Weightloss is my take on a melodic house song that has both elements of pop and of, less accessible sub-genres of house and techno. I wanted to create a track that is catchy, but still keeps the attention of the listener with changes in dynamics and a unique, powerful drum pattern. I took inspiration from artists who made early vocal house music, such as Crystal Waters, as well as more modern house artists like Caribou. During the compositional process of this track, I focused a lot on the mixing of the individual components, such as the drums and vocals. The groove was also very important in the composition, and I tried to choose the best possible samples to enhance the simple house rhythm at the core of the drum beat.
The first component of the track that I worked on was the chord progression. I chose a simple FM synth and tweaked it to be reminiscent of artificial bell presets on old Yamaha CS synthesizers. In the end, the synth sounded quite lush, which I thought would contrast well with harsher drum timbres well. The progression is a Dm9 to a F6maj7 repeated twice, then a Am7, Bmaj7#4, -and back to a F6maj7. To me the Bmaj7#4 (lydian chord) adds a subtle mysterious feeling to the chord progression, while maintaining an overall uplifting feeling as the 7th intervals rise. Once I wrote this progression, I came up with a melody using a simple sine wave through a resonance filter and vibrato. The effect is somewhat like a kid’s toy piano flute preset. It is coherent with the clean aesthetic of the track, and blends in well with the other synthesizer.
The drum loop is danceable and simple. It stands out very strong against the chords in the background, becoming the focal point of the mix. I used vintage compression and very light distortion to make it sound crisp and almost lo-fi. I tried to make the drum pattern similar to very early house beats from artists such as Jeff Mills. I used sidechain compression on the vocals and synth from the kick drum track. This makes the whole song sound like it’s pumping along with the drums. It is a common technique in modern techno, but in this context it invokes early house music.
The vocal track is made up of 3 harmonies of my own voice. I used a subtle phaser to add a watery texture. When the vocal track comes in, I decided to switch the bell synth for a simple sine wave playing the same chord progression. This synth is sidechained to the quarter note kick drums as well. The vocals were sung in a catchy pop melody. I added in distortion during the bridge to create a change of texture and some high-end. The entire track utilizes repetition in the way that a house song would, creating a hypnotic four-to-the-floor headspace.
“Ford ’98 Taurus”
I went into writing this piece with the goal of creating a stylized, abrasive, and melodic sonic landscape. I was inspired by modern plunderphonics and experimental electronic production, as well as the 1990s digital revolution. The timbre of the production was based loosely on the digital artifacting and clipping that I associate with broken digital technologies from cyberpunk aesthetics. To achieve this, I used samples of early 90s trance and house synth stabs and added a rudimentary digital pitch shift effect set to 1 octave above. Cyberpunk was most prevalent in pop-culture during the early 90s, therefore I chose to use a Roland TR-909 as the drum machine with a bitcrusher to add digital and artificial-sounding distortion. The synths were mixed to be abrasive and cut through the mix.
I think of the Internet and technology in the 1990s as being imperfect, messy, and somewhat enigmatic. I tried to reflect that in the choice of synths and drums, as well as in the composition of the melodic lines. After playing the melodies on my MIDI keyboard, I adjusted the timing of certain notes in my DAW to make them off-beat. Some were adjusted and some were left on-beat, creating a disorienting and messy effect. Once the melodic lines loop and layer over each other, it creates a confusing and messy soundscape. This is intended to be abrasive, yet through the wall of digital artifacts and delay, harmonic themes appear.
My intention was to challenge the listener to recognize melodies and harmonies within a chaotic and loud space. Melodic beauty that appears unobscured is far less satisfying than melodic beauty that needs to be sought out within an abrasive soundscape. For the first half of the track, a tension is maintained through the distortion and off kilter synth lines. Once the vibrato FM synth chord progression is introduced, there is a resolution as the intensity lets up. I find that FM synths invoke old 16-bit video games, and pitch vibrato creates a subtle dissonant and intoxicating effect.
The track finishes by bringing back the intensity and the initial melodic themes. The drum & bass influenced drum-beats continue and the track reaches a climax. Additional reverb is added to some drum loops to create the effect of an underground rave. The aesthetic remains very synthetic and cold, but the rhythm adds a danceable and frantic element. The goal of this project was to create a world-building, coherent track that invokes imagery of chaotic technology from the past and future.