“When we first worked together on Andorra we’d bonded over a love of things like Aphrodite’s Child and the way that their mixes are really exciting,” Wrench explains. “For ‘Odessa’, a lot of it was about getting space for things and making sure that stuff really leapt out. We got it through the desk, got it sounding good, then we started playing and fiddling with it. We’d sort of do things like crazy dub mixes of it. The ‘Drumapella’ remix which came out was just me fiddling with the drums. I didn’t even know it was a remix at the time, it was just the sort of thing we were doing anyway – fiddling with the drums, then saying, ‘Is that any good? Can we use it in the real mix?’”

The main mix is really a collage of various different mixes which were quite organic, then chopped together.

“We’d do a variety of mixes with various strange things happening in them, then we’d listen back and go, ‘Oh, actually, that bar on that mix is really good. Let’s chop that into the main mix…’ The main mix is really a collage of various different mixes which were quite organic, then chopped together, so the whole thing has an organic feel to it.”

These spot effects which stand out from other elements of the mix define the continuously shifting sound of the track. Note the overdriven tape delay and reverb on the word ‘away’ at 2:27, the huge splash-like pre-delayed reverb on the word ‘I’ve’ at 2:32, the swelling then immediately cut reverb on the last line of the chorus at 3:02 and the subtly delayed and distorted percussion hit at 2:44.

While the drums and the majority of the instrumentation are in the foreground of the mix, a number of elements are also occasionally sent to a very long reverb which places them at the back of the mix. Note, for instance, the single percussion hits that commence each four-bar section, so heavily drenched with reverb that they sound almost like water droplets.

The reverbs and delays received particularly painstaking work to create sounds which pop into focus momentarily before receding back into the shadows. Wrench continues: “There’s a lot of automation on them. Some of that came already done, then we added more. There’s a lot of volume automation, lots of very tiny little things; we were deciding what should take your interest at various points, changing the focus and keeping it moving. Sounds will duck and pan out of the way for something else to come in and then they’ll pan back again. There’s a lot of movement to focus you on the key point.”

Be Bold

One of Snaith and Wrench’s main intentions with the mix was to create something ‘bold’. To this end, Wrench turned to one final secret weapon: a mysterious Russian delay unit he purchased on eBay. “I’m not actually sure what it is,” he explains, “but it’s such a weird machine. It’s a Soviet-era bucket-brigade delay, but it’s also got these buttons that seem to turn it into a phaser, or maybe a short delay with modulation on it. It’s a bit random what happens with them, so I’d just sort of fiddle with that as a mix was going down. There’s a couple of moments of madness that happened with it.”

The Soviet EKO 100 delay unit used extensively on 'Odessa'

The Soviet EKO 100 delay unit used extensively on ‘Odessa’

However, all the extreme processing employed during the mix session had one unintended consequence. “There’s a lot of panning on Swim,” Wrench adds. “We weren’t sure we’d even be able to cut it to vinyl because the bass pans a lot – not so much on ‘Odessa’ but in other places on the album. We ended up sending it to quite a few mastering places and they all said no. Eventually we found this place in Germany called Calyx and they said, ‘Fine, no problem.’ They did a brilliant cut of it.”

The initial response to ‘Odessa’ – and to Swim when it was eventually released – was generally extremely positive, but Wrench admits it didn’t quite match his expectations: “When it came out I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t kick off in the way I expected. Then about nine months later everyone cottoned onto it and it took off. I was so pleased.”

It was in the wake of this slow-burn success that Wrench himself had a late-night moment of realisation about the mix. “So many mixes are really tame and tasteful,” he tells us. “We wanted Swim not to be. When stuff came in loud it had to come in a bit louder than you felt it should.” He points out a particular synth riff late in the track which plays a swirling arpeggio down the F minor scale. The sound moves left and right to the extremes of the stereo field (a technique also featured prominently on ‘Irene’, from Andorra) and stands out loud and proud in the mix:

Synth F Minor Arp

“That synth sound is really loud,” Wrench explains. “In the studio I thought it worked well, but a year or so later I heard it for the first time in a club and it was just like, ‘Ohhh, that sounds so good!’”

Author Oliver Curry
24th March, 2013


  • Consistently super interesting column!

  • Funny how the manufacturers of the most advanced and expensive hardware have the the crappiest websites 🙂 Anyway, nice article.

  • It would be more interesting to talk about the lolbad, overcompressed master…

  • I would like to compare with the original?

  • Great article. I’d love to hear more about that funky Soviet delay unit.

  • love this series. Please break down a Tiger & Woods track one of these days !!

  • I second a break down of Tiger & Woods!

  • Excellent music journalism, thanks

  • Terrific article! One thought though, isn’t Odessa about a woman escaping an abusive relationship? That’s part of its power because she finally finds her voice – and her freedom…
    Anyway, Thanks!


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