Andre LaFosse began creating improvisational, loop-based music as a student at the California Institute of the Arts, pairing a guitar with a Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro looping delay processor to embark upon daring sonic explorations. His 1999 debut album, Disruption Theory, documented his intensive work with the Echoplex and earned critical acclaim.
Normalized (Altruist Music, 2003) is LaFosse's second album. LaFosse recorded, mixed, and mastered the entire album in his apartment. It showcases 14 live, improvised Echoplex solos. “The concept was to capture all of the frequencies that the guitar emanates,” LaFosse says. “Most of the album is solo guitar, so I wanted to see how full a sonic picture I could get. A guitar amp produces a very midrange-heavy sound, which speakers or amp simulators strive to emulate. For the most part, that's the sound I wanted to avoid on Normalized.”
LaFosse played his Steinberger GM4T electric guitar through a Mesa/Boogie DC-3 tube amp. “All Echoplex solos were recorded through this amp using a direct output that had no speaker simulator,” LaFosse says. He recorded his guitar directly into a Mac G4/400 as a full-frequency signal for all but the title track. “I recorded everything through an M-Audio Omni Studio sound card into [Emagic] Logic Audio Platinum 4.7,” LaFosse says.
“For each track of solo guitar loops, I applied about a dozen plug-ins, including PSPaudioware's Vintage Warmer, MixPack, and StereoPack,” LaFosse says. “I used StereoPack to synthesize a stereo image for the original mono tracks. I also used [Cycling '74] Pluggo plug-ins and some freeware plug-ins from MDA-VST and Dragan Petrovic. I used Logic's standard EQ plug-ins, including Fat EQ. It took quite a while to figure out which frequencies to cut and which ones to boost — and at which stage of the signal path.
“I dial-in extra midrange when I play in order to accentuate the artificial harmonics that are a big part of my style,” LaFosse says. “I used PSPaudioware's MixTreble and MixBass plug-ins to synthesize a bit of high- and low-end frequency content to fill in the gaps in those frequency ranges.”
Three tracks — “The Proposition,” “Interference,” and “Rockhouse” — involve additional production techniques. “I recorded some guitar overdubs using the amp's speaker simulator so that the melodic parts would sound like regular guitars,” LaFosse says. “Other times I'd run a cable out of the guitar directly into the M-Audio sound card, record it completely dry, and then add distortion, speaker simulators, and other effects after the fact.”
LaFosse's guitar also produced the bass sounds on these three tracks. “On ‘The Proposition’ and ‘Interference,’ I fed the signal through heavy compression and an MDA-VST subharmonic synthesizer plug-in to produce a basslike tone,” he says. “The bass on ‘Rockhouse’ came from using Logic's pitch-shifting plug-in to drop the guitar down an octave. I scattered some Cycling '74 Pluggo effects throughout — the stringlike texture during the last chorus of ‘The Proposition’ and the high-pitched, synthlike sound on ‘Interference.’ Some of the fuzz-toned guitars on ‘Interference’ are also derived from Pluggo distortion patches.
“I used the flashier plug-ins very sparingly,” LaFosse adds. “They're used as light seasonings, rather than as main ingredients. The foundation of the album is the live Echoplex guitar style, and I didn't want the flashier plug-in sound to detract from that.”