Above the Prairie is the perfect name for The Pines’ album, which couches acoustic sounds in an airy atmosphere of ethereal synths. “That’s the thing that makes The Pines unique,” says engineer Adam Krinsky. “It all starts with a band in a room playing only acoustic instruments, and then we build this world around it.”
Basic tracks for Above the Prairie were recorded by John Svec at Earth Tone Studios (Iowa City), and then Krinsky and the band overdubbed keyboards, as well as some guitar parts and vocals, before mixing the songs in Krinsky’s studio, Bellows, in the band’s hometown of St. Paul, Minn.
“When we record Alex Ramsey, the keyboardist, he might layer as many as four or five pads, all sitting in different areas in the frequency spectrum,” Krinsky says. “Some are more thick, and some are more thin and textured. Then Benson Ramsey was also adding keys; he had an old Juno that he used—mainly for bass sounds. We try to get things really wide, so the acoustic instruments can sit inside of it, but quickly we’d find that we had too much, so we’d sift through those and then use a tremendous amount of automation, to create movement: Not by saying, ‘This synth will be in the verse and this will be in the chorus’; they move between each other all the time and constantly shape the world behind them.”
Krinsky mixed in Pro Tools, making use of electronic effects and reverbs that enriched the roots-meets-air approach. “On the pads, we used a lot of harmonizers,” Krinsky says. “The Waves Doubler, the Space Echo off of Soundtoys Echoboy—sometimes we’d use those just to help things melt into each other as opposed to creating echos, almost more like another reverb.”