Space Holidays 2018: Interstellar Discovery
December 25, 2018
Hey, what's up? My name is Henrik Chukhran aka "Neuton Mouse" and this is my blog. I'm planning to post here about game development, music production, sound design, gaming in general and other related stuff. Most of these posts will deal with my own projects but sometimes there will be exceptions. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on one of the social network pages placed below here.
December 25, 2018
Merry Christmas everyone! I wrote a new spacesynth track specially dedicated to the new volume of album series called “Space Holidays” by Space Sound Records label. I’ll dwell on this topic little bit, talk about how the tune was created and, of course, end the story with few words about my current game development situation.
Before reading any further it would be best advised to listen to track:
I consider Interstellar Discovery to be a spiritual successor to my track “Lightyear” also my debut to Space Holidays compilation back in 2011. It’s hard to call it traditional spacesynth, especially when standing on shoulders of Koto or Laserdance and looking at the track. Nevertheless it can be considered to be a pure spacesynth track without any experiments and shenanigans I so love to do. The only thing that inherited previous tracks is musical progression. You know, that inconsistent track development where each part of the tune plays only once and promises no repetition. That’s my trademark and in some ways you might call it a progressive spacesynth.
But this time I’ve sinned. When the track ends it plays exactly the same part that preceded lead solo part with some additional pads and choir. This exact part fades out leaving that favorite moment for lots of listeners, the moment that radiates feeling that track will never end and will keep going and going for eternity. I’m not big fan of such moments to be honest, my common preference lies on writing classical endings but this time I felt a necessity to end it with fade.
I had ending but decided to delete it. There are lot of moments like this one, including OP track, where I write big ass part and then completely wipe out their existence from the project. From the psychological perspective it’s kind of difficult thing to do because of strong emotional attachment to those parts. I think lot of musicians experience this and it takes great part of will to learn to control such whimsical impulse which, in practice, can actually ruin the track if ignored.
Interestingly, this would be the first spacesynth track written with a certain set of instruments that were picked for Smintheus soundtrack development. Previous experiments involved constant rotation of virtual synthesizers due to ambition to explore the tools of musical worlds.
When I hear certain track it makes always wonder how the track was done. Obviously, this curiosity is turned on only if the track is likable. I try to decompose it into little pieces in my mind, see with the eyes of author, probably imagine project in DAW, and sometimes questions come up that I don’t have answer but very keen to know. Usually these questions involves presets used in tunes. Perhaps some feel the same so I’ll share “blueprints” a bit, without all that math, just arbitrary view.
The bass part playing during introduction comes from Dexed VSTi, Yamaha DX7 emulation instrument. On top of that bass you can hear classical Juno 106 bass accompanied with PG8X VSTi, which emulates Roland JX-8P synthesizers. I also used PG8X for pads and brass stabs. That synthesizer has a distinguishable chorus effect which also softens the sound and warms it. I love it! The chorus is a modified Korg M1 version loaded as Sound Font to the sampler. Lead melody and arpeggio part comes from VirtualCZ VSTi, emulation of Casio CZ-101. That synth can make up really weird stuff and at the same time surprise you with such a pleasant sounds. Hard to tweak but totally worth investing some time to study it. Orchestra hit was loaded into sampler from Amiga SoundTracker Sample Pack. The lead is layered with rather fascinating preset from U-he Repro 5 VSTi, fantastic emulation of old Prophet 5 synth, also a fantastic processor killer.
Um... drums don’t need mention. I always use samples from 80s drum machines although I’m too lazy to look up and name them here. Vocoder part is pretty simple, saw chords mixed with my sexy voice :). The hard part was to mix it right so it could be heard in the sea of other synthesizer sounds. Singing had to be done with ridiculously edgy diction in rhotic English resulting into very weird singing when listened separately. With normal singing it’s very hard to tell words once it’s processed by vocoder. When all the weird stuff is combined we get a nice sounding vocoder which I’m actually proud of.
Every instrument you hear in Interstellar Discovery is a combination of two instruments. I’m getting quite frequent with such practice lately. However, I’ve noticed this fact only when the track was finished. Drums are exception even though it’s very hard to resist from layering snare drum. This time snare went raw giving that punchy vibes present in some disco tracks.
It could use some better mixing, another iteration of mastering done in separate day but unfortunately due to the deadline I skipped that part. When you sit on the track for few hours you ears start to fall off and performing mastering process isn’t really a rational thing to do. The main mastering engineer of Space Holidays compilation, Damian Lipinski, did great job in shaping that track although the very first time I heard it I wasn’t completely happy about what I heard. After raw mix mastered mix seemed to be more punchy and full of bass like it was designed for some night club where people could dance and shake their asses under the cosmic vibes of Interstellar Discovery :). But that’s just me. Eventually I forgot my old sound of the track and adapted to the mastered one.
I would like to express my gratitude towards the mastermind behind these Space Holidays compilations, Marek Kolodynski. My case is special to me because I was in deep procrastination hell and writing that track helped me to get out of it, Marek gave a good cause to get out! The compilation is, of course, wouldn’t be possible without all the musicians who took part in it. I’m really glad this genre is still alive thanks to musicians and supportive fans. It’s not really a “money industry” more of a passion industry and every spacesynth track you hear is a projection of musician’s soul rather than cunningly designed musical product for the masses that the mainstream industry does nowadays. I believe that with all the recent hype towards retro synth music (hello synthwave) and slow but noticeable grasping of 80s culture spacesynth would enter much upper level and reach more popularity that it has now.
Just a couple of words. I’ve been procrastinating for last two months like never before. I couldn’t take a week off and be back hot and ready to do some action like before because this time my mind was tired of it. Every day I woke up and went to sleep with millions of thoughts dedicated to game development and that, my dear folks, lasted for last 3 years. So, in some cases I took a mind vacation this time. Two weeks ago I finally recovered but it was difficult to back into the saddle. As I said before, thanks to the Interstellar Discovery I managed to get out of this procrastination hell, full with energy and enthusiasm towards developing Smintheus.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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