René Kristensen talks us through the making of his hotly anticipated debut album, forthcoming on Noir Music.
‘Black’ featuring Caitlin
Originally Caitlin sang this song to a different backing track. I loved the words and the way she sang it, but didn’t feel the music and vocals were the perfect match, so I started making new music around the vocals and the whole feel and melody changed completely. I had two ideas for this song. The first was a soulful vibe I came up with by playing the Rhodes and the other was quite different, with the old-school lo-fi arp running. So rather than pick one I decided to put them together and use the arp idea as a surprise element in the song.
I spent a lot of time over-producing the song to make it sound under-produced.
The arp is played via Sylenth. It’s not an arp that comes with the plugin – I bought about 40 or 50 external soundbanks for Sylenth as I find the synthesiser very powerful yet super simple. Adding new soundbanks is easy and can give you a feel of having an entirely new synthesiser at hand.
I spent a lot of time over-producing the song to make it sound under-produced. I wanted it to sound gritty and old school, which can be hard with the ‘clean’ equipment producers have today, so I used EQ and saturation effects from Ableton, and on some of the synthesisers I added slight distortion. I also used a random audio loop to make background noise.
The lyrics and feel of this song made it the perfect opener for a Noir album.
‘Around’ featuring Hayze
The instrumental of this was made in 2010 and it was released as a single in 2011, so this is the oldest song on the album. It has been revisited a couple of times to make it flow and sound better than the 2011 version, but I wanted to keep the original feel of it, so I tried to not change too much.
I wanted to keep the original feel of it, so I tried to not change too much.
It took me forever to hunt down Hayze for this one. I knew he would be perfect for it and we had a phone conversation (he is from Malaysia) in 2010 about it, just to agree what kind of song we wanted to end up with. This is one of the few vocals on the album which worked straight away and didn’t change from the first demo. Hayze nailed it first time around. I think he is generally a one-take singer.
‘Let It Go’ featuring Caitlin
This song is really special to me. Once again Caitlin sang the lyrics to a different backing track and I changed the music completely afterwards. It was originally a 4/4 track, but I felt the music needed to be more emotional and slower to better suit the fragile vocals. This was one of those ping-pong songs, with us sending it back and forth between Aalborg and Berlin to get it completely right.
Caitlin and I have a rare chemistry. We inspire each other to go that extra mile to make it perfect.
I asked Caitlin to change the rhythm of her singing on the new version and she totally understood my ideas: I couldn’t have asked for a better vocal. This song made me realise that Caitlin and I have a rare chemistry. We inspire each other to go that extra mile to make it perfect. I guess that’s why I ended up changing the music completely on both the songs we created together.
‘Real’ featuring Symbol
This song came together rather quickly. It’s one of those that just sounded great being simple and true to the 4/4 beat and bassline. I contacted Symbol as I felt he was perfect suited to a straight groove and he did not disappoint. Another one of those songs that needed a lot of ping-pong between us until it was 100% there. Luckily Symbol just kept going until we both felt it was perfect and I love him for it. For reasons I can’t really explain I always knew this would be track #4 on the album. It reminds me of track 4s on various albums I have loved and listened to a lot to over the years. It’s hard to explain, but to me it makes perfect sense. For that reason this song is very special to me.
‘Found Out’ featuring Richard Davis
Every year when the fall marches in and it gets dark early in Denmark I start listening to and making darker and deeper music, and that’s exactly what happened in the fall of 2011 when I made the backing track for this song. Once again I knew exactly who I wanted to sing on the track. As with Hayze it took me a long time to track down Richard Davis, but I am so happy I found him, got in touch and started working with him. I love everything about his tone, harmonies and songwriting and just as I predicted he made ‘Found Out’ the dark song I had hoped for. The song has been revisited since 2011 but the original feel has been kept 100% intact.
‘Time’ featuring HRRSN
When I had finished the backing track for this I knew it would be hard for someone else to write on it, so I was very impressed when I heard the first ideas from HRRSN. He understood the dynamic and swing of the track and after sending ideas back and forth between us I realised we had something pretty special. It almost feels like an R&B song, with heavy hip-hop beats and inspiration from my R&B and hip-hop days. I hear everything I loved from the dark and different R&B I fell in love with back then and I am still amazed that HRRSN and I unintentionally managed to capture that spirit.
It almost feels like an R&B song. I hear everything I loved from the dark and different R&B I fell in love with.
I listened a lot to Timbaland’s productions back in the days: Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, Aaliyah and his own stuff. But also the heavy and simple beats that Dr Dre would always end up with on productions for artists like Mary J Blige, Snoop Dogg and Eve.
When I created the chord progression on Time i didnt feel the typical 4/4 beat suited the backing track. It’s also 112bpm, which kind of screams for a more funky groove, and I didn’t want to speed it up. So I added different drum sounds that I felt suited the music and just started playing around with it on my Ableton Push. For that it’s very creative and functions just like a drum machine, so I played patterns by hand until I felt I had something suitable.
I guess ‘Time’ is a combination of those influences, now I think of it. But it all happened subconsciously; it wasn’t something I planned, sampled my way into or just tried to imitate.