Now here’s a track that’s certainly adequate. I’ve satisfied the requirement of Song-A-Day by writing, recording, and posting. It’s more involved than many that I’ve done before, and maybe even better produced. So why am I negative about it?
Because it’s not what’s in my head; it’s not living up to its potential. Now, often when I have this feeling about a piece, it’s a failure on my part. It’s missing something, but I don’t know what, or I do know what but don’t know how to do it. That’s not the case here.
My negativity is entirely the product of frustration. I had the essential spirit of the track finished last night, finishing up (once again) around 3:00 AM. But I knew that I only needed about 2-3 hours in the morning to get everything fleshed out and sculpted into the piece in my head.
- Sineposts Ray Toler 4:57
Of some note is that this track features two iconic sounds from the drum-and-bass and techno heyday: the loon call that opens and closes the track, as well as the main flutey-stringy lead sound that plays throughout. Both of these come from a patch called “Loon Garden” that was included in the EMU Emulator II factory library. There’s a third sound in that patch, a shakahuchi bamboo flute that you would instantly recognize, but I showed some restraint and didn’t use it.
I also fired up two of my old hardware synths to find some additional “authentic” sounds. While computers and virtual instruments have largely made old rompler hardware units less necessary, they still don’t capture exactly the sound sometimes. They’re too clean.
Developers take advantage of modern tech, but it was the more primitive tech that made those old sounds what they are. RAM space was precious, so samples might be reduced to 11 bits or less. The audio converters weren’t quite as good. Mostly, though, it’s just that that sound got used on so many records that we recognize it. It’s the comfortable, nostalgic familiarity we seek and a type of distortion that we’ve gotten used to, like vinyl, and sometimes prefer.
Are You Busy?
This morning, I had some coffee, played some animal crossing, chatted a bit with Mary about her plans for the day and whether or not we were watching the Superbowl. Around 10:30 AM I went into the studio to knock the rest of the track out.
What followed for the rest of the day was a pattern of sitting down in the studio for 15-30 minutes, then being interrupted by something: a phone call, a chore, a neighbor, a meal…. I just couldn’t get the 120 consecutive minutes of focus needed to complete the process, and every interruption set me back another 5-10 minutes while I relistened to where I’d left off.
Worse, there was something wrong with the project. My CPU was spiking, resulting in audible crackles during playback, which made me have to go back and double-check any recorded parts to make sure that the crackles weren’t in the actual files. I have no idea why my computer, admittedly at the end of its useful life as a production machine, wasn’t handling this piece. It’s far less complicated and uses fewer plugins than many other tracks I’ve done in the past, and even some this month.
The only thing I can think of is that because I was using a lot of short loops for the drums, that maybe some of these things were in the same part of the drive and having access buffer issues, but given that it’s all living on an SSD, I really don’t think that’s the case. It’s just an angry project, which happens every now and then.
My normal fix is to create a new project and load everything from the misbehaving one. This is a fairly typical workaround for Digital Performer and clears out any potential corruption in the project file. But as with the rest of the production process, I just didn’t have enough time to do all of that.
Around 6:00 PM, I pulled the plug on any additional work, bounced it and posted. The piece as it currently exists is unsatisfying for me because there’s still so much I wanted to do to it, a couple of additional parts, but mostly just small detail work that takes drum and bass tracks to that next level. As it is now, it gets repetitive and doesn’t have the variety it needs.
It’s a testament to how my skills have grown over the last seven years that I’m frustrated with this one. If I’d produced this in 2016, I’d be ecstatic. And it’s not bad, it’s just not finished. But the new dawn approacheth, and it’s time to start the next one. I just wonder if my mood will influence what I end up writing.
Instruments & Samples
Hive2, Omnisphere, Trilian, XO, Arturia Emulator II, EMU X-Lead 1
Mixing & Mastering
Valhalla Vintage Verb and Delay, Autopan, Moogerfooger MF-103S, Gullfoss, Pro-L 2