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LAYERS: Rediscovering The Sounds Of S.Maharba's "For Someone (Abandonment)"

Breaking down an ambient track from an incredibly ill UK producer.
03 December 2012, 7:01pm

S.Maharba is a British producer whose music matches perfectly with the alluring black and white photographs of women’s faces he pairs them with. There’s deep intrigue in every one of the myriad sounds layered into each of his tracks. While that usually signals the entry of a wayard, off-beat rhythm, Maharba opts to use good, dirty hip hop beats that serve as a satisfying crunch when they drop. However in the track he’s provided us with for today’s LAYERS is a sweeping melody forever awaiting that beat drop, reaching the end and finding out the tale was never meant for it in the most satisfying way. Here’s his take on it.

This track is a couple of years old to me now and I can't remember exactly how it came about. It was definitely a turning point for me in terms of changing into the kind of music I wanted to make from what I had been making previously and as I am getting older I'm forming a lower tolerance for abrasive and obnoxious music but I also have little to no interest in the wishy washy, perfectly polished sop that I hear a lot of at the moment. With that in mind, I just turn myself off to what everyone else is doing and try to make something that I can enjoy myself. It’s always been a completely selfish venture, making music for myself to enjoy, although originally I only started making my own music and records because I like designing album covers for them.

The main sample that loops in the background is a chop from a Vashti Bunyan song which I had been playing around with for a while and knew that I wanted to use it for something, I could never have expected that it would end up sounding like this. The song turned out to be a very different style from anything else I had ever made, not only that there are no drums but also something about the way it drifts along without any urgency or forced emotion. It's the sort of track that doesn't command attention, it doesn't care if you're listening or not, and if it were played over a crowd of people chatting to each other, I doubt that anyone would stop to listen. It's for the solo listener, sitting perfectly still, without distraction or a care in the world.

Root Sample

The song starts with a chopped sample arrangement from Vashti Bunyan's "Here Before." This is really the root of the whole song. Everything added on top is just an extension of the vibe that this loop projects. It provides a simple foundation and gives room to develop a deeper progression as each layer is introduced. Three sections are cut and arranged into a five bar loop, which loops for pretty much the duration of the track. Apart from cutting re-arranging and looping, there's no effects added just some EQ adjustments.

Omnichord Sonic Strings + Organ

The Omnichord is a great little instrument and I've put it to use in a few other songs. It has an organ sound which plays your root note then has an electric harp type sound (it’s called “Sonic Strings” on the unit) which is played by stroking your fingers up and down a metallic plate. I recorded each sound separately in a different track as I wanted to add reverb to the strings but keep the organ dry, apart from the reverb on the strings there are no other effects and both parts were recorded with a microphone placed directly upon the omnichords onboard speaker and straight into Ableton. The Omnichord I use is a Systems Two OM-84.


This is another sound I've used in other songs. It's just an electric guitar running through a bunch of effects; a bass synthesizer, reverse delay, reverb, and straight delay. The bass synthesizer effect has a slow attack which lets the note being played quietly fade in, which gives it a kind of swelling/yearning effect and sounds a bit like a whale crying. The guitar I use is a Fender Telecaster. I can't really play, I just use it to make noises like this. I use heavy gauge strings and the guitar is white.

Acoustic & Synth Bass

I'm really not into heavy bass stuff, I usually just use a heavy 808 kick but there are no drums in this song so I really needed to use something else to add some beef and texture. This is a combination of some acoustic bass note samples and the Tal-bassline VST.

Vocal Sample

The vocals are sampled from a song called "I Realized You" by Wendy & Bonnie from their album Genesis_. I have a huge soft spot for this kind of 1970's female folk and had attempted to use these samples in other tracks that were never completed, scrapped, or forgotten about. They were pretty much in pitch (to my untrained ears at least) but needed some warping and stretching to fit with the rhythm of the rest of the track. They sound pretty weird on their own in this warped state but in bleeds in with the other instruments and sounds. There is some EQ'ing and delay effects added._

After Sample

The whole thing draws to a close and ends with an after sample from a mad record called "The Wozard of Iz" by Mort Garson. There are a couple of really a nice tracks on there called "Big Sur" and "I've Been Over The Rainbow" which I had heard in a few mixtapes which lead me to picking up the record to check out the rest of the songs. This sample comes from the end of the track "Blue Poppy".

Put them all together and here’s what you get. "For Someone (Abandonment) by S.Maharba)

Special thanks to Justin Staple and Ounce.