[…continued from this post]
DISC 6 – “RAGE IN EDEN” 5.1 WILSON REMIX
Given that the multitrack masters for “The Voice” and “I Remember [Death In The Afternoon]” were missing, it was a bonus that remixer Steven Wilson had fallen back to use the next best technique to his established process. Using Penteo upmixing software he took the stereo master from 2.0 to 5.1. While the degree of control might have differed from his usual methods, the end result was better than dropping in a jarring 2.0 track in the middle of a 5.1 flow.
So while he was unable to craft a 2.0 mix of “The Voice,” ironically, it did appear here in a 5.1 surround mix. For the most part, Midge Ure’s lead vocals were isolated in the center channel in most of these songs. That’s to be expected in a 5.1 playback given that the center channel speaker is primarily for voices that are not panned left or right in the soundfield. For the most part, Wilson eschews gimmicks like circular panning for a tactic of isolating hooks in the mix for maximum impact. The cymbal crashes would be front left while the percussive cracks in the coda were whip-panned rear left to rear right like whips cracking.
The guitars in the intro to the under-appreciated “We Stand Alone” were chorused, panning rear left to rear right. Power chord guitars were front left while bass was centered in the soundfield. The movement of the sudden drop in the middle eight was very impressive with the chord beginning wide then tightening as fast as the decay to disappear in its own singularity; seemingly beneath my feet. A great touch was the delay on the drums panning from front to rear with their decay.
The rhythms of the title track had the bass drums in front with the bass sequencer pattern shifted to the rear. The vocal production was incredible as the vocal treatment smeared Midge Ure’s voice from front to rear with the reverb on it shifting to right rear. Was Plank using an Eventide Harmonizer on Ure’s vocals to begin with? Possibly. In any case, Wilson has ensured that the vocals were even more memorable in 5.1 as Ure’s leads shifted and flowed like smoke on the wind.
The backing vocals were also impressive as the BVs were like strangers whispering over our shoulder from behind.The guitar panned from front left to rear right, with the whammy bar effects staying at rear right. And the already impressive sonic shifts of the famous coda were bettered here with the bass sequencer panning in 360 degrees [one of the few times that Wilson indulged in this gambit] while the EQ effects as the sound shifted in its inimitable way were now beamed into the interior of your skull.
The bass synths of “I Remember [Death In The Afternoon]” began in front then moved to the center of the soundfield. Crash cymbals were panned to rear right, while the string synths occupied front right. And the backing vocal “aaaaaah” swooped through the soundfield impressively.
“The Thin Wall’s” famous serrated synth riff panned rear right to front left, with snares at front left. Percussive handclaps oscillated from front left to rear right throughout the whole song. The rhythm guitar skank stayed front left while the violin glissando ending the choruses impressively swooped and swirled around the soundfield 360 degrees. Other string interjections of a single note or chord were in rear right. The middle eight isol;ated Ure;s lead vocals in the center channel, but the detail on the BVs was crisp. Where Midge sang “the thin wall” was panned front left, while Chris Cross’ singing’ rejoinder of “thin wall” was panned rear right.
The new centerpiece of the album was the now ten minute, unedited “Stranger Within.” The commanding bass of Chris Cross dominated in the center channel. Billy Currie’s viola was in the right channel with effects on that instrument pushed to the rear right. Midge Ure’s spoken middle eight was isolated in center channel. While Ure’s dub-like guitar panned from front right to rear right.
The track expanded at its mid-point to allow for the random violin harmonics and percussive ganks of Currie to attack from each corner of the soundfield randomly. Adding to the sense of paranoid disorientation in the track. What was interesting in 2.0 became fascinating in 5.1 And there was still no corny laughter to give us regrets.
Then the closing suite to the album was underway. “Accent On Youth” had guitar panning from rear right to right front. Ure isolated dryly in center channel but with delay effects moving outward. Bass drums front lest and bass guitar front right. The wasp-like synths in the instrumental middle eight [or Cossack dance sequence, as I now call it] were rear right. As the track seamlessly transitioned into “The Ascent” the hissing synth hi-hats were punching through from right rear, while the bass drums were placed front left with sequenced percussion right front.The piano panned from front right to rear left, and the huge glissando that ended the track as it segued into the next was a 360 degree pan that stopped on front left.
The kick-drum of god that grounded “Your Name [Has Slipped My Mind Again]” had its attack in the front channels as the reverb and decay panned to the rear right channel. The phased background vocals panned from rear left to rear right. Ure was isolated on center channel for the chorus. His moans in the coda were more powerful in their isolation. And the coda with the degraded tack piano was placed wide in the soundfield for maximum ambience.
We next got three extra tracks. “I Never Wanted To Begin” was the 7″ mix, but with the drum programming jump-cutting all around the listener. The viola rhythms stayed in the center channel. The fat synth bass had its attack begin in the front left channel with the decayed reverb panning to rear right. Ure was center channel as usual, but his guitar sustain was panned from rear left to front right. This one was already so pixelated with its rhythm programming that the 5.1 made it an even more stimulating listen.
The great “Paths + Angles” isolated Currie’s delicate piano intro at right front. Moving to center channel once the song got underway. The galloping bass synth stayed in the rear channels while the guitar was rear left with Warren Cann isolated in center channel while the song was spread out in the mix around him. Chris Cross’s saying “the lost camera” in the coda widened in the soundfield in the fade.
Finally, Wilson graciously treated us to a 5.1 mix of the work-in-progress mix of “Your Name [Has Slipped My Mind Again].” to which we could only say, “yes, please!” The foley effects of breaking glass/refuse was spread all around the soundfield. The cello-like synths bass was in the front. Midge Ure was center channel and the bass drum attack hit from the front channels with the delay/decay panning rear. The drone elements seemed to be coming from underfoot. Though this could be an acoustic mirage from our new hard flooring.
I had suspected that this would be a very fun way to hear “Rage In Eden” and I was right! It was such a stimulating mix of what was an already stimulating album, that it was worth standing in the “sweet spot” for 90 minutes! From day one, “Rage In Eden” was pre-fitted with the sorts of sonic detail that did their level best to convince the listener that it was already in surround sound. Hearing Steven Wilson actually doing it was a great service for an already superb record that was many fans’ favorite Ultravox album. Now to be brought out for that special listening when the music demanded all of the presence that the 5.1 mix could be relied upon for.
Next: …Closing Time
Fantastically detailed information,thank you.
I have never actually heard anything in surround sound! Nobody in my immediate circle has used it and it never appealed strongly enough to warrant the costs of setup for me.
I am so glad that I bought the double CD version of the SW mixes,it is absolutely astonishing.
On a side note-I have only today heard and seen the “Monument” footage on YouTube for the first time and have made the reissue cd/dvd an instant purchase! This album and concert film had completely passed me by.
Gavin – !!! [sputters…!!!] You never had “Monument??!!” I had the 12″ EP, the 1983 CD, the 1988 JPN laserdisc, the 1996 extended CD, and finally the 2008 really extended CD+DVD which is clearly the best! The first time I saw “Monument” on MTV in 1983 it blew the top of my head off when they performed “The Voice.” I never had a yen for surround sound, but at after a deluxe OMD VIP weekend at a B+B in Atlanta in 2011 with a much nicer sound system, my wife and I realized it was time for an upgrade from my 1984 stereo, so we bought a modern Denon tuner/speakers on Craigslist for $100 and there we were. The main difficulty in our tiny home is that the soundfield is squeezed into a 12 ft. x 15 ft. room. The rear speakers are wall mounted, and if we sit on the sofa it’s good for movies, but for music it’s better to stand in the “sweet spot.”
I’ve never owned a 5.1 set up but have so many albums that have 5.1 mixes. I guess it’s about time I made the plunge. Your description of these, Monk, makes such a purchase an attractive proposition.
Andy B – Well, 5.1 is interesting, but it’s a pain in the rear for me to listen to it! 5.1 and movies is a fine thing; you’re planted there on the sofa and the soundfield placement is not too terribly bad. My home is such that the center channel is more to the right because there’s no place to put the center channel speaker actually in the center. As I mentioned, music sounds best when I am standing at a certain spot in the living room. And living room listening is always when I am elsewhere in the home, doing something else, listening. Not even in stereo, much less 5.1. 90% of my listening is in my car. Your mileage may vary. That said, the cost of the technology was hardly an issue; everything else is. We never sat around pining for one. One day we just had one. Cheaply.
I’ve got 12 5.1 music DVDs, and a further 10 music video DVDs in 5.1. Most live but a few were video clips collections. And one SACD hybrid 5.1 disc without an SACD player to read the SACD surround layer.