“Pendulum” (2015) , the Amalgamates’ latest album, will be well represented in the nominations for this year’s Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA), with the album garnering a total of four nominations in the categories of best mixed collegiate album, best mixed collegiate arrangement, best mixed collegiate solo and best mixed collegiate song. The winners of the awards are due to be announced on April 9 at Boston Sings A Cappella festival.
According to junior student and “musical director Lauren Jacob of Pendulum,” production of the album began in the spring of 2014 with some preliminary recording to give the group a better idea of the direction it would like to take the album. In the fall of 2014, the group began to finalize its selections for the album, a process that culminated in a week-long recording session in a member’s house in Stowe, VT during the 2014-2015 winter break. Those members of the Amalgamates that were interviewed for this article spoke fondly of the recording process, with senior Sammy Nunan having going so far as to describe the week the group spent together recording “Pendulum” as an unparalleled bonding and learning experience, which was ultimately “transformative”, a sentiment echoed by sophomore Isaac Lasko.
Throughout the production process the Amalgamates enlisted the help of Plaid Productions, a Boston-based music production company that specializes in a capella, founded by Tufts alums Alex Green (formerly of the Amalgamates) and Alexander Koutzoukis (formerly of the Beelzebubs). According to its website, Plaid Productions has worked with a plethora of a capella groups from around the world, as well as from Tufts, including the Beelzebubs and sQ! Jacobs remarked that Plaid Productions provided invaluable assistance throughout the process, and that their input on mixing and arrangement was particularly helpful.
After the initial recording, the Amalgamates spent months refining the album, leading to an eventual release in May of 2015. At the interview, junior James Mullahoo remarked that “Pendulum” was the first time in the 30-year and 14-album history of the group that the Amalgamates did not produce hard copies of their latest album. Instead, the group switched to an all-digital strategy, making the album available to buyers digitally via Bandcamp and the iTunes store. In situations where selling a physical copy is essential, such as at live performances, the Amalgamates have begun providing customers with codes, which can later be redeemed for a digital download of the album.
Sales of the album have been strong thus far, with Jacobs estimating that the group sold 100 copies to Amalgamates alumni alone at the 30th anniversary event for the group. She also pointed out that the primary motivation behind producing the album was never financial but instead was to make something that “all of us could be proud of.”
By all accounts, “Pendulum” has been warmly received. Mullahoo pointed out that the nature of collegiate a capella, where groups experience a constant turnover of members, is such that the sound of a group is always in flux. New members join and bring their individual voice, which inevitably gives each album a unique sound. Jacobs remarked that this album was shaped by the “raw solo talent” of the group’s current line up, while Nunan characterized this album, on account of its feel, as the Amalgamates’ “break up album.”
The Amalgamates produces an album roughly once every two years and “Pendulum” is the group’s 14th. Interested readers can purchase “Pendulum” on Bandcamp and the iTunes store, or can buy a download code at one of the Amalgamates’ live performances. Much of the Amalgamates back catalog is also available to stream on Spotify.