With this track I wanted to pay homage to the golden days of jungle and drum & bass. When track counts were limited, sampler memory expensive and you only had a few instruments available. I wanted the drums to be gritty and fierce and the basses aggressive and driving, with the trumpets and piano weighing up and calming things down.
Every blog and every tutorial covering music production tips and tricks state the importance of reference tracks. For a good reason I must add, but unfortunately I haven’t applied it to my own productions. Until now. I always thought it was too fiddly and the reference tracks were always mastered and way louder, and being lazy, I couldn’t get myself to set up busses and level match and stuff. Enter Reference by Mastering The Mix
I’ve been using Levels and Exposé from the same guys before but never really saw the need for Reference. I was wrong. This thing is excellent in every regard. This isn’t a review so I won’t go inte too much detail, but basically you put this at the end of your mixing and/or mastering chain, add a reference track, press the level match button and you’re good to go. Whats especially good about Reference is that it’s multiband. Being able to solo the different bands from within the plugin is super helpful. It also shows you the perceived loudness and width per band. One thing I have yet to come to grips with is the puchdots. I get that they’re supposed to show you dynamic range in some sense, but to be honest, I don’t pay to much attention to them. I like my mixes dynamic but most reference tracks I use in the same genre are smashed to bits by a limiter so…
The second reference I want to mention is the one by Sonarworks
After demoing this I will never believe a “neutral” and “flat” headphone again. I use ATH-M40x most of the time and I always thought they sounded excellent. And they do, but they really boost the low and high end as shown in the picture above. This is a real problem since I’ve ended up cutting too much highs and lows from my productions. They sound good on systems that too use the V-shape but on a completely flat system they sound kind of, hm, muffled and midrange-heavy. What Reference does is negate the curve and flattens the response out in a really transparent way. Works both system-wide and inside of the DAW. Simply brilliant. The sound takes some time to get used to, but it’s well worth it.
I really wish I had found out about these tools earlier. But at least my upcoming track have been mixed and mastered using these tools.
The genre-agnostic track “Journey” is now out on Spotify, Apple Music and more. This track really doesn’t fit into any specific genre I think, but is a mix of several. If I had to choose a name for it it would probably be organic house.
This track started out as a remix, but since it didn’t get picked up and considering the amount of time I put into it, I decided to remix my own remix and release it myself.
Strings, pads and bass
Since this was initially a remix I already had the key and chord progression laid out, but I didn’t want to use any of the original sounds. Usually I start with drums or bass but with this tune I started with the strings and pad-sounds, which was fine for the remix but ended up getting changed later. Anyways, the string section consist of two layers, one from Massive and one from the Korg M1. The pad I created in Serum, it’s a really simple patch, just a few saws slightly detuned and a filter modulated by a slow LFO. Next up was the bassline and for that I used my Moog Minitaur. I love how inconsistent the Minitaur is, not one bounce sounds exactly like the other. It’s a saw and a square, slightly detuned and for the wobble I used a combination of LFO Tool going from 1/4 to 1/8 and automating the cutoff on the Minitaur itself. Note to self, bounce the Minitaur track separately next time since bouncing in real-time is a pain. After getting the bass and strings to work together I decided to move on to the drums.
The drums all come from Battery 4 and the Timeless Glow expansion. I usually select Kick 2 for the kicks, but I found one in TG that really worked. Not to clicky or boomy but still had a nice presence in the mix. I wanted the groove to be slightly laid back so I didn’t do 16th hats and made the snare feel really lazy when combining it with the same sample in reverse. The drum-track is really simple in this one and it was just a matter of layering and un-layering hits. There are some reverse crashes and regular crashes but nothing special at all.
I wanted some vocal elements in the track (the original was completely instrumental) and went hunting for some one shots. Found one in the TG expansion and the rest of them are from various Loopmasters packs. There’s a ton of processing going on between them. There’s some pitch and formant shifting, delays, long ass reverbs and stuff. I wanted to more or less cut out the dry signal for that ethereal vibe. When I started out there were a lot more occurrences of the samples in the track but the track was already repetitive enough in itself so I decided to cut a lot of them out.
The main “body” of the breakdown are the organs. It’s just chopped up pieces of the main chord progression. For the sounds I went with an organic sampled organ from Kontakt for the lower register and I created a patch in Serum for the top part. I think the work really well together. The Serum patch is a sinewave being FM’d from a secondary sine with some LFO-modulated filters, delays and distortion. There is also a Soundtoys Pan-Man on there.
The Minimoog-esque lead came about very late in the process. In fact, I was quite happy with the track without it but I played around in GetLow from Standalone-Music and came across this preset and I felt it really matched the organic and analog feel of the track. The lead is automated and after the breakdown, doubled. The glide was done with the pitch wheel, nothing fancy.
There were a lot of unpleasant resonances in basically all of the sounds apart from the drums in this track, so Fabfilters Pro-Q2 was heavily used all over. Pro-C2 was used for control and The Glue was being mixed into on the masterbus. Main send delay and reverb is Echoboy and Pro-R.
After The Glue I inserted another Pro-Q2 to cut the very lows and highs. There a small boost at 60Hz on the mid and at 8k on the sides with cuts at 200hz and 2k. After the EQ there is a Pro-MB in three-band mode just to control stuff in a very subtle way. For saturation I decided to try out the J37 from Waves instead of my usual go-to Saturn, and I really liked it. I’m all about subtlety on the master so the J37 isn’t doing all that much. Oh, if you ever use the J37 don’t forget to turn of the noise. I don’t really get why Waves insist of putting white noise in their plugins. For loudness I use my go-to’s K-Clip Pro and Pro-L2 and I master at -14LUFS integrated.
Name and cover
The name Journey was in part inspired by the amazing photo selected for the cover by @viska_photos. But it was also a word that resonated with me when composing the track. It just made sense I guess.
Having a day job and a baby at home really puts a dent in the production rate at the moment, but it’s all good. The studio has been upgraded with a new iMac Pro, a Komplete S49 MkII keyboard and a new OWC Thunderbolt 3 enclosure to which I migrated all project-files and sample libraries. The setup is really working great, and the UAD Apollo Twin is so much more stable then the previous Apogee Duet. Sorry Apogee, but you kinda dropped the ball.
Production-wise I have a few projects in the making. I’ve created a remix for Disconun which will be released soon I hope and I also finished a remix for a remix competition which I’m very happy with. Fingers crossed.
I also have a couple of new Matt Avall tracks in the making. Expect some deep house, psytrance and acid house coming up. There’s also a new MA track in the works in the liquid vocal drum and bass variety. I have no clue which to track to finish first though. Watch this space 🙂