Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Jonathan Sharp aka The Heartwood Institute, prolific British composer/sound designer whose music can be found on Castles in Space, Polytechnic Youth and Reverb Worship labels (among many others).
If Secret Rites was a trawl through the pagan revival of the late 60’s/early 70’s, then Tomorrow’s people is a trawl through some of the more-out there aspects of counter culture from the early 70’s.
My way of working is based around LogicX running on an iMAC. While I use a lot of external hardware, it all gets glued together inside Logic, Likewise I spend a lot of time creating my own sample instruments with Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. These can be anything from analogue synths, my modular, location recordings, whatever….
This one is a combination of programmed soft synths ( PhonecPhosphor ), a very warped lo-fi location recording of birds and wind chimes and jamming with the modular ( live and unsequenced ) and the trusty old Sh101.
This was actually the first track written for the album and it’s built around a recording I did from an iPhone of some Morris Dancers. I bounced the audio out into Logic, chopped up the individual hits and shouts and built a kontakt instrument from it. I then made a kind of hiccupping percussion loop from it and the track slotted together pretty easily after that. A lot of the extra percussion comes from a sample set made from Akemie’s Taiko. Synths are a mixture of soft synths like Repro1 and Diva. Modular was sequenced via midi and recorded as audio – lots of warped noises from Erica Black Wavetable through Polivoks filter.
“Freedom is the man who will turn the world upside down.”
Probably the “folkiest” track, it started out as a short piece written for acoustic guitar and mellotron in flute mode. As it developed it got more electronic and messed up. There are a whole lot of noises coming out of the modular, drums too – that’s a set I built in Kontakt from Mutable Instruments Plaits.
One of the key inspirations for this album was Mick Farren’s “Give The Anarchist A Cigarette” autobiography. I was trying to capture the phun and chaos of those free festivals. I needed it to sound extremely wonky….. there’s a lot of barely controlled analogue synths, the monster warps are from Dreadbox’s Nyx and a lot of the other stuff is from a drastically abused Korg Volca Synth, again turned into Kontakt instruments.
Borrows its title from one of Mick Farren’s sci-fi books. The dialog: “You can look any way you want, try anything you want, drugs, hallucinogenics”, is from an interview with Jenny Agutter talking about Logan’s Run. Again a mixture of the big modular and soft synths, Tal’s Juno60 emulation gets a lot of use on this one.
It’s a reference to the film Performance and it probably took the longest to get right. It started life as a jazzy electric piano piece, with lots of psychedelic phasing drums, the main synths in the one are software. But there’s actually a fair bit of modular. I’d built myself a spring box with a piezo mic that triggered sounds from the modular via Mikrophonie. I also made a larger multi spring box / piezo and that’s played live through guitar effects pedals, just by hitting it with a screwdriver.
Probably the most conventional electro track on the album. The first thing you hear though, is from my DIY Atari punk synth, know as the OXO Synth as it’s built inside an old Oxo tin. Lots of modular again, this time running from midi and captured as audio. The Dialog is from a documentary about the Process Church and it’s run through software vocoder: “Love, sex, fear and death”.
Like a lot of the tracks on the album the drums are sampled from the modular, especially things like Bastl’s Tea Kick and Akemie’s Taiko.
And this was attempt to create the trippiest track, to go along with Amanda Fielding discussing her self-trepanation. Part of it is a completely random modular jam with Mutable Instruments Rings triggering from A Turing Machine, chopped up as audio and stretched to fit. There are several layers of modular, triggered as midi and captured as audio.
There just had to be a track that referenced The Hell’s Angels, they were such a visible part of the 70’s counter culture. For a relatively simple track it took a fair bit of tweaking – there’s a lot of hardware used on this, but as before sequenced via midi and captured as audio, Lots of the modular, Volca Synth, Moog Mother 32. While the notes are midi, the machines themselves don’t have clocked LFO’s so there’s a lot of chaotic movement going on. “ If the LSD don’t get us, the Cannabis will”…..
Initially recorded into logic as a complete improvised piece, I then hacked it all up and orchestrated it for several instruments. Lots of layered modular, those gorgeous strings are from the Waldorf Streichfett through the Sound Toys Phase Mistress plugin. Extra synths from Tal’s software Juno60 clone but the main melody is a patch from Zebra2 running through fxpansion Maul distortion plugin.