ALBUM '4X4' BY HIS SON ELROY
Sound Engineering, 2005
The band His Son Elroy were invited by Borbonesa to record a soundtrack to be released as part of the quarterly Natural Wonder publication ‘Turtle Soup’. This printed work contains written articles, illustrations, art prints and music and each issue was intrinsically linked to a variant realm of the Natural World. Sixteen songs were written, split into 4 overall themes and pressed as four 3-inch coloured compact discs.
My main role for the project was chief sound engineer responsible for setting up the recording sessions for the band, arranging and recording session musicians, editing, mixing and mastering the music, and preparing the recordings for pressing.
SOFTWARE - Cakewalk / Soundforge / Sonar / Reason
HARDWARE- SP 202 / PC / AKG C3000B / Fostex 4 Track / Kopykat
Ian Whitmore: lyrics & vocals
Lee Shearman: guitar, bass, percussion, sampling
Matt Fleming: guitar
David Yaghoobi: backing vocals, guitar
Adam Atkins lead guitar (track 16) / Rohan Chadwick cello (tracks 2 and 4) Gemma Collins oboe (track 5) / Chris Cook sitar (track 2) / Laura Coxeter vocals (track 7) / Alex Sebley trumpet (track 16) / Alistair Strachen played cornet (tracks 9 and 11). Tracks 1-16 recorded / mixed by Lee Shearman
A REVIEW OF HIS SON ELROY'S ALBUM '4 X 4'
Written by Jeremy for Music Spork
Written by Jeremy for Music Spork
The other day, a funny little package found its way into Music Spork headquarters. Contained therein were two mini-CDs accompanied by a pleasant letter explaining that the diminutive green and yellow discs were Parts Three and Four of the album 4x4 by His Son Elroy. The complete album, you see, does not yet exist. These were originally the audio components to an independently published quarterly journal in the UK known as Turtle Soup. Still with me? Wait, it gets better…
Armed only with this curious explanation, I popped in the green one. Then the yellow. A few minutes late I went back to green. And then once more with the yellow. As I listened, I realized that these mysterious discs contained a magic spell. When combined, these fragments released a spectre that simultaneously haunts and delights, enticing the listener like Narcissus’ reflection, drawing them ever deeper into its spell, forcing them closer to the music.
When examined under fluorescent lights, 4x4 is simple, dreamy, and mischievously playful chamber pop. But when the harsh lights dim, His Son Elroy holds its séance. The songs display the deceptive quality of naughty children: sugar ‘n spice until the nanny leaves the room. Indeed, the band delivers the music as though they were children huddled in the attic or behind the bleachers, singing songs Headmaster has forbidden. The vocals reinforce this image: high, wispsy voices that slip off-key while bouncing up and down an impressive range. (The lead singer has a sleepily hypnotic delivery that makes me imagine Isaac Brock on a serious Dilaudid and Xanax cocktail.)
However, all this is not meant to compare the album to the work of children; 4x4 is in no way amateurish. It's not the same flavor as a Takako Minekawa ‘schoolgirl-with-a-Casio’ album. Pain and frustration rest at the center of many of the songs. But this isn’t Morrissey moping in the rain on a Saturday night, either. This is Alice cringing while the Queen of Hearts screams, “Off with her head!” The phrase “torn limb from limb” crops up, as do tales of chefs snipping bits of young flesh for use in their concoctions. But the horror is recited in such a deliciously deadpan way, the songs become less threatening and more delightfully morbid, like an Edward Gorey etching.
The album’s technically sophisticated, as well. The simple beats and melodies dovetail into difficult arrangements, typically injected with tantalizing bits of space-travel electronic effects, cavorting trumpet lines, and birds chirping in sunny meadows. The guitars are similarly enchanted: acoustic and natural, not exactly sloppy, just organic. Throughout the album, beginnings are found at ends, endings begin and strange but appropriate changes materialize regularly.
I found listening to these two pieces as haunting as finding old toys from childhood, remembering imaginary lives created in fantastic places, long since driven away by the rigors of reality. I eagerly await the publication of the completed grimoire from His Son Elroy. For the moment, try contacting email@example.com for more information. That is, if the spirit moves you.
His Son Elroy = Modest Mouse vocal inflections + Belle and Sebastian arrangements + The Gashlycrumb Tinies + Zeppelin’s “Over the Hill and Far Away”