Kitchen Consultation: Matthieu Michaux – El Niño

This consultation has been published with the kind permission of Matthieu Michaux: http://nonnativespeakers.net/

Download or listen to the song ‘El Niño’ here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8068578/Kitchen/Non-Native%20Speakers%20-%20First%20Words%20-%2001%20El%20Ni%C3%B1o.mp3

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Composition

I like the spacey vibe in this track. It reminds me of some of my own sonic art explorations from a few years back.

I think, however, that it could do with a bit more compositional organisation. At the moment it comes across as a collection of good ideas that meander about somewhat aimlessly. Part of the problem is the melodic themes you use are not very prominent – they come across as background parts because they are cyclic and repetitive (also because the sound is quite diffuse, but I’ll discuss that later).

One thing I think you could do to improve the track is to make sure it has a recognisable main theme. You wouldn’t need to add anything new – you’ve already got enough material there. You’d just need to present it in a way that makes it clear.

You’ve got some good melodic patterns and motifs – try to develop them into something longer, with a sense of shape (contour!) and purpose (direction and momentum!). It doesn’t have to be a full-blown Andrew Lloyd-Webber melody, but something that is a bit more substantial than what you’ve currently got.

The melodies at 4:28 and 4:49 are prime material for developing into something bigger.

Mix

It might sound strange to hear, but I think your mix could do with more depth. At the moment, it’s got a lovely ambience, but there doesn’t seem to be much distinction between the foreground and background. There are a few bits and pieces in the background, but it seems most of the instruments are roughly the same distance from the listener.

Part of the confusion could be reduced by bringing the melodic elements further forward (consider both the level and treatment). Make room to hear the background parts through the gaps in the foreground. Adding some appropriately-treated delays would work well to add a sense of distance and space.

I also feel the need to point out the stereo width of the gnarly synth bass. I realise it’s a key part of the character of the track and it’s the kind of sound that is often restricted by genre choice. Still, I suggest reconsidering the stereo width – not for technical reasons of mono cancellation or phase coherence, but of listener focus.

If the synth bass is a foreground part, it will have more focus and punch if it is mono. If it is meant to be a background part, it should be much more diffuse. I think its current stereo width actually detracts from the sense of space and make the whole mix feel smaller. Think of it as there being no space around the synth bass – no matter how big the synth bass is, the whole mix is not (much) bigger than it.

It also makes the synth bass sound itself quite empty (more so on headphones than speakers). If you want the sound to be important, put it upfront and make it focussed and punchy. You wouldn’t make a kick drum or snare drum super-wide, so why do it to your bass?

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This is an example of a single Kitchen consultation. If you would find this kind of feedback useful for your own music, get in touch with me.

– $20 will get you one consultation (basically the same as this example, but in private, with your music).

– $50 will get you three consultations or one studio demo (where I do an example edit or mix of your music to better demonstrate how some concepts would apply to your music)

– $100 will get you seven consultations or two studio demos.

The consultations can be for multiple songs or multiple revisions of one song. It’s up to you.

You can read more about the Kitchen here: http://kimlajoie.com/site/kitchen.html

When you’re ready, send me an email to kitchen at kimlajoie dot com.

-Kim.

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