Remix: David Steinlage – Duster

I found David through the “Reasoners” reddit community, where he had posted a link to download the project file for this track as an example of what could be done with Propellerhead’s Reason software and that it could be considered a competitive DAW. I’d heard some of his stuff before, finding him through previous posts and following him on SoundCloud. He is really impressively good at what he does, and a chance to hack away at one of his projects was very much a welcome opportunity.

The original can be found here, and evokes an inexpressible vibe; Shpongle is a definite influence. Upon examining the source files, I could tell immediately that just about every aspect of this track was played live, from parameter automation to arpeggiators to all the leads and effects. It’s always interesting to look at someone else’s work like this, seeing their workflow from the inside and comparing it to your own, especially when you don’t know them and aren’t familiar with their production techniques. Everything here was very loose and improvisational, and the drums were either recorded live or excellently programmed to sound live.

This is more or less the opposite of how I produce. Everything must be quantized, locked in step with everything else and precise; unapologetically electronic, synthetic, mechanical and inhuman. I draw or program notes and drum hits one by one sometimes, fitting them perfectly into place like puzzle pieces, and even when I do play parts live, I quantize each note during and after the performance, placing everything where it needs to be and allowing no room for error.

I already knew vaguely how I wanted to proceed, adding thick synthesized kick drums and filtering parts to alter them, giving the whole thing a more spacey feel. I began the process by quantizing various parts, moving notes ever so slightly to ensure they fit together with the programmed drumloops I was adding. I thickened up the bass by substituting a Korg Polysix and playing with its stereo placement, widening the higher frequencies and centering the lower ones. Eventually I added three drum machines, all processed somewhat differently with delays and reverb, each loop taking a different place in the arrangement. Taking center stage were a huge and amazing sounding synth with slow filter sweeps, heavily distorted drones, and what sounds like some sort of exotic plucked instrument.

Most of my changes were in the arrangement, or adding a 303 and processing some of the original synth lines, altering this and that to fit it into my weird perfectly quantized view of electronic music. As icing on the cake, I sampled an interview in which a man talks about the possibility of life being digitized or recreated digitally, and ran it through some interesting processing: confusing devices that play with sideband frequencies and whatnot; audio voodoo. After this came all the boring stuff, EQing and so on, and I’ve exported the final mix at least three times, being unhappy with the final output (I still wonder if it’s too muddy but if I dwell too much on it I’ll never be able to consider it finished.) The end result is an echoey, sweepy, pulsating soundscape that still resembles the original while deviating just enough to set itself apart.

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