IN PROGRESS is the new album by ASYMPTOTES (me), out now on 972276 Records DK. here’s how each track just barely came together.
this track actually started out around 2014 with a cracked copy of Ableton Live 9 and even less idea of what i was doing. it was called
Red Kite and it was basically a Four Tet knockoff using the jangly bits and whurmp bass you hear in the final track. i would play it in a loop in Session view and sit there going “okay now what” until i quit Ableton disheartened.
when i started working on this album in late 2021/early 2022 i came across the session file again, played it, realised i liked the sounds, deleted all the midi and reused the instruments in a different track that needed something extra (working title
i am not ludwig goransson since it was uh heavily inspired by the Tenet soundtrack).
in 2017 i got my 49-key midi keyboard out from under the bed, plugged it in, loaded the cracked Live 9, created a track with a grand piano instrument on it, and recorded five minutes of absolutely terrible piano improv midi. just awful, zero artist merit.
in march i found the session file, played it, cringed, bounced it to audio and sliced to midi by transients, put a bunch of audio effects on it i ended up saving as an effect rack called
Deconstruct Smear and using a lot on the album (it’s a Beat Repeat into a Reverb with some fake tape saturation and wobble which turns random slices of the dry sound into a big lush wash of noise), and played a the slices with chee’s Ableton Push. then as became common for this album i went “what this really needs is… some house drums”.
the last song finished if you don’t count
/// (FALSE STARTS). written entirely in a single day, at work, the friday before the album released on wednesday june 1st. lol.
i wanted to somehow make a circa-2010-65daysofstatic song. it started with putting some synthesised clean guitar arpeggios through a bunch of pedal-like audio effects and somehow programming a legit 7/4 math rock drum pattern with some session kit samples, then throughout the song going like “a real drummer would put a half bar fill here, some snare rolls here, switch to the ride cymbal here”.
not intentionally done (at first), but this is also very heavily inspired by 65dos (which is why i wanted to do that intentionally for
THREAT ACTORS; if i could make something that sounded vaguely like them by accident, what could i do on purpose). the detuned sine chords came first, then the very reverby plucks, then the glitchy drums were a natural choice.
before i wrote
THREAT ACTORS, this was the only song on the album not in 4/4. it was i think the only song i’d written since
of substance not in 4/4. that was a deliberate choice; i wanted to try to make “more conventional” music to bring out more of the subconsciously weird choices i make that are often hidden by deliberately weird choices.
then i wrote this in 5/4 and i remembered why i like weird time signatures. this is also the only song i’ve ever written with a time signature change, and every time i listen back to it i get to that section and think “oh! dope”.
/// (FALSE STARTS)
i was trying to finalise the track ordering and realised i needed an interlude. i haven’t deliberately made any ambient since
un ep in 2019 (
rise / hold / fall from
of substance was never meant to be a finished piece). like
un ep the philosophy was “take an interesting sound, tear it up, have the pieces become something more dangerous”.
this was recorded on the evening of the friday before the wednesday. it’s all from Eurorack; my original 38hp case in a gutted DAB radio is now a portable ambient-focused system. the patch went something like: midi from Ableton → 2HP2CV → Pico Voice → Monsoon → Monotropa → Freez (in the Monotropa feedback loop).
Pico Voice is providing the karplus-strong plucks, Monsoon is glitching and reverbing them, Monotropa is doing the feedback distortion, and Freez is just there for sample rate reduction for extra gnarl on the feedback.
rhodes arps and stabs (i am not modeselektor). it didn’t end up sounding much like Modeselektor but the bloop loop did on its own.
this is probably the best song i’ve ever written, and will write for a while. i mean listen to that drop. damn girl.
the chopped vocals are from
I disappear in your arms by Christine and the Queens. i took the chorus vocals, sliced by transients, listened to every single slice and wrote down what kind of syllable it was, sorted them, put them across all 64 pads of the Push, and played them like drums over the section that wanted them.
another one that came together mostly in a single day. i had the basic loop of the samba drums and the two fighting arps down before, but no structure and no donk bass that forms the driving core of the song. i started arranging things, had a good build up going, got stuck, went for a walk, wrote in my notes “fm bass calls ‘donk donk’, kick responds, drop”, then it was all over. i think maybe there’s a music name for the thing i do where the “donk donk” comes back. but i don’t know music theory.
the title is a pun. the song is about seasonal depression. if you’re not paying attention to how the song actually feels, you might say it sounds summery. but it’s very much full of sadness and pain.
the closest i’ve gotten to like, actual house? this grew up around the mallety plinks, the bloops, and the sort of breakbeat with the finger snaps. the FM bass is an Ableton preset (99% of my sound design at least starts with presets. about 80% is just straight up the unmodified presets, which, who cares) and it’s definitely the dankest bass sound i’ve used.
there’s a very chopped up sample of
SHAME by Young Fathers in there which really just comes out as breathy mouth noises. this and the Christine and the Queens sample came from me listening to 6music and being like “that’s a nice sound. i’ll have that”.
this is the track i’m probably least satisfied with tbh. it could have done with another pass of cleaning up and adding some flourish. so could everything, but then i would never release any of it. so it goes.
i’m so so sorry Lady Sovereign. you have a great voice and it sounds so good all chopped up and scrambled. i just needed something vocal and rhythmic and almost but not quite familiar. i hope you’re doing okay. i would love to see you making music again.
i literally googled “techno drums tutorial” for this, then watched five videos and ignored them all. i think i’m recreating the progression of electronic music in my own way, because i wanna try making some DnB or garage next. i have another Eurorack system that’s meant for live techno but i haven’t played with it much yet.
mixing and mastering
it turns out these are both really hard, and i’ve avoided putting any effort into either for past releases and they’ve somehow turned out alright? but having spent at least a day mixing and mastering
IN PROGRESS has made it sound a whole lot better than anything i’ve made before. even the single releases of
SUBTLE BODY and
RARE JPEGS just sound like complete shit next to the album versions.
because i’m a goblin who knows nothing about music production all my tracks originally just had a limiter on the master channel and everything turned up to 0dB. okay look it works fine and produces a sort of okay mix level for listening back to but with wildly inconsistent levels between tracks (governed by how much sound there was being mixed down before the limiter).
i went through every track, removing the limiter and turning all the levels down, then listening through with an LUFS meter on master to get the final levels more or less the same on each track (aiming for -16dB LUFS integrated i think?). they were exported to flac and put in a single master session.
the mastering chain was just: Gullfoss, EQ with a 30Hz cut, Limiter. that’s it. Gullfoss is pretty interesting, it’s an EQ that something something 300 times per second something perceptual audio something something clarity. i sort of regret using it. overall it had basically no effect, maybe giving things a bit more space? but it also reduced a bunch of impact from the drops, and in a couple of places it did some completely fucked up things that sound awful but also like deliberate stylistic choices, like making the skittery glitch thing in
THREAT ACTORS extremely uncomfortable to listen to when it plays on its own on that one bit.
i should definitely have listened through to the entire master while tweaking the settings on Gullfoss, but by that point it was like 11pm on the sunday and i needed to get the album submitted to Distrokid that day to have a chance of meeting my fake made up release deadline of wednesday 1st june. there might be a lesson to learn here but i’m just not seeing it.