LO5- Critiquing Aesthetic and Technical Processes of Productions

In this blog I will evaluate how the aesthetic tone of a finished production, as well as its technical process, can evoke a specific desired emotion from the listener. One of the projects for this trimester requires us to work with an industrial artist called The Cave. The first track I’m going to be analysing is an electronic-industrial track which is much like the demo of one of The Cave’s tracks that we listened to in class. They used a fair bit of electronic elements in the demo track which made me think that starting with this track would help put me in the right mindset to envision what she wanted to sound like, as well as to further my understanding of the industrial genre.

Track 1:

The first track is titled Salvia from the band Health.

The intro to the song relies heavily on the electronic instruments with some low pads being processed through a tremolo effect for a couple of seconds. The intro also has a high pass filter present which is quickly automated out within 5 seconds. The low bass of the pads is fully present just before the drums start. The snares come into the mix and sit right up front. At first they seem fairly deep though a high almost metallic ring resonates at the end of every hit which makes it seem like they layered 3 different type of drums with different processing on each snare. This results in an extremely metallic snare with enough bass that it not only drives the track but becomes the focus of it too. A slight delay can be heard which helps thicken up the snare also while giving the illusion that there could be even another snare layered into the mix. A slight reverb can also be heard which increases the snares stereo presence.

The jarring change of tempo straight after the intro shocks the listener at first granted how faster the percussion is compared to the pads as well as the change in gain, no other elements come close to the level of the snares. The rhythm of the percussions is constant for most of the track and at first seems to set the tempo for the whole track, many other elements sick back in the mix and play out almost irrespectively to the snares. This part of the track evokes urgency, escape and the presence of danger (the horn just after the intro could be a signal of it). The constant use of the kick and a separate snare pushed to the far back of the mix seems to validate the concept of escape/ running with its own constant 4/4 tempo.

As the track moves into the bridge, all of the percussions are dropped out and aside from a slower kick sitting right at the bottom of the mix due to being processed through a high pass filter. A heavily reverb processed guitar chord is played throughout the bridge, signalling its start. Most of the low elements have been dropped out and the higher elements become easily to hear, giving the bridge a whole different aesthetic and tone. The huge reverb brings out the space of the track and makes it suddenly relaxing, though slightly eerie. This whole change of pace really mixes up the song and gives it a slow/fast/slow/fast feel.

All of a sudden the snares kick back in and you find yourself back in the chorus. The mechanical and industrial timbre of the elements are still slightly off-putting. Then it moves onto a different bridge again.

This bridge has no snare at all, but a low end kick is slowly automated into the mix via its gain. There are no guitars, aside from the very start. Instead of guitars synths take the place, one light subtractive synth now drives the track while a harsher FM synth signals the outro.

The slow outro (about 10 seconds) really slows the whole track down and assures the listener that it has concluded rather than just going back into the chorus. This calms the listener and signals whatever conflict or event that had just happened is now over (they are no longer being chased, there is no reason to panic etc).

Zia could use the track as an extreme example on how to pace her tracks and to make sure the pacing is present so that the listener can identify where they are in the song, in regards to song structure.

Track 2:

The second track I’m going to analyse is titled Blood Bag from the artist Junkie XL. This track is part of the soundtrack from Mad Max : Fury Road. Damn good movie.

While this soundtrack constantly plays through the film, some scenes show a guitarist and drummers playing some of the tracks during the chase scenes which gives the track even more context and becomes a visual representation of the tone of the track.

The track has a longer intro compared to the last one but is still a perfect example of great pacing and song structure. The track starts with some Taiko drums siting at the bottom of the mix. Suddenly the gain is increased and the drums become the driving force of the track. The drums are processed through a huge reverb though it’s not 100% wet, the drums still have a huge presence and the reverb is used to fatten them up. The rhythm is fast and constant, like a war drum with cymbal crashes and low strings to emphasise the intensity and tension of the track.

The drums drop back again then return with some more, louder strings. The drums drop out again but the strings remain. The tension of the song rises again the drops, including the strings. Keys are hit once just before the drums are automated back to their original gain level. The drums get faster and louder while a guitar can be heard playing a high chord in the back of the mix, processed with a tremolo effect.

The drums get softer and rise again, this time with an electric guitar following behind it. The guitar is processed with a low pass filter that is slowly automated off. Once the guitar stops increasing, the drums stop the usual tempo and follow the rhythm of the guitar- only being hit when the guitar plays the start of the riff. The guitar sits right up front in the mix and becomes the focal point of the track. The guitar is slightly grainy and fairly distorted like something you would hear from a typical metal song. The drums start playing the original tempo again but still sit at the back of the mix. The track ends with a second guitar playing a higher, faster riff underneath the first guitar while the drums play at the original volume again. Then suddenly it stops with only the reverb ringing out.

The constant drive of the drums is similar to that of a war drum which many people are familiar with though general media or subjective perception. Because we hear the drums as a war drum that already evokes certain reactions- danger, aggression, conflict, tension. The way the drums constantly drop in and out acts as a slow lead up to the point of when those emotions build up and finally reach the extremes as the guitar comes in. The guitar, having more high end presence, evokes excitement and even more tension as the drums drop back in the mix. As it too drops back a bit and all of the elements start increasing together this would evoke a more adrenaline and intense reaction as the listener knows what they will hear next but at a louder volume. This also work perfectly in the movie which is shown below.

In comparison to the previous track, This pacing and dropping key elements in and out of the track gives the listener time to anticipate what they might hear next, which is satisfying when they’re right though there are still elements they didn’t predict coming through.

Here’s some of the making of the soundtrack which I found very interesting. I hadn’t realized each main character had their own themes and how effective it was in portraying their characteristics without the need for them to even do or say something significant.

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