Monday, 24 January 2011

A bit about "the cover version"

I've mention more than a few times about a cover version that will be on the Geigertek album, "Soundtrack For City Living".

Any prizes for guessing what it is yet? No, it's John Foxx's "Underpass" and it's well and truly underway now and sounding so much better than I first imagined. No sneak previews on this one though, I want this one to be heard within the context of the finished album.

I had a big disappointment when I put together a version of Prokofiev's "Troika" for AD Music's "ADChristmas" album last Autumn, only to find at the 11th hour, the Prokofiev estate would not allow it to be used, naturally I didn't want this to happen again and staved off working on the track until I knew it could be used. So, the first step was getting the appropriate permissions from publishers etc and no one was happier than I when this came through - many thanks to John Foxx's manager Steve Malins and Rob Harris from the Metamatic website for some seriously speedy replies to e-mail queries.

I had a rough idea in my head of where I wanted to go with the song. Absolutes were that it would remain a vocal track, that it would not be a copy of the original track and that it would not be in the same style of the original. These have been stuck to. I still wanted the dystopian edge that John Foxx had with this song, so I've taken a kind of elctro-ambient route with it. This has been acieved so far with the use of the VP330 sample pack from the rather fab Hollow Sun people, along with their Crumar Performer pack - this gives a kind of "vintage" feel to the background of the piece without it sounding like an 80's clone. It has been remarked that my "sound" is known for the use of piano, so please do expect that - lots of dampened delay and lingering reverb is giving the piano a wonderfully warm feel to the overall mix alongside the VP330 and Crumar Performer, keeping the hook of the song driving away in the background. Where I've significant moves away from the original is in the rhythms, the vocal layers and the arrangement. John Foxx used a Roland CR-78 and the temptation to incorporate something similar was huge, but I've resisted, instead opting for, yes, a synthetic drum sound, but not the CR-78. Plus I've added in some glitchy minimal-style rhythms to add to the anti-utopian stance as well as some lovely panoramic strings that layer beautifully with the VP330 choral sounds.

My take on "Underpass", whilst containing vocals, is much more instrumental than the original because there was a certain beauty to the under-lying structure of the song that was crying out to me to be brought forward. I've added a new middle section that takes the chord structure in a slightly different direction, built up with layered violin/viola sounds (for a vague reference, please check the track "This Man" from the "Endless Night E.P."), shifting VP330 chord triads, a persistent piano riff that is indicative of the main "Underpass" synth hook and heavily reverberated octaved string lines. The arrangement sees a number of single-bar stop/starts that break the piece up nicely so that the fall into the different sections becomes more pronounced. Vocally, instead of a single voice harmonised a la JF, I am layering the voices of three different singers which is creating an interesting texture, the main element being the dominance of a female voice, plus loads of processing as well, and I mean loads. I've been experimenting with that god-awful "Autotune effect", and weirdly, it seems to be working nicely in this context. I'm not making the effect obvious or dominant, that would be a huge mistake alongside sounding bloody awful, but by routing the three vocal layers through to an FX bus loaded with the pitch-correction software, processing that with a flanger and then layering it with a vocal fed through the fantastic TAL-Vocoder from Togu Audio Line, the outcome has a strangely dis-jointed, mechanically organic shimmer to it.

There's still a long way to go before it's finished, but already it has a certain spatial grandness to it, offset with processed electronic rhythms, widescreen panavision string sections and electronic choirs. The ending is huge in it's outset, but then stops dead before a distant viola and piano fade off into the distance, drifting through rainfall and thunder that segues into the following track. I hope you'll like the finished product.

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