DUMBO, BROOKLYN: One of the most transcendent albums of 2008 was Alpinisms by Brooklyn’s School of Seven Bells. If you haven’t heard it yet – and you enjoy having your mind blown again and again and again and again by extremely original music – you might want to check it out.
The collaboration between Ben Curtis of Secret Machines and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On!Air!Library! takes thick, intellectual, beaty dreaminess to new heights. While fans wait to see what adventures the next full-length will hold, Alpinisms’ mastering engineer Joe Lambert of Joe Lambert Mastering got to sneak a sneak preview of what comes in between: a resplendent set of remixes, putting intriguing new spins on eight of the album’s eleven tracks.
“I first worked with the band when Ben came in for the mastering of Alpinisms in late spring of 2008,” Lambert says. “I remember talking with him before the session about who was going to mix the record. He ended up mixing it himself. This was a big challenge because of all the different elements/tracks as you can hear on the record. He did a great job! It’s this beautifully dense material with the vocals melodies riding on top.
“It was a little bit of a challenge to make sure it was as big as they envisioned, without it getting muddy. In the end it’s a very exciting record to listen to. We also cut it to vinyl, which sounds great as well.”
Alpinisms was originally released by Ann Arbor, MI-based Ghostly International last year, but then picked up for re-release by Vagrant Records in July. Along with a fresh boost for the album, Vagrant also called for a set of ready-to-go Alpinisms remixes – hypnotic instant classics including “Wired for Light”, “Half Asleep”, and “My Cabal” — mastered.
“A couple of the remixes — Caldo, Iamundernodisguise — are acoustic, which is a great way of hearing them after listening to the originals with all the layers,” says Lambert. “Overall, the remixes still have plenty of elements but there is a little more space and the vocals have a more intimate vibe to my ear.”
Working out of his analog/digital DUMBO mastering suite, Lambert’s primary challenge was to keep the sound big, without letting SVIIB’s lusciously dense sound devolve into mud. (Future Mastering Engineers, pay attention HERE). “Many of the songs on the record are thick, but also have the delicate female vocals floating above,” he explains. “The low end can’t be too big or it will mask the midrange and vocals, but the top can’t be too bright or the vocals get strident or piercing. You have to be able to really hear the extended low to trust your EQ decisions.
“Our room allows me to really know what’s going on sonically, so I can shape the EQ balance properly — my monitors are Kef 207.2 references powered by rebuilt McIntosh 2100 amplfiers. After that, it’s just being able to rely on the tools I have to get it there.” – David Weiss