Tucker Martine is a Seattle-based producer, engineer, and drummer who works with noted experimental musicians, such as Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz. Martine also owns and operates Flora, his project studio in which he has produced sessions for Modest Mouse, Jesse Sykes, and many others. As a diversion, he formed Mount Analog, a creative collective. “It was founded on the philosophy of using the studio as an instrument,” Martine says. “It's an outlet for me to try anything I want.”
Mount Analog's second album, New Skin (Film Guerrero, 2004), features adventurous, cinematic sound collages. The album results from collaborations between Martine and Frisell, Eyvind Kang, Doug Wieselman, Jon Hyde, Steve Moore, Bruce Wirth, Keith Lowe, Tim Young, Dave Carter, and Fred Chalenor. Martine recorded different combinations of musicians playing a range of instruments such as guitar, harp, piano, viola, Mellotron, and Suzuki Omnichord. He then layered, processed, edited, and deconstructed their performances and sounds every which way.
“The traditional song form is limited,” Martine says. “I just wanted to hit on something captivating that felt like a place I'd never been before. How we got there wasn't so important. If a song was missing something, I'd highlight unlikely tracks to change the subject in the foreground. Sometimes I'd have people play along to only, say, the strings track without hearing the downbeats. This is a good way to get unique points of view.”
When Martine recorded New Skin, his basement housed a control room and a live room. “The living room upstairs provided an additional recording space with wood floors, higher ceilings, and a piano,” Martine says. He tracked sessions for New Skin onto two-inch tape using his MCI JH-16, 16-track reel-to-reel machine. He also recorded through a Digidesign Digi 001 interface into Pro Tools LE 6.1 on a Mac G4 867 MHz machine.
New Skin/Mount Analog
“About half of the record stayed on tape,” Martine says. “Tape encourages a more organic process. A few pieces started in Pro Tools. A few were started on tape, transferred into Pro Tools, and then manipulated. I never tried to keep anything pure. I like the coexistence of dirtier sounds with cleaner sounds, and compressed sounds with dynamic sounds. The variety can add a lot of spatial depth to a recording.”
Martine often arrived at final tracks through experimentation and accidental discoveries. “‘Freeze Green’ is actually two pieces combined,” he says. “I made them both on tape but overlapped them in Pro Tools. The constant panning of the drums on ‘Bell and Howell’ was something I did out of frustration, but it gave the song what it needed momentum-wise and also gave it the depth of field I was looking for. ‘Festival of Errors’ came from a sound my board made when one of the channels went bad. It had this great limiting distortion. The intro to ‘Giving up the Ghost’ was the result of accidentally feeding an old Radio Shack reverb unit into itself and manipulating the pitch by adjusting the send level.”
Martine further spiced up New Skin with excerpts from field recordings he made in Mali, Southeast Asia, and the United States. “I use a Sony TCD-D7 portable DAT recorder and an Audio-Technica AT822,” he says. “I look for anything that jolts you out of the ordinary. Sometimes you capture something that's compelling on its own, and it's already mixed!
“For me, recording is a chance to create your own world, or highlight fascinating parts of our existing world that get overlooked,” Martine says. “I look for ways to surprise myself.”
For more information, go towww.mountanalog.com.