By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
On a Sunday summer afternoon so sultry that steam swirls from the street and water vapor beads on windows, Christopher Moll flips off the A/C in his Coral Springs condominium. He snakes microphone cables from a bedroom closet to his small recording studio/office, then signals his singer, Tim Yehezkely, who's been pacing restlessly around Moll's apartment. They're working on "Know Which Way the Wind Blows," a mysteriously moody lattice of autoharp, guitar, vibraphone, Hammond organ, farfisa, melodica, cello, violin, and tambourine. The lyrics Yehezkely herself has written -- a vignette about a spy surveilling a woman across a room -- are a perfect match for the somber strains of Moll's music.
Shutting off a fan to further dampen any noise, Moll explains his vision. "You're wearing this long, flowing dress, entering a party," he says, placing a battered pair of Sony headphones around his stocky neck. "And there's this creepy person watching you." He pauses and gropes for words. "You said there was something sexual about this one," he says, jogging her memory.
"No, I didn't," Yehezkely corrects. "I said sensual."
"Well, you know," he says, sending Yehezkely across the carpeted living room into the tiny closet with a huge microphone, its walls soundproofed with padding and draperies. Slender in her sundress, Yehezkely gracefully shuts the door behind her. She's wearing her own pair of headphones, and Moll can speak to her in the makeshift "vocal booth" through a small microphone on his mixing board.
As Yehezkely warms up, Moll cues up on his computer the current mix of the song, making sure she knows exactly where to come in. Each instrumental passage exists as a color-coded bar; soon, her voice will be represented by yet another.
Yehezkely sing-speaks in a detached near-whisper: "Drawing eyes from across the room/Wide open like the curtains of a play/But I cannot stay in the audience/Feeling so withdrawn/At the faces looking on/To applaud at curtain call."
Moll ruminates on the musical trope, comparing it to an earlier take, and Yehezkely steps out of the makeshift booth. "The quality of your voice is better today," he says. "But your rhythm on some parts of that one was a little better." One line in today's chorus, he explains to her, was "a little too abrupt-sounding."
He sings the part to her -- "At the faces looking on"-- in his choirboy near-falsetto. His voice, pleasant but pale, is the fastest route to show Yehezkely that he wants her to climb a half-step between the syllables look- and -ing. Without hesitation or embarrassment, he sings it, over and over, showing her exactly what he wants. She slumps against the wall, her dark tresses covering her face, and exhales deeply: It's going to be a long afternoon.
These long afternoons and late nights are Moll's obsession. Immersing himself in the womb-like comforts of his home studio, he holes up for months, eating, breathing, thinking, and dreaming music. Interruptions or distractions have been eliminated -- no cell phone or cable TV for this guy -- and he's dead serious about completing the final songs, no doubt to the delight of many South Florida music fans who've wondered exactly what the reclusive talent has been up to.
"Just try it again," he suggests, as Yehezkely heads back to the closet. "So it'll be hard-wired into your programming." The spiky, short-haired Moll records another take. Nervous, Yehezkely flubs the line completely. Moll glances at the clock. He's not paying for any studio time, of course, but it's starting to get warm in the office, thanks to all the equipment and sound baffling. Yehezkely sings the part again. And again. And again. "It's better," says Moll, peering through his glasses, "I think. But I still... hold on..." He cues up the chorus again and has Yehezkely get ready to sing it again. "OK," he tells her. "I'm putting you in... here."
Donning the headphones again like a miner following a dark vein with lighted helmet, Moll is extracting unprocessed ore.
After spending the afternoon recording and rerecording the vocal track to the song, Moll will refine the raw materials. He may spend hours editing and polishing a single line, so that it will sound its best when his grand tapestry is finally revealed. Attempting to skirt the no-second-acts rule, Moll -- who once made it to the altar of indie-rock rewards only to have his bride evaporate at the last minute -- isn't going to let this opportunity pass. At 35, he's aware time ain't on his side.
For the past two years, Moll -- a hermit-like songwriter, musician, composer, and engineer who has become one of South Florida's most gifted producers, with a reputation for transforming humdrum recordings into sharply reconceptualized, marketable musical offerings -- has been laboring over his own ten-song suite, comprising what he calls his "suburban bedroom symphony." From the window of his second-story studio, all he can see of Coral Springs are the treetops of a nearby park and occasional swarms of yellow/orange butterflies that flit past. The suite isn't quite finished yet, and Moll -- who has toiled on the tracks with help from both Yehezkely and fellow multi-instrumentalist Jon Wilkins -- exercises a level of quality control that's kept it a secret.