REVISIONS002 with reference to its purple cover art, brings things down a notch, to a slower, deeper place. “Read Between The Lines” turns Missy Elliott’s Miss E… So Addictive into a loungey UKG track while “Lightyears” recombines OutKast’s Stankonia to a create a sedated, spacey R&B instrumental.
Often when I begin working on a REVISIONS track I have some sense of where I’d like to take the source material, but almost inevitably I find myself in the opposite direction a few hours later. In this installment of my guest contributer series on Earmilk I’ll be doing a track breakdown from REVISIONS002, offering some insight into my sampling techniques, and explaining how one of the early 2000s’ most banging albums became one of the most subdued productions I’ve ever made.
01. “Read Between The Lines”
A revision of Missy Elliott’s Miss E… So Addictive
When creating a REVISIONS track, I usually start by dividing the source material into three categories: percussive, melodic and vocal. The isolated parts of a source track are usually found at the beginning or end, but a quick scan through the middle might show an interesting break or bridge section. Nearly all of “Read Between The Lines” was found in the first 5 seconds of the Missy Elliott tracks.
For percussion, I mainly relied on “Higher Ground” and “Old School Joint” – taking the 808 and hi-hats from the former, and the snare, congas and shakers from the latter. Using these I created a fairly standard UKG drum pattern, putting the first snare a 16th note before of the 2nd beat, and the second snare squarely on the 4th (with the odd fill). Hi-hats were added to increase accents and pulse, with a shaker from “One Minute Man” on the upbeats to give it a more jacking feel. Congas and shakers were cut and mapped to a keyboard roll, played and quanitized to the beat.
For the melodic and vocal elements, I used “X-tasy” and “One Minute Man”. When I first heard the whispering title vocal, I knew immediately I wanted this to be the focus of the track. The next challenge was then framing it in a way that didn’t take away from the vocal’s intimacy. I sampled the first keyboard phrase from “X-tasy” and played with it at different tempos along the keyroll. I came up with the descending progression, and then added a 7th to give it a more jazzy vibe. The vinyl distortion on the sample adds a nice homemade feel, and when pitched-down a full octave, as it is in the second half, sounds almost like rain. I re-sampled the same phrase to create that echoing stab that appears throughout, adding filtered delay and slight distortion to change its texture. The secondary vocal, the female ‘ooh’ is the intro to “One Minute Man” pitched-up considerably to match the chords. The acid-y lead synth from “One Minute Man” was also sampled to create those faint, high-pitched trills in the background.
I’ll save texture, atmosphere, mixing, and structure for separate weeks, but I hope this brief breakdown gives some insight into my sampling techniques. If there's a specific idea you'd like me to talk about or if you have any questions feel free to tweet me – @johnromandj – or leave me a comment on my Facebook page. Listen to the b-side, “Lightyears” below.
A revision of OutKast’s Stankonia