Weekly Music Project - Song #38

September 22, 2014

Remember chillwave? However passé, it seems a fine enough style to evoke for my second-to-last summer song. Let's load up those warbly synths and sidechain compressors and see what happens.

Element number one: A simple kick drum pattern with sends routed to our main synth lines, set to pre-fader to allow the kick itself to actually be silenced. What we're going for here is the pumping sidechain effect on the synths, following the rhythm of that phantom kick. My favorite Tube Compressor in Cubase makes this very straightforward while additionally providing a Drive control to give our compressed tones a bit of grit. Big dreamy guitar chords are - of course - courtesy of my Fernandes and its whammy bar.

So now that we've got a nice groove on our hands, let's switch it up. It's no secret that I've long been (obsessively) studying the intricate techniques of great electronic drum programming idols including Telefon Tel Aviv and Proem. While many of these dudes have perhaps moved onto bigger and better things, I'm still hooked on That Sound; and I think I've finally found my own solid technique for producing it! Let's enter the bridge…

Our vibe immediately intensifies, with a new palette of sounds swirling and stuttering around us. These little blips of sound were meticulously crafted: first by bouncing down an 8-bar loop of our main drum pattern, loading it into Ableton Live and copying to 3 different tracks, each receiving unique treatments of granular stretching/pitch shifting/stuttering/filtering. Ableton's clip envelopes and automation make this sort of thing a breeze, so I quickly end up with 3 uniquely-mangled passes of this beat that need only a final coat of heavy compression as well as EQ to roll off the low end.

These new loops are then bounced back into Cubase where I use its VariAudio feature to automatically slice the audio based on transient detection. Finally, I arrange these slices manually on a 16th note grid in 3 NEW audio tracks, one panned hard left, one center, and one hard right. And voilà!... we now (a few hours later) have a killer, very unique, next-level drum sequence that no "Instant Glitch" plug-in is likely to approximate. Nice.

Key equipment/software used for production:

- Psychic Modulation Phonec synth plug-in
- Camel Audio Alchemy synth plug-in
- Steinberg Retrologue synth plug-in
- Fernandes Guitar + Digitech iPB-10 processor
- Native Instruments Maschine Studio
- Steinberg Tube Compressor plug-in
- ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom effect plug-in

Key: Bb minor
BPM: 59
Time Signature: 4/4