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  • Abbie Howard

Sonic Arts & Electronica 2 (S1): Scrapbook of Ideas.


Conceptualisation + Influences:


'7-eleven' - Black Midi

(Song timestamp - 43m:14s)

Schlagenheim. ℗ 2019. Rough Trade Records. Released on 2019-09-06.


Alongside SWANS' release 'Blind' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14b_yqIVeLg ℗ 1991. Young God Records. Released on 2017-01-08), these two songs influenced the usage of repetitive guitar motifs and phrases, almost using them as building; letting the listener to focus more directly on the lyrics and stories being told, and using their dynamics to emphasise structural impact (specifically as to when this story abruptly ends, where Cameron Picton, the bassist of Black Midi, speaks in first person about the unexpected build up to being hit by a truck, the same motif arrises from the beginning to end but with different purpose after certain information is revealed).

This genre is something that I would specifically like to indulge in further and attempt to create future projects based around this more subtle and ambiguous timbre; with less directional feeling towards a specific forced tonality, transpiring a more progressive movement- that although is repetitive, doesn't become overly monotonous and mundane.


Geordie Greep, the vocalist of Black Midi, mentions in an interview that "we've always tried to make it heavy but danceable, melodic but good rhythms. It is accessible music, there are experimental aspects that we've taken from when we went crazy at the beginning, we've just reigned it in to make something that is pop music." (Brudenell Social Club. (2019). Black Midi + Ill Japonia @ Leeds Irish Centre. Retrieved from http://www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/whats-on/black-midi1/)).


'Reading a Wave' - Arp

(Song timestamp - 0m:51s)

℗ 2018. Kemado Records, Inc., d/b/a Mexican Summer. Released on: 2018-06-22.


Throughout this particular track, I decided that I would take away certain instrumental choices, such as the usage of the upright double bass, in combination with a marimba as opposed to a piano, giving it a resonant and mellow timbre- complimenting each other in different frequency ranges. I enjoyed the fluidity of it, how timeless and developmental it felt because of it's lack of fixed structure played in rubato- with elements slowly introduced and taken away; the subtlety and how it would catch your attention with fleeted ostinati.


'Daily Routine' - Animal Collective

(Song timestamp - 2m:15s)

Merriweather Post Pavilion. ℗ Domino Recording Co Ltd. Released on: 2009-01-10.


Alongside 'Oneothrix Point Never's Lovergirls Precinct'. (℗ 2012 Software under exclusive license to Kemado Records, Inc., d/b/a Mexican Summer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsQUBQJYzQw. Released on: 2013-12-02), these two tracks specifically strike me as something special and organic, primarily focusing on the usage of synthesisers; both having fast and bright arpeggiations yet a rather slow tempo, the prospect of having a double time. Interestingly, throughout the whole album of Merriweather Post Pavilion, we hear sound field recordings of water, rustling, street ambience/kids laughing, I thought that this element gave it more of a human touch.








Other honourable artistic influences: Sweet Trip, Dorian Concept, Four Tet, Mount Kimbie, Caribou, Giraffes? Giraffes!, Visible Cloaks, Atlas Sound, Battles, Flying Lotus, Jake Chudnow, Stereolab, The Avalanches, Sam Gellaitry, Thundercat, TOKiMONSTA, Aleksi Perälä.








Methodology:


To begin to process of songwriting, I start to think about the layout and pace of a track; clarifying how much certain parts should shift and change to maintain interest. I began to think of the development as more of a goal toward textural fullness, using layering and mixing processing such as compression as procedures to achieve this.

This element was prevalent when producing delayed guitar elements to create a build of emphasis to a musical 'peak', doubling synths in octaves creating a more intense soundscape, and then finally returning to the beginning to give a textural contrast.

After I had thought of a chord progression to work with (Bm7->Dmaj7/9->Gmaj7/9->Bm7), I would later experiment with different arpeggiation patterns using Logic Pro X's MIDI FX unit, trying different cycles. I knew I wanted something melodically intricate so subsequently manipulated the arp's rate to higher, expanding the oct. range to give it more spread.

The underlying chord progressions were then also used as a background ambience to create a sense of fullness, thickening the frequency mids and create more of a drone-like effect.

Moving onto the creative side of mixing, I decided that with all of the intricacy of short notes that it felt too dry and static, so I decided to set up bus sends for reverberation, while using a low-cut filter EQ to allow the high end frequencies to flourish in a more ethereal wet signal and the low-ends left dry as they are; making the mix potentially less muddy around the mid-low end.

All of the synths designed in Logic Pro X were done through the Retrosynth inst., typically starting with me adding the most harmonics I can and subtracting from there; playing around with the filter and amp envelopes to create a short, bouncy/plucked creation to double with the marimba.

After I had found the set, strong groove pattern I wanted to extend upon, I settled with creating my own hi-hat synths in ES2, then recorded real hi-hats using an AKG P170, blending the two together to give a more human feel to the velocity.

Exploration into rhythm was expressed through the usage of the Teenage Engineering products- the OP-1 and the PO-16. I decided that I would add percussion samples from the PO-16 as an additional textural feature but not as the main focus, something that would be subtle and buried within the mix but adds to the glitzy elaborate environment. Something I had always admired about the words of artists such as Floating Points or Aphex Twin, is that you can return to a song and find new elements that you didn't originally hear the first time around- this is the concept that I was attempting to recreate by layering small audio components within the lower bed of the mix.

Expanding on this concept, I also used a Zoom H5 to record a key slowly moving through a keyhole and lowered this within the mix; I particularly enjoyed the small crushing compact noise of metal- similar to something a granulator could produce. Additionally, I recorded guitar static from removing the lead cable from my electric guitar and contacting it with metal, as the signal created feedback noise, I thought the rustic, distorted electric sound could add to the underlying ambience- this was intentionally not prevalent or noticeable.



Result:


Logic Pro X Overview - Video/Audio:


MIDI Roll - Arpeggiations Overview:


Stripped Underlying Elements - Guitar/SFX:



Conclusions + Evaluation


Overall, I think certain areas were successful such as the textural development, construction of arpeggiation to maintain an intricate melodic phrase, and having a very fixed structure- taking certain elements from my influences and developing them into my own; using Logic inserts, creative processing, and hardware such as mic-ing and the OP-1/PO-16.

To improve upon, I think adding lyrical content to expand upon the storytelling aspect that I enjoyed from my influences would be a great idea to explore in the future; potentially gathering more from my favourite lyricists or poets in a spoken word formation, such as David Berman of Silver Jews/Purple Mountains.

I think extending the length of the work would be ideal, whilst experimenting with rubato and a slower tempo; which could also play into something that is more freeform and tonally ambiguous. I believe this track was very structured, but to develop this into something more natural, flowing and free from the boundaries of grids or quantisation would be more challenging and intellectually stimulating to the listener.

Additionally, I could explore other software such as Ableton or VCV rack to create more sound design-like elements.


Bibliography


Cameron Picton Black Midi. (2019). Schlagenheim (full album). London: Rough Trade Records. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6aF7bJsYs74


Michael Gira Swans. (1991). Blind. New York City: Young God Records. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14b_yqIVeLg


Brudenell Social Club. (2019). Black Midi + Ill Japonia @ Leeds Irish Centre. Retrieved from http://www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/whats-on/black-midi1/


Alexis Georgopoulos Arp. (2018). Reading a Wave. New York City: Kemado Records. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14b_yqIVeLg


Noah Lennox, Brian Weitz, David Portner Animal Collective. (2009). Daily Routine -Merriweather Post Pavilion. London: Domino Records. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYMdvLLN2Jc


Daniel Lopatin Oneothrix Point Never. (2012). Lovergirls Precinct. New York City: Kemado Records. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsQUBQJYzQw




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