Aperus ~ Hinterland: Debrief On a Reissue

Posted February 3, 2016

Despite my best efforts to move more quickly, Hinterland was reissued in January of 2016 - a few months behind schedule but close enough to the new year to mark a clear line between the past and the future. Finally, I'm at a place where I can work on new material and focus on the present moment.

Like Remanence's Lamkhyer, Hinterland was languishing in obscurity. It was out of print, never released digitally and no longer generating royalties. Just as John and I had done with Lamkhyer, I sorted through the archive, gathering demos and alternate mixes, and remastered most of the material. Now it's available with updated artwork and audio within a year of reissuing Lamkhyer. That's the short version of the story.

Hinterland First Pressing

Describing this sense of closure may require recounting the events that lead up to it. Soon after releasing Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure back in 2003 (my first solo album as Aperus), I began thinking about a way to release the alternate mixes, demos and extras from the same period that didn't make the cut. Tumbleweed already felt like a complete idea, but the outtakes felt important too. Still feeling connected to the creative energy of the album, I quickly assembled a first pressing of Hinterland. But numerous details about the release bothered me and stuck with me over the years. First, the artwork felt rushed and incomplete. I mocked up at least 20 CD face ideas, but was never satisfied with any of them. Second, I packaged Hinterland in a slimline CD case but never really liked the format. Third, I included a collection of photos as data files but didn't physically include them with the release. Fourth, the size and format of the artwork didn't really complement Tumbleweed's 5 x 7 format. And lastly, I didn't leave enough breathing room between songs which resulted in the album sounding rushed.

Hinterland 20 CD Faces

Image 1: 20 different CD face mockups for Hinterland. Rows 3,1 and 5,1 were used for the 2004 first pressing. Row 5,4 was used for the 2016 remastered edition.

Hinterland Remastered Edition

Fast forward ten years, with Hinterland long out of print, a remastered version was well underway to address the problems described above. I took things slowly between other projects and gradually reworked the artwork and audio. For example, rescanning the cover photo with better equipment, resulted in a better image without sacrificing the compelling yellow distortion. A second trip to Chaco resulted in an unexpected portrait for the back cover taken by my wife, Karla. Careful reconsideration of the first set of photos taken at Chaco resulted in a finely tuned collection I felt excited to include with the release. An image of a uniquely patterned rock finally completed the CD face. I adjusted the artwork to look more like a companion to Tumbleweed rather than a spinoff single. And lastly, I remastered nearly all the audio and added bonus material not found on the first pressing, including an alternate mix of Earth & Clay plus a rediscovered demo I had completely forgotten about. Including these last two tracks made the entire process worth the effort.

In 2015, I returned to Chaco Canyon for one more photographic adventure, this time to visit a set of ruins five miles out that could only be accessed by foot. Even though I was extremely happy with the photos from the trip, I still felt that the first impressions connected more strongly with the music so I stuck with the originals.

Hinterland Progression

Image 2: (1) Earth & Clay?  (2) Hinterland cd5 - First Pressing  (3) Hinterland cd3  (4) Hinterland - Remastered Edition

Remastering the audio fell into place one track after another except for problem child number 2, "Earth & Clay". The main problem was that the clay pot was sampled with a lot of energy and because of this, it sounded extremely bright. There was also a high synth note that occurred twice in the song that created a high resonance. At first I didn't really notice either until spending time in Ron Sunsinger's studio where he pointed both issues out. There began a battle with EQ and compression that I couldn't completely solve. Reducing the high end meant dulling the synths and bass guitar to a point they no longer sounded satisfying. I think I made about 15 different remasters until I gave up (here's where the extra months rolled by). I asked Peter James for help on this one as well. Then, using Ozone's mastering suite I tried the Match EQ tool and compared "Earth and Clay" against a Robert Rich track. This gave me some idea as to where to trim and ultimately led to a solution that wasn't necessarily perfect, but did sound better than before.

Looking back, it's surprising how much work went into both versions of this release. Overall, I think the final result turned out better than I could have expected and the process shed new light on mixing, remastering and art production. Overall, I feel that this edition finally completes the creative cycle which began many years ago on Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure and it feels extremely satisfying releasing this version of Hinterland out into the world.

Hinterland Art Photos CD

Image 3: Finished artwork, cd and photos

Hinterland (Remastered Edition) is available in our store, Bandcamp and iTunes.

Brian McWilliams

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