Phantasmagoric Menagerie is a five track E.P. by psych-rock/grunge-gaze band, Animal Holograms , released by Chicago indie record label, Monoblack Records on August 15th, 2015. Recording began in April 2015 and was finished in June of that same year. Mixing and mastering took from June until early August. Jason Williams, founder of the band, engineered the record start to finish.
Production and Recording EditThe album was tracked at WIlliam's previous space, (home to or once home to notable Chicago bands Secret Colours, Ghastly Menace, Bow & Spear, LaVerne, Rocket Miner, Emblems and Royale) now moved to a larger space in the same building in Humboldt Park, The Anodyne Audiotorium. Drums and bass each took a day and a half each to track. It was the guitars and vocals that took the majority of studio time. Spending as long as 40 consecutive hours on one session (the day Williams tracked "Psychoasis"), on average Williams spent 12-24 hours straight perfecting the guitar tones and manipulating the room, experimenting with different microphone-preamplifier-compressor-EQ chains and messing around late into the night and early into the next morning with last minute additional guitar parts.
The album was mixed by Williams at his home studio in Logan Square. Though tracked in an analogue/digital hybrid set-up, the record was mixed entirely ITB [in-the-box; or on a computer program (called a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation), in this case, Sonar 8.5 Producer Ed.]. Unlike other records Williams has mixed, the recording approach and philosophy resulted in very little need for EQ and compressor plug-ins (Williams uses the Waves Mercury Bundle and Izotope 5).
Techniques & Engineering Philosophy Edit
Williams achieved equalization balances and guitar tones by toying with the level ratios of the various mic's used on different sound sources (i.e.: the guitars were all recorded on a Fender Jazzmaster through a 1999 Marshall VS-100/4x12" Marshall cab and 3-4 mic's were used to capture the tone--an AKG C214, a Shure SM57, an RE320 and on some songs, an AKG Perception 200 used as a room mic). The same is true for Dahl's bass performances. Four mics were used (absolutely zero D.I.'ing)--RE320 (main signal, for both low end and high end attack), Audix D6 (to supplement the low end, capturing subharmonic frequencies), Shure SM57 (used to capture sharper sounding attack) and AKG C214 (providing overall clarity and robust, clean sound).
The drums were recorded and mixed as close to and in the spirit of Steve Albini's drum sound on Nirvana's, In Utero. Room mic'ing techniques, mic positioning and placement and an overall "less-is-more" attitude all lent itself to the drum sound. One technique in particular was using a short delay with two low lying room microphones which provided a natural sounding "slap" effect on the snare helping to achieve greater width and an overall larger drum sound.
Experiments with Analogue Mastering Edit
Originally planning on Mastering the record with well known mastering engineer, Carl Saff, the loss of drummer, Sam Brown and an inability to afford his rate between the two remaining members, Williams and Dahl, encouraged by Ryan, Williams ended up Mastering the record himself. Instead of using digital plug-in's like Waves or iZotope, Williams chose to use hardware compressors and equalizers, his first time using that sort of gear for Mastering.
The record was released on Bandcamp on August 15th, 2015. It will be released on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Jukebox, Deezer, CDBaby and other online music retailers December 23rd, 2015. Cassettes will be available in Decembers as well, pressed and distributed by Custom Made Music (record label based out of VA)
Although the album suffers from lack of popularity in terms of sales, the album has gained some positive reception among critics on the internet. Dave Allison, critic on the Blogspot website, Custom Made Music (the Blogspot page for the label of the same name), claims the album is "A beautiful collection of psychedelic dream pop wizardry." U&I Magazine gave this album a positive review. "Animal Holograms back up their stylish shoegazer tunes with some real muscle. What you get with this band is something that is very much on the proverbial money with the disenfranchised underground feel that permeates in the music."
Association with Mental Illness Outreach Programs in Chicago Edit
The money obtained from the sales of the digital album and singles as well as the physical cassettes goes to a non profit community outreach program called Thresholds in Chicago, Illinois.