Mystic Valley Studio is a Medford-based analog recording studio (a rarity these days) run by prolific drummer and producer Alex Garcia-Riviera. The studio provides a much-needed service to Boston’s up-and-coming bands.
First and foremost, I am a music lover like many of you reading this now and I am truly honored and excited to be a part of these bands’ individual journeys. My studio and I have merely been vehicles by which these talented artists have chosen to document their work through and so I list these bands not to puff my own chest, but to share with you my own musical discoveries and enthusiasms of 2014.
CLEANSING WAVE + EATEN
Worcester bands Cleansing Wave and Eaten were here to record an EP and full-length, respectively. Cleansing Wave released their “Crude” EP, which to my ears has elements of late 70’s post-punk darkness but with a modern desperation to it. They are wonderful people as individuals and are quite good live. I wish they played Boston more often. Eaten are essentially the rhythm section of doom band SET, playing brutal grindcore with a couple of other righteous dudes from out that way. The drummer, Tim, is one of the best in the genre that I’ve had here (rivaling only Obsidian Toungue’s Greg Murphy) and on this recording what you hear is what you get; there is no drum editing or sampling of any kind, which is nearly unheard of in heavy music these days. I find it quite refreshing to hear such music without the usual studio trickery that often goes along with it. My hat off to you, boys.
NO FLOWERS + WORMWOOD
A couple of dudes from Doomriders were here late last year to record in two separate projects which have come out this year. No Flowers, which is bassist Jeb Riely and Thomas Moses (There Were Wires, Disappearer), recorded a series of creepy, haunting EPs here. Also, guitarist Chris Pupecki along with original Doomriders drummer Chris Bevilacqua have recently released their Wormwood LP on Magic Bullet Records. Both bands are heavy as shit but in very different ways and I think that the Wormwood LP may be the most dense recording I’ve done here to date.
Also in the “heavy” category of bands who recorded here this year is Boston’s Lovechild. These same dudes have been recording with me for a few years in their former/other bands (Cerce and Burglary Years) and they are one of the best true hardcore bands around. I think one of the songs on In Heaven, Everything Else Is Better was recorded here and their entire Migrane Music was recorded and mixed here. If you like pissed off hardcore that sounds real yet is played by skilled musicians, you’ll probably enjoy this record. I mean, you just don’t hear enough hardcore bands in this setting (all-analog, complete, live takes) and it’s refreshing. The record is coming out on Mayfly Records but you can listen on Bandcamp if you’re curious.
CHROME OVER BRASS
Another one for the heavy category is my very own Chrome Over Brass. As some of you know, this is my “solo” band where I write drum riffs and then put bass, guitar, and sometimes Moog sythesiser over them. I’ve been recording the songs all by myself, with a remote control for the tape machine wired through the wall into the live room. Look for an album out on Deathwish in 2015!
In the Rock world, I had Dave Austin and the Sound here for a whirlwind weekend session. It was very memorable because the session almost didn’t happen due to a blown capstan card in my 2″ tape machine the night before. I stayed up all night troubleshooting and ended up fixing it with just an hour to spare before the band came in. They had a three-person film crew here to film a video, and we had all five members in one room so things were pretty hectic to set up. Once things settled in though, they blazed through 8 classic rock inspired, fresh-yet familiar sounding tunes and then shot a video for their song ‘Fool Out Of You’ (where you can see a few shots of a very tired me at the mixing board and the band all crammed into “the little live room that could”).
60’s-style maniacs The Forz recorded their 15 song debut album here which was exciting because I got to use all my Abbey Road gear for its intended purpose: Beatles-y, Zombies-y rock & roll! These young dudes from the South Shore came in and knocked it out of the park as far as I’m concerned and walked away with a very cool, vibey record. Standouts for me are “Her Eyes,” “Back To You” and “In My Mind.”
Despite having a long history in the hardcore/punk scene, I actually recorded mostly Indie type bands this year, including Ridge Detail, Underwater Bear Ballet, Effzero, NO, Crown The Youth, Ben Katzman’s Degreaser, and a release by Drling, which was recorded last year but came out this year. Free Pizza released their “Boston, Ma” album, which was also recorded here in 2014 and is one of my favorite things I’ve done here. I just love anything that Jesus Vio touches… he is a true indie-punk visionary who pays attention to details in the studio that others overlook. The other two that make up the band are as indispensable as Jesus himself and, unless you hate fun, their live shows are some of the best there are.
This year’s indie-pop sessions had a couple of bands that snuck up on me and really stood out: Littlefoot, and more recently, Vundabar. Littlefoot recorded their “Night Of The Living Dreams” album here, which was initially booked as a short session, but ended up being a bit longer because it was just too good to rush through. What we ended up with was a lush, reverb-laden, surfy-yet-shoegazey, poppy-yet-dark, moody melodic masterpiece. It just came out on BUFU Records and the cassette artwork is some of the cleverest I’ve seen. I really like the songs and if this release didn’t come out so late in the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a few “best of” lists.
I didn’t know one thing about Vundabar when they arrived at my door, so I didn’t know what to expect other than a quick listen to their stuff on Bandcamp and a few emails about what kind of sound they were after. I should have been clued in when they referenced a very awesome album for the drum sound but, after just a few run throughs, I knew these guys were onto some top-quality shit. They kind of blew me away at every step of the process and by the time we got to mixing, they had made a true fan (and friend) out of me. Watch the fuck out for these guys in 2015, because they are going to make some waves, I just know it.