MIXING: "formless cluster" by Talk Bazaar
A behind the scenes mix breakdown of Talk Bazaar's latest single "formless cluster"
✨ ✨ ✨ BACKGROUND ✨ ✨ ✨
formless cluster is one of my favorite songs of all times…
The first time I heard the song was when Alex (Talk Bazaar) shared a demo during a Paper Moon Records (@pmrecrds) ‘show-and-tell’ and everyone was in awe. I felt immensely honored when Alex asked if I would mix the single. 🥰
I met Alex in 2016ish? at a Modern Diet (@moderndiet) and (@ritualtalk) show (ritual talk is Alex’s other band with Tom @_tea_sea_).
Ritual Talk immediately become one of my favorite bands. I’ve been lucky to get to know Alex and Tom and to witness their artistic (and hair) evolutions since (see pictures below).
🎠 🎠 🎠 🎠
Talk Bazaar (@talkbazaar_) on recording formless cluster in Florida with nothing but a laptop, mic, and guitar:
“formless all happened in the course of a few hours, from writing to recording. i woke up feeling really emotional and just started typing what turned into the lyrics for the song - i recorded the guitars really quickly and then did vocals - the only takes i did are what’s on the recording, not a lot of comping or redoing or anything. i did have to stop a few takes because i started crying as i was tracking, but i kept whatever i got through and then just picked the take back up where i left off. then i added some VSTs (lot of arturia on there, their wurli and the modular moog synth for the bass) and backing vox. the only thing i didn’t track that afternoon was the drums - i had midi drums in there to get the point across but i sent it over to matti to track the real deal, which he did a few days later. and there you have it!”
🎛 🤓 GEEKING OUT 🤓 🎛
note to reader:
I’m trying to make the kind of content that I would have loved to see when I first started getting into recording/mixing. There is little to no information out there on how most of my favorite records were made and that’s a shame! Plz share these posts with your engineer buds that might get a kick out of the behind-the-scenes tech and philosophies covered below…
🥁 D R U M S 🥁
The way I mixed the drums in “formless cluster” was atypical in the amount/types of reverb I used on the drums. I usually approach drums and percussion reverb in a naturalistic way - emphasizing the inherent room ambiance that’s already present in the recordings.
For “formless cluster” we wanted the drums, especially the drums in the final chorus, to be dynamically explosive and spatially HUGE in order to accentuate the contrast between sections and the drama of the song’s finale.
🥊 S N A R E 🥊
The snare drum in the final mix is made up of equal parts Matti’s raw snare recording plus two different triggered snare samples. Each of the samples is meant to reinforce elements of the original snare recording in order to shape/maximize the snare drum’s frequency response, duration, and dynamic punch in the context of the whole mix.
🔮 R E V E R B 🔮
I ended up using two different reverb sends/returns on the snare.
The first reverb is the one labeled “SPLASH” (pictured below) which is a relatively long instance of @valhalladsp VintageVerb in its “Concert Hall” algorithm. This reverb is adding substantial duration to the snare but it’s also adding substantial width to an otherwise mono source.
The second reverb (also pictured below) is an instance of @uaudio AMS RMX which is there to add even more ‘depth’ to the snare sound. The output of the AMS reverb is summed to mono (unlike the VintageVerb) so it’s really operating in its own distinct space - stretching the distance between the snare and the imaginary ‘back wall’ of the mix.
🎓📓 L E A R N I N G 📓🎓
One of my favorite tricks these days is using mono reverbs to emphasize depth. “Width” knobs on reverbs are addicting. More width usually sounds more interesting in an immediate sense, especially when the source is isolated because it adds all sorts of spatial cues that make for a more detailed and complete sense of space. But as soon the rest of the mix is in play, I’ve found that that rich spatial information can get lost and sometimes even get in the way of other more pertinent elements like vocals and other lead instruments. By confining reverbs to mono playback, it can be easier to fit them into a mix with intention rather than adding them in as more of a wash. Sometimes, of course, a wash is the move 🛀
Thx for reading <3