Maya Fridman’s The Power of Indifference marks two important milestones: it’s Maya’s first album with her own music, and it’s our new label TRPTK X’s first album. The album has been such a wild ride to produce, with almost 20 days of recording sessions on all sorts of instruments both real and electronic/virtual as well as vocals, and almost 40 days of editing, mixing (by both myself and Antal van Nie, our junior engineer), and mastering sessions. (and we’re not even done yet, the surround and immersive mixes are still in progress and will be released later in April) The main cello parts of the album were produced using the Singular Audio f-48 cardioid large diaphragm condenser microphone, at MCO Studio 7. So let’s start at the beginning. The music As I wrote in the first bits of this blog post, this album is the first album with Maya’s own music. She was asked by the Dutch festival Cello Biënnale and cellist Giovanni Sollima to go on a couple of masterclasses with Sollima, after which she would record an album with us. She already had some ideas of her own, but of course, thanks to the generous support of the Cello Biënnale and Sollima, her music really came to life. The first sessions for the album were done using Cockos Reaper, a fantastic DAW we have used quite often for mobile recording. However, most of the production has been done in Steinberg Nuendo and WaveLab Pro. She began writing line after line, layer after layer, of music based on her own poetry, in a genre that can’t really be described other than to just point at Maya’s catalogue of previous recordings and the fact she’s been listening to rock and metal music her entire life, and just say, “just figure it out from there”. There are hints of contemporary classical music, but also post-rock as well as metal even. But overall, it’s just an extremely Maya album. Since each of the eight tracks are so differently composed and produced, I’ll go over the production process one by one, starting with I Think About Fate. I Think About Fate The album starts with four layers of acoustic cellos playing overtones (by Maya, recorded with DPA 4006A omnidirectional mics at MCO Studio 7) and three layers of synth pads by Spitfire Audio, played by me (Brendon Heinst). There are some effects on the cellos, like FabFilter’s Timeless delay, as well as a Brainworx Audio bx_subsynth (a plugin that creates subsonic harmonics or undertones). This creates a very deep base layer (down to 16 Hz, so get your subwoofers ready!), over which Maya’s voice whispers “I think about fate; immeasurable strength […]” as well as the original poem in Russian (which you can hear ever so softly in the background). These whispers, four tracks in total, were recorded with Singular Audio’s f-48, a more “audiophile” version of the legendary Neumann U47FET microphone. On these tracks, some compression was added to make the sound more intimate, and, using FabFilter Timeless in combination with Valhalla DSP Supermassive reverb, a spacious effect was created. FabFilter Timeless, a great creative multitap stereo delay we’ve used extensively in this production. After this introduction, more synth layers (two organ-like synths and three glass-pad-like ones, played by me) are added, and Maya begins to sing. Her voice melts into the dark, dreary background of synths through the Supermassive reverb, now at a reverb time of almost half a minute! At the end of this part, some effects-heavy choir samples are added: the choir samples themselves are from a library by Spitfire Audio, the effects on them are mainly Unfiltered Audio SILO (a granular reverb/delay) and a high-cut filter by MAAT Digital. It then moves on to a lyrical cello part with the synths now shimmering and shining away. The lyrical cello is then repeated on two more tracks, up until the climax. The last part of the song is a sort-of main theme of the album, which will later be hinted at in other pieces on the album. It contains seven tracks of acoustic cello, each track accompanied by its own synthesizer ensemble and part in the choral samples. The tension builds up, as larger and heavier bass drums now sound (a combination of samples we recorded of Konstantyn Napolov at MCO Studio 7 and orchestral percussion libraries by Spitfire Audio), and the choral samples are layered with Maya’s own voice right up to the last climax. In the end, Maya’s whispers return, saying “[…] someone trapped inside,” concluding the song. Day That Never Ends The track starts with a simple acoustic cello line (again, recorded with DPA 4006A mics at MCO Studio 7), joined by another cello line after the first couple of bars. These cellos are processed again with a bit of Valhalla DSP Supermassive reverb to create this shimmery sound. Maya begins to sing, her vocals recorded with the Singular Audio f-48 mic, blended into the reverb of the cellos. Valhalla Supervassive, the reverb plugin we’ve used on many tracks to create a deep atmospheric sound. An interlude in a sort-of minimal music style follows. More and more layers are added on top of each other; acoustic cellos, electric cellos, voices and synths. This short interlude is followed by an incredibly deep “I am descending, where one cannot feel” in the lyrics. The deepness is created by layering four acoustic cellos with synthesizers, and by adding the Brainworx bx_subsynth to all the tracks to create subsonic harmonics. Distant voices (I’m unsure if angelic or demonic), recorded by Maya with Ehrlund EHR-M microphones, keep adding up until a weird, erratic, heavily distorted electric cello solo (made by running the cello through my Line6 Helix guitar pedalboard). Brainworx bx_subsynth, the plugin we used to add depth and rumble to some of the cello tracks. What follows is a climactic part with 12 voices of Maya in a very close harmony that makes it sound almost robotic. Everything’s distorted and made even unearthlier by adding ring modulators and distortions on these voices. The song ends just like it began, with a simple cello line and Maya’s voice. Mayim Mayim can be seen as an interlude in between two parts of the album. It consists of simply three acoustic cello lines, with one voice by Maya. The reverb (a combination of real-recorded reverb of a large space, with the Supermassive reverb-plugin). The song itself is in a more improvised way and reflects Maya’s interests in both Celtic and Arabic music. Balance Scales Balance Scales begins with a very deep and low drone of an organ sample by Spitfire Audio, pitch-shifted down two octaves. On top of this, recorded plucks of overtones on an acoustic guitar are added, with ample amounts of delay that bounce left and right between your speakers. Effects are added to enhance this unsettling vibe. The main theme is first played on a blend of five different synths, each one fading in and out, adding to this vibe as well. After the introduction, Maya begins to sing, her vocals recorded with a Singular Audio f-48 mic with Valhalla Supermassive reverb on it. A very down-pitched acoustic cello (also recorded with the f-48 mic) provides a scratchy, distorted bass. Overtones on the cello, slightly distorted and pitch-shifted to, again, add to the uneasy vibe the song has. In the distance, you hear the synthesizers layered with more acoustic cello playing the theme. A cello solo follows, recorded with DPA 4006A and blended in with another reverb by ValhallaDSP, Shimmer, a pitch-shifting reverb creating almost stabbing layers of cello. The song ends with three layers of acoustic cellos sounding very far away, fading out slowly… Fury Fury, as the name implies, is a dark piece with despair and anger all bubbling up to the surface. It starts with a choral drone with synthesizer pads for bass. They’re cut off from all high-frequencies to give way for a lyrical acoustic cello solo (recorded with the f-48 mic). There’s a bit of reverb on top of it. The solo ends up descending into even more darkness, which is where the orchestral and choral samples kick in, together with extremely down-pitched acoustically-recorded cellos for heavy bass. A war horn sounds, and the song seems to go back into the light with its lyrical cello solo… only to descend into madness at the end… Snake “There is a snake inside the three, and it will show me what is real. I trust that voice whose sound is void, to rule, to judge, and to destroy…” This is how Snake begins. Some more darkness, with deep acoustic cellos, again down-pitched to create a deeper, raspier sound than acoustically possible. If you listen very, very closely, you’ll also hear Mohsen Masoumi, Iranian bass, sing along portraying the sound of the evil snake whose face is fake. The beautiful space we used for most of the recording sessions. A lo-fi beat comprised of samples and acoustic recordings of Konstantyn Napolov made at MCO Studio 7 (with DPA 4006A microphones as well as Ehrlund EHR-M). You can almost hear the snake slithering through the mix, with layers upon layers of acoustic and electric cellos popping up. The main melody is played by a combination of acoustic cello (recorded with Singular f-48 mics) and samples of a decrepit old piano made even more lo-fi by adding distortions and filters. This is followed by a cello solo recorded digitally but mixed through a tape machine to provide some real distortion. The last part of the song features more of Mohsen Masoumi’s voice together with Maya’s, and combines more synths and cello layers, as well as a heartbeat and rattles samples, which are suddenly taken away from you at the end. Once For Me There Was No More Place The idea behind this song is to make it sound almost other-worldly. It begins with bowed vibraphone by Konstantyn Napolov with absolutely huge amounts of delays and reverbs. Maya’s voice comes in, whispering, almost inside your head (especially if you’re wearing headphones), still all very natural. Over the length of the song, you’ll begin to notice both the vibraphone and Maya’s voice begin to distort little by little. The mantra she’s singing becomes more and more robotic and alien-like. Weird synthesizers and samples of tracks recorded earlier are coming in and out by waves, adding up more and more and more until the very climax of the piece. After that, only silence follows. The Power of Indifference The title track and last track of the album starts out with a theme probably familiar to you by now; it’s the one first presented in the very first track. Now played in a much more lyrical way, but also more dissonant through all of the hardship we’ve overcome throughout the album. It slowly descends into its reverb (a combination of real reverb and Valhalla Supermassive). It gradually builds up to a total of 16 cello lines, all blending together in this deep, dark mass, and then descending back again. An interlude follows, played by various layers of synthesizers (pads and organs), with a lyrical, high, cello solo (made even more shimmery by using Valhalla’s Shimmer reverb which pitch-shifts the reverberating signal). A double bass and cello ensemble begins to slowly fade in, made very wobbly in pitch by using various plugins, followed by a ticking clock-like sound, made with a combination of this old piano sample (like in Snake) and plucked cello. Acoustic cello fades in, and all sorts of cello solos begin playing all around you (all recorded with Ehrlund EHR-M at MCO Studio 7). Part of the mixer — this screenshot specifically is for another track, but it indicates the complexity of the sessions. Maya’s voice sings “No matter what I say, no matter where I go, no matter what I feel, it comes forth. It takes away my will, it takes away my hope, and showing no remorse: The Power of Indifference”, seemingly concluding the album. An almost filmic part follows, with a main theme played on piano accompanied by various cellos and orchestral sounds, suddenly getting more and more menacing. This menacing builds up more and more, with more cellos adding every second, all getting more and more dissonant and distorted, to finally climax into a heavy metal bits with big drums (played by Konstantyn Napolov on a huge kick drum), perhaps as a nudge towards a next album? Who knows… We hope you’ve enjoyed this long-form article on how this album was produced and mixed. The mastering of the album was fairly simple, just making sure tracks align well and it doesn’t blow up your loudspeakers at home. Now, we’d love to hear from you. What do you think of this new production on our new label TRPTK X? Let us know by writing us a message!