Sun comes up, and it’s not a one-legged seagull at all.

Here’s a piece of something new for all of you whose tongues are blue.

Stone Cold (sketch)

It’s really just a test of a new piece of gear — in this case, a new compressor. Yes, my friends…I decided it was finally time to get a good compressor. After stepping up my EQ game, it felt like that was the one weak link left.

I’m no compression aficionado. Not even close. I’m a big fan of “set it and forget it” when it comes to compressors. There are too many variables for me to work my head around for too many different sources, and too many ways for me to screw it up.

This is why I was in no hurry to replace or supplement my last compressor. While it was nothing awe-inspiring, it did what I wanted it to do (i.e. tame wild peaks and make things more consistent) without imparting much of any sound or really even sounding that much like compression. For things like drums that needed an extra kick, I’d dial in some in-the-box compression from the VS-1680. Probably not the best way to go, but it worked for me.

Now I have this thing.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Jesus, man. You must really like spending money.” But no. Most of the time I prefer to stare soulfully at money and whisper to it that we will never part — until, of course, we do end up going our separate ways.

Still, when it comes to gear, I can usually find a way to justify parting with some money, as I did in this case with the UBK Fatso. It’s pretty. Pictures don’t do justice to how nice it looks in the rack — or, if you’re me, on top of other stuff on the desk that you use to organize outboard gear instead of racks. It has nice knees. And man, I wish I’d bought it a year ago.

The simplicity of the controls is a big plus for me. No futzing with the ratio, threshold, or release. Just “more” or “less” compression, and several different kinds of it, all with their own personalities. The “warmth” circuit from the original Fatso really does something special all on its own. I don’t think it’s a substitute for tape, but it has a wonderful way of taming the harshness that can show up in digital recordings, especially when you’re using a fair amount of compression. It’s a subtle thing, and I’m not sure I’ll use it much, but it’s a nice option to have.

Even this little sketch has a warmth (go figure) that a lot of the things I’ve spent a good deal more time working on don’t always possess. The vocals have this woolly quality to them that I like, and the bass goes deeper than ever before. And it isn’t a good mix, or even a good recording that I spent any time working on. Just something I improvised in two minutes because I was liking what was happening with the “glue” compression setting engaged.

I recorded some acoustic guitar with the microphone several feet away and angled nowhere near the guitar, using an axe I’ve been neglecting lately. Then I added some more noodly/mandolin-ish guitar bits, improvised some singing on top, added some beefed-up bass, and realized I was starting to like this half-assed sketch quite a bit. It sounds sort of like a cousin to “As It Was, as It Were, as It Is, and Where It Stands” from IF I HAD A QUARTER, but without the bitterness that song was soaked in. I think I might even like this one a little more.

Not long after recording this sketch, it grew into a proper song. I’m tempted just to use the sketch that’s already there and flesh it out instead of re-recording it from scratch, because I like the feel of it. Probably need to re-record most of the singing and push the lead vocal up a bit in the mix, though. And maybe that bass has just a little too much beef to it.

The point is, I have to work pretty hard to make this compressor sound bad, which is a great thing for a blind fumbler like me. If I can get sounds out of it I like this much with no real effort, that bodes well for what will happen when serious recording happens. I’ve had new instruments inspire new songs before. This is the first time a compressor has ever done that.


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