Maus Space

I've continually had a liking for the mystical, but it wasn't until I matured a little iota that I discovered John Maus!
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:37 am 
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anonymaus

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I hope no one's already made this thread haha...

Anyway, I want to know if any of you work with cassette multitrack recorders any. I've got a Tascam 488 MKII that I acquired a couple months ago from a friend of mine (also have a Yamaha MT4X). I should mention that I don't exclusively do cassette recording as I also use computers and whatnot.

But what I want to know is if any of you guys have gone through the whole "my recordings/mixes sound way too polished and clean for this cassette recorder" thing.

Typically this is a good thing, but whenever I try to make noisy lofi stuff ala Ariel Pink's House Arrest album, Flying Saucer Attack's S/T album, or maybe The Apples in stereo's Science Faire album, it always winds up sounding really clean and full (usually after I master it on the computer, but I feel like this is a necessary step no matter what I'm doing). I'm not trying to make just "bad sounding" recordings or anything, but I would like to dive into the noisier side of things.

What do you guys do to dirty up your sounds without going through any post-processing, or messing with computer plugins?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:29 am 
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¯\(º_o)/¯
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Great question, I've wondered the same thing. I recorded on a four track for several years in the early 90s. I benefitted somewhat from having a real crappy, noisy guitar amp, close-mic'd at low volume (because roommate), with lots of distortion. So I had a pretty cool guitar sound, but then I used a programmed drum machine (Alesis) for the drum parts - I tried to keep it buried under the guitar so it wouldn't sound too obviously like a drum machine, and I tried to keep my drum programs unpredictable (I favor a lot of sudden stops and directional changes). For the voice, I sang through a distortion pedal, sung quietly but turned up very loud in the mix (again, roommate). All in all it was okay but I wish I'd done it differently - it sounds very two-dimensional.

I recently read an interview with Bruce Russell of The Dead C (a favorite band of mine), and he said their records have that rough lo-fi sound not because it's a lo-fi recording, but they're simply recording as accurately as possible how they really sound playing in a room together. A lesson I got from that is, if you can get a real dirty hissy sound through your amp, just record it as well as you can and then don't mess with it. Try to capture the sense of space/room acoustics as well as the tone itself. I'm going to try something along these lines next time I get a project going.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:22 am 
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little maus on the prairie
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I love multi-track cassette recorders!

I've had a Fostex X-12 four track recorder for about 8 years, and I actually just ordered a Fostex XR-3 the other day(it has 'varispeed,' which I hope to use for vocal pitching like prince, or on 'don't talk to strangers')

I pretty much record most of my songs to my computer first, like all of the midi keys, drum machine samples, guitar, bass, vocals, etc, etc, whatever. After that, I basically use the X-12 as a tape hiss generator, since I'm not recording to tape yet at that point of the song -- the audio is just going through the machine without being recorded-- and since i'm not recording to the tape yet, I can turn up the track levels on the multitrack recorder really high, or turn up the gain on the multitrack input(which can also give you some great distortion/noise) to get more hiss.

So basically I run an individual instrument track from my computer, to a chorus pedal, to the four track, and then record it back onto my computer with the new hiss. Then once I've ran each instrument track through the hiss, I record the song as a whole onto the cassette tape, usually 1-3 times, depending on how much warble or hiss seems appropriate for the work.

Sometimes I'll just record lots of tape hiss onto my computer with whatever recording program I'm using, giving the hiss it's own track, and then turn up the volume until it gets loud enough in the mix

Also, using unbalanced quarter inch cables can add a little noise, i've heard, but I haven't had a chance to use mine yet

Lastly, experimenting with mixing can sometimes help, because you can highlight certain frequencies or textures. Like, a lot of Ariel's lo-fi sound comes from his mixing, at least imo, it seems. He's such an awesome mixer! Sometimes taking some of the (lower) high frequencies/treble out of a recording can make it sound lofi. The thing w a lot of Ariel's lofi work is that, idk, the mixes don't sound dull, you know? Like, there's still a lot of warmth and character to it, like, he's not just taking out some of the treble, it's pretty professional, even though it sounds 'lofi' -- His mixes are art!!



Idk, I don't really have any other ideas or anything. . just keep experimenting?

here are a couple examples of songs that I've made that way. One of them is kinda 'noisy,' i guess, but most of my work is just really hissy https://soundcloud.com/joshuajcotterino ... urden-down
http://joshuacotterino.bandcamp.com/track/we-can-do-it


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:45 am 
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hippopotamaus

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:47 am
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I got a 488 too, in high school after being obsessed with AP's music for a few years. It's a mystery how he got the sounds he did with his equipment.
I'm a terrible musician, but I really like the process of mixing and finding sounds I like. Most of the time it's frustrating. Still learning how to construct something decent sounding. I try to keep tape hiss to a minimum. Usually it's barely audible, pretty much inaudible unless there's some silence in the music. It's fun to see how creative I can get with a portastudio, instruments and a multi-effects pedal. I usually use the Effects Sends on the console to fix it up in the end.
I liked those two songs, fieldmaus.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:21 am 
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anonymaus

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Yeah, it's less the hiss, and more the distortion/coloration of the sound. I use dbx pretty heavily, and that cleans up the sound quite a bit. Although I've recently (as of two days ago) been trying to make some stuff without DBX on the 488. I feel like things sound thinner without it on that machine for some reason.

As for warping sounds, I don't have really any outboard effects. All my effects are in my DAW. I think effects have a lot to do with getting in that grittier zone. A lot of my recordings are pretty dry because of it. Though for a lot of what I do, it's okay. I just want to expand my horizons a bit more.

To be fair, I hate doing the majority of the work in the DAW if I'm planning on using the cassette recorder. Because at that point, it feels like I've just overdubbed a song onto a cassette, and then played some minor things over top that. Not to say that I'm against using a DAW, but more like I want every little snippet to hit the tape individually rather than as a mixdown. One thing I do like though is playing live out of my DAW and have that go into the tape recorder.

I have an MPC Renaissance, and I use its interface to work with my 4/8 tracks quite a bit. There are 4 mono outputs on the back, so I can sort of bus to 4 individual tracks out of my daw into the separate channels of the recorder. Even doing that though, the feel isn't really there. Because in some ways, it still sounds polished, but somewhat muddied up. Plus a lot of these guys didn't do anything like that. They used the tape recorders because it's what they had...


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:56 pm 
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hippopotamaus

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:47 am
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I think a lot of AP's early albums sound that way because of heavy compression and digital clipping. Run some songs from HA/LB or SF/FF through Audacity/other computer audio program and you'll see.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:33 pm 
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little maus on the prairie
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i've never really understood compression, aside from it making things louder :S. are there other secret benefits of compression that warrant the tedious, mind numbing research of it's capabilities?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:12 am 
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hippopotamaus

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I use a simple guitar compressor/even simpler limiter on Audacity. Those complex compressors are considered "professional" equipment, so I don't think we need to worry 'bout it.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:42 am 
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anonymaus
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i guess the most fun can be to get pieces of hardware and try to run them through each other.. like changing around the order of guitar pedals, or ripping it from some other format.. like sticking it on a vhs tape, then maybe twisting the tape, then ripping it off there.. i like a lot of that, naturally bending it out of chune/reappearing from the fog... I think a lot of that television aesthetic ariel has is .. in an interview with on 'identity theory':

"When I’m finished recording a song, I quickly mix it down to cassette via stereo RCA’s direct into my home stereo cassette deck. I listen back and make follow-up mixes, sometimes as many as ten per song."

I think theres a lot to be said for that, just transferring mixes between mediums.. whether that's to a VHS cassette tape, or tape deck, CD, whatever it is.. I met a guy a while back who said he'd invested a lot in tape/CD to tape transfer.. and felt like the highest quality was from a playstation 1 - taking it off a playstation with RCA cables.
I don't know.
I know you asked specifically not to talk about plugins, but I think the waves VST''s are pretty awesome. You can add a lot of lo fi effect to any instrument or a whole mix pretty easily, and still have the control that hardware sometimes can't afford. The Waves CLA2A, supertap, IRL reverb, SSL channel, SSL EQ are all great plugins.

John spoke somewhere on here about using the mercury bundle from waves, and now i've been using the waves stuff for a while, I think you can really hear it on 'love is real'


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:13 am 
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anonymaus

Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:01 am
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@ Bearhead

DBX does add artifacts because of the way it compresses / expands signal. It also changes lots of specs with signal to noise ratio etc... The reason cassette tape has a definite sound to it is because there is a natural compression / saturation that tape has and there is always some bleed over from one channel to another. Another way to get rid of some of the hiss but still get the tape sound is to always record and play back with the pitch control maxed out. This makes the tape go faster than the normal 3 3/4 ips or 1 7/8 ips. In addition, you really want to look at / experiment with gain staging. With certain instruments, instead of recording at 0 db, you can push it into the red i.e. +3db or +6db to get a really compressed / driven i.e. "hot" signal going to the tape. This works really well with guitar and it sounds way better than guitar that is recorded straight into a computer. There is something to be said for the way that cassette tape saturation makes everything sit better in the mix. Of course this is a matter of opinion and I'm sure I will receive all sorts of crap replies for posting this. The wider the tape and the faster the tape is running, the better it will sound and the less hiss it will have. If you can pick up a 1/4" reel to reel recorder at goodwill / thrift store you can also do some really good sounding things with that. The Black Keys recorded their album Magic Potion on a Tascam 388 which is 1/4 " tape if you want to get somewhat of a feel for what 1/4' tape sounds like. However, this is running faster than most of the reel to reel decks you might find in a thrift store. Some of them will go 7.5 ips but it is harder to find ones that record at speeds faster than that. In addition, while there are plugins for everything, there's nothing like the real thing baby. Some of the plugins sound really good and some sound like shit. Personally, I won't be buying plugins for over $1,000 because you can find the real thing for way less in some cases that may not necessarily have to have maintenance right at the time you use it. Sometimes lesser maintained machines give way more coloration to the sound and some people actually like that depending on what effect they are going for.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:17 am 
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anonymaus

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I forgot, Wu Tang's 36 chambers was mixed down to cassette. There is a lot of speculation as to why but it did give it a lo-fi sound and speaks to your post regarding "dirtying" up the sound. There is a really good Noisey youtube video about a project called KINGS. You may want to check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPF7-nwRRlg


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:40 am 
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little maus on the prairie

Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:36 pm
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Some things I've done while recording that reminded me of John and Ariels sound: extreme adjustments of the eq before mixdown, recording drums or vocals at a different tape speed, slightly increasing tape speed before mixdown, record guitar to tape and use sends to run into stereo effects unit and record the stereo out to two more channels and adjust eqs and volume before mixdown, ping pong tracks, use older digitech multieffect units, turn DBX off, turn preamp up, record at levels that clip, mixdown at levels that clip, flip cassette over and add delay effect to a recorded track, physically slow down the reel with finger while recording or mixing down, use tape delay, use digital reverb and use different reverbs or amounts on same track and also add reverb to stereo track after mixdown, digital delay feedback quiet in the mix, huge reverb quiet in the mix, extremely short delay time with many repeats, panning tracks while mixing down


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:01 pm 
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mausketeer
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i record direct guitar/keyboard/bass/vocals into various pedals then right into the computer. I emulate the tape stuff with tricks and whatnot. I have a cassette player that doesnt record so i sometimes run things thru that and mic up the speaker. drums are either beat boxed, real kit mic'd or electronic kit with a distortion pedal. thats my usual thing


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 7:15 pm 
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little maus on the prairie
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Quote:
"All I listen to is AM, like AM 640, more stimulating talk radio. Amplitude modulation doesn't have the same sensitivity," he explains. "It's more muddy, thick sounds. Really, my music is just haunted by oversaturation of compression. Everything's up front and in your face, instruments forcing others out, vying for attention."
http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/pre ... id=1755763



over-saturated compression, he says! thx for the link to this interview, clangingchains


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:54 pm 
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little maus on the prairie
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i'm curious to know what everyone's thoughts are on Mono vs Stereo recordings? i've only ever used mono because i always mix down from DAW to cassette. are there any ways to get around this?

do u think that mono recordings will inevitably suffer from a lack of panning?, or is it just more of a subtlety?


thx 4 any advice on this!


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