As the piece starts, it gives the deception of not being that of a normal structured 4/4 styled piece of music; there is what sounds to be a clear use of delay on the opening instrument, adding slightly to this deception. Although this may not have been the writer's intention, the delay fills the offbeat well, adding nice colour to the opening; leaving the introduction sounding fuller, without being cluttered. This could suggest that if delays are used they may have been tempo synched in some way, either manually or as part of the used instruments presets. Their real intentions may have also come from the reverberant properties that the sound gives off when the delay algorithm is added, or at least a perception of this. However reverb may have been added artificially.
The deception that the piece is outside of a normal 4/4 structure disappears as the first sound that could be related to a snare is introduced at 51seconds; this is brought in on the second and fourth beat. A bass kick is introduced at this point, this is not kept strictly to 4/4 beat, playing more of a pattern that would be associated with percussion such as snare, playing on and off the beat. The effect of doing this rather than playing on the beat each time, prevents the piece from sounding predictable. Unlike some other forms of electronic based music the kick is not the dominant drive to the piece, doing this adds a degree of individual isolated energy, to each of the instruments used so far. This approach seems to work best with the sound that is brought in at 1min 30sec, the sound has the characteristics of a wooden block but with a small amount of resonance add. This is played in a continuation of quavers throughout the entire piece, not stopping until the 5 minute mark of the piece. As this means there are eight notes of this sound playing to a bar, the perception of tempo is changed slightly, making the piece now sound more up-tempo than before the introduction of this sound.
As the first solid synthesized keyboard sound is introduced to the piece (in this case a padded sound), it is as a single F note split over two bars, with a D note playing in the second bar on the third beat. This is very slightly varied as the piece progresses, but keeps in line to the original structure. This changes at 2min 40sec into a more melody based approach of playing, using the following notes C, D, E and another F note, played separately one octave higher than the first F note that was used. These are a mixture of crotchets and quavers, with a minim used on the last note. The use of semi-quavers would have been to sudden too capture the timbre qualities of this sound, as with most padded sounds there is attack at the starting point of the sound, requiring a short period before the sound is heard clearly enough to add presence, at the same time it also has a long release that only the minim captures well. Choosing to use low volume or velocity on this sound, keeps the rhythm as its drive. Entering the padded synthesizer at a louder more dominant level, would have either dictated the overall feel of the piece (losing the separate qualities that are already heard) or moved it away from a percussive sounds that have dominated the song. Attempting to add this sound with more colour to it (using two note of the same octave one higher than the other), may have also begun to change the piece into a more tonal piece.
Rhythm returns as the lead attraction to the ear at 1min 50sec, achieving this by using a synthesized sound that has the characteristics of a real set of maracas, keeping the pattern of the sound similar to the expected sound of that real instrument. This has been achieved by varying between semi-quavers and quavers, using the quaver on the first three beats, adding four semi-quavers starting on the fourth beat. This sound begins to add a nice contrast between the eighth notes that have so far been the main note structure of the piece. Adding more quavers or crochet notes of percussion here, would have probably left the track sounding extremely similar, at the same time it may have also contrasted the tempo that had been generated by the wooden block sound earlier. Slowing down the overall perception of tempo.
Fig.1a: The first sound introduced is placed around 255hz - 640hz, as the graph indicates. The sounds characteristics are also very sharp in their amplification. Normally we can expect to find sounds that have these timbre qualities to sound hollow. The slight movement below the 255hz range also begins to show whether delay has been used. Normally with delay we would expect a patter similar to fig 1b.
As figure 1a does seem to have these characteristics (but not as close together), this could offer proof as to whether there is the use of delay. The movement could also indicate that other factors such as feedback may have been used to produce this sounds echo feel, rather than delay. However this was achieved, the final result is a perception of delay.
Fig 1c It is clearer looking from this overview why the snare related sound dominates as it enters. The high volume peaks that appear between the frequencies of 640hz - 1400khz are where this sound sits, almost twice the level of the other sounds that sit below this frequency. In total the introduction has used five electronically generated snare sounds, however because their most audio-able parts have all sat below the 640hz frequency range, their presence is not felt as much as it may have, had they been higher up the frequency chart. This can leave a question mark over the composer's intentions, and what significance these sounds actually have to the overall sonic feeling that has been built up within the first three minutes.
At the 3min point the track chooses not to change direction, but to lose some of the percussion it has introduced. Making the percussion that is left stand out more than it had previously. Following on from this point we find that the piece returns almost identically to its previous state. The snare related sound that brings this all back in also uses a traditional method of two hits between the fourth beat and the first beat of the next bar. When the piece draws to an end, at the 5min mark, the percussion is this time removed completely, leaving only the instrument that started the piece to fade out. There does however seem to be movement beneath this sound, which is hard to isolate from the main sound. Its Audible level leaves a question mark as to whether this is a sound add or feedback of some description.
Looking at the entire piece from the prospective of the wave image, it becomes clear that some use of limiter has been used ether within the mix process or after, in or during the final mastering stages. This can be seen on the waveform by the consistent level that the peaks reach (coloured red). There could have been several reasons for this; firstly it must be taken into consideration the timeline of the piece (1994), as well as the artist's composition intentions. As Autechre are a group that writes music to play live firstly, there seems to have been a lot of emphasis to this within the structure of this piece.
Throughout its running it seems to rely on triggered entrance's from the sounds, at the same time adding slight movement along the way by the use of controllers, such as cut-off or resonance. The limiter would have been an ideal tool for a composition of this type, preventing clipping, but at the same time giving the loudest possible signal. Keeping the signal away from the point that it would reach distortion, would also give the best bass feel to the tape/12 inch record (1) format that it was most likely recorded for. It is unlikely that any software other than for use of MIDI triggering has been used. Leaving all the audio to be relayed into a mixing deck, which could also offer another reason for the use of limiting.
The waveform also allows use to see the bars of the track more easily, isolating the obvious beats (in this case the bass kick-highlighted area diagram2). When the piece had started, it gave an unclear bar structure. The waveform however shows the beats more clearly, suggesting that the piece may have been written either within a sequencer, or using a pattern generator of some description, and not triggered MIDI as suggested before. This also leads to the belief that a drum machine is being used (although these sounds could also be generated by a keyboard instrument). This is because of its seemingly faultless state of the piece, also bringing into question weather quantizing may have taken place to achieve this.
The structure is very reminiscent of a track that has used the copy & paste process to repeat parts. If so this would have been possible through programs such as cubase24 (as the MIDI sequencer) or even hardware based sequencers that would have been available at the time of writing. This could however have all been down to artist intentions, they could have also used all of the above methods, ether in tandem with each other or separately. Finally, no doubt it was unintentional by the writers, but there is a clear indication that the Divine Proportion (or golden ratio/mean as it is also known) is taking place.This is clearly shown in diagram1 by the symbols A, B and C. showing the proportional differences of each section. Ironically if the image is reversed we are still left with are Divine Proportions. As with all the suggested composition methods it cannot be ruled out that Autechre actually intended the golden ratio to be part of the structural thinking.
Just as with other styles of dance the repetitive factor is of the essence to capture the feeling of the genre it has been written for. When examining the group more closely we find them in the Techno genre, and for the timeline of the piece, this would now go some way in explaining the structural thinking. The genre of Techno in 1994 was seen and classed as being genre that allowed for the experimenting of instruments and sound. Had the piece been released today it would probably fall into the category of experimental electronic. When understanding their live intentions, a simplistic overall structure may have been needed to keep the piece actually playable in a live situation.
(1) Through other research I have found that the 12inch vinyl format has better fidelity than 7inch vinyl, these may have been reasons also for the use of a limiter, enabling the lower bass frequencies to be enhanced in volume, in the final mixing stages.
A capture of the first 50 seconds of the pieceFig1b
Delay example taken from Bros I.O.U. Nothing (The Voices Mix). The introduction of this mix uses a clear example of delay.Fig1c
A capture of 1min-2min of the piece.
An interesting interview about how Autechre create there sound and what instruments
Information on Divine Proportions, also has links to other sites interested in this theory © ntm uk 2004
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