Duett

A few years ago, I got the idea for writing a bilingual duet. The idea first popped up in my head when listening to Norwegian band Skumring, and the voice of Cecilie Langlie in particular. Her beautiful vocal work is one of the reasons why their debut album ‘De Glemte Tider’ is so deeply affecting. Other male/female duets gave me inspiration, like Bjørn Eidsvåg & Lisa Nilsson’s song ‘Mysteriet Deg’, which has Norwegian and Swedish lyrics. Another example is Kent with ‘FF’, which is sung in Swedish and French.

In the case of Akelei, the duet would have to be in Dutch and Norwegian. Moreover, I wanted to construct lines that could be sung together, having words with same meanings and sounds in both languages. I asked Cecilie if she would like to participate in this project and luckily she agreed to record vocals for a song that had yet to be written! There were some suitable parts and ideas in my head at the time but it took me about 2 years to finish the final composition of music and lyrics. Other versions were written, demoed and trashed. The version that made it in the end is actually the third or fourth version, I’m not really sure about that number.

Although Dutch and Norwegian have many similarities, actually constructing sentences that would fit together and also made sense proved to be a real challenge. Grammar got in the way most of the time and there were also oddities such as Dutch ‘jij’ (meaning ‘you’) sounding exactly like Norwegian ‘jeg’ (meaning ‘I’) that were best avoided. I learned Norwegian while living in Oslo 8 years ago, so I got off to a good start, but still needed Cecilie’s assistance in checking for mistakes. The whole thing had to sound as natural as possible, rather like streams of thought than the weighing of every word and syllable. I think I have succeeded in that the words flow together naturally and do not sound forced.

The lyrics deal with the experience of isolation due to an incapability of communicating with others. Initial silence between strangers can have a paralysing effect on their relationship when neither party has the guts or the wits to break that silence. This theme fits so well because the 2 singers stick to their own languages, their own worlds, and thereby stay ‘out of reach’ for each other. Even when their thoughts and feelings converge time and again, and even follow parallel lines, they may never know. And from all this thinking and worrying a melody arises and unites them in a duet…

So that’s the story for this song, which was a long time in the making. Now that the recordings are behind us, and to see that the ideas actually work, well… it’s very rewarding. Plus this is probably the first nedernorsk doomduet ever, so it even has the feel of a novelty 😉 Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Misha

Doom we can believe in

There was another short entry about an additional vocal session together with Ward but somehow it never appeared on the blog and I didn’t feel like re-typing it. So here’s the final update on the recordings: it’s done. It’s been 95 hours of hard work and we’re glad to say it’s a wrap. The last visits to Independent were spent on adding vocals from Norway and re-recording mine to the duet, then mixing. After discussing the idea for the first time about 3 years ago, ‘Duett’ has really turned into something nice, I should add. Cecilie from Omit (recording their album as we speak) and Skumring surpassed our expectations of what she would do with the song. Not only did she use the melodies I proposed, she also added a few of her own, as well as harmonies and an elaboration at the ending of the song. Beautiful! I’ll explain what the Dutch & Norwegian lyrics are about in a later post.

Now that the album is mixed and mastered, the next step will be designing artwork and packaging for the cd. More on that later.

Misha

Vocals

Now that all the drums and guitars are recorded, we moved on to singing last weekend. For me, this is the hardest part of the recording process. I’ve never thought of myself as a good singer nor have I ever had any vocal training. Akelei has looked for someone with better skills before but never succeeded. So we’ve been ‘stuck’ with my voice and that can be frustrating at times. I don’t think I sound particular in any way and try to compensate by injecting more emotion. This has helped me several times while playing live but these studio recordings prove to be another challenge.

We’re actually using a very good microphone which is a world of difference from the crappy €30 mics we’re used to working with at home for our demos. It’s strange to hear everything so clearly, almost alarmingly so. You rub against your shirt, the mic catches it. You tap your shoe to the beat, it gets recorded. It takes some getting used to but I’m eager to get the job done without much further ado and so go right into the first 2 songs, which are ‘Verlangen’ and ‘Meer Dan Je Ziet’. We’ve been playing these songs for a while now so I thought I’d get an easy start, singing the words I know best by now.

Even with hours and hours of rehearsals, preparations and demo-recordings behind me, I’m quick to realise my limitations as a singer. I can’t hold a note very long, unless I sing at the top of my lungs and then the air runs out pretty fast. Moreover, I think my voice sounds too thin and lacks depth. We resort to double tracking the vocal lines to deal with that issue which means I have to sing everything twice. I love singing so it’s not a problem, it just takes more time to get the job done. After finishing most of the parts for these 2 songs we call it a day. We keep the sessions shorter than usual so I don’t wear out my voice too much.

The next day it’s time to record the intro to the album’s opening song. For this I’ve invited 3 friends/special guests; 2 girls and 1 guy, of whom I knew they could sing. We start by working on a melody that I had written but not elaborated on. Within the first hour we’ve added 2 counter-melodies and we rehearse the piece until it’s ready to be recorded. We do 4 takes to stack up 16 voices and then listen to the result. It sounds amazing, like a real choir! We’re very pleased with ourselves. After the thank-yous and good-byes, Q and I continue on the same track, this time to add my solo verses. I only finished the lyrics the night before but singing them goes according to plan and it turns out to be one of the easier takes so far.

On Sunday I have 2 more songs to sing: ‘De Zwaarte’ and ‘Duett’. The first one goes really well. It doesn’t need many takes to nail and so we experiment a little with the final chorus and add harmonies. ‘De Zwaarte’ means ‘the weight’ and it’s a good title because I think this is the heaviest song I’ve written yet! No quiet parts, just full-on riffage. DOOM! ‘Duett’ however is not so easy for me. The verses contain long notes and don’t offer much to hold on to, also because half of the words are to be sung by C, who lives in Norway and will send her recordings by email. We decide to pause on this song until we have C’s parts.

And that wraps up another weekend at Independent Recordings. We’re getting close to the mixing stage and I’m just so ready to hear the end result. It’s been a month now and I want to let people hear what we’ve been up to. Also, I want to get busy with designing the album and launching a website to promote it. But as the Rules of Doom go:

86. Don’t release any of your tracks on the internet, so people can’t find out how you sound. And when you do finally release your album, release it on an obscure label from Australia that refuses to distribute any of the 500 printed copies.

92. Re-re-re-re-release your demo on tape or vinyl, but not on cd, and make sure no one ever will be able to buy it.

164. Make sure at least one member of your band owns a record label otherwise you’ll never release anything other than CD-Rs.

…Sooo I guess it’s all been for nothing.

Misha

Bass lines

The previous week we didn’t manage to record ALL the guitar parts so last Friday Pascal came back and we finally nailed those last bits. Whew. It took us 4 days in total to record the guitars for this album. That’s 1 more day than I had thought beforehand, actually. Today I went in and recorded bass parts to 4 of the songs. I’m not a bassist, so most of the lines I play consist of ground notes of the guitar chords, but I do try to add something extra to these parts. Perhaps a bit of swing, if nothing else, haha. Anyway, it’s Q’s birthday and he had visitors coming over to celebrate so we quit early. Tomorrow we’ll be back for the remaining 2 songs and bass re-amping.

Here’s a list of the gear we use(d) for the recordings:

Drums: TAMA Starclassic Performer kit & Birch snare

Guitars: Ibanez RG 7-string for chords, leads and some clean picking, Gibson Les Paul standard for clean parts

Amps: ENGL Fireball + Peavey 5150 II for chords and leads, Orange AD140 for clean parts

Cabinet: Marshall cab loaded with Celestion V30’s

Guitar effects: Digitech HardWire RV7 for reverb, and some delay box but I forgot which. + PlusEBow.

Bass: Ibanez Soundgear 5-string

Bass amp + cab: Aguilar

 

guitar used on the recordings

 

 

guitar used on the recordings

 

 

bass guitar used on the recordings

 

Misha

Guitar weekend

So, last week we laid down all the drum tracks. This weekend we are recording guitars. Quintijn and I had a successful session on Friday and managed to record rhythm parts to 4 songs in 5 hours. Today we finished the other 2 and right on time too as Pascal walked in to record his leads and clean parts. Man, that turned out to be a hell of a job. But what did we expect with 3 guitar players in the band and 20+ different layers in every song? Leads and clean picking need more attention as small mistakes are much easier to hear. So there were parts that required quite a few takes before we were satisfied. All in all, we spent over 12 hours in the studio today, which is actually an old cellar and not a big place at all. But the work and patience will be worth it! Listening to some finished takes, we are confident that this album will be great and essential for all lovers of doom, melancholic and atmospheric metal, or music in general, hehe. Also, I must mention that Quintijn Verhoef is a fine producer to work with. He knows what sounds best and has ear for details. We are definitely at the right place for our project. There’s still lots of recording to be done. Merlijn is now going to record his doomed chords (actually, he’s running away from carnaval in Tilburg) and then we’ll work on some intros, hopefully rounding up all the guitar recordings for this album before the weekend is over.

You know, this is really hard work.

But someone’s got to do it.

Misha

First day of recordings

Ladies and gentlemen, we are recording! We dedicate this weekend to laying down the drum tracks for our first album. The plan is to record 6 songs over the course of several weekends at  Independent Recordings, a small but professional studio in the historical center of Utrecht. If all goes well tomorrow, and I trust that it will, guitars are coming up next week.

The (working) titles of the songs are as follows:

  1. Het Dwaaluur
  2. Verlangen
  3. Meer Dan Je Ziet
  4. De Zwaarte
  5. Een Droom
  6. Duett

Average song length is 10 minutes so this will truly be a ‘full-length’. And now, I have some sleep to catch before we continue tomorrow morning…

Misha

Listen and download @ Bandcamp

<a href="http://akelei.bandcamp.com/album/de-zwaarte-van-het-doorstane">De Zwaarte van het Doorstane by Akelei</a>