Dan & Hannah Acfield – Album Recording Journal

Dan and I have been busy writing for an album since October last year, sending a new song to each other once a fortnight. If either of us missed the deadline, the consequence was a fortnight without coffee or tea. Excellent incentive – what’s two weeks without coffee like? Absolute hell!

I’d heard about people recording in a house and liked the ‘vibe’ these albums had, relaxed, warm and organic. All the things we wanted to achieve in our album recording. The perfect house came up through a choir I sing with – a friends family holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula. Surrounded by trees and yet only five minutes walk from the beach, 5 bedrooms, mini grand piano and different spaces conducive to recording. We couldn’t believe our luck!

We hired and borrowed recording equipment and headed down to the house with engineer Robin Mai. I think we took just about every instrument we owned including five acoustic guitars, a couple of electric guitars, two bass guitars, ukulele, cello, melodica, flute and heaps of percussion.

We spent a day setting up, double checking that everything worked and we hadn’t forgotten anything (which of course we had). Dan Parsons joined us the following couple of days recorded all the drum and percussion parts. One of the mic stands was troublesome and was threatening to tip over. After foraging around the perfect solution was a couple of massive pieces of firewood. Placed around the base of the mic stand it worked a treat!

Acoustic guitar and pedal steel were next up on the list. We used the dining room, which had lots of glass windows to get a nice sound with the guitar. I was on bird patrol (as they were very determined to sing along) on the parameter of the house to encourage them to sing quieter.

One of the highlights was getting to use the mini grand piano, it sounded so beautiful! It’s unusual to have access to a grand piano – even in a recording studio.

Outside of a conventional studio we had to be inventive (which we loved!). We rigged up a vocal booth made out of mattresses and blankets.

Dan and I made the decision to produce the album ourselves, which was a first! The reality wasn’t as challenging as we thought it might be, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted out of the songs and recording. We spent a total of 6 days on the Mornington Peninsula recording and got most of the album recorded. There is still a small way to go and we’re running a crowdfunding campaign to finish and release the album. Be a part of our album! http://www.pozible.com/acfieldalbum.

To be a part of Dan & Hannah Acfield’s crowdfunding campaign pledge here.


Review: Dan Parsons, Dan Parsons

Dan Parsons
Image Courtesy of Dan Parsons

Melbourne’s singer songwriter Dan Parsons is one of those musicians who can play any instrument, you know the type, bursting with an endless supply of talent. Having recorded and played all the instrumentation on his self titled second album is proof of these talents; it’s certainly no mean feat.

Stylistically different from the first album, it feels like he’s come home with this collection of charming country folk pop tunes. Without the time restrictions of a conventional studio the recording has flourished. The arrangements are well thought out, layered delicately, drawing you further in with every new sound. Parsons’ voice has poignant warmth reminiscent of James Taylor, with a familiarity that enables you to feel like two friends.

“Close Your Eyes, Let it End” is a beautiful song written about a childhood friend who took his own life. I’ve seen Parsons play this one live, he spoke about being an only child and how his friend was the closest thing he had to a brother. It’s an honest, tender and sad. Lyrically it paints a picture of an adventurous soul” Laughed in the face of a loaded gun”.

“Waiting on the Line” has a Fleetwood Mac vibe to it with warm guitar sounds, driving bass and drums. I found myself hitting repeat on this track because of the lovely production and great feel. It’s completely addictive.

I love the guitar playing and vocal melody in song “Shoalhaven Night”. There is a real sense of space – the instrumentation allows the song to breathe, building in all the right places. Gorgeous.

“Oh Baby, When You Say It Like That” is a fun country song written with his fellow musician Luke Brennan. It’s so catchy – you’ll be singing along by the second chorus.

This album will definitely remain a favorite of mine for some time yet.

Dan Parsons is available now via iTunes

Review: Aluka Album Launch, Northcote Uniting Church, Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Aluka

Aluka with Brighter Later
Northcote Uniting Church, Melbourne VIC
3rd May, 2013

On a typical Melbourne evening, I braved the elements to attend the sold out Aluka album launch. Punters huddled for warmth outside the Northcote Uniting Church weaving a long line to entrance. Upon entering I was warmly met by the delicious smell of mulled wine and chocolate cupcakes. People quickly filled the church pews and spilled over onto the cushions surrounding the stage.

Brighter Later opened the night with their ambient tones. The melancholy songs drifted slowly around the room like a lullaby, sending us into a mild state of meditation. Nice songwriting was complimented by vocal harmonies and swelling arrangements. I did however, find myself itching for a dynamic or tempo change. Highlights included songs “Long Way Home” a song inspired by bird migration; and  “Covergirl”. 

Headliners Aluka were up next, tenderly ushering the audience closer to the stage. As soon as this a capella vocal trio started to sing, the room was reduced to complete silence. Unaccompanied, these three talented young women use their voices as diverse instruments, using harmonies, percussive sounds, ooo’s, ahh’s and combined with hand percussion create a sweet, full sound. Their voices are individually strong but blend together beautifully. I didn’t miss the lack of traditional instrumentation; the arrangements were extremely clever and interesting.

It’s obvious Aluka love singing together, with friendly banter in between songs. Each song on the album was recorded in a different unconventional space and they told the individual stories between songs, which I liked.

“Vision”, which I’d listened to on the album impressed me live, the opening dissonant harmonies vibrated strangely in my ears. This song was recorded in a shop front through the backs of pianos on a rainy day, tells of hearing the cars on the wet road and likened it to an Ocean of Wheels.

Their songs are catchy and very likeable. Highlights included: “Keep My Cool” (recorded in a stairwell), “Vision” (recorded in a shop front), Station (recorded in a tram depot) and “Tiptoe” (recorded in a tractor shed). 

Whatever the weather might have been outside, we had no inkling. I was breath taken.  The venue was perfect, the acoustics of the church amplifying the music of the impressive and luminous Aluka.

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