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You Know Better -- Retchid Gretchin contest mix
[Retchid inadvertently deleted the original contest thread, so I'm reposting the mix so I can add some feedback. Mike S.]

.mp3    RetchidGretchin_Hannes Keseberg - You Know Better (Retchid Gretchin mix).mp3 --  (Download: 8.36 MB)

Hi Retchid Gretchin -- blimey, this is another totally different vision! I can see the argument for leading with the bass and lead vocals here, as those are both amongst the most interesting parts musically. That said, the guitar licks also seem to be coming through clearly enough, and in general the small-speaker translation feels pretty decent. The lead vocal balancing is quite solid too, which is something many other entrants struggled with. I'd maybe question balancing the hi-hat as loud as you have relative to the kick and snare, as it seems a little unnatural that way, from the perspective of an acoustic kit's balance at least.

The overall tonality feels a touch heavy in the 130Hz region, and also seems to lack some upper-octave 'air', not least because of the curtailed HF extension of the deliberately retro vocal tone, but I like the stereo spread, especially of the Hammond sound. The effects provide a good sense of blend and a certain amount of depth, but I did think that the solo guitars could have done with some treatment with a little more tail -- they felt rather stark as they were. The effects in general also seem quite static, which undermines the long-term dynamics somewhat. Despite that, however, you've managed to get a decent lift into the choruses by virtue of your balancing choices supporting the music's inherent arrangement. I wonder whether you've perhaps overcooked the master-buss compression, though, because the bass seems to be pumping some of the other mix elements, and I feel like you've sacrificed a bit too much definition on the kick, especially when the mix texture gets denser during the second half of the song.

The main issue for me, though, is whether you're best serving Hannes's mix brief. The first major concern is the vocal tone. With singer-songwriters it'll always be a little risky going for an obviously unnatural 'retro' timbre unless it's been specifically requested, but on top of that you've chosen a very strong modulation treatment that distances me emotionally from Hannes as a singer, and the story he's telling here. I'm all for being bold at mixdown, but I think there's a danger of alienating the client if you immediately stray a long way from his natural vocal sound, especially if this is the first mix you're pitching at him (as in this case). The second concern is that the bass-heavy balance is also taking us away from the kinds of proportions one might expect of a more mainstream sound, so again it's a little bit of a hostage to fortune. The rather retro Hammond and snare/hat tones may also be a bit too much of a good thing. What I mean by this is that there don't seem to be enough elements in the balance that suggest 'mainstream' sonics, which means that there's not much to contrast against the retro vocal sound, so it's tricky for the listener to be sure that the mix is deliberately retro (within a modern context), or just dated as a whole. It's a difficult line to tread, I concede, but I think you could do more to bring out the 'modern' elements of the sound and thereby set the retro elements in better relief.

One final little niggle: it's a shame that you've left the ending rather ragged, with those abrupt cutouts on the Hammond, bass, and guitar. Fundamentally, it's rarely a good idea to leave the client with a final impression that's compromised in any way, especially when it's not too tricky to deal with using a few judicious fades.

Hope some of those views are useful -- thanks for sharing your version with us!