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Recording in Mexico: A Tour of the Estate


View from our balcony

It’s been two weeks since I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We are living in a palace in the jungle. My stay here has largely been quiet and peaceful, with spurts of adventure and debouchery from time to time. Huge thunderstorms arrive most days, bringing a welcome respite from the heat.

Please, let me show you around.

KLEPTISH = ETHAN = KLEPTISH. This is happening.

You can like Kleptish on Facebook, and RSVP to the album release concert September 12th.


It’s impossible to stay in a place like this without frequent bursts of gratitude:

  • for my dear friend and bandmate Jessica Doles. She was given the opportunity to housesit this retreat house, and was gracious enough to share her little slice of paradise with us.
  • for my dear friend and creative partner Stephen Shumaker, who’s been here these past two weeks. His support and help with our various creative projects has been immeasurable.
  • for the flexibility to devote July and August to my album project.
  • for the opportunity to learn so much about recording and my creative process every day. Which brings me to:

Lessons, Challenges

I have effectively removed myself from nearly all of the distractions and commitments from back home. So the old excuse, “I can’t create, I’m too busy” no longer applies. As expected, a whole new crop of internal creative roadblocks and challenges has popped up, and I continue to struggle with them every day.

Goals vs. Play

My creative partners and I use an elaborate system of daily, weekly, and long-term goal-setting, including rewards and punishments. While it’s helpful to channel my energies towards these milestones, there have been plenty of instances in which I’ve set overly ambitious goals and then crumbled into frustration when continued labors fail to produce, say, a completed track.

One item that was missing in those situations was play, good old-fashioned jamming out on synthesizers or a guitar, without any expectations that the sounds I’m making turn into anything final. And, as it happens, good, juicy, usable bits often result from such periods of play. I continue to experiment to find a winning ratio of play to focused effort.

The Many Hats of an Electronic Musician

In this excellent lesson from DJ Vespers, he notes that, in the past, a band would select their instruments, go to the studio, where a recording engineer would record their performances. The recordings would then be passed on to a mixing engineer, and then to a mastering engineer. Electronic musicians, however, generally perform every one of these steps themselves. A key, therefore, to avoid getting stuck or losing focus, is to execute each of these steps in order, without bouncing around.

The steps are:

  • Select your palette of sounds and instruments
  • Record layers of these instruments for various sections of the song (verse, chorus, etc.)
  • Arrange these recordings. For instance, starting the song with sparse instrumentation and then adding most of the instruments for the chorus or drop
  • Mix and master the track

This was exactly the advice I needed, since I would often find myself getting bogged down in the details of mixing before the song had been recorded or arranged. I successfully used this system while converting this acoustic track
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /] into the following electronic arrangement I used for the film score
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Thanks for following along with the journey to the album! On Thursday, it’s back to the states, and more recording in Berkeley and San Francisco.


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ALBUM RELEASE: Olivia Blu – The Rebirth Bug


It is my distinct pleasure to introduce Olivia Blu’s The Rebirth Bug. As a Musical Midwife, I got to gently coax this fully-formed creature out of Olivia over the course of two joyous, jam-packed weeks in February. I’d like to let her tell you the rest:


[bandcamp width=400 height=472 album=3479305943 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=e99708 artwork=small] dearest listener,

i feel excited, scared, blessed, privileged, and vulnerable to share with you what is “the rebirth bug.” it’s an album that is made up of memories from a combined millennium, was written in two years, was recorded in two weeks, and will you take you one hour to listen to (yet they say the universe is exploding…?).

in the spirit of gettin’ shit done and not dwelling on each moment where my voice doesn’t hit a note perfectly, where the guitar buzzes, or where a word strays form a well thought out lyrics, what you will hear here is not perfect. it is however a true record; a record of hundreds of conversations, a record of thousands of miles of birth canal, a record of the living a record of the dead, and finally a record of a musical midwife gracefully helping me give light to a baby that has been incubating in my entire body for some time, all in a garage situated behind a giant raven on prince st. in berkeley, california between february 16 and february 29, 2015. push… breathe…

i hope this sound offers inspiration to imagine what kind of record you are birthing into the constellation like web of humanity. you star, you.

love, olivia

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ALBUM RELEASE: The Letdown – Rebecca Marcyes

I am thrilled to announce the release of The Letdown by Rebecca Marcyes!

The album is sparse and poignant, touching on sorrow, desire, approaching and evading closeness, home, growing up, getting it, and accepting it.

[bandcamp width=400 height=340 album=1822731765 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=e99708 artwork=small]

There’s a sweet 7th bonus track on there if you purchase it.

Rebecca Marcyes

Recorded, mixed and mastered at by Ethan Stark at Stark Studio in Berkeley, California.

Want to record an album in just five hours like Rebecca did? Schedule a free consultation! Book Me

Want to hear more of Rebecca’s brilliant vocal work? Check out the 12 layers of her voice on this track by Nat Rosenzweig, also recorded here.
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

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