After the release of the Exterior of a Heart EP, which featured a couple of remixes from my album Same Time Next Life, Alex Dowerk (who happens to play a killer solo on the Reflection II Cutting Room mix as well as several parts on the original album) suggested I take a stab at a ZweiTon remix. I was happy to give it a shot so I picked one of my favorite tracks from the record: Eis. I co-produced and mixed the album featuring the original song so I was quite familiar with the piece. The original version can be heard here. Check out my remix here.
I approached this remix as an experiment and was guided by a few ideas in order to develop the course of the project. I had recently read a quote by Brian Eno in which he said the following:
“I felt that what was very interesting to do as a composer was to construct some kind of system or process which did the composing for you.”
I think he was talking about his new generative composition app, but this made me consider ways that I have constructed composition systems in my own work. I decided to dig a little deeper into this concept for the Eis remix and let a particular feature of Ableton Live (which can easily be reproduced in other software or hardware sequencers such as MPCs) guide me in this process.
In Ableton, I took each phrase at a time and chopped them to new MIDI tracks via the “slice to new MIDI track” function. I did this in different note denominations to keep it fresh: 8th notes, 16th notes and also by transient in some cases. Once the MIDI tracks were in place with their step ladder appearance of blocks representing each audio segment, I could drag them around to create new grooves and melodic variations with the desired glitchy/disjointed effect along for the ride.
In the case of the “B” sections and what I perceived to be the chorus of the song, I simply copied the pattern I had created in one MIDI track to the other segments in its group to create a familiar sense that this was a cohesive part. This would allow the listener a chance to hear a repeated pattern (relief from the A sections) while still maintaining the movement associated with the continued nuance that the live performances presented.
Once I had the entire song chopped up to my liking, I rendered an audio track as well as a MIDI track which I would later use as a reference for drum accents and reinforcement. The audio track served as my foundation and vibe which would glue the whole remix together. I listened back a phrase at a time for what I could perceive to be new riffs and melodies which were generated by the chopping process in Ableton. This was my composition system.
I took a little creative license with what I heard in the newly edited stereo mix and also limited its role in the frequency spectrum to the mid-range so that my other elements would have some room at the party. I decided to create a foundation rhythm guitar (double-tracked left and right) with a bass line which all followed the stereo mix tightly enough to have it fill out the frequency spectrum and give it slightly less of a glitch feel. I also played two lead parts which either mirrored or accompanied these odd high frequency phrases found in the edited stereo mix.
After completing tracking, I heavily edited the timing of my playing in order to allow for the more mechanical vibe of the glitch treatments to shine through while maintaining a performance-based feel.
This system of generating a composition felt much like a faceless online collaboration in a way. Here I was being presented with a new idea through the mangled version of the original song which compelled a response from me. It saved me the stress of coming up with that initial spark, or, worse yet, the buzz kill of weeding through a bunch of ideas just to get things in motion. Overall, I am pleased to have one more tool in my production toolbox thanks to this experiment.