A Tiny Thing

Clearly, my mood had shifted from yesterday’s production. Despite setting the project tempo at 132, thinking maybe I had another upbeat song in me, my initial exploration of sounds and drums had me quickly dropping into half-time mode. This is one of those weird times where I’ll open a project later and see that the tempo is double what I identify it as, but it ends up being six of one, a half-dozen of the other in terms of what comes out. 

As I noodled around, I  found that I was feeling fairly introspective and contemplative. The origin of the song is specific, but it quickly expanded to a broader theme. Once I had the drums looping and started playing various things over them, I found that I was veering into a darker sound, one that Trent Reznor and Gary Numan have done so well with over the years. This isn’t really a Trent song, though; it’s decidedly Numan.

  1. A Tiny Thing Ray Toler 4:44

Gary Numan is a sleeper hit in my brain. I’ve always liked his music and Cars, a song I remember hearing on the radio when it was new, remains one of my all time favorites. But the album I now reach for above all others is Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). He’s not the first artist that comes to mind when I’m listing influences to people, but once I get to mentioning him, it’s apparent to me that he should be ranked much, much higher on the list. To the point where I worry sometimes that I’m actually stealing melodies or lyrics from him without realizing it.

With this song, I wasn’t worried about stealing from Gary, but I was vaguely concerned that I was stealing from myself! I kept thinking that maybe I’d written this song before, or at least parts of it. Sonically, it’s very similar to a track I did a in the early 2010s titled Empty, another one that may end up getting released later this year, but despite that nagging feeling of treading the same ground again, I pressed on with it.

Lyrics again came fairly quickly, but they meandered away a bit from what I had initially been thinking of. I’m not totally thrilled with the last two lines of the chorus, but I’m not sure I’m unhappy enough to change them. While they’re appropriate to my subject, they lend it a bit of a psycho-sci-fi thing that isn’t what I was going for.

The biggest problem, however, was how to deal with a slow, simple song structure while keeping things interesting over almost a five minute period. I had a similar issue when working on Empty and had called my brother to get his opinion on what else I could do. His advice was, “when in doubt, add more noise” which worked well on Empty. I decided to do the same with this track, mostly using feedback and some more radical (but subtly placed) effects on the vocals. I’ve fawned over Sean Costello’s wonderful Valhalla effects here before, but they really are amazingly creative tools. This time around, I used his free (!) plugin, Supermassive. It’s responsible for those whispery echoes that bloom up in between the lines.

I don’t think this song is as good as Empty, but I like what it explores and the mood it sets. I don’t know if I’ll polish it further for release, but I’ll enjoy it on my own private playlists.

Lyrics

A tiny thing
Just a routine
But am I who I think I am
Or is this all a lie?
 
A tiny thing
Not a big deal
But are you who I think you are
And do you know why?

The answer is hidden deep inside
The crime is hidden deep inside
But is this life the one I've lived
Or the one where I already died?

A tiny thing
No guarantees
But are we just pretending
That this is not a lie?

The answer is hidden deep inside
The crime is hidden deep inside
But is this life the one I've lived
Or the one where I already died?


Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.

Colophon

  • Drums: Phobos
  • All other instruments: Omnisphere
  • Vocal Effects: Valhalla Room & Supermassive, Soundtoys Little Microshift, Crystallizer, and Echoboy
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

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