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Terminal Viscosity
       
   

A while ago, while generally messing around on a guitar I came up with a fairly simple chord sequence I quite liked. I started off in A Minor, and just started moving up the modes, so a chord in A Minor, then a chord in B Locrian, C Major... you get the idea. I messed around with this for a while, throwing in some different rhythms and an arpeggio or two, and then more or less forgot about it.

Then I was reminded that the Bass League contest was coming round again. And since I hadn't even entered the one previous, I was facing automatic relegation if I didn't do something. But I figured it had to be pretty good, since the last time I entered, I won the top league... and this chord sequence came back to me.

Now, I generally find the best way to write a song is to start recording it. It allows you to hear the piece objectively, and also to grab a different instrument and play along with yourself. So I grabbed a microphone, and recorded this acoustic guitar line...

There was a certain perverse appeal in combining the traditional acoustic guitar sound with an electronic glitch style drumkit, although after some experimentation decided that a more minimalist approach to the glitch kit would work better. However since the other keys the guitar chords were in were all modes of the A Minor scale, the bassline could sit quite comfortably in A Minor underneath each part of the chord progression.

For some reason, the chorus of 'Stockholm Syndrome' from Muse's Absolution album popped into mind as I considered what to do with the chorus. If you've not heard the song, it has this feeling of breaking through the rough riffery of the rest of the song, into a smooth yet fast lighter sounds. It's always reminded me of breaking through stormclouds to the sunlit, silent world above the clouds.

This in mind, I opened up the NN-XT sequencer, and brought about piano. Panning was used to seperate the lead line from the backing chords, and lend a little distinction, and some reverb was used to allow the piano to fill more sonic space. The bassline here is doing what the piano part was originally intended to do, before I got carried away throwing in rhythmic and melodic variations.

For variations in the verses after the chorus, I started out using the piano synths I already had set up to effectively play the acoustic guitar line. This combined rather well with the actual acoustic guitar line, and before long I had them playing off each other, and combining to created a thicker sound.

When I thought about ending the song, a variation on the guitar riff I'd come up with initially came to mind. But I didn't want any kind of conventional transition into it... so I decided to record it rather heavy, with a punkish rawness, and spring into it unexpected.

Some rather complicated automation had the last verse fading out as the level of artificial bit-crushing and digital corruption slowly increased, leaving only a sine-wave, pulsating with bursts of overdrive. From this apparent ending, the... loud finale began. The use of the steady 4/4 dance beat allowed a really sudden and cohesive sounding start to this section, despite the guitar part itself being rather sloppily recorded.

Mastering was light - slight compression - and by and large I had been mixing as I went along, so very soon after recording the last part, the final track was complete.

 

Enjoy.

 

 
       
 
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