After finishing “Observer,” I found myself in a bit of a creative rut; following my typical process resulted in work that I felt was boring, unsatisfying, and too similar to previous efforts. I think the ease of the creation process, thoroughly lubricated and streamlined by the Maschine/Komplete Kontrol workflow, ended up ironically being a creative hindrance in some respects. By removing friction (and thereby necessary mental energy) from the creative thought process, I ended up falling into a routine, subconsciously utilizing the same techniques and sounds as always. At some point I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and dissatisfaction and frustration led me to seek new methods for creative expression.
I finally found inspiration in experimenting with Reaktor: diving into the factory library, utilizing less conventional sequencers like NOD-E and TRK01, as well as creating my own “modular” patches with Blocks, and focusing a lot more on modulation in general. There are some really cool synths and sequencers in there, much of which is reminiscent of the early days of “IDM,” which itself was also a major influence on this album. The K10K-era micro-GUI of many of the ensembles haven’t aged well, but I think the sounds themselves are still quite fresh and would probably be widely regarded if they were hardware.
Along that line, I ended up purchasing some Elektron gear as I felt their sequencing paradigm and modulation capabilities were very much in line with what I was trying to accomplish. Many of the tracks here heavily feature the Analog 4 and Analog Rytm.
History, Influences and Quality
Process aside, one of the goals of this album was to look back and incorporate historical influences – 90s Jungle and pre-commercialized Drum & Bass, as well as early IDM and the amalgamation of all of these in the tracking scene. For myself it was a formative era and I wanted to evoke the same spirit but executed with the power and tools of contemporary production.
That said, one of the issues I struggled with (as always) is mixing and mastering. To me it’s boring and tedious and it’s possible that I just don’t quite have the ear (nevermind the six-figure equipment and acoustically treated space) for it, much less the cash or patience to send it off to a studio and have it done professionally. On the other hand, part of me says maybe it doesn’t matter – it never really reduced my enjoyment listening to S3M/XM/IT modules that had absolutely no ability to apply EQ, compression or limiting. To a certain extent mixing in electronic music is an essential part of the production process, but beyond what I can do with a pair of decent headphones I don’t have a particular interest in polishing it to perfection. And maybe in some sense there’s a degree of rawness and authenticity to that. After all, I have the luxury of doing this at my own pace and setting my own goals – it’s a side hobby, not the source of my livelihood, and I’m not trying to sell this to masses or aim for DJ play in festivals or giant venues.
Hades / Life Updates
Speaking of my livelihood; it’s been a couple of years, perhaps I should include some life updates here. Work-wise I’ve been plugging away at Hades since my last update. As per usual the vast majority of my work on the game is in visual effects animation, motion graphics and UI design. These days I find that my professional work utilizes just about all of my visual creative energy; I haven’t really done much in the way of personal digital art since I started working at Supergiant six years ago, but I’m totally okay with that, and I think the reason is that it’s very creatively fulfilling. I’m constantly learning and my work reaches a much larger audience than if I were to just do my thing solo. And it’s not only satisfying to work with a passionate and exceptionally talented team that really cares about the end product, but also to see the reactions of fans and new players alike who appreciate it.
In my late teens, faced with imminent choices about choosing a path toward adulthood, I decided to pursue game development as it was one of the few things that felt real and important to me. I remember the magic of watching Final Fantasy cinematics or using summons for the first time and imagining how awesome it would be to be involved in creating something like that; to touch other players in a way that they can viscerally, even spiritually connect with and be further inspired by. And I often think, reading the reactions and feedback from our players, that we have accomplished just that. And making that connection, knowing that I’ve contributed some small part to their experience, has been profoundly fulfilling to me.
Thanks for listening, or even just reading my ramblings.
20+ years ago I put together my first website to showcase my primitive 3D artwork and host my 16-channel mods. At the time it was a source of pride and identity for me. These days it seems pretty dusty around here, as I only update every couple of years. Certainly part of that is due to the explosive expansion of the internet from a niche culture with tightly knit communities into a massively commercialized essential utility with nearly universal participation. But also very much to do with life and work, growing up, having a family of my own and more responsibilities to fulfill than an unemployed community college student.
Nevertheless, I’m going to keep doing my thing here, and I hope you can get some enjoyment out of it.
“Metamorph” releases on Bandcamp 06.23.20, and streaming services shortly thereafter.