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PMC Studios Hosts Atmos Mixing Sessions For Orchestra of the Swan

PMC’s London studio is rapidly becoming the go-to facility for producers and engineers who want to experiment with mixing music in Dolby Atmos. Specifically set up to showcase the company’s range of monitors that are suitable for immersive audio mix rooms, the Islington-based demo suite has already hosted recording and playback sessions for producers and artists such as Trevor Horn, Stormzy and xPropaganda.

One recent project undertaken in the facility was the Atmos mix of ECHOES, a dazzlingly eclectic album from Orchestra of the Swan (The Swan). Completing the cycle of mixtape albums, ECHOES – The Swan’s third album on Signum Classics – features works by JS Bach, Philip Glass and Frank Zappa, along with some new arrangements by Orchestra of the Swan’s Artistic Director, David Le Page.

“It is now a commercial requirement that we provide Atmos mixes of our projects, so when we were completing ECHOES our recording engineer, Simon Allen, suggested we did the mix at PMC’s studio,” Le Page says. “We had an initial demo and then Simon set to work using material that we had recorded at School Farm Studios near Colchester. Simon was able to tease new elements out of his original stereo mixes so that the album sounded very different, but in a very subtle way. Atmos has given it a new dimension by adding depth to the soundfield and making it feel three dimensional – like stepping into a world of virtual reality. It was a great experience, and we are really pleased with the results.”

As an internationally renowned sound engineer with a reputation for embracing a wide range of genres, Simon Allen is an ideal fit for The Swan, with whom he has worked on a number of albums. The requirement for an Atmos mix of ECHOES gave him the perfect opportunity to hone his Atmos mixing skills in an acoustically accurate environment.

“While I have mixed in surround sound before and had previously prodded the Atmos bug with caution, this project was my first opportunity to really dive into all the layers of mixing in this immersive format,” he explains. “It’s always a joy to be tasked with something new, but as an engineer you do rely on certain constants and factors you can trust. The PMC listening experience at their new London facility is just that, providing you with a canvas that is instantly recognisable. Just this time, the canvas is all around you.”

He adds that one of the greatest attributes of the facility is the design of the room. “Both the acoustic treatment and the layout of the PMC speakers remove many factors that could have otherwise felt intimidating or potentially clouded a mix decision,” he says. “The room is laid out with minimal equipment and furniture inside the listening environment and PMC took the decision to hide the side and surround speakers in the wall. This enables and effectively forces you to listen to where the sound is coming from and not be visually distracted. These design decisions complement the natural sound delivered by PMC speakers, which ease the otherwise daunting experience of hearing sound coming at you from all around. I’m really left feeling confident in the product we created there.”

ECHOES is the latest in a long list of albums release by The Swan, which was founded in 1995 and features a core of 35 professional musicians who are often joined by guest soloists such as Roderick Williams, David Gordon, Toyah Wilcox and Xuefei Yang. Its repertoire is breathtakingly eclectic, covering everything from pre-baroque and mainstream classical, through to reworkings of contemporary tracks by artists such as David Bowie and The Velvet Underground.

Based in Warwick, The Swan works closely with the WSF, The Courtyard Hereford, Drapers’ Hall Coventry, Stratford Play House and Number 8, Pershore. It also has strong links with music education hubs, the Armed Forces, Coventry University, and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Former principal violinist Le Page, who has been artistic director of The Swan for four years, says: “My aim is to make the orchestra relevant and exciting so that it breaks down preconceptions and creates a space where people can listen to classical music and truly engage with the experience.”

The Swan performs over 45 concerts a year and its strong commitment to new music has resulted in the commission and premiere of 72 new works from composers such as Roxanna Panufnik, Dobrinka Tabakova, Errollyn Wallen, Huw Watkins and Trish Clowes. It’s innovative mixtape albums, which have made the Top 40 in the UK Classical Charts, been nominated for Gramophone awards, and achieved over 10 million streams globally, also help break down barriers by presenting an eclectic range of style and genres to diverse audiences.

“We also work with school children, and people living with dementia, visual impairment, mental health issues and a range of disabilities,” Le Page adds. “The therapeutic benefits of music are positive and transformative, and it is incredibly moving to see the changes it can make to people’s lives.”

One recent live concert that blurred the boundaries between different genres was Bhangra Symphonica featuring Kissmet, a UK-based band that fuses bhangar music with Western Rock.
“Throwing classical music into the mix was exhilarating,” Le Page says. “The performance we gave in Coventry attracted an incredibly diverse and racially mixed audience. There was real involvement, with people dancing and singing – not what you usually see at a classical concert.”

The requirement to provide Atmos mixes of all future recordings has given Le Page food for thought. While he is excited by the format and believes it can bring a new dimension to The Swan’s work, he is also anxious that it shouldn’t be too overwhelming.

“With Atmos, subtlety is the key,” he says. “In the classical world, people are wary of technical tinkering, and they can easily be put off if something is too gimmicky. What we are trying to do is give listeners a feeling of depth and the sensation of experiencing the sound in a three-dimensional way.”

The Atmos mix of ECHOES is now available through Apple Music and will soon be followed by Earthcycle, a beautiful celebration of nature and our planet. Recorded very traditionally with stereo microphones in a church, this has also received the Atmos treatment from Simon Allen, who once again chose PMC Studios as the venue for the project. It will be released in January on Signum Classics.

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About PMC
PMC is a UK-based, world-leading manufacturer of loudspeaker systems, the tools of choice in all ultra-critical professional monitoring applications, and also for the discerning audiophile at home, where they provide a transparent window into the recording artist’s original intentions. PMC products use the best available materials and design principles, including the company’s proprietary Advanced Transmission Line (ATL™) bass-loading technology, cutting-edge amplification and advanced DSP techniques to create loudspeakers that present sound and music exactly as it was when first created, with the highest possible resolution, and without coloration or distortion. For more information on our clients and products, see www.pmc-speakers.com.

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