The Band, Elbow – & Where are the Dynamics?

kinnon —  July 31, 2008 — Leave a comment

Elbow_In_iTunes.jpgBack in June, Steve McCoy recommended Elbow in one of his Music Monday posts. I loved the video, Grounds for Divorce – but never got around to really checking the band out.

This past weekend, Philly-born, LA-based Director, Vince DiPersio recommended Elbow to me whilst a bunch of us sat on a porch in Colorado Springs discussing all things creative.

The Seldom Seen Kid plays out of iTunes as I write this morning. Vince and Steve were both correct in recommending it. It’s very good. The song, One Day Like This is my current favourite. I’ve just hit repeat…again. If you’re a Gabriel, Sting, King Crimson or even a Colplay fan – you’ll like this band – the production is exquisite. (UPDATE: One of the later mentioned producers, Andrew, added Eric Clapton to the list of above bands as he raved about lead singer Guy Garvey’s great voice. Andrew is in the studio working on Kaili’s upcoming demo. I now have about five favourites on this 11 song CD – not including the extra, live version of Grounds for Divorce.)

As I scanned the album’s Digital Booklet, this stood out, explaining part of why it sounds as good as it does.

Turn Me Up!™
To preserve the excitement, emotion and dynamics of the original performances this record is intentionally quieter than some. For full enjoyment simply Turn Me Up!

TLA-compressor.jpgWhen we were building our audio mixing facility a number of years ago, this was one of my favourite pieces of kit – a TL-Audio tube-based Mic Pre/Compressor. It now sits in Rylan’s new audio mixing desk in Kinnon Studios. Compression can be a wonderful tool in the production process – but it can also be used to destroy the dynamics of music.

I remember two live music experiences at the same Toronto venue in the last millenium – five days apart. (If the great google god is correct – March 19th and March 24th, 1992 respectively.) The first was Dire Straits. The sound was amazing – when they played quietly they were quiet – when they played passionately and full-on, they were loud. U2’s Zoo TV, five nights later, was a different story. Whether a quiet tune or full-on, the sound pressure levels were the same – compressed to death. There were no dynamics. It was painful to listen to – even if the tunes were great.

vu-meter2.gif Much popular music has been like that for years. Watch VU meters and you’ll see the music sits at 0db or slightly higher for the entire song – save the fadeout. There are no dynamics.

Turn Me Up!™ is a non-profit music industry organization campaigning to give artists back the choice to release more dynamic records. To be clear, it’s not our goal to discourage loud records; they are, of course, a valid choice for many artists. We simply want to make the choice for a more dynamic record an option for artists.

Today, artists generally feel they have to master their records to be as loud as everybody else’s. This certainly works for many artists. However, there are many other artists who feel their music would be better served by a more dynamic record, but who don’t feel like that option is available to them.

Weather to Fly on Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid is a great example of dynamics.

I hope the three or four musician-producers who read this blog (you know who you are) would follow the beagle and explore the links on this page. I should also note that most of my understanding of dynamics comes from the musical gifting of my dear wife, Imbi – music director for most of the bands the two of us have played in over the years.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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