In the late 80’s and earl 90’s while I was playing in the Head Full of Zombies in Colorado Springs, Fluorescent Echo was rocking the Boulder scene with synth pop. I never bumped into them back then but I did end up meeting Fluorescent Echo’s songwriter, programmer, producer and backup vocalist Heather Valey out on twitter. Now a sound designer in Austin TX, she and Denver-based members J. Forest Kelly (vox) , and Michael Smith (guitar) have reformed to release a brand new album called Glow.
There a 5 original synth driven songs followed by a cover of “Warm Leatherette” . The rest of the album is made up of 5 remixes of the original tracks. I was honored to have been included and remixed the song “Now is Now”. Listen to the original here, and my remix here.
You can buy the album here as a digital download (MP3, FLAC, AAC…) which includes lineR notes and scans of a lyrics notebook which is super cool. That same site has link if you’d also like a phyiscal CD.
Remix notes on “Now is Now”
I worked on the remix over a three week period in January. My notes are below:
- I started with 22 clean stems with no FX.
- The final remix had 53 tracks. Not all tracks were used during playback as some were used for resampling and such.
- The entire song was produced, mixed and mastered completely within the digital domain within Ableton Live 8.2.7 on Windows 7. Production started on my older HP DV6 system. I moved the project to my newer HP Envy 14 half-way through the production as I needed more CPUs and GBs :^)
- I used over 100 instances of digital effects – mostly Ableton but also SugarBytes (Effectrix), Tone2 (AkustiX), and Image-Line. I also resampled using effects to create audio clips.
- While I mostly used the source content from the stems for the remix, I did program and play some new parts. The intro and last chorus drums were programmed on SonicCharge uTonic drum synth with heavy morphing. I added some new arpeggiated analog synth line via U-HE ACE. I also used Waldorf Largo in the verses to create a subtle bass to warm up the mix. I also used Tone2 ElextraX to boost the energy out of the bridge.
- I worked on the song in multiple sessions over a period 21 days from January 4th-25th 2012. Project took about 14 hours actual work.
00:00 INTRO VOX
I completely replaced the original introduction. While the original was great, I decided I wanted to create a new one for a few reasons. First, I wanted to highlight the character of the lead singer John’s voice right from the start. Next, I LOVE the sentiment of the lyrics in the chorus so I wanted to kick the song of with the chorus. Lastly wanted a non-beat driven start to the song to make it easier for DJs to blend this track into a mix. All this being the case the song kicks off A Capella. I used Tone2 AkustiX to sweeten vocals.
00:20 INTRO INSTRUMENTAL
After this there is an instrumental section based partly on stems from the chorus with some new drums I programmed. I wanted this to be simply MASSIVE and shake the house so lots of sub-harmonic kicks. I morphed and sliced the drum synth (Sonic Charge uTonic) creating motion, variety, and a big dynamic range for the kicks – sometimes sub-woofer huge, sometimes not. I added a new bass line to complement the new drum vibe. The guitar is the stem from the chorus. I added gain, EQ, filter, slicing and delay to it.
To transition to the first verse I use the delay tails from the guitar plus a resampled section of the vocals (frozen reverb reversed).
00:52 VERSE 1 PART A
I drop out almost all supporting tracks to make room for a sparse first verse to highlight the VOX and lyrics. Some reverse samples from the vox in here. One thing I wanted to try here was using ONLY the kick drum from the original stems for ALL instrumental parts. I compress it heavily, then boost it’s volume, then use automation to turn on and modulate Bit Reduction, Beat Repeat, Ping Pong, and Reverb. With the drums alone I felt it lacked warmth, so I added a new subtly and warm bass track using Waldorf Largo.
01:10 VERSE 1 PART B
As we get closer to the first chorus I wanted to drop the bottom out of the mix so I cut the kick completely. This is because for the upcoming first and second choruses I decided to use the kick and snare from the stems and I needed the section to be more “thin”. The machine-like hats are the original hats with heavy automated transposition. Bass synth starts here. It’s the original but heavily processed to make it more spongy – bringing closer to the timbre of the hats. I compressed it and crushed it. I added some time-based filter, phasing, delay and more crushing. Then some filter and verb. Reverse vox and guitar stab from original stems makes an appearance right before the chorus.
01:27 CHORUS 1
“Now is Now” sample from original stems (which is EPIC btw). Original kicks but compressed, volume boosted again then compressed again with a different compressor. Lots of work on the snare to make it pop. Volume boost, filter, a little slap-back via delay and some verb to give it a little gate. Hats are original bit pitch shifted. Guitar as back – similar to guitar in instrumental into. Added some arpeggiated synth via U-HE ACE. Lots for work on placing the vox in space and adding delays.
01:49 VERSE 2
Bass is back from Verse 1 Part B, but this time the kick and hats are new. I sequenced them using SonicCharge uTonic drum synth. They are then crushed, filtered, delayed, beat repeated and verbed.
This is a pretty crazy mix so far so I decided to make Chorus 2 very similar to Chorus 1 so the listener would recognize it – and of course sing along.
The original stems had some great vocoded pad-like sounds and I wanted to highlight them plus the lyrics and vox and give the listener a little break as we approach the EPIC final chorus. To this end I drop out almost all instruments which really opened things up to make room for the vox and vocoding. Kick is from uTonic. The guitar stabs were created by using the original guitar stems. I switched the original guitar stab to the back-beat using a delay totally wet. I EQ’d the guitar to drop the mids completely so you’d hear the warmth the the vox. I made a copy of the vocoded vox and manually mixed a reverb (including reverb freezing) and recorded this automation.
02:43 Almost a complete drop out prepping you for the build.
02:58 Out of this bridge I created a big build teeing you up for the instrumental break. Swell is from guitar, two synth parts I added using ACE and Tone 2’s ElextraX virtual synths. Some original snare hits thrown in.
03:03 INSTRUMENTAL BREAK
Hats again are original by pitch shifted. Lost of original stems. I spent a good amount of time adding effects to a Rhodes-like piano from the original stems. Volume boost, frequency shifter, filter, delay and reverb with automation. Here and there I bring the guitar – but it’s timbre is quite different as a result of EQing. Loved the original bass here, I make it stand out in the mix.
Here and there I us the kick and snare from the stems with big effects.
03:40 END CHORUS
Ok here we go! I switch back to the huge and morphing drums from the opening and blend them with the original drums. One a big PA this sounds HUGE.
There was a counter melody in the original version that was down in the mix. I really liked it so I promoted it to primary melody and lyric for this last Chorus. Even though there a massive amount of drums going on, I worked to get it out over the top of the mix so you could hear it really clearly. Lots of real-time automation on delays to enhance the vox.
04:08 A return of that awesome synth hook at the end of the song as well. I added a new arpeggiated filter swept part to drive the beat along.
“Now is Now” load and clear with some delay tails from the vox “Finallly Free”, synth, and the guitar.
AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!
What a pleasure to work on such a great song with so many hooks and great material in the original stems. Bravo Fluorescent Echo!
Composer, Synthesist, Electronic Musician & Multimedia Artist | Sr. Systems Analyst | Founder of the Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup