Samara Lubelski is the minimalist avant-garde yet straight-to-the-point multi-instrumentalist we all aim to become. For some, acquiring wisdom either means playing “by the book” and not knowing how to break out; or tipping over the edge into sonic experimentation only those with trained ears can appreciate. With Flicker At The Station it’s a little bit of both—the songs embrace an elegance that only an artist who understands the balance between restriction and playfulness can create.
Growing up in Soho, New York, Lubelski started out as a violinist and quickly thereafter took on guitar, bass, cello, and vocals. Since her 1997 debut of In the Valley, Lubelski has released eight other full length records while also adding her musicality to albums from the Fiery Furnaces, Thurston Moore, and The Tower Recordings. Throughout her career, Lubelski has been praised for her proficiency as a recording engineer and improvisational artist both in the city of New York and in Germany. Needless to say, Lubelski knows what’s up.
In a small town in Germany, nestled in between mountains and beauty, Flickers At The Station was born. The record is officially out tomorrow, May 11th on Drawing Room Records but today, we give you a first look at the album in full. Listen below and read a little about the making of it, and the instrumentation behind the record.
Best described as:
If Sonic Youth turned their amps down to 5 and collaborated with Blonde Redhead and Sales.
Short list of instrumentation:
- Les Paul guitar
- Teisco bass
- Solina String Synth
- Roland TR-66 Rhythm arranger
- Farfisa Compact organ
- Vox Organ
- Rhodes electric piano
- Mini Moog
- Korg PS 3100
- Roand Space Echo
- Premier Vibraphone
- Vox and Fender Deluxe Reverb amps
Tell me a little bit about the environment, time period, and focus of this record? Where did you record it, when, how, and what significant role does Flickers At The Station have in your career as an engineer/multi-instrumentalist/improviser/and songwriter?
Writing of Flickers At the Station began in late 2015, early 2016. It’s similar to most of my previous solo records in that the songs and lyrics were written in NYC before going to the studio, Sumsilobatem [recording studio], in Degenfeld, Germany. All of the solo records have been partly recorded, and sometimes mixed, at Sumsilobatem in a village in S. Germany, nestled in between a couple of mountains. This was the first record where we decided to record and mix the entire record there. Although, some of the hand drums and drum machine tracks done on the Tascam 388 in NYC, made it on. The trumpet tracks got sent in from NYC at a late stage. Once in the studio there was quite a lot of experimenting and getting lost chasing the rabbit down the hole, but looking back, this was a record where the bar was set higher than usual in terms of the writing and the overdubs.
As a recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist—what does your approach to recording look like and how have you seen it evolve in Flickers At The Station?
I stepped back from the recording of this record. Thilo Kuhn made the microphone choices and mixed. In terms or tracking, we always record to tape and it’s always guitar and vocals first, to a click track, or the Roland TR-66 in this case (apologies to the drummers). Then there’s a long period of tracking and experimentation with overdubs. I’ll have ideas about elements from specific records that I’ll try to incorporate. That doesn’t usually stick, but it’s a helpful starting point. Sumsilobatem is a bit of a studio Shangri-La. The collection of instruments is astounding. The celeste, vibraphone, Mellotron and Rhodes tend to be go to instruments, but the sounds got expanded a bit on this record with the keyboard choices and some carefully used Roland Space Echo (outboard).
One of the things I love about this record is its straightforward approach to rhythm, giving room to melodic intricacies and recording enhancements that provide accents throughout the songs. My question is: where does this minimalist approach come from? Is there any specific technique being utilized in this record in terms of “less is more” or using a certain voice/instrument to make your point come across more?
I’m going to guess it’s because the vocals and guitars always track first. They set the tone and melodic structure. For better or worse, all the overdubs that follow will defer to those as the guiding elements of the track.
What were the specific instruments involved in making this record and Were there any other people involved as well?
The Sumsilobatem studio belongs to the band Metabolismus. We’ve done loads of records, tours and projects together including Flickers At the Station (and a good bit of all the other solo song records). There’s some overlap of instruments between players—Werner Nötzel did a few Mini Moog and Guitar overdubs (and overall main man for instrument and sound suggestions), Julian Rippert did most of the drums, Thilo Kuhn did much of the keyboards and synths (Solina String Synth, Korg, Rhodes) and Moritz Finkbeiner did a few of the Vox and Farfisa organ tracks. Plus, from the NY side, we had Spencer Herbst (hand drums, gong and Stylus Synthesizer) and Cole Kamen-Green (on trumpets).
My last question is, how will this record be set up live?
Good question. With most of the players on the record living in Germany…yet to be seen.