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Jammer: Vocal Processing Pointers

September 1, 2010
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jammer_nrWhether referred to by his given name, Jahmek Power, or his alter ego, the Murkle Man, East London’s Jammer sounds like a superhero. And he operates from a secret headquarters: home studio the Dungeon, from which he has spent a decade chopping and stretching foundations for grime, the 140bpm MC battle riddims born from dancehall soundclashes, UK garridge clubs, acid house raves, and pirate jungle radio. Now, drawing on his extended crew, plus self-defined Logic 8 presets he’s dubbed the Power Box, Jammer has come out with his debut album, Jahmanji (Big Dada), 13 tracks of crackling rhythms, off-center melodic phrasing, and excited hooks.

Jammer came up a cornerstone producer for MCs, including D Double E and Kano. He started embracing the grit of tweaking outboard gear, such as the Akai MPC2000 sampler/sequencer and Korg Trinity V3 synthesizer workstation. Jammer says he still uses the Akai to filter drums, but now compiles within a G5 and PowerBook, pitching vintage tones alongside those generated through Rob Papen’s Albino and Logic’s EXS24 sampler, among other sources.

In the Dungeon, Jammer edited to a more streamlined double-time, using some Universal Audio compression/EQ plug-ins as gel. For vocals and final mixing, however, he split sessions between two studios: Alaska and Miloco’s Musikbox, where engineers Bob Earland and Matt Foster, respectively, added the thickening agents. Jammer cites the Avalon 2022, Urei Silver 1176LN, Neve VR60, and SSL FXG384 as great kits for warming up vocals and Logic stems. Earland and Foster used varying techniques to assure raw punch and dynamic movement, and since this was Jammer’s first full-length there was a spotlight on the vocal.

“Jammer is quite a dynamic MC, so I set a high 20:1 ratio on the 1176 and a fast attack and fairly fast release. The threshold was set to just catch the louder peaks and keep things under control,” explains Earland of his recording hook, and backup and charisma tracks. As for mixing, “I sent the main vocal back through an 1176, this time with a 4:1 ratio but with a low threshold. Jammer likes quite an aggressive, upfront vocal sound and this helped to bring out the breaths and rasps between the words. For the charisma track, I would EQ out a lot of the bottom end to thin it out and send a small amount to the 1176 along with the main vocal. The backups would be panned at roughly 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, and then gently compressed on a stereo bus with a short vocal plate reverb.”

As for Foster’s technique, he says, “Vocals would get some parallel compression [with fast attack times to add power and weight] and distortion to give them attitude and prevent them from sounding too clean. Short tape-style delays (60–100ms) added richness to vocals, and often hefty amounts of de-essing with Waves C4 was used to control the dynamics of the higher frequencies. Occasionally, chorus or flange [was used] to add character to the vocals.” Tony Ware

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