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Issue 348

Making the future since 1992

The 2019 guide DI Y T A C T I C S | P R O S T UDI O A D V I C E | V IDE O GUIDE S

Tycho Paranoid London Danny Tenaglia

Prospa Konx-Om-Pax


Tribal, 1995

Words by Roy Spencer


t’s the mid-’90s, and Danny Tenaglia is back in his native New York after doing a five-year stint in Miami, with a string of successful remixes to his name, and his production chops sharpened. His career-defining club residencies at the iconic Roxy, Twilo and The Tunnel are a little while off, but his signature musical style is starting to develop as he puts down tracks for his soon-to-be debut album. It will perfectly mix up his disco roots, while embracing the tougher dance flavours that were emerging around him. The title would fit it like a glove: Hard & Soul. “My whole lifestyle has been derived from that soulful stuff,” says Danny. “People like Tony Humphries, Larry Levan, and Jellybean Benitez, you know? But I wasn’t making a living playing that as a DJ. Things were changing. And I had to change.”


© Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Danny Tenaglia Hard & Soul

The first bridge towards this harder path came with his now classic track, Bottom Heavy. “That was the proof I could do it,” says Danny. “That stepped things up a bit and got me a little harder, but I didn’t want to totally go in that direction and forget my roots. So I balanced that with other tracks like Look Ahead. “They’re like apples and oranges, but that’s what was coming from my heart. I wasn’t just gonna do an eight track album of just Bottom Heavy stuff, and not show my soulful side.” Charged with that task he got his head down. It was timeconsuming and expensive – a track could take three weeks, in studios that cost a grand a day, not counting engineer fees. “I was trying to crack the puzzle, though,” says Danny. “It took what it took.” So there he was, in awe of the modern DJs with that deeper, swingier, soulful house sound like Todd Terry and Roger Sanchez. But wanting to represent those harder jocks embracing techno, like Jeff Mills and Laurent Garnier. “I loved all those DJs’ styles equally,” says Danny. “I was sort of like the man in the middle of all of them, though. I was somewhere between Kraftwerk and Chaka Khan here [laughs]. “That’s where I was in the mid-’90s, though. And that’s the album I had to make.”

Feature | Mastering: The 2019 Guide

The 2019 guide

© Adam Gasson/Optimum Mastering

For many musicians, the final stage of mastering is actually a gateway to myriad mixes, underscores and stems


Mastering remains one of the most mysterious and misunderstood stages VIDEO ON of audio production. FILESILO Some maintain that it’s the one area in the creative process which should always be outsourced to a dedicated mastering engineer, implying that mastering requires almost a different kind of listening to other parts of music-making. Others feel the opposite: that as studio-based musicians have merged a whole range of once-separate roles (engineer, drum programmer, sound

designer, producer, mix engineer), there’s no reason why ‘mastering engineer’ shouldn’t be on that list. Indeed, plenty of artists master their own tracks. Today, there’s a third school of thought: that you can trust ‘algorithmic mastering’, where software – either via presets within mastering plugins, or online services – provides a mastering solution for your tracks at record speed, using signal analysis of your unprocessed mix file as the first step. This issue, we’ll explore the state of mastering in 2019, before speculating what comes ‘next’…

Feature | Mastering: The 2019 Guide



Shawn Joseph, Optimum Mastering


e regularly discuss DIY and at-home mastering tactics in these pages, but be under no illusion that this means there’s less value in using the services of professional mastering studios and engineers. While there are artists out there who master their own tracks themselves (Four Tet being a notable example), the majority of artists, producers and labels will still tell you how important a dedicated mastering service is to their output. As an artist or producer, part of the appeal of understanding the mastering process is enhancing the way that you work and communicate with a mastering engineer, in order to help both sides get a better understanding of what you ultimately want out of a track. To get a better grasp of how the pros work, we headed to Bristol’s Optimum Mastering – whose studio graces this issue’s cover – an in-demand studio that has worked on projects for the likes of Portishead, Helena Hauff and Livity Sound, along with numerous soundtrack and reissue releases. We sat down with studio director Shawn Joseph. To find out more or discuss a project head to In the age of affordable virtual effect emulations, what is it you think that a professional mastering studio brings to the table that ‘bedroom’ or DIY musicians can’t achieve on their own steam?

“I know you can now make your DAW sound like an SSL or dial in a Beatles console but there were experienced professionals making decisions to create the records we know and love. Yes, they had great tools at their disposal, but choices were limited and I for one do not really believe that more choices will automatically make for better records. “A professional mastering studio should be an exemplary critical listening environment where you can


go and hear your work in its best light. It should have a range of hardware and software with an experienced engineer to suggest the best way to reach your goals. He or she should be able to advise how elements of your mix will perform in different listening environments and how to prepare for each individually.” How have commercial mastering needs changed in recent years? Has the rise in streaming services and resurgence in vinyl affected how you work much?

“There’s no doubting that streaming is now the most popular way we enjoy our music. Back in the day, radio used compression to boost the quieter songs to match louder ones. Now all streaming platforms use normalisation to turn down the over-exuberance of aspirant music makers, often with little regard for the artefacts produced. “Unlike TV broadcast governance, there are no hard and fast targets for us to hit. Instead, different platforms use different algorithms and it is up to us to analyse the statistics and prepare accordingly. There will always be

If somebody is interested in a career as a mastering engineer, what do you think is the best way to go about getting the necessary skills and experience for the job?

people who want their downloads to be loud, but I would advise everyone to take a streaming master too. “The flipside of the decline in CD sales and downloads is an increase in vinyl sales, demonstrating that those who part with hard cash want something more than a low bitrate file.

“Immerse yourself in as many different genres as you can. Try and pinpoint what is making the emotional connection between artist and listener. Is it an infectious groove that is impossible to ignore? Is it minute detail that draws the listener in to unveil layers on repeated plays? Is it a vocal with enough presence to speak to your heart? All of this sounds like guff but are real feelings that musicians try to convey and we as mastering engineers have the task of translating those emotions. “To be a good translator, it helps to know your tools, but the greatest mastering engineers are the ones who know when to do nothing at all. Such skills take time and dedication to learn. “I regularly hold seminars in the studio to de-mystify the ‘art of mastering’ for local music tech students as the practice can often diverge from the theory.”

“these skills take time and dedication to learn” They want artwork and coloured vinyl, maybe even a gatefold sleeve or a locked groove. “At Optimum, we have always mastered for vinyl and each lacquer is cut individually in real time. There are not many mass-market products that are the direct result of bespoke craftsmanship and long may it continue that way.”

Tell us a little about your studio – what are your most used hardware/ software tools? Any particular things that are a go-to for every project? How is the room/monitoring set up?

“The room was designed by Roger D’Arcy (Recording Architecture) and features a custom-made ergonomic desk designed to offer the lowest possible audio profile, keeping accurate listening considerations uppermost. “PMC Monitors are powered by Bryston amplifiers and give me a usable frequency range of 20Hz to 25kHz. That’s way beyond what you can hear at home but not beyond what DAWs can produce. “Gain staging is by a combination of analogue and digital outboard processors. We are not shy about using plugins if they offer something the outboard does not, such as codec previews or dynamic equalisation. “The room is big enough for a band and producer, so we encourage attended sessions where possible. “There is no ‘go-to for every project’. We deal with such a huge

In The Studio With | Tycho


Three years after Tycho’s Grammy nomination for the album Epoch, Scott Hansen is a changed man. Danny Turner discusses how the producer has upgraded his studio and refreshed the project with a new sound


Tycho | In The Studio With


cott Hansen’s Grammy nomination for his fourth Tycho album, Epoch, legitimised his career as a working musician. The closing chapter in a trilogy of releases, beginning with the critically acclaimed Dive in 2011, the producer returned to San Francisco following a relentless touring cycle to embark on a process of selfdiscovery, rebuilding his home studio and adopting a more streamlined working process. Prior to recording the latest album, Weather, Hansen rediscovered his love for ’90s dance music and began making a set of demos, but something was missing – a vocalist to spark the next evolution in Tycho’s sound. Hansen eventually settled for Saint Sinner’s Hannah Cottrell, taking Tycho into unchartered waters and reconceptualising a project that had only just reached its peak.

Did your Grammy nomination for Epoch change how you perceived yourself as a musician and your motivation to make music? “It was definitely a legitimising factor. It was like, ‘Oh, I guess I am a real musician now’. Before, I had that imposter syndrome because I’d never touched a musical instrument until I was 20. It also took a bit of pressure off because I felt I could make whatever I wanted. I never thought in a million years the word ‘Grammy’ would be something I would ever be associated with. I wasn’t shooting for that either, but something about it had a calming effect.” You subsequently focused on your health and developed different working practices… “I was burning it at both ends. I’d stay up working until 7am and that mindset is dangerous because you tend to sleep poorly for five hours, wake up and start the whole cycle again. I just tried to create a healthier structure, putting in the same amount of hours but doing it the right way, which helped a ton in terms of being more focused and not having to drink copious amounts of coffee.” Does the album title ‘Weather’ relate to that sense of change? “I think it’s about this sense of being helpless to what the world has in store for you. It was about coming to terms with what I’d done in the past and what I wanted the next phase to look like. In a broader sense, it’s also about the realities of the age we’re living in and the things we have to be conscious of that we weren’t thinking about in the past, to our detriment. The political climate and actual climate is all wrapped up in that.” Did you know how you wanted to break away from the Dive, Awake and Epoch trilogy? “I just needed to return to the centre, even if whatever my centre is now is probably very

different to what it was when I made Past Is Prologue. I asked myself why I started making music, what was inspiring me at the time and how I could connect that to what I’m inspired by at this point in my life. When I put out Sunrise Projector in 2004, which became Past Is Prologue, it was actually intended to be a vocal record. I was really into Zero 7 and Cinematic Orchestra and wanted to make records like that but didn’t know how. I didn’t know any vocalists and tried a few things with different people but it didn’t click, and you can actually hear snippets of that throughout Past Is Prologue. Because it never materialised into a full-blown vocal record, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do that.” Did you feel you’d reached a dead end writing and recording purely instrumental albums? “No, I think I have more to say than ever. If anything, I just needed to take a detour in order to appreciate this thing I’d had my head down on for 18 years. That helped me recalibrate, and that’s also why I’m doing an instrumental version of the album, because these started out as instrumentals and I had a vision for what they would end up becoming as instrumentals.” Presumably that process is more than just a case of stripping out the vocals… “These will be fully realised instrumentals, as if I’d just gone down that route rather than the vocal route. When you build a song for vocals, you have to change it considerably. You have to remove all the leads and pull some of the instrumentation into the background. If you listen to the instrumental version of Pink & Blue, for example, there are still a lot of the elements in there but it also has a totally different lead and is a very different song sonically.” The acoustics seem more prominent on Weather. It seems there’s a lot more ‘playing’ on this album? “I guess so. When I started playing guitar, it was only acoustic so that’s pretty much all you’d hear on Past Is Prologue and Dive. Then I started working with Zac Brown who played a lot of the guitar and bass parts on Awake and Epoch and electric guitar on the title track on Epoch. For this one, I wanted to get back to that super-organic, woodsy sound of acoustic guitar, where it’s distressed and distorted with massive reverb.” Whereas the acoustics were almost indivisible from the electronics, now there appears to be more separation between instruments... “With Dive, it was just a wall of sound and I wanted everything to sound glued together. I slowly worked my way through that until I got to Epoch where I felt like I’d got to the point where I found the separation between the instruments better but they were really synthetic and cold. That was by design, but now I want the music to pop out and have these elements you can grasp onto rather than have this giant singular piece.”


The Track | Prospa


Prospa Intended

SubSoul Recordings, 2019 Barely out of university, the youthful pair of Gosha Smith and Harvey Blumler have already made a few waves in the dance music business with their retro-inspired house sounds, VIDEO ON garnering the attention of tastemakers such as FILESILO Annie Mac and Pete Tong. We caught up with the duo in their East London lodging to find out how they created the ’80s-flavoured, First Choice-sampling dancefloor monster Intended.

© Joe Branston

Presumably Intended was inspired by the vocal sample that you found? HB: “Normally when we start tracks, before we even touch the DAW, we’ll say ‘all right, this time we want to make this particular style of track’. For example, we’d be like, ‘We


Prospa | The Track

want to make a dirty underground, weird, sound design clubby thing’ or ‘we want to make a euphoric, light, happy, end-of-the-night track’, or a hard track or a ravey track. With this one it was like, ‘We want to make a sort of ’80s-inspired, deep, end-of-the-night, disco-y but not that disco-y, electronic but not that electronic thing.’ Normally it’s just fucking about with a couple things to start with. This one started off with the chords using Junos and Jupiters, then the vocal came after that.” How did you discover the vocal? GS: “I think I was just searching on YouTube. Originally the track sounded really different, and then I was searching for samples and I found the Let No Man Put Asunder acapella. What I do sometimes is to get YouTube up at the same time as the DAW, and I’ll leave the DAW running and try to fit the sample in, clicking it to play on YouTube at the right time!” HB: “Yeah when you’re searching for samples on YouTube you can play the track in the background, and scroll through literally hours of videos on YouTube! Sometimes even when stuff’s completely out of tune you can try and imagine it in the right pitch and, like, rephrase it. With this one we did a bit of pitchshifting, re-edited some of the phrasing, timestretched it and all that sort of stuff.” GS: “Yeah, we basically took the parts we wanted to use and made our own vocal idea with them. Once the vocal was there, we knew that we wanted to add the high string and those other elements. It’s quite a simple track really, but I think for us it’s just about making sure that every sound fits in the mix and is full. I think producers sometimes – and I’ve done it myself – get carried away trying to layer too many things in when it’s actually about making the few layers that you have sound full and professional. If you have few elements but everything’s sounding really nice it really just brings a track to life.”

“Producers sometimes – I’ve done it myself – get carried away trying to layer too many things; it’s actually about making the few layers you have sound full and professional”

The track does sound a bit like freestyle dance music from the late ’80s. Is that a conscious influence for you? HB: “I suppose it’s a bit of a conscious and unconscious influence, it’s not like we were there listening to tracks trying to get any inspiration… it’s just like we know the sound that we’re after.” GS: “If you over-study it, you almost run the risk of ending up copying it too much. What we want is to really put our own original flavour on it. We knew for a fact that we wanted to have ’80s-style disco drums, then all the other sounds just sort of naturally came together.” HB: “We always like to use stuff that sounds classic, but with fresh new elements. We’re trying to keep interesting and unique.” In the video, you use a lot of the built-in Reason effects; is Reason an integral part of your sound? HB: “Oh yeah, I’ve been using Reason since I was 12! I first started on Logic and decided I didn’t really like it, then Reason 5 from the age of 12 to about 17 or 18. Then I finally got Reason 9. Then not long after that, Gosha switched from Cubase to Reason.” GS: “Once I heard you could use third-party VSTs I switched because I always loved certain aspects of Reason which are unique to it.” HB: “It’s just such an easy way to work, it looks really nice and it’s laid out really well. The best thing about it is the automation blocks. Automation is so important to give a synth character and to keep it moving. The fact that the



Bitwig Studio 3: The Grid Bitwig Studio’s major new tool, The Grid, has been on the horizon for some time. When the Berlin developers first VIDEO ON launched their DAW back in FILESILO 2014, they were already talking up plans for a fully modular design in future iterations of the software. That potential began to be realised with the excellent modulation system added for version 2, in which users pick and choose modulators to add to any device and route them in a modular manner. The Grid takes things several steps further. The Poly Grid and FX Grid devices – essentially identical, aside from their default I/O routing – are boundary-free sandbox environments that allow users to patch up their own instruments, effects and sequencers using any combination of the 150+ included modules. It might sound like a daunting prospect, but Bitwig have done a commendable job of making The Grid feel accessible. While there are some deep concepts involved, such as logic processors, mathematical operators and audio-rate modulators, the clean, clear design and interactive help menus offer plenty of visual guidance. Have we sold you on The Grid yet? Because it really is worth a try! For those yet to take the plunge, Bitwig Studio has a fully featured demo (albeit with save and export disabled) available at 57

In The Studio With | Paranoid London

Paranoid London

Š Kevin Lake

Creating Paranoid London a decade ago, Quinn Whalley and Gerardo Delgado hid their identity from their acid house peers. Danny Turner lifts their cloak of anonymity and steps into the duo’s gritty, analogue-infested dungeon


Interview | Konx-Om-Pax


© Alicja Khatchikian

Konx-Om-Pax’s Tom Scholefield decamps to Berlin, absorbs the city’s techno vibes, sprinkles some Detroit into the mix and delivers his best album to date, Ways of Seeing. Hamish Mackintosh investigates



Behringer VC340 Vocoder £489 Vocoders are back in vogue as Behringer resurrect a classic. Dan ‘JD73’ Goldman chimes in… CONTACT


WHO: Behringer/Music Tribe WEB: Analogue signal path. 3-octave 37-key keyboard with velocity. MIDI in/out/thru, USB MIDI and vocoder pitch/hold via pedal. Pitchshift controls. Upper/lower splitting/layering of vocoder, human voice and string sections. BBD analogue ensemble effect. XLR Mic input. A/R envelope. External instrument input. DIMENSIONS: 103 x 649 x 257 mm, WEIGHT: 6.6kg


Behringer Vocoder VC340 | Reviews



Nails the classic vocoder, string ensemble and choir tones of the ’70s with clear intelligibility and a warm stereo sound Each section is layered together or split and run through the shimmering analogue BBD ensemble effect Compact, sturdily built


No reverb or delay (like the original!) Some may find three octaves too few No preset storage, and the pitchshift controls can be initially confusing (but certainly authentic)


ack in the late 1970s vocoders were all the rage, with many prominent artists using them to give a futuristic sound to their records. Some used vocoders as an effect to process instruments and enhance voices; some so that they could sing in tune and front their own records and live shows (like Herbie Hancock). At the time, the Sennheiser VSM201 Vocoder along with the Roland VP-330

(1979) reigned supreme in Vocoder-land and while the Sennheiser has long since disappeared (and now fetches crazy prices, mainly as it was regarded as the holy grail vocoder), Roland have continued to make solid vocoders through the years with their VP and VT ranges, (though admittedly these days their vocoders are all digital). However, most vocode-heads attribute the highest quality and smoothest vocoder sound to analogue vocoders. Enter then, Behringer, who are now filling the

analogue vocoder gap in the market with their latest keyboard vocoder, the VC340. This new board faithfully recreates the circuitry and functionality of the rare, expensive VP-330 vocoder keyboard. Behringer have been on fire recently, with a slew of impressive synth releases and their modern, more compact (yet still analogue) renditions of legendary classics continue to cause a serious nostalgic stir for vintage synth addicts. Not only that, Behringer proved with the DeepMind 12 (and esteemed MIDAS

engineering team behind it) that they could make their own unique, great sounding and solidly-built synths, as well as recreations of classics based on classic/vintage tech but with many modern improvements. The VC340 transports you right back to 1979 via the reddish brown side panels, orange livery and pastelshaded LED buttons. The unit itself feels surprisingly heavy and is sturdily built into a solid metal case with sloped front panel, laid out in a similar fashion to the VP-330, with the most obvious


Reviews | KRK Rokit 7 G4

KRK Rokit 7 G4 £220 per speaker KRK’s Rokits are affordable monitors with an excellent pedigree. Jon Musgrave hooks up with the new generation CONTACT WHO: KRK Systems WEB: KEY FEATURES I/O: 2-way front ported powered monitor, 7” LF and 1” HF Kevlar drivers, Balanced TRS/XLR Combo Input, 145 Watts Power Output Maximum SPL: 110dB Frequency Response: 42Hz to 40kHz Size: 225x 339x 284mm Weight: 7.6kg


Reviews | Native Instruments Massive X

Native Instruments Massive X ÂŁ179 The follow up to the most ubiquitous softsynth of all time is here. Si Truss asks if it can recapture the crown


CONTACT WHO: Native Instruments WEB: KEY FEATURES Semimodular wavetable synthesiser. Two wavetable oscillators with 10 playback modes. Includes 170+ wavetables. Multi-mode filter. 3x insert effects. 3x master effects. Multiple LFOs, envelopes, Performer modulators, input trackers and more. Formats: VST, AU, AXX (no standalone)


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Future Music 348 (Sampler)  

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Future Music 348 (Sampler)  

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