“This tune is dedicated to lonely people in big clubs who migrate from stage to stage with d phone in their hands, hoping to get a message from their loved ones or people they are passionate about.” Philipp Gorbachev talks us through his new album.
There are concept albums, and then there’s Unlock The Box. Muscovite techno producer Philipp Gorbachev describes his second full-length album as “a soundtrack to the fifth new century, a vision of a future dancefloor inspired by live shows at the Moscow nightclub ARMA17“.
The follow-up to his 2014 Coméme debut Silver Album, released on Coméme, Unlock The Box is a riot of rave-inspired synths and boisterous drums. Philipp tells us that the album was recorded in short spurts after his own live shows and is based on the idea of a core ‘matrix’ used in each track – a sequence of synth phrases which creates the atmosphere. Eschewing hardware fetishism, these synths all come from one of the most humble sources imaginable: the ‘Euro Dance Lead’ preset in Ableton Live’s Operator device.
The rest of the tracks was fleshed out later in Gorbachev’s studio. As he explains: “Drums, vocals and basslines are synthesised in a work flow from my DSI Tempest, Tom Oberheim SEM, Vermona DRM1 MKIII, and the 909 part of the Drum Machine Kit by NI, processed through an Eventide H9 and a Tube-Tech Lydcraft mono compressor, with hours of in-the-box editing and tuning, as well as the mixing magic of Phill Moffa at Butcha Sound NYC and ‘iron mastering’ by Mike Grinser at ManMade Mastering, Berlin.”
We asked him to talk us through the album, track by track.
5th New Century
This track is the opener of the album and the invitation to the ‘fifth new century’, the future dancefloor that survived because of the DJ evolution. People dance to less and less sounds – that is one if the ideas behind the record – so this track is made for the dancefloor, especially for the main stage at Outline Festival in Moscow, which was sadly cancelled. What I do live is creating cover versions on top of each matrix.
First of all for this track, I discovered this fun device in Ableton, called ‘Euro Dance Lead’. It is totally trance (and of course I love trancy dancing) and it is adjustable to any dance style as well – you can tune it endlessly. This is the instrument of the main synth sequence. It has been filtered later through the Tom Oberheim SEM and run through the tubes of the Tubetracker M1 mixing board in the District Union Studio in Berlin.
Imagine a basement with a PA on the outskirts of Moscow. Together with Interchain, we collected ideas on two Korg Electribes, Volca Bass, Yamaha DTX12 multi drum pads, Ableton and the Eowave Domino synth triggered via a white Roland Keytar, as well as different AKG D330BT mics on site. We created and recorded parts step by step, growing a selection of real-time patterns, sampled and played back with Ableton Live. We jammed with them through the speakers till there was nothing left to add.
Initially the track had a lot of vocals and even live ride cymbal lines, which were eliminated before the final composition decisions were made in Berlin. Three core elements made the mood for us: the tambourine sound (Electribe), the kick drum (Electribe and Vermona DRM1 MKIII) and the bassline (Eowave Domino). The ‘droppy’ ringtone-ish part appeared months later – it is nothing more than a lyrical side melody, played by ‘Euro Dance Lead’ plugin.
The tune is dedicated to lonely people in big clubs who migrate from stage to stage with a phone in their hands, hoping to get a message from their loved ones or people they are passionate about!
Same thing: the matrix. It is central. The rhythms are synthesised: here most of the drums come from Vermona DRM1 MKIII – for example that ‘spray’ on the snare. Pshh…Pshh… The kick drum donor is the DSI Tempest.
‘Orbit’ is obviously about an internal movement on an orbit up there in space, a loop journey without an end. And the Russian lyrics say: “How much longer?” I had to cut out the phrase: “With this language, called techno music.” Long enough to understand that techno is not about the loop…
Originally on this track, there were dreamy vocals about a red laser, lonely dancefloor stars and an emo choir in the background. They were all cut out. Radical surgery. Just the basic elements left. Matrix over all. Reduction.
Modern DJs have so many tools to adjust and play with EQ, or add custom effects to the mix, so this is another reason why most of the album is not ‘modulated’ live and all sound combinations are passive or simply immanent.
Ivan, Come On, Unlock The Box
The title track of the album. “Come on, do it Ivan. It’s time. It’s now!” A motivational riddim that was first recorded early morning in Berlin at the PG Tune HQ, initially on top of a kick drum loop and Yamaha DTX Multi 12 drum pads played on top. That was the first draft, which Nina Kraviz edited and released on трип.
As the tune became a meme and a joke in Russian, I moved on and recorded this original version with my artist friend and singer Polina. She also co-wrote and performed on ‘5th New Century’ and ‘Without You’. We used the Brauner Velvet mic at The District Union Studio at Cómeme.
The main inspiration for the final composition decisions and that jam with the rolling vocals and Vermona DRM1 snares through the Eventide H9 came after The Battles show in Berghain. It was SO EPIC. OH OH OH! The way the soundsystem has been tuned gave the show a real dancefloor feeling.
Light and Sound
We are back to the matrix game. It is all about the matrix, and finding a special relation in time between all other basic elements – the wobbling bass sampled out of my teenage jam band recordings, two kick drum types (Maschine Kit and DSI Tempest) and the 909 digital cymbal rolls. That Ableton ‘Euro Dance Lead’ plugin is just too fun to forget. Sub bass – thanks to NI. And big thanks to Phil Moffa for the mix. Love it.
To The Last Station
The first sketch for this track was done in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a flight to Australia. The Russian lyrics say: “We tune into the same stations. Again and again. Our bodies, elements are part of one space.” The snares are courtesy of a MIDI rollercoaster session on the Vermona DRM1.
The ‘ping’ sound is a mutated sample shot from a song called ‘Lombard’ by a Russian rap group called Krovostok. The tragedy of the disappeared Malaysia Airlines flight 370 really influenced me deeply… I just try to imagine a ‘ping’ from that machine, I hope it comes from paradise now. Bless.
I remember while attending the mastering sessions with Mike Grinser at ManMade Mastering in Berlin, my wish here was to carefully use the compression and low boost in order to make this track sound like it is played in an imaginary club which is five times bigger than the Berghain dancefloor. This track is available on vinyl only, by the way. 45 rpm, full side.