Sounds from Hilotrons' At Least There's Commotion

Much of my time last summer was spent recording and mixing the recently released Hilotrons album "At Least There's Commotion." Mike Dubue and I were going after a different sound for this album. We gave ourselves more space to work within the songs and incorporated a pile of interesting gear throughout the process. The sounds you'll hear on the record originated from some of my favourite studio gear:



Compex F760 Compressor / Limiter

This is the model of FET compressor/limiter that originally came with the renowned British-made Helios consoles of the 60s-70s. Think Stones, The Who, Zeppelin, etc. The Compex can range from being a smooth buss compressor to an extremely aggressive peak limiter. Because we recorded drums for the Hilotrons album in a fairly small room, we wanted to compressor the ba-jesus out of the room mic to create the sense that the drums were recorded in a more live sounding space. The Compex has a peak limiter switch that can be engaged to create an insanely bombastic, slightly distorted sound. Most of the drum tracks on the record feature a AKG D190e room mic being pummeled through the Compex. It made the drum sound as far as I'm concerned. Here's a clip of dry drums first, and then the Compex'ed room mic gets added in and it comes to life!




Lexicon Prime Time M93

The Prime Time played a very important role all over many of the tracks of the Hilotrons album. Originally released in the late 70s, it was the first stereo digital delay with a great hands-on user friendly interface. At its quickest delay the Prime Time is fairly clean with a bit of grit. At its longest delay settings, the unit gets really lo-fi and telephonic sounding. One its coolest features is the "repeat hold" function which lets you sample small snippets of sound that can be manipulated with the VCO section. The feedback of the delays is neat too because for each recirculation the sound is going back into the analog world and then being re-digitized.  Half the time I'd turn the unit on and it would just make weird noises and the delay would be all f-cked up and bit reduced sounding. We sampled some of these crazy sounds and used them all over the song Venus at Your Back Door, which ultimately features layers of a working and malfunctioning Prime Time on the lead vocal and stylophone tracks. Perfect.
Click below for some Prime Time insanity!



Spectra Sonics 502 channel strips

Most of Mike's vocals tracks were recorded through a 70's Spectra Sonics channel strip. Spectra Sonics manufactured some of the first American made solid state consoles. The mic preamps run discreet Class A with large transformers on the inputs and outputs. The three band EQ uses inductors (like a Pultec EQ) and is extremely musical sounding. I really love the sound of these strips. I wish I had a whole console's worth of them. They have some of the snap of vintage API and Electrodyne preamps but with more girth in the low end. Spectra Sonics consoles were used at many classic studios including the Record Plant (NYC and L.A), Stax, Ardent, Larrabee, CBS, Paramount, and Mama Jo's.


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