‘Opaline’ and ‘IRIS’ dual album release
This is a somewhat in depth documentation regarding these albums, I should say it’s of a fairly technical bent, but is also about the thinking behind the creation of my new releases.
I had been working with a large pool of material for the past few years. From this pool arose my ‘Harmony through Conflict’,’NYX’,’Lumen and ‘IKON’ albums, as well as ‘Opaline and ‘IRIS’. With the release of these albums I’ve now finally finished with that pool of material and I can move on to pastures anew (at last !). The tracks on these new albums had been selected and reworked over a three year period (with other projects, taking over at differing times), so they were still ‘fresh’ to me, even though I had worked on them a lot (I find working on multiple projects works for me).
Completing ‘Opaline’ and ‘IRIS’, was a pretty intensive task and I’m pleased now it’s done. While they are not perfect, I felt I’d spent enough time on them. This is the approach I take with all my music really, I try to do the best I could do at that time and then move on. If I had to work on something for a really long period of time I think I would get completely sick of it / make continual changes, which weren’t necessarily improvements. I’m goal orientated, so I work towards getting projects finished and released.
Following my work flow process of taking notes for each iteration of a track, a whole A4 notepad was used up for the listening / reworking notes ! seemingly endless scrawly writings while intensively listening to the work in progress versions of the tracks filled that up.
From a technical point of view, there were some unique mixing challenges, I needed to ‘tame’ the full frequency dronage which was intermittently present at the same time as the percussion, bass and other instrumentation. I used side-chaining for compression on these drone textures, which I think is pretty unusual in ambient music. In terms of dynamics, I wanted to preserve a good dynamic range, so no maximising was undertaken in the mastering stage.
The Instrument set used was pretty diverse and includes (amongst others) a lap steel sample library by Orange Tree samples (http://orangetreesamples.com/slide-lap-steel) (I used this extensively), ‘stringed things’ galore – an array of sampled stringed instruments, such as Celtic Harp, Lute, Lyra, Zither, Kantele etc. Another mainstay on these releases was a Rhodes synth (Lounge Lizard session), which was used for chordal stuff and bass, as were a number of sampled and synth basses.
In terms of effects, the mighty Valhalla uber-mod (https://valhalladsp.com/shop/delay/valhalla-uber-mod/) was used on every track, sometime with up to ten different instances. I came up with a set of ‘swirlverb‘ presets that I used throughout both albums.
Regarding the percussion on the ‘IRIS’ album, it is what I’d refer to as ‘world’ / ethnic percussion (mostly). I was particularly influenced by the percussive elements on Peter Gabriel’s earlier work and I’ve always been interested in all things rhythmic generally. I programmed all the percussive parts and they were the most difficult part of the whole process – it didn’t come naturally to me !
Other synths such as the lovely AAS String Studio (https://www.applied-acoustics.com/string-studio-vs-2/) were used and there are a lot of other synth based sounds which were only used sporadically, but still took quite some time to create. For example, Ableton Live’s sampler was used quite a lot, but it’s pretty subtle what it did. There was also the ubiquitous sound-design / drone texture creation side of things, this was more my more usual way of working, but the difference on these albums was combining these textures with the rest of the rhythmic parts and instrumentation.
Lastly, guitar. ‘IRIS’ was originally intended to be a ‘guitar album’ ! This didn’t pan out, but there is a smattering of ‘real’ guitar – the solo electric parts and the clean chordal parts.
I tried to concentrate more on composition and structure on these two albums. I wanted to try to incorporate space and a compositional sense of ebb and flow into the tracks. Tempo is an interesting element, in that there are sections that follow the tempo set by the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) I used FLStudio (http://www.image-line.com/flstudio/) and then ‘tempo-less’ drone sections and more poly-rhythmic automations of filters and delays.
One thing I have noticed, is that my tracks are getting longer by the album, ‘IRIS’s’ ten tracks are over a 100 minutes long !, ‘Opaline is much shorter but most of the tracks are a fair length too.
In conclusion, this project was an entirely solo effort, I could have done with some help / inspiration at times, but this is the way I currently work. I believe you get better as an artist by trying to improve on the things you’re less comfortable with.
I have plenty of ideas of what projects to work on for 2015 , but perhaps a break or some kind of diversion (an electronica album ?) may well be in order.