Converge – Axe To Fall
Kurt Ballou, of course. Don't think I've ever met anyone without a K.B. appreciation but it'd probably be the same as meeting someone who doesn't like dogs...
This album steadily blew my lid off - it took a lot of digestion to appreciate how detailed and involved this record is. I used to stick it on computer speakers, car speakers, van speakers, ear buds – everything – and that depth, saturation, impact and solidity held-like-glue; every-single-time. What you think you're hearing is not what you're hearing, you get the main upfront parts, except it's sitting on a foundation on a foundation on a foundation – inception vibes. The guitars have this dimension, character, aura – pretty mind altering getting into the deep waters of this record (so many whaa, hmm, aah moments) – seamless changes of themes, hidden parts, space, distance, layering; the pallet of production and music technique is entirely varied and breaks the conventions of the genre. Not just to throw it all in there but to do it that well with real transcendent, emotional impact.
Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies
This album came to me at a time where I was way deep in punk/hardcore/metal and trying to upkeep 100+ days of touring a year, so was pining for an ear break. Some friends told me the stories of this crazy noodly genre that wasn't exactly a genre, that didn't really blow up, that maybe 2–3 bands were doing well. It was very niche and hip but the story went that a bunch of 'hardcore kids' got bored and started coming up with these noodly gritty melodic lines that didn't fit into pop punk at all, always with a screechy vocalist who couldn't really sing too well but had decent scratchy pipes. It really is it's own thing; it's not pop, indie or punk but it's sorta-kinda all those things at once without being them at all. The guitar playing was irresistible, just these juicy odd melodic noodles sounding like they were hanging by a thread all the while being catchy as anything. The production on even the best bands of this wave is pretty bad (although it wouldn't be the same if it wasn't) yet this particular album is very well done in its own right, not over-produced in any way, great decision making – appropriate to the core. I'm not sure if it was recorded to tape but I'd be pretty surprised if it wasn't, so nicely sizzled – either way, the engineer managed to fit all this drive, melody and awkward vocals into all the right ranges and it still sounds so juicy, airy, layered and separated. The character of the production is so specific to the genre, it's very cool that this tiny movement happened. For sure a masterclass on guitar phrasing and genre appropriate production but at the heart of it just a nice, exciting listen.
Big D & The Kids Table – Good Luck
It's 2005, you've got a usb operated mp3 player and enough room for 200 songs... Limewire is hot shit and you've only gotta wait an hour to get one album at a time. WYD – Get into ska-punk bands, of course. Actually, my buddy sent me some of their highlight songs on MSN messenger, which started it all off... I loved what McWane sang about especially on the title song of the album. It was straight to the point, heartfelt and accessible to a teenager finding their way in the world. The journey wouldn't have been the same without this one, very dear.
Dillinger Escape Plan – Calculating Infinity
A handful of shrooms from a stranger at Hevy Fest 2012 led to seeing these guys live for the first time, having never done the Dillinger dive before. All I felt was pure awe, Billy Rymer being an absolute genie. It was pretty late into their run at that point. By today's standards it's a pretty bad sounding record (piccolo snare and boss sounding distortions) except for the fact it was recorded to tape, in the 90s. The drums are human, no disguising. I love the combination of raw, direct human playing and raw production. There was no hiding behind anything on this record. The purity is rare at that level and then so many bands have spent 3 decades trying to catch up.
Within The Ruins – Creature
I have no idea how a burned copy of this CD made it into the car but it did, around a time I'd devoted a portion of my life to working every hour under the sun at a call centre. The drive was an hour and a half there, same back, and I was leaving at 6am, getting home late. It's a lot of digestion time, a lot of time in traffic with nothing but the company of CDs (and Rayyan EATD, he slept a lot) and this one just kept making its way back in. I was working through a big library of metal/djent style tunes at the time but this one was the anchor of the lot. I guess the grooves are linear, catchy, don't require all your mental capacity, the movements are varied enough to keep your attention and the playing is silly, I guess that's what made it so digestible on long drives.
At The Drive In – Relationship of Command
The precursor to all aforementioned records, before I knew what hardcore was, before I knew why I liked juicy saturated guitars or fucked up vocalists. In fact, I guess I didn't love this record for many years after I heard the band. They did 'One Armed Scissor' on Jools Holland and it was just bat shit, Robbie Williams was there, too, acting the goat – mad scenes. It was a good place to start at 13/14 years old – anything that breaks open the head, challenges convention, has undeniable character. This band was for me before the journey really began. Omar was a very striking and inspirational character actually, clearly introverted and focused on his creative endeavours. You don't know it at the time, but people like him who dared to be himself, it's very powerful to take in that kind of example at a young age and he just hasn't stopped since – I consider him a master producer for sure.
The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute
When the first song kicks in after the ambience/intro-stuff it's absolute drive – jungle/drum n bass/samba beats, wah-pedal-dry-palm-muted-quick-choppy-lead-lines, the first 3 or 4 movements are aaace listens. I had never heard anything like it at the time so it beat a lot of its contemporary sub-genres to the punch. I used to stick it on while going to sleep and go through all the movements, broadening cerebral horizons and informing themes that I'd come to love years later in a lot of different forms. Although Bedlam In Goliath is the better album (Pridgen throwing down with no respect) this was one of those records of personal growth with some absolutely murderous parts.
City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love
The night drive go-to! A super nostalgic album right there, a sweet example of ambience and dimension. The songs are brilliant, the pipes on Mr. Green. Such nectar, friends! If this album was recorded in a different way, I have no idea how the songs would transcend. Bear in mind it was recorded in a church hall, on steel string acoustics from the 1910s, 30s and 40s with a major label budget. There's a lot of depth to it, history in the sound sources but the mood is so relaxing, a nice introspective listen. It's a part of the pallet to reach for when I can't deal with the sensory overload.
TTNG – Animals
Gotta admit, a friend showed me some of these guys on a Blue Peter looking live set and I didn't get it at all. I thought it was pretty awful at the time, haha. I couldn't pinpoint when this band resurfaced in my immediate reality but their burned disc worked its way into the van (like so many others) and became a daily listen in the hefty touring days, it was hard to appreciate anything finer about this record in van speakers, other than the guitar work. Like, it's been a constant mesmerisation of how they constructed the layers of these songs to make coherent start to end tracks with bass, drums, choruses, verses, the guitar work is... involved. It's hard to imagine how they make coherent songs exactly – which is a whole other level of TTNG's game, the fact they do make accessible songs with hooks, movement, melody, drive. Heck knows fren’. Another one the masses are still playing catch up with.
Blakfish – Champions & See You In Another City (how do you pick)
The logical conclusion of all the above records. The band that did it all – melodic mega noodles, horrible screaming and shouting vocals, big choruses that hit, no missin’, ugly stink face breakdowns, brilliant juicy production and the vocal work is grand. I can't find the weak link amongst them – they dialled it in! It really flows, a seamless effort. An inspiration to any DIY band coming up – they just went for it, did it, suffered the consequences of the lifestyle, survived on the strength of their songs and character. Did it with class and quality tunes.
That was difficult!! Can I have a short list :')?
The top 10 top 10 shortlist:
10. Propagandhi – Supporting Caste
9. Turnover – Peripheral Vision
8. Captain Everything – Buena Vista Club (Can't be a UK audio engineer without some saucy Pete Miles appreciation)
7. Beat The Red Light -–EP
6. The Ghost Of A Thousand – This Is Where The Fight Begins
5. Belvedere – Fast Forward Eats The Tape
4. Snowing – Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit
3. Folly – Insanity Later
2. Botch – We Are The Romans
1. Fellsilent – The Hidden Words
Ed has just opened up his own studio named All Silk Mastering House which specialises in Mastering, Mixing and Audio Engineering. If you've just recorded some music you should definitely check All Silk Mastering House out.
Ed also sings and plays guitar in Ville (formerly Edgarville).