A sudden burst of inspiration overtook me last week. What a delight because such moments are rarities nowadays! The creative process is a fickle beast and how happy I am that it’s come back for now! I’m still working on producing this little number but I’m just too excited so I’m sharing a preview right now. Looking forward to recording over these horrendous guide vox of mine with a brilliant singer in a few weeks time, but for now, enjoy!
For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.
And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.
The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.
If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.
Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.
Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.
The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.
For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.
This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.
You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.
Enjoy the music here: My Names a, Your Names Zed – EP by El Grey on iTunes
El Grey perform tonight at the Hot Spot Music Club, Greystones in support for Oxfam Ireland alongside bands Calm State, Woodlark and Retrofix. More info: El Grey, Calm State, Woodlark, RetroFix play for Oxfam
Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.
Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!
My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.
Approaching Na Tonnta was an easy task. It was actually perfect timing! I already knew Sinéad, their flute and whistle player from the Norway erasmus trip in 2013 and I worked with Ellie, their vocalist and fiddle player on my previous production project, “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl | Free Listening on SoundCloud.
I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!
Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 To Vigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!
What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty. It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.
By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!
Well, here’s the final production. Listen for yourself.
Tomorrow night is a big night for us Third Year Music and Audio Production students at DkIT. We are presenting our major production projects in the Spirit Store and we’re very excited about it!
We were the first ever intake of Music and Audio Production (2011) and our production projects combine everything we have studied over the last three years.
We have worked with teams of musicians from the BA Music Applied plus other courses in DkIT as well as musicians outside of the college on our individual projects.
There will be something for everyone at this event- our songs range from Folk to Rock, Pop to Dance and Celtic New Age to Metalcore!
We are looking forward to celebrating our hard work and hearing each others final mixes.
Entry is free and doors are at 7.30pm, do come along!
For course details please visit: BA (Hons) Production of Music and Audio | Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Just want to share some pix and a brief summary about our experience at Vantastival last weekend!
We (Steff, Shauna, Amy and Kial- students in years 3 and 2 of Music and Audio Production, DkIT) worked at the Golden Plec acoustic stage in the Vantastibar (Spirit Store) tent. We used a Soundcraft Spirit Folio analogue desk, SM58s, SM57s, D.I boxes plus a Behringer 8024 graphic EQ for the monitors and “front of tent” sound. 😉
We worked with loads of artists from Ireland, England and Europe, some were trad groups, some singer-songwriters, some rock/indie bands in unplugged format. You name it, we mic-ed it!
Our highlights included Jinx Lennon (legend-check him out!), John Spillane and Race the Flux.
We all worked as a team, which not only included setting up the artists and doing their monitor and main mixes but helping out the Spirit Store staff (helps to be able to pull a pint when required!) as well. It was a wonderful experience to get so hands on with live sound and learn so much about it (so different to the studio!) and meet so many amazing artists. A busy weekend but invaluable experience! Here’s to more future work experience opportunities for DkIT students… 😀
Our biggest thanks to Derek Turner and all the awesome lads at the Spirit Store, we had such a brilliant weekend!
Ps- one piece of advice for a student working at a festival (especially in Ireland!)- wear wellies, not your favourite runners! 😉 (more pix can be found on my Instagram (http://instagram.com/audio_girl)
(Lyrics, music, performance, production and mix by Stephanie Caffrey, December 2013.)
Should I go left?
Should I go left?
Losing my path,
Losing my way.
Afraid to ask
Should I go left?
Longing to go,
Aching to stay.
Afraid to ask
Should I go left?
Should I go left?
Should I go left?
If I go what will I find?
Will I heal this heart of mine?
I’m looking for where I belong,
Searching deep for so long…
Thought I’d post a little update of my own creative musings!
Yes, I have been busy musically. I’ve been working away on my next New Age/Chill Out/Sexy Celtic/Whatever You Wanna Call It track! It’s an idea which sparked off a few weeks ago but I did not have the energy to continue, now it’s full steam ahead!
I’ve been having fun blending my favourite sounds from Logic’s ES2 and EX24 synths as well as making my own sounds in the Sculpture synth and recording lush harmonics from my 12 string acoustic, reversing them and having fun with my Roland Gaia SH01 synth.
Vocal ideas suddenly came and with them, a lyrical theme. These were sent off to my songwriting partner Keith Caffrey and although he has only indulged me with a tiny taste of what he has written, I have been blown away. He has possibly outdone himself this time! I can’t get over what a gift he has with words, he really writes so beautifully and from the soul! Every lyric Keith writes, whether it’s for our acoustic-rock Shock Sorrow duet, his heavy metal band Black Svan, his own solo material or for my solo New Age/Electronic music, is always deep, meaningful, interesting, emotional, personal and universal. I can’t wait to hear his lyrics with melody! (Oh I forgot to mention his amazing melodies, guitar playing and all round gift for music, any instrument Keith puts his hands on, he can play it!)
I recorded some violin ideas last week on a whim, when I say “violin” I really mean “fiddle”! My love for Irish traditional is clearly evident in this one! I always preferred playing traditional music, be it fast or slow (really love the minor and modal pieces I learned from a great old fiddle player many years ago) to the classical, technical pieces (which are of course wonderful but that style never felt right for me- though I do not knock for one second the theory and technicality I learned through those pieces!) I studied in my school days.
I decided tonight that yes, indeed, there will be a fiddle solo in this one. 😉
That’s really all I will say right now, until I hear the rest of the lyrics with the melodies, I can’t finish the structure but I really am looking forward to recording this. I’m thinking of asking a guest female vocalist to sing it. I’m also strongly thinking that this might well be a demo for a possible future college recording project, real drums would be fantastic… now to find a drummer… if you know any, send them my way please!!! (email@example.com, for reals!!!!)
Still on a high from the Trouble Pilgrims gig over the weekend, still badly wanting my own Burns Hank Marvin signature series electric guitar!!!!
Also I see Logic Pro X has been unveiled today! Looks pretty slick, I gotta say! I do like the new interface. I was afraid it was going to go all GarageBand and childish in style- I LOVE GarageBand-hey, it was how I started, pretty much (if you don’t count mucking around in good old, Cool Edit years and years ago) but desperately hoped Apple would keep Logic professional! It sounds good with new features Drummer, Flex Pitch, Track Stacks and an Arpeggiator! I am excited! But I have absolutely no reason to upgrade, I love Logic Pro 9, it’s stable on my iMac and Macbook Pro, it works a treat. I wouldn’t mind having a go though! The Apple Press Info hasn’t said whether it has changed it’s plug-ins at all, like Pro Tools 11 has (oh dear! Big no, no for me there! Happy to stay with Pro Tools 10 for college work, even if off-line bouncing is a desirable plus!). So for now, I’m sticking with Logic Pro 9, it’s the only Logic version which ever appealed to me (7 and 8 were disasters for me!) and the only version which ever inspired me!
Read more on the new Logic Pro X via Apple – Press Info – Apple Unveils Logic Pro X.
Signing off for now… I will of course publish more soon. Happy out y’all.
Today I’m sharing my latest music production project “Close Your Eyes” which features my guest vocalists Fiona McErlane and Keith Caffrey.
I talked about the creative and recording process in my previous blog post.
I finished the mix last night and I’m delighted with the response already to the song. This was yet another very personal and emotional project. I hope you enjoy it!
“Close Your Eyes” was composed by Stephanie Caffrey and the lyrics and vocal were written by Keith Caffrey.
Female vocals: Fiona McErlane
Male vocals: Keith Caffrey
Acoustic drums: Craig Sullivan
Traditional harp: Fiona McErlane
Acoustic piano: Stephanie Caffrey
Electric guitars: Stephanie Caffrey
Synths: Stephanie Caffrey.
Recorded, produced and mixed by Stephanie Caffrey.
Special thanks to studio assistant Gavin Clarke.
Recorded in Dundalk Institute of Technology Feb-May 2013.
Copyright Stephanie Caffrey.
I logged into my SoundCloud account this evening to find my stream plastered in “Here’s the Drop” graphics on waveforms [insert mega-surprised vinyl rip here!]. Like every other SoundCloud user right now, I’m totally baffled!
And it’s not just on other users waveforms, there’s plenty of these ugly graphics on my own tracks!
A quick scan through forums and Twitter, users are noticing and there’s mixed feelings. Some believe it’s an early April Fool’s joke SoundCloud is playing on their users and find it funny… some feel like their creative work has been defiled and are furious… there’s plenty of talk about a possible hack and of course, there’s uproar that a term normally associated with Dubstep music is getting plastered on metal, rock, live recordings, video game music, etc!
At first glance I thought it was a clever new gimmick SoundCloud were testing, the arrows seemingly did point to spikes in waveforms but after closer inspection I did realise it was all completely random.
Personally I believe SoundCloud has been hacked this weekend. Did anyone else notice on Facebook that their newsfeed activity was completely random? My newsfeed was chocablock with bizarre memes and what not. Of course, this has all disappeared from their App page now.
I tend to take SoundCloud a bit seriously, I use it every day and I prefer it to other social media music platforms (MySpace is dead! Reverbnation never appealed to me as much as I tried! Twitmusic doesn’t cut it either) and I take pride in my profile. For me SoundCloud is the cleanest, easiest and most efficient means of putting my music out there and keeping track of my stats!
Maybe it’s all one big marketing move to get us talking about SoundCloud? 😉
I hope it’s not an early April Fool’s joke, would SoundCloud really do that to us? 😉 (but maybe the fact it’s premature is part of the joke?!)
UPDATE: It’s called the Dropometer and it SEEMS to be a gimmick! read about it here (I just hope we can remove it from our tunes cos not everyone uploads Dubstep to Soundcloud… though I still think it’s an April Fool’s joke, haha!) : SoundCloud » Debuting Today: The Dropometer.
Dynamic Range Day 2013 is nearly upon us! On Friday March 22nd audiophiles around the world will turn their sound systems up to 11 to raise awareness that overly-compressed music does not sound better than dynamic music just because it’s louder.
Louder? Isn’t louder music better? Ah well now, we all enjoy loud music… but the point is: make the music louder by turning up the volume on the car stereo (or whatever music reproduction medium you enjoy listening to- mind your ears though peeps, for God’s sake!) and not through heavy mastering compression, etc!
According to dynamicrangeday.co.uk, music has been getting more and more crushed through the use of heavy compression in recent years, for fear of not being “competitive” – and in the process removing all the contrast, all the light, shade and depth – ruining the sound.
Dynamic Range Day supporters want to trade the “louder is better” concept for an alternative message: “Dynamic music sounds better”.
There are some very interesting articles on the official Dynamic Range Day website including, What is the Loudness War ? and links to other interesting stuff: Winning the Loudness Wars | Stereophile.com.
A cool competition one may like to enter (if you’re not in you can’t win, right?!) can be found at Dynamic Range Day Competition 2013. Cool gear such as an SSL Bus Compressor (in a SuperAnalogue Mynx mini X-rack) and Bowers & Wilkins CM-1 speakers are such prizes. It’s well worth entering!
What can we do in the meantime? Read and share this: The Loudness War – An open letter to the music industry… Use the free dynamic range meter plug-in on your master track when mixing (download it here: tt_dynamic_range_meter_mac_1_0.dmg.)… get involved, support Dynamic Range Day on Facebook, Twitter etc. Wear a t-shirt!
“Every playback device in the world has an output gain control on it. Record and master the music at musical levels and allow the listener to play it as they wish. Do not fall slave to making all music sound equally loud on iPod Shuffles or the iTunes program itself !” – Bob Ludwig. (http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/supporters/)