Here's a video off one of my favourite records that I've mixed this year, Suvi Isotalo's second album "P.S. Maj'lle" (out on September 21st 2011 on the Sound Of Finland label).
About the record...
It was such a fun record to work on. Produced by the ultra-talented Timo Kämäräinen, the album is something a bit different than Suvi's first album "Jollet rakasta" - which, BTW is great too! Whereas the first record leaned more towards 1970's singer-songwriter tradition, on "P.S. Maj'lle" Suvi and Timo wanted the record to have an edgier feel to it. There's more experimentation and playfulness in terms of the soundscape, but at the same time the themes of the album are very personal, some of them very dark.
Well, as this is not a record review (that'd be really weird) and I most certainly aren't a music journalist, I won't delve any deeper in this wishy washy description of music - which anyway is practically impossible. But maybe a few words about the mixing? I did - after all - mix the album!
Slightly geeky stuff about the recordings...
The album was recorded in various places, two (or three?) studios and different other locations. Timo recorded a lot of it by himself and his tracks sounded excellent. With such great musician as Timo (who is an extraordinary guitarist, check out anything out of his discography), Olli Krogerus (drums, they also have a duo called Toot toot with Timo) and of course Suvi herself (amazing singer and songwriter!) you can't go wrong. The arrangements were spot on (including some great strings, though edgier than on the first album), so my job was really just to enhance what was there and go crazy when it was appropriate.
Technically, as the music was recorded in different locations over some time (and one of the tracks was originally a demo), there were some variation in the sound of the recordings. That sometimes introduces problems, but in this case it felt like every sound had a reason, so there was no need to jump through hoops to get everything up to some imaginary line or standard. Having great musicians, great arrangements and a charatceristic sound to start with is really the optimal situation to start mixing a record!
Very geeky stuff about the mixing!
A little bit of something for the geeks (like me) then... The album was recorded in 96kHz (save that one song that was a demo originally) and recorded and mixed in ProTools at Control Room 2 in Studio Kekkonen, by yours truly, Julius Mauranen. My way of working is a kind of hybrid, balancing, routing and part of the processing is done "in the box", but I use a lot of analog processing. When mixing a record in 44.1kHz or 48kHz, I often sum the mix on our heavily modified MS Audiotron Multimix desk, but as the outputs to the desk are via RME ADI-8 DS D/A converters (ADAT optical) that only operate up 48kHz, I opted to keep the material at 96kHz and just bring the 2-buss into a custom-made stereo channel on our desk, where I could use the fantastic onboard EQ as a master EQ.
By the way, the MS Audiotron was modified and the custom channel with its Sontec-style EQ were done by Jaakko Viitalähde of Virtalähde Mastering a great mastering engineer who's built practically all his gear himself. And some things for us too! There's a mod in the desk that allows me to use outboard preamps as a summing amp, which is just great! On Suvi's album, I used the Knif Audio V804 preamp - possibly the best pre I have ever used - as a summing amp. The preamp (as well as some other gear we have) is designed and built by Jonte Knif, a Finnish genius tube equipment designer / god. His gear is absolutely stunning. Anybody who has anything to do with recording, mixing or mastering should try out his products. They are simply mindblowing. More of them in a later post, I promise you.
From the desk, the signal went to a Gyraf G-SSL built to order by my friend, ex-SSL tech Dave Evans (link to be added!), who did some nice quirks into the design. The album was mostly mixed with a ratio of 4, attack of 30 and release of either 0.3 or "auto". From the compressor (inserted inline), the signal went to our Otari MTR-10 1/4" tape machine (with RMGI SM900 tape at 15 IPS) and then back to ProTools. This is my master chain 90% of the time. I love it.
Suvi's vocal chain, if I recall right - was LA-2A clone "Laakkonen" into a 1178 clone built by Tapio Rantanen, tech at Finnvox. For reverbs I used our Stocktronic RX4000 plate reverb (also used by Tore Johansson), a Roland RE-201 Space Echo and various plug-ins, including Soundtoys' Echoboy and TL Space.
(On this particular track, I don't remember exactly what I used for the filtered vocal sound, but I'll update it when I can check it out.)
Meanwhile, enjoy the song and video and check her stuff on Spotify! And of course, support new and fresh music and go buy the album on September 21st!
Suvi Isotalo - P.S. Maj'lle video on Vimeo!