In third part of the interview Julius Dobos tells us how he found the perfect balance for his track This Time Back To The Lucky Blue with the frei:raum plug-in by sonible. The track unites many musical ideas, so it was quite a challenge to cut through this “sonic mess”.
I didn’t feel that the smart mode of frei:raum was making decisions for me… It actually helped me to get exactly where I wanted to go, but faster, easier.
S: Please tell us about the making of your track This Time Back to the Lucky Blue from your last album, Realignment, and what role the frei:raum plug-in has played producing it.
JD: My album forgotten future: W1 is basically an after-death multiversal journey with some quite unique adventures – ending with a hint that after body and mind are lost, something from us might survive and maybe even return for a new beginning. That’s where This Time Back to the Lucky Blue, the first track on the Realignment album picks up the voyage, depicting the shocking realization that this particular return is taking place here on Earth. I wanted the express this descent by taking the listener through a sequence of sonic experiences, each revealing a different natural environment that’s specific to our Blue Planet.
Honestly, I can’t think of any other tools in my studio that could have accomplished this in such a gentle, smooth, musical way.
I started the track with field recordings of a shaded forest and birds, then a grass field with buzzing insects and grasses moving in the light Summer breeze, then onto some hills with grazing cows, then into rocky creeks, diving into rivers, finally walking in snow. Needless to say, each of these recordings featured very broad ranges of dense frequencies, lots of intricate details all over the spectrum. I cross-faded the ambiances into one another to ensure a smooth sonic journey through the environments, so you are sometimes hearing three of them together.
To make the textures more musical, I granular-processed each one differently, giving them rhythmic patters and a pulsation that expresses the continuous travel though the layers of the ecosystem. Also, there are 5 different synth parts playing over them: some dense pads from an Ensoniq Fizmo’s slowly modulated transwaves, a couple of sequences from an Oberheim Matrix analog synth, and some effects sweeps that I had designed. All this with tons of delays and very long reverbs! If this is not enough for a complete sonic mess, imagine that this journey is supposed to feel light (since the “traveler” has no body, yet), not dense or heavy at all.
S: What role did the frei:raum plug-in play in getting the pieces of this “sonic mess” together?
After granular-processing the parts for the rhythmic movement, I assembled the sequence. I was at a loss: I knew that it had the right content, but it sounded like a dense mess of textures with all the nice, intricate details completely lost. I quickly tried my trusty frequency conflict-management techniques; I high-passed the environments at the reasonable maximum, I attenuated them around the tonal synth parts of the music with a very precise eq plugin, etc. This helped with the conflict, but the piece still sounded messy, unintelligible, the details were still masked. So I removed all the eq-s and re-started from scratch with the full frei:raum plugin. This was only the second or third time I used it.
The mix without frei:raum:
The mix with frei:raum:
First I used the analysis function to help me find the 2-3 most characteristic frequency areas in each ambience, and gained them. I’m quite fast at precisely finding frequencies, but in this case I accepted the help of the algorithm. I was immediately surprised how smooth and musical the eq bands sounded, even at narrow q values. Next, to take advantage of the moments when certain details noticeably reveal themselves in the recording (like a cow’s random mooing, a fly’s buzzing “performance” or the splashing of a harder-hitting wave in the river), I used the proximity eq to accentuate these actions. Now the details really started coming to life!
Now the details really started coming to life!
I ended up with an instance of frei:raum on every track, each working with the sonic details of a different environment. I carefully listened and identified where the most interesting elements came from, and adjusted their frequency areas, also considering the previously gained areas of other environments, to avoid accentuating overlapping frequencies. With some environments, I pushed back the consistent, tonal elements with the entropy eq, and with others I brought out the more interesting elements with the proximity eq. I was genuinely amazed how far I was able to push the ratio, without the curves destroying the character of the original sound. Somehow frei:raum allowed me to bring out certain elements from the complex ambience, as if it was able to isolate a wind gust or a bird song from everything else, and simply bring them closer.
I was amazed how far I was able to push the ratio, without the curves destroying the character of the original sound.
I work with countless hardware and software products and even compose product demos for some companies, but I typically I don’t endorse them. But, I must say that the smoothness of the frei:raum eqs and the magic of the proximity eq made it my favorite eq plugin. Somewhat ironically, I’m a strong AI-opponent and I’m especially against the AI-like features in music software, but I didn’t feel that the smart mode of frei:raum was making decisions for me… unlike some other “smart” products I’ve tried. It actually helped me to get exactly where I wanted to go, but faster, easier. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about expressing a feel through sound and harmonies… I was able to shape the palette of rich textures to evoke the sad but beautiful feel I was going for. This particular sonic painting was an unusually challenging one, but both the sound designer and mixing engineer sides of me were very happy with the result. Honestly, I can’t think of any other tools in my studio that could have accomplished this in such a gentle, smooth, musical way.