Stereophile's Test CD 2 Track 14

Track Information, Track 14

[14] Corey Greenberg: Eden (AAD) 3:14
Corey Greenberg (electric guitars)

Recording Venue: KBTS-FM Studio B, Austin, Texas
Recording Date: December 16, 1987
Recording Engineer: Corey Greenberg
Microphone: none (uh-oh...)
Recorder: Otari MX5050B-II ¼" 2-track and MX5050B-III 4-track open-reel recorders at 15ips (NAB EQ)
Recording Equipment: Tascam board, Yamaha SPX-90 digital effects unit, Chandler Tube Driver guitar preamp, Urei LA-4 compressors, Canare cable
Transfer to digital: Manley Analogue to Digital Converter, Aiwa HD-S1 DAT, ReVox PR-99 open-reel recorder, AudioQuest Lapis balanced interconnects
Digital Transfer Engineers: John Atkinson, Corey Greenberg

"I've always loved the music of Jimi Hendrix," writes Corey Greenberg. "Beyond his swashbuckling image lay an awesome compositional mind, coupled with perhaps the most gifted instrumental technique in the history of the guitar. Whether it was Jimi's ferocious blues power or his soulful rhythm playing, his music affects me like no other's; in my opinion, he's still the high-water mark.

"So when my friend Tracy asked me to help her with a project for her Beginning Recording class at UT's Radio-TV-Film department, I was eager to lay down a tribute to the man who made me pick up a guitar in the first place. The project was: to come up with a recording that 'evoked a mood'; I chose 'unbridled rage,' and took my idealized vision of the just-born Eden as the visual equivalent of my aural statement. Jeez, that sounds New Age-y.

"Anyway, it soon became apparent that studio tricks like backwards guitar solos weren't part of UT's course curriculum, so Tracy suggested that I just take over the recording duties as well as the playing; I had to swear never to reveal to her professor that it was I who had actually pressed the 'Record' and 'Stop' buttons, and after a solemn ritual involving swapped bloody handshakes and this weird butt-bumping dance to seal our unholy vow, Tracy went to get a sandwich and I got down to work.

"While I would've preferred to mike my Fender Bassman guitar amp, the studio I recorded Eden in is right next to KBTS-FM's main studio; although the concept intrigues, screaming banshee freakout guitar leaking out over the DJ's mike is not the stuff of which Arbitron ratings are made. So instead of miking the speaker of a tube guitar amp, I plugged my guitar (and its attendant effect devices) directly into the board, and tried to get as cool a tone as I could with creative EQ, reverb, and a few other tricks.

"In addition to the 'solo' guitar, a lot of the ambient swell is also backwards guitar. This technique involves physically flipping the analog tape over and listening to the backing tracks backwards while you lay down the new track. Why on God's Green Earth would anyone want to record anything backwards, you ask? Because, aside from the obvious phrasing reversal, recording a guitar backwards changes its inherent transient envelope; what's normally a loud note followed by a sustained die-off becomes a faint cry off in the distance that builds into a BANG and then—whup!—it's gone. As the tape is actually progressing from the end of the music to the beginning, a certain amount of conceptual planning is a good idea, lest the backwards track end up as random-sounding as some of CS&N's experiments along these lines. According to Hendrix's producer Eddie Kramer, Jimi had the uncanny ability to record a solo backwards, all the while knowing exactly how it would sound after the tape was flipped back over. This is more the approach I was shooting for, so I had to play the ending coda first and the beginning primal burps last. Confused? Try DOING it sometime!

"All the sounds on Eden are guitar, including the repeat-delayed volume-knob swells in the beginning that sound like voices 'ahhh-ing,' but excluding the water and seagulls, which were courtesy of a sound-effects record we had lying around the studio. Incidentally, if you have access to an open-reel deck, you can record Eden and flip the tape over to hear the solo 'forwards,' although you'll also hear the subliminal message 'Eat lots of pork products.'

"By placing the various guitars and reverbs all over the place, I tried to create a deep, spacious soundstage. Of course, this depth is entirely artificial, created as it was with a Yamaha SPX-90 digital reverb twiddled to produce an extra-long reverb algorithm. The movement of the solo distorted guitar came from a heavy hand on the pan pot and fader, and not me running back and forth through the studio with my amp strapped to my back as suggested by TJN. All the guitars are first-takes, the total time between actual recording and final mixdown being about two hours; I'm a firm believer in the Elvis Ethos: 'Take Care of Business, Lightning-Quick.'

"The day John and I spent transferring the ¼" 2-track master to digital was both enlightening and unnerving. Because while we had the privilege of using the edge-of-the-art Manley A/D converter, a unit as superior to what's used for most commercial recordings as a Goldmund is to a Fisher-Price, there was STILL audible degradation when comparing the DAT copy to the analog master! I mean, it's not like we were using a mega-tweaked tube Ampex 300 for the analog and a $99 Walmart CD player to solve the Great Analog/Digital Debate; the Aiwa DAT machine fed the super-bad Manley Reference D/A converter, while we played the analog master of Eden back over John's stock Revox PR99 deck. A better digital transfer setup doesn't exist, yet John, TJN, RL, and I all heard a distinct loss of depth. This was especially apparent at the end of the solo, when the raging guitar suddenly implodes; I purposely rammed down the fader during the original mixdown to create a massive surge of reverb toward the 'rear' of the soundscape. With the analog master, my intended effect of a huge wave of ambience soaring out into space was clear; the DAT version, however, curtailed this last gasp of reverb, making it sound like the wave was suddenly soaked up by the beach a good 50 yards before it was supposed to be. Tonally, the DAT copy is very faithful to the original master, but the sense of ambience I worked very hard to create with the various reverbs and production techniques is somewhat foreshortened. As John said while we listened to the playback, 'If you never heard the original analog master, the digital transfer sounds damn good!' Which it does. But for this listener, the whole issue of 'digital sounds drier cuz analog exaggerates ambience with resonant spuriae/phase anomalies/increased distortion' has been settled for good.

"And last, even though this recording features electronically produced sounds, massive intentional distortion, completely unnatural backwards guitars, tons of multi-tracking with absolutely no regard for correct polarity, and a totally artificial ambient environment, the audible tape hiss and AC hum is there because I refused to use Dolby; I am, after all, a purist."