Hyponik

Blocks & Escher: Studio talk

Blocks & Escher have been hunkered down in their studios producing their debut album, Something Blue, which came out on Metalheadz at the end of last month.

Venturing between the realms of drum & bass and jungle, the Narratives Music bosses are known for their emotive take in their respective scene.

We caught up with Blocks to find out how he and Escher work in the studio together, delving deep into their hardware and software.

 

Blocks & Escher…

“We both run relatively humble studio set ups and in general most of our ideas have historically been started individually before throwing the output, be it a drum groove, intro or loop into the melting pot for further development.

I use Cubase 9 as a DAW with Escher using Logic – while this could be considered a limitation to some, we feel the constriction of having to bounce out wav files for the other to work on helps to steer ideas quicker and almost enforces the injection of both our inputs and influences into each musical piece.

Having said this, a DAW is just a place to sculpt the ideas and we both share a very similar set up in terms of hardware and plug ins. More importantly we have grown to understand and appreciate each other’s approach to music creation, continue to understand our individual strengths and above all, are happy to provide and receive the most blunt feedback on each other’s work!

Studio

We are both open to admit we are not the most technical engineers and do not dwell on the fact we don’t create the wildest of synth patches or twisted automation. For us, our music has been based on harmony, emotion and a contrast of sound. With bass never being a starting place for our music, our ideas are usually started with either drums or a base of chords. This seems like a good place to describe our studio practices and favourite tools…

EMU ESI 4000

While there are many pieces of music in our discography where the creation of drums has been shared, I am forever spoilt by the input Will Escher brings in terms of finessing our breaks. I’m completely biased but he is simply one of the best in the business for drawing rawness, character and soul out of sampled drum breaks. It’s fair to say that aswell as an ear for tone and the ability to construct simple but distinct grooves; much of the basis of our drums comes from initial process within hardware EMU samplers.

Simple edits of breaks are recorded into the EMU before applying various stages of gain and saturation. In practice, after processing, we will bounce out the same break 3 or 4 times with different settings or gain so we can later pick out favourite tones or results.

Escher and I both started our journey in music production by using AKAI or EMU samplers so in some ways it is inevitable that it still feels natural but more importantly, it is a relatively effortless way to get results that are superior to ‘in the box’ processing.

I wouldn’t say that running out to buy an old hardware is for everyone as in many ways, the rowdy output can go against much of the ‘rules’ and ‘clean sound’ of modern production. But for us, the noise, artefacts and unpredictability is much more of an inspiration than a hindrance.

Roland Juno 106

The Roland Juno 106. One of my favourite hardware synths and very relevant to our new album as it was the starting place for tracks “Breaking the Waves” and “Sea”.

It’s fair to say the Juno has a very specific sound and possibly far from a modern workhorse synth but it sounds so good, is so fun to play and I am just a sucker for the 80s tones and leads. Whilst maybe not as caned as the DX7, the Juno is an instantly recognisable sound throughout many genres and 1980’s records.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

I wish I could keep this synth top secret but of course it is deservedly well known and put simply, is a music producer’s dream.

I have used Omnisphere for years now, right back to its earlier instance under the ‘Atmosphere’ name. To say it is a huge synth is an understatement and its ability to now insert your own samples and blend sound sources together creates endless possibilities.

On its most basic level, the synth is a great source for inspiration and its breadth allows us to sweep through presets while working on chords which inevitably leads to new ideas and layers of harmony. It’s the one synth I could quite honestly say appears in every Blocks & Escher track, be it to create a base layer for everything else to fall into key wise or to add leads or textures once the main elements are in place.”

You can stream or buy Something Blue here.

Catch Blocks & Escher at Outlook Festival 2018. Info and tickets here.

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