So in November 2014, I took off for Berlin, to finally start on a project with Clara Hill. We have been friends for many years and I worked on the song Did I Do Wrong a few years ago. We have been wanting to do a complete album for a while now but our schedules just didn't work out. This time was perfect as I needed to work in a different environment for a bit and winter in Berlin is perfect for a dreamy darker album. Clara set up her living room to record.
We really didn't know the direction, but she really enjoyed the Fhloston Paradigm project I did for Hyperdub. With this in mind I did a bunch of sketches on my iPhone on the flight over to Germany. Using various apps and Audiobus to bring one app into the other. Its mindblowing to have this much technology in the palm of your hand.
The next day was day 1 of the sessions. I played her a bunch of the tracks from my phone and she loved them all! The interesting thing about them all, is that I was limited to how much power I could use on my (then) iPhone 4s. This limited the amount of apps I used, but in the end, it gave a sort of sonic cohesiveness to the album that may not have happened so naturally when you have too many choices.
Clara brought in an additional Moog Prodigy and Nord Lead (I don't remember if we actually used that) to add to the palette. Also the amazing MemoryMan looping pedal for vocal ideas. She is a master at this!
We then started on the first song which I think was Spheres. She loved the bassline I used for Chasing Rainbows on Fhloston Paradigm, so we added a great line with the Moog. This rough vocal is the one that actually appears on the record. The sun had just set and we recorded straight into Ableton (who's offices were 10min away funny enough). In one take we knew we were about to embark upon a very special project!
"I loved the rough and electronica sounds. The technical, sharp, crisp and sometimes hard sounds were a wonderful counterpart to the voice. I am also a big Boards of Canada and synthesizer fan. And deep melancholic basslines and darker harmonies are always catching me and I always feel very inspired." - Clara Hill
The next song was what ended up Lonely Glow. We both loved the Thom Yorke solo stuff and that was a bit of inspiration for this tune. I originally did the backbeat in NanoStudio with my own glitchy sounds, then programmed heavier drums from the Depeche Mode sounds that Daniel Miller released for Ableton users (the next year we were blessed to meet Daniel). The synths were tweeked from Nano and my personal Ableton patches. Bassline actually was Ableton as well.
Asynchronous is an interesting one. Extremely Fhloston-esque but also Beak and Anika inspired. The sci fi textures in the background were from this app called Thicket which is actually quite unique in its visuals. This one is stripped to Moog, beat and textures. Most tracks were done with the idea that Clara would have room to really layer and harmonize as she does!
Moons, Oscillate and Dron3 are all little movie scenes in a way. Interludes into the next. I used mostly Reaktor plugs for these and a bit of Thicket in the sound design.
D.E.F. is one of my favorites. The beat again done in Nano Studio (app). I love making beats with it, dunno why. Bassline and a few pads were done with AniMoog app. There is also a sort of bell loop that I made in Impaktor then recorded into Loopy HD (all tracks were recorded into this on the plane, then drag and drop into Ableton). I kept all the drums together for this album as stereo files, like the old school way back in the day.
With Mystery (Interstellar), the main beat was done with Impaktor but mangled in an app called Loop Twister, which was my favorite app ever. They stopped updating it and unfortunately it doesn't work anymore. That beat really set up the whole vibe of the track. I then used this Blade Runner sounding pad from Magellan Jr, which is really great for making pads. One more sound from Grain Science that set the grittiness.
Making Silent Roar was interesting. It was supposed to be for another project until Clara heard the track. I was like yeah? So the beat I did in Moog Filtertron. I actually had this sketch from a trip to Western Mass. I recorded at like 4am because I couldn't sleep. It was insanely quiet there (which is really wild because Clara named it Silent Roar without knowing this story) and I recorded a little vocal loop into it to that's really low in the mix. The drone pad came from Cassini app. Loved what she did to it. I'm actually going to remix it soon.
Dron3 was super fun. It was one night we had gotten back from our old friends Jazzanova's studio and just wanted to unwind on some experimental vibes. So I had set up 2 drone and noise patches in Reaktor to mix in between them live while tweeking them. Clara did the vocal looping live as well on the Memoryman into my Ableton. So, this track was all done live with no overdubs. The Moog comes in later as well feeding back on its modulation. When it was over we looked at each other like oh sh*t.
For me the technology in music plays always an important role. aesthetically, electronic elements in music are so beautiful. I always try to combine analogue sounds with electronics. But for the live set, now, i prefer not to use a computer on stage because i want to feel free - just only to work and sing with my voice. I think my Drummer will trigger all electronics sounds on stage. - Clara Hill
For the vocals, Clara used a nice process:
I recorded the vocals in my home studio. I used ProTools, recording the vocals after i did the sketches. Then i arranged some additional vocals and did some ad-libs. I cut and cleaned all vocals. Then i bounced them and sent all stems to King, for the further mixing process.
For my last album i mostly used an old AKG from the 60ties, which i really liked because of the mid frequencies. My voice sometimes is bit too airy“. And the AKG suited to my voice very well. Some Neumann's are very good too but sometimes too „high“ for my voice. I would choose the best microphone which fits perfectly to the sound and atmosphere of production. For „Pendulous Moon“ i used an Neumann and an small Sennheiser evolution for some vocal-effects. - Clara Hill
When she sent me all the vocals for the songs I was blown away. You never know what someone is going to send and its super exciting to think about all the directions it could go. Her layering and harmonies were top notch. No autotune was used (take note kids). I just added a nice EMT 250 on bgs and a bit of Ableton delay. Had those on sends for more control.
Mixing was very interesting because Clara is super detailed with every single thing, which turned out to be really satisfying in the end.
Mastering was done by none other than Martin from AtJazz ! He loved the album so much (and remixed the single) that he wanted to master it ! Thank you so much!
Anyhow, that's Pendulous Moon.
(left out 2 songs just because I did lol)
+ buy Pendulous Moon