One of these ambient pieces seems to lurk within me every time I spend several days making a big hyped up, multicam, use-every-module-I-own piece like "Time=Flat Circle". I honestly don't prefer one genre over the other, though I have a lifetime of experience writing high energy drum parts and only a few years under my belt making compelling (hopefully) ambient music. One of the truly liberating (and I realize that sounds pretty hyperbolic but it is precisely how I feel) things about pursuing electronic music on my own time away from my respective bands is having almost zero musical identity to maintain besides "I'm a guy with lots of synths". It would make zero sense and be received terribly if Maserati or Cinemechanica put out a record of straight ambient longform drones, but I find the exercise in minimalism and repetition to be incredibly compelling, so much so that I just blew off all my studio work and worked on this film score/alien landscape drone for six hours. I've said it before and I'll say it again, somewhere around my thousandth spin of Music for Airports or Cluster+Eno, something clicked in my brain and I wanted to hear iterations on the same looping phrase for an hour on end. It's certainly not for everybody, but it's a discipline I have come to relish.
Sonically, it seems pretty uncomplicated but there are some interesting things happening. I looped Ableton for about a half hour while I doodled on the piano until I landed on the key and simple phasing I was looking to capture. I knew I wanted to be working in three, as I already had the languorous mallets + brushes drum feel in my head, so once I had that looped I actually just played live over it for a few minutes and used the entire live drum take as is. I then bussed the piano and drums together into a stereo send and fed the whole mess into the Mutable Instruments Clouds with the wet/dry almost all the way up and cycled through delay + grain settings till I found something pretty magically syrupy. Clouds has an immensely useful feature for this sort of work ... at any point, controllable by CV, you can "Freeze" the input buffer and work only with whatever was just recorded. I setup another channel in ableton to control the on/off send to this, and that's how we are getting the sustained "strings" that are really just a single moment of piano and cymbal stretched to infinity. You'll notice every time the drums cut out, long stretch versions of the drum+piano take its place. Between that and the mallets, I got some pretty smoldering timbres after a bit of tweaking.
Elsewhere, my new favorite thing I own .. .the Synthesis Technology E352 formed the low drone, and with a bit of modulation to wavetables (both from Maths and by hand as I performed the piece) I got the drone that opens the song and sneaks into the background. Im using the second output through a wavefolder to get some of the overdriven sizzles on the right side .. an effective way to double the amount of movement generated by small modulation gestures. For this kinda thing, one thing I have learned is to keep the modulation very small and tight, but distribute it across as much of the patch as possible. As such, I'm getting a ton of sympathetic rhythmic motion that, while pretty much impossible to quantify in terms of what's actually doing what ... adds up to a really nice landscape for some simple melodic work.
An afternoon well spent. And I'm not pouring sweat from hours of drumming, which is a plus. Cover image is by esteemed Brazilian artist (and Maserati collaborator) Bruno Borges and you can check out more of his outstanding work here: art-spire.com/en/graphic-design/the-works-of-bruno-borges
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