So if you have the City on a Hill CD, listen to the first track on a good pair of headphones. The complexity is just stunning. I have to write about it. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Intro: just strings and two female voices, one from Sixpence None the Richer, and one from Caedmon’s Call
  • Verse: an acoustic guitar starts playing out of the right speaker. After two measures, another, softer acoustic guitar, playing capo’d up joins from the left speaker, along with percussion. Then the male vocal (from Third Day) joins in. Then strings come in. Then a french horn comes in as the strings drop out. So throughout the first verse, the instrumentation keeps changing over a repetitive melodic line. Pretty cool.
  • Chorus (part 1): same acoustic guitars and percussion (which keep playing the whole song), while the horn is gone, this electric guitar starts playing a riff out of the left speaker, and the strings come in again, and female Caedmon’s Call singer sings harmonies on “holy”.
  • Chorus (part 2): The electric and strings die out, and the male Caedmon’s Call voice comes in, double tracked. What that means is, they record the same guy singing the same line twice, and play it together – it gives it a kind of fuller sound. Then the horn leads in and strings follow.
  • Verse: orchestra dies, and bass and drums come in. Meanwhile, an electric guitar starts playing a riff on the left speaker, same sound as before. As he sings, an oboe starts playing as the electric riff dies, and then the strings and horns join it. Meanwhile, a double tracked Caedmon’s Call female voice is singing harmony. Complex.
  • Chorus part 1: Here it gets crazy. Two electric guitars start playing different riffs, but with the same sound, one out of each speaker. And the strings also play. Meanwhile, Third Day male vocal with Caedmon’s Call female harmony. So the instruments playing here are percussion, drums, bass, two acoustics, two electrics, strings, and two vocals. All playing distinct things.
  • Chorus part 2: As Caedmon’s Call male comes in like first time in the Chorus, the electrics die out, replaced by a new electric coming from the center of the sonic space, playing a less trebley, more echoey distorted sound. Also, the strings die, and the horns come in. And female Caedmon’s Call sings a response line to male vocal line.
  • Bridge: The two old electrics come back in, the new one goes out, and like before, each is playing out of each speaker. No orchestra in this section. All three vocals are singing. And then a new guitar, not like the old new guitar we heard before, less distortion and more chorus, starts playing in the middle of the sonic scape as we move to
  • Solo: New guitar starts playing a solo, while strings play. Soft at first, deeper toward the end. The two riffing electrics have dropped out. But this weird slide guitar plays intermittently from the right speaker, and Caedmon’s Call female sings intermittent lines.
  • Chorus part 1, extended: Again, Third Day male and Caedmon’s Call female sing. The new guitars are all out, the two riffing electrics are back, and the strings continue to play. At the end, all instruments drop out except strings, and just Third Day male sings. This is the coolest part. While he sings, the Caedmon’s Call female sings the first line to the hymn “Holy, holy holy,” that line being “Holy holy holy Lord God Almighty”. This matches with the chorus, which incorporates, “You are holy.” Very very dope effect. The background vocals are constantly changing in the song, and it’s really cool.As they continue, and she starts singing a normal harmony, the original two acoustic guitars and percussion come in as in the beginning (stereo separated), strings still playing.
  • Chorus part 2: Caedmon’s Call male comes in again, so all three are singing. With him come the drums, bass, and two riffing electric guitars just as before. When they repeat the chorus, the solo electric guitar, with the chorus, starts playing from the center of the sonic space. Meanwhile, they add new background vocal riffs.
  • Post: percussion starts alone. Then strings play, while oboe plays “Holy holy holy, Lord God Almighty.” It builds up, and the song ends.

So, it’s pretty complex, and very cool. How do you mix that?

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