The challenges of "Circular Song" (Pt. 3)
In this series, I discuss the inner guts of my music creation process.
Some additional words about the secrets of Circular Song, especially the various difficulties I had to overcome with this one.
In two previous posts, I have discussed how I came up with the original ideas of this track, but found myself in a dead end and had to leave it settle down and stay untouched for a very long time (see there). I've also discussed how, later on, fresh ideas helped it unfold as something totally different from what I originally had in mind (see there).
Now, what I had when this was done was basically a raw mix of the complete song, with music and lyrics in their final stage, but the song itself was definitely not balanced yet, and sounded pretty awful.
Actually, this song was probably one of the hardest to mix of the whole Fools of Us album, and if one came back to it at a later time, the result could be totally different. The thing is, many of the artistic choices I’d made when creating and recording it turned out to translate into difficulties when it came to mixing this song.
The trouble was... Well there were a lot of troublesome things.
For one, the ever-evolving synth loop that forms the backbone of its choruses is made of a sound (actually, 4 different, layered sounds that themselves modulate over time at their own pace!) that constantly changes. The techies reading this will know that mixing is, among other things, about taming the frequency content of each sound forming part of a song and, in this case, that frequency content is actually radically changing from place to place down the road! It’s as if you’d have to tame a whole herd of horses, so that they perform a well-rehearsed, nice little show, but you’re working with wild ones that constantly run all over the place in each and every possible direction (and make you run after them in disarray). Funny, but a bit demanding on the nerves, so to say.
Then, there were the drums. Two different, separate drum kits, Sir, that play their own parts on top of each other. And a bass line that needs to get its own space too. Plus a flock of little percussive additions here and there. Having all these people live happily – and peacefully – together in the mix led me to funny questions, as well.
Then, vocals. Ah, vocals… First, their nature is radically different in the verses and the choruses. Verses are spoken/rapped, which implies a fairly specific type of vocal mixing. But choruses are sung, which is a whole different story and, to make things simpler, they display a pecular sound processing (this specific trick I've hinted to in a previous post) designed to make the sound of this sung part evolve, a bit like (but in a different manner from) the way the chorus synth loop is evolving as well. So: I had one herd of wild horses to tame, now I have two. Double fun…
Anyway. To cut a long story short, I finally got to an overall balance I was fairly happy with, though it took me quite a while to get to it (and I spare you the mastering steps). That was by the time I released this track as part of my No Limit EP. But that was not the end of the story. There were things I was not fully satisfied with (the bass was sometimes displaying a grain I disliked, on second thoughts; vocals tended to sound both a bit harsh and crunched in some places; these kinds of things). Plus the fact that, while Circular Song had from the beginning been designed to be part of my yet-to-be Fools of Us album, when the other tracks of the album were finally completed, Circular Song was not sitting that well next to them. So… I had to revisit the whole thing: new mixing, and new mastering (and a lot of new head scratching in the meantime ;) ).
In the end, differences could sound minute to the untrained ear, but I very well know they are there, and to me the Fools of Us version is way closer to completion, from a sonic standpoint, than the No Limit version was. At this point, I believe I’ve reached my limits (no pun intended) and that I could not get to any better result, though it definitely retains numerous flaws. I think they are inherently part of it now, just like a flawless face is not something of this world (or would even look dull, maybe). In the end, its sonic oddities have fully become a part of it, a kind of an inherent feature, and I should say that, all in all, I kind of like it this way.
Since I’ve released Fools of Us, I’ve received very positive feedback regarding that track, notably on some web radios where listeners can like/dislike tracks and leave comments. So, maybe, despite all these flaws, I was not totally wrong.
But it’s your call to decide on that. I hope you enjoy it.
Play Circular Song
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EverNoize - 2018