‘New For U’
As a final example, let’s consider the fact that one of the most loved underground house hits of the last few years perfectly demonstrates the way that dynamics still have a place in modern music:
We have to take into account the fact that Andrés’s ‘New For U’ wasn’t released digitally, so any analysis will be influenced to some small extent by the turntable, stylus, pre-amp and other elements of the signal chain used to capture the recording.
Regardless of the minor colouration induced during that stage, we can immediately see a clear contrast when we look at the waveform. This is the most dynamic of all of our case studies:
‘New For U’ embraces a more rough-and-ready underground house approach, with a much wider range between the peak and average level (over 15 dB).
This helps the track work with its main sample (taken from Dexter Wansel’s ‘Time Is The Teacher’ from 1978), and proves that it isn’t necessary to squeeze everything in track to make it work. We might be accustomed to loud, heavily compressed mixes by now, but ‘New For U’ categorically proves that there’s still a place for dynamics in club music.
Taking all these tracks together it’s easy to see how confusing it can be when looking to put the finishing touches to a track (especially in the compression department). The most obvious conclusion is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to mixing dance music.
Ultimately, it becomes apparent that composition and choice of instrumentation must be right before you do anything else, but that the mix and master will then shape the sound of the track quite dramatically. In the right context, ultra-loud brickwall-limited masters can be effective, but equally so can open, dynamic mixes. Likewise, sparse arrangements can work well in some cases, but busier mixes shouldn’t necessarily be written off.
If we can take a single lesson from these case studies, it’s precisely that: context is everything. Not convinced? Imagine ‘New For U’ with the mix and production values of ‘Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites’, or vice versa…