What's wrong with my mix?
Computer Music, CM135
March 2009
Page 47

As a founding member of techno pioneers 808 State, our guest producer certainly knows his stuff. So, what will he make of our reader's latest efforts.

Producer: Graham Massey

Graham Massey is a key figure in the UK techno scene having formed the seminal 808 State back in 1988. A prolific re-mixer for over 20 years, recent clients include The Whip and Chrome Hoof. Graham is currently busy with his all-girl organ quartet The Sisters Of Transistors, for whom he writes, produces and plays drums.


the day we all decided to become scientists
Artist: David Priestley

Nojoined have given us an ambient techno track that has an immediate sound and a clear presence. It reminds me of some of the early 80s synth music, such as Japan or Yellow Magic Orchestra, but with a modern, three-dimensional quality.

Essentially, this is a two-chord vamp. A couple of percussive synth lines set up the piece-they're nicely intertwined and spaced just right in the stereo image, but could do with some subtle tweaking to return one's attention every now and again. Ideally, one of the lines could be sent out to some real analogue synths or guitar stompboxes to make it less generic. There is some evidence of this in the pad sound, which has some nice grittiness to it.

I would have perhaps centred the pads and then layered the drum sound with more ambient effects. Currently, this last is dominated by some huge pitched claps and a tight room reverb effect - it's a far from obvious way to program, as the sound is very bold and processed by a pre-delay tightness that pushes the rhythm away from the other instruments. The drums are probably too loud, but I like it when some elements of a mix are a bit pokey, and I'm enjoying the spatial effects.

There are a few breakdowns in the sequencing, where an extra development of the overall arrangement would have been good. But, these things are hard to judge in techno, because, more often than not, such a tune is just a building block in a DJ set.

How many of us have these instrumental electronic tracks parked up on our hard drives like un-sellable Vauxhalls at a Midlands car plant? I believe that context is the missing link. A while ago, some of my Mac mates discussed doing a GarageBand night, revelling in the program's limitations - linking back to social context is a flag-waving issue for me.

Overall, though, this is an engaging track on a sonic level. The space is interesting and the lines weave well. Nojoined has been sensible to keep it to four minutes in length, leaving you feeling like you've been in a strange cube of positive ions. I'll get my (white) coat.

What the artist says:

"I have always worked with low-cost and free soft synths to produce purely electronic music. This track is one of my first experiments trying to integrate my bass guitar playing. Unfortunately, the bass didn't make it onto the final mix."

Pentium 3 PC, Line 6 TonePort GT1, Yamaha Bass, Steinberg Cubasis 5, Line 6 GearBox, free VST instruments: Crystal, Majken's Chimera, NI Kore Player, Neon, Marimka