Initially, I really struggled with Ableton Live, but I also really felt like I was making some big improvements – until I got down to business on this remix. I slowly chipped away at the remix after every class, trying to employ as many of the things we learnt into the project. The final week of classes, we remixed a Queen track, and I was given feedback that the groove of my drums didn’t really lock with the grooves that Queen had played. This was really eye-opening and unfortunately, on listening to my progress on the remix, I started from scratch.
I learnt more this week about time management than I did about remixing. While I had a week to re-do the remix, I found myself going around in circles and unhappy with the results. I had intended to create an industrial-style electronic song, and while I retained some of that in the depth and space of the synths and reverbs, the remix didn’t end up sounding how I heard it in my head. I really struggled with such quantized information – it feels weird not having the option to change into ‘Slip’ mode like in ProTools, but rather shifting to the bars. It really drove home the importance of carefully looped and warped audio.
I also struggled with how compressed some of stems I received were, because Live struggled to pick out the transients and admittedly I wasn’t sure how to create markers like in ProTools. I feel like more dynamic tracks would have been easier to work with in Live because of the transients. I struggled so much with setting up the loops for the project that I didn’t give myself enough time to write something – and ended up with a short remix that has a few similar sections that change every 4-8 bars and repeat a lot. There’s not a lot of melody, but I’d intended to use more of the original track than I ended up using. I used the ‘Simpler’ sampler to create a short vocal part, more so as a percussive instrument than melodic.
In conclusion, I’ve got a lot to learn. It’s important to listen to your music as subjectively as possible while retaining the creativity. A big roadblock for me was using a program that I’m not familiar with, and I really struggled to make something I’m proud of in hindsight. I need a lot more practice on Live, as I can really see the benefit in using a program, if not for triggers and samples on recorded acoustic drums, but also as a texture for acoustic music.

Sampling in death metal

We’ve been working with samples in class lately, and controlling them with Live’s Simpler and Sampler. Controlling and manipulating samples in this way is not something I’ve done before, and is not conventionally how samples are used in heavier metal music. However, I can really see the benefit of having such control over sounds, either as a feature in a track, or for textures beneath acoustic and amplified electric instruments. I’ve analysed two songs from artists that I listen to with new ears after understanding how samples can be manipulated and triggered in Live, Dimmu Borgir’s “The Serpentine Offering”, a heavily symphonic track, and Aborted’s “The Origin of Disease”, which features triggered and sampled drums that I’m more conventionally used to. Analysing these tracks will come in hander with my remix of Abinsthius’s “The Sowers of Discord” as Absinthius use similar samples to Dimmu Borgir and Aborted, such as replaced drums (in Abinsthius’ case, fully programmed drums) and orchestral samples to give songs depth.
Dimmu Borgir “The Serpentine Offering”

Aborted “Origin of Disease”
Dimmu’s track opens with about a minute of orchestral music created with samples and breaks into a heavily sampled, robotic, kick-driven intro. While Dimmu Borgir’s members play electric guitars and bass, these instruments really make way for the orchestral sections and the guitars can clearly be heard dropping in and out to make way for the orchestral sections. The orchestras really change the feel of the different parts of the song, and when the orchestras drop out, it’s to make way for a more conventional ‘rocky’ riff or breakdown. The orchestras give more of a sense of space and grandeur. The orchestras may be real orchestras sampled, pitched and played similar to Live’s Sampler, or they may be virtual instruments. Aborted’s track, however, kicks into a more traditional death metal blast after a short fill. Despite such a busy mix, the sampled and replaced snare, kick and toms can still be clearly heard. The click kick drum is particular to death metal as the bottom end thump of an acoustic kick quickly gets lost. The guitars in this track are recorded with microphones on amplifiers, but the guitars were also re-amped using software played through an impulse response (e.g. a sample of a room, to give the robotic software some depth and space). Impulse responses are similar to convolution reverbs, in that they emulate a space, or in this case, the character of a specific speaker cabinet in a space.
The Aborted track is more contemporary, while The Serpentine Offering is older and kick drum is very robotic and very clicky/high in the mix. Aborted’s snare and kick is more ‘real’, while still click enough to fit in the death metal style. Dime’s kick drum is more obviously sampled but they need to stick out in a thick mix, and is more telling of a time when sampled kicks were overused. Aborted songs are very chaotic and busy, they need samples to help parts stick out. Because Aborted are a more contemporary band (though both bands are still active), the kick and snare in particular sound more ‘real’. I believe the snare in Aborted is 100% sampled, however in the video below you can see that drummer Ken Bedene’s playing has not been sampled too heavily and over-quantised. Ken also discussed the triggers on kick and snare, feeding MIDI direct to the DAW for re-sampling later on (skip to about 4:10) for the trigger discussion and 00:35 onwards for Ken’s drumming)

ABORTED – ‘Global Flatline’ Studio Webisode #1 (2011). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvqLbInzndg

DIMMU BORGIR – The Serpentine Offering (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) (2007). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAmMcBQavKE

ABORTED – Источник Болезни (The Origin Of Disease) (OFFICIAL VIDEO) (2012). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_7ZDTU6Em0

The Sowers of Discord REMIX

I’ve chosen to expand my horizons a little and remix a song called Sowers of Discord (SoD), written and recorded by my friend Paul Blomfield for his solo project, Absinthius, off of the album IX. SoD is a 7 minute song and I don’t intend to remix the song start to finish, more so to take more specified sections and elaborate on them in a more electronic fashion. I’m citing Justice as a major influence in the remix, hoping to imitate the way they sample traditional rock sounds (acoustic drums, overdriven guitar, slap bass) into undeniably electronic music.
Paul plays a seven string guitar tuned to A (110Hz), so the guitars hold a lot of weight in the bottom end of the mix. A kick sample will need to be very bottom heavy to cut through, so I’m leading towards an 808. To retain a similar timbre to Paul’s original, I’ll also focus on finding a tight, sharp snare sample. However, I won’t necessarily use a snare – I may use a clap or other found sound that imitates the character of the snare in relation to the song and groove. Bass will need to be thick, present and groovy – a traditional synth at a very low octave maybe? Overall the mix will need a lot of ambience with the help of sparse drums, reverbs and delays. Tonally, I’d like a metallic, industrial sound.
As far as arrangement goes, a lot of the song is particularly dense and very ‘metal’ sounding. I’ll have to choose specific sections and hooks to focus on to create a more spacious and electronic remix. At about 4:30 the song begins to display some of the space characteristics I wish to elaborate on – hall reverbs and delays. The vocals will be difficult to incorporate, however I may use them as background ‘noise’ than a focus in the remix. Paul has left artistsic interpretation open to me and while he’d love to hear the finished project, has no qualms having the song flipped on its head. There are no parts to the track that he wishes to retain or exclude.
In conclusion, I will be aiming for a particularly deep, industrial sound with plenty of space and rock characteristics arranged into a more traditional electronic groove.