‘One Day City’
This was an idea I had sitting about for ages. Once in a while I’d boot up the sketch and think, “Really need to do something with this idea,” then one day – hence the title – I finally got round to bouncing a simple version of just the bare kit, main synth hook and bass.
I first played it at Watergate in Berlin for one of our Retrofit label events early this summer and from that moment I knew I wanted it on the LP. There’s a great system downstairs there – it’s always a good test ground, seeing as we do label events there regularly.
So, in the end it went down well and I really didn’t want to add or subtract too much from the first version as the hooks and melodies carried it nicely – just add the tinsel and lights, as they say: pads and the vox sample to build tension in the mid section and the delayed reverse chords in the outro. I also love the slight detuning on the main keys – it always reminds me of something but I can never figure out what!
I first played it at Watergate early this summer and from that moment I knew I wanted it on the LP.
The vocal sample here was originally lifted from a pop acapella but using the Soundtoys plugins and pitch effects it’s completely unrecognisable from its original form. Something that’s a repeating element on the LP is using vocals kind of as an instrument, for texture and sound, rather than any really discernible words (hence the title here). For the actually track I wanted to include a simple groover on the LP, to be dropped between more peak time or melodic records – just a basic chugger. It’s always important to have things like this in the box for me, and using the vocal sample allowed for this. There are two brief melodic sections which just deepen it out a little using the ARP 2600 – in a way these are a nod to some of my early sounds on Compost from the mid-2000s, too.
Another element I enjoyed in this is switching the kicks from a very soft, subby longer release to a harder, more distorted one with a loud low mid. It makes a change from just dropping the low frequency out while defining breaks and sections. I had an old Dan Bell record, the Lost Traxx EP on Klang from about 97, and there’s a similar thing with the kicks going on there that I guess was the inspiration.
I love that sweep indeed. The filter envelope on the keys here is basically the inspiration for the whole thing – it just gives a wonderful rolling synth sound layered up a few times to make a cool melodic hook, with subtle variation in the chords through the track. Almost a little bit of a garage vibe going on with the riff. This one came together pretty quickly compared to many of the others that went through a few versions.
The high synth line running in the intro and mid sections is actually the same sound as the main hook but legato and using the joystick controller on the Prophet VS synth to modulate between the four oscillators, each set with a slightly different frequency to give the key change effect.
I really wanted to include one track leaning more to the disco side of my production style on this package, as since my early releases on Compost and the early Retrofit days it’s a genre I’ve not explored for a little while.
Again here I’m returning to the theme of using the voice as an instrument, but this time through the vocoder in the Korg M1 synth, which I borrowed for a while from Catz n Dogz, who are in the next door studio. It brings a nice (if not slightly cheesy, but I love that stuff) texture through the mid section and break.
Another element I like here is having the arpeggiated synth running through almost the full track as a 16th beat and modulating the decay, release and filters to go from percussive to key sounds. Also, using portamento modulation to act as pitch bending during the breaks – first slowly up, then down to its original pitch at the drop – a pretty nice way to build the tension while avoiding the normal cliches.