Masterdisk Presents: Electric Teeth/Ghost Leg

Header graphic for Masterdisk Presents Electric Teeth aka Ghost Leg
Masterdisk Presents is a blog series spotlighting some of the incredible artists we work with. Note: Since the release of Meeting My Ghost, the Electric Teeth have become known as Ghost Leg.

I cued up the Meeting My Ghost EP for the first time, at home on a gray Sunday afternoon in late November. It is the most recent release from the Nashville-based band The Electric Teeth/Ghost Leg, a 5-selection record mastered by Drew Cappotto at Masterdisk. I had listened to the band’s previous release, a 10-track album, and maybe that’s why I found the new EP so surprising.

Photo of Electric Teeth aka Ghost Leg in concert

The leaps a band takes from one release to the next speaks volumes about the musicians’ visions, ambitions, and interpersonal development. Too often we see bands releasing monumental debuts, with disappointing follow-ups – the Sophomore Slumps, as they’re known. But on the lucky occasion that we find a group or artist that releases consecutively developmental recordings, that consistently pushes their own creative boundaries, we pay attention. We offer our support by going to their shows and buying their records, and we become invested in the music because we have experienced the musicians’ growth along with them. Like cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, we can’t stop reading – we need to know what happens next.

The Meeting My Ghost EP has a dark and spacey vibe, perfect for a mellow weekend or morning subway ride. Think of Portishead meets Placebo… in a dimly lit dive bar with Joy Division on the stereo. But, despite the group’s identifiable sound, this band cannot really be reduced to easy comparisons, for a simple reason – they are continually developing. It’s easy to hear, when comparing the first LP against this new EP, but even more apparent when speaking with the band’s song-writing duo, Nathan Goodwin and Taylor Lowrance, who have an eye on the future and further experimentation with their sound. Taylor tells us, “Being from Nashville, there aren’t a lot of bands around here that sound like us, and we want to keep it that way… We aren’t interested in being cool, we’re doing exactly what we want.”

So as the first track started, and I settled into my chair, I couldn’t help but feel some excitement. From the top, this EP is nothing like the Electric Teeth’s first album. Sure, you can hear the band’s roots in the winding guitar countermelodies and Taylor’s mournful, gravelly voice, but there’s a sense of depth to Meeting My Ghost that was missing before. A feeling that the band has grown up a bit, figured out who they are, what they want to create, and how to achieve it. You can hear the guys working together, understanding each others’ styles and roles, and building a sound. Twenty-two minutes flies when you let yourself get lost in a record, and this record is easy to get lost in. I opened my eyes, as the last note faded into its own reverb, all I wanted was more. I need to know what happens next!

Thankfully, it seems the wait won’t be long. Taylor and Nathan are hard at work, finishing the writing for a full-length release under their new moniker, Ghost Leg. Taylor tells us, “For this LP, we’re focusing on keeping the songs tight and flowing, with a strong sense of atmosphere.” I suppose I will have to be patient to find out how the story unfolds, but if you haven’t heard Meeting My Ghost yet, you don’t need to wait for anything. The EP is currently streaming at electricteethmusic.bandcamp.com.

Getting the Most Out of Your Medium: Mastering for Vinyl in the Digital Age, Part 2

Continued from Part 1

In our last session my client and I were in the mastering suite — now we’re in the lathe room. I’ve got my high res vinyl-centric files lined up. Now I have to ask myself a lot of questions. How loud can I get this and still fit the program on the side? Is it going to sound good all the way in to the center of the disk? No, probably not. How much high frequency stuff is going on here? — in the vocals and cymbals?

The vocal is waaaaaay back in an Aztec temple chamber — no worry about lancing ssss sibilance messing playback up. Some of the cymbal crashes are forward, but I know I have some room in terms of level so amplitude of the crash should be tamed. Usually we listeners can take a little more cymbal than vocal, so I’m in a good position to not have to use any high frequency limiting.

Photo of Alex DeTurk adjusting the latheNext I ask myself How deep is this thing going to cut? It’s possible to cut a deep groove all the way to the metal plate sandwitched between layers of lacquer, and we DON’T want that. This music has some pretty heavy downtuned guitars in the sides, so we’re going deep, but nowhere near the real danger zone. I do note that this is going to eat through the disc at a brisk pace though.

I look at my LPI meter — it tells me how many lines per inch are going to cut on the disc based on all my current settings. With this you can estimate the total run time to figure out about how far into the disc you’re going to go. Right now it looks like we’re going all the way in, and I don’t like it.

Metal (the music, not the substance) albums don’t fare too well in the inner diameter. I have the choice to either put my elliptical filter in, or drop the level. The elliptical will sum my low end in the sides to mono — with the result that I’ll loose some of the width in the guitars. That would be detrimental to the sound, so I choose instead to lower the level another .5 dB. Now we should finish in a friendlier place.

Time to cut. This part goes quickly — it’s the prep that takes all the time — and the result looks good! Off to plating and then pressing. I won’t hear this again unless there is a problem or I have a finished LP in my hands.

In this case, there was a problem. The test pressing comes back sounding really gritty and harsh in the top end, tinny to the max. What happened? My bet is on the quality of vinyl used: the grooves still look good under the microscope, but the surrounding vinyl looks like kitty litter. I bet it’s re-grind. The disc isn’t really even black, more like dark gray. OK, let’s call up the plant and see if there is an alternate vinyl source we can use and try again. Luckily they can still use the stampers and we don’t have to go back to square one.

We wait around for a couple more weeks, and the new test pressing comes back. This round looks a lot better! And it sounds better too; quieter overall and the high end actually resembles what I put down in the first place. I’d say we’re done, run the presses!

Now for the home test…

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