Louder tracks available for radio and podcasting

One of the ‘brave’ decisions we made with Honey and Lava was that we didn’t apply much limiting at the mastering stage. This is the process by which the overall volume of a track is raised. Such limiting is very popular with modern CD production, but it has a significant drawback. Any digital file has a maximum volume it can achieve at any given moment, so what this limiting does in effect is to squash the signal into this ‘ceiling’. Overall there is more volume, but the side-effect is that you no longer have the original contrast between loud and soft notes and passages that you originally had. This lack of ‘dynamic range’ is one of the main reasons why it’s hard to listen to modern CDs for more than a few songs before your ear becomes fatigued and your brain becomes bored. Albums mastered in the 70’s, for example, typically don’t have this fatiguing effect.

Everyone in the industry says that the way to stop these ‘loudness wars’ is for record companies and bands to stop making their CDs so loud. But nobody wants to be the one with the CD that isn’t as loud as its competitors. Well, we decided to be one of the few bands that makes that choice. So we only used a small amount of limiting in order to preserve the dynamic range of our music. The result, we think, is a much better-sounding album. If you want more volume, you can just turn up your volume knob! That’s what it’s for.

The problem, however, is that when our tracks appear on a small radio show, or a podcast, they sound very soft in comparison to the other tracks which have all been mastered in the modern way. The other tracks will jump out of the speakers, but ours can barely be heard. This doesn’t happen on commercial radio, of course, because commercial radio stations apply their own limiting so that all their tracks are playing at roughly the same volume. But smaller radio shows and podcasts generally don’t apply limiting, and our songs suffer as a result.

To solve this problem we’ve produced some louder versions of our tracks with more limiting on them. So if you have a radio show or a podcast and you don’t use a limiter and you want to play one of our tracks, we’d be very grateful if you could use one of these louder versions. This isn’t just for our benefit, it’s for yours as well, as it will sound better for your listeners, who don’t want a track to come on that they can hardly hear (nor do they want to be having to turn tracks up and down every few minutes).

Get in touch for a download link. Alternatively we are happy to send out a CD to you with these tracks on for free.

Xmas/New Year half-price sale

The elves have visited and told us to get with the sales spirit, and as they had guns we didn’t want to resist. So for two weeks only we’re selling CDs of Honey and Lava at half price. That’s £4 (including delivery) for the UK, and £5 (inc. delivery) for the rest of the world.

Only available via the Coralspin website store. Sale ends on Thursday Jan 3.

Coralspin finish no. 8 in album of the year at Progarchy

Yes, somehow we managed to crack the top ten there with Honey and Lava, at least on main man Brad Birzer’s best-of list. Not bad for a self-financed, self-produced/recorded/mixed album by a bunch of unknown amateurs (two of whom have gammy legs from the war).

Eight. Coralspin, Honey and Lava. Blake McQueen is a master. The production on this album is outstanding, as it plays out the big sounds of Trevor Horn and Trevor Rabin. Soaring and rocking in every way; the lyrics are quite good, too.

What’s more, Brad says 2012 was the best year ever for prog. His call, not mine — you’d think that our presence there automatically invalidates that claim! I haven’t actually listened to a lot of the material on that list, but I do love The Fierce and the Dead’s On VHS mini-album. Will have to check some of the other bands out. (I am of course a big Rush fan, but haven’t got around to Clockwork Angels yet, only up to Snakes and Arrows).

Guitar secrets revealed

I’m probably going to get into trouble for this, but what the hell, it’s time the truth was told and a few inflated reputations exploded, and it’ll be out in the media soon enough anyway.

Ever wondered how your favourite guitar hero manages to sound so masterful on record despite looking like they’d have trouble understanding the point of a fence-post? To move closer to home — I’ll name no other names as I don’t want to black-balled by the entire industry — how is it that Coralspin’s Jake Simmons manages to solo like a God while in reality being the sort of man who would rather spend his day vandalizing train tracks than practise his instrument? The answer lies in the modern studio’s ‘little helper’ applications, the main culprit in this case being the Phoenix Pro — here’s a clip of it in action:

Coralspin’s new rhythm section

We now have a new ‘session’ rhythm section lined up for gigs and the second album. And they’re awesome!

On bass we have Mick Wilson from our fellow proggers Red Bazar:

Mick Wilson Coralspin bassist
On drums we have Ed Gorrod:

Ed Gorrod Coralspin drummer
Ed also plays with prog band Stuntmen, as well as metal band Bloodguard. He has promised to not go topless for Coralspin gigs.*

Rehearsals so far have been amazing, and we’re now looking for gigs from February 2013 onwards — get in touch if you’re interested in booking us.

*He will instead be performing completely naked.

Prog profile

There’s a profile of us in the ‘Limelight’ section in issue 31 (Nov 2012) of Prog magazine (out in newsagents in about a week, maybe less). Thanks to Sarah Worsley for the very entertaining interview, Russell Fairbrother, Prog’s art guy, for the nice layout, and Roley for the help. And thanks again to Dom Henry who we got to do the photo.

Coralspin Limelight feature in Prog magazine Nov 2012

Here’s the text:


Enigmatic Midlands mello-proggers give us a twirl

Coralspin are a curious bunch. Imagine the sparkly-caped tinklings of Yes mixed with Queen’s classical guitar virtuosity and a sprinkle of Kate Bush’s idiosyncracy. Now, if that doesn’t get your prog synapses twitching, nothing will.

One aspect of Coralspin’s unique take on modern prog is that keyboards outnumber guitars two to one. “The good thing about them is there’s a variety of sounds to choose from,” says keyboardist Blake McQueen. “With a guitar it’s kind of one sound all the time. Most of the variety in music comes from the keyboards”.

Frontwoman and former chamber chorister Ellie Blyth — who is, along with McQueen, a classically trained pianist — says the twin keyboard effect adds a certain amount of intrigue to their sound, both recorded and live. “It’s unusual to see two keyboards on stage”, she elaborates. “Sometimes I’m behind a keyboard and sometimes I’m bouncing around at the front.” McQueen adds that the love of the instrument extends beyond just him and Blyth. “Jake [Simmons, guitar] is a great jazz pianist, and our new bass player is also good. We might do a song with four keyboards!”

The line-up, completed by drummer David English, released their debut album on September 24. One of the most notable elements is Blyth’s vocals, comparable to Kate Bush. “When I was little I wanted to be her, with my hairbrush in front of the mirror”, the singer recalls. “It’s the whole package, her performance and her voice, which she uses in all sorts of ways.”

Blyth’s current career as prog maestro is a far cry from her days in the Oxford Pro Musica Singers. But, as she explains, a desire for change spurred her to rebel. “I always wanted to do something like this but, coming from a classical background, my teachers said ‘you can’t do that, stick to what you’re doing,'” she laughs.

For his part, McQueen has devoted the best part of 10 years to the Coralspin sound, and as well as tickling the ivories, has recorded and produced and mixed Honey and Lava. This labour of love began before prog overcame the barrier of of ‘uncoolness’ perceived by those outside the circle. “When we first started writing this stuff, prog was a bit of a dirty word,” he says. “The recent resurgence of prog has taken us by surprise.”

Although their rebellious streak is moderate compared to Keith Emerson’s Hammond organ murder, Coralspin’s determination to write for themselves has produced a sonic experience just as distinctive. It seem this prog malarkey isn’t as easy as you’d think. “I just thought, ‘it can’t be that hard’ — it’s actually a lot harder than I thought!” McQueen surmises wisely. “We do our own music, play what we want and don’t have anyone telling us what to do.”

Sounds like: Brian May and Rick Wakeman’s prog child.

The “devoted ten years to the Coralspin sound” is true in that about ten years ago (actually it was about 8 really, but I said 10 for some reason), I started putting my studio together, started learning how to record and mix, and started writing Coralspin-like songs, and Ellie did too. I was a bit vague about this to Sarah because Coralspin’s origins are themselves a bit vague, it’s just kind of evolved gradually over time, with many other things getting in the way. So I think “devoted ten years to the Coralspin sound” is quite a good summary by Sarah, seeing as how hazy I was about it all.

When I said “I just thought, ‘it can’t be that hard’ — it’s actually a lot harder than I thought!” I was talking about recording and mixing here, not doing prog. My fault for not making that clearer. We did have a marvellous time talking to Sarah (she’s great, by the way) and I got a bit carried away and didn’t always make myself as clear as I could have done, preferring instead to amuse her and Ellie with wisecracks.

“With a guitar it’s kind of one sound all the time. Most of the variety in music comes from the keyboards” — this was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek dig at guitarists, but of course it is an overstatement, so don’t shoot me for it! Some truth in it, though.

The printed text says Steve Knightley — actually it’s ‘Kightley’ — is our new bassist, but in fact he’s our old one, who now lives in Bedfordshire (he’s looking for a new rock or prog rock band to join if anyone is interested). We’ll be introducing a new rhythm section hopefully pretty soon.