Natives of Stockholm, Sweden, twin brothers Klas (aka Captain) and Joel Åhman annually flee the cold, snowy Swedish winter for the dry, milder climes of the southern New Mexico desert. Their band, Secret Circus, plays an eclectic mix the twins describe as Pagan Country, Gangster Folk, and Death Jazz, but even those broad terms don’t entirely do the music justice. Secret Circus retains its Scandinavian sensibilities while revealing influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Dire Straits, with a touch of Jimi Hendrix, spiced with Southwestern Americana.
The brothers also produce videos for other bands, recording extensively in the field and completing production at Secret Circus Studio. To capture sound in the field, they rely on Tascam microphones and portable digital recorders.
“Our Tascam DR-40 handheld recorder has been all over the United States and Europe multiple times,” recounts Captain. “I don’t know how many live shoots we’ve done with this thing but it’s up in the hundreds.”
The Tascam DR-40 handheld 4-track recorder offers two built-in, adjustable, unidirectional condenser mics that can be set in A/B or X/Y position, as well as two combo locking XLR/TRS mic/line inputs with Tascam preamps. Features such as automatic peak reduction, a four-channel recording mode, and MS decoding make it a flexible field recorder. “It’s a great little piece of equipment, and it goes with me everywhere I go,” Captain relates.
“Even though the DR-40 is really good and has served us very well, sometimes we have more complicated shoots that require more inputs,” Joel expounds. “That’s why we’ve got the TASCAM DR-680MKII now.” The DR-680MKII field recorder captures stereo audio at up to 24-bit, 192 kHz resolution and up to eight tracks (six channels and a stereo track) at up to 96 kHz resolution. Its six mic/line inputs are graced with Tascam’s premium HDDA (High Definition Discrete Architecture) mic preamps. “The preamps are so quiet and have great headroom,” Joel says. “It’s amazing.” “It’s amazing,” agrees Captain, “and it’s really easy to work with.”
Already devoted users of Tascam recorders, the Secret Circus team has also become fans of Tascam microphones. “We have the Tascam TM-180, which is a straightforward, middle-of-the-road, large-diaphragm microphone,” asserts Captain. “It’s great for situations when you need to have something that you’re not too careful with, like a location shoot where there’s dust and sand and wind and moisture.”
Designed as a studio condenser mic, the Tascam TM-180 delivers a bright sound quality and is prized for recording vocals, acoustic guitars, wind instruments, and more. But, insists Captain, it also can stand up to the stresses of field recording. “They are built like tanks and work great,” he states.
“Another happy little surprise,” Captain adds, “was Tascam’s boundary mic, the TM-90BM. I’ve been trying them on all kinds of stuff.” The TM-90BM is a back-electret condenser boundary microphone with a half-supercardioid pickup pattern that is hemispherical on the horizontal plane and unidirectional on the vertical plane. It can handle up to 140 dB SPL, enabling it to capture loud sounds but it can capture detail as well. “On location, you can hide them weird places, like behind a rock, and they pick up the whole environment,” enthuses Joel. “They’ve been really fun to work with,” seconds Captain, “They really shine on everything I’ve put them on.”
Because the brothers do so much field recording, reliability is extremely important. “Our Tascam gear has always served us well and lasted,” Joel declares. “We’ve never had anything break on us. It just keeps working.” “Their affordability is amazing, too,” Captain adds. “You can afford to have another couple of microphones, just in case. Tascam products have really upped our game at Secret Circus Studio and for our band, Secret Circus.”