IN SUMMER OF 2013, SONIC ZEN RECORDS RECORDED AND PRODUCED ALPHARAY.
Returning to Sonic Zen to complete his second and long-awaited album, I encouraged Alpharay to stick with his instincts and allow the material to fully mature, even as it took a few years to fully ripen. Once the mixes started to sound like a complete musical statement, the only thing I felt it needed was more sonic fire, life, depth, punch, impact, and most of all, texture -- the kind of sounds that rarely come from a digital mix.
I invited Alpharay to create complete stems for each song -- basically a set of stereo files that add up to be the full mix, divided by instrument. Leveraging our growing collection of outboard analog equipment, we ran every piece of each mix through compressors, tubes, transformers, equalizes, and channels of our ADM mix console, until the sounds took on a complexity and excitement that made each song what it was meant to be.
I’ve used this “stems mastering” process on several albums recently, and I really love the way it can ignite and enrich the sounds of a mix that an artist has already dialed to the limits of their own workstation. I feel that the magic of analog hardware will always be a crucial part of our favorite albums.
Andrew J. Ferren is a San Francisco Bay area based improviser and electronic musician often known as Alpharay. A skilled saxophonist, producer and performer, Alpharay utilizes experimental recording techniques, found sounds, synthesizers, electronics and live instrumental performance, engaging music of various currents in his sonic journeys.
Alpharay's live set integrates multichannel mixing and instrumental improvisational technique termed "live dub".