Where Ghosts Sleep has been working in secret over the past few months producing the score for CrossWay Entertainment‘s upcoming film, R.I.P. As of today, the score is complete and has been submitted! We were very pleased to have been selected to work with Darren Council and his talented crew as it was our first collaboration together. Updates will be provided as R.I.P. draws closer to release. Stay tuned!
As pretty much every NIN fan knows by now, the Hesitation Marks album was released September 3rd. Assuming you’ve had the time to listen to it a few times uninterrupted, you’ve probably formed your own definitive opinion about it by now. As a devout NIN fan, I was sure to listen to each of the three singles that came out prior to the release. The first single, Came Back Haunted, was a very clear indication of the musical approach/direction of the album. What the first listen of this track told me was, a) Trent is a happy man these days, b) this record was put together in a fraction of the time of the previous albums, and c) I am probably not going to like it. While keeping an open mind at this point (like any good fan should do), I was willing to keep going just to see where this album ended up. As more singles would appear, ‘Copy of A’ would prove to be my saving grace, letting me know that hope was not lost and to keep listening. Then the Everything single was released, and my heart broke in a thousand pieces.
I suppose I should admit that I did expect this day to happen (eventually), that Reznor would find happiness in his life and it would dramatically affect the overall ‘mood’ of NIN’s music. Some fans refer to this occurrence as ‘evolving’, but I am not so quick to chalk it up to that just yet. Yes the sound has changed, and while a strong majority of the album reminded me of the Pretty Hate Machine days (in a good way) it certainly lacked the darkness and anger of it. But is Hesitation Marks a bad album because it lacks anger and despair? In order to answer that question, a fan would need to come clean about what it was about a band/artist that made them become a fan in the first place. If you love NIN because of the catchy electronic beats, creative use of modular synths, guitar sounds, experimental studio magic, and hooks that keep you coming back for more; then you would no doubt enjoy this album as much as Pretty Hate Machine. If you are drawn to NIN because of the emotional content and brutal honesty of troubled human emotions because you feel like they represent you in some way; then this album may not be for you since it does lack that lyrical depth that some NIN fans require.
But Hesitation Marks was released the way it is and there’s no turning back at this point. Will this new (happy) direction be the permanent new sound here to stay for future NIN releases? The history of all previous NIN releases and the ever constant changing evolution of it (and Reznor’s musical mood swings) has easily taught us, ‘not likely’. And while many have claimed they are no longer a NIN fan as the result of this album, the new direction however will certainly acquire new fans. A younger and more open-minded fan base not so bothered about the emotional leap from previous releases. As for the older fan base, it seems nothing since Fragile has impressed them, and for whatever reason…nothing ever will. Reznor doesn’t seem to be bothered with that, as he shouldn’t be. Nothing could be worse for a songwriter to listen to their entire catalog of music spanned over 20 years and not hear any distinct growth or variation from release to release. I got two words for you if you don’t properly realize the importance of artists doing so; Jack Johnson.
In closing, Hesitation Marks was both a hit and a miss for me. I enjoyed all the elements of it that makes NIN such a entertaining brand of music to listen to in the first place. But I feel a certain responsibility to voice some constructive criticism since I am fairly confident Trent or Atticus will never read this review:
- Lots of great contributors and special guest artists on the album, but it was nearly impossible to distinguish them in the mixes. In particular, it seems like Lindsay Buckingham’s contributions were deeply buried or processed in a way which made it near impossible to differentiate his guitar work from Reznor’s. And the parts that I could tell were Buckingham’s were turned into insignificant short loops which did his part no justice.
- One exciting thing about most great NIN albums has been that continuity where songs blend into each other with the use of some drone or modular synth pad in-between tracks. I would of loved to of heard some creative modular knob twisting and sound design between tracks to break things up a little bit from the album having such a direct ‘club’ feel. This was touched upon briefly in ‘Eater of Dreams’ and I feel should have continued throughout the album.
- Simply leaving off the ‘Everything’ track from the playlist every time I listen to this album made an incredible difference to me in terms of enjoying it from start to finish. And while the ‘Everything’ track wasn’t necessarily a bad song, it just simply did not belong on this album….or any NIN album for that matter.
- The track ‘Black Noise’ needed to be extended to a 3-4 min song with lyrics and some distorted drums to turn it into ‘something’. Making Black Noise a 60 second taste of something that could have been a brilliant NIN track to darken up this album a little bit.
- Finally, and probably my most controversial comment thus far; Reznor should consider stepping away from Atticus Ross for the next few releases and experiment with other producers that may challenge him in new and different ways. Now please don’t get me wrong, Atticus Ross is an incredible talent and I am a big fan. He has been invaluable to the production and history of NIN’s evolution…but therein lies the problem. The writing style and studio chemistry to which Reznor has become accustomed to may be the biggest thing holding him back from making his next career masterpiece. Is Hesitation Marks simply the calm before the storm?
I’m curious to hear your thoughts, not just about my review, but what your own personal thoughts are about the album and the current direction of NIN’s music. As for me, I am and will always be a fan of everything Reznor does. And while my expectations fell somewhat short on Hesitation Marks, it’s a refreshing body of work and it’s certainly better than most of the music that’s out there topping the charts currently. But then again, topping charts was never Reznor’s focus for his music in the first place…at least, we still hope its not.
Hesitation Marks (Score) = 7 out of 10
Latest project: Electronic music collaboration (GoingSpell) featuring Jessica Dye and Chris Mondragon will be releasing our debut EP (Labile) soon. Here is a preview of what to expect.
Written and composed for a scene involving a home invasion. This track incorporates dark elements with lots of dark textures, piano, large bass hits, orchestra strings, and some effects to help convey the mood.
Photography: Matthew Daemon (FadedSmiles.com)
Where Ghosts Sleep latest remix release of How To Destroy Angels ‘Strings and Attractors’:
Here’s the original track below:
Where Ghosts Sleep music productions is offering 5 mins (or less) of free original film score music and/or soundscapes for the first three Teams to contact us for the 2013 21-Day Filmmaking Competition. In order to take advantage of this offer, please fill out our online form @ http://whereghostssleep.com/hire and state in the comments your project is related to the 21-day Filmmaking Competition. We will then contact you shortly thereafter to discuss the details of your project and your vision for its music/soundscape needs. If you are not one of the lucky three winners we would be honored to still work with you on your project of course, just contact us the same way and we will discuss your project needs and pricing.
Please check out our music demo reel below to listen to some of our past work to decide if we are a good match for your project needs.
First off, let me start by saying I love Dave Grohl. I finally got around to watching his keynote speech today and it was just as brilliant, honest, beautiful, and heartwarming as I expected it to be. If you haven’t gotten around to watching it yourself, and you’re a musician of ANY genre, you need to stop reading my post and watch it right now. So many things touched my heart about this speech I dont know where to begin. While watching it I caught myself laughing out-loud, nodding my head in approval throughout the entire speech, and even tearing up at one point. He touches on everything that every musician (especially career musicians) could relate to. From what inspired us at very early ages to become musicians, to what makes us want to hang it up at times, to what inspires us to keep making music later in life in a world where it seems harder to find inspiration. Before going forward here I will admit I was never a hard core Nirvana fan, and I was also not a hard core Foo Fighters fan. I, like every other teen in the early 90′s, had the Nevermind album and out of all my friends probably listened to it the least. But in no way was that of any significance regarding my utmost respect for the musician genius that was (and still is) Nirvana. Nirvana is immortal, and their influence on my generation is monumental. The rise and fall of the so-called ‘grunge’ era was not without its mark in music history. I still occasionally see up and coming teenage rock bands today still citing on their facebook pages that Nirvana is their biggest influence.
But beyond all that, when I watch Dave Grohl speak, I feel like I know him personally. He speaks to this crowd of several hundred people like he knows each one of them individually. There’s very few orators on the planet that have that skill, and I’m sure Dave would tell you he’s no orator and no speech writer. He is and will always be, a musician….a great musician. A honest, self-less, compassionate human being that will always stand not just as a musical influence on my past, present, and future…but also as the kind type of person that we should all strive to be like in our normal every day lives. I hope you will find Dave’s keynote speech as influential and emotional as I did.
A couple of months ago I was randomly searching for artists and musicians located in the Denver metro area to see and hear what kind of music was being produced close to home. I came across the soundcloud site of Jessica Dye and started listening to her tracks. I came across one track that literally kept tugging at me since the first time I listened to it. Everything from the melody, to the haunting voice, to the simplicity of the track pulled me in and I was hooked. I listened to the track several times that day and from that moment forward, its haunting nature never let me forget about it; music that affects me like that is hard to come by these days it seems.
A few days ago I got up the courage to contact Jessica directly and threw out the idea of remixing this track that had been haunting me for several months. Jessica was not only quick to reply, but also very excited about the idea of having one of her songs remixed. Looking back on it, Jessica and I never spoke about our ‘vision’ for the remix. We never threw examples, concepts, or ideas back and forth what so ever. This obviously gave me complete artistic control of the remix, but not having a starting point almost made getting off the starting line near impossible. Looking back, diving in with my eyes closed was the best decision I could have made. If not for that, I probably would have never started and finished the remix.
Remixing for me has always been something I’ve been interested in, but I’ve always been on the fence about getting into it. Truth be told, most remixes are never as good as the original, that even that viewpoint is strongly based on what you (as an individual) consider to be ‘good’. Some might argue remixing is like spraying graffiti on the Mona Lisa – same painting…just horribly disfigured. Some musicians I think are frightened at having their music remixed to be quite honest, which is why I’ve never gone out and actively tried to propose a remix project in fear of rejection. Usually it’s the original artist contacting a remix artist to do the work, not the other way around. I’m glad it worked out and Jessica was willing to let me give it a shot, even though the artist in me wanted to leave this song completely alone in its original form since I already felt that it was perfect the way it is. I feared that by upping the track count, adding a catchy beat with lots of electronic sounds that it would somehow ‘ruin’ the original intended emotion that Jessica was trying to convey. So I knew I had to tread carefully and make the song unique from the original, but without barring the emotion and intended ‘brittleness’ that the original track carried so well.
Thinking back on it, there were two really big challenges I ran into during the recording and mixing phase. Creating the lead synth sound that fit ‘just right’ with the verse, and finding a beat that moved the song properly and could keep the listener engaged without making the song aggressive in any way. I’m pretty sure just those two items took an entire afternoon (and probably some of the evening) since the biggest hold up for me with song creating is simply being able to create sonically with what is being mentally conjured up in my head.
I never sat down with a pen and paper and methodically planned out how exactly this remix was going to sound, all of my music creation is impulsive and never planned out. I know I’ve landed safely on the moon when the right sonic pieces are in place. And somehow a track gets created from the experimentation with sounds, and then it’s a matter of arranging things so the human brain can still wrap itself around the song and enjoy it. The goal was to keep it catchy, simple and engaging, and in the world of music production, that’s harder than most people think.
This remix was more about the laying of sounds and adding color more than it was about completely re-vamping the track as I think most remixes do. Listening to the tracks side-by-side now, it is probably more appropriate that I say I simply added production to the original recording. Getting into the production, I thought Jessica’s original arrangement was brilliant and left that practically untouched on purpose. The haunting vocals and lyrics always called out to me that it would be brilliant to add some reverse reverb to them, to add to the atmosphere the lyrics were trying to create. And even though the vocal processing and mixing was done very last, it was most certainly the part of the remix that I was looking the most forward to.
This brings me to the last very challenging part of the remix, mixing Jessica’s vocals. I’ve never worked with a vocal range as dynamic as Jessica’s, keeping the vocal level and ‘under control’ with the use of volume automation and compression techniques (especially during the chorus) required almost a full day for only two verses and two choruses. The mixing of the verses wasn’t that bad, but getting the reverse reverb track to sit as perfect as possible with the unprocessed track was no easy task. But I solved the sonic mystery once I nudged the reverse vocal track about 5 ticks left of center from the unprocessed vocal track. I chose to make separate tracks of the processed and unprocessed vocals so I could control the amount of ‘tail’ heard from the reverse reverb. It was extremely important to me not to over-process the vocal tracks so the listener could clearly hear Jessica’s lyrics at any volume level. Jessica’s words are extremely poetic thus the most important part of all her songs, so it was important that I kept true to that in the remix. Using separate tracks for processed and unprocessed was the obvious choice so I could have the effect, without smudging and covering up the words with heavy processing.
As for the part of the remix that I am most proud of, was the idea to reverse a part of Jessica’s chorus lyrics, and use that as the haunting vocal melody you hear during the ending of the song. Listening to those words in reverse, is really does sound like the last word spoke is “love” and I will admit to getting the goose bumps when I made this discovery during the mixing process. Originally I ‘almost’ contacted Jessica to see if she would be willing to meet up just so I could record a new vocal melody for the ending just to be used in the remix. But then creativity got the best of me and I decided to use what I already had and create something through experimentation. Using reverse lyrics is a favorite sound design method of mine and I’ve used it in the past on one of my film tracks. It seemed like an appropriate thing to do with the ending of the track since the last thing I wanted to do was try to create a new synth patch for a lead melody to be played during the long ending. Originally I debated cutting a few bars from the ending of the track, but then decided in the end to leave it extended and lengthy since I felt the first half of the song was a big ‘build-up’ to this final scene. And it seemed appropriate to let the listener find themselves immersed in this heavy atmosphere long enough so it didn’t feel similar to waiting hours in line for a carnival ride…only for the ride to last a few short mins.
In closing, I am proud of how the remix turned out and I hope to work with Jessica a lot more. I hope you all enjoy it too, and hopefully this remix finds its way into the end of a film where the music and the atmosphere of the scene work in perfect unison together.
Official promotional video for Where Ghosts Sleep – Watch in HD for better experience
This video was created to showcase Where Ghosts Sleep’s capabilities in sound creation and design to enhance the visual elements of the film.
Listen to another rendition of the Where Ghosts Sleep track, The Legend Ends
We seem to be surrounded by constant reminders that life ends too soon, and today marks the 32nd anniversary of the day Ian Curtis took his own life.
Like so many others who are taken from us by their own hand, we will never understand the deeper reasons behind it. It was believed that his epileptic seizures caused him an unimaginable amount of embarrassment and suffering leading to his multiple suicide attempts, however Ian left behind a legacy and a voice that is still haunting over 3 decades later.