Microbunny CD RELEASE PARTY with Mean Red Spiders and Madrid at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (February 28). $8, or $13 w/ Microbunny CD. 416-777-1777. Rating: NNNNN
What strikes you immediately about the new Microbunny disc, Dead Stars (Kindling Music), is that the songs don't sound composed. They seem to have grown organically over a period of time. Actually over 16 years, to be precise. Former King Cobb Steelie guitarist Al Okada recorded and reworked the music for Dead Stars with his Microbunny pals - Sam Cino (aka Reverend Cino Evil), Tamara Williamson and Mitch Girio (aka King Kong Girio) - between 1987 and 2003.
It makes the painstaking work of notorious studio fusspots like Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Boston's Tom Scholz seem positively slapdash by comparison. But Microbunny's engaging soundscapes, given melodic shape by Williamson's free-flowing vocals, make the extra time spent tweaking seem worthwhile.
"Some pieces were written a long time ago and existed in a completely different form. I may have gone in and taken a chord sequence from one piece and brought in a drum pattern from another and then re-recorded the song a few different ways.
"So much of the music on the album may have started with a tiny germ of an idea - a riff or a beat - but mutated over a very long time, building and enhancing different aspects, until it reaches its final form."
Okada's use of the studio as a compositional instrument goes back to his King Cobb Steelie days, working with Bill Laswell and Robert Musso on 94's Project Twinkle, but the budding sound sculptor really went to school with Laika engineer Guy Fixsen during the Junior Relaxor sessions.
"We spent a couple of weeks in a Scarborough studio with Laswell. It was a great experience, but I didn't learn a lot about the technical side of recording. Laswell and Musso would communicate with their own sign language. When something needed to be tweaked, one would give the other a hand signal that no one else could understand. It was all very secretive and strange, but... um... interesting.
"Guy Fixsen was just the opposite. He was very open about everything he did and took time to explain the reasoning behind it, so I learned a lot from him. That guy is just so knowledgeable about every facet of the recording process, from miking different instruments right through to the mastering.
"At the time I was just the guitar player in a band, so I didn't appreciate the value of everything he was telling me until years later. Just the stuff I picked up from him about compression turned out to be very useful with these Microbunny recordings."