Remixing ZweiTon’s “Eis”

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.

2 thoughts on “Remixing ZweiTon’s “Eis”

  1. Very interesting to read about your process, Adrian, and the remix (and the orginal version) is a beast! It’s interesting to read about how your use of this more abstract approach has opened up new possibilities for you. As you know I am working with generative strategies quite a bit, and find it liberating for the same reason you describe: You come up with structures you would never have come up with by inventing something in your head, because the rules you apply are much less governed by your own accumulated memories and ideas. At the same time, working this way allows you to open up your own imagination and ears – I think your comparison to an online collaboration is quite spot on. I’m looking forward to hearing where this approach leads you!

    • thanks, Tobias! I think my approach on this remix is a bit primitive compared to the kind of strategies you’re putting together however. I really like what you did on your remix of Lee’s FiWT (I’ve been working on a blog post about mine and will hopefully have it ready soon). If I can start diving into Max for Live or more into Reaktor, then I think I might start getting a little closer to expanding possibilities further.

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