Hadal Zone

Sitting down to write, I don’t think I was intending on a return to the deep space music / dark ambient genre, but here we are. I tried a slightly different approach this time, going with a slower tempo and then using a super sparse drum pattern, but running it through several effects. The opening note and kick drum sound remind me a lot of a song I wrote back in the 80s, but it’s only that opening moment.

  1. Hadal Zone Ray Toler 3:49

After adding the bass drone and letting it loop around for a bit, I started thinking of footage you see from deep sea explorations – small, blind creatures glimpsed by the camera as they make their way to… somewhere; the occasional nightmare of teeth and translucent flesh. Peaceful at the moment, but only until the prey comes into range. It’s probable that you hear something entirely different.

I added another drone into the midrange and then started working out where the interest should be. I love the unease that reversing sounds can bring to a track, so this one features a lot of reverse echos, and they did provide exactly the emotional quality I was seeking.

In December, I acquired several plugins and libraries from Output. While I still haven’t found much in the sample libraries to inspire me, the three effects plugins they’ve released, Portal, Thermal, and Movement, are quickly becoming favorites of mine, despite my initial lukewarm reaction to them. As I’ve gotten beyond the opening screens, I’ve found them to be massive shortcuts to some of the longer effects chains I used to have to put together.

Pieces like this are strange, and the entire genre is kind of a “love it or hate it” thing. I’m obviously in the former camp, though I understand that it doesn’t really seem like I’m writing a Song-A-Day song. They are also deceptive – some of the ones that sound incredibly complicated are amusingly simple, while others take an entire day to craft and balance, yet sound like the simplest thing in the world, at least until you start listening closely.

This one was kind of in the middle. There’s not a ton going on from a number-of-notes perspective, but it’s one where I played many of the parts in, then created interesting timing conflicts to keep things in different oscillations and repetitions. It’s music to either have on in the background, or something to sink into, soaking up all of the little things that appear and disappear. As mentioned before, these are pieces I normally write almost entirely for myself, and if others find them enjoyable, that’s fantastic.


  • Drums: Stylus RMX
  • Drones: Phobos
  • All other synths: Cycles
  • Effects: FabFilter Pro-C 2, Pro-R, and Pro-L 2, Output Movement and Portal, Valhalla Delay
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

Image Credit: The Digital Artist

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