Earlier this year, I recorded a unique collaboration between the band Daughter, composer Joe Dudell and an ensemble of 10 classical musicians. The session was filmed by award-winning film-makers, Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth for the 4AD Sessions series, and also has a limited release on 12” vinyl.
The videos speak for themselves, but if you’re interested in the recording process, please read on. The beautiful photos you see were taken by the multi-talented Remi Aguilella when he wasn’t playing the drums!
Unlike most classical sessions, where the players are positioned to give a natural acoustic balance, usually from the conductor or audience perspective, this session was slightly different. The musicians had to be positioned in a circle, to accommodate the camera-track running around the outside. The three Daughter musicians were positioned in amongst the orchestral players, so that everybody could communicate easily and had good line-of-sight. The main challenge with this layout was achieving usable separation between the instruments, whilst using the minimum of acoustic screens, so as not to ruin the visuals or impede line of sight between the players.
You will notice that nobody is wearing headphones or in-ears. The musicians wanted to be able to hear each other acoustically, communicate easily, and get timing information from each other, and from Joe, rather than from a click track. All the songs are live takes, with no overdubs. There was some sound reinforcement in the form of monitor-wedges, which mainly fed vocals to everyone, as well as a small amount of the other instruments as required. This was another challenge in engineering terms, as there was a lot of vocal bleed around the room.
For both the reasons detailed above, we used mostly close-mics, although we did use a little of the ambient pair of valve U47s that we had up throughout. We had to be very careful during the mix – pulling down mics that weren’t in use – to keep monitor bleed under control but without changing the perspective between sections too much. All mics were recorded through the remote AIR Montserrat Mic Pre’s of AIR’s vintage custom Neve, and Eli’s vocals also went through a vintage LA2A.
We mixed inside Pro Tools, summing up 16 channels of AIR’s SSL G-Series console. This allowed us the flexibility we needed to keep coming back to mixes and tweaking them, and both Igor and Eli were very involved and spent a lot of time in the studio during the mix. Their attention to detail and willingness to put in the time definitely pushed the mixes to the next level, and Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road did a great job in mastering.
All photographs copyright Remi Aguilella