A cappella, one of the most idiosyncratic of all performing techniques, presents the ultimate challenge in precision vocalizing. Recording performances that rely exclusively on the human voice for instrumentation, as well as lyrics and melody, are artistically unique. VOCOMOTION Studio owner Freddie Feldman is a master of the genre.
Opening his original studio in Evanston, just outside of Chicago in 1998, Feldman quickly developed a core client base that ranged throughout the U.S., and into Europe and South America. “I got into a cappella in High School, and continued to perform and record it exclusively at Northwestern U,” he says. “There are less than half a dozen studios in the world which specialize in this style. That provides us with a fairly steady workload. When I was ready to move to a new location, I made a list of all the things I hated about my first studio. Then I called John Storyk at the Walters Storyk Design Group and we went to work.”
WSDG Project Manager Matt Ballos describes VOCOMOTION as a technological and acoustic ‘gem.’ “We had under 500 square feet to work with, but John Storyk designed a spacious control room reminiscent of a mastering suite. Freddie wanted as little between him and the monitors as possible. So we placed the racks of gear behind him and went with a small, clear acrylic console table to give the space a more open feeling. Feldman adheres to the philosophy that a studio recording is ‘an illusion’ and he prefers the method of massive overdubbing to “live” tracking. This gives him maximum control over the mix,” Ballos says.
“VOCOMOTION definitely falls into the new ‘vest pocket’ studio category we’ve done so much work in over the past few years,” Storyk adds. “But this studio has a spacious feel that belies its physical limits.” Minutes from downtown Chicago, the studio’s new home is in the landmark Bronx Building, circa 1927, which formerly housed a pool hall, a Civil War memorabilia museum and an auto showroom.
Beneath a handsome ambiance designed to put the talent at ease and enhance Feldman’s comfort level during extended mixing sessions, lies a true green superstructure. The most visible elements are a handsome yet ecologically correct bamboo floor, recycled carpets and local fabric-wrapped acoustic panels and ceiling clouds. Unseen, but equally green, are UltraTouch recycled denim sound insulation and a Split Inverter HVAC system, which runs quietly and efficiently on environmentally friendly refrigerant.
In addition to a ProTools/HD3 Accel, Lynx Aurora 16, On and Off-Site Redundant Audio Backups, Focal TwinBE (x2) Monitors and Crane Song Avocet Monitor Control System, Feldman has compiled an impressive collection of Compressors/Limiters, EQ’s, Outboard Processors, and vintage mics including RCA 74 and SK-46 ribbons. VOCOMOTION also features gear that Feldman personally designed, such as the VOCOMOTION Labs Thumper TH60 & TH70 Throat Microphones which he created specifically for vocal-percussion music performance, singing bass and ‘beatboxing.’
“I earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both vocal performance and engineering at Northwestern, and have always been interested in developing technical innovations,” Feldman says. “In addition to the Thumper mics, I’m working on a new concept compressor/limiter and other prototypes. I consider my new WSDG-designed studio a laboratory as well as a recording/mixing facility. We’re into experimenting, and I look forward to introducing some worthwhile new ideas.”
For a sample of VOCOMOTION recording/mixing artistry visit Dark Side Voices, an a cappella version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.