Society of Sound’s November act Mammal Hands hark from the remote English town of Norwich, but their sound, style and energy suggests something wholly different. The band’s engineer George Atkins recalls the makings and technicalities of their beautifully recorded contemporary jazz sound.
‘Shadow Work’ was recorded over six days at 96kHz 24bit through 80 Hertz’s Neve Genesys, using the on board A to D and D to A converters. We let the drums breath in the 1000 square foot live room. Jordan (on sax) and Nick on a 1977 Yamaha U3 upright were in booths with line of sight. The aim being to keep the band in a familiar live concert configuration.
I had worked with the band on their last two records, which was so important as we were on the same page with regard to the album’s sonic vision. I’m always keen to get the best results possible at source, and thus committed analogue EQ and compression moves when recording, seeking as close to finished sound as possible.
The music studios at 80 Hertz were designed with shrinking recording budgets in mind. Bands/artists that are in their element live, can make great use of the setup, plus the engineers and producers retain important instrument isolation. The live room sound greatly contributed to the open and wide drum sound, and was used as a reverb chamber to colour other instruments, which gave us a helping ‘glue’ to the record.
We used a pair of valve Neumann U67’s as drum overheads in conjunction with numerous spot and room mics to cover all areas – in case we needed them at the mix stage. We wanted the lacquer cut to sound as good as possible, so time was spent refining mic positions to ensure phase coherency (necessary for a good sounding vinyl) before we hit record. Music with heavy stereo dynamics, such as Nick’s piano parts, are notoriously difficult to cut faithfully due to the inherent technical ‘limitations’ of vinyl.
The piano had a stereo array of ribbon mics at the rear and valve condensers across the front. I used AEA JFET mic pres on the Coles 4038 ribbon mics to yield as lower noise floor as possible, due to the piano often being muted by material (naturally reducing the output) to attain the tone/aesthetic pianist Nick Smart was after on certain tracks.
The sax was recorded with a valve Neumann U47, along with a pair of telefunken ELAM M260 valve mics as overheads, to capture the space and give listeners a stereo picture of Jordan – contributing to the record’s complex stereo image.
Once the various takes had been edited, we mixed the record through the Neve console, summing in analogue with the desk EQ and a selection of valve outboard compression / EQ doing the ‘heavy lifting’, using plugins where necessary.