Singled Out: 3how

09/07/2012
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Today Amith Narayan and Wilson Goh from 3how tells us about "Since You Were Gone" from their new album "The Riverwalk Session". Here is the story:

Amith Narayan: I've known Curtis King an American blues singer/guitarist and harmonica player for a number of years since he has been living in Vietnam. Though we've played gigs together, we'd never really recorded anything. On one of his trips to Singapore in June last year we decided to book some time in a studio and record whatever we felt like playing at that point of time. This quickly involved a few other musicians, singer Wilson Goh and multi-instrumentalist Bani Haykal.

None of the others had even met each other before I invited them to the studio. So what you are listening to here is 4 musicians who have never played together, finding their groove together for the first time. This is indeed an unusual recording, since we never even had a single rehearsal – this was literally the first time we ever played together. We had no notes, chords, ideas, songs in mind and when we started playing everything just fell into place – one of us initiated a few chords or a progression and everyone else just played along. It was magical! I still cannot believe that we managed to get 14 tracks that could be released. At the time of Mixing this entire session – I remember listening to tracks again (for the 1st time months after it was recorded) and I was amazed and even astonished by what I heard. I only remembered the feeling while we recording the session – the one that you have when everything seemed to be going right but didn't realize the actual quality of the output until I was hearing it again. Mixing was a relatively easy job since we had recorded LIVE in the studio with the 4 of us sitting around each other with about 10 -12 microphones all around. There was no possibility of editing anything, no possibility of changing things – all that could be done is balancing the tracks and that was it!

By the time it came to 'Since you were gone', it was the last song we did. The four of us had already found our groove, everyone knew what they were to do –without discussion or prompting. Things just miraculously fell into place! I explained this once to a friend saying that – the entire song and the album as well is in many ways like listening to the best part of a jazz concert – ''the improvised part". In this recording, the improvised part IS THE ENTIRE SESSION. Somehow I also hope that does not take away from the actual quality of the music here – which I honestly do believe is impressive even for a band that has played together for a dozen years.

Wilson Goh: This experiment of mixing four unknown elements to see what happens is downright scary! If I had known the recording would be released, I would not have been able to sing a thing. I am thankful that there had been no expectations and that everyone was willing to just try this. More importantly, the four of us were all seasoned musicians / performers and have all come with our own bags of tricks for such an unusual circumstance.

The standard strategy, in any case of improvisation, is to keep within the key and rhythmic structure, and more often than not, the resulting combination would not be mind-boggling. You'll hear some of that in our tracks but what's interesting is when we start to veer from the comfort of the set up parameters and each of us starts to introduce a new note or a new rhythmic phrase or accent, and the rest of the group picks it up and adds to it. That's when the 'magic', as Amith describes it, happens. The magic for me is how, given the unlimited possibilities, we all kept within the same musical conversation instead of going off into individual tangents.

Being the vocalist, finding the right things to sing is difficult. Finding the words to fit into the music is even more of a challenge. When we consider that all this had to be done in the split second of hearing the first chords and rhythms, I am just amazed at how the appropriate sounds and words came to me. I was, of course, sitting in the corner desperately flipping through magazines and books to find the right words to trigger off sentences. Some of it might even have come from advertisements! The whole session was a real blur to me until I heard the recording again, and then I could remember the mental decisions (aka anxieties) I was making with my melodies: composing what to sing, finding the 'right' place to start, and knowing when to stop.

Usually when there is a voice, the instruments are heard as being the background accompaniment, but what I appreciated about this session was how each of the musicians were on equal footing and created a real amalgamation of our individual musicality. The voice becomes just another instrument, adding to the textures of the collective sound. While this concept is neither new nor unique, the circumstances leading to this recording are certainly special.

I have absolutely enjoyed the process of creating these tracks but I am more curious at how others hear them. Would the almost nebulous atmosphere of creation be perceived or would it just sound like a good jam? This insight would certainly help evolve our future sessions and I am eagerly awaiting comments.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album and how the group and album came together right here!

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