Music channelled / conceived / plucked from the ether in The Vibrazone, London
Digital alchemy tools for sonic wizardry provided by Steinberg and Native Instruments.
Contact was the fourth Cosmosis album released on Transient.
"Overall I was pleased with how Contact turned out, despite being rushed to meet a record company deadline. As for various (quite grim) reasons beyond my control, I ended up a year behind release schedule.
What most people don't realize is that Contact is actually a concept album, in that all of the tracks are linked by a conceptual theme, an underlying thread which runs through the whole album. Which admittedly is a little tenuous at times, but it's there nonetheless. It was picked up by a few people, one reviewer in particular completely got the whole plot, but for the most part people missed it. Probably due to the fact that I got the balance wrong and was a little too subtle. Still, I prefer it to be understated rather than the opposite, which to me would be the musical equivalent of telling someone a joke then nudging them in the ribs and saying, "Did you get it, did you?"
So, rather than giving the game away by telling you the theme, I will transcribe the Alien transmission for you that occurs in the title track Contact, starting at 3mins 17secs.
"Greetings earthlings. We are making this transmission to you at this point in your Earth's history as the time has now arrived that your planet become aware of your greater destiny with regard to other beings in the cosmos. Contact has been slowly established over the recent years of your Earth's history. The purpose has been to evolve your awareness to the point where you can become a responsible member of the Intergalactic Community. What is required is that you look inside yourself, to the source of your being and to discover your inherent divinity.The first step is to focus upon and to hold onto, that energy that you call love. By continuing to do this, you will gradually come to the realization that your present reality is but a holographic projection of your mind, and phenomena which used to appear supernatural, will become your normality."
Here's a blow by blow description of the tracks on Contact, with some of the background thinking and musical ideas behind their creation.
As I mentioned, the title track contains the key piece of dialogue which unlocks the underlying concept. I wanted the music to support this by conjuring up otherworldly images. So I created a (hopefully) evocative, spacious intro sprinkled with a few appropriate samples. Also I deliberately avoided using any familiar or cliched melodic intervals (as far as is possible in composing music anyway) as it would sound familiar and therefore not otherworldly. To this end I ended up playing any melodic phrases using harmonics via the cutoff knob on some resonant synth patches, which gives a different flavour. In addition I used a square wave-form, which unlike a saw or pulse wave, has an unfamiliar sounding harmonic series, which also adds to the overall weirdness. All melodies apart from that is, the spooky sounding melodic theme played with a bell like sound, which make it's first appearance right at the intro in the intro and occurs throughout the track.
The vibe of the track also called for a slower tempo, as it is difficult to convey the type of poignant emotion and space that I had in mind with faster tempos. So I used a dub style bassline coupled with a slow funk groove, which then progresses up into a slow trance groove for variety. It also gives the track somewhere to go dynamically. By far the most difficult thing technically was to tune into the frequency to receive the alien transmission. In the end I had to interview a earth resident alien and pretend that I had recorded one of the real transmissions broadcast from somewhere beyond Sirius.
2. Find Your Own Divinity
While I don't agree with everything Tim Leary says, what he says here, I do resonate with 100%. He also has that classic, highly sampleable voice. The groove is built around a simple bassline voiced down low (D below bottom E on a bass guitar) and a klunkingly fat kik. Musically the whole emphasis is on funkily syncopated, clangy, metallic sounds, which reveal my 70's funk roots, albeit in a perverted way. Some of the later lead riffs are also pretty 70's funk inspired.
For the tech. heads: The main synth line that occurs in middle section just before the breakdown was created using two 12 db band-pass filters in parallel with filter envelopes modulating cutoffs in opposite directions. Both cutoffs were also patched to the mod. wheel (same polarity) for simultaneous opening and closing of both filters.
This starts with a excerpt from an interview with Robert Monroe. A fascinating man. If you haven't read any of Robert Monroe's mind expanding books on out of body experiences, I definitely recommend them. Particularly "Far Journeys" and "The Ultimate Journey."
This track combines a (time) spacey minimalistic approach with a galloping groove. Then after a short breakdown introduces a more driving riff (made with an Access Virus) into a breakdown featuring a melodic theme using portamento and a straight sine wave. I love the kind of hypnotic effect that a sine wave sound has on me, it is such a pure sound.
After the break the tune launches of into an unashamedly uplifting ending riff based on fifths. I still don't quite understand why so many trance artists shy away from composing something which gives the dancefloor a joyful lifting feeling. One reason perhaps it is they are deathly afraid of someone accusing them of sounding cheesy, which of course is the ultimate dis in the psy-trance world.
Another may be that it is actually a little tricky to pull of an emotionally uplifting section without resorting to the cheesey sounding hackneyed cliches.
4 The First Step is love...
the second is...love... love... love...love...
Despite the high tempo (145) I was attempting to create a serene and peaceful vibe so as to reflect the theme. This was mainly achived by use of a particular pad sound with an ambiguous chord voicing which sounded nice over both of the chords outlined by the dub style bassline at the beginning of the introduction, and which creeps in during the middle and end.
The dub and spacious floaty vibe was further enhanced by long feedback and delay times echoing the occasional minor chord in true dub style. My intention was to musically morph from a dub thing into a trance groove as surreptitiously as possible. However I did end up building the tune into some pretty frantic trance sections - sometimes I just can't help myself...
"People of Earth your attention please..." This track is written for two types of people: one is for all the people still left on the dancefloor at an outside party at 9 o'clock the next morning. The other type is the experienced (and bold) DJ's that can still read a crowd and that understands his or her job is to do something more than to get up to the decks and automatically play the 20 most full-on tunes that they have, no matter what the time or situation.
This track's best played through a nice big rig a couple of hours after sunrise to a tenacious crowd of dancers fully celebrating the cosmic transition from darkness to the light.
There really is nothing like melody for that emotional impact. Twisted noises sound great, but only melody can deliver emotion or meaning by the spadeful. If it's done right, it is so much more emotionally powerful.
It is a pretty simple track technically, but musically it is probably the most complex on the album. The counter melody line (made with a Roland JP8000) is harmonized at points by the main three note theme (Access Virus through an huge Eventide reverb). So the track features melody, counter-melody harmonization and implied chord changes at one or two points, which took a fair bit of working out with guitar in hand. There even is a 16 bar section where (shock, horror) the bassline moves around some chords. This is done mainly for tension. The tension is resolved when the bass becomes rooted back on the key note for the outro. section.
This is a slightly more chunky version of the track I originally wrote with Seb Taylor of Shakta, Digitalis etc. which I re-mixed for Contact. I love working with Seb. Quite apart form being a great bloke and riduculously talented, he is so damn fast on the sequencer. I can shout from the kitchen "Seb, kick's a bit boomy!" and l'll arrive 5 minutes later with the teas and it has been sorted out and the hats have been programmed and he's halfway into chopping up some of the drumloops we chose earlier. It's also a treat to work with another producer from the point of view of communication. Producers talk the same language. I can say "Seb, try turning up send 2 on the gated pad a bit " and he knows exactly what I mean and does it. Another advantage is we can swap turns between driving the sequencer and making the tea/keeping track overview, which means that we can swap over roles and take a break when we get a bit bored with sequencer editing. It all adds up to keeping the vibe of the session going forwards in a positive way.
The groove is driven by a fat clunky kik and gallop bassline groove. Features a gated pad on the intro. We originally set out to write something serious and so the sample: "Time and space is an illusion" was appropriate for the supernatural theme, but there again we just couldn't help slipping in the "...do I sound a little bit, cheezy?" bit in there too, despite ourselves.
7. Weird, Sick and Twisted
This is a remix of the Mumbo-Jumbo track which I wrote with Mitch Davies a.k.a DJ Kuma who along with me, is the other half of Mumbo-Jumbo. It's a chunkier and more manic version of the original. One of the things that I like about this track is the juxtaposition between the slowly filtered and illegally obese portamento riff, which announces itself at the first breakdown, and the fast moving thundering groove. That filtered riff was made on Mitch's behemoth synth; the Waldorf Q. Once we'd got it up the stairs that is. (The Q appears to be built from tank armour plating)
As far as the conceptual theme for the album goes, this track is probably the most tenuous. However, clearly someone like Homer, while not being the most intelligent being in the world, when confronted with something outside of their reality would still "want in" no matter how weird, sick and twisted it was.
For the tech. heads again: A few people have asked me about the processing on the vocal samples at the beginning. For this mix they were processed through an Eventide Fx Processor (dsp4500) with 2 x delays each set to different times and each of which had a ring-modulator inserted in the feedback path, midi controlled (via the mod. wheel) to be ring-modulated in opposite directions, while being dynamically panned in opposite directions to each other. (with another midi continuous controller)
8. Human Evolution
If you have ever seen the Stanley Kubrik movie 2001: A Space Odyssey then you probably understand the connection between this and the album's conceptual theme. For those that haven't seen it, 2001 is essentially about the evolution of man. And in particular the moment when man has evolved to the point where he is finally able contact other lifeforms in the universe.
I actually have another mix of this which is much better. And it is the one which I play out. I kicked myself when I realized that I had put the wrong one on the album. Perhaps it was a bit contentious to include it on a trance album, but I was always one to take a few risks. A few people - usually goatee bearded trance afficionados - dislike it completely. But they are usually the ones that don't dance at a party, but lean against a wall the whole night commenting on the dj's mixing skills. And as I don't make music for them, I make it for people on the dancefloor, that is not a problem for me. What I will say is that when I play it out, it not only brings a smile to people's faces, it brings the house down.
The track uses a 909 style kik (made with Zap VST ) with a bassline this time from a Pentagon VSTi. During the "verses" it is pretty minimal, with all emphasis on atmosphere and delayed percussion and just some hints at the musical theme by use of backward chord stabs. When the main theme occurs (twice) I used similar voicings and orchestration to the original. But I did have to simplify the voicings of the chords quite dramatically as they were way too dense, for a techno arrangement. It did work pretty well, but if I did it again, I would probably be a little less traditional, and approach the main theme in the same way I did the verses, which was just to hint at the harmonic progression, but I would definitely keep the bassline changes.
Morethan a few people have described this as a lost Pink Floyd track. I am flattered as I think Pink Floyd have made some truly classic music. I guess that it is probably the intro with it's combination of long sustained pad and electric guitar - which sounds very Shine On You Crazy Diamond. However, I do think that the guitar playing sounds closer to Santana than Dave Gilmour (who I bought a beer for and had a chat with in a London pub once - a very nice bloke) The bassline is pretty much a direct lift from something that Sly and Robbie played on in the eighties (well Robbie Shakespeare anyway - the bass player ) which ended up as a hit in the charts. See if you can spot it. I am surprised no one has yet.
The intro is a bit of an album reprise which contains some of the samples from the previous tracks. The floaty pad sounds were programmed on an Access Virus B with the phaser frequency patched to the mod. wheel. A Stratocaster through a POD for the electric guitar parts, using the POD's internal wah-wah via a MIDI pedal.
released September 1, 2002
Written-by, produced, recorded and engineerd by William Halsey (a.k.a Bilbo Bagginz)
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