Unique Sounding Albums / Albums With Cool Sound Design?

Discussion on new albums, developing listening skills, critical listening to others' work, as well as TOMB members' MP3 links, online recording critiques

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LupineSound
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Unique Sounding Albums / Albums With Cool Sound Design?

Post by LupineSound » Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:46 am

The tow chain thread got me thinking about how much I like albums with unique sounds. I'm all for recording to capture the sound of a real live band, but I also dig recordings that sound like nothing else. I think it's unfortunate that most bands/artists/producers don't have time/money to experiment in the studio. We put a lot of effort into going with what works/makes sense and as a result new sounds are rarer to come by. What are some of your favorite albums that have interesting sound design?

A couple I've been digging a lot lately:

Actress - R.I.P.
This album has a such a unique, dreamy vibe to it. I can only guess as to how a lot of it was made, but none of it sounds like stock sounds or samples. I imagine it's a lot small loops triggered on an MPC or something like that. I especially dig the use of sidechain compression acting as the beat. It's almost as if he punched out holes in the music where the kick and snare would normally be and just left it that way.

Crystal Castles - III
On the surface it's kind of a dark pop/electronic duo, but I think there's a great attention to detail on this one. Each song has it's own character and great sounds. I think there's a lot of effects on here that us engineer nerds would hear as 'wrong' but done so to cool effect. Absurdly pumping compression being he most obvious one.

Aphex Twin - Syro
This pick probably won't surprise anyone. But when you look at the gear list that comes in the liner notes and then you listen to the album, I still can't fathom how it all comes together so well. I just picture a mad scientist in a lab coat turning a roomful of knobs. I have to wonder if he mixes and masters his own stuff because how the hell would anyone know what to do with all that? haha

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Post by vvv » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:01 am

Paul's Boutique always comes to mind.
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Post by believe_in_steve » Tue Jan 13, 2015 3:09 pm

Isam by Amon Tobin is full of interesting sound design and textures. There's a really cool video that shows some of his workflow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbJwyTkCJk0

It's my understanding that everything on Syro was done live and recorded directly to 2-track tape. Not sure how much of that is sequenced and automated in advance, but either way, the album is really impressive regardless of the method.

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Post by kslight » Tue Jan 13, 2015 4:25 pm

Pretty Lights - Color Map Of The Sun

Not really my favorite kind of music but given your above listings I thought you might be interested?free download direct from Pretty Lights too..


NIN - The Downward Spiral


A very good example of a record they really took to the farthest stretches possible at the time?IMHO, and doesn't sound like anything else.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:19 pm

I'm working on one of these right now. It's a collaboration between myself and a singer/guitarist. In the beginning I was making tape loops. I would email him some loops and he would rough in a song over top and mail it back. I'd chop up the songs, re-order it, write an arrangement and send it back. And so on and so on and so on. Eventually we got some grant money and started turning demos into a record (while hanging on the the best bits of the demos).

We just wrapped up our final session for the record. It was a string session. We commissioned two string scores from two separate arrangers for one song. The arrangers weren't allowed to hear what the other guy wrote until it was all done. The two scores are panned left and right. It makes my brain melt.

The record also has a song that cuts to a completely different arrangement/recording every verse. We played all the versions to common click track and then chopped away.

Two things are top of mind while doing one of these records -

#1 -You have to build the weirdness in from the very beginning. If you try to paste it onto a regular band record it just sounds lame and forced. If you include the weird thing (tape loops, weird samples, unusual instruments, whatever) right from the beginning all the sonic elements will be based around that starting point and there will be room for the weird elements to shine. If those elements are part of the writing process than everything about the song will be married to and influenced by those parts.

#2 - You attitude always needs to be "This is either going to be amazing or a total disaster" and everybody involved needs to be ok with that. Some things don't always work the way you hoped they would but failing is just part of the process.

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Post by JGriffin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:25 am

I'm currently finishing up the new DWLB record, and hopefully it's like what this thread is talking about... :shock:

We're combining organic instruments with lots of processed/stretched/glitched sounds as we usually do, half-speed recordings and so forth, plus we have a guest saw player. Like you do.

Mr. McKinnon's point about building in the weird from the start is crucial. Back in the early 90s I tried doing weird production stuff on some of my songs, but it was always a bolt-on job. So it never worked. Later attempts were more successful.
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All the DWLB music is at http://dwlb.bandcamp.com/

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Post by lyman » Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:44 am

Rain Dogs - Tom Waits. Junkyard surrealism at its finest.

Spirit of Eden/Laughing Stock - Talk Talk. These are both really cool, unique sounding records.

Darkside of the Mood - Pink Floyd. In some ways I feel like I took this one for granted for a while. Having revisited it recently I was reminded of how well it flows and the innovative (at the time) use of sound effects and spoken word. It has aged well in the sense that it doesn't sound dated, but I also feel like it's easy to overlook how difficult it would have been to make something like this using early 70's equipment, given what we have now.

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Post by boid » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:30 am

i'm not 100% positive about them but the last bunch of omar rodriguez lopez albums
really spit in the faces of all modern production values.
equinox
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and some others

they are really creepy but if you look for it you can def. find a lot of beauty.

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Post by JWL » Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:31 am

Bone Machine by Tom Waits was the first thing that came to mind.

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Post by IDQ » Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:04 pm

The Knife - Silent Shout : always had a very unique sound to me that still leaves me wondering how exactly they achieved it.

Radiohead - Kid A : I think a lot of folks believe the acclaim for this album was overblown. It was not ground-breaking for what it did from an electronic music standpoint, nor from an instrumental standpoint. For ME though, it was the first heavily electronically-influenced rock album that didn't sound like Tron or a forced superimposition of guitars onto techno. It was electronic, but it sounded like it just grew right out of the ground in a forest. (Can you tell I was trying to avoid using the word "organic?")

I second the mentions of Tom Waits, Amon Tobin, and Talk Talk.

Sigur Ros - ( ) also comes to mind.

Some of the David Bowie records that Eno had a heavy hand in (so called "Berlin trilogy") are also pretty out there.

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Post by vvv » Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:04 pm

JWL wrote:Bone Machine by Tom Waits was the first thing that came to mind.
8)
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Post by Trick Fall » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:03 pm

Two records that are not super out there or anything, but definitely capture their own sonic space are Grace Jones album Warm Leatherette and Deborah Harry's album Koo Koo.

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Post by floid » Mon Feb 23, 2015 3:12 am

Trick Fall wrote:Deborah Harry's album Koo Koo.
great album.
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Post by timcoalman » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:34 am

Swans - Soundtracks for the Blind, Body Lovers, and Drainland
Peter Gabriel - The Last Temptation of Christ Soundtrack (as well as the sources album)
William S. Burroughs - The Best of William S. Burroughs and Call Me Burroughs
Alan Moore (w/ Tim Perkins) - Snakes and Ladders
Godspeed you Black Emperor - the first few albums
Sigur R?s - the first few albums
Stars of the Lid - The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - any greatest hits CD and also Bandit Queen movie soundtrack
Shankar - Pancha Nadai Pallavi and M.R.C.S.
Andreas Ammer & FM Einheit - Radio Inferno
Beck - Mutations
Codeine - The White Birch
Dirty Three - Ocean Songs and Horse Stories
Drive Like Jehu - Yank Crime
Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance
Portishead
Tool - Undertow and Anima
Vangelis Movie Soundtrack ? Blade Runner
Tom Waits - Bone Machine

to name a few...

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Post by thunderboy » Sun May 24, 2015 8:40 pm

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