I recently received an e-mail from one of my lovely Bandcamp subscribers about a couple of subscriber exclusive albums I’ve released over the years.
“Hi, Mr. Fielding. I’m a subscriber of yours on Bandcamp, and that’s given me access to a lot more of your great music. Some of my favorite exclusives have to be the albums ‘Apparitions’ and ‘Call of the void’. I was wondering if you could give any insight into your process when creating albums like those, specifically about the composition and sound choice/design when making that kind of ambient music. If not, that’s fine. Looking forward to your next release. Thanks. “
If you haven’t heard either of these releases, then I wouldn’t blame you – they’re Bandcamp subscriber-exclusive releases. That said – you can listen to four of the eighteen tracks from Apparitions using this handy player and, if you subscribe, you’ll get access to both of these albums (along with a ton of other stuff) in the format of your choice.
As I got into writing up a proper reply, I realised that it was a really interesting topic to touch upon – these two albums represent two of my personal favourite releases, and I’ve never really talked about them a whole lot due to the nature of their release. As a result, I decided it’d be neat to share my response in a more public manner. So – here’s my response in full:
Hi, thanks for getting in touch! I’d be more than happy to talk a bit about those albums, those are a couple of my personal favourites so it’s really nice to hear that you’ve been enjoying them as well.
Apparitions was a bit of an experiment for me – generally speaking, January can be a bit of a creative slump for me so I figured it’d be interesting to see if I could get over that by writing a series of quick sketches that were loosely tied together. I had previously worked on a production album for licensing with a focus on moody ambient drones, and I thought it’d be interesting to work with a similar palette. For most of the synths I ended up using PolySix as it’s incredibly quick to dial in a sound, and for a lot of the atmospheric sounds I ended up delving into my own personal patch library alongside some ReFills by New Atlantis Audio. Beyond reverb and delay, there’s not a lot going on in terms of effects processing. I always find that working with a set palette makes it much, much easier to get ideas down quickly as I’m not having to think about which instrument to turn to for a particular task.
Due to the nature of the sketches, I wasn’t afraid to rely on presets outside of the PolySix and, while I felt it was important to give each idea time to develop, I didn’t want to linger on any one idea for too long. This is why most of the tracks are about 2 – 3 minutes long – I have a habit of over-thinking ideas if I linger on them for too long, and the quick turn-around on these tracks meant that I had already moved onto the next idea before I was able to start doubting myself. You might have noticed that most of the tracks follow a similar symmetrical structure – they’re all based around a single idea that builds up and fades out, really simple stuff from an arrangement perspective, but effective in this context. I think this is trickier to pull off with longer form ideas, but the short nature of these tracks made it much easier.
It also helped that I had some interesting ideas that I wanted to express with these tracks before I started working – the creative juices were flowing, and having a sonic blueprint-of-sorts to work from in the form of the old production album gave me an idea as to how it would turn out. I’m a big fan of spontaneity in music, and the creation process of this project was incredibly spontaneous – I strongly suspect this is why I’m really happy with how it turned out. There’s a tendency to burn-out when working on projects for an extended period of time, so removing that aspect entirely helps to keep it feeling fresh.
Call Of The Void used an entirely different palette entirely, but it was written very much with the same approach in mind – this time around, all of the tracks were recorded live using a very slim selection of hardware. I was using a Monotribe alongside a Volca Keys & Volca Bass, along with a MiniKP for effects. Very simple, very straight-forward set-up, and for a lot of the tracks I only tended to use 2 devices at a time. With CotV I’d end up sequencing a couple of simple patterns with these devices, then I’d just hit record and record a take. Unlike Apparitions, this meant that I couldn’t go back after I’d recorded a take – it was all audio, so what you hear is exactly how it was recorded during a single take. I ended up taking a very similar approach with Liminal, although Liminal brought in a Volca Sample which opened things up quite a bit, but even then I decided to limit myself to the sounds I had loaded on there at the start. While Apparitions was written purposefully to power through a potential creative slump, CotV came from a bit of a darker place – hence the title of the album and the track titles.
I find it really interesting that you’ve highlighted those two albums as I’ve never really thought about them as companion pieces before now, but having written this out I can absolutely see where you’re coming from, and it’s really interesting for me to see the parallels between them in terms of how they were put together.
As you can tell I could probably talk about this stuff for days, but I feel like I’ve already rambled enough! Thanks again for getting in touch, and if there’s anything in particular you wanted me to talk about or explain I’d be more than happy to do so.