Burlington Producer Ari Abedon Makes Beautiful Music at Pastel Sounds – Including His Own | Music Feature | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington Producer Ari Abedon Makes Beautiful Music at Pastel Sounds – Including His Own

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Published November 8, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.


Ari Abedon - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Ari Abedon

The tall windows at Pastel Sounds afford only a view of the sky, eliminating the distraction of people and cars on the street below. Paper lanterns adorn the room alongside a collection of vintage synths, leather couches and Persian rugs. The recording studio is a space designed to foster artistic focus — a hidden gem in Burlington's South End.

Owned by Ari Abedon, 39, Pastel Sounds has become a go-to spot for up-and-coming local artists looking to partner with the self-taught recording engineer, who has nearly 20 years of experience. Originally from Boston, Abedon set down roots in Burlington in 2002 to realize his longtime dream of running a recording studio. For years, it has been a sanctuary where he produces his own music. Now he is releasing that music into the world.

His debut album, Gemstones, produced under the name Jabedon, is due out in 2024. The synth-heavy, '80s-inspired record has been more than 10 years in the making, in part because Abedon has agonized over its details in much the same way he does over the music of the artists who hire him. And he's discovered that process to be even more nerve-racking when it's his own music in the speakers.

"People's first albums are their whole artistic life leading up to it," Abedon said. "All of the music I've ever made has been distilled into these nine songs."

After teaching himself to play guitar at age 20 and piano at age 22, Abedon spent all of his free time crafting bedroom demos with the recording software program GarageBand and fell in love with the process. A few years later, at 28, he started pursuing that passion as a potential career.

Abedon rented studio space in the South End. He saved money by sourcing most of his equipment from Craigslist and funded his dream by working service industry jobs. In 2020, the pandemic inspired him to rethink his priorities. He realized that becoming a full-time sound engineer was a risk he was willing to take, he recalled.

He started off small by inviting musician friends interested in recording their music to work with him. He could offer not only his burgeoning production expertise but also his skills as a multi-instrumentalist — if you name it, Abedon can play it.

In the early days of turning Pastel Sounds into a business, Abedon realized he was taking on a potentially overwhelming number of clients at once, he said. Now, he tries to work with one client at a time so that he can devote his full attention to them.

His goal in those collaborations, Abedon said, is hitting on "the magical thing that happens when the song is just flowing through you both and decisions are made for you. Together, you get goose bumps — naturally high and aligned with life."

Burlington artist Juliaura recorded her single "What If" with Abedon and described the collaborative creative process as a "divine gift."

"Ari created such a safe space to vulnerably share my soul work effortlessly," she said. "He humbly enhanced every aspect of it, producing a piece greater than I could have even imagined from the start."

Musician Evan Alsop likened the experience recording his first album at his friend's studio to "musical alchemy."

"Instead of transforming lead into gold," Alsop said of Abedon, "he picks out the nuggets in my scratchy phone voice memos and sets the course as we work to bring out the truest spirit of the song."

As much as he's helped others realize their artistic visions, Abedon credits his clients with helping him to realize his.

"Recording people has really helped me dial in my own music and hone my musical recording skills," Abedon said.

Jabedon's music is largely rooted in synthesized sounds. He focuses on the breadth of texture and mirrored melodies of '80s experimental synth, building his songs on the scaffolding of pop and electronic music. But subtle folk elements permeate, as well.

Jabedon's new single "Emerald" is a powerful example of that fusion, a mix of the electronic tones of Sylvan Esso, the moody acoustic stylings of Nick Drake and the deep vocals of George Ezra. The song opens with an electronic beat beneath acoustic guitar strums. "In between a bad thing and a dream / It's like a razor blade/ Move it slow, then just get up and go," he sings.

While the song's lyrics are profound and brooding, its energetic beat paradoxically suggests hope and positivity. As "Emerald" pulses and flows, soft beats resonate like raindrops bouncing off a street grate, accompanied by handclaps, groovy synth and stirring congas. "And I know that it's hard / I can feel it in my chest / But I know when it moves on / I can feel it in you / And you can feel it in me, too," Abedon sings.

The song's hook reveals what drives Abedon's creativity: "There's a light in the ground / Shining up, shining down / And a beacon hidden in the sound."

"Rooted within deep works — poetry, music, art," Abedon explained, "we are all leaving each other antidotes for [the pressures of] life."

Once Gemstones is released early next year, Abedon plans to tour the album locally. He'll then begin work on his sophomore record, Garden. Along the way, he'll continue helping other musicians find their own beacons in the sound.

Listen to "Emerald" on all major streaming platforms.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Diamond in the Rough | Producer Ari Abedon makes beautiful music at Pastel Sounds — including his own"

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