Iceland's boldest siren has ventured out of her celestial wilderness once again to bring her latest creation to the world. Bjrk's latest effort, Volta, is a hodge-podge of styles and sounds curated by the songstress' radiant voice. For such a diverse catalogue, Bjrk recruited a wide array of musicians for her latest tour, including a concert pianist and a ten-piece all female Icelandic brass band. A large aspect of Bjrk's show is the stage and special effects, and this tour is no different. Such a wide array of production technologies makes this one of the most complex tours currently being staged.
The tour for Volta is being broadcast through a d&b J series line array that Pruce first heard on a recent tour in Europe.
From a full array of intelligent lights, to full out pyrotechnics, the show is different for each song. With a row of proximates behind the musicians, the stage is often lit with flames during certain songs. And the stage, which is adorned with multicolor flags and banners, looks more like a revolution than a performance. The stage is also equipped with three LCD screens that constantly display images of Bjrk's electronics that her band is masterfully tweaking, including a new, experimental instrument called the ReacTable. Various cameras are placed around the musicians to capture an over the shoulder view of their tuning. And to cap it all off, an intricate display of lasers beams throughout the venue on certain songs, reflected off several mirrors on the front of the stage.
Kevin Pruce has once again been given the task of mixing FOH for the tour.
He's been her FOH engineer for all her tours, a task that may seem daunting to some because of the great mesh of sounds that constitutes a live Bjrk show. Mixing the electronic and acoustic instruments to provide a proper dynamic foundation is essential to the mix.
Volta's tour is a series of firsts for Pruce and his crew since Bjrk 's last outing for her previous album, one saturated with vocal experimentation, Medulla. At Radio City Music Hall, the first date of the tour, he spoke on new additions. Pruce has adopted a new console, as well as a new PA system. Digidesign's newest live console, the DShow Profile, is at Pruce's fingertips for several reasons, the first being Bjrk's desire to archive her shows. All of the Digidesign consoles are simple to connect to a Pro tools rack, and Bjrk's personal unit is attached to the Profile. Pruce also was drawn to the archiving capability of the console. "I can play back the whole show with a sound check-type vibe and adjust levels before shows with the previous night's performance."
Bj�rk FOH engineer Kevin Pruce is manning a Digidesign Profile digital live mixing console on Bj�rk's world tour, kicking off with this one at Radio City Music Hall.
Pruce also wanted to move away from racks of gear and focus on a simpler setup with the Profile. He explained, "I wanted to get more into plugins with this console, I have a lot of 3rd party plugins as well as the Digidesign standard plugins. They all sound good and it keeps me from having tons of racks of gear. And it's a great-sounding console."
An important aspect of the Profile is its size, which is able to fit in anything from a small hotel ballroom to a massive field in the middle of nowhere. The Profile is just below four feet long and two and a half feet wide, giving an engineer plenty of room to maneuver in a FOH rampart. Pruce said, "It's a very small footprint, and we're going to be doing a bunch of festivals. It always helps to have a smaller footprint at someone else's show. We used it at Coachella and it worked out great."
For the acoustic instruments on stage, Pruce employs a pretty basic mic setup. For the drums, almost every mic is a tour standard. The kick drum is fitted with a Shure 91 and a 52, the snares with Beta 57As, an AKG 451 on the high hats, Sennheiser 906 on the toms, and AKG 414s for overheads. The mics for the ten piece brass band are Sennheiser 908b brass mics, and for when the girls sing Shure 58s are distributed throughout. Bjrk uses a Shure 58 wireless mic for lead vocals. Pruce explained, "In the early days when Bjrk was in the Sugarcubes, she didn't like the wireless. But I convinced her over the years, as the technology changed, and now they sound fine in our environment. And because she's slightly sibilant, the 58 works better than a Neumann or one of those condenser mics. And she really likes it. She's got a very unique vocal technique and her timbre has lots of levels within. So there's no need to change the mic because it's working for us."
Another huge change for this tour is the new d&b J series PA system. Pruce requested the system after a previous experience, "I used this PA on a show last year in Europe and I was quite impressed. I like the d&b stuff, I've used a lot of their C4 system in the past, especially in theaters because it's easier to fit in and work with. This is their first major line array, it's relatively new, and it's got a great sound. Like all d&b products they just sound great out of the box and it's all very cleverly done within the D12 amps." Pruce also chose the system based on its ability to adapt to its environment. "Based on the wide array of venues on this tour, like the outside festivals and large theaters, it was an obvious choice. It's powerful and sounds great. The cardioid sub bass, which I like a lot, has a software package that lets you change the patterns of the bass itself. That really helps onstage, where you might get a lot of rumble and roll. It helps to focus the low end forward."
Bj�rk's current tour for her new album features a wide array of production, including pyrotechnics, lasers, and a spectacular light show.
As far as mixing such a diverse sound, Pruce has always taken the same approach to Bjrk's sound. "Dynamic is the thing. Hopefully it's not all at one level, all one sound. It has to keep you interested. It's not like the same drum kit banging away. You'll notice there are lots of different sounds, & different fills. Lots of the songs on this tour are drawn from four or five different albums, they've all got their own nuances. That's the interesting part, trying to keep it fresh."
Bjrk's current tour is planned to run for a year, but with plenty of month long breaks in between runs. This works out wonderfully for Pruce, who's got a new baby at home that was born days before Coachella. "I just had a kid, she was a week old and I had to leave for the tour. But the good thing is I get to go home after this run, come back for the festival run, and then get a break again. We all have families, including Bjrk, so it's great that we don't have to be road dogs for the tour and can focus on making it great for each performance."
A Closer Look: Digidesign's DShow Profile
by Ryan Abeling
Bjrk's FOH engineer, Kevin Pruce, chose the new Digidesign Dshow Profile for several reasons, but there's more to this console than meets the eye. The newest model of the VENUE series, the Profile is simply an alternative control surface to the original DShow console. It uses the exact same I/O and mix engine architecture as DShow. Plus all show files created on either console can be used on either console. This allows users to swap out consoles at the last minute with no additional programming. One is expandable out to 56 faders (DShow) the other is fixed at 24 faders (Profile). Digidesign has sold nearly 100 Profiles in the first month of its emergence, in December of last year, so there are a lot of them in field already.
Digidesign's DShow Profile
Jim Risgin with Onstage Audio, spoke of the VENUE consoles. "The sound quality and the ease of use are what sold me. They're very easy to walk up and use. Everything else is icing on the cake, the plugins and the system package. They're much easier to set up. These definitely have a unique place in the industry, they have better processing and just sound good. 90 percent of our work is corporate events and they get used on those all the time."
The console's compact footprint allows D-Show Profile to fit into venues where space is a challenge without compromising the sound quality and flexibility for that the VENUE provides. Mark V. Thomas; FOH engineer for Christian artist Chris Tomlin said of the Profile, "The flexibility within the routing is inspiring. I'm always finding new ways to do things, looking for new challenges, and searching for new ways to create a mix."
The Profile makes it simple to record right to Protools, allowing touring musicians like Bjrk to archive all her shows. However, this can also be important for church sermons, business meetings, or conventions. The Profile also takes full advantage of existing stage and FOH racks. John Dauphinee, production manager and FOH engineer, for Sara Evans recalled, "Being a former user of 'another digital console,' I decided to jump right in head first and order the D-Show Profile. I received it two days before we had to load the truck for a tour. I barely even looked at the manual. Using it has been an amazing experience."