Digital release date: July 7th, 2015. Estimated vinyl ship date: mid-August 2015.
Weight In Minimalism
Leaving Heavy Mask sparse left me in doubt for several weeks. Every layer I added seemed to take away from its initial severity and grit, and wash away the detail of the foundation tracks. I eventually surrendered to its simplicity and worked with maximizing the details. As a result of its simplicity, it’s been called a grower and not a show-er. Heavy Mask was written, mixed, and organized with vinyl as the preferred listening method.
Thermionic Culture Vulture Super 15
Everything on this album went through a Thermionic Culture Vulture Super 15. The Culture Vulture Super 15 is a very strange piece of processing gear that I have trouble recommending to anyone. The TCVS15 is a very specific tool for a very specific person – and apparently, I don’t know any of these people. The Cwejman S1 MKII was fed into the Eventide Space and into the Thermionic Culture Vulture Super 15 and was sequenced by the Make Noise RENE. If you’ve listened to Ritual or read its accompanying article, this should sound familiar. Except for the TCVS15, the signal flow is identical to how Ritual was recorded. If you want an extreme comparison, listen to how clean and dynamic Ritual is and come back to listen to Heavy Mask. On the flip side, Form Volume II was pre-mastered with the TCVS15 and was cleaned up and sparkly by the time it hit mastering.
The drums were performed by Charlie Werber during this past brutal Chicago winter. You may remember Charlie from Embraced where I’m still in awe of his performance. In the Heavy Mask recording sessions, Charlie simplified and complimented the existing tracks I brought in. In an active rehearsal space, I recorded Charlie using 4 microphones: 2 Earthworks QTC40’s for the overheads, 2 SM57’s on the kick and top of the snare, everything went directly into the RME UFX. UAD’s Neve 88RS, UA1776, and LA2A were heavily used.
Sarah Sitkin. I’ve known Sarah for almost 10 years and I’m probably her biggest fan. She’s responsible for the artwork on To No Avail a few years ago and how much she’s evolved in that time is breathtaking. Hell, how much she’s evolved since creating the Heavy Mask cover just over a month ago is amazing.
John Crawford is the only person you need to follow on Instagram. Together, John and Emilie created the Ritual artwork last year and I needed John’s aesthetic on Heavy Mask as well. He’s been essential for creative input as well as execution and his instinct overrule mine.
Caspar Newbolt was responsible for the entirety of the artwork on Embraced and helped lay out Ritual. He graciously lent a hand again with making sure the vinyl packaging and general layout was consistent with our combined high standards.
A quick word about censorship: Heavy Mask will not appear anywhere that censors the human body, so far this only includes iTunes and its services.
Shawn Hatfield of Audible Oddities. Again, always. The versions Shawn send back make me feel like I’m listening to a fully formed thought as opposed to just a number of tracks I made and ordered. Shawn brought Heavy Mask to a level clarity and brutality I’ve rarely heard before.
“When I first heard these songs, I immediately thought about how they’d benefit from being pushed a bit harder than normal through my chain, to bring in some subtle saturation and harmonics. I felt this really showed off the exceptional work Surachai had already done at the mix stage. I focused mostly on getting the gain staging for each piece of equipment just right to get the optimal sound for each song. In these various stages, the songs passed through several transformers, starting with Carnhill, into a pair of amorphous core Lundahl’s and then into a pair of Cinemag’s. I used two different tube stages along the way; one for transparent vari-mu compression using the Knif Vari Mu II, and the other a colorful class A tube pre-amp called a Creamliner II that adds some great detail by adding triode harmonics. At the end of the chain, a Dangerous BAX EQ was used to help balance the lows and highs just prior to capture.”
Lacquering, Plating, and Printing
The signal flow was the same as Ritual: Roger of SAE handled the lacquering which is then sent to Metalworks for plating and then to Gottagroov for the printing. The records are 180 grams and the jackets are thick tip-on boards with a matte finish that makes the artwork particularly menacing.
This is the fourth vinyl release on BL_K NOISE. Moe Espinosa / Drumcell, who runs the label with me, described BL_K NOISE perfectly, “a small label to release music that is not restrained by genre or expectations. An open format label to release whatever music we feel like whenever we want.” What Moe left out is that all of our releases have been DIY, we go through great lengths to be involved in every step of the process and stand proudly behind out releases artistically on all levels. Anyone that has bought our vinyl can speak to the high quality.
We don’t pay for PR, promotion, or print and somehow we sell out of our releases. It’s equally humbling as it is confusing. Thank you for the support, it means more than you’ll ever know.