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4. Intuition, Nerve Up, Fear No More [Jan. 25th, 2010|12:51 pm]
LoneLady, a musician from Manchester preparing to release her album 'Nerve Up' on 22 February, has contributed a series of blogs on the process of setting up her own, ramshackle, studio in Manchester, of which this is the fourth entry. Click here for a free download of her song 'Immaterial'.

Session 3 - more control of the millions of elements, our processes more streamlined.

Sound is not quite what I thought it was. Better accept the shape-shifting nature of it; sound coming out of the amp not what the microphone will ‘hear’ and record.


Vocals vs. circumstance, pressure, memory, emotion across sparse spaces, imagined faces. 1 can on, 1 can off for intonation, playing and singing across sessions improve - the record button is unforgiving, still.

Intuition just a couple of takes of 'crank' & 'brilliance' & treble attack - keep it lively / Nerve Up guitar, stripped strings and bandaged neck for clarity of notes - super-control keeps starkness of song / Sub-bass gives low-end ‘fuck you’, a new landscape that incorporates the presence of lowness. /
Fear No More, the last song recorded. A totally different approach; record guitar live in the big empty room (empty save for accumulated rubbish stacked at one end; the room is Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart video.) Instruments carried down the corridor into the freezing, paint-peeling space. Guy attaches cable to cable till they are long enough, like veins connecting us down the corridor. We moved quickly, don’t let the equipment seen by thieving eyes. The light was dying as we set up the amp at one end of the room, the microphone at the other. The guitar was deafening and austere. Unable to communicate with Guy back in the room, I recorded 3 takes in isolation, the room at any time subject to intrusion. By the last take I was playing in darkness, shivering. /

Fear No More, a large empty room recorded into the song. You can hear movement, physical presence. Both illusory and real spaces are sculpted into the album.

The isolation of the drums...methods to part-dehumanise both Andrew and the sounds. Use of the synthetic, blur of the real/unreal, natural/unnatural.

The volume of notes made in preparation for this recording like I was revising for a set of exams; hardly referred to, I didn’t need them, it was all in my head.
The last session flowed so well I wanted to carry on: I didn’t want to leave the room, perhaps ever.

We packed away the studio and Guy left for London. I pushed my bike along the canal in blazing sunshine and felt dazed; I emerged blinking into the sunlight as though I’d been kidnapped, or in a dream..
I sat for a while in Piccadilly Gardens, wearing the jumper I’d been wearing for 21 days.
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3. If Not Now, Army, Immaterial [Jan. 19th, 2010|01:50 pm]
LoneLady, a musician from Manchester preparing to release her album 'Nerve Up' on 22 February, has contributed a series of blogs on the process of setting up her own, ramshackle, studio in Manchester. This is the third. Click here for a free download of her song 'Immaterial'.

Ancoats, Manchester

Recording is more organised; mixing flows better. Ideas exchanged about music, no musical genres are off-limits. ---------- / If Not Now – starkness - trying to eliminate noise pollution, strings scalped, neck bandaged / Immaterial, twiny, exacting guitars recorded around midnight; extremely tired, fingers & mind forced around the shapes and lines / a chunk of breezeblock dropped onto a sheet of steel – thwack –- rubble riccoches everywhere... heavy tools dropped onto steel - a terrible metallic splintering sound...the resultant recordings, brutal; Army now had the violent breaking sound that snaps the song in two /

The view from the window continues to reveal decay and splendour. The changing light on the canisters as the sun moves through the day marks the passing of time almost as well as a clock. And now we have neighbours; two geese have settled on our patch of the canal and honk, bathe and doze throughout the day and into the evening. These honks are often the only other sounds; it is quiet at our lonely end of the corridor.

On the rare occasion footsteps are heard in the corridor outside the room I become irrationally suspicious, afraid even; what do they want? The external door opens outwards, the internal door inwards; I hooked up a piece of wire that would pull the outer door closed - so that from the corridor you would not know if anyone was inside the room or not.

Andrew’s drums are recorded separately, mechanically, methodically. Once he emerges from his ordeal in the home-made booth the rest is down to me: there are no other band members to share the roles. A deep tiredness has been accumulating in me like a leaden weight. Every day the alarm goes off and I pull on the same clothes, and make the same half-hour bike ride to the room. Every morning as I enter the corridor it is a relief to see the room is undisturbed. Guy and I each sit with a little heater by our sides as the temperature never rises above 10 degrees. The canal brings a damp chill into the room and keeps it here, aching like rheumatism. Yesterday I could have slept sitting upright in my chair.
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2. Cattletears, Have No Past, Early The Haste Comes [Jan. 15th, 2010|11:48 am]
LoneLady, a musician from Manchester preparing to release her album 'Nerve Up' on 22 February, has contributed a series of blogs on the process of setting up her own, ramshackle, studio in Manchester, the first of which is here. This is the second, and today we're offering a free download of her song 'Immaterial'.

Ancoats, Manchester - Session one report.

The space has been transformed...leads and wires coil around instruments, our legs, and machines with blinking lights. Scavenged carpet hangs oppressively on all surfaces. There are a series of doors - a wooden inner soundproof door, a steel security door, and an external door; a triple barricade.

Two tall windows give a view of a dark canal, rows of gas canisters rusted different colours, the overlooking gasometer, huge and silent, and just visible, rainy green hills to the east where I was born.

A ‘studio’ has been created where there was previously a crumbling space: its newly whitewashed breezeblock walls, tall steel shutters and curving ceiling are Victorian, hospital-like...it is a lone miniature fortress on the outskirts.

Ancoats/Miles Platting...ignored, undervalued, full of ruins and space. Burglary raids are constant. Beyond a certain time in the evening, it is not a place to be alone.

The mill contains odd pockets of independent industry; but come the evenings seems to be empty. The rear of the building veers directly into the canal, with no path. The room is permeated with a heavy dampness; the canal feels very close; hanging with us like fog.

The phones are off, we have barricaded ourselves in: it’s just Guy and me. All we can do is begin. After so much preparation, the illogic of recording sound sometimes requires you to hurl it all away and see what’s left. There are no explosions of celebratory glitter to accompany every action – just lots of concentrated bursts of playing under the red glare of the record button.

/ Cattletears and Have No Past - older songs, early 4-track feel; nostalgic, shy; songs about guitar textures and half-buried utterances / High ceilings and hard surfaces of gothic corridor reverb like REM’s Murmur. To record outside of the security of the room is to be exposed, vulnerable. Moved furtively to record vocal spiralling down cold corridor, incorporate real space into the album, tie it inextricably to these bricks / The haste of Early The Haste Comes frozen by a dull technical problem, then a burst of sudden invention - a strange sound created, gelling the recording at last; unplanned, now indispensable /

-- -- -- -- --

We have been working 13, sometimes 15-hour days for 8 days consecutively. It is intense & difficult; a masterclass of prioritising and fast thinking as the clock ticks and forces constant reassessment... the next stage must be considered before the current one is finished so as not to waste time, and there is little room for error.

The 3 songs we have recorded and mixed are like 3 strangers I have to get to know.
Session 2 starts tomorrow.

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1. Before. [Jan. 14th, 2010|03:58 pm]
 LoneLady, a musician from Manchester preparing to release her album 'Nerve Up' on 22 February, has contributed a series of blogs on the process of setting up her own ramshackle studio in Manchester, of which the following entry is the first.  To download her song 'Immaterial' for free, click here.

Ancoats, Manchester

I embarked on a mission to hunt out potentially suitable spaces in which to record Nerve Up. I became acquainted with empty building after empty building; 100-year old signs carved in stone that read Pearson’s Glasshouse…Imperial Estates…5-Star Enterprises…huge, disowned buildings once thrumming with industry now silent and barely safe enough to even enter. Although I’d always lived here, its as though I hadn’t fully noticed my surroundings, the many ruinous spaces, the faded pride of many of its once-grand buildings, the patches of wildernesses that punctuate the city.

Some spaces were too isolated, too run-down; did I really want to work alone in an empty building, a few hundred yards down the road from Strangeways? The pavements outside its vast walls are strewn with things prisoners have thrown from their exercise yard. It was just too grim, possibly dangerous. At the other end of the spectrum many spaces were too office-y and bland, and there were too many people.

So I was pushed to the outskirts… I found a mill to the east of the city; smaller than the other mills, more self contained, crumbling gently into the canal. I was taken through a short maze of doors, up a narrow flight of stairs and there it was...a long white corridor, white brick walls, tall dusty windows...lots of light, quiet… The room itself when I first saw it was a dilapidated, damp, lonely square with broken windowpanes: it was perfect.

The following weeks of sourcing, costing and cajoling were to prove among the most stressful parts of the whole endeavour. I became an expert in industrial goods; cement, breezeblock , plasterboard, mortar, sealant, nails, screws, timber of varying thicknesses, steel of varying thicknesses, emulsion, PVA, locks, handles—
I could no longer sleep; instead I would lie awake at night, my mind rifling through a catalogue of jobs unfinished.

A breezeblock bunker: when the blocks were cemented in place, the space seemed prison-like.
The second wave of renovating commenced: broken windowpanes replaced, tall steel shutters with barricades for the windows: 4 large padded partitions to create a recording booth; two large ceiling buffers to absorb sound; and carpet on all surfaces.
Most of the materials used to prepare the studio were reclaimed: an unused room down the corridor was gutted, boards of wood were wrenched off surfaces, and even the walls and door were stripped…All the fabric used to cover the partitions and make the ceiling pads came from an abandoned roll of material. All the carpet was scavenged from a bin outside a carpet warehouse. This part of the renovations cost virtually nothing except lots and lots of time and sweat and effort.

Every single day we worked in the bitter cold to force the space to do what we wanted: the tasks seemed endless; every night I arrived home aching and freezing. I many times questioned why I was doing this. Recording an album seemed a distant dream.

Somehow, at some point, eventually, when I can’t remember; the room was ready for me to move the equipment in. It looked like a padded cell; and, just about, you could no longer see your breath in there. Years of abandonment has made this room reluctant to warm up; it has forgotten how. Two car journeys later, the room was filled with instruments, tables, chairs, and we could begin.
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