The initial plan behind this project was “rhythm as drone.” Like my previous few releases, I wanted the album to be one continuous journey in several movements, rather than a collection of individual songs — but with a steady pulse, an unchanging tempo throughout. I chose 49 BPM because it sounded good to me and coincidentally matched my age. But I decided against a relentless beat, so different note values are in play, from double-whole-notes 9.792 seconds long which challenge the listener’s ability to follow, to synchronized delays on 64th notes (77 milliseconds).
What I didn’t plan on was having a difficult transition in my career and some other stressors piling up, which also made this album an exploration of tension. The structural choice seemed to lead this way naturally, anticipation combined with a sort of inevitable grind.
This was recorded in seven sessions, with sound design/patching from scratch, simple sequencing if any, no MIDI, and improvised recordings of the full mix. “Improvisation” seems like a bit of a strange term when the major feature of each session is something automating a steady beat , but there are plenty of mix controls and adjustments to timbre and effects, decisions about when to bring in or drop out parts and how long each should be overall. Recordings were then mastered, merged into a continuous mix, then re-split at the points where each new session begins. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole rather than as individual tracks, but I felt the track divisions contribute to the “story.” The track names, however, were really just working titles, not necessarily meant to suggest a sequence of events — the story is yours to imagine.
I used a 516HP Eurorack modular synthesizer, Arturia Microfreak, Polyend/Dreadbox Medusa, and Bitwig Studio with several plugins. Editing was in Sound Forge Pro. Mastering was in Bitwig with CraveDSP CraveEQ, Raising Jake Sideminder ZL, DDMF MagicDeathEye, Voxengo TEOTE, and Voxengo Elephant. For measurement, Voxengo Span Plus, Voxengo Correlometer and Youlean Loudness Meter.
(In the following section I may omit some modulation sources, utility modules, controllers, basic EQ and dynamics plugins, noise reduction/repair plugins, and so on — just the highlights.)
This is just the Arturia Microfreak, processed with Valhalla Delay and Noise Engineering Ruina (VST plugin).
- Verbos Harmonic Oscillator (“VHO“) through Mutable Instruments Beads, fxPansion Maul, and Native Instruments Transient Master. The drone and pulse were achieved through modulating the scan width, secondary pulse via Tilt, and the third harmonic depth was controlled by Softwire Press.
- A mid/side mix, with the VHO‘s 4th harmonic output through Xaoc Devices Drezno+Jena, and one of the Drezno bit outputs through Mutable Instruments Blades modulated by two of Jena’s bit outputs. Through Valhalla Delay.
- Mutable Instruments Rings through DigDugDIY Purple Rain, Puremagnetik Parallax, Voxengo OldSkoolVerb and Native Instruments Solid Bus Comp.
- Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas through Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder (as a hybrid lowpass filter/oscillator), Xaoc Tallin, and Noise Engineering Electus Versio. Some hits were also post-processed with BPB Dirty Filter.
- “echoey bloops” are from a captured section of the recording, processed with Melda MSpectralDelay and Valhalla Delay and pasted in during editing.
- All rhythmic clocking handled by Monome Teletype.
- Madrona Labs Aalto through Plogue Chipcrusher as lo-fi compressor.
- A Bitwig Grid patch. Sine oscillator through a VCA controlled by an envelope follower monitoring the first voice, then a Curve processor and XP filter; the sine also drives a wavetable lookup through a second VCA and a slower follower. Through Denise Bad Tape and Freakshow Industries Mishby.
- A drone from VHO through the analog wavefolder on Intellijel Shapeshifter.
- 4ms Ensemble Oscillator through Rabid Elephant Natural Gate, Valhalla Delay, Voxengo OVC-128, and Wavesfactory Echo Cat. Triggers and pitch modulation are from Bitwig Grid, Spread modulation from Noise Engineering Clep Diaz.
- A drone from VHO through Voxengo Elephant, Unfiltered Audio SpecOps, bandpass filters in CraveDSP Crave EQ, Valhalla Delay, and Phonolyth Velvet Machine.
- ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle through Happy Nerding FX Aid XL (“Reverb Vocal” program) and Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator.
- Noise Engineering Virt Vereor (kick drums/clicks) through Native Instruments Supercharger GT, Voxengo Crtv Tape Bus, u-he Twangstrom.
- The noise washes are Harvestman Kermit as an LFO through Drezno, with one of Drezno’s bit outputs feeding back to modulate Kermit’s shape.
- Polyend/Dreadbox Medusa sequence recorded and looped in Bitwig Sampler, through Bitwig ladder filter, Mod Sound More, Valhalla Delay and Supercharger GT.
- The beginning of the recording was processed through Erica Pico BBD and Rings, then Rings crossfades to Beads, before fading to the original signal.
- Manis Iteritas through Tallin, FX Aid XL (Clouds reverb program). Teletype clocks Mutable Instruments Marbles, which sequences triggers; pitch is from Clep Diaz.
- VHO‘s main output through Pico BBD, ring-modulated with VHO’s 7th harmonic output, processed in Arturia Plate-140. Modulation is from a Kermit LFO synced to the clock, while pitch is from another LFO through Drezno+Jena quantized by u-he CVilization.
- Xaoc Odessa through Xaoc Katowice, modulated by Kermit, through Audiothing Wires, Audiothing Speakers and Twangstrom.
- The mid output from Katowice is fed into Rings with the frequency set below audio rates, Make Noise Mimeophon, SpecOps and Plate-140.
- Microfreak through Ruina, u-he Runciter, Bitwig Pitch Shifter, Native Instruments Raum. The rattling “den-den daiko” sound that comes in partway is simply the sustain on Microfreak being increased slightly and processed through the effects chain.
- Shapeshifter through Natural Gate, Mimeophon, Valhalla Plate. Trigger and modulation from Teletype, Drezno+Jena (not synced to the Microfreak, just set to the same tempo).