous contributor.
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pipetune Offline




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Posted: Feb. 17 2017, 15:48

I’m so pleased these issues of sound quality have been noticed by others – I thought it was just me and these things can never be said about your favourite artist! Totally agree with Yann. I think it’s the mix that’s the issue. The acoustic guitar is far too forward in the mix, the mike is too close and the playing too hard. I actually find it quite uncomfortable to listen to – but I do. This is similar to how most modern albums are now made where the vocalist is way higher in volume than the rest of the band. It has the effect of sounding like the artist is singing with the radio on in the background. This effect happens on Return to Ommadawn when the guitar is so far forward. I like it, but it’s a bit shallow, needs more body, needs recorder and needs harp. Should have also had new vocals & what is most of side one about? It’s a problem when you don’t use a producer. Anyway I like it, maybe 7/10, don’t think I will be playing it much (but a hell of a lot more than Man on the Rocks!;) really glad to hear him doing this kind of thing again.
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qjamesfloyd Offline




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Posted: Feb. 22 2017, 04:24

I think people need to accept that Mike is an artist like no other!! and he likes to do things his way, he has worked with a producer in the past, but clearly he doesn't really like doing that, ok his finished ideas might not be to everyone's taste, but that is just Mike. I would prefer to have Mike the way he is than no Mike at all!! Mike had a producer on Man On The Rocks and people still moaned, so he is damned if he does, damned if he don't!!

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hellegennes Offline




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Posted: Feb. 22 2017, 06:19

Not only that, but it's because of the production that they decided not to use Mike's voice, which might have been less marketable but many fans noted that the versions with Mike's voice sound better and more Oldfieldish. Well, duh!
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Jesse Offline




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Posted: Feb. 22 2017, 08:33

Quote (qjamesfloyd @ Feb. 22 2017, 04:24)
I think people need to accept that Mike is an artist like no other!! and he likes to do things his way, he has worked with a producer in the past, but clearly he doesn't really like doing that, ok his finished ideas might not be to everyone's taste, but that is just Mike. I would prefer to have Mike the way he is than no Mike at all!! Mike had a producer on Man On The Rocks and people still moaned, so he is damned if he does, damned if he don't!!

well he likes to work with trevor horn again...
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Erick Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2017, 06:22

:)
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hellegennes Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2017, 07:55

Yes, that's also true. Most artists create their best work when they are between their 20's and their 40's. That's how creativity works in general and it's not just a biological thing, it also has to do with social parameters. New generations are born within new eras with different characteristics. As long as these are fresh, they create new environments within which one's work fits. As time passes, these environments grow old too and seem less fresh and innovative. What they had to offer is spent.

There are freak exceptions to this rule and there are people who were even more creative in their 60's and 70's. But that is extremely rare. That is why RTO was such a big surprise for me. I didn't expect Mike to pull this off in a non-cheesy, non-conservative and non-awkward way.
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Liquid Friend Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2017, 12:43

The vinyl RTO boasts "vinyl half speed mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road".

It would be very interesting to hear if some audiophile out there has had the chance to do a side-by-side comparison between the vinyl and the CD. Does this 'half speed mastering' make any noticable difference quality wise? Maybe the issue of the guitars being too 'up front' in the mix is a bigger problem on CD than on vinyl thanks to being mastered by this Miles Showell character?


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Erick Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2017, 14:56

:)
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