how i made #1 “FASat–Bravo”
“how i made” is a series of Medium posts about music composition, production, the influences and the philosophy behind it, by kim marmscmatss
warning: im a self-taught composer and producer. i don’t know much of anything about music theory, production or technology. i hardly ever know what i’m doing while i’m making my music and so i can’t completely explain all the things i do when i write or produce a song. however, this is my personal experience of how i made this song. also, in my style of writing, [a/b] represents a dual signification of concepts — take the concept you [understand/like] the most and leave it at that! also some of it goes into [deep philosophy/sacred science] so feel free to ignore paragraphs that prove too [esoteric/nonsensical] -m.
“FASat–Bravo” was the first song i recorded for my EP InfoSec of the First World, which was a four-track satire on the relationship between [techno-obscurantist/Kaczynskian] internet politics and double-governmental surveillance, a [war/peace] cycle built on the ideals of decaying transcendentalist western institutions and their desire for a symbolic Union of [nations/peoples].
the song itself deals with these themes by exploring the [collective/individual] race towards transcendence that defines the idealistic human experience. The video explains this further, by providing [visual/symbolic] parallels for the obsolescence of institutions, both on the cosmic (represented by FASat–Alpha, through footage of the Space Race) and the mundane (the desperate quietness of modern society, in contrast with the brutality of ancestral cultures), inviting the idea of a reboot of [humanity/the Simulation] and a return to the fundamentals (0 and 1, small structures that expand into bigger structures, a kind of cosmic Conway’s Game of Life), while still celebrating the kind of human defiance that makes us aspire to [become divine/escape from Earth/escape from The Real] to begin with.
on a personal level…
the song was also written after my own great disappointments while navigating the world of initiatic institutions, and discovering that many of these organizations are mere zombies of what came before, self-proclaiming wisdom by wearing the hollowed skin of the ancestral traditions, symbols and ideals which they [intend/pretend] to promote and protect — their cup has been spilled, no matter what they tell you!
however, rather than let myself sink in with this ship of fools, i choose the heroic: i’mma get my own damn ship and navigate my own way home!
at the beginning of the song, you can hear an ascending atonal stair, which in the first “verse” also plays the lead melody. this “instrument” is the result of passing a sine wave through a sample rate reducer, and using the high frequence aliasing to play the melody. on most sections, the sine wave is playing the root note while the aliasing plays the melody, but in others, both are playing different melodies entirely! this “instrument” served as the core of the whole song, everything else was built [on top/around it].
building the song
after experimenting with the lead “instrument” for a bit, i decided to use it on a “surf rock” song, in a most Spruancian way of understanding the genre (UR’s “Drive” is a good example of what I’m talking about here). to most people, however, it will sound like disco, on the basis of the mechanical-sounding bass and the LinnDrum beat.
a huge influence for the song and video was Sparks “My Other Voice”, and its fan video by Chriddof. you can see the visual editing influence of Chriddof all over the video for “Bravo”, and the musical influence of Giorgio Moroder all over the production of the song as well.
the second “verse” melody is built on a fun silly gimmick I discovered while composing “Zombi 40” for Surfing Arcanis. basically, you alternate from one note, then go up 11 semitones, then go down semitones notes, go up 9, go down 8 etc. creating a kind of shrinking triangle that can resolve into a diminished fifth, perfect fourth or any other note you can pull off. in my opinion, there’s an inherent weirdness to it that can feel either unnerving or mysterious depending on context.
the influnces for this song are available as a Spotify playlist. some tracks couldn’t be found there, so they’re added below.
how i wrote #1 "FASat-Bravo", a playlist by Mars Cat on Spotify
- “すべてを乗り越えて” from Terranigma, composed by either 高岡 美代子 or 曳地 正則
- “233.778 Celsius” from Duke Nukem 3D, composed by Lee Jackson
- “復興の唄” by ゲルニカ
- “Jihad” by The Sisterhood
- “Moskow Diskow” by Telex
- “Steel Trust” by Germania
- “drumsong.ksm” by Ken Silverman
- “Città Violenta” by Ennio Morricone
- “Dave the Dirty Cowboy” by Richard Jan Plasko
- the works of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks. Can’t be more specific, it’s a sonic thing.
- special shout-out to all the obscure VHS tapes about God, aliens, conspiracy theorists, and mondo films for inspiring the aesthetics and production of the song
the main instruments
- as mentioned above, the main instruments were an electric bass, a LinnDrum machine, and that sine wave passing through a ring modulator.
- additional drum sounds were added using the Big Mono drumkit sample pack
- a RITM-2 emulation is used for bass, piano and pads, all by itself — you wonderful ugly piece of software you ♡
- an electric guitar, distorted and then passed through an Oberheim PS-1 simulation, became the second lead instrument, and an upright piano was added to the second verse and last chorus. combined, they make a sort of tiny John Carpenter homage (:
- additionally, both “choruses” have an electric guitar (passed through a flanger and then through an overdrive effect) to the right, and a distorted Moog-like type synth to the left. these are mostly sonic filler to make “chorus” sections more intense.
- additional orchestral sections were written for french horns and strings.
- additional pads playing random notes are added in the outro to create a kind of sonic starway leading out of the song.
as adornments, the VST Robot Juice by Insert Piz Here was used, in conjunction with the VST Dystopian, which I made myself. now, the Dystopian basically plays a WAV sample through a ring modulator, which is controlled by a MIDI keyboard to create musical-yet-atonal sounds. It was made on Synthedit, and it’s also quite ugly and barely functional, but it does what I want it too so far. i might remake it in the future, but i have no experience with VST development outside of using that program.
random home recordings of audio interferences from home appliances and random TV transmissions are used for effect in the intro and outro for the song, to simulate satallite recordings. other shorter lulls between sections are filled with other mechanical sounds and audio interferences.
additionally, short and extremely low quality samples from György Ligeti Requiem, and random samples of rockets, are used on some sections much like you’d use a reverse cymbal on electronic dance music.
the electric bass was passed through a flanger and then mixed down to mono, as a kind of tame chorus effect, so that it sounded more synthetic and yet still acoustic enough.
to enforce the “surf themes”, the whole mix is passed through a spring reverb in specific but otherwise short sections. this reverb is also used at the beginning and end of the song to serve as “fade outs”.
the whole mix was also passed through a wow and flutter simulation and a magnetic tape simulation, so that it sounded appropriately dated to the 70s/early 80s, which is the era most influences for the song came from.
the song took about a day to record, and the music video took a couple days to complete. in my personal opinion, it’s one of the best production and composition work i’ve made in my career.
InfoSec of the First World and the song “FASat-Bravo” can be listened to and purchased on Bandcamp.