Ohama | Thick As a Brick: The Synth Edition

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#1 with a bullet FFWD magazine article listen to a 2 min sample here

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Electronic: Synthpop Rock: Progressive Rock Moods: Mood: Intellectual
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Thick As a Brick: The Synth Edition

by Ohama

Ohama has recreated Jethro Tull's epic 1972 album using mono synths, a drum machine, one Crumar string machine and a Mellotron. Limited Edition 444 CDs signed/dated/numbered.
Genre: Electronic: Synthpop
Release Date: 

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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING: "Tour de Force!" J.H. "It's Amazing." E.H. "It's like ELP rose from the grave, bit Tull on the neck and Zombie Tull fell thrashing into a pile of synthesizers...in other words I love it" P.B. "Opus Maximus!" N.O. "Ohama's rendering is an obsessive, moderately ridiculous, mammoth undertaking. the scope and effort of which is involved is staggering and a little insane BUT he pulls it off brilliantly and listening to it, i was quite honestly, completely blown away." M.S. "Very Freaking Cool. Much respect." M.F. "Old Tull fan and this sampllng is great, it is like rediscovering it all again." R.F. "Fantastique..." M.C. "This version of Jethro Tull's Classic Track is Awesome." R.W. "WOW!" M.B. "Sounds Amazing!" J.W. "Ambitious and brilliant" D.A. "My copy just arrived yesterday! Great! As true to the original as one can be given the instruments used!" M.G. "Really Sweet!" J.R. "I've gotta say I LOVE it! I'm still stuck on the sounds of those old analog synths! Great job with the vocals too!" B.M. "Tull's TAAB is one of my favorite albums ever. I think this is a fine effort and I applaud what you have accomplished here. Your love for the material is obvious. I give it 8 out of 10!" T.M

NOTE FROM THE ARTIST: Some people have messaged with questions about copyright. This is a completely legit project - Ian Anderson and Chrysalis Publishing were paid royalties up front (via CMRRA and Limelight) before I could even manufacture the CDs or set up download sales. Thank you everyone.

COMPLETE ALBUM LINER NOTES:
This is my tribute to all the progressive rock of my youth, to the 8-bit audio of the NES generation, to the soft synths of the new millennium and to the now-retro synths I’ve used throughout my career.

“Thick as A Brick” has a very special place in my heart and in my life. It was the first album I discovered on my own. Never heard it on the radio or television, it didn't belong to my older sister, it wasn't recommended to me by someone at school...

I vividly remember holding it in the store and honestly, I bought it because I simply liked the cover. We used to do that - buy records because we found the cover interesting. I also recall being so surprised when it folded out into a newspaper. I was 12 years old, and when I put it on the small turntable in my bedroom, it blew my mind. I had never heard anything like it before.

You know, it’s been a very long time since I tried learning someone else’s music. This project brought back memories of playing in bar bands learning cover songs. Visions of spinning vinyl slowly by hand to try to figure out the notes...the joy of finally figuring out “oh! that’s what they played there...”

The toughest part for me was definitely the vocals. I tried many (many!) variations, but in the end the only way to sing TAAB is to try to sing it as closely to the original as possible. I have gained an even greater respect for Ian Anderson and what he does/did with his voice. I don’t mind saying that this was freaking hard for me to sing.

And if you ever want to know a piece of music intimately, all you have to do is try to play it. I’ve heard “Thick As A Brick” countless times, but trying to play it is a whole other world. I’ve also gained an even greater respect for what Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, Martin Barre, John Evan, and Barriemore Barlow did back in the day.

Now that it’s finally finished, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Although throughout this project I admit I had one recurring thought: “What the #$*& was I thinking? This is crazy”! Well, it’s a crazy album.

A very sincere “thank you” to Adam Bodkin for generously granting me permission to use his MIDI file from the 90s as the basis for this recording.

Extra special thanks to Mia Blackwell, Heinz Dyck, Brenda Fox, Johannes Halbertsma, Fernando Longhi, Alex Netelenbos, Carl Spencer, Thomas Szirmay and Michelle Trudgeon.

Respect. To Tull. To You. To All.
Tona Ohama Sept 15, 2012

Recorded between Jan. 4, 2012 and Aug. 22, 2012 at S/S Studios with Native Instruments Battery 3.0.4, one non-percussion sample, one Crumar string machine, a Mellotron, and a plethora of sweaters, er, synthesizers recorded on Mark of the Unicorn Digital Performer 7.24, using a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro 8 GB rendered out to 48 tracks at 24-bit 96 kHz to Cubase LE on a 1.8 GHz PowerPC Mac G5 and lightly mixed using stock Cubase EQ, compression, and reverb effects then run through a Grant Audio Tube DAC-11 before being mastered by Jamey Harrow at HB Media and manufactured by Canada Disc & Tape Inc. individually signed and packaged by hand.

“Thick As A Brick” was originally written by Ian Anderson and published by Chrysalis Music in 1972.

Fun fact! The vocals were recorded low-tech in a very noisy environment. If you listen closely at the end you can hear the traffic outside the window.
****
FFWD Magazine: Published Dec 06, 2012
Calgary, AB, Canada: FFWD Magazine Music Features
Published December 6, 2012 by M.D. Stewart

"Ohama Extravaganza - Calgary Synth-Pop Pioneer Conquers Prog and Ambient Genres"
photo caption: Tona Walt Ohama thinks of himself as the Alice Cooper of synths

“It’s a Japanese samurai warrior mindset. You want to achieve perfection in everything you do. Everything,” says Tona Walt Ohama, the mild-mannered Bruce Wayne behind his mighty synth pop pioneer alter-ego known simply as Ohama. A second generation Canadian of Japanese descent, Ohama has never so much as set foot in his ancestral homeland. “I have an interest in that culture but I don’t feel Japanese,” he says while drawing a clear distinction between Tona Walt, the human being, and Ohama, the recording artist. “Just because I don’t wear the makeup, it is as different as Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper are from their real life selves. Ohama is a recording artist and that’s all he does; The only thing I think about when I’m Ohama is synthesizers.”

Ohama has been extremely busy since re-emerging from a 15-year hiatus with his Earth History/Multiambient double CD in 2010. Currently he has two very distinct projects to share with his ever-growing fanbase.

Multiambient, the installation, located on the Plus-15 concourse of the Epcor Centre, features 15 simple, non-rhythmic, synthesizer compositions randomly played over 15 precisely spaced speakers. “It’s designed so you can create your own mix, just by moving through the space,” the artist explains. Standing beneath one of the circular, overhead speakers, the washes of sound seem to materialize out of thin air. A trio of delicate piano-like notes dance towards you, while subtle bass frequencies pulse from the woofers in the walls. The effect is relaxing and meditative, comforting even.

Multiambient stands in stark contrast to Ohama’s other current offering: Thick as a Brick: The Synth Edition, a limited edition CD, wherein Ohama lovingly re-creates Jethro Tull’s 1972, prog-rock epic, brick by synthesized brick. The original album made a huge impression on a young Tona Walt Ohama when it was initially released, three years before he bought his first analog synth and embarked on his unique journey from the family potato farm outside Rainier, Alberta, to become one of Western Canada’s foremost electronic music recording artists.

Until now, Ohama had never even attempted to cover a song by another artist. “I had no idea how hard this was going to be when I started it,” he says. “I felt like a guy who’s rebuilding an engine on weekends in his garage, and tinkers with it for 10 years, but he hasn’t got a clue how to do it. It was fun. I couldn’t tell you what key things are in, the chords, time signatures or tempo changes are, or anything. It was done line by line, piece by piece until it finally came together like a jigsaw.”

All told, he spent 900 hours over a six-month period before it met his exacting standards. While Ohama’s version is a fairly faithful rendering of the original, the synthesized sounds create a different texture and atmosphere. “I approached this from a synthesizer player’s point of view. What I wanted to accomplish was to try and get these little, tiny synth sounds to actually sound like a band. I was replicating the performances. I wanted to make sure it was always about the power of the notes and not just the effects and the sounds.”

The only common denominator between these two projects is Ohama’s unique synthesizer sensibility. Ohama has already plunged into another project, though he refuses to divulge much about it, other than to say: “It really is exciting, and it really is different, and it is notprogressive rock.”

As further icing on the cake, Minimal Wave, the prestigious New York record label and ’80s synth archivist, has just released The Potato Farm Tapes, presenting eight of Ohama’s prime cuts from the early ’80s on a weighty, 12-inch slab of crimson vinyl. Ohama is clearly pleased and a little surprised at the resurging interest in his work, both new and old. “It’s been an incredible year,” he says with a slight shake of his head. “I’ll never have another one like it.”

Contemplating Tona Walt, the humble, soft-spoken man behind Ohama the recording artist, I am reasonably convinced he might actually be wrong on that point.
****


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