Chris Zane

Jan 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By David Weiss

NYC Producer Is Back at the Helm for Passion Pit's Sophomore Album, Gossamer


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“The blessing and curse of analog pedals is that when you hear something that sounds good, you’d better press Record because you may never get it back. I think all the possibilities force us to say, ‘This sounds good. Let’s record it. Okay, next thing!’”

As Zane points out, one of Passion Pit’s distinguishing characteristics are Angelakos’ vocals, a stream of emotion, urgency, youth, confusion and aged insight that’s unforgettable from the first listen. Despite the band’s experimental nature, Zane isn’t afraid to have a system for recording Angelakos’ voice. “Nine-and-a-half out of 10 times, I use my vintage AKG C12 through a Black Face 1176, and record the vocals pretty straight up,” Zane says. “I don’t like a lot of bells and whistles going to tape. When Michael stacked his vocals, we’d use the Telefunken CU-29 ‘Copperhead’ because it took well to the sibilance.

“Compression mostly stayed the same, although I have an old tube limiter made by the Department of Commerce that was often used. It’s an extreme sound, not only because it imposes a lot of compression, but the frequency response of it is such that there’s not a lot going on above 6 kHz or below 200 Hz—so the first thing you notice is that it gets a little smaller, and second is that it’s really compressed. But other than that, the vocal stuff is more traditional on the front end, while a lot of the production comes on the back end.”

That limiter lives in a wall of gear at Gigantic that’s pretty darn big. With racks of new and vintage outboard at his disposal, supplementing the 60-channel Neve VR, mixing and music production were perfectly congealed processes for Gossamer. Working alongside engineer Alex Aldi, Zane and Angelakos recorded and mixed continuously until the day the album was officially done.

“I know it’s a cliché to say I use the studio as an instrument, so maybe a more eloquent way to put it is that the equipment used during the mix—whether used correctly or incorrectly—is a continuation of the whole process,” Zane muses. “The metaphor for how we approach a lot of the sounds is the same as theater—everything is extreme because it has to get out to the last row.

“Something Alex and I are always super-conscious of is how hard we’re hitting stuff, and making sure we’re hitting it in the sweet spot— should that be just a little harder or softer than it should be? When you’re hitting stuff too hard purposefully, there are degrees within that, and those degrees can make a huge difference. How hard you’re hitting the mix bus can vary by just one or two dBs, but it will make a world of difference—pops it up, and things just come to life. Doing it the way we like it, more often than not, means it’s running hot.”

For those who are new to Passion Pit or long-devoted fans, each song on Gossamer is a journey—12 tracks that add up to an aural voyage charted by a gifted songwriter and his adventurous producer/mixer. “A lot of the same Passion Pit DNA is there,” Zane says. “It’s just better, or louder, and more of it.”

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