Engineer and Co-producer Patrick Phillips from Real World explains the recording process:
Right from the off the group wanted to be as rehearsed as possible and capture everything as live as possible with minimal overdubs. They rehearsed for a week before the recording session ensuring everything was up to scratch and all arrangements were ironed out. This is always a vital step in the process and ensures more time can be spent on creative decisions as opposed to working through performance issues.
We had a discussion about the sound of the record and whilst it was intended to capture as much of a live performance as was possible we also wanted to maintain as much isolation between the individual instruments in order to be able to manipulate the recorded sound in the mix.
The basic layout we went for
We placed Lisa (vocals) and Esyllt (harp) together in the Wood Room booth with Martin (guitar), Dan (bass) and Mirain (piano/dulcimer) in the main Wood Room live space. This left Ali (drums) in the Big Room back booth. To further isolate the sound we placed both amplifiers for Guitar and Bass in the Big Room.
You can view the different spaces as a Google 360º here
Wood Room Downstairs:
Wood Room Upstairs:
The plan for recording was to capture all tracks and overdubs at the first run, then spend a couple of days both playing back sounds and manipulating them in the control room with all of the various outboard and guitar pedals that we have at Real World. Further to this we would spend a day playing back the recorded sound through into the Wood Room where a set of monitors would amplifier the sound so that we could record the ambience in the room. This was not possible at initial recording due to the level of isolation needed. The next stage would be to take all of these different elements and bring them together as a stereo mix.
The drums had a very deliberate sound on this record due to their location. They were placed in the back booth of the Big Room, which has a very dead, dry acoustic and a slight lift in the low end. We ended up with the sound of the kit with very little room reflection and a power in the low end. Further to this we fed one of the microphones through an FX chain (live) and through to a second isolation booth which had a Fender Champ Tweed amplifier. The chain was various distortion pedals and a tremolo. The Tweed has a single 8” driver which added a mid range punch to the sound (depending on the FX chain). Every track we’d take the feed from a different microphone focusing on either the snare / kick / room to feed to the amp for a different tone.
The other difference in drum tone was the track Cyfaddefa, which included drum overdubs in the Wood Room. You can hear their entry at 3:51. On this track predominantly you can hear the addition of some percussion elements. We’re very fortunate at the studios to have a fantastic collection of percussion that Peter Gabriel has built up over the years. It houses many large frame drums and Ali added five layers throughout this track. These were recorded in the Wood Room with a pair of microphones placed many feet away from the drum and, with compression later in the mix, you get a sense of the space and the energy around the drum.
Whilst tracking through various FX pedals and pieces of outboard we’d almost set the sound of the record in the first run of recording and this stayed fairly close throughout the mix. In fact one of the rough mixes after recording had finished made it to the final album. The mix process was subtle EQing, Compression and perfecting the balance between instruments. We had a couple of tracks that demanded more attention, and more sounds were sculptured during the mix using both software and hardware outboard.
We used an Eventide H3000 to place the harp in an otherworldly place! The track Yr Olaf and Llyn Du feature the most post manipulation. We had discussed Yr Olaf and decided to go down more of a dub route. The drums were output to various devices (Roland Space Echo / WEM Copicat and Behringer Echo Machine) for the dub effects you can hear. For Llyn Du we created the initial arpeggiated electronic sound through a Korg Mini Kaoss Pad (setting 42 if my memory serves me correctly!).