Prece is my third studio release - also the longest yet. It’s instrumental, soft, loungey, lo-fi and low-key polymetric - picture all kinds of soft timbre synth goodness and moody arrangements. “Prece” is brazilian for “prayer” and reflects the mindset I’ve had throughout its development. Graduating while freelancing and working a full-time job was an extremely challenging time, I needed some outlet for loneliness and melancholy, and also something to bring me back to focus. The album nods towards a personal interest in spirituality, faith and zen-buddhism in particular.
The production of prece aimed for a few principles, inspired by engineering practices in the software world. First, songs should be instantaneous - if within a session a composition didn’t arrive anywhere interesting, it would get discarded. This is the principle of quick prototyping and happened to quite a few in the process. Because of this, tracks were not named after the very end of the process, when I named every single song at once. Second, composing more songs than actually needed - margin of error - 13 songs were composed in total. This means we can select only the best ides to build the album off of.
Finally, songs needed to be practiced in a staging environment (my bedroom) well enough that a single playthrough in production (the studio) was enough. Effectively, the album was recorded in a single day, including songs we cut out.
I had the the pulsating, doubled, single-note melody of Milagre on the back of my mind for ages already at the point of composing the album. It was initially a vocalized melody - like many other melodies in the album - switched to a synth voice. At this point it was just a rough idea leading nowhere in particular. That changed once the chords were added in - they gave the song some sort of direction. That pulled in the high-pitched intro melody - after fiddling a lot with the MicroMonsta, the perfect timbre simply emerged, giving the track its own identity.
At this point the track was a loop. The drums came second, giving the track its unforgettable groove, but it still felt stuck in place. There was however this undeniable feeling of suspense, like something incredible was about to happen. That’s in fact where the title comes from: what the song needed was a glorious, very potent lead melody to guide the other arrangements - a miracle. Composing this melody was interesting: the first few notes (up to the tidili-ti-ti staccato) came almost immediately, while the rest took a bit more trial and error. I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, but it grew on me. Once that was done, it was time to add some bass - three lines were written, and some back and forth happened between Jota and I to decide on it.
The final piece of the puzzle came weeks later - this idea of a harmonised bridge with a different, mellower timbre. I aimed for a melancholic, cryptic cadence which grows stranger and stranger with each passing chord, until a complete resolution brings it back to square 1. Still, it had to fit the vibe of the song, so the modal interchanges needed to be resolved - no loose weird harmonies. That’s why each chord gets introduced and then changes at the last bit. Turns out it worked quite well as a complimentary layer to the main melody. Closing the track happened quite naturally from there.
While composing prece, I let naming tracks to the very end of the process. Up until the album was completely recorded, each song was just “Prece #”. Milagre was Prece 13, the last one of all. At some point it was supposed to be also the last in the tracklist, but it worked a lot better as an opening track.
This was a remix of a jam session we did with a few friends. This guitar theme came up while I was playing on Kim’s guitar - in a radically different tuning I can’t recall for the life of me - and we played an entire session on it. This was recorded, together with the other instruments - it was a radically different song at that point!
I wanted to reuse that audio, so I chopped the loops up and resampled them on TidalCycles. I ended up with many takes of the same loop. Once the samples were ready, I wrote code to pick random takes continuously one after another. Then I played this on three pan points (left, center, right) with different take sequences. This trick made everything sound like a chorus of guitars playing roughly the same phrase, but making mistakes at different points. It’s not unlike doubling guitars, a technique very common to rock and heavy metal music production.
This song was written way back when Parabolist used to play together. We were moving away from mathcore into some more experimental / ambient sounding pieces. I wrote this piece for us to play together but the arrangements were slightly different. Eventually I chose to make an electronic version of it, since we didn’t plan to record / release this track in the first place.
The fundamental, pulsating melody was played on a guitar - hence the stack of fourths, taken as inspiration from Yes’ closing to “The Clap” (of all places). The driving, low-pitched melody was played on bass, the drums were brushed and that’s about everything we had. Again, it was missing some leading piece to it, which is where the leading melody came into place. This melody was composed in the Model Cycles, and there’s this very interesting thing you can do with FM Synthesis, where by changing the carrier frequency you effectively morph the sound in ways considered illegal in subtractive synthesis. It’s essentially ring modulation.
The synth voice on the cycles has this control, and I tried automating it via Tidal - effectively, the computer is rotating the knob automatically. The result was quite amazing, and unlocked a whole new world for me: coding MIDI CC LFOs.
This became a central piece of Prece: many tracks have automated MIDI CC messages as a timbre. The reason I like this so much is because everything about my music is cycle-based. I effectively build cycles with varying lengths, which combine to create larger cycles with even larger lengths. Picture a planetary system, or a mobile. Doing the same with timbre unfolds a completely different dimension to it, which IMO really values the sound qualities of the synth being used. This is the case with Inerte, and the reason I like it so much.
My favorite aspect of this song is the ending pan circle done by Jota. I did not anticipate adding yet another layer of circularity to the song - it turned out to be the perfect closing to the song. It was truly an amazingly exciting moment to hear the end result.
I originally wrote Prece (nameless, at the time) as a piece for two classical guitars. I pictured recording my father playing it - an impossible endeavor. It has a longer, unreleased version, completely different to what is heard in the original album, but it’s shelved for now. It’s a very secret song. This other 2-min acoustic version was a lot closer to a classical piece.
I decided to zoom into the main loop and build something out of it. In fact, I originally intended for both to be in the album, but it was better otherwise. This song had to use the most frail-sounding timbres imaginable, and still manage to somehow pack a punch. That for me is the feeling of Prece, and its main listening challenge. Brushed drums, muffled bass, soft rhodes - a perfect ballad.
The loop sounded great by itself but again it needed a melody to lead it forwards - again, a stacked polyrhythm to the rescue. The rhodes melody has no clear beginning or end, and instead clicks into place as framed by its surrounding harmony. It’s driven instead by the growing effects (delay in this case) to build tension in the song - a technique I started using a lot after TCHOSE (eg. Convolutron). The final arrangement of the song was also part of its longer counterpart, but en passage rather than looping. Instead, here I wanted to focus on the precious little sound of this clip.
To me, some songs simply “are” - they exist unassumingly, almost without intention. Examples are Stone in Focus, Avril 14th by Aphex Twin, Home by Resonance, The Word II by Shigeo Sekito, and many others. This was my attempt at making one.
This song was commissioned by a a friend - he asked me to compose music to accompany a painting he dedicated to his sister for a special occasion. It was a touching moment in their life and I was more than happy to do it. It was release as a single, but the song fit Prece so well I chose to re-record it.
Girassol is maybe my favorite example of stacking melodic polymeters - The song closes with two pianos looping melodies of different lengths each, which continuously combine and interact. Depending on the iteration, they will generate different results which can be often interesting and unpredictable - also surprisingly sublime. Because of the timbre similarity, they effectively sound like a single instrument at times, which further enhances this effect.
Professor Suzuki was once asked how it feels to have attained Satori, the zen experience of awakening, he answered ‘just like ordinary everyday experience except about two inches off the ground’.
This was maybe the song that drove Prece as a concept - the moment I decided to turn this set of songs into an album. After Sino, I wanted to make a beat which which sounded punchy and yet zen. Like a Satori Shuffle - I do picture Mr. Orange doing his famous Konohana Shuffle to the sound of this.
I aimed for a heavy hitting low-end with a solitary, repetitive melody on top and some shuffled drums. Can’t go wrong! The song was obviously missing a solo part, so I asked Jota to jump in and he was happy to. The result couldn’t be better frankly, the solo is terrific and just slips right into the song.
Composing Interior was the strongest time-stop moment in the entire process - maybe ever, personally. I was in Floripa, living in a very lonely, tiny flat. I barely had space to breathe, but everyday I was blessed with a fantastic sunset. It was also an extremely stressful period and I barely had time to sleep.
The song started from trying to build an electronic bossa-nova ballad. I wanted it to be a vulnerable climax for the tracklist, really a moment to contemplate melancholy for a while. I started from some very teensy MicroMonsta timbres and went from there. Then a drum line and a bassline to accompany it. At this point I had writer’s block. Didn’t know what to do. All I had was this beginning and the main theme / chorus - a sailor song attempt I wrote way back in the day.
I decided to let chance into the process - I built a pattern to play chords and started choosing random chords. This eventually led to the main cadence. Finally, the idea of a descending melody came up, with an accompanying chord cadence. When I played that arrangement split between the MicroMonsta and the Reface, time stopped for a minute. I stood there listening to the loop for some fifteen minutes straight, staring at the sunset. I vividly remember pausing it and sitting down in silence for a few minutes more. Since then shivers run down my spine whenever I hear that sound.
I had this idea for a very apotheotic 4-chord cadence. Something uplifting, uncomplicated, as light as possible. My idea was to play it on a hammond and build something off of it - like one of those more ambient cuts in a 70’s prog rock album. Things changed a little after running that cadence on the MicroMonsta - noodling around for a bit resulted in this lush, wide pad sound. There wasn’t much else to it - a complimentary piano cadence, a drum vibe and circular bass line. I kind of hit a block at that point.
Then I decided to try and mix in another cut I had from a different jam. It was this bassline spanning three chords - which are themselves pretty interesting. Sounded kind of quirky at that point but OK. Things really changed though after playing that same intro pad over this harmony instead - essentially the entire second half of the song came out of that. So many possibilities! I remember playing trying out many arrangements - like the pulsing, single-note bass, the pianos with random notes, etc. as well as many other which got shelved in the end. The final addition to this was Jota’s touch of using Little AlterBoy to increasingly modulate and distort the pianos frequencies. The good thing about working with fewer layers and less musical information is that small aesthetic elements get amplified - this modulation was perfect to fill an arrangement gap and wrap up the song.
This was an attempt at coding an Axé song. It was composed around when I wrote Bote, so they share some research. This is a very long song so without going in detail: I had many melodies which shared a same base harmony, and I wanted to try them out on top of each other. These date years back - the intro and outro melodies were written at the time of Parabolist, the second one when I was in college, etc. These melodies all shared a very hopeful, upbeat feel which seemed to fit the theme quite nicely. Also, Axé having a very strong spiritual aspect which the theme of the album aligns with.
Also, I was curious what an ambient axé piece would sound like, and how well could synthesized instruments fare that aesthetic. Because of technical constraints the percussion ended up being sampled. The equipment at the time simply wasn’t enough - it didn’t come close to the timbric detail required from a percussion set in such an environment. My favorite part is the sharp drop after the looping bit, towards the end. The pitch breadth makes the synth timbre sound so incredibly satisfying - it feels like taking a deep breath.
This track was inspired by a clicky sound made in the Model:Cycles. I tried exploring the monophonic nature of the synth by playing a strummed chord. Since it’s monophonic, previous notes would die out very quickly. Add delay and reverb to that and boom: a super sweet sounding arpeggio. I threw in a dub beat and it fit right in. Finally, to drive the song, I revisited the harmony of a song we (cookie and I) wrote wayyyyy back in the day - back then a sketch called Amethyst. Probably one of the first pieces of music either of us ever wrote. He let me steal this one - it’s for good measure too, he took a few of my themes for future projects 😉 we’ve never been posessive when it come to ideas.
It was originally a piano theme back then and I chose to respect that. It was also only the first cadence. I tried out other cadences as the song moved forwards - some were discarded, my favorites made it in. In the end the harmony worked out super well. At this point the song was a jazzy dub jam missing one key ingredient - bass. The MicroMonsta came again to the rescue with a massive bass timbre. Also, it would be quite fun to end the album with a personal staple: melodies of different lengths. I really don’t grow tired of that: Girassol, Sino, Triangle, Prece… stacked polymeters everywhere. This time, the bass has this circular melody with very ambiguous rhythmic punctuation. It’s hard to say where it beings and ends, because somehow that’s really not the point. The point is how it recombines with the other melodies, generating a continuously changing arrangement spectrum. I was quite satisfied with how it all came together at that point.
The final touch was adding randomness to the initial voice, such that eventually the arpeggio fades in the middle of a mass of little bubbly notes. It’s interesting to note that the original arpeggio is still there though - one can always hear it. At this point I knew this had to be the closing track - the end is just too mesmerizing.