The songs on Lymbyc Systym’s latest full length Shutter Release are a melancholy and conjugated processional. A suite. A rusted, digitally wound calliope emitting regal, poised basins of melody. The duo of brothers Mike and Jared Bell have sculpted an instrumental album of movements and stasis. Jared’s tremolo’d slabs of harpsichord pair with vibraphone and run under strings, guitar, banjo, horns, synths, and diffused scampering ambiences. Sections spell out sadly then pause to let Mike Bell’s drums enter, dice, and go off with his boomerang cutlery. The title track is one to note. A solemn prelude, then a tempo change, drums drop in allegro, energico. The turns Lymbyc Systym take in their compositions are compelling, and ears want to follow. They have found a sound that longs, is reflective, and charges out. A sound that plucks molecules from the snapshot of a scene: A painter is painting. And hallucinating. She’s painting an X-ray of her chest that was taken because a scalpel had been left there when she had open-heart surgery. She calls the painting “The Knife in My Heart.” Amber in hue, with the silhouette of the scalpel melding into the shape of a shark.
Lymbyc Systym: "Teddy"
Jared Bell spoke about recording Shutter Release:
Where did you all record and mix? Jared: The album was recorded at Uniform Recording in Philadelphia by our friend Jeff Zeigler in January of 2008. The studio is in his house, and we stayed there for a week while we recorded. We did most everything to tape and added more things gradually over the next year - strings, horns, vibes, and things. It was mixed in early 2009 by John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, St. Vincent) at his studio in Dallas, TX.
You all are fond of the Space Echo tape delay, yes? Yes, very fond of Space Echo tape delay. We put that on everything.
How were the sessions? The recording was really smooth and easy because we had made full demos of all the songs before recording. We were mostly re-recording parts to make them more hi-fi, but there was also a lot of messing around adding things. Jeff's studio is full of toys. Tons of vintage keys, organs, guitars, great mics, weird effects, circuit bent toys.
You guys are constantly touring, constantly playing. How does that translate to this album? Our excessive touring helps us understand how important it is to connect with the listener in an intimate but powerful way. I think this album is representative of our live show. To me, it captures a raw energy and movement.
As brothers, your brains are pretty much one, right? You guys seem to be able to communicate without having to talk, and I think that makes your music and playing so innate. Is there ever a time when knowing each other so well is not an advantage? Like, do you fight? And how do you all deal with it when you do? You obviously have it figured out, because you live on the road, and spend so much time together. What's the secret?
I think we differ a lot as people in terms of personality, but musically, we are very much in sync. We rarely argue over each other's musical ideas, and we feed off each other really well. In general, we just bicker. Trivial things. It happens when you spend tons of time with anyone.
Track 9 is called “Teddy”. Who’s Teddy? Why Teddy? Teddy Bear? The name comes from two sources. One, our deceased family pet dog. And two, one of my favorite JD Salinger short stories from Nine Stories. "Teddy" was one of the only songs that changed a lot from the original demo. The beginning and end are roughly the same, but we actually scrapped the entire middle section about a month before the record was mixed. The original section just didn't mesh with the rest of the album, so we completely changed the arrangement, vibe, instrumentation, everything really. It was re-recorded in our friend, Christopher Tignor's apartment. He's the violin player on the record, who's been playing with us live lately and also has his own awesome band, Slow Six. He played and helped orchestrate the strings at the beginning and end of the song. I recorded the Rhodes part for the new section at his apartment and he played a little clickity-clackity sort of beat on his tattered drum set to sort of give me a rhythm to record to. I ended up liking the scratch track of his beat so much, that I cut it up and made it the actual beat that you hear on the record. Mike, of course, added in his own programming magic that really unifies the beat and brings it to life, but the core of the beat is basically just a scratch track that was meant to be thrown away.
Did you go into the recording knowing how you wanted it to sound? Yeah. This is our most focused album to date. We had demoed everything, and we we spent a lot of time getting everything cohesive before recording. The main objects were to capture the energy of our live show, keep the songs concise, and to have a unified feeling throughout. I think the album came out pretty true to our vision. John Congleton helped us to refine and edit down, and bring some balls to record.
Balls are good. Yes.
Lymbyc Systym play tonight at High Dive. And live on KEXP at noon.