Mushroom Tea

In stark contrast to yesterday’s celebration of excess, today’s track is a good example of me knowing when to say “when.” It’s a simple track, focused more on emotion and vibe than melody or technical production. It’s muzak of a sort, I suppose, but still a style I enjoy writing and listening to.

Things started off with me firing up some of the hardware synths to try and shake up my workflow a bit. It’s not so much that I feel like I’m in a rut, but I’m still trying to deal with the procrastination. I’ve started feeling more like I’m avoiding writing than anything, so maybe visiting some old friends will help.

  1. Mushroom Tea Ray Toler 3:30

One of my favorite synths is the Roland JV-2080. I bought it new more than 20 years ago and it has been not only a fantastic synth, but a common source of inspiration. One of the great things about this particular model is that Roland gave it eight expansion slots, which the completist in me duly filled with cards. It’s very common for me to go to the Techno, House, Hip-Hop, and orchestral cards, so I decided to explore some of the ones I don’t automatically choose. Initially, I was looking for some nature sounds to put behind an ambient piece, so went to the SFX card.

None of the nature sounds was exactly what I was hoping for, and most of them suffer from short loop lengths – understandable given the memory limitations of the time. But there are a lot of other patches on the card and I started just randomly choosing them, ultimately landing on a nice swooshy pad sound. This is the type of sound I would normally put behind the main stuff to provide atmosphere, filler, and a bit of motion. But as a front-and-center sound, I didn’t think it was going to hold up (you can hear the sound without effects at the very end of the track).

Tantra is a plugin from Dmitri Schess that provides a modular effects box with a focus on gated patterns and filters, but with lots of other tricks like panning, phasing, and so on. This is a go-to secret weapon for me, and again it quickly worked magic on the otherwise plain synth sound. The sound you hear at the very beginning of the track is the JV-2080 running through Tantra.

Next up were drums and I started, as I often do, in Stylus RMX. In a lovely bit of coincidence, the very first loop I played had a root note that was perfect for the chord I’d already played on the JV. In fact, it was so perfect that it obviated the need for a bass instrument. I found a complementary loop to provide a little more high end percussive interest and that was set.

With the basic groove established, the track was already more than halfway to what I was now hearing in my head as an end target. It needed a melody or hook of some sort, and I thought that an acoustic(ish) guitar would fit. I ended up with one out of Omnisphere that I’ve used before – it’s a gorgeously programmed sound. But that brought me to the same issue I had two days ago with A Tiny Thing: have I actually written this track before? I suppose it’s a testament to how much music I’ve actually written in my life that I don’t know for sure. I don’t think I have, but I’ve certainly written similar things. No matter, this one is nice, and I need to post something.

I get bitten by another lack of planning. As a result, recording this took far longer than it should have. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of decisiveness, a lack of direction, something else, or some combination of it all. In any case, I got close to being finished with it but felt that it needed something extra – there was a big hole in between the first and second guitar appearances. Once again, if you don’t know what to do, throw noise at it. I found a synth patch that had some nice pseudo-randomness to it, ran that through some tasty delay, and we’re done!

Well, almost. With the exception of the three songs I’ve written so far this month, none of them have been named until after I’ve already bounced the final version to be uploaded. Sometimes I just go choose a random cool word from The Phrontistery, sometimes there’s something that’s been on my mind that fits. In this case, I’d been talking a few days earlier with a friend who was telling me about a wonderful experience he’d had one afternoon after having a cup of mushroom tea. He described it as packing a week-long vacation into a relaxing afternoon. I’ve never tried mushrooms (I may have some things to say about “impaired” songwriting later in the month), but what he described seemed to fit well with this track, so Mushroom Tea was an obvious choice as soon as I thought about it.

And one last little bit of weird coincidence, when I was doing my housekeeping on the project file, including taking notes on what synths, settings, and effects were used, I learned the patch name of that JV-2080 pad:




  • Drums: Stylus RMX
  • Main pad: JV-2080
  • Guitar, Strings, Synths: Omnisphere
  • Effects: Tantra, Valhalla Delay, Soundtoys PanMan, MOTU Masterworks FET 76 Compressor
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

Image Credit: Pixnio

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