To the left was a desk and an Avid workstation, plus a Mac, and a handful of displays: one from the Avid, one for the Mac, and one for the camera in the sound room next door. On the floor next to this nicely golden toned oak desk, where most folks might have a stack of drawers or a filing cabinet, was a rack of equipment. In there, what I recognized was a McIntosh Amp, a pre-amp that was basically a Mackie mixer, a Wadia CD transport and a Wadia clock for the DAC.
In the corners, mounted up high, were studio monitors. I'm not entirely sure who made them. They were brilliant though. Harmonic Design maybe. Or MCS.
I was sitting in this editing suite, one of five (two were audio/visual like this one...the others were audio only), because I worked for an IT-for-hire company, and Wave, Inc of Framingham Mass had hired us to be the IT there twice a week. I was their guy. This suite was a bit of a mess that day, technically: Avid had sent software and hardware updates, and their local PA had tried to apply them, so I was there fixing his mistakes.
The inhabitant of this suite was a guy called Matt who had worked in New York for a while but was here now, editing Comedy Central and Animal Planet shows before anyone was watching those networks. Wave did media for a LOT of things. Company HR videos? Sure thing. OSHA training? Yep. Dr. Katz? Yep. Emergency Vets? You got it. Crazy Eddy? No. But certainly his equivalent.
Matt was an animator, a producer, and editor, and 25 years old. I was a year older. We were all so young back then.
Matt was a hipster before that was a thing. A careful consumer, a fan of highly curated things, polished and sold back to him with deliberate effort, he dressed in very fine vintage clothes that did not look out of place, and he believed in things being crafted, carefully. The night before, he had stopped off at Newbury Comics and picked up Mezzanine by Massive Attack. When I sat down at his workstation, he walked over and put the CD on, then parked himself in the old world chair opposite.
That album starts with "Angel" and if you haven't heard this song in a while, go to the Youtubes or Spotify and put it on. It's exactly what you remember, and it was shocking how good it was. The way it builds up. The way it is arranged. Shocking. I was taken.
I sat there staring at a prompt while the music hit and hit and hit. Finally:
"Hey what the hell is this?"
"Massive Attack, it's a new one" and he hands me the jewel case, and I memorize the cover, the words.
"Jesus this is really really good" I say.
I worked slowly, triple checking my work, re-running transport and monitor calibrations, delaying my exit listening to the album while Matt sat in the extremely comfy Eames on the opposite wall, sipping tea. We soaked in that moment, he and I. Eventually I gave up the pretense of the tasking, and just sat, listening. I needed a cigarette afterwards.
That's what I think about every time I hear that album. I don't listen to it often front-to-back like I did in 1998, 1999, 2000. I don't want to wear it out, now. The visuals, the way I remember things, it's tied to sound at times.
Those moments. Those songs. The drive out to East Chicopee in my crappy Neon to wire up a middle school to the internet, cassette copy of Mezzanine on auto-reverse, losing myself.
Dissolved (that guitar at the end)
Exchange (reminds me of a bar in Worcester for no particular reason, other than it was on in the car when driving there)
Black Milk (damn near Cocteau Twins)
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