I’m not sure what I intended to write for today’s track. After the mid-level bombast of Mind Your Own, I was hoping a song would show up, but not chasing after one in earnest. I did want to start with the rhythm of it, though, so launched BT Phobos.
Created by Spitfire Audio and musician BT (Brian Transeau), Phobos is a really interesting experiment that didn’t quite hit the mark. Bear with the tech explanation for a second. A convolution reverb is one that creates a reasonably good simulation of the acoustic profile of a particular physical space. They are created by using an impulse sound, normally something like a clap or a starter pistol, and recording the resulting echoes and reverb, then applying the profile to whatever audio you want to pass through it.
In practical terms, I can load up a convolution reverb, select a profile for a large church or symphony hall, and then whatever audio I send to it will have the same “sound” as if I’d recorded in that space. It’s not 100%, but it’s very good.
- Slow Light Ray Toler 4:03
What BT envisioned, and Spitfire programmed, was a synth that would use sounds other than an impulse response as the “space” in which you would place audio. What if you could play a flute through a drum loop, or a drum loop through a harmonically rich synth sound? Even better, what if you could do that with four different sources and four different convolutions at the same time‽
Well, that was the plan. In practice, I haven’t found Phobos to provide me with a lot of completely new sonic worlds, but it’s still very useful, both for interesting texture sounds and for the massive collection of synths and drum loops, most of which came from BT himself. The drum loops in particular are big. They sound big. They hit hard.
Let’s Hear It for Rhythmus!
I auditioned drum loops for awhile, found the ones that seemed a good starting point, and then loaded up another fun little sample library named Rhythmus. Rhythmus is full of rhythmic loops played on a variety of things. Kitchen utensils, buckets, pieces of wood… the patch used on this track features a bunch of plastic, which provides some interesting sound up in the high end to complement the giant drum beats.
The rest of the process was pretty standard and straightforward. I went through my go-to synths to find sounds that matched the vibe of the drums and came up with the basic loop. At this point, I was still hoping for a song, but nothing seemed to appear and I decided to record some solo stuff on top of the groove.
Things became a bit monotonous, so I added the breakdown in the middle, then changed the solo instrument to a combination of three different sounds. This provides a little more energy and variety. I noodled the solos for about 30-40 minutes before finding the bits I wanted to incorporate.
The final addition was bringing in some “real” drums from Superior Drummer 3. I chose a half-time loop, which normally wouldn’t work on something this slow, but with the other drum loops going, it provides this really interesting, almost military march feel to the second half.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this piece, at least if you compare it to a lot of my other Song-A-Day electronic instrumentals, but it’s a solid bit of synthwave. There are some emotional similarities to what I was doing in 2017 and 2018, and those have become some of my favorites.
Instruments & Samples
BT Phobos, Omnisphere, Trilian, Falcon, Rhythmus
Effects, Mixing, & Mastering
PanMan, Valhalla Shimmer and Delay, Portal, Masterworks EQ, Gullfoss, Pro-C 2, Pro-L 2