So our first album called “Treasure Underground” is out and it contains 10 interesting songs made by us with really modest means. It won’t compete with the professionally mastered tracks distributed on airwaves, but we dare to say that, in regard to originality and tastefulness, our album is better than most commercial stuff.
One of our favorite bands – The Stranglers – has this habit of posting sometimes details about their albums. On Stranglers’ site visitors can read descriptions of many of their songs, how they were made, recorded, where the inspiration came from, etc. We found this very interesting material to read and thought to do something similar.
1. End of Road
Musical idea: this song was initially made by Stefan, under the influence of a King Crimson classic. The main theme is haunting. We think it’s a beautiful piece. Olga wanted the arrangement to resemble one of her favorite Rammstein songs – Wo Bist Du.
Message: The lyrics are about a hopeless situation, waiting for a miracle which never happens, but still hoping.
Technical info: like all the other songs, the recording was done at home, with no experience and with very modest equipment. The final mastering of this song (and Wolves) was done by Mark Aviles from Arizona, a skillful sound engineer who did his best to polish and smooth out the rough recording.
Musical idea: Everyone of the three CMB members contributed to it. Cornelia, our darling drummer made up an interesting furious drum fill at the end of the solo part. And on one of the recorded takes, she can be heard with an enthusiastic “this is the best song ever”. Of course it’s not, but the enthusiasm was genuine.
Message: A reaction against those people who, under the false pretense that they care, they only do harm. Such a situation occurred to us when one of these irresponsible persons, called 911, considering that CMB kids are being abused somehow. Olga was crying (‘why there are so many bad people?’) and Stefan got furious that at his age (almost 13 at the time) is treated like an object by these falsely concerned hypocritical adults. We are also very family oriented and don’t like the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ attitude. The song is about that.
Technical info: the guitar is tuned with dropped D (lower E string down to D). In fact all the ten songs from this album use the same tuning. Mixed at home, mastered online at Landr.com
3. Crashed Van
Musical idea: We wanted this song to sound a bit like Rammstein, but it didn’t. It’s interesting though. The second part with the strings and nice vocal has its special beauty.
Message: there is a certain surrealism about this song, but it was inspired by a real event. Several years ago, in New-York, we were walking on a Queens street, coming home from a playground. All of a sudden, while we were approaching our house, a van stopped in front of us, three youngsters jumped out and run. One of them had thrown an object (a gun) into our backyard. But the police helicopter was already above and the cops caught them a few seconds later.
We found out that the smoking gun had been used to shoot someone a few minutes earlier and that that van was actually stolen and used for this terrible crime. We made a song about such a situation, changed into a sort of bad dream, with a nice ending and a funny moment (“I turned my wheels rectangular”).
Technical info: The main guitar riff was created by Stefan (also most of the lyrics and of course the vocal). Olga added the low D harpsichord repeated note and the synth effects for a dream-like atmosphere. Mixing & mastering is done at home.
Musical idea: it started with a, supposedly, very heavy riff. But the recording and mixing didn’t do justice to this part. Then a bit of James Brown funk style influence while the vocal got, unwillingly, into a bit of rap.
Message: The lyrics are interesting, about the pop charts which don’t include the best music. A tribute to Rammstein, which we consider one of the greatest bands ever. And also a way to thank them for inviting us on their stage 3 years ago.
Technical info: Besides the main guitar riff, drums and the bass played on keyboard, we over-dubbed here and there some medieval sounds – dulcimer, trumpet, English horn. With this song we went to a professional recording studio, because we wanted to record all at once. Doing that it’s better for certain lively pieces, the beat and dynamics are in place. However, after a lot of hassle with loading and unloading our instruments, spending time and money in that studio, the result wasn’t too good. So that was our only attempt to do this album in a studio environment. We used some of the recorded parts from there but redid the guitar and vocal. Mixed at home, mastered online at WaveMod.com
5. Treasure Underground
Musical idea: written mostly by the guitarist Stefan. One evening, being very impressed by the melody of the old Sicilian Clan movie, he was playing the main theme with a heavier sound on guitar. Then the keyboard joined in.
The originality of our song starts with the blending of this sad epic theme with a joyous keyboard background. Then the idea of using this atmosphere as the opening of the underground tour came instantly. Later on, a second part was added with a stronger riff.
Message: The lyrics are about the lost old american good times and the present with its irritating mainstream (which in this piece we call it main-scream). The ‘underground’ has several meanings and the treasure might be the old ‘american car’ or other niceties which are never appreciated by the masses.
Technical info: During the strophe, Stefan used his own innovation – the guitar breathing scheme (done with volume pedal). Regarding the chorus, it’s one of the few parts of our album which don’t sound too far from what we wanted. We like that interesting combination of a glorious hymn with a bit of lamentation. Stefan voice, quite rough, keeps an ‘ostinato’ same note. Cornelia sings a descending line of half-tones while Olga, barely audible with a faint falsetto, is ascending along the guitar riff. The mastering of this song is done by ADG Mastering. He did quite a good job, but we couldn’t afford financially to do all the other songs with him.
Musical idea: Made up during a jam session. We liked the awkward beginning part with the guitar seemingly struggling for each note. The atmosphere about the night, the old ruined castle and the lonely monk surrounded by hungry wolves, makes this a dark fairy tale, which we concluded with a beautiful sequence of arpeggiated chords on harpsichord. Olga had a lot of contribution with her keyboard parts.
Message: Inspired by the story of a venerable Romanian monk who spent 10 years alone in the deep forest, during the communist most aggressive period. He once described how he resisted through the more dangerous nights by continuous prayers.
Technical info: Couldn’t afford professional recording on this song but we asked Mark Aviles to do the mastering. He also added a low cello part to it.
7. Ice Scream
Musical idea: Stefan tried several unusual riffs and liked this one better. The structure of the song is quite weird (ABAB-CD) but it kind of makes sense for us musically. Or maybe we just got used to it.
Message: lyrics are about not just ice-cream, but also a complaint against anything which is fake or artificial. A protest against liars. It is a sample of our good rock concept.
Technical info: Mixed & mastered at home.
Musical idea: made up during an improvisation session. The second part was added as a message of hope during hardships. The passage “dig out to the free way” is Cornelia’s contribution.
Message: The idea of this song is escaping from captivity. We dedicate this piece to all the innocent people held captive. Children are closer to God and they know better: the captors will never be admitted to Heaven. Holding innocent captives is one of the worst sins.
Technical info: we are aware of the unusual structure of the song; the first part and the chorus don’t seem to fit together. We tried to convey somehow the feeling of escape from captivity through a sudden change. Mixed & mastered online at wavemod.com
Musical idea: made up around a simple classic rock riff, with a joyous attitude. At the end, during a simple guitar solo, we introduce a nice medieval theme and end up with a drum tremolo executed quite skilfully by Cornelia.
Message: The ocean is the real life, sometimes beautiful and sometimes dangerous. The lifeguard is the Saviour. When the time will come to drown, we hope to be saved.
Technical info: Mixed & mastered at home.
10. CMB March
Musical idea: here we successfully combined a nice medieval melody written by Susato 500 years ago, with our riff and vocals.
Message: A nice chorus about our own band and then a darker ending with a bit sad, but still a positive theme.
Technical info: Finding the right guitar riff along the medieval melody required a lot of effort. Same with adding a vocal part and chorus. But we feel it came out pretty good. Mixed & mastered at home.
“Treasure Underground” album – conclusion
Musical idea: In the beginning of 2014 we decided to try writing our own compositions. Our favorite bands (still existing) Rammstein and Stranglers, seemed to tire down a little and had not released new songs for a while. We felt that we should start working on continuing their music for the new times to come. During our jam sessions we had recorded improvised parts which we liked. And we started from there.
Message: Underground has several meanings for us. One is related to music: we dislike mainstream and we listen mostly to what we consider to be underground music. We also see the underground as a symbol for the good stuff which is either chased away or has to hide. We like to consider our songs package as a small treasure built under ground (because up there the ‘main-scream’ is too loud for us).
Recording equipment is very modest, couldn’t afford better:
– guitar – used inexpensive Fender (squire bullet)
– keyboard – Yamaha 10 yrs old model
– drums – used ($100)
– microphone Behringer ($40)
– mixer Behringer Xenyx low budget mixer ($40)
– slow old computer + free audio software (Audacity) + Reaper’s plugins.
As Graham Cochrane (therecordingrevolution.com) claims, good music can be done with low budget studio, and we think we have proved it.
However the production could be better.
The instrumental and vocal performance is not the best either – we feel more comfortable live on stage than in the studio.
But the whole concept is good. The songs have interesting lyrics, the construction is how we wanted it, avoiding cliches and not predictable.
The album is something new, different and made up on principles, non evil and non frivolous. A ‘good rock’ album.
Available at Loudr.com, Amazon and nimbit.com
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