I fully intend to do a live-stream at some point (which I may include below if I remember!) specifically detailing some of the production decisions behind Nocturnal Transmission, but I thought in the meantime I’d take this opportunity to write a bit about how I ended up writing & producing it.I mentioned in my previous blog post that I got into a bit of a musical flow-state when writing tracks for this release, so I figured I’d expand a little on what that actually entailed.
One of the best things I find about writing music in general is that, for me, it’s primarily an autotelic process – that there is a newly created piece of music at the other end is one hell of a result but, when it’s something I truly enjoy writing, the process itself is its own reward. This was very much the case for the entirety of Nocturnal Transmission – expanding on some of the necessary restrictions enforced during my live-stream music making sessions, I ended up committing to sound choices very quickly (I’ll get to more on that in a bit). In a way, this in itself would go on to inform the direction of a track – by not spending hours and hours obsessing over individual elements I was able to get ideas down quickly and work with those initial impressions before “unravelling” them accordingly.
There was more of a reliance on established processes with this particular album than pretty much anything else I’ve worked on, which really helped to overcome any creative obstacles that might have cropped up otherwise. It also had the added benefit of totally removing any notion of worrying about how to get ideas down – the first track, Silhouette, worked as a bit of a template in this regard, and one which would form the backbone of things to come.
For most of the tracks I initially focussed on getting a good 16 bar chunk of audio to use as a backbone for the entire track. This typically involved starting with either a synth or sample of some sort, which would invariably end up getting sliced up and re-purposed into something different. Around this I would add drums from a particular palette (in this instance, mostly sourced from Wave Alchemy’s excellent Drumvolution), additional synth flourishes/arps courtesy of an Access Virus Snow Ti or Spire, some synth chord stabs courtesy of Massive, and then I’d just kind of run with whatever worked from there. It was a nice system, and one which helped me get a solid 16 bar frame-work down quite quickly.
From this point I would start to unravel the track from this 16 bar block – again, this is something I tend to do a lot during my streams, so it felt very natural to arrange these tunes in a non-linear fashion here. I’d start with the barest elements from my pre-existing block to use as an intro and work toward the point I had already established, varying elements and letting things take their time just enough to give it a bit of a hypnotic groove – hopefully without getting to boring or repetitive! Along the way I’d inevitably end up adding more parts, but all of the time I was very conscious not to go overboard with the track-count – I’m happy to admit that a lot of my releases rely a lot on creating dense textures though lots of instrumentation, but that was totally not what I wanted to go for with these tracks. This gave me plenty of space to play with really long delays, reverb washes, and so on.
Another one of the key things that differentiated my approach to Nocturnal Transmission as opposed to a lot of my other releases is that I really wasn’t worried about repeating techniques and sounds across tracks. A part of that came about as a result of not really planning on releasing it initially, but also I figured it would help the tunes sit together better as a collection if there were shared elements in there. Despite starting with essentially a blank slate with every single tune, I never felt as though I was re-inventing the wheel for the sake of it.
All of these factors came together in forming what I hesitate to call an almost methodical approach to production – an approach that, given the appropriate mind-set, meant that I could focus on exercising both compositional and arrangement creative muscles sequentially, never exhausting one before moving onto the other. This is essentially what I mean when I talk about being in a musical flow-state – that perfect balance between expression and creativity where you’re not tiring yourself out, but challenged just enough to make it incredibly fun and rewarding to work on. And it was great!
I’ve mentioned that some of these techniques may seem familiar to anyone who’s watched my recent live-stream music making sessions, but what was particularly interesting to me is that I varied my approach just enough that I would consider the resulting music to sound very much distinct from the music produced during those streams. I would imagine that having a general vibe in mind and working intensely over an incredibly tight time-frame played a large part in that – my live-stream tunes tend to go a bit all over the place stylistically, whereas this was very much a more focussed look at a very particular mood.
The “continuous mix” version of the album sort of came about after I’d finished writing the second track, In Motion. I hadn’t planned it, but I was curious as to how these first two tracks would work mixed together so I fired up a separate session to simply mix the two tracks together. It worked really nicely, and as I continued writing tracks I just kept adding them to my “continuous mix” session to see if they would work. My initial plan was to re-order the tracks to help sit better in this mix, but by the time I was finished I figured it already worked as a continuous listen… I didn’t want to overcomplicate things (again, very much the order of the day with this entire album really!), and I really liked that the tracks were just ordered chronologically in the order in which they were written. Gives it a bit more of a sense of directness, if that makes any sense.
Nocturnal Transmission is available NOW through Bandcamp. You can listen to it in its entirety and download it from my Bandcamp page. Bandcamp subscribers and Patreon supporters also get access to an exclusive audiophile master. It’s also available to stream & download from a wide variety of digital distribution outlets.