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Recording at Real World Studios, Box. 17-18 October 2003

On a sunny West Country Saturday, 108 Incredible String Band fans descended on the home and recording studio of Peter Gabriel in Box, between Chippenham and Bath. The incrediblestringband2003 was recording an album and, in an unusual move, the recording was to be before an invited audience. The band had recorded some tracks on the Friday but the main public session was the Saturday.

Real World is set in a beautiful piece of the English countryside. The main building is a former mill with the mill stream running alongside. As we waited for the door to open, three buzzards circled overhead, clearly waiting for the Heron to release his hedgehog (song). The studio itself was large though unused to accommodating so many, especially with the amount of hair some carried! The studio rules were explained and many, including members of the band, had to leave their coughing fits until the ends of songs. 

Real World uses state-of-the-art equipment and the incrediblestringband2003 was being recorded directly onto computer disc. This makes for very flexible recording. The band has started recording A Very Cellular Song the day before and around two hours were spent finishing it. The song was divided into its sections with each recorded separately so that instruments could be changed in-between. The sections were not recorded in order so it was not possible to get a feeling for how the whole song would sound although the playbacks of individual sections showed that the band was very much together. Additional instruments such as jaws harp and kazoo were added by Lawson Dando. 

Lawson Dando then moved to his own room. This was not an expression of elitism but it did contain a grand piano which Lawson played on Clive Palmer's Empty Pocket Blues. Fluff was also featured extensively on this track with a violin solo. 

Clive and Mike performed a duet on How Happy I Am. The Water Song was enhanced by the sound of running water from the mill stream. Clive Palmer took lead vocals for Robin Williamson's Ducks on a Pond

The line-up of incrediblestringband2003 was augmented for the sessions by Gavin Dickie who added bass guitar to fill out some of the songs and sections of A Very Cellular Song. Steini Gudumundsson flew in from Iceland to add some percussion although he was invisible much of the time, having been dispatched to a closed area to isolate his sounds. Lawson also banished himself to the drum booth during a particularly bad laughing fit!

The album promises to be excellent. While the tracks played are faithful to the originals, they are different. The nature of the recording studio and the slightly different mix of instruments meant that they are an updated version of the earlier recordings. The playback at the end of Saturday's session was "unmixed" but was highly impressive. 

The day was hugely enjoyable with an excellent lunch served by the studio staff, "comparing" and explaining from Tony Pugh and members of the band taking time out to talk to people. As said earlier, inviting an audience to the studio is a very rare move but it did work so maybe this is something that could become a regular fixture for incrediblestringband2003 (or whatever the band is called next year). This is something that sets them apart from others. 

Tracks recorded included:

  • A Very Cellular Song
  • How Happy I Am
  • Everything's Fine Right Now
  • Niggertown
  • Empty Pocket Blues
  • The Water Song
  • The Hedgehog Song
  • Chinese White
  • Ducks on a Pond
  • Painting Box
  • You Know What You Could Be
  • Maker of Islands
  • Cousin Caterpillar

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