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Warning, this is kinda nerdy stuff. Mixing is probably a mysterious part of the album-making process to most people, but it's super important. It can ruin a really good record and rescue a mediocre one. And it's not just technical, it can be an important creative part of the process too, in some cases even restructuring the arrangement of songs.

While I'm no expert in mixing, I'd consider myself an informed amateur. My master's is in music performance but I've long been into composing and computer music production, and have been paid here and there to write/produce/mix music. I've spent probably thousands of hours watching tutorials on mixing, plugins and production. So when I hear a new album, a big part of the experience is listening to the mix. And by and large, I think Dreamers has the best mix of any of Neil's work since, and maybe including, Time on Earth.

This is especially impressive because while they got a big chunk of recording done in a studio with David Boucher, the main engineer and mixer, as we know, much of the album came together during quarantine with band members contributing stuff they recorded in their own homes. The band members are all capable of recording stuff pretty well on their own, I'm sure, but it's still a challenge for the mixer to take a bunch of tracks from disparate sources and make them work together.

David Boucher is basically Mitchell Froom's house engineer, mixer and co-producer, so it makes a lot of sense that he worked on Dreamers. But even more interesting to me, Boucher was Bob Clearmountain's assistant for 3.5 years. Bob mixed Temple, Woodface and Together Alone, and a bunch of other stuff for Neil and Tim. He's also one of the most celebrated mixers of all time, having mixed stuff for Bowie, Springsteen, and a gajillion other legends. Bob is on record saying that Crowded House are among his very favorite albums he's worked on. While he's a genius mixer who can make anything sound great, he does seem to have a special affinity for Neil's music and understand it better than many.

Boucher has built up an amazing resume himself and I think he's a crucial ingredient in why this album is (in my opinion) so good and, without meaning to detract from his autonomy, I can't help but think the influence of Bob Clearmountain plays a part too. Here's a good interview with David Boucher:

https://sonicscoop.com/2017/08...d-bob-clearmountain/

Last edited by slowpogo
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@slowpogo posted:

Warning, this is kinda nerdy stuff. Mixing is probably a mysterious part of the album-making process to most people, but it's super important. It can ruin a really good record and rescue a mediocre one. And it's not just technical, it can be an important creative part of the process too, in some cases even restructuring the arrangement of songs.

While I'm no expert in mixing, I'd consider myself an informed amateur. My master's is in music performance but I've long been into composing and computer music production, and have been paid here and there to write/produce/mix music. I've spent probably thousands of hours watching tutorials on mixing, plugins and production. So when I hear a new album, a big part of the experience is listening to the mix. And by and large, I think Dreamers has the best mix of any of Neil's work since, and maybe including, Time on Earth.

This is especially impressive because while they got a big chunk of recording done in a studio with David Boucher, the main engineer and mixer, as we know, much of the album came together during quarantine with band members contributing stuff they recorded in their own homes. The band members are all capable of recording stuff pretty well on their own, I'm sure, but it's still a challenge for the mixer to take a bunch of tracks from disparate sources and make them work together.

David Boucher is basically Mitchell Froom's house engineer, mixer and co-producer, so it makes a lot of sense that he worked on Dreamers. But even more interesting to me, Boucher was Bob Clearmountain's assistant for 3.5 years. Bob mixed Temple, Woodface and Together Alone, and a bunch of other stuff for Neil and Tim. He's also one of the most celebrated mixers of all time, having mixed stuff for Bowie, Springsteen, and a gajillion other legends. Bob is on record saying that Crowded House are among his very favorite albums he's worked on. While he's a genius mixer who can make anything sound great, he does seem to have a special affinity for Neil's music and understand it better than many.

Boucher has built up an amazing resume himself and I think he's a crucial ingredient in why this album is (in my opinion) so good and, without meaning to detract from his autonomy, I can't help but think the influence of Bob Clearmountain plays a part too. Here's a good interview with David Boucher:

https://sonicscoop.com/2017/08...d-bob-clearmountain/

Thanks so much for sharing that.  What a fascinating interview.

mattl

I have trouble not listening to the mixing and production of a record, when I first listen to something, rather than to the songs themselves. I’m always deconstructing how recordings are ‘put together’ - often at the expense of just listening to music for enjoyment’s sake. Perhaps the way an archaeologist can’t walk through the countryside without deconstructing the historic landscape about them, rather than enjoying the simple pleasure of ‘just going for a walk’. Or can an engineer enjoy looking at a beautiful building or bridge without becoming preoccupied with how it’s built?

I made a living out of music for about 5 years, often having a hand in mixing my own music, racking up about 70 plays on BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 6 (UK). A lot of it sounds awful to my ears now though, and I cringe when I listen back.

I gravitate between admiring and despairing of the mixing on DAW – sometimes I think the album is a work of art mixing/production-wise – textured, lush; sometimes I think it sounds muddy and indistinct, over-tinkered with. I still can’t make up my mind! I think the drums are really loud on some tracks, for example Real Life Woman. The bass lines sound muddy to me sometimes too, on some tracks. At other times I listen to the album and feel like I'm in a dream.

I agree, @slowpogo, that mixing can very much be part of the creative process, especially when it comes to electronic music (when the boundaries between arranging, mixing and production are often indistinct) and that a good or bad mix can make or break a recording. I’m not sure, though, that a good mix can redeem bad material. I always agreed with the saying that ‘you can’t polish a turd’.

Last edited by Welsh Dan
@Welsh Dan posted:
I gravitate between admiring and despairing of the mixing on DAW – sometimes I think the album is a work of art mixing/production-wise – textured, lush; sometimes I think it sounds muddy and indistinct, over-tinkered with. I still can’t make up my mind! I think the drums are really loud on some tracks, for example Real Life Woman. The bass lines sound muddy to me sometimes too, on some tracks. At other times I listen to the album and feel like I'm in a dream.

I agree, @slowpogo, that mixing can very much be part of the creative process, especially when it comes to electronic music (when the boundaries between arranging, mixing and production are often indistinct) and that a good or bad mix can make or break a recording. I’m not sure, though, that a good mix can redeem bad material. I always agreed with the saying that ‘you can’t polish a turd’.

Hmm, sometimes the drums on DAW sound a little forward but within the realm of what makes sense to me. Sometimes I find when I'm doing intense analytical listening things can sound really different from one listen to the next. On a few occasions my brain just makes stuff up for me, like when I adjust a compressor for 5 minutes, totally "hearing" my adjustments, only to realize it's in bypass.

Yes in electronic music it's often about iterations and how they're sequenced. But it happens in rock too...I've watched mixing sessions where the mixer makes pretty bold choices, like straight up deleting tom hits from a drum fill or deleting a drum-lead in entirely so the song just starts with the full band. Sometimes a choice like that seems to really unlock the logic of the song. Mixers have incredible arrangement powers at hand.

I didn't mean that mixing can make a bad album good. But something that is a little borderline can suddenly become listenable and "not bad."

Yes it's difficult to switch off sometimes and just listen to the damn song!

When mixing decisions, or production decisions start to actually affect the structure, or arrangement of a song it makes you wonder whether the personnel involved should be due some sort of writing credit - if a decision wildly affects the trajectory of a song. In fact isn't that what 'points off the top' is, regarding producers? And wasn't there some hoo-ha with Youth about just that, with TA?

I also imagine that, over the years, picking up mixing and production techniques as he's gone along, Neil must be much more involved with the production / mixing process these days than at the start. I bet he's right in there. Probably Liam too. And MF too, for DAW. (Well, I suppose the band are credited with producing DAW.)

I think the fresh perspective a producer / mixer brings to the table is healthy, and I wonder if that perspective is sometimes submerged a bit when the artist / band has a hands on role in both.

Many on here would say not so in terms of DAW.

@Welsh Dan posted:
I also imagine that, over the years, picking up mixing and production techniques as he's gone along, Neil must be much more involved with the production / mixing process these days than at the start. I bet he's right in there. Probably Liam too. And MF too, for DAW. (Well, I suppose the band are credited with producing DAW.)

I think the fresh perspective a producer / mixer brings to the table is healthy, and I wonder if that perspective is sometimes submerged a bit when the artist / band has a hands on role in both.

Neil probably knows what he wants and has ideas about how to get it, but I don't think he can do more than a rough demo mix himself. I recall a video where he's in Roundhead, marveling at his Neve console which used to belong to The Who. He laughingly says something like, "I have no idea how to use it, but it's fantastic!"

But Liam really knows what he's doing. He mixed his first solo album by himself, and is credited with mixing Hold Her Close on Lightsleeper (which sounds gorgeous!). Elroy mixed his upcoming album himself according to a Stuff article.

Yeah, this album turned out very well. But I'd still be interested in them working with a producer. Not a hands-on producer but someone to serve as a third-party sounding board, to call balls and strikes.

Last edited by slowpogo

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