St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, is an artist with whom Congleton has built up a particularly strong musical relationship, as he has engineered, mixed, and produced three of her four solo albums to date: Actor (2009), Strange Mercy (2011), and most recently the eponymously-titled St Vincent (2014) In addition, Clarke also collaborated with David Byrne on the album Love This Giant (2012), which was co-produced by Congleton, Byrne, Clark and mixer Patrick Dillett.
St Vincent is Clark’s most critically, commercially and artistically successful album to date.
The Roland Dimension D SDD-320 stereo chorus is famous for injecting spatialization and subtle modulation.
These units are now highly sought after; offering chorus effect sounds, a built-in compressor/expander and old-school Roland tone.
So I made it a goal to learn to record, and to see whether I could make a living for myself recording people.
All I wanted was to have what I considered good engineering chops, so I would be able to record things properly.” Congleton did, however, have a parallel ambition, which was to become a good musician, and spent two years at the University Of North Texas studying jazz composition. “I was 21 and spent some time there with Steve Albini, who is a brilliant engineer. After my time in Chicago I returned to Dallas and became a staff engineer at Dallas Soundlab, the biggest studio in Texas at the time, and worked there for 2-3 years.
This is why I still like working with it, and also stick to hardware and real gear as much as possible.
It just gives me better results.” Congleton clearly isn’t afraid of nailing his colours to the mast, and this also is the case when he discusses his work on the St Vincent album.
Loved for its delicate special enhancement and subtle modulation, the Dimension D became the go-to sweetener for vocals, piano and guitar in the 1980s.
It’s definitely not about perfection or endlessly pontificating. We live in a world where people are constantly layering things and trying to get everything to sound perfect, and are never going for bold performances any more. Perfection has nothing to do with making good music.
What matters to me is character and things sounding confident and assured.” Thus speaks John Congleton, who clearly is doing his best to hold out against the digital siren call of unlimited options, endless second guessing, perfect pitch and perfect timing, and enormous track counts.
These now-rare units were used extensively by Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kate Bush - among many others!
The Dimension D works as a fixed chorus machine that intentionally lacks typical pitch modulation, instead achieving its effects through the use of dual synched delay lines that are driven by a trapezoidal LFO-key to avoid warble.