“The Expansion” is a 6-track mini-release, by (d) (that’s me!), which encompases some of my favorite recent work. You can download it for free or “pay what you want”, right here, on bandcamp: http://glitched.bandcamp.com/album/the-expansion .
Inspiration came from the usual sources: space, technology, synthesis, sci-fi, 2001, 2010, Prometheus, Alien, etc…and something else.
If you’re interested in more details on the composition process, continue reading.
Describing the inspiration or what went on in my head as I was making these tracks is never easy. I don’t know if any artist has successfully done it. I will say, generally, that “The Expansion” represents an attempt to bring out and enhance some of the natural feeling that the machines spit out. ”The machines?” Yes.
Certainly, one could call “Point Within a Circle” a hardware-driven album, lead by the Machinedrum and Monomachine, with assistance from a TI Snow, G2, and software effects. ”The Expansion” is no different in the respect that it’s a mainly hardware affair, but the addition of a Eurorack modular system really changed things for me.
Not only could I let the machines do the talking with regards to the sequencing, but the sounds, as well.
“Randomness” is essential to finding an evocative tone or pattern; ”happy accidents,” as some people call them, are a necessary part of how I make music, but it’s not everything (obviously, there’s a human involved!)
01 – expansion
Equip: euro modular (borg, vco sub, .mix, RCD/SCM, bd808), Virus TI
The main loop (all modular, including the 808 bass drum, through the STG .mix) came from about 25 minutes of recording. There were many other, less repetitive sections, but the oddly-timed beat just worked so well. Of course, it needed more, so I concocted the pad with wavetable evolving oscillators , on the TI Snow. It was a very simple arrangement and the natural sound really came through with a little (a lot) reverb and compression. This was a totally free-form composition, without any beat-quantization or MIDI. My favorite track.
02 – fully mechanized
Equip: euro modular (featured: DIY random looping sequencer), Doepfer Dark Energy, FX
Just a great melody that I captured, generated from my DIY random looping sequencer. The basic sound was created using a modular oscillator (I forget which one), through the Dark Energy. As usual, tons of reverb, delay, and compression. There’s a sample there at the end, and no, it’s not from a “number station.”
03 – 9 miles below
I was so inspired (as I often am) by this track, by Buromaschinen that it just stuck in my head. I had to do something with it, so I recreated the arrangement, extended it, filtered it, and generally messed it up, until it sounded epic. This is one of those apocalyptic -sounding tracks that remind me of some impending space-doom or something, like harmless3 . I spent lots of time arranging this one, but it’s essentially just one track, looped, filtered, and cut up in different ways.
04 – further
Equip: Virus TI Snow, samples, FX
Another evolving sound and sequence, made with the Snow, played and tweaked, live, and recorded into Reaper. I’m always amazed what moving sounds I can generate with the Snow. There’s a slowed-down speech sample in there, from an unexpected source (I’ll definitely pump that well again.) The FX played a huge part in this one again, but only on the echo-y voice sample; everything else was from the Virus TI. By the way, Reaper’s built-in fx are quite good. You can download them (aside from my favorite module, ReVerberate), here: http://www.reaper.fm/reaplugs/index.php . I use the EQ and ReVerberate on just about everything.
05 – believers III
Equip: euro modular (all sounds and sequencing), FX from Elektron Analog 4
Another mostly-modular excursion. As in most modular patches, pseudo-randomness was the source of inspiration. The main driver behind this patch was the DIY random looping sequencer, RLS (check synth.glitched.org for more info on this synth DIY project). Oh, and I can’t forget 4ms’ PEG, SCM, and RCD–without them, I couldn’t have gotten that stuttering, skipping groove.
The main synth sound wasn’t anything “special” (just a PWM osc, into the filter) but the Borg’s LPG gives it tons of character. It sounds like there are multiple synth lines going on, but it’s just the one, being controlled by the RLS, into the uScale quantizer. I almost forgot that the click track that drives the entire rhythmical chain (SCM>>RCD>>PEG>>RLS) is an Elektron Analog 4!
Speaking of the A4, the device provides most of the EFX for the track. The A4 has two inputs, so I took the SD808, SD808, and main synth into the first input and the modulated “hi-hats” into the other input.
As I am a bit lazy when it comes to recording, the whole thing was recorded to one track. The three sections were cut up from a 20-minute source file and arranged, with transitions. There’s some spectral stuff going on there, too. After a ton of work in the mastering stage, trying to get the average perceivable volume level (RMS) up near the other tracks, I decided to leave it naturally dynamic. The 808 bass sounds best when it doesn’t have a lot of compression.
The final section is my favorite because of the melodic transitions.
06 – stasis
Equip: Elektron Analog4
The first full track I made when I got the A4. The machine is a dream; it’s like 4 programmable modular synths in a box, with excellent efx. The perfect marriage of interface + functionality?
I love working on this box. The first thing I did was create that bass sound. I thought it sounded pretty Roland-y at first, but now, not so much; it’s more Oberheim-y perhaps. Anyway, it’s a very round sound, so I needed something with a little edge to go with it.
In playing around on another track’s oscillator settings, I found a strange sort of glitchy sync effect that would alternate pitches every now and then. Just so happens, this sync setting was perfectly in harmony with the main bass line. The main thing about this track was the fact that it sounded so piano-like. (I really hope I saved this kit.)
The “piano” melody just came to me; it’s one of those rare occurrences where I was able to capture exactly what was in my mind.
The third A4 track comes in later and takes the song in a little darker direction.
Everything was recorded to one track and edited slightly. Not a lot of post-processing was necessary. I wanted the natural sound of the A4 to come through.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading about how I put this thing together. I anticipate another mini-release, soon. Enjoy, “The Expansion.”