Check out “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, Bodega’s newest single from their debut album Endless Scroll. Austin Brown produced the LP, which I mixed and mastered at my old studio Doctor Wu’s in Brooklyn, NY. FUN FACT: this LP was recorded on the Tascam 388 we used for Light Up Gold, The Keepsies, and the tape-machine shootout.    Endless Scroll comes out June 1 via What’s Your Rupture.

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Otari MX-5050 vs Tascam 388

A couple months ago, I was at Seaside Lounge with Parquet Courts recording a bunch of new material.  We finished an EP, which will be coming out this September – you can hear live versions of some of the songs (and a thoughtful interview with the band) on a recent edition of NPR’s World Cafe, recorded a couple weeks before we hit the studio.

Part of the setup process was figuring out what tape machine to use for the sessions.  We recorded Light Up Gold on Austin’s Tascam 388, so we knew we could get something good on it.  There’s an almost cult-like following surrounding the 388, from the San Francisco psych-garage scene to the Black Keys and a host of other analog enthusiasts.   I’ve worked on it a number of times (with Austin’s other band The Keepsies and the folk-rock revivalists Wild Leaves) and really love the sound, but wanted to explore some other options.

Seaside Lounge – in addition to their beautiful Otari MTR-90II 2″ 16-track (on which we recorded Funky Was the State of Affairs) – also has an Otari MX-5050 1/2″ 8 track in their B room.  Nirvana’s Bleach, Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff, and a bunch of early Sub Pop records were recorded on an Otari MX-5050.  The guys at Daptone Records still swear by them.  I recently picked up a MX-5050 for Doctor Wu’s, and was eager to try it out with the band.

So I set up a shootout of the two machines!  Through the Sony MPX console, I was able to simultaneously bus each track to the Otari (at 15 ips, no DBX), the Tascam (w/ DBX on), and Pro Tools HD (as a control).  Since we were using 8-track tape machines, I submixed my drums (kick, snare, rack, floor, stereo overheads) to a stereo pair.  The bass and two guitars had one mic each, but I’ve bounced the guitars as a stereo pair for this demonstration.

The recordings are from an early take that we discarded, so there are no vocals or other overdubs on it – just the live tracks.  I adjusted the clips levels so that they would be roughly the same volume (the mix between -18 and -15 RMS).  No other processing or effects were applied to these tracks post-tape/computer.

These clips are from a song called “Descend” (which will be on the upcoming EP).  There’s a rough mix of all the tracks (with the same relative mix level for each transfer), and the drums, bass, and guitars by themselves.  In each clip, the order is Pro Tools > Otari MX-5050 >Tascam 388 > Tascam 388 (w/ DBX off during playback, a really cool trick that seemed worth documenting!).

Mix:

Drums:

Bass:

Guitars:

We went decided fairly quickly to go with the Otari.  The low end is robust and punchy with a nice natural dip in the low mids, and an accented-but-not-hyped high end.  The Tascam sounds are really cool too, though.  With DBX on for both recording and playback, it gives a sound that’s more compressed and mid-rangey than either the Otari or Pro Tools… it sounds tough.  The low-mids of bass guitar got a bit out of control on the 388 – if we had stuck with it, I would have adjusted the EQ on the amp or the console to clean it up a bit.  Almost as an afterthought, I also transfered the tracks from the 388 with DBX off.  Austin and I had done that with some of the Keepsies recordings, and it totally changes the sound (as you can tell) to something bright and sparkly.  It’s a bit extreme in this case – I was using a lot of condensers on these recordings… but try it on something like a guitar overdub with a SM57 or whatever dynamic you’ve got around, and you can get some amazing/unique results.

This shootout was done for our own purposes, so it’s not particularly scientific or exact.  I hope that these recordings are as interesting to you guys as they were to us!  Big thanks to Charles and Mike at Seaside Lounge for all of their enthusiastic help to set this up.  Thanks for checking this out, and feel free to get in touch at jonathan.schenke[at]gmail.

Light Up Gold, the new album by Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts, is out now on gold-colored vinyl and digital download from Dull Tools.  We tracked this on a Tascam 388 in the late-winter, and I mixed and mastered it at my personal studio…. we are all really proud of how it turned out – solid performances of cool songs, great tones and good vibes, and the sequencing and design & packaging (by the band’s A. Savage) really seal the deal.

It’s been getting lots of blog love too… always nice when things work out like that.  Brooklyn Vegan gave a great review of their record release show a few weeks back at Death By Audio, which was a total blast.  Noisey/Vice debuted “Stoned and Starving”, one of my favorite jams from the record, with a nice tangental rumination by bassist Sean Yeaton about drinking milk.  Raven Sings the Blues and The Needle Drop both raved about “Borrowed Time”, with the Needle Drop giving a positive (if somewhat rambling) review of the LP.  The Deli NYC gave Light Up Gold “two thumbs up” and Internet punk mecca Terminal Boredom had lots of love for the album, even going so far as to say “The recording by Jonathan Schenke is crystal-clear, and it suits the band perfectly.”  Aw shucks!!

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, go to their bandcamp page now, or just man up and buy an LP before they run out of the gold ones!

Austin Brown, one of the guitarists from Parquet Courts, has a new band called the Keepsies, who just released their first digital single Dumb Fun.  It’s some of the best straight-up pop/rock I’ve heard in a loooong time, inspired by classic 60’s and 70’s sounds and nailing it wholeheartedly.  The title track will totally get you going, and you’ll swoon by the end of the closer “Saturday”.

The band is a bunch of fellow Texan ex-pats: Austin, Vince McClelland and Jason Kelly (from Fergus & Geronimo and Wax Museums).  Jason recorded these songs (and others) on Austin’s Tascam 388 (same one as the Parquet Courts record, fyi), with Austin and I recording a bunch of overdubs.  I then mixed it at my place, with a final pass through at Doctor Wu’s.  It’s amazing what you can do sometimes with only 8 tracks…

The Keepsies have two more singles on deck for later this year, and hopefully some live performances sooner rather than later!  Expect to be hearing a lot more about these guys….

… and as always, thanks for stopping by and checking out my shit.  Please reach out if you wanna chat: jonathan.schenke[at]gmail.com