The Brooklyn Studio Sounds: An Altiverb Impulse Response Project, Part II – BC Sound, Trout Recording, The Motherbrain

Part II of the multi-part Altiverb Impulse Response Project. I’m on a mission to capture the sound of Brooklyn recording studios and acoustic spaces through impulse responses created for Audio Ease’s Altiverb 7 software. For more info on the scope of the project and its roots, see Part I

In this section, we’ll explore three studio spaces that fall more into the category of ”project” or “private studio” than commercial studio. Each of these rooms is the everyday home-base operation for a particular producer/engineer. Part I of this series features a detailed description of the setup and capture process. I’ll touch on some of the main ideas before getting to the studios:

The process of capturing a room starts with setting up a pair of good quality studio monitor speakers on stands in a spot in the room where a loud instrument like a drum kit might normally be positioned, and point them directly at the capsules of a spaced pair of microphones on the opposite side of the room. Omni-directional mics are usually best as they will capture the ambience of a room most naturally.

Reference audio consisting of dry drums, percussion and double bass is played back and recorded for each setup so that I can later A/B the sound of the room versus the impulse response created by Altiverb.  We then began capturing the impulse responses by playing Audio Ease’s blip and sweep tone. For some rooms, we recorded multiple IRs at varying distances. Each distance will end up being a separate impulse response that can be used inside Altiverb. This gives the end user the ability to decide which mic placement in the room sounds best for their mix.

Once the sweep tones are recorded, they can be dragged directly into Altiverb via the IR Import tab.

For each studio in this series, I will provide several different audio examples including one showcasing the difference between the actual audio recorded by the mics in the room vs. the same dry audio played through the Altiverb impulse response of the room. I will also provide a commercially available track recorded at each studio.

BC Sound – Gowanus, Brooklyn

BC Sound is the studio home of legendary producer/engineer Martin Bisi, well known for his work with Sonic Youth, Swans, Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock and more recently the Dresden Dolls. The building is the former home of the Old American Can factory and today provides spaces for a myriad of artistic outlets.

Tracking session at BC Sound. Photo by Kevin Abbondondelo.

Martin currently shares the BC Sound control room space with producer Jason LaFarge and his studio, Seizures Palace. Prior to LaFarge, Martin shared the studio space with producer Bill Laswell and Brian Eno.

BC Sound’s first recording was captured in January 1981 with Brian Eno.  The sessions would eventually become the track “Lizard Point” on Eno’s ambient record “On Land”, which is considered his darkest ambient record – a fact of which Bisi is particularly proud.

“For the next two to three years, the studio was shared with Bill Laswell,” says Bisi. “Many hip-hop records were recorded here, along with Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”, from his Grammy winning album Future Shock. During this time there were also a dozen or so John Zorn and avant-garde records including Fred Frith’s Massacre starting around 1983.  I (later) split with Bill Laswell and delved more into indie rock and post-punk at the studio, with bands such as Sonic Youth and Live Skull.”

Bisi originally found the space through an ad in the Village Voice.  “I was attracted to it being two floors – my initial intention was for a space for me and my friends to rehearse. When I delved into recording, there was no real designing of the layout,” explains Bisi.  “The space was big enough and weird enough to work with as-is”.

I don’t think Martin would mind that I agree with him on the weirdness factor.  The studio space itself quite honestly has that creepy-old basement feel to it.  As you can see from the pictures, the walls are cement and cinderblocks with no real ceiling besides the bottom of the wooden floor above.  It was in difficult in some ways to imagine all the great work that had taken place inside these walls just on looks alone.

BC Sound’s main tracking room. Click to enlarge.

The sound, however, is incredible. Drums and percussion explode off the floors and walls to create a sharply detailed yet expansive sound with an impressive reverb tail. The sounds we captured in the L-shaped recording space are the most stunningly accurate impulse responses (when compared to the original room recordings) I’ve been able to produce so for this project.

Four impulse responses were recorded in the main space. The first three span the length of the longest section of the L-shaped room from different distances.  The final IR we captured was from Martin’s personal room mic style setup with the speakers in the corner firing 90 degrees away from each other into each far end of the L. This results in an incredibly wide stereo response.

BC Sound is one of the most unique recording spaces I’ve ever heard.  It will be a great addition to the Altiverb family!

Recorded June 13th 2012 via:

Apple MacBook Pro
Pro Tools 10 + Altiverb 7
I/O – Apogee Duet 2
Monitors – Tannoy Reveal Active
Microphones – AKG 414 B-ULS (graciously provided by Justin Colletti)

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