I recently talked at one of the Ableton Live User Group meet-ups in Melbourne about how i’ve started the process of creating a new album. I plan to create a series of blog posts about this process as the album evolves, so this first part is all about the initial stage of how and why I choose certain tracks.
Being a long time devotee of the Beatles, I often have grandiose visions of creating a seamless album like the B side of Abbey Road, where each track flows into the next in an effortless and joyous montage. This is something that I first started to seriously try to do with my third album, which I released in 2011.
I’ve been thinking about putting together another release for some time, I originally wanted to do a short EP as a bit of a stopgap, partly because I didn’t think I had enough completed songs, and partly because I’m not sure I really want to go through the challenging and time consuming process of putting together a full album, promo campaign, and touring live show to support the album.
But I figured I should do some folder house-keeping and try and categorize all the half-finished, or even just loop ideas that I’ve been playing with and then saving and forgetting.
So, I opened every live set that I had created over the last two and a half years, and attempted to categorize them into newly created folders named:
Not much here, Cinema, Darkwave, Offhop, TV Sync, Weird doof, Remix, Atmospheric twinkles, The ultimate 80’s soundtrack & WP work more
Once I did this, I realized I had over 50 tracks that I could consider potential Winterpark tracks.
In terms of how I define what a Winterpark track is, and how that is different from one of those other categories… that’s a somewhat difficult thing for me to explain! I probably know more-so what is NOT a Winterpark track. They’re not overly dance, not overly dark in nature.
But to try and find the elements that they all seem to share; I guess the common thread for WP tracks are that they’ll generally have some processed guitar on them, they are melodic, hopefully uplifting and sonically cinematic.
So, with over 50 unfinished projects, I had to make some further decisions and categorizations, so I created folders called: Start, Middle, End, Interlude & Cannibalize these.
These were based purely on where I felt like each track could potentially go in an album sequence. Whether it had enough substance in it to ultimately be a finished track, whether it felt like something that could open an album, or whether it could close an album. If it felt like it was never going to be finished, I’d decide whether it had something in it that was worth cannibalizing, or perhaps create a short sonic interlude of the various elements that worked in it.
Due to my current hectic life, (work & young bub) only some of these tracks had some arrangement that had been half worked on, but most were simply session view clips… for these songs I’d create a down and dirty ‘vibe’ arrangement by arming an audio track to resample from, and just trigger clips or scenes as the case may be, do some on the fly volume mixing until I got something that sort of worked. I would do only one or two re-samplings like this per track, and chucked them in a new folder called “order mixes”.
I also bounced out any arrangements that I’d created, I didn’t really want to concentrate on ‘mixing’ or anything just yet, just getting the sound of the track, and hopefully a basic arrangement that showed off the different elements in the track, so I could see if they worked together and flowed as an album.
It’s sort of like sequencing the album before it’s finished. It informs me as to what tracks I need to work on and which ones I don’t, and also helps me decide what sort of intro or outro is needed for each track to transition seamlessly (hopefully!) to the next.
In the video below is the first part of my presentation at the Ableton Live User Group session, which is basically just me talking through what i’ve written about here.