June 23, 2014

floats on air...

by Chris Randall

Well, it's finally done. floats on air, my new album of electronic meanderings, is now available on Bandcamp. It will be exclusive to that site until July 7th, where it will go live on all the other services.

This is my first "produced" album in some years; my last five-odd releases are EP-sized collections of various experiments and research, but floats on air is a cohesive whole, planned that way from the start. Since this is Analog Industries, a few process notes for those interested in that sort of thing (which is, I assume, most everyone that reads this site.)

1. Shoeboxen. For most (but not all) of the tracks on this album, the root rhythm comes from a rather strange source. I initially purchased a small shoebox tapedeck with the intent of finding something interesting to do with it, but not having an idea exactly what. What I ended up doing was using its little included mic to just record random semi-rhythmic sounds around my neighborhood, then taking the recordings, physically cutting out small lengths, and looping them in a different cassette body. I'd then record these short loops in to Live, and have my way with them with the various DSP tools that came to hand. The tracks sunderverl and fader in have the most obvious pieces of this sort of thing, but almost every track has at least two of these little loops in it. Once you know what you're listening for, they're easy to pick out.

2. Nagra. I used the Nagra a lot on some of the tracks. fader in has the best example. I asked Don Gunn to send me a few minutes of jazzy drumming; once I'd received his mixed stem, I summed it to mono, then recorded it to the Nagra. I then spent an hour or so slicing out half-measure chunks. (And I mean with a razor blade.) I then took these chunks, mixed them up, and spliced them all back together. I then made a continuous loop of the result. There are 4 other tracks in all in that song, and each one is a looped cassette. I fed them all in to Live on individual tracks simultaneously, and recorded the level automation on the way in with a Korg nanoKontrol. So fader in is named what it is: a live recording of tape loops that I "performed" on a nanoKontrol. I obviously added enough insert effects to stun an ox, for the final result. Most of the cassette loops are recordings (again, with the little mic that came with the shoebox deck) of the speakers in my living room system as I played Daphne Oram vinyl. Those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen my synth -> tape -> vinyl -> tape -> synth palindrome tweet. This track is what I was referring to.

3. Modules. I don't have a hugely high opinion of the modular synth in my own particular writing process, but I figured "fuck it, the damn thing is sitting here." One of the little leitmotifs I use throughout the album to tie all the songs together is a little acid line breakdown, and I used the modular for this in all cases. It appears here and there elsewhere, but that was its main task in this project.

4. Other Gear. I used the Analog Four quite a bit. Notably in porch_field, where it creates most of the sounds. I also used [redacted] quite a bit, for about half the basslines. The other main synth I used was Monark, which got a lot of mileage on this album. For effects, VallhallaVintageVerb is the two-buss verb throughout the album, with occasional appearances by Eos as an insert "effect" verb; delay is about equal parts Dubstation and the H3000 Factory from Eventide. I used several other Eventide products for insert and compressor duties; most of the sidechain pumping (and fuck it, but there's quite a bit. There's no zealot like a convert!) is done with Glue. Obviously, heavy use of AD products throughout. I mixed 8 of the 9 tracks in Live 9 Suite; the exception is dawn, which was mixed in Bitwig Studio.

Anyhow, I'll field any specific production questions you might have in this thread, but the above is the general gist of things.


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Jun.28.2014 @ 4:55 AM
i was bummed reading this was not going to be some modular abuse but damn that's a delicious tape session in "fader in".
congratulations Chris!

Jun.30.2014 @ 3:05 PM
"cottbus" is the name of a city 240 km far away from my hometown in the eastern part of Germany. is this the reference you used? if yes - why? if not - what does it mean to you?

Jun.30.2014 @ 6:58 PM
Chris Randall
One weird thing I do in my spare time is just pick a random spot in the world on Google Maps, then wander the streets using Street View. The day I finished that song, the random spot happened to be Cottbus.

(See also: Byszwald, Poland.)


Jul.01.2014 @ 6:26 AM
Thank you for the insight. I like your music.

Jul.01.2014 @ 6:55 AM
spare time?!! really?

Jul.01.2014 @ 7:53 AM
Chris Randall
I work very fast, but in bursts. In order to have some semblance of a normal life, I long ago started forcing myself to take breaks. If I don't, my wife will be all "you're turning in to a raging asshole, and I'm taking your computer away."

So I generally work for like 3 hours, then take an hour or so mental health break. I do this all day, though, from 7AM until about midnight. So it tends to be more productive overallthan "get to work at 9, spend an hour working up the courage to do your job, work for 2 hours, take an hour lunch, spend an hour working up the courage to do your job, work for two hours, commute home."


Jul.03.2014 @ 6:23 AM
Mixing up little bits of tape like that seems like hard work. Someone should write a plugin to do shit like that in the box.

I know, not funny.

Really liking the LP, I think organic is the word I'd use.

Jul.10.2014 @ 9:11 AM
i'm interested in how you approached sequencing, specifically where hardware is concerned.

did you sequence on the hardware, the daw or some other option?

where hardware is concerned did you write entire songs or just phrases and assemble in the daw?

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