Sound Genesis and Music Carrier: Ummagma Group Unveils Maps
Summarizing the sound quality of the audio system, our listeners are often forced to guess and speculate what the artist “actually wanted to say” on a particular phonogram. Today we have a unique opportunity. Meet the indie duo Ummagma will tell you first-hand how the music arises and the album is recorded.
Reference: Ummagma is Alexander Kretov and Shauna MacLarnon. In the project, Alexander is responsible for the iron, and Shona sings. In addition, MacLarnon is responsible for the small but agile agency Shameless Promotion, which helps with PR many musicians, including indie veterans like Christina Hersh or Stephen Laurie. The couple now lives in Canadian Peterborough, raising a child. June 21, Ummagma will be released next work «Compass».
– Thank you, Sean and Sasha, for the kind opportunity to familiarize yourself with “Compass” before the official release date. I listened carefully to your new work; I was also interested in both mastering options – for digital distribution and for vinyl. I would like to invite you to discuss one important issue that concerns our readers. I really liked the mix “Compass”, made for vinyl. It is made by all the rules, very carefully. Dynamic signal maxima are not subjected to compression, the sound is very mobile. But the paradox is that only a narrow circle of owners of the circulation of your plate will learn about this brilliant work. All the rest, including CD buyers, will listen to a coarser mix for digital distribution – with a peak cut, potential clipping and an average loudness much higher than −16 LUFS recommended by AES. To compare these mixes by ear directly with each other did not make sense because of the colossal difference in volume. So I had to normalize the loudness of the CD master to the level of a vinyl mix that fits perfectly with the requirements of AES. It was clear that for vinyl you cleaned up the bass below 50 Hz, but otherwise it was this option that surpassed the main CD version – in dynamics, sound transparency, etc.
Two digital masters of the Caravan track: for the vinyl edition (above) and CD (below)
Alexander: Thank you for your interest, detailed analysis and understanding of things. I will gladly try to answer your questions.
– I know how carefully musicians treat instruments, how proud they are of their iron collection, how long they sit in the studio. Are you offended that the whole civilization, the aquarium of sounds, will then be flattened to match the capabilities of the small Bluetooth speakers? Alexander: It’s true – we live in an era of radio and headphones. Such is aesthetics, nothing can be done. I am not a fan of extreme compression, especially if this is done only in Izotop. But I can understand the fear of being crushed by shame and find myself in the twilight zone of loss of bit depth, the fear of many styles of music facing a lack of panch. On cheap players this is palpable! On small speakers and mobile devices, this is critical! Many people use sound check? I do not think. That is why hip-hop or rock, backed against the wall of clippers and limiters, sounds more convincing. The film had no problems with bit depth, only signal / noise, but even then it was pushed to the red flags for the sake of gain, but still they were forgiven – they were right. The problem of good dynamics begins at the first stage with the compression of everything that moves. It all started from the SSL tables, where there was a compressor on each channel, and the person could not deny himself not to compress everything that came his way. So came the culture of compressed sound. This is not a problem of mastering, but recording. Even if Bob Ludwig is placed on an anemic body on the table, he is unlikely to breathe life energy into it.
– Many artists sell their music through Bandcamp directly, but at some point you can’t do without a label, right? Alexander: Bandcamp and iTunes are just stores. Now all the main platforms are working directly with artists, but before this was not. iTunes does not invest or lose anything, it just requires a percentage for server space. But the release, promotion and distribution – it is more difficult. It is labor and risk multiplied by time. It is these things that convert art into a commodity. If you think that this is not your way – so be it. If you can do it yourself – no problem. At one time we were on three labels and made a choice in favor of ourselves. There can be no definite answer, and each has its own horizons. To get on any label means nothing. A good label can take everything, but leave you glory. – Now “Compass” is still released on Leonard Skully Records. What changed?
Shona: Ummagma was previously published through various labels, but if the label is not going to invest in your physical product and it doesn’t have a good PR department, it’s not worth it. If all that they do is sending music to Spotify and iTunes, then now the artist can do it directly through online distributors, such as Distrokid, Baby CD, Tunecore.