Dutch-Canadian producer apaull has released his new EP, mushMouth. Following up on his June 2022 debut EP 4Sol, mushMouth continues to ask the listener questions in this case: “Do the talking heads we see day after day, on whatever media, actually have anything to say?”, with the follow-up question: “Do we actually need to listen?”
Words and photos by apaull
We live in a world of convoluted and tilted media filters where unseen arbiters and algorithms determine what is and is not heard, and importantly how it gets heard. If the speaker conforms to a constantly narrowing (cul de sac) worldview it is presented in an uncritical, if not glowing way. If this favored speaker somehow crosses the pre-ordained worldview they are met with the most soap soft mild rebuke and off they go. Otherwise, speakers are vilified, excoriated, and dismissed; and if the mob gets their chance canceled.
This release presents the original track mushMouth and then two very different remixes by Abe Duque and Thesis Sahib.
The original mushMouth track, recorded in London, Ontario Canada, and Naples, Florida, was, for the most part, made “in the box”, but with some twists and turns.
Although obviously not gear, I often make use of a reference track to get started. In this case, I used the Boards of Canada track Roygbiv as the reference track. I’m not trying to replicate the song at all, as much as extracting and infusing some of the delicious vibe and sounds of this awesome track. I liken the use of a reference track much in the same way as when I use a photo or plein air vista when I am painting. In this case, the sounds inspired me to create a slow jam that presents an almost ambient, but lurching towards house, track. One of the reasons I commissioned Thesis Sahib to create a remix was to tap into his lofi hip hop aesthetic, which better reflects the reference track (although I didn’t tell him about the reference track).
In the Box
I suppose the ‘in the box’ approach sounds a bit sterile and uninteresting. For me, though it was the logical place to start. After a long career as an environmental scientist, academic, and business owner I really sunk my teeth into music-making about four years ago.
As a child and young adult, I played piano and drums but that all away when university and then work demands made that too difficult. Fast forward almost 40 years later and I found it almost magical that you could compose and produce music on the laptop I used to do everything else. I like magic so went to work. I use Abelton and over the last four years have made considerable progress tackling what, magic notwithstanding, was a steep learning curve.
For producers that have been in the game much longer than I have, I think it has been an evolution from hardware to the increased power and functionality of the box. For me, a devolution has started as I start to explore hardware options and climb out of the box a little (more on that below).
Below is some detail that describes how I created the various track elements.
apaull studio set up
I love to add some elements of noise and background crunchiness to my tracks. It adds texture and a bit of vibe.
In this case, I layered various sounds from Abelton’s Spectral Texture pack, which includes field recordings and additive synthesis, with various effects. For this track, I layered six distinct (and further processed) sounds to create my own noise layer, including a hum, the sound of burning wood, gentle metal popping, a strong metal clang, and a metal tube. Altogether they created an undulating and mostly warm tableau of sound, punctuated with a metal clanging to remind you not to get too comfortable.
Ableton’s Spectral Texture Pack
The drums are pretty simple. The kick uses a very gently processed Ableton Acid House Beat loop, paired with hi-hat and clap loops that give the track a chill vibe.
I used a sampler to create the ‘record scratching’ sound that is heard throughout the track. This was a totally happy accident, as they say. Basically, I was struggling with Ableton’s Sampler and was playing with a vocal sample and at some point, it came out with a scratching sound, which I liked. I then used an Arturia Minilab MK II midi keyboard to write some notes until I got the scratching sound and pattern I wanted. This scratching further adds to this track’s lofi characteristics.
I also used Ableton’s Sampler to (correctly) process a vocal sample. It was probably more complicated than what I needed but I liked the end result. I was able to fill it out and make it fuller than the original sample.
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Ableton’s Sampler used on Scratching Sound and for Vocal Sample
Pads and Melody
For the Pads, I used Arturia’s Pigments to create some dreamy sounds. I used (pre-set) sample-based synthesis to create this sound. I modulated the sample sounds to create a gentle pulsing sound but included some noise to complement both the scratching and noise layers described earlier.
I used Ableton’s Wave Table, along with MPE Spieluhr to create the two melody tracks. I worked to ensure that the melody complemented the pads. I used the Arturia Minilab MK II midi keyboard to key in the notes for both the pad and melody tracks. This is an iterative process of developing the various melodies and then matching them with the most desirable and complementary sounds. A key part of that is selecting the right notes but a lot of it was fiddling with both Pigments and Abelton’s Wavetable to create this part of the sound palette.
Arturia’s Pigments used to create the pad
Arturia’s Minilab MKII midi keyboard
Arturia’s Minilab MKII midi keyboard in studio
mushMouth (Abe Duque Remix)
Abe Duque’s remix is the legendary New York-based techno producer’s take on this track. The track has been radically transformed, whilst keeping the essential musical elements, into a very danceable techno track.
“I listened to what apaull had to say and tried to answer the questions he is trying to ask and continue the story, in the same vein as Peter Schilling retelling and adding to David Bowie’s “Major Tom”.
“My approach to remixing this track was almost exclusively in the box. I sliced and diced what apaull had and then added my flavor to this remix. I also lengthened it and made it more “DJ-friendly”.
“The only hardware I used was a “murdered out” (matte black finish) 303 bass synthesizer to create some acid baseline. Of course, a custom paint job doesn’t change the sound, just the attitude.”
Abe Duque’s ‘murdered out” 303 Bass Synthesizer
mushMouth (Thesis Sahib Remix)
Thesis Sahib is a London, Ontario, Canada-based avant-garde hip-hop producer. He explains the process to create the mushMouth remix below:
“Except for adding a breakbeat in my version of mushMouth, all the sounds are from the original mix (stems) of the track.”
“I used an M8 tracker and sequencer from Dirtywave, a cassette tape, and Ableton to create the remix. “
“I did a bunch of sound design with the stems, manipulated and resampled the original sounds through a combination of using different effects on the M8, the tape in a variable speed cassette player, and effects in Ableton.”
M8 Tracker from Dirtywave, a cassette tape, and Ableton
“Then the final parts I liked are played into Ableton, chopped up and eq’d to make sense of my various sonic explorations and to finish this remix.”