Oli Bayston works well amongst clutter. For his latest one-man project, Boxed In, clutter helped streamline his entire recording process, and his sound. Bayston is one-time member of the defunct Northern England group Keith, and later, assistant to producer Dan Carey (Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Kate Tempest), who produced Keith’s second album and the self-titled debut from Boxed In. This happened in the very same cluttered—but filled with “absolutely amazing technical crap,” according to Bayston—studio in London.
The initial intent with Boxed In was to emulate electronic music using only acoustic instruments. While the impetus behind this idea is intact on the album, after a certain point of only acoustic recording, Bayston, who was involved with the production along with Carey, decided the electronics needed to be fleshed out with some electronics. “We needed to underpin the sound to give it more weight and body,” says Bayston. “We would record acoustic piano to give it that rhythmic feel, then copy as close to the real piano performance using electronic synths, molding the two sounds instead of having two separate parts.”
More often than not, Bayston is replaying his piano pieces on a Sequential Circuits Prophet T8 or a Roland SH-2. He also uses a Dewanatron Swarmatron, the same one Trent Reznor used on his Academy Award-winning score for The Social Network. Taking cues from house, techno and Krautrock, Bayston bases the Boxed In sounds on repetition, going for a hypnotic feel, which is exemplified on the live looped vocals on “Subtle Knife.”
The focus is on minimum instrumentation with maximum effect—see “Run Quicker,” which relies more on the musicians’ performance. Bayston recorded the main body of Boxed In with drums, electric bass and acoustic piano at the same time without concerning himself with spills. Carey and their engineer are also in the same space, huddled in the room with the performers—adding to the clutter.
An aspiring clutter generator himself, Bayston’s own classic-leaning studio has his piano alongside analog synths, an SSL X-Desk with SSL modular outboard, many compressors and EQs, tape delays, lots and lots of guitar pedals and a few vintage guitars. “That’s my approach,” says Bayston, “Taking the essence of dance music and putting it in a classic studio.”