Bad Dreams (2MB mp3)

The original version of this song by 15-16 Puzzle consisted of 2 vocal tracks, a rhythm guitar track, and a melody guitar track, mixed to mono or nearly-mono. I found it on JBB's favorites list on somesongs, and thought it was a nice vocal performance. I also noticed several comments that wished it was played with a full band. I decided it might be interesting to try to add backing tracks to it, like my PJ Harvey project.

Like that project, this recording was built on top of the final mix, in this case (nearly?) mono, rather than the original tracks, so I had to work around the instrumentation that was already there, and was limited in how I could mix it. The melodic guitar part felt fairly upbeat to me, so I went with an overall upbeat arrangement, which stands in contrast to the tone of the lyrics.

I was doing it without permission of 15-16 Puzzle, and I wasn't going to post it without his permission; so I was just doing it for me, and to show to him. I got to the end of it, and felt like JBB was right, at least how I arranged it; maybe I had made it more radio-friendly, but I don't think I really added anything of substance. (I could write a fairly detailed document explaining all of the choices I made in the parts if the process would be interesting to anyone.) I was a little limited by the existing rhythm guitar--I couldn't remix it relative to the voice, so I had to leave it fairly prominent--I had to end up with an arrangement with that style of rhythm guitar in the forefront. The song itself was also, in some sense, designed around the original arrangement, so there wasn't really any room to do, say, dramatic bass work, like I did on some of the PJ Harvey songs. (The last section of the song was my only really "inspired" bit, in that the original song is just a straight repeat of the previous section; and it's arguably a cliché.)

In the end I had spent a few hours on it, and it had some sloppinesses in it because I hadn't spent enough time on it--since I couldn't post it (without permission), I didn't want to spend more time on it if it was going to be wasted. So I didn't fix some of the sloppiness (the drums, which were played live on a keyboard, have some erratic timing) because I didn't want to put more effort into something which might never be heard.

Anyway, I considered the experiment done, so I sent it on to 15-16 Puzzle. He liked it, so I was able to put it up here (and he put it up on his website). I did go and fix one problem after hearing from him--when I'd transferred his original to my recorder, I'd accidentally let it clip in two places, so I retransferred the original (which, fortunately, is a digital transfer so it was no problem to keep synchronized). I didn't have the time though to fix the drums, and besides I'd felt kind of like the whole thing was an interesting experiment and it was "done".

up : sean at nothings dot org