Relaxer: Studio Talk

Operating previously as Ital, Daniel Martin-McCormick aka Relaxer is no stranger to the darker, more textural strands of techno. A typical Relaxer release would straddle thick atmospheres, thought-out IDM arrangements, as well as powerful four-to-the-floor peak time cuts, making McCormick’s style versatile and never in one place for too long.

A string of self-released projects also paints a picture of hard work, purpose and drive to bring his product to the world. However the Relaxer projects stand across the street from his previous output as Ital. For example, Ital’s Theme on 100% Silk back in 2011 was drifting homage to 90’s house, Workshop 18 was a quirky and unconventional take on leftfield IDM, whilst his releases for Planet Mu signalled the shift towards an inevitably denser sound – track 1 on Endgame was entitled ‘Relaxer’.

McCormick’s latest LP, Coconut Grove on Acid Test’s Avenue 66 continues his fine form – refreshingly obscure electronics jostle with lush soundscapes to create a murky yet utopian ride through tempos and moods. It begs the question, what goes into this process? and what gear sits at the end of Relaxers fingertips ready for manipulation?

We popped round to take a peek at Daniel Martin-McCormick’s home setup to get a look in at what equipment fuels the experiments that make it to wax.

1. Yamaha DX 200

This is one of those magic boxes – a DX 7 in a groove box with a really good reverb to boot. I bought this in 2012, knowing very little about synth architecture. I cannot tell you why, but it’s been my go to for so many things. It was my main live synth for years and now finds its way onto almost every record I’ve made (though as I type this, I realize it’s not on Coconut Grove at all, which surprises me). Just amazing for creating aqueous, rippling melodies and glistening, 16 step sequences.

2. Eventide H3000 / Deltalabs Effectron II

I don’t have a lot of synths – I find having some choice effects really does so much of the heavy lifting. The Effectron II is a rock solid digital delay that just sounds so punk. Listen for the slow-mo modulations on the record, as well as the rugged feedback. That’s it. And the H3000 – honestly the chorusing and flangers give everything this disgusting, vivid un-reality. They don’t make em like they used to.

3. Pink Light

I am not fooling around – having some mood lighting in the studio is essential. I am a firm believer that you need to cross a psychological threshold every time you enter a studio or performance space. You can’t be in the same headspace as when you buy groceries or ride the bus. Choice lighting is an excellent reminder.

4. Akai MPC 1000

Live I use the Octatrack, but in the studio I often end up doing a lot of sequencing and sample manipulation inside the MPC. The layering of samples and crazy things you can do with the 16 steps has become an essential ingredient in my sound design. It’s on nearly every track on Coconut Grove, though maybe not in ways you would expect.

5. Waldorf Blofeld

This synth sounds so cool with the aforementioned H3000. Two aliens talking to each other. I am big on the detuning possibilities in this one. It’s all over Coconut Grove, there’s just such an ability to bend sounds into cool and supple shapes.

6. Moog Minitaur + Erika Acid Box

The Moog has been with me six years now, and you know… it’s great. If you’re reading a gear column, I don’t need to tell you Moog is fantastic. But I’ve been using it live with this filter from Erika and it takes it to a whole new level. Filters are techno, if you ask me. As you may have noticed, there’s a y-cable in the frame. I split the Moog out into a clean and filtered signal, then can send the filtered channel through FX and blend them back together again. It’s honestly sick.

7. Piano Lessons

Around two years ago, I started taking piano lessons. I studied music but never really got my hands dirty with piano, and kinda thought I didn’t need to because I knew some theory. But I kept hitting a wall, playing the same chords and sequencing the same kind of loops. So I bit the bullet and looked up an instructor in my neighborhood. I’ve been on and off based on my schedule but it immediately made a huge difference. I was really starting from zero, learning correct fingerings for scales, playing beginner reductions of songs from the Muppets movie, etc. All of a sudden I was getting little ideas for new melodic shapes, trying new chords, etc. I’ve recently picked it up again after about six months off and it’s helping all over again. I’m back in school now, getting my MFA in Sonic Arts. More than any piece of gear I would recommend expanding your musical practice with a teacher.

Coconut Grove is out now via Avenue 66.

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