The closing of Smart Studios has put a damper on many local musicians' dreams of recording in a professional studio. But not Andy Brawner, the one-man band known as Time Since Western. For him, it's meant traveling instead to the Portland, Ore. home of Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla to lay down a couple of tracks.
Walla, who's also a well-known producer, has mixed several albums at Smart, including Death Cab's 2005 release, Plans, striking up a friendship with sound engineer Beau Sorenson along the way. So when Sorenson invited Brawner to hang at Walla's house last year, Time Since Western went west.
Brawner soon returned to Madison to mix two shiny, new recordings, including a ditty called "Fire Gone Lee."
Though the song was born years ago as the result of a guitar-tuning accident, it came to life during the tracking process, which involved recording in Walla's shower. What resulted is a perfectly paced track decorated with ghostly effects.
"Fire Gone Lee" begins with the feeling of walking from dirty city to a deserted field, or vice versa, battered by the elements. The vocals, reminiscent of those on Beck's 2002 album Sea Change, cast a haze of loneliness, perhaps even despair, over the scene as Brawner sings about "1,000 cuts that never bleed."
This cloud lifts for brief moments, sometimes from a chord change, sometimes from a sprinkling of bells, but the song always returns to a particular feeling: trudging toward change. Its artwork, by photographer Lindsay Josal and designer Mike Krol, even nails this mood with a dreamy image of someone walking through in a field of brush as a mountain looms in the distance.
Brawner, on the other hand, describes this change theme in terms of the seasons.
"When I hear the song, I think of Portland in the springtime," he says.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message..