We (Studio Kekkonen with our associates Soundtools and Luomustudio) are proud and excited to present you the beginning of "Season 2" of our live series Kekkonen Elää!
Kekkonen elää! #3
Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen: Hyperballad
Extraordinary Finnish trumpet player Verneri Pohjola and equally extraordinary pianist and keyboardist Aki Rissanen are no strangers at our studio: Mikko has worked with both on numerous occasions, with Verneri starting way back in 2005 with the second Quintessence album "5 AM" and since then on a fairly regular basis. Curiously enough, Julius recorded Verneri even further back in 1993 in one of his earliest studio experiences, though the recording (un)fortunately doesn't exist any longer!
Verneri Pohjola's latest album "Ancient History", featuring Aki Rissanen as pianist was recorded and mixed by Mikko and released in 2012 on the ACT label.
The track the duo chose to perform is Björk's "Hyperballad" which is also featured on the aforementioned album.
Performed by Verneri Pohjola & Aki Rissanen
Written by Björk, Nellee Hooper & Marius De Vries
Recorded by Mikko Raita & Julius Mauranen
Mixed by Mikko Raita
Video by www.luomustudio.fi
In association with www.soundtools.fi
ABOUT THE RECORDING
As jazz musicians generally feel most comfortable playing in the same space and leakage was not an overwhelming issue with trumpet and piano, we decided to record in the lounge. It's naturally quite a live-souding space so we damped the room with heavy curtains and a rug from our live room. After the initial setup of the room was done, it was time for some miking (and DI'ing!). Mikko - who was first-in-command of the session - presented what he had in mind for the recording and we set it up all together. Once everything was up and running, Verneri and Aki laid down three takes and picked the last one to be the keeper. Sounds easy, eh!
Verneri's trumpet was picked up with an Audio-Technica AT4081 ribbon mic (through our MS Audiotron desk) which he uses both live and in the studio and - conveniently for us - brought along his own. There was a looper pedal involved in the equation with a send from the control room that took a little while to set up, but during the keeper take it was not used. The performance is obviously largely improvised so there's always a chance that things can (and will!) change. It's an organic process by nature and the technology is there to make it happen, not dictate the rules. So no looper this time, folks!
Our Yamaha U3 upright piano was miked with three stereo pairs: Vintage Neumann CMV-563's in an AB formation in the back, a pair of the very same AT4081's as with the trumpet (provided by Soundtools) in front of the hammers to pick up the attack of it and a pair of the humble-yet-legendary Shure SM57's (AB as well) right in the back of the piano to pick up some body (this actually works like a charm). The Neumanns and Audio-Technicas had Knif Audio V804's for preamps and the 57's had Rantanen SSL clone pres.
There were two pairs of ambience mics: a main pair of AKG C414's (in omni) plus an extra pair (convenient little Line Audio CM3's) behind the piano, facing away from it to pick up some room ambience as the main ambience pair was a bit trumpet heavy.
Aside from the piano, Aki had a Micromoog for bass sounds that's been slightly modified to increase the filter range to the same as the Minimoog. The bottom end is indeed impressive. He also had a Native Instruments Kore 2 software with the controller as a platform for soft synths: the Reaktor GoBox drum machine with effects that he tweaks during the performance and Steampipe 2 with a layer of the FM8 synth. The synth is played with the tiny Akai LPK-25, which fits absolutely anywhere!
Verneri triggered sounds from his laptop using Ableton Live with the Push controller - the thing with all the nice blinking lights that's actually a pretty powerful music-making tool! Verneri got this from Soundtools a few days prior to the session to get used to it.
To pick up the electronic elements we had a pile of DI's (BSS and BBE's we got from Soundtools).
ABOUT THE MIX (from Mikko)
Mixing of Aki’s and Verneri’s duo performance was quite a straightforward affair.
I opened the tracks of the session up into my “mixer” which is in fact a ProTools template that incorporates a hybrid in-the-box/analog master section as well as a collection of my most used effects as a ready-to-go virtual rack. It also has interfacing for my analog equipment.
The sound of the master section is quite important for me to get things to gel and make it “like a record” - I have a few different setups I pick depending on the project but here I went for the Vintagedesign SU1 Neve- style summing amp pushed quite hard, in addition to some additional mix buss push from a McDsp Analog Channel 1.
The whole mix buss was compressed gently vith a Waves SSL “quad” compressor which I have found quite faithful to the original. I used some additional “analog modeling” in the form of DUY’s DaD Tape, mixed just slightly in via parallel routing (it is a quite drastic effect if not done like this).
I also added Avid’s own HEAT processing to the inputs of all audio tracks, with moderate/bright settings. I then finalized the master section with a Massey L2007 lookahead limiter with a conservative setting to apply mild limiting/normalization as this track was not going to be mastered separately.
For piano, I ended up using a mix of all of the mics, with the CMV/ribbon combo most prominent and a hint of the dynamic body mics and the “piano ambience”. I applied slight group compression via a Massey CT5 and used HOFA’s IQ-EQ V3 dynamic EQ to soften up the midrange. I also ended up with a quite liberal 6db or so EQ boost with Avid’s own EQ in the low end to emphasize the prepared piano bass sounds - here I needed to jump a few hoops to make the low end slightly more “grand piano-like” but the end result worked nicely.
I also added some parallel compression from my beautiful Knif Audio Vari-Mu compressor (Serial number #002!), as well as reverb from my beloved EMT 140 plate reverb as well as Valhalladsp’s ValhallaVintageVerb.
Aki’s Micromoog bass synth went almost unprocessed, save just a hint of added high mid Avid EQ.
For Aki’s laptop, I ended automating some low and high EQ bands as well as using a bit of Waves’ C4 multiband compression, as all of Aki’s virtual instruments were premixed to 2 channels and I wanted to emphasize certain elements at key spots, otherwise it was left untreated with just some volume automation.
For Verneri’s trumpet I used slightly more processing even though his source sound in combination with the AT ribbon mic is already very, very good. I added just a tiny bit of saturation and crunch via Soundtoys’ Devil-Loc Deluxe, and again used Massey’s CT5 for slight leveling as well as a mild HOFA IQ-EQ V3 dynamic midrange cut, topping it off with some high end boost from Softube’s Trident A-range EQ as well as some more high end and mid tidying via Avid’s own EQ.
For reverbs and delays, I had a prerecorded track from control room 2’s (Juppu’s and Janne’s) Stocktronic plate, but I used that just a bit because it was obviously pre-mix processing - due to my mix compression it ended up as a nice touch where it gets comparatively more loud when Verneri plays louder. But for the majority of spatial effects I again went for a combination of the EMT 140 plate as well as the ValhallaVintageVerb, adding a custom-made TL Space “stereo spring reverb” impulse I often use (Especially if control room 2’s Knif "K.Verb" Spring Reverb is not readily available which was the case here), topping it off with a hint of tape-like delay from Sountoys’ Echoboy.
After a few hours of mixing, and some passess of volume automation (also via my trusty ICON D-Command) I sent a version to Verneri and Aki who suggested a few minor balance tweaks to Aki’s laptop track, and after seeing the edited video we adjusted a few more balances but all in all, it was a quite swift mix despite some of the “tricks” employed.