With a lion’s den of incredible gear from Vermona’s to Moog, Alex Banks has a lot to work with. We asked him how he pieced together his new album ‘Projection’s track by track.
Projections’ was written during a time when the things in life that usually inspire me (club nights, concerts) weren’t available. Instead, I drew on memories of experiences, recalling the feeling of being in front of huge sound systems in dark halls and imagining the soundtrack to a future where I would be back there again.
Using new technology and techniques, I was inspired to create what I could imagine hearing in these contexts. The album title refers to these memories feeling like projections from my past, but also of these tracks being a projection of a future I was yet to experience.
This was originally intended to be an intro to another track on the album, but as it developed it felt more like it should be a track in its own right. An intro to the whole record.
The surreal-sounding drums were created during a session where I spent a whole day purely manipulating beats through modular gear, including a granular looper and Make Noise QPAS filter, fed into my vintage Korg MS-10 and Neve channel for extra analogue grit.
I recorded hours of experimentation and edited out all of the most interesting parts to use throughout the album. It happened that when the filter reached a certain point, it drove the circuits so hard it created a bass-like distorted drone, which then became kind of a bassline to underpin the suspended chord pads.
To me, the track feels like entering into some kind of dream like world, with the drum loop rising and falling into bass, guiding you in and inviting you to become immersed in the rest of the record.
INTO THE REALM
The idea for this track came about through pure experimentation with the Moog Matriarch.
The main synth line was created through some patch exploration which resulted in a very unpredictable melody which I loved. For me, it had a slightly retro feel about it and I wanted to give it lots of space, so I went for an unusually simple (for me), sparse and classic 808 beat with some vintage Lexicon reverb, reminding me slightly of Aphex Twin’s Xtal.
The squelch, fast synth pattern was created with the Moog Mother, using deeper sequences to modulate the cutoff filter, creating a sense of melody and movement, even though the synth is actually just playing one note.
The track is placed near the start of the LP as it feels like setting the scene of the surreal, off-kilter landscape the rest of the album is set in. With experimental synth textures laid over bass-heavy beats it feels somehow like the beginning of a journey, which in some ways, is what this whole period of creating this album has felt like.
A WAY OUT
This was one of the last tracks I wrote for the album and refers to a feeling of there being a way out of the pandemic. As I was drawing the project to a close, I felt a sense of melancholic optimism.
The driving techno/breakbeats conjure up images of rave dance floors, but the pads and sporadic synth melodies in contrast give a sense of melancholic reflection. I feel like this combination summarises the concept and themes of the album perfectly.
After chopping up and manipulating some vintage sounding breaks, the main chords were written on the Juno 106 and sounded really big on the studio. I tried to leave as much space as I could for them in the mix so the hugeness of the synth would have a chance to come across.
The title here refers to being in a “recall mindset”, literally recalling how it feels to be in a club.
This was one of the tracks that were directly inspired by a trip to Berlin and so I was imagining what the beat I was making would sound like booming out in a big hall from a Funktion One system.
The gritty into synth was the Moog DFAM, put through lots of outboard FX and manipulated to create variation. The main rave stab was the Juno 106 and Prophet 6 layered together and heavily EQ’d with the Neve channel and compressed through my Urei 1178 with Big Sky Reverb and delays being recorded in real time to make it feel big and spacious one moment, and close and intimate the next.
The drums were processed through one of my favourite plug-ins, Soundtoys Devil Loc, giving a nice crunchy distortion to the kick when the beat gets stripped back.
WHAT WE HAVE
I wrote this track imagining a return to playing out live and being back in clubs after a long time of not being able to.
The optimism of the intro synth against the swirling pads and granular percussion reminds me of waves of euphoria I’ve felt in venues listening to some of my favourite artists and preparing to be taken on a journey.
As the melodic lines give way to the driving synths and drop, it represents the darker intensity I’ve felt in these situations where the night wears on and things start to get a bit twisted.
The driving bassline was written on the Moog DFAM which I used a lot to create sequenced patterns throughout the record.
The long, brooding synth leads were the Moog Matriarch and Prophet 6 with liberal amounts of Big Sky Reverb. The track title is an appreciation of ‘What We Have’, referring to the ability to have mass shared musical experiences at huge raves and have our own personal emotional journeys whilst connecting with each other.
BEFORE THE END
This track was written in stages.
I had the initial beat idea quite early on in the album project, and spent a long time experimenting with chords on the Juno 106 until I wrote the sequence the track is based on.
I created a sizzling dark jungle bass on the Moog Voyager and liked how it was coming together, but then shelved the idea for a while as I couldn’t find the right elements to carry it forward.
When I came back to it after a few months, I created the main synth riff on the Matriarch and everything suddenly made sense and the rest of the track flowed easily from there.
The vocals are sampled from demos my wife Maya Wolff recorded that I chopped, re-pitched, and layered with FX.
This was the first track I wrote on the album.
I spent around a week experimenting with ideas and struggling to find anything that really resonated with me. Then turning to my new equipment, the Moog Matriarch and DFAM for inspiration, I created these really resonant sounds which filled the studio with deep bass and metallic tones, and suddenly I had something simple but exciting to work with that sounded fresh to me.
The vocals are sampled from a remix I did for Berlin based duo Pari San a couple of years ago. Putting the vocals through the Qu-Bit Granular looper and adding some Erica Synths Black Hole FX, I created some cool sounding loops and melodies.
The pads were created layer a Korg Minilogue XD against some old vinyl samples that I stretched and manipulated, giving a grainy old-school nostalgic feel.
This track is like an ensemble of all the main equipment in my studio playing together.
The main arpeggiated synth is one of the first melodies I wrote on the Matriarch after I bought it, the slow lead synth is the Prophet 6, deep sub bass the MS-10, the bold metallic drums hits are the Vermona DRM-1 and swirling pads played on the Juno 106 and manipulated through various modular units. It came together quite effortlessly by experimenting with the machines and writing what came naturally.
The title comes from the drifting, floating feeling it evokes, and eases you out of the of the often intense sonic landscape the rest of the album exists within.
Alex Banks’ new album ‘Projections’ is out now. Buy it on Bandcamp.
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