XR7 is an album about the relationship between man and machine. In a time where most music is so computerized and emotion is not easily found, Rico Belled takes a bold approach: to try to truly integrate the computer into the traditionally non-electronic musical style of Jazz. When most musicians ‘fix’ their mistakes during the recording process, Belled instead celebrates the imperfections, seamlessly blending acoustic instruments with virtual ones, never quantizing anything. Featuring 4 songs done entirely without a click-track, even the 6 that did start life on a grid, never sound metronomic, bursting with life from the many layers.
Named after his beloved 1973 Mercury Cougar XR7, a car which Rico has driven around L.A. for almost 15 years, this CD is built to last. Blending elements of the past and the now, more than anything it’s a hint at the future of music, where anything goes. Stylistic walls are crumbling, with everyone exposed to all kinds of music and sounds from all over the world. Fearlessly breaking down the walls so carefully built up by purists, it is Jazz in its truest sense, where improvisation rules, but composition matters and is not just an obstacle on the way to showing off chops. Drawing from a deep well of years as one of L.A.’s top session musicians, Grammy nominated Belled pulls out all the stops.
Rico chooses to use the computer as a kind of ‘multiplication machine’ allowing him not to sterilize his performance, but instead create densely layered music inspired by Phil Spector’s famous “Wall Of Sound” style of production. The possibilities are endless and he explores many: from complex odd-meter jazz, to sexy R&B, from Smooth Jazz to soaring Fusion, XR7 is a musical journey bursting with originality, while never sounding contrived or forced. Featuring 10 original songs, and some of the best musicians in the world, Rico showcases his versatility as a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass on 7, keys on 8, and guitar on 9 of the tunes, in addition to producing, engineering, mixing and mastering the record. In keeping with the spirit, Belled has tried to find exactly how much one man can do with the help of the machine of machines: the computer.
Instead of focusing on expensive equipment, everything recorded at Back Scratch Studios and Mad Meece Audio was done on literally the cheapest equipment money can buy. Running on a $500 computer Rico built, Sonar X1 was used in combination with a $200 Motu 2408 MKII and Behringer Mic Pres, with inexpensive mics, for everything but Karasony’s drums and Buckingham’s and Kashiwa’s solos. The entire rig used costs less than $2000, including the mics. Mixed and mastered in his apartment, Belled has shown that a great sounding record can now be made at bargain prices, IF the human in charge knows what he’s doing!
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