By Tony Ware
Maserati (left to right)—Chris McNeal, Matt Cherry, Coley Dennis, and Jerry Fuchs.
Pyramid of the Sun, the fourth full-length from Athens, GA.-based post-rock quartet Maserati, is an ascendant album built like the Aztec structure that inspired its title, featuring a precisely angled base, painstakingly arranged building blocks, and a reverently detailed skin. Its eight tracks form a spiritual alignment of Krautrock’s motorik insistence, progrock’s auroral drive, and indie rock’s unflagging attitude. Pyramid also acts as a tribute to drummer Jerry Fuchs, who tracked parts for the album at The Bakery in Athens before tragically passing away in November 2009. (Steve Moore of Zombi, a LinnDrum, and a little Pro Tools comping orchestrated some final breaks and fills.)
Fuchs propelled the band rhythmically since 2005, and on Pyramid he pushed the band forward in even broader ways. Fuchs, a man who had MIDI In and Out tattooed on his wrists, brought an appreciation of the vintage sequencing of Ash Ra Tempel/Manuel Göttsching, Can, Cluster, Neu!, and Aphrodite’s Child/Vangelis. This came into play when Maserati reconvened at Cacophony Recorders in Austin, TX, to flesh out Pyramid throughout 2009.
Working with engineer Erik Wofford, Maserati captured blown-out jams with just outboard preamplification and EQ by Chandler Limited, API, Aurora Audio, and Mercury Recording Equipment in order to preserve dynamics, using both tape and tracks mapped from Pro Tools HD2 to their own faders to appropriate a ’70s recording style. The board was a 32- channel, mid-’80s Sound Workshop Series 34C with a master section modified to include a discrete, transformerbalanced summing amp from Purple Audio, “which brings more to the tone and depth of a discrete vintage console,” says Wofford. Overdubs went through a Universal Audio 2192 converter at 44.1kHz.
Several spirited facets of the Pyramid vibe were captured through the application of Echoplex and Roland Space Echo tape delays, as well as Morley PFA Pro Phaser, all manually dialed in. “We’d use an Alesis micron [analogue-modeling synth], or a MiniMoog or Little Phatty, run a path, start it delaying on the quarter-note, and slowly add the repeats so it would repeat into the 16th notes,” says guitarist Coley Dennis. “And Erik knew all the Morley’s sweet spots, so he’d rock that aluminum brick back and forth while we played some leads.” (Select phrases/loops were sent/returned through similar effects post-tracking, as well as treated with manual tape slowdown for creative distortion, or given Big Muff and Talk Box to add sustain/bottom end.) Also, to achieve certain expressive arpeggiation, a click track would be sent through an Electro-Harmonix 16-Second digital delay (also extensively used on live guitar), then that rhythm was fed to the keyboards; this allowed for more diffused, but in-sync analog delays.
Slightly panning/EQing dozens of guitar, bass, and synth tracks to avoid destructive frequency competition, mix engineers Jeremy deVine and Jeremy Van Der Volgen added clarity to density. The result is an album of cascading tones that’s dark, with a bit of dry thump, but reconciled with an effusive, danceable energy that does Fuchs proud.
Read the extended interview with Maserati HERE.