ES Waves – Parasol Stars – a short explanation

I thought I’d put some thoughts down about the second album that came out a couple of months ago as a casual browse of this blog, or any other, wouldn’t express the blood sweat and tears that went into putting it together.

Following the release of the first ES Waves album Nakatomi Plaza the computer I used to put that album together was almost instantly stolen in a burglary.  This meant that I lost a lot of sketches for want of a better description from which I work from.  My working method is to create many ‘sketches’, simple incomplete motifs or rhythms, when I’m in a creative mood, which I can then subsequently rediscover with a view to putting in the hard work to move the sketch forward towards ‘finishing’ it.  For me there is no completion of an artistic endeavour, there is no finish line, there is only an end point where you walk away from a project and move onto the next.  The amount of time spent on getting to that point is at the creator’s discretion and it doesn’t necessarily follow that the shorter the time the less complete a project.  That is of course subjective to both the artist and the subsequent listener (whose tastes you can’t second guess).

As I had my up to date projects taken away from me (they were backed up but on an mp3 player which was also taken at the time) I thought I’d explore some older projects which I’d created and left behind on an older computer.  I spent the summer of 2004 getting to know Ableton Live and in doing so creative about a 90 mins live set in the arrangement window.  This is basically one long track which ebbs and flows but is effectively many sketches run together.  I created it sequentially blending one sketch with the last and moving forward.  This was a really creative summer and many of the sketches made up the basis some of the tracks which made it to Nakatomi but also now onto Parasol.  Picking up Live for the first time opened up many musical avenues which I’d previously thought were beyond my reach.  As a program it truly opened my eyes and musical horizons / ambitions.  I’ve thought about putting this long live set up on my soundcloud but there’s still several sketches which I’d like to work up and it wouldn’t really represent my technical skills as they stand today to do so.

Of the tracks on Parasol Connectionist and October Bird of Death are put together from this live set.  Connectionism is a philosophical theory which attempts to explain how the neurological pathways in the brain behave and is something I studied at university.  October Bird of Death is a phrase with a beautiful lyrical sound to it.  It’s taken from the Charles Bukowski book Ham on Rye Bukowski has a style which for me is really really easy to read.  I think I read all his novels in a month or so.

If you didn’t already know Parasol Star’s itself is a computer game.  Continuing my cultural magpie approach I appropriated the title in the same way that I used Nakatomi Plaza for the first album.  There are eight levels, worlds, in the actual game which has some nice symmetry as I settled on eight tracks for the album.  This was a coincidence and only one which struck me when I was naming each track for the album.  I created what became World Eight first.  I wanted to create an intro to that track so removed what was there at the time and started a new project with it.  That new project became World One and acts as an introduction to the album itself.

The second track ‘Playtime’ started life as a remix of the last track off the first album ‘Candles’.  I initially wanted to have a continuity between the albums with the first track being an extension of the last track of the last album but it grew into another beast.  The initial idea was to really show the progression in my skills etc from one album to the next.  I called it Playtime after the Jacques Tati film of the same name Tati basically bankrupted himself (and several other members of his family who’d invested in his vision) making this grandiose serious production, which he intended to be the centrepiece of his artistic career, building what he thought to be a ‘studio lot’ in the style of those in Hollywood (which he’d just visited) just outside Paris only for it to fall flat and for the French government to pull all the support they’d given to him to set up the project.  He subsequently had to revert to his trademark slapstick for the rest of his career to put bread on the table.  It struck a chord with the amount of time that it was taking me to work the track up and the difficulty I was having due to the fact that the computer that I was initially creating the track on was pretty underpowered.  I’m still not 100% on the balance of the track.

The third track VSL started life as 10mins house track which I had mastered.  That track is pretty leggy but has some great melodies and sounds many of which made it into VSL.  The melody in the fade out, when it resolves itself, is the main melody from the final section of the house track.

Elastic Reality is a track an early version of which I gave to an artist friend to use in an exhibition of his work.  Powerdrome is a track I’d walked away from some time before the album but perhaps, whisper it, is my favourite from those which I presented here.

All in all it took the three years or so from release of Nakatomi to get to this point.  That’s mainly due to the fact that I like most people have a day job which keeps the wolf from the door.  It really does represent a large chunk of my free time and I hope it’s appreciated by a few people.  I may amend this blog post as this version represents a stream of consciousness.

Sasha – Cut Me Down (ES Waves Mix Parts) to download

Whilst there’s a little bit of a lull in getting some ES Waves material finished up and out I thought I’d put up some of the parts I created and used within my entry for the Sasha remix comp (which I didn’t ‘win’) as I’ve got some free space on my soundcloud.  Putting up parts to some of my tracks has been something I’ve previously thought about, especially as the sound design aspect of my recent music is something I’ve really spent a lot of time over.  Sound design has become a rewarding process for me, and I’m slowly picking up the tools to allow me to shape my music to my ear.  As with most aspects of music production the path is long and open ended (as is the case with most things worth pursuing).

The parts I’ve uploaded are primarily those made using the parts provided at the outset of the comp.  As such there are variations here of some of those parts run through various effects etc.  I’d just got hold of Native Instrument’s ‘The Finger’ as part of the Komplete 7 upgrade pack so there’s several fun variations created using the various eq filters etc.  There are some really cool effects you can get out of that plugin which I’ve no doubt I’ll explore in the near future.  I also used this as an exercise in getting to know some of the compression emulations on the Focusrite Liquid Mix which I’d previously neglected.

I’ve no ownership of these parts and don’t know how interesting they’ll be for anyone out there (not particularly interesting I would imagine for the casual listener).  Maybe they’ll give a little insight into the work that went into making the final track which can be heard / downloaded here

I’m also recording and storing some ‘found sounds’ using the soundcloud app as I’ve now got a smart phone.  When these reach a critical mass I’ve create a public set for people to access.  Again making use of any unused space here.


Somebody uploaded my Mix of Xpander to youtube!

Somebody (other than me!) uploaded my mix of Sasha Xpander to youtube.  A complete stranger!  I was planning on doing this and may still do so but well done that man (or woman)for having taste (and thank you that tumbleweed infested resource google alerts for letting me know!).

The amount of exclamation marks in the paragraph about is probably a giveaway to my surprise at being greeted with this news.



Sasha – ‘Cut Me Down’ (ES Waves Mix)

I’ve entered the Sasha remix competition.  My effort is below.

I spent a good deal of time on the sound design aspect.  Two tools that I really worked quite hard on this are Native Instruments ‘The Finger’ and the Focusrite Liquid Mix. The former I relatively recently picked up as part of the upgrade package from Komplete 6 to Komplete 7.  The Liquid Mix is an amazing sounding product but one that for me can be painfully temperamental.  At the moment I’m still learning how each emulation sounds (I should say I’ve had the thing for a couple of years now!).  I’m by no means an expert on which classic compressor should be used in which circumstances so a lot is just trial and error.  It’s a pretty similar case with the EQ emulations.  What I can say is that a lot of them sound pretty fat.  The compression can really be heard on the finger effected pads in the introduction section and the messed around melody line in the final section (which is part of the intro stem provided I think off the top of my head).  The arped synth line in the middle was created using Omnisphere.

It was a rewarding process putting the track together and I hope a few people get to hear it and enjoy it.  I will cannibalise is in the future as there are some pretty rad sounds in there.