torstai 20. marraskuuta 2014

Kekkonen elää! #8 Juurakko - "Eipä Kasva Kaikki Laulut" live at Studio Kekkonen

This time we are proud to present Juurakko, five incredibly talented musicians mixing finnish folk and blues with a skiffle instrumentation twist. They recently released their debut album “Lauluja Kuistilta” on the Inkoon Musiikki label, including this song, “Eipä Kasva Kaikki laulut” (translated “O Roots, Where Groweth Ye?”).

Kekkonen elää! #8
Juurakko: Eipä kasva kaikki laulut

Performed by Juurakko
Written by Minsku Tammela, lyrics trad, arranged by Juurakko
Kaisa Saarikorpi - Vocal, suitcase kick drum, Moomin mug
Eija Kankaanranta - Concert kantele
Minsku Tammela - Vocal, flower pot
Anna Wiksten - Vocal, karttu
Laura Kaartinen - Vocal, pump organ

Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Assistant engineers Arttu Aalto & Janne Riionheimo
Mixed by Mikko Raita

Video by Luomustudio
In association with Soundtools

About the recording by Mikko

Once again we opted to set up this live session to our studio lounge instead of the dedicated tracking room, because of the better space offered for the camera guys to work in. This means shuffling around a table and a few sofas but on the plus side the lounge does look nice as well!

The recording was a challenge. We recorded Juurakko’s album (including this song) at Kekkonen, but for the album we recorded instruments and vocals separately. This was partially for sound quality issues and partially to let the band focus on their individual performances better. So a real live recording was uncharted territory, also because the band’s collection of instruments is not of the tried-and-tested variety, and most of them keep swapping instruments from song to song.

Juurakko uses an instrument amplifier for the concert kantele when performing live but here we decided to start completely acoustic and see how it would work. After some discussion with the band we also decided to do this one without headphones, instead setting up 2 Genelec 1030 studio monitors as sidefills for the band if needed.

During soundcheck, it became obvious that the kantele was not audible enough for the whole band so we employed the monitors, giving the band a hint of the kantele. The instrument in question has a built-in stereo microphone system which we could utilize here with no risk of feedback in the monitoring, and it came in handy come mix time as well.

We picked up the kantele with 2 Audio-Technica 4050 microphones, but it soon became obvious that the mix would need a good amount of the BSS DI’d stereo line signal, as the kantele player Eija Kankaanranta was playing a special effects-y cloth-muted pattern on the high register, which is acoustically very quiet and the neighboring pump organ especially was bleeding a lot into the kantele mics. Nevertheless, we set up the mics as close as possible using a bidirectional polar pattern so we could get the real miked attack tone at least. The line signal would also end up handy for low end extension, as like in many Juurakko songs, the kantele is doubling as the bassline here as well.

Next in line (literally) we had Laura Kaartinen with the pump organ and vocal. For the pump organ we opted for two trusty Shure SM57’s directly above the sound holes which worked quite nicely. For Laura’s voice, we had found during the album recordings that our tube Neumann CMV 563’s worked well on her so it was an easy choice.

Anna Wiksten was playing the “karttu” which is basically a dented piece of wood originally used for doing laundry (or something along those lines). In Juurakko, Anna uses it both as a kind of Quiro as well as just clapping it like in this song. We picked up the attack of the karttu slap with a Audio-Technica 4081 ribbon mic which gave us perfect separation with it’s bidirectional polar pattern. For Anna’s voice we used the Audio-Technica 5040 high-end condenser mic for the first time and it did not dissappoint, in fact it could have been a good complement to her voice on the album as well.

Next to Anna we had Minsku playing a flower pot filled with small sleek stones with a nice “big maracas” type sound. We picked it up with a small-diaphragm vintage Neumann KM88 condenser, which also picked up Minsku’s handclaps nicely. Minsku’s voice got our 2nd Neumann CMV 563 which we used extensively on her vocals on the album as well.

Last but not least we had Kaisa Saarikorpi, clapping hands for the beginning of the song and playing an Arabia-made Moomin-themed coffee mug with a pencil later on (the Moomin characters are an essential part of the sound!). Both were picked up nicely by a second Audio-Technica 4081 ribbon. Kaisa also had a suitcase “drum” which she played with a kick drum pedal, which we captured with a AKG D112 kick drum mic. For the vocals, Kaisa got our crown jewel Neumann U48 tube condenser, used on most of her leads on the album as well.

To top things off we had two room mic pairs: An Audio-Techica 4050ST Mid-Side stereo mic close to the band at knee level, and a pair of AKG C 414 XLS’s in a wide omni AB setting further back.

The recording went smoothly after setting up, with the band doing a few takes searching for the perfect feel and soon nailing it. The Luomustudio crew recorded every take collecting extra shots to be used as they only used 2 cameras.

The mixdown, still by Mikko

Mixing down “Eipä kasva kaikki laulut” was a relatively straightforward process. I had to spend some time sculpting the kantele tone and balances to cope with the amount of pump organ and percussion bleed in the mics but other than that it was smooth sailing. To start, I employed a similar mix template explained in previous blogs with a “colouring” analog/digital master section as well as a collection of my most used effects plugins in a readymade virtual “rack”, but with the addition of some additional “desk sound” from the Slate VCC in the master and individual channels as well as Slate VTM  “tape” on the master.

For the kantele, I just employed a hefty low end EQ boost to the DI signal to get the bass line really happening, and also added some high mids to both the DI and mic signals for presence on the high muted pattern which Eija plays for most of the song.

The pump organ got a similar treatment, a bit more bass and high mids, effectively scooping the mids slightly.

For the karttu, I ended up processing slightly more, trying to get a bit more “wood tone” out of the instrument. I compressed it somewhat heavily with the Massey CT5 and also limited the transient with a Waves L1 to try to even out the sharp attacks to be able to raise the volume a bit. I also boosted low mids, especially around the wood block’s own resonant note to bring it through the mix.

For the flower pot I just added some top end, but it was fairly present in the overall bleed so there was not much I could do to sculpt it anyway, luckily it sounded good in the room.

The Moomin coffee mug just needed some lows rolled off, it too was fairly present in the vocal mics and ambiences.

Kaisa’s kick drum was another difficult beast. “Au naturel” it sounded somewhat dull and mid-rangey. That’s obviously to be expected, the resonant “heads” on it are significantly thicker and more rigid than on a real kick drum. It does sound good in the room but the low end extension was not quite there for how nice everything else was sounding close miked, so I decided to trigger a hint of a sampled real kick drum (played quietly with lots of low end bloom) underneath it which did the trick quite nicely. For triggering I used Massey’s DRT and Toontrack’s Superior Drummer.

Both room mics were used with quite liberal midrange EQ cuts, I also used a bit of Waves S1 widening on the M/S pair.

For vocals, I did a similar treatment than on the album. Depending on the singer, a bit of de-essing and dynamic EQ:ing with the HOFA IQ-EQ was used, as well as mild individual compression with the Massey CT5 and group compression with the Softube Summit Audio TLA100 as well as further IQ-EQ on the group. The vocals were the only tracks getting artifical reverb, employing a mixture of my real EMT 140 Plate, Softube’s TSAR-1, Avid ReVibe and ValhallaDSP’s ValhallaVintageVerb. I decided here to keep the “room feel” of the picture so the reverb was mostly used subtly, just for a hint of sweetening.

To top things off I automated the vocals a bit section by section, enhancing the (always shifting) lead vocals and we could call it a mix! The whole mix was moderately limited with a Massey L2007 limiter as there was no separate mastering involved.

Setting up: Mikko adjusting Laura's vocal mic

Laura and Anna


Laura helping with mic repositioning

Soundcheck is ready!

Arttu, Janne and Julius in the control room

Anna, Kaisa, Minsku & Luomustudio's Joonas and Sam listening

Preparing the intro materials

Shooting the intro
Channel list
Pictures by Luomustudio & Studio Kekkonen

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