Each week on STEMS, we ask an artist to break one of their tracks down into its stems and reveal how they created each sound, shedding light on every nuance of the production.
This week's STEMS brings us Staten Island's Udachi. Read below as he breaks down the unique use of samples, VTS's, and Ableton Live Patches that all went into "Put Down De Bong" off his OO-DA-CHEE EP available now on Party Like Us Records:
I love hearing music that gives me visuals, wherein If I close my eyes, I start seeing characters emerge from each particular sound. That being said, working on this was like color dodge / mirrorgram app for my brain.
I was always fascinated by the older trip hop stuff, sounding so moody, out of tune and rich, using such few elements. I tried doing that completely digitally; take on the saturated analog-y sound, but making it my own.
This was all done initially with chicken bones, PVC pipes, duct tape and a dubplate cutter. Then later I decided to do it with Ableton Live 8, and some UAD (CS-1, Precision Maximizer) plugins, all VSTs and Ableton's native plugins. I don't have the luxury to become a gear head due to space limitations at this moment so I have to make due. Let me break down the reasons why I loved working on this so much, and the foundational elements that make the whole story of the song start to coalesce. I made the song a slow burner, with a thematic chord progression that would re-occur and drone out at key build times.
Chapter I - Crystal Cities:
Vocals And Plucksynth:
There's a lot of re-sampling and self sampling going on in this tune, for instance, the initial 'vocal line' is 3 sample vengeance vocal hits, looped on a vowel via the sampler in Live. I separated the sample zone into 3 different octaves, each octave containing a different vowel "aaa" or "eeey" style sample. Doing that gives me the option to switch around different sounds on one midi clip, with similar sonic qualities, but different sounding enough to give it a subtle alternating effect to keep it fresh and not too repetitive.
In that group is also a good example of re-sampling the vocal line while running it through the DR Device plugin which does sort of an analog delay effect paired with a very rezzy low pass filter that constantly modulates. I also re-sampled those sounds and stretched them out to about half time, giving it a bit of a drunk wobbly sort of effect. This particular plucky synth at :37 seconds is a sampled synth from a spooky old place on my hard drive that I don't visit anymore, reminds me of an orbital tune that might of only existed in my dreams.
Detuned Synth And Pad:
This detuned sounding pad is an Albino patch that I wrote mostly by accident and a little luck. But this is like my favorite patch in my library right now. My buddy Tone Chaser taught me this trick for fattening up and widening sounds, it involves a 3 sub channel group in Ableton, with the hi, mid, and low bands separated out, and each frequency can have it's own individual effect treatment. So on this synth, I used that, and offset panning to give it that prominence. The intro pad is a Collision patch tweaked to fit the mix better, also minimally EQed with offset panning. Those two sounds are grouped together and run through UAD's Precision Maximizer to give it that hot glue goodness.
Now all this stuff is combined, each element having its own groove and foundation of texture and melody comes together really nicely.
First few seconds in the beginning is a sample from 'Breaking Bad' when Gale has a broetry moment with Walter White. This sample bleeds over from the outro of the song from the same EP 'Learned Astronomer'.
Chapter II - Outer Marshlands:
I self recorded vocal samples of clicks and pops, the sounds was attained by flicking my cheek into a microphone. For the gremlin like stuff I did some weird guttural esoteric chanting that I don't quite remember doing, trying to mimic monks or something. The percussion with the guiro sound is a field recording plus a cowbell intro sample from a Cheech and Chong 'Up In Smoke' movie soundtrack.
Again rhythm and texture foundation create something that sounds more and more like a creaky old basement at your nans. I didn't really try to go for a clean mix on this one, I'm sure there's a ton of conflicting frequencies, but the feeling is there, and I'd rather have a bit of dirt on the overall sound. Each element went through it's own treatment and EQ'ing/Reverb/Panning, all the fun spatial tricks. I used a UAD Precision Maximizer on the drum group, just like I did on the detuned synth and pad, all it does really to my understanding is heat up the signal a little without degrading the quality of the sound that much, while making the over-all loudness of the group track more or less even, but giving it a nice subtle warmth when you start to push the saturation.
Zoom out and you begin to see crystal cities, and outer marsh lands with little creatures jumping around listening intently to the siren song from above. Each element has its own space, a call and response from the 'HOOO' to 'datataaa" spaced out over every 4 bars, it helps the song breathe and build slowly over the repeating melodic theme.
I had a lot of fun working on this mainly because all the melodic elements were there from 'Put Down De Gun'. I just got to dive in more on the texturing and massaging side. I still tend to make stiff robotic music, but songs like these really help me balance out my palette and challenge me to do something that I might not be comfortable with initially. If none of this makes sense but tickles your brain, or if it does make sense and you want to learn more, hit me up on twitter, I love explaining about the boom boom stuff, and answering nerdo questions.
Put them all together and here's what you get. "Put Down De Bong" by Udachi:
Udachi press photo courtesy of Mike Shane.