A good English recording studio can cost anywhere from $800 a day on up, according to Jason Pierce. Exhausting both financially and emotionally, it forces musicians to squeeze as much work as they can into 12-hour days while the meter’s running.
So the meticulous Spiritualized maestro chose a less costly route for his band’s new magnum opus “Sweet Heart Sweet Light.” He plugged his fully loaded laptop into a pair of giant speakers, recruited a local engineer and mixed the entire album at home in daily sessions.
It took him well over a year.
For gospel-stirred anthems such as “Freedom,” “Hey Jane” and “Too Late,” the 46-year-old Londoner — who plays The City this week — allowed himself the luxury of time.
He even worked straight through chemotherapy sessions for a degenerative liver disease, he says, “which I chose to do at home while I was mixing, because mixing is hard enough anyway — it’s always a chore. So I figured I’d get all of the chores out of the way in one go.”
Friends began to worry that he’d gotten a bit OCD about the project.
“But I get obsessed anyway, with any record I’m making,” says Pierce, who — while battling double pneumonia in the hospital before Spiritualized’s last disc, 2008’s “Songs in A&E” — was clinically pronounced dead. Twice.
“But mixing is the tough part, because you can go anywhere, and I want the most intimate, fragile, tiny details, and I want all of that in the same five seconds of mix. The difference between music that reaches for the stars and music that doesn’t is really slight.”
The ex-Spacemen 3 guitarist had recently played a series of “Acoustic Mainline” concerts — hushed renditions of Spiritualized classics such as 1997’s definitive “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” “With those shows, I suddenly felt, ‘Well, I’m writing songs, so I’m not going to distort or abstract them,’” he says of the genesis of “Sweet Heart.”
He spent two months just singing the songs, repeatedly, just to perfect their phraseology.
As a template, the composer looked to some of his favorite albums by Link Wray, Royal Trux and Captain Beefheart.
Then he borrowed religious metaphors from vintage doo-wop. “Like singing ‘I walk with Jesus’ — you can put across these really simple ideas without being over-wordy,” he says.
Pierce hopes listeners will notice his attention to detail. “I just wanted to make this beautiful pop record,” he says. “Some people will hear it and be completely indifferent. But some other person will hear it when they’ve fallen in love, or when they’re driving across the desert, and it will make absolute sense to them.”