Martin Hoyland of 9Bach talks through the shapingof the sound of Anian:
Shaping the sound of Anian, started in early 2015, when Lisa Jên and I started making demo recordings of the songs in our small studio in Bethesda, North Wales on our digital 16 track recorder the Zoom R16.
Lisa comes up with the vocal melody and piano riff, and we record those first. I then come up with a bass line; this is important as the bass sets the mood of the songs, and if it came after the drums or guitar, it would be hard not to follow their rhythms and beats.
90% of the guitar sounds and effects on Anian were pre-programmed, recorded straight to tape and these were then worked into the demoing process using a Zoom G9.T22 Twin Tube Multi Effects processor. It wasn’t planned, but it’s worked out that the guitars have used a lot of Wah Wah, Flanger, and fast Tremolo on Anian. The fast tremolo can sound like a digital delay, but it’s not!
On Llyn Du and Ifan the chords have got a fast Tremelo and Flanger on them, which gives it a psychedelic, electronic feel, it’s just one chord left to ring brought in by a volume pedal so you don’t hear the initial chime, and then I let the effects do all the work!
The guitars on Cyfaddefa are heavy on Wah Wah and Flanger, which helps give the song an edge, and get the psychedelic trippy feel we were searching for. Musically I wanted it to sound something like The Doors doing a Greek ‘rembetika’ song.
Although when we came to mix Cyfaddefa we spent some time working on a drone sound. We wanted to create some edge so we bought an electronic Tanpura, but whilst mixing it just sounded too familiar, too evocative of that traditional Tanpura sound. We spent a while experimenting with some different effects, and in the end we ended up using the EHX Deluxe Electric Mistress Flanger. Again this gives the song an edge and slight psychedelic feel, sometimes sounding as though it were a synthesiser on a dance track.
The guitars on the chorus in Yr Olaf, bring them all together, Wah Wah, Flanger, and fast Tremelo, all at the same time. Again I’m just letting one chord ring over a bar, and letting the effects do their thing, it hardly sounds like a guitar, it’s a very electronic sound.
On Yr Olaf I wanted some “dub” production, so we started by putting some delays on the snare drum, Patrick from Real World Studios had an array of lots of different effects laid out and ready to go, including many delays. We started with the Space Echo, and didn’t get any further, it sounded great, so we just experimented with that, and the result is the many different timed echos on the song. It was great fun playing with that Space Echo!
At the time I was conscious that we shouldn’t overdo it, but when I listen back now I want to hear more of it, but I think it was the right decision, sometimes if you over do an effect or production technique, after a few listens the novelty can wear off, and it can become annoying. Better to leave the listener (and me!) wanting more, and still enjoying it each time they return to the song; it’s a fine line though!
On Yr Olaf we also wanted to do something with the Hammered Dulcimer, it worked well on Ifan, and Cyfaddefa with no effect on it, but it needed something else here. After a fair bit of trial and error, I made the stupid/hopeful suggestion of putting it through the Wah Wah, astonishingly it sounded great – very subtle, but lovely.
Before recording Anian, we spent 3 days rehearsing in Cardiff, and another 5 days at Real World as we decided we wanted to record the album live.
We’d looked back at Tincian, our previous album, and most of Lisa’s best vocal takes were the ones she’d recorded as “guide” vocals whilst the rest of the band were recording their parts. Lisa also felt the process of recording her vocals in a booth on her own after everyone had recorded their parts and gone, very soulless. Our music is full of sentiment, emotion, feeling – so it made sense for us all to play and record together and for Lisa to sing with the energy of the band, and vice versa. It’s much better for us to respond to each other.
This took a fair amount of planning and thought, as we needed to separate the vocals and instruments as much as possible, whilst also trying to set it up so all six members of the band could see each other. On the whole we ended up recording three versions of each song, and picking the best one.
Sometimes you can hear a piano pedal squeaking, or a bass guitar string rattling, but I think that adds to the character of the live sound, and we definitely didn’t want some kind of slick production.
The process was a bit different on the more vocal heavy songs like Heno, and Si Hwi Hwi, as they needed lots of vocal over dubs, but the main vocals on both those songs we’re recorded live in one take.