Crooked Finger’s ‘Unshackled’ album

Music Plus
with Winston Watusi

How bands approach the recording studio has changed a lot, at least since the 1960s.

Why the 1960s? That’s when studios started using multi-track recorders, first four-track, then eight, then bigger and bigger.

At its most basic that allows you to add extra stuff to a recording.

Listen to a band from the 1950s and you are essentially hearing a live performance in the studio. From the 1960s onwards, everything changed.

Recordings created in the studio – rather than being basically live performances – came quickly, most obviously in the shape of The Beatles’ and Beach Boys’ pinnacles, Sgt Pepper’s... and Pet Sounds respectively.

There is no consensus as to what way is best. Some bands try to capture their live sound, as pure as possible; others overdub up the wazoo and create a purely studio product. Most end up in the middle.

Digital tools 

These days it’s complicated by digital tools.

They allow you to ‘correct’ mistakes. An out-of-time drum track can be locked in – ‘quantised’ is the term – or a singer can be pitch-corrected.

Everything can be fixed. The problem is that with each ‘correction’ you can lose more of that live feel, stripping authentic character and excitement from a performance.

Technical accuracy can be the enemy of genuine emotion.

Leaving that sort of ‘fixing’ to one side, I don’t mean to say that people can’t overdub things and retain an organic feel.

Robbie Laven did it on the recent Whittakers’ album and guitarist Bruce Rolands, featured on Gary Harvey’s new album, is particularly good at layering interlocking parts without losing feel.

Done properly, this can create a recording that retains live excitement alongside the refinement that can enhance repeated listening. That’s the sweet spot often aimed for, a band sounding like itself on its very best day.

Crooked Finger.

Indie-pop outfit Crooked Finger has achieved that at Mount Maunganui’s Studio 11b with debut album ‘Unshackled Vol 1’, out now on digital platforms and CD. It sounds like the four-piece, but better.

Vocal delivery

Sandra Muir has an appealingly laconic vocal delivery and is not afraid of writing serious songs.

Stand-outs are ‘Random Sailor’, her take on Scott Watson’s innocence, breezily reggae-inflected ‘Paradise Is Free’, romping opener ‘Running On Empty’ and twinned male and female songs of troubled relationships.

Muir’s rhythm guitar works well with flashier touches from Rawiri White while the rhythm section of drummer Phil Duncan and bassist Stephen Calvert are lively.

Producer-engineer Evan Pope has done an outstanding job. Crooked Finger’s album launch will be at The Jam Factory next Saturday, July 12. Opening will be Lachlan Crane.

That same night Katikati Folk Club hosts a mouth-watering concert at the Arts Junction. Wellington trio Even The Lost mix electric and acoustic sounds, inspired by 1970s and 1990s folk, rock and pop.

Next night at the Jam Factory it’s Hamilton popsters Brother Sister with support from The Darlings.

Meanwhile, at the Mount, Totara Street welcomes Australian acoustic guitar virtuoso Daniel Champagne on July 12; and on July 13 high-flying alt-rock duo Midwave Breaks.

Hear Winston’s latest Playlist below:

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