Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Raymond Scott Rewired


Three mixologists who work under group names — The Bran Flakes, The Evolution Control Committee, and Go Home Productions — were given access to hundreds of recordings owned by the Raymond Scott estate, spanning the 1930s to the 1980s: jazz, orchestral, electronic, experimental, studio chatter, never-heard rarities. They were invited to remix the parts, with the following directives: have fun, keep it rhythmic, and make it percolate. Each chemist contributed six audio montages with new titles, and they collaborated on Scott’s signature tune "Powerhouse."

The project, RAYMOND SCOTT REWIRED, produced by Scott historian/archivist Irwin Chusid, is now available from Basta and Amazon as CD, or as digital download via iTunes or Amazon. And elsewhere.

Monday, September 9, 2013

R.I.P. Dick Raaijmakers

With deep sadness we share the following:  

On Wednesday September 4, legendary electronic music pioneer Dick Raaijmakers passed away at age 83.

Raaijmakers, also known to a wider audience as Kid Baltan, leaves behind more than a half-century of musical creativity and adventure, especially in the field of electronic music. His talent, vision and influence live on in his recordings and writings, and in music heard around the world that was inspired by his compositions and experiments.  

We extend deep condolences to his family and friends and wish them strength in this difficult time.  Dick was our friend too, and in many ways we considered him family.  

Rest in peace, Mr. Raaijmakers. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Release: Perfect Vision: The Esquivel Sound!

Album release: the Esquivel album is on iTunes and our site!

To order the physical copy of the CD, go here. To get it from iTunes, go here.

This is the full track listing of the album:
1. Mini Skirt
2. Poinciana
3. Sentimental journey
4. Estrellita
5. Bye Bye Blues
6. All of Me
7. Solamente Una Vez
8. Time on My Hands
9. My Blue Heaven
10. Cachito
11. Third Man Theme
12. So Rare
13. La Raspa
14. Take the 'A' Train
15. Jalousie
16. Spellbound
17. Cherokee
18. Lullaby of Birdland
19. Magic Is the Moonlight
20. La Paloma
21. Who's Sorry Now?

We'd love to hear what you think of it, either here or on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Music by the Maestro: Esquivel!

Perfect Vision: The Esquivel Sound
Metropole Orkest conducted by Vince Mendoza
Basta Audio-Visuals
Release: June 10, 2013

Basta Music has long had a fondness for pioneering orchestra leaders, composers and arrangers. The label has released music by such legends as Leroy Shield, Raymond Scott, Les Baxter, Roger Roger, André Popp, Ferde Grofé, Gordon Jenkins, and Russ Garcia. But one name was overlooked. Until now.
Basta proudly announces the release of an album featuring newly recorded versions of music arranged and composed by sophisticated Latin-jazz maestro Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002). Often called the King of Space Age Pop, Esquivel was a visionary perfectionist who controlled every aspect of his wide-screen sound in the studio.
In the late 1950s, Esquivel was renowned for his explosive arrangements and dynamic use of stereo effects. His music featured exotic percussion, wordless vocals (such as ‘pow-pow’ and ‘zu-zu’), shimmering keyboard glissandi, and crystalline piano fingering. On a technical level, his orchestrations made his recordings instantly recognizable. His style reflected his personality: brash, confident, mischievous, sexy.
Unfortunately, Esquivel’s original sheet music arrangements cannot be located. The Metropole Orchestra (a.k.a. Metropole Orkest), based in the Netherlands, commissioned new arrangements based on Esquivel’s RCA Victor recordings, beautifully done by composer/arranger Stefan Behrisch. While capturing Esquivel’s idiosyncratic colors and textures, the Metropole arrangements take the maestro’s magic in new directions. The Metropole employs a full string section, which Esquivel rarely used. “Mini Skirt,” one of his most popular tunes, had only been recorded by the composer with a small ensemble. The Metropole recording represents the first time this work has been arranged for full orchestra.
The recording is spectacular, featuring the Grammy-winning Metropole Orkest conducted by 6-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza. Producer Gert-Jan Blom (The Beau Hunks, Raymond Scott, Metropole Orkest) supervised the project, which involved some of the finest audio technicians in Holland. The orchestra is augmented with soloists such as Fay Lovsky (Theremin), Ocobar’s Bart Wijtman (bass accordion) and Cornell van Vuuren (slide guitar), as well as three-time (2004, 2005 and 2008) world champion whistler Geert Chatrou.
One of the project’s challenges was that Esquivel’s original recordings were already available on CDs and as digital downloads. How to make the new recordings exciting and different enough to merit the undertaking? This became clear once recording began. To hear the brilliance of Esquivel’s arrangements in 21st Century sound quality is striking. The Metropole recordings radiate more definition and detail than the original recordings, which were often saturated with reverb, or filtered and compressed at the expense of delicate nuances. While acknowledging that the “Living Stereo” aspect was a large part of the Esquivel charm, the Perfect Vision production team chose to restrain the stereo panning and effects. Rather than conform to the original mixes, they chose to emphasize the orchestral genius of Esquivel’s arrangements.
Mastering was done by Darcy Proper (another Grammy winner) at Wisseloord Studios. To add a touch of early 1960s fidelity while maintaining full-spectrum 2013 dynamics, the recording engineers used large vintage plate reverbs (EMT140s) dating from 1961, which helped bridge the five-decades audio gap.
The package, designed by Piet Schreuders, includes liner notes by Irwin Chusid, who helped launch the first Esquivel revival in 1994 by producing the first CD compilations, and who served as Esquivel’s last business manager. The booklet also features a number of rare photos of the maestro from his private collection.
We hope these new recordings will introduce a new generation of listeners to Esquivel’s sparkling universe, and that the project will be a welcome addition to the Esquivel catalogue for those already familiar with his work.
We had the pleasure of working with KellerFilm, who generously offered to make a video clip for one of the tracks. So here's that clip that they made set to "Mini Skirt":

More updates / sound coming soon!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

New album & clip by Ocobar /w Geert Chatrou

Ocobar & Geert Chatrou - ‘Strange Flute’
Basta Audio-Visuals 3093252
Release: May 20, 2013

pre-order the CD here

on iTunes pre-order as of May 10.

Spotify free streaming as of May 20

In 2003, Geert Chatrou of the Netherlands won the World Champion Whistling competition, held in the U.S. He won again in 2004 and 2006. It's history—you can look it up. When the Dutch label Basta learned of Chatrou's initial victory, they heard an idiosyncratic pop star in the making. After all, how many vocalists can boast that their singing can be understood in any language, and by listeners of all ages?
They phoned Chatrou to discuss signing with the label. Chatrou replied that he had just been contacted by Dutch band Ocobar—who coincidentally had signed with Basta the previous year—asking him to collaborate. Affirming a date with destiny, Basta’s original plan had been for Chatrou to record an album with Ocobar. The resulting collaborative CD, Chatroubadour, received excellent reviews, sold well, and various tracks wound up in TV ads and films around the world.

A followup was inevitable, though it took nine years. In the intervening years, Chatrou and Ocobar further honed their musical (and whistling) chops, to the extent that the 2013 sequel, Strange Flute, can't simply be called "Part Two." What Ocoboar and Chatrou first accomplished in 2003 has evolved into something more sophisticated and virtuosic, while their sense of fun has been retained. And as with their first album, the "singing" is done in a universal language. Listen. You will understand.

Here's the video for the track 'Barbers & Boobs':

and another track for you to enjoy:

Track listing:

1: Barbers & Boobs
2: Loogaboo
3: Whistler On A String
4: Sunny Trail
5: Short Skirt Day
6: Irish Pub
7: Strange Flute
8: Whistle Sizzle
9: All Aboard
10: Ins Blaue Hinein
11: Pioli
12: In Dreams We'll Meet Again

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dusty Stray: New album and opening for Carice van Houten shows!

We just got confirmation that Dusty Stray will be the opener for the 3 shows by Carice van Houten later this month. These are the dates for the shows:

April 22 – Mezz, Breda – tickets available
April 23 – Oosterpoort, Groningen – tickets available
April 24 – Paradiso, Amsterdam – sold out 

Carice is an absolute joy to see perform live - she's got this really great band with folks like JB Meijers, Ken Stringfellow, Joost Kroon  - all Basta related in various ways. Dusty Stray is known for great live performances as well. When supporting Noah & The Whale on their 2012 tour of The Netherlands, Dusty Stray "perfectly warmed-up the audience" according to a concert review by 3v12.

Following these concerts, on April 25, Dusty Stray will have the release party for the brand new Family Album at Claires Ballroom in Amsterdam. More info here.

So, about this new album - Let's start by offering you a free track by Dusty Stray to download and enjoy:

The new album will be available in stores and on digital outlets as of April 22. This third release by Dusty Stray on Dutch indie label BASTA is a transatlantic co-production with the legendary American producer KRAMER (Low, Ween, Urge Overkill, Galaxie 500).
KRAMER expressed interest in working with Dusty Stray when he happened to hear debut album Tales Of Misfortune And Woe. He and Jonathan Brown, the man behind Dusty Stray, decided to not let an ocean come between them and started working together on a new album.

For Family Album, Brown wrote and recorded songs in his Amsterdam studio, then sent them to KRAMER for additional accompaniment, mixing and mastering.

Weird instruments
The end result is unlike any Dusty Stray release to date. While the songs are grounded in an intimate folky-acoustic feel, they tend to branch out into other less-charted realms complemented by KRAMER’s sparse instrumentation and bold production style. In addition to his usual guitar and banjo, Brown played a variety of lesser-known instruments such as the sheng, bulbul tarang and a small metal WWII ration box filled with broken cufflinks.

Outsider artist
The title track is an homage to American artist Morton Bartlett, a Harvard-educated bachelor who sculpted his own secret fantasy “family”: large, life-like plaster children who inhabited his Boston apartment and were only discovered after his death. … He made clothes for them and he would put them on their anatomically correct little bodies. He’d take pictures and then he would put them in what he referred to as his family album…

Murder ballad
The new album also features more typical Dusty Stray fare such as songs about love-gone-bad, drowning horses being swept out to sea, a “lullaby” in which a baby screams its head off, and of course no Dusty Stray album would be complete without a murder ballad. In this case a depiction of the religious cult Heaven’s Gate and its mass suicide awaiting the Comet Hale-Bopp. As an added bonus, Family Album’s decorative 20-page booklet is made up of photographs from Brown’s found family photo collection.

The artwork was designed by Sonja van Hamel - here's the cover:

Stay tuned by following this blog or by following us on Facebook. For additional reading, visit Dusty Stray's more than excellent website or Facebook page.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mastering Esquivel!

In a few months, Basta Music will release an album with newly recorded music by composer / bandleader / arranger / pianist Juan Garcia Esquivel. In line with some other albums we did in the past, like 'The Beau Hunks Play The Original Laurel & Hardy Music' (Vol. 1 & 2) Gurdjieff's 'Oriental Suite' and Raymond Scott's 'Manhattan Research, Inc.', this is another very large project added to Basta's history.

Some interesting background information on the mastering process: Yesterday, I went to join Darcy Proper at Wisseloord Studios. The 'normal' mastering had been done already, it was just gonna be a few extra hours to create masters to be supplied to iTunes and get the 'Mastered for iTunes' label, as well as to create masters to be able to offer 24-bit audio files. Which are funny enough, close-to-the-same sort of files one needs.
One could argue over the need for this extra form of mastering. That arguing has been done enough already on the internet - and by offering this album on CD, on iTunes conform their mastering guidelines, on all other download sites as mp3s and most likely in a 24-bit audiophile version at a few download locations, we feel we are offering this in a taste for everyone.

And now that we're talking release formats: Yes - vinyl would be cool too. It's an option. We might do that when there's some moderate success with this album. And then there's also the option of 4.0 or 5.1 BluRay Audio.....but that's some expensive thing to do! Anyways - some mastering room impressions:

The mastering process itself is boring - even the mastering engineers admit that. It is, however, of critical importance because it determines the sound of an album. When a mastering engineer gets delivered top-notch mixes that are well balanced (in multiple ways), it comes down to detailed refinements. That's what we needed here. One aspect of the process is worth mentioning: we used the 'EMT140 plate reverb'. An EMT140S - for stereo - to be precise.

From StudioElectronics.biz:

In 1957, EMT introduced the 140 Reverberation Unit. The 140 consisted of a large piece of sheet metal, suspended from a heavy steel frame. An electrical transducer (similar to a miniature speaker) transmitted sound energy to the plate, which along with its drive and pickup amplifiers, was built into a heavy wooden enclosure. The 140 was about 4 feet tall and 8 feet long, and weighed about 600 pounds. A damping plate, controlled by a servo motor, allowed adjustment of the reverb time. Though it was much smaller than an echo chamber it was still sensitive to ambient noise, and had to be kept in an isolated space. Still, the “plate” was a great advance. Instead of building 8 echo chambers, a large facility could put 8 140’s in a small iso room. And it was the first cost effective answer for smaller studios, where actual chambers weren’t feasable. EMT 140’s didn’t sound exactly like a real room but they sounded very good, and remained the most popular studio reverb for many years. The early ones used tube electronics, but in the 70’s EMT began shipping them with transistor circuitry. EMT released a primitive digital reverb in 1972, the rack mount 144, but its capabilities were limited, and few survive. 

The 140S production-start dates from 1961, and this one has serial no. 3281. Just so you know :). We chose the stereo version instead of 2x mono, because using 2 mono chambers would possibly come up with unpredictable results, because one would be sending LEFT and RIGHT through different chambers. With the EMTs being partly mechanical devices: using double mono might disrupt what was carefully created during the mixing stages. Unpredictable results can have its charm, but was not what we were looking for for this album. Using the stereo version keeps the stereo image in balance and the center image stable. Easy choice.

The usage of the EMT added exactly what we wanted for this recording: a tiny touch of vintage, glueing everything nicely together while maintaining high detail and fidelity. I made some pictures of the 'EMT line-up' at Wisseloord:

That last picture serves multiple purposes: it shows the other 4 EMT's, it shows a very happy engineer Darcy ánd it shows Wisseloord provides their people with plenty of fruit!

When one listens to the masters now, there's such a richness in sound and the placement of the instruments is just amazing. Add to that the perfect play of the Metropole Orkest and all soloists, performing the explosive and catchy music of Esquivel - and you've got a winner.

Some more on mastering engineer Darcy Proper at Wisseloord Studios in The Netherlands:

From the Wisseloord pages:
Before becoming involved with Wisseloord, Darcy was senior mastering engineer at Galaxy Studios in Belgium and at Sony Music Studios in New York City. She has worked on a wide variety of music ranging from re-issues of early acoustic mono recordings to current 5.1 high-resolution surround releases for BluRay.

Early in her career, Darcy spent many years as a classical engineer/editor and brings much of what she learned in that arena to her mastering. Thus far, Darcy has been honored with 2 Grammy awards and 7 nominations and has won several TEC awards and Surround awards for her work. She mastered historical reissue projects for such prestigious artists as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash, and André Hazes.  She has also worked on stereo & 5.1 front-line releases for many talented artists including Steely Dan, The Eagles, R.E.M., Donald Fagen, Porcupine Tree, Peter Maffay, Toots Thielemans, and Söhne Mannheims.

Next post about this album will hold album cover, track listing, soloists, release date and..... audio!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Album release: The Secret Year by JB Meijers

J.B. Meijers (1972) is a respected producer and musician. He has worked with an impressive list of names on the Dutch music scene, including De Dijk, Carice van Houten, Acda en De Munnik, Go Back To The Zoo, Eboman, Metropole Orkest, Daryll-Ann, and Frank Boeijen.
He has also shared stages and studios with such non-Dutch artists as Solomon Burke, Van Dyke Parks, Ken Stringfellow, (The Posies, REM), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and Howe Gelb (Giant Sand). He recently produced albums by Dusty Stray, Sonja van Hamel and Eva Auad, all released on Basta Music. JB continues to be involved with Basta, this time as recording artist.

De Dijk is observing a sabbatical year in 2013, so Meijers is releasing his 2nd solo album: The Secret Year (the first was Catching Ophelia, 2009/V2). He will be touring throughout the year. The album, recorded in Brussels’ ICP Studios, contains 10 self-written and -produced songs. Meijers chose to retain a raw, unpolished production sound, which betters reflects the emotion and spontaneity of the studio performances.

Here's the great, explosive album cover:

Here's also one of the tracks on the album for you to enjoy:

Available as of March 22, preorder from Basta here. We'll publish the tour-dates soon!