Hidden City Sounds – The Santa Barbara Independent
I’m spinning along Foothill Road on a beautiful day with Elliott Lanam’s new album, Honey delirium, exploding from the Bose system in my Prius, and fuck it if it doesn’t pass the “car test” with flying colors. The Car Test is one of those rare urban legends that is actually true, and it involves the idea that when a music producer thinks they’ve finished a mix, the best way to test it out outside the studio is to watch it. ‘listen in a car, preferably while driving somewhere like Santa Barbara. When I visited Lanam at Hidden City Studios, the Chapala Street facility he has run since 2014, I asked him about the car test, and he was adamant, âThe car test? To date, 100 percent this is happening. You burn it to a CD, throw it in the car, then go for the car test. The car is in fact a very transparent listening medium. I purposely bought a car that had a CD player for this reason.
With Honey delirium, Lanam seems ready to start hearing his music coming from a lot more cars than mine and hers. He wrote and played all the instruments on his 10 remarkably varied, exquisitely arranged and produced tracks. Add in the exceptional vocals of top Santa Barbara talent like Will Breman, Brandi Lentini, Brett Hunter, Haiva Ru and Åaszewo, and you’ve got music that stands up to the biggest names – Mark Ronson, Andrew Watt, Max Martin.
Maintaining this kind of business is not entirely new to Lanam. Hidden City has played host to some of music’s biggest stars, and Lanam has Katy Perry’s diamond disc plaques. Prism, which was recorded in Hidden City, to prove it. His meticulous but easy-going manners clearly appeal to professionals. Recent clients of his elite podcasting setup include Rob Lowe and Forrest Galante. Galante, UCSB graduate who scored big on Animal Planet TV series Extinct or Alive, liked Lanam’s approach so much that he ended up using his instrumental music in the series. Speaking of instruments, Honey delirium is just one of three Lanam releases in June. The two others, One man orchestra, which he published under his own name, and Harmony, which flies under the flag of “Buddha Mama”, are instrumental forays into the world of music for film and yoga classes, respectively.
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As a producer and engineer for hire for over a decade, Lanam has heard a lot of music. At Honey delirium, he turned all those hours spent recording other people into gold. Although he wrote and performed all of the music on the album, half of the songs were written for specific vocalist voices that he had in his personal database. Some of them had come to see him to make their own music, but with others he said “they’re singing for somebody else’s rap record, or whatever.” âWhen it came time to write my album and produce it,â he told me, âI thought it would be really cool to present all the best that I have met.â The fact that all these talented people have ties to Santa Barbara does Honey all the softer.
Will Breman and Brandi Lentini each have two tracks, while Brett Hunter, Åaszewo and Haiva Ru each contribute. Stylistically, they’re everywhere, but, like many of the most successful recent albums from mega-producers, it’s still consistent listening. And, more importantly, virtually any of these leads could get huge. My personal choice at this point is “Give All Your Love to Me”, a huge sounding summer song that Lanam wrote for Will Breman. But don’t hold me back. During repeated listening, this could easily change. And there is already a strong single, “WHO I AM”, which is not on Honey delirium. Who added the haunting, soulful voice to this hymn in the making? Elliott Lanam.
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