Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Personal dispatch #13



This is a dispatch from Jim Lemanowicz. He recorded a three-minute, lo-fi version of "Astral Weeks." It's wonderfully dilettante: clumsy in all the right places and smoothed over in all the wrong ones. It's further evidence that passion always trumps polish. Here is what Jim had to say about his background as well as what went into recording his cover.
I'm 47 and from Massapequa, N.Y. I've been recording since my uncle first gave me a reel-to-reel and then later a cassette recorder in the 70's. Mostly skits and sound effects. Raised on 70's AM radio, in the early 80's, I discovered rock, punk. Garage punk made me look back. I also discovered Lester Bangs via Creem reprints. And The Rolling Stone Record Guide likely was how I found out about Van.

I got a mandolin to emulate "The Battle Of Evermore," couldn't figure it out, and made my own concept album/tape about a local Chinese restaurant by bouncing between two tape recorders. A bit later, I figured out how to change the speed of a tape recorder by adding a potentiometer and started making more experimental recordings. In the late 80's, to make a more proper album with a friend, I ended up buying an electric guitar & four-track.

Shortly after, I started playing with a number of improv configurations (Deafcon then Psychoacoustics then Exploding Jazz Commode then Moodsetters then Center For Hearing & Dizziness) initially based around SUNY Stony Brook. We appeared on the air in the early mornings many, many times and eventually we played live a few times during the 90's. I've never played live outside of that context. I've never been in a covers band. In 1990, I was trained as an audio engineer on 16-track 2' tape, although I never went into the field. Since '02 or so, I have concentrated on recording by myself and releasing edits of the various things in my tape drawer under various names (Jimmy Lem, Manhattan Rubber, Vowel Samples, The Discrete Four, Stinkfinger Overdrive). Although I did some recording with the improv folks this past Memorial Day.

I love that album [Astral Weeks]. It always gives me something new, even after all of these years. Because of Lester Bang's essay on the Astral Weeks album, I've always wanted to do something with it, including a treatment for a movie at one point based on the actual album, the Bangs essay, and Jim Derogatis' description of what Lester went through in San Diego (only hinted at in the essay).

Lately, I have been recovering from illness and getting back into the swing of things by recording covers. I tried "Astral Weeks" a few times in January and February of this year, but this particular recording (from May 31) I like the best so far. I did this all in one day and I approached it as a short song. I recorded this in Ableton Live. I'm tapping out the beats on a Trigger Finger using some samples, I'm playing bass and guitar. That solo was first take and I hadn't meant to use it but I liked it as is. The mellotron sounds are me playing a G-Force M-Tron VST with an Akai MPK Mini controller. I changed the key to suit my voice. Again, I've never done covers really so I'm still learning. I believe one should never stop learning.

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