Robert Henke has a new Monolake album out, Silence, and talked with Caro Snatch about the technical side of the album production, including why he chose to use no compression:
When recording physical instruments, compression seems to make sense to me; one can achieve a certain level of intimacy by making the quiet parts louder, enhance those interesting details in the background etc… However, in my compositional process I do this already when creating the sounds itself. I build my own backgrounds, and therefore I can simply decide how prominent they are by mixing and editing. This to me eliminates the need for compression on this part.
The other classical use of compression is working with its dynamic effects. I know people who make great use of that, but when ever I tried it so far, at the end I preferred to leave it out. In most cases I simply don’t like it if I hear a compressor ‘working’. And if it is very subtle I can get the same effects by other means.
There’s of course a third interesting part of the story and this is how to use compression in a mix. I realize that my non compression approach has its disadvantages; playing this CD on a cheap stereo is not rewarding. The same goes for most headphones. In this regard, my decision was quite elitist. I wanted it to sound good on a good stereo.
Back to mixing: without compression, the art of mixing becomes much more important. Since every sound has space, there is much more room for placement, but also much more chances to do it wrong. I feel that in most cases I achieved a quite satisfying balance here, and that in those cases the individual sounds really do have an aura around them, and this is what i wanted to achieve.
Henke’s comments are interesting, especially when you consider that most electronica artists and most Live users probably fall closer to the other compression extreme, squashing dynamics to achieve “loudness.”
See Carosnatch.com for the full interview.