This album was created after much philosophizing - and listening to AFX/Aphex Twin's Analord series ;-). I was concerned with modern music production techniques and it's progressively lessening emotional impact on the listener. Used to be that you would bring home a record, possibly because you had heard a song you liked, and would listen to the album over and over again. The rest of the album was of a consistent likeable quality as the single, and other songs may become your favorites after the instant power of the single started to give way to the more interesting but possibly less hit quality other tracks.
I didn't have the idea to go so retro that I would sound 70's, the 80s electronic sound happens to be my thing right now. But I also wanted to create songs that had life, not just loop up 4 bars and cut-and-paste in the computer for the whole length of the song. Just like Aphex Twin did with his sublime Analord tracks, I would endeavor to keep things true to the era when electronic music was made but computers were not a part of it. So I cobbled together a bunch of equipment, thus creating Rehab Studio - I had to fix something on practically all of this old gear - and piled it in front of the fireplace in the corner, the most neglected and thus available part of the apartment.
Being that I just moved to America and didn't bring hardly any kit with me, ebay became my closest friend (and serious addiction) with craigslist running a close second. After about 8 months I figured I had enough sound sources (and way too many drum machines) and conveniently stumbled upon a "create an album in a month" friendly competition online in February. This was exactly what I needed to start the task of putting down tracks. Three songs per week, for about 5 weeks. Almost made it too, but it stretched out a bit, and then editing and perfecting the mixes doubled that. And then mastering, etc. It's done when I can't find anything left to fuss over.
The main compromise was using a computer to record the tracks into, but I figured I could use it strictly as I used to use my old reel-to-reel machine and mixing board, avoid the temptations of all the virtual synths, etc. and just use it for multi-track recording and mixing. Oops, and time code/sequencing. Worked in my opinion! I would come up with some beat with a drum machine, they all have so much better - if quirky - interfaces compared to a mouse and grid, but that's what works, you stumble upon fantastic things that just couldn't be found in a computer. So then maybe some bass, add the synths, more DMX, and so on until I felt there was a good critical mass of sound to make the song, and something hooky had emerged. Then make a B-section, possibly an intro, bridge, complete change halfway through, just something to keep it moving.
Tracking the various instruments was done as if it was the old days, where you would, say, play a bass from the beginning to end of the song as the tape was rolling. For anyone not working in the music creation arena, this is actually quite rare these days, especially in the worlds of dance, hip-hop, etc. But I did it for everything as I felt that the minute changes in the signal as it went in would make for a less sterile, more listenable sound. And I could do the occasional tweak as it went in, which I did plenty of, subtle and not-so-subtle. Sort of like the bass player, he's gonna make some slight errors that end up cool and put some fills in.
The rest of the process is less interesting to talk about, but needless to say I am happy with the results of this experiment enough to put the effort in to release it! Listening back to it to write this infolog makes me think how did I do it, this is NICE. It's super superb fantastic! It sits somewhere in between hip-hop instrumentals (my bread-and-butter) of the early 1980's and Acid - like the incomparable AFX... Analord. I let the instruments and drum machines speak, channeled through me. Enjoy!
The album gets its start with the Frantic Sensation workout. Nice electro rhythms from the diminutive DR-110 with pleasant synth bass and melody on top. This is broken up a few times by a Kraftwerk/Cybotron-ish arpeggiated acid line to keep things interesting.
Next at bat is the hard funk of Camping on the Moon. Swinging drums modulated all types of ways, juxtaposed against a straight synth bass motif, and a cute chorus.
Nice atmospherics over another schizofrenetic electro beat characterizes Matrix Modulation, at least for the first half. The songs transmorgifies into something else completely different, can you say backwards analog synth strings courtesy a Korg Lambda?
Critical Mass embraces a start-stop beat with rolling freestyle basslines and things getting sucked into reverse mode, especially effective on the drums. Modifications to the second drum machine allowed for pitched up "chipmunk" hand-claps. And don't forget to jump on your bicycle.
Bring on the dub! Just as I Imagined It was done near the end of the sessions when I thought I was out of ideas, trying to keep the creative juices flowing like clockwork, three songs a week is not easy (in your spare time). Well this one just sounds sublime, the drums with the springy reverb set the tone and it just kept getting better as I laid down instrument after instrument. Check out the Moog Satellite freestyle evolving bassline. Every review I have seen says this synth can't do bass, I very strongly beg to differ!
A rude awakening first sound brings us to Rogue Trader, maybe you remember a news story from Jan. 2008 about some crooked trader in France nearly deep-sixing a bank? Shaped the ambient synth sound with my mouth courtesy a talkbox, and then there is the 5 note MC-202 line burbling in and out of the mix...
Four-on-the-floor fun with another word-of-the-year 2008, Greenwashing exploits the classic E-mu SP-12 stock drum sounds circa 1986 and I can't remember how I did the rest of it, lack of sleep has made it all a blur! But it sho' nuff sounds good, mental note to sample my own records ;-)
Pitch-shifted, arpeggiated intro, an old school kick that'll thump you in your chest (crank it up), and crazy suspenseful sounds give way to the messy funk of Ohr. I can't remember what I was referring to, it's amazing what you can make up when you are losing your mind to trying stretch the boundaries of creativity and still keep it danceable.
Could the toms be anymore prominent? I don't know, stick your ear in one and find out. Primitive Technologies killed me as I felt the kick was too quiet without enough depth, it took days to be satisfied with it. And now that I'm hearing the song again while writing this there are sounds I don't even remember making. Oh, and its melodies really stick in your brain, beware.
Bamiyan Buddhas is a tribute due to the unfortunate incident that happened to the great old hillside carvings in Afghanistan. What a shame. Sometimes I really don't understand humanity. The Casio CZ-101 really has a unique resonant sound to it. And stepping filters are fun, but don't abuse too much. As are multi-tapped delays on drums. Then it all collapses into a nice bit o' paranoia.
Electro-funk run through a dub machine, a really dry sawtooth bassline, synth vox, that is Obtuse. And another wicked bassline from the Moog creeping and crawling all over the lower registers.
An unintentional and beautiful Asian sounding intro breaks into a blockhead beat and curtains of ambience in the background, great sound effects, rumblings, b-sections, c-sections, d-sections... breakdowns, drums hiccuping, more synth vox cause they sound cool, More of Everything in general. But not all at once.
What can I say, it can't be synced but that Moog is great fun and a musical inspiration every time I touch it. Break out the spring reverb again, squelches, surprises in the Nightshade. Like a monster drum break. Is that synth saying something to me?
Cut-up baby was the first track put down, very early February 2008, and featuring the sonics of 5 week old Gianna. Although you may not recognize them as they are heavily flanged. So what do you do when you are recording and the baby is cutting up? Turn on the mic of course. Also featuring another no-sync MC-202 motif, sometimes an untimed thing adds more than rigidly timed everything.
You can thank ebay for this one, Drum Machine Madness was an attempt to get all of my drum machines going in one track. I think the count was 7. An easily topped record, but I thought it would be an interesting idea. Not without technical issues as usual, as some of these cheap old machines don't sync right or at all, but overcoming issues just adds to the fun.
The Solid State Crew for the Frantic Sensation album:
Oberheim Matrix 6
Korg Lambda ES50
Arion Octave pedal
Sansui RA-500 spring reverb
Fostex 3050 delay