Today I will be talking about the song Aurora, one of the very first songs I put together when I began conceptualizing Terramecha. At the bottom of this article is a live version of Aurora, from a gig I played at Nectar, a Fremont neighborhood bar in Seattle. Early versions of Aurora didn't have the thick, liquidy bassline and the synth lead, so I chose to post a more mature version of the song.
Aurora is what I consider one of the "observational" pieces on the album, not really having anything to do with the main story, but more of a description of what the spaceman/listener might see on the way to their destination. In the case of Terramecha, the spaceman and his trusty spaceship are cruising along at impossible rates of speed through the galaxy when they come across a beautiful and unique planet called Aurora. In a nutshell, Aurora is really just a giant sphere of eye candy, emitting flares of continually changing colors, much like the Aurora Borealis. From a visual standpoint, I see these light flares moving in almost slow-motion, with the spaceman in awe as to what he's witnessing. The song itself has a slow, trudging feel and builds up slowly with an eventual bassline and synth lead joining in. From there, the idea is to increase the intensity with the addition of more frantic drums and a heavy vibrating bass. At this point in the observation, the spaceship is at it's closest to the mysterious planet, and something is affecting the ship's electronics, causing it to malfunction. This malfunction could also affect the spaceman, perhaps by putting him in a trance or making his "circuitry" go crazy. Musically, I want to convey the idea that the spaceman/ship's electronics are flipping out, and that our protagonists must leave before there's any serious damage. I also envision these light flares as having sounds associated with them, so the planet itself is giant, psychedelic, music-making disco ball/lava lamp. It just seems like it would be a badass scene in a movie!
Where Aurora fits on Terramecha is the first side of the album, most likely the third song. The adventure has just begun, we're on the road to our destination, so why not do a little sight-seeing on the way? Aurora has showed up in my live sets more than a lot of songs, because it was one of my typical collage pieces, and is fun just to mess around with different mixes. However, over the years the general structure stayed the same; the piece builds up in intensity, themes are introduced, a bridge part breaks things down, and then I bring up the intensity again with faster percussion elements until the song sorta peters out. This is most likely how the album version will end up too, but I would like to integrate some more recently-acquired techniques to get my idea across more effectively.
When I first started working on Terramecha, I was messing around a lot with the Metaphysical Function ensemble in Native Instruments Reaktor. You'll probably see me mention Reaktor a lot in future posts, because Reaktor is one of the main pieces of software I use to create sounds. Metaphysical function is a really unique sound generator for making amorphous scapes by mixing tones together, and often the results are complex and often discordant. It also had another feature where you could play an audio loop and run it through filters, reverbs and a cool little resonator. I ended up making a ton of new loops out of this little sample mangler and some of the percussion loops you hear, as well as some of the scape material, were generated using that unit. Some of the sounds at the beginning of Aurora have an almost Asian sound, which I think gives the piece an exotic feel, like you're seeing something for the first time.
That's all I got for now. Stay tuned! I might jump over to the Rust side of the album for my next blog.
As always, feedback welcome. Let me know what you think!
Terramecha: Aurora - live 041608 by Gel-Sol