We’ve covered a lot of ground here on LAYERS, picking apart songs of every production style from hip-hop to house to ambient music, but once in a while we get to travel to new territory, and this right here is once in a while. It gives me great pleasure to share with you the breakdown of a song created by Disasterpeace sampling his own original soundtrack to Fez, a wildly popular Xbox game that came out earlier this year.
“Glitch” is a one-of-a-kind track—a sort of Frankenstein pieced together from the various blissful soundscapes of Fez and given life by Disasterpeace’s own versatility and ingenuity. Here’s how the artist himself describes it.
“Glitch” was a really fun song to make. I don’t typically mess a whole lot with sampling or glitch effects, but that’s pretty much all this song is. Every element you hear in the song is originally from another song on the Fez soundtrack. The concept was designed to mimic the level in which the music takes place. You enter this space where the entire screen is rapidly cycling through different kinds of tiles, and it has this glitchy, seizure-inducing effect. I figured that sampling and glitches would be the best way to tap into that feel.
That sounds so damn cool. Let’s dive in.
The source for the bass and drums is taken straight from “Sync,” which ends up being the sister track to “Glitch” for this reason. On the album, “Glitch” immediately follows “Sync” and together they make a sort of longer, extended track. At any given time you are hearing up to five versions of the sync rhythm section, all panned, glitched and EQ’d in various ways.
“Sync” Rhythm Reversed
This is probably the single most effected track in the whole song. It uses the same source as above, but it’s reversed, bitcrushed, and gated. There’s a bit of reverb added and some weird effects from the Logic Pro Pitch Correction plug-in, but the main source of the sound here is the SonicCharge Bitspeek plug-in, which mimics the LPC synthesis found in old toys like the Speak & Spell.
I wanted some percussion from a secondary source, so I jacked the beat from “Home,” and peppered it with gratuitous amounts of delay, beat-repeat, and bitcrushing. The original beat is comprised of your typical but ever-so-handy Roland style kit.
This bounce is made up of elements from three other songs. The periodic noise blasts are from “Knowledge.” The weird warbly thing was originally a pad-like sound from “Puzzle,” but you can really hear the tape warping style effects that cover the entire song on it because it’s a pretty stagnant sound source. Around 50 seconds you can start to hear what I like to call “Bats,” which is something that plays in some of the graveyard levels in Fez, and is a part of the track “Fear.”
“Glitch” features snippets of melodies from three other songs, “Puzzle,” “Forgotten,” and “Beacon.” The “Puzzle” and “Forgotten” segments are straight samples, but for the “Beacon” melody, I wanted to get the timing and notes just right, so I used the same synth patch as the original, wrote a slightly different line, and then glitched it up a bit. The patch is for Native Instruments Massive, which incidentally is what I used to make about 85% of all of the sounds on the Fez soundtrack.
This track has bass hits from a piece of music that is not on the soundtrack called “Loom,” that you can only hear in the game, in a very particular level. There is also some bass sampled from “Puzzle” towards the end.
There are a couple of tracks on the soundtrack that I lean heavily on for this piece, and here that’s no different. The first section of chords you hear is from “Forgotten.” As the track progresses you also hear chords from “Beacon,” and some pulsing parts from “Sync” that I lovingly called “Reich” (Steve) for reference purposes. You’ll also notice that this and some of the other tracks have harsh cuts in them, and that was intentional. There are some breaks here and there to let certain elements fall back while others take the spotlight.
Glitch Passes (1 Example)
I did five glitch passes in all, and they each sound kind of hilarious on their own. The trick was to pick out sections of each that sounded best. I decided to double the length of the track to use the results of the passes for a glitched out ending. All of the glitching in this song is done by SupaTrigga, a fantastic little free plug-in. For these additional glitches, I ran the entire mix through the plug-in five separate times with different settings, to get lots of variations and glitchy ornaments. After doing that, I cut up each of the five versions up beat by beat and snatched out the sections from each that I liked, to make a sort of “freestyle” version of the first half of the track. In the final version there’s no overdubbing of these glitch passes, just one at any given time.
Once I got together all of the glitches I liked, I played with the chord progression a bit, to let the second half stand out even more from the first. After that, it was just a matter of pasting the two versions together.