Two things happened to the producer’s lot when home recording went digital. We’ll cover the second later on, but before the laptop and PC, home recorders used cassette machines that utilized 4, 6 and 8 tracks on the tiny width of a store-bought Maxell tape. To increase the amount of tracks, you’d have to “bounce,” meaning recording on seven of the tracks, playing back those seven and bouncing them down to the eighth, then starting the process all over again. You got more sounds, but also more hiss. Now, with home versions of ProTools, a home recorder has as many tracks as he or she has the patience to fill. Filters combat hiss and various tricks can foil the sound of Do It Yourself recording.
It would come as a surprise to many that Reed KD’s new CD, In Case The Comet Comes, is DIY. Its notes claim it was recorded on the road, in many homes, many living rooms and a closet or two, yet there are very few audible giveaways. The songs are, for the most part, buoyant homegrown Americana, some mood pieces, all performed with vigor and commitment. The opening “This Is It” is a spare but lively folk tune with more than a hint of bluegrass rough & tumble. The following “If The Tide Swings” fleshes out the previous song’s hinted promises. It is a healthy start, even if the two are rhythmically similar and would have benefited with a couple dissimilar songs between them. Again, there isn’t a moment that screams ‘homemade’ but at the same time, there are no screams of plastic synthesis either as so many new studio recordings have a breathless, deathly precision to them. Reed KD has managed to strike the balance enough to indicate the album was made by living human beings.
While KD can handle the barnstormer, he is also adept with moodier pieces, such as “Space Vacuums.” There is a strange wit to his lyrics that, when combined with this particular tune, puts me in the mind of some Ben Folds/Richard Buckner hybrid. I’m a sucker for that ethereal, echoey slide guitar sound and it’s put to incredible effect here, making the song an emotional highlight of the collection.
That second thing that happened with the producer out of the picture — alluded to way back in the first paragraph — was the loss of the second pair of ears. As a home recorder myself, I’ll admit my objectivity gets blown sky high once I’m down to my fifteenth harmony vocal pass. And that backward guitar phrase — haven’t I used that trick one too many times? Who do I think I am, the Strawberry Alarm Clock? Reed KD is no different. Even on some of the better songs, I can imagine a producer chiming in and saying, “You need to lose those four extra bars and get into the song faster” or “That ‘Hippie Chicks’ song is a sore thumb among the rest of the songs. It’s not working.” “Hippie Chicks,” with its electronic tap of a beat and its overtly Foldsish stab at levity, works as a B-side, but among the rest of the songs on the disc, sounds like so much filler. Worse, it also sounds like a song done by Brak from the Space Ghost Coast to Coast show, where he lists stuff he likes.
So the question arises: is what’s gained more important than what’s lost? The answer is yes, because the majority of In Case the Comet Comes is quite fine, but clearly not single material. A seasoned pro, trying to get this kid a hit, might have tamped down some of those impulses. The end result would have been tighter and more focused, but also might have jettisoned something great, yet not as marketable. As such, I’ll gladly take “Hippie Chicks” in order to get the rest.