Metamorph – Blocks

Metamorph Blocks

As I was gathering the “Metamorph” source files for backup, I started listening to some of the half finished, in-progress ideas I had rendered out for consideration, as well as a few that were completely finished but didn’t make the cut. After hearing them with fresh ears I found it a little easier to discern the elements that I’d originally been developing in them before over-listening to the point of boredom (this kills the spark of inspiration.)

I ended up re-listening a few times and, feeling fairly certain that I wouldn’t revisit them in the future, decided to upload and share some of them instead of letting them rot hidden in the cloud for eternity. And maybe share some thoughts about them and where they fit in the path to the album. I’m going to sort these more or less chronologically.

This was started shortly after finishing “Observer” and feels to me like it would be more at home there than on “Metamorph”. Sort of a Burial x Microfunk vibe. The vocal sample seems like too much of a focal point to me, despite mixing it in at a low level, and it didn’t feel right basing the most interesting part of a track on a stock (or maybe sound pack, I forgot) Maschine sample.

Sampled some classical music here in the vein of Susumu Yokota’s lovely “Symbol” album, but ultimately felt like my sample use was a little too straightforward and not particularly creative. The vocal sample did end up granulized in “Voice of the Zodiac” though.

Prior to playing Celeste, it had been a long time since I’d stumbled across a game soundtrack that I not only enjoyed but also really connected with. I think Lena Raine‘s phenomenal work ended up inspiring parts of this; I was impressed with her use of the Monologue in the OST it got me inspired to have another go at Monark, which I previously hadn’t really had much luck patching myself. While I enjoyed this result, ultimately I don’t think this track particularly fit the broad picture sound and technique I wanted to pursue.

More “practice” patching and utilizing Monark without it dominating the track. Hot off Observer, sounds like I was still riding Maschine’s Grain Hold effect pretty hard here. Still too same-y.

I think I was pursuing two main impulses here: focusing more on negative space and minimal use of notes, and making more use of some of the softsynths I hadn’t used much in production yet. While I had a blast exploring Native Instruments’ Form and made a decent number of my own patches/presets with it, I hadn’t really featured it on a track yet. So here I was trying to build something up using mostly my own sounds.

Still trying to find a voice here, but too close to my old habits again. I worked on this with headphones one night while Marissa was watching Black Mirror S3E4: San Junipero, so it ended up as a weirdly muted background inspiration (or at the very least, a filename.)

I really enjoyed the sparse piano work in the Zelda:Breath of the Wild OST, so I think that inspired me to experiment with some playful, staccato piano here. I was also listening to a lot of Frederic Robinson around this time, so there was some inspiration from his amazing work as well. Unfortunately I don’t think this hit anywhere near the mark of either of those inspirations, so I shelved it.

Just an experiment in “virtual modular” ambient with generative melodies, plus a couple of chords granulized through Antonio Blanca’s DRON-E. I still kind of like the minimal-ness of it, but didn’t think it was interesting enough to stand on its own.

Another attempt at generative melodies (courtesy of NOD-E,) minimalism, and trying to utilize softsynths in my collection that hadn’t seen much use yet. As the title suggests, this was an attempt to make more use of Kontour. Despite being successful at all of these aspects, I don’t think the end result ended up all that interesting.

Mostly an attempt at glitchy ambient IDM in Maschine. I think absent a driving emotion during production, the whole thing ended up just sounding cold and lifeless to me.

This was part of the prototype that led to finishing “Tornadogenesis”. One sunny Saturday morning I just felt like making some crunchy, funky minimal beats. I think I knocked out like 10 or 12 a la carte drum patterns, and eventually added some of these sparse hypercompressed delayed synth lines, but wasn’t totally happy with them and how much they distracted from the drum patterns. Nevertheless I had fun recording this by shifting around the drum and synth patterns and using Maschine’s Perform FX in realtime.

Probably one of the less melodic explorations here, but one of the early sparks of direction for “Metamorph,” utilizing more generated sequences and focusing on modulation. It also felt good to break some molds and do something a little more bold, at least at he beginning. I think the title came from the Newscool preset I started with for the initial sequence.

Here I believe I had gone too far into the “make a whole song with modulation” methodology. Aside from the background ambience, it’s entirely made from my own Reaktor Blocks patches (plus one instance of TRK01 on bass duty trying to keep things orderly.) It ended up being kind of pain to control, and I think it even sounds a little out of control. By the end of it, even my OC’d 8700k was having trouble keeping up with low latency playback.

After spending a good few months with the Analog 4, I felt a little sorry for my dusty old minilogue and decided to use it for the main synth sequences on this one, plus some synthetic drums from the Reaktor Clonetonic ensemble. Sorry minilogue, this one didn’t make the cut (though you did get center stage in “A Growing Uncertainty”.)

After buying and learning Massive X I had an initial slump of disenchantment with it; it seemed like whatever I made with sounded too complicated and demanding, and few of the factory patches were inspiring (though there are some awesome ones in there.) Here I tried to tone things down and make some more simple, useful patches. I actually like how it turned out and think I found a simplicity that worked here, but didn’t feel right selling or including it on the album with the vocal sample (and also feel like the vibe wouldn’t be the same without it).

Speaking of Massive X, this one’s featuring an awesome Massive X patch that came in with a new set of factory presets. I felt this ended up a little too on the nose and predictable to fit on the album, and wasn’t sure where else to take it after a couple minutes.

This one I was working on alongside “Abiogenesis” and initially thought I might just release the two together as single. Ultimately this one felt a little too predictable and similar to warrant its own spot on the album though.

Started as another early experiment with generative melodies, this time using Reaktor’s factory Newscool ensemble (which made it into like half the tracks on the actual album). It turns out, tuning the pitches on the generators at 1px per semitone is a bit of a pain in the ass on a 4k monitor. Anyway, as the track started coming together I was happy to hear a bit of resemblance to one of my enduring favorite 90s drum&bass tracks, Technical Itch – Can’t You See (Dub Mix), and ended up intentionally taking it in that direction. But it wouldn’t be complete without a little vocal sample, would it? This one almost made it, (indeed it is finished) but again, copyright law completely aside, part of me felt wary about prominently using such a well-known vocal sample.

Making heavy use of the Analog Four & Rytm here, along with an instance of Reaktor Skrewell which until this I had never found a practical use for. Another one that almost made it; it is finished and fits thematically with a few of the other tracks. Ultimately though I think there’s a fine line between minimalism and boredom and this veered further than I would have liked into the latter, overstaying its welcome.

Went hard on a couple of impulses here: utilize underused softsynths (Reaktor Spark, in this case) and channel late-90s netlabel IDM. Despite finishing it and initially thinking it had promise, I thought I fell back into too many of my standard habits here.

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