Working on a project where you try to merge popular dance music with electroacoustics can be a challenge. I know, many producers of popular music currently use ‘strange noises’ in their works and the production of dance music requires knowledge of a lot of sound technology. But I am one who works from the other end of the rope: I start as a composer of electronic music and incorporate rhythm into an abstract structure. That is what Radio Dub  Soundtrack is about.

It’s no easy task, since I need to master the rules of popular music production, AND then include it into my bigger picture. I have now some 120 minutes of material and am in the process of compacting, selecting and pumping up the sound. The latter is important in order to fire up the rhythm section. It only starts to really work when you make it big.

I will guide you through my work of the past few days. I am working on a slow rhythmic track that has a large bass blow (simple low frequency sine) at the start of each measure and then some 4/4 interplay of other percussion. All of the percussion has been hand crafted from fairly standard sounds. Each measure contains a male voice (derived from Pierre Henry’s Apocalypse, track 1, the text seemed appropriate somehow) cut and edited.

Here’s a snippet of where I was at the beginning of the section.

Sound file 1

This is just a tiny few measures but it gives you an indication. I had two problems with this: one, it was too much like a simple beat thing, and two, as a simple beat thing it didn’t sound ‘cool’ or ‘phat’ enough. I tried working it up with compressors and different other things but then it was still like the first problem. I have been working on this for a week on and off, gradually hating it more and more. “What is not right about it?”, “What step do I take to make it more something of myself?”. I also started going to and fro with different parts in the total structure (where this composition is placed in context with other works). I moved parts, entered more silence, tried adding layers.

Then I returned to an old technique that I had not used for a while: spectral editing. I started an Adobe Audition session where this works very well. The first picture shows the spectral of the above mp3 sample. Spectral viewing can help working on sound quite well. What you see is from left to right the time line, down are the low frequencies up are the high frequencies (up to 20, 000 herz). Bright yellow are the loud frequencies and dark blue are the soft ones. So you can see what frequencies are loud and which are quiet at what position in time. You can see the frequencies, you see the bass synth regularly positioned, etcetera. So this was the part that didn’t do it for me. So then I started working with that in Audition. This application has a feature where you can map a certain part of the spectrum and just work within that time and frequency zone. With trial and error I came up with this.

As you can see I few things happened here, it looks like it’s been shot at. In a way that’s what I did. I removed certain frequencies and enhanced others. So now this is what you hear.

Sound file 2

That’s a bit closer to what I am doing when it’s not rhythmical. This spectral path will certain help further down this road. Will keep you posted, as usual