Welcome back to our exclusive feature, How It Was Made, where your favorite artists give you an inside look on how they create your favorite records, breaking down their tools, processes, and habits. This time, we sit with Spanish electronic artist Balfa, who's recent self-released album, 'Perfecta Analogía De La Decadencia', explores areas of ambient, experimental, noise, and beyond.
Words and photos by Balfa
I am glad you are interested in how my debut album ‘Perfecta Analogía De La Decadencia’ was made.
The main thing you should know is that it has been made exploring handmade instruments I built along four years. Of course, I used more devices to create it but I could say that these handcrafted machines are the ‘spine’ of this project so there is no project without them, and that’s because they have a random and an inimitable behaviour. I had really fun times while learning and designing them. I create them in such a way that I didn’t really know how they would sound. Sometimes I just don’t know what am I doing but I try to get interesting glitches or sounds. And of course, they appear in every song, and every song is what it is because of them. So, I guess it is going to be more interesting if I talk about them.
For this album, I used three kinds of crafted devices: analog synthesizers, digital tools, and acoustic instruments.
The centerpiece of the analog synthesizers is a modular synth composed of three modules: A clock that sets the frequency, a patchable sequencer and the last one, which is a sound generator. Everyone has a specific function and can be routed to other devices too. I used this modular synth almost every time that I wanted to start a song because I usually got interesting percussion patterns that don’t follow any rule and they are changing most of the time, so I could get interesting sounds or ideas. It has been used in tracks like ‘Interludio Primero’, ‘Afloración’ or ‘Sobreestímulos’
Other interesting synthesizers are those that I like to build inside cool things, like a PlayStation controller or a video cassette VHS. These are the most complicated to built due to its own free space inside its case and because I always try to recycle and reuse its components. I used these ones to get kind of uncontrolled noise, lead and atmosphere sound like on ‘Corredor Aéreo’ ‘Posmodernismo’ or ‘Y Lo Que Queda’.
I also enjoy ‘circuit bending’ practices. I like to dismantling electronic machines of low-voltage or battery-powered, usually small sound generators or toys, and connecting wire between different points of the electronic board till getting interesting noises or effects. When an interesting sound alteration is found, I keep it active through connections and components like knobs, potentiometers, switches and more. These sounds appear in songs like ‘Auto-Introducción’ or ‘Segunda Introducción’
I also like programming digital instruments, effects or applications. Some tracks have kind of algorithmic composition where the tools I created are able to make choices through mathematical equations and random events. These were also designed with manually adjustable parameters to get certain control margin over the final result. I control these parameters with a smart ring that I designed together with the DAI-Labor guys from the Technische Universität Berlin. You can hear all this chaos on ‘Presionero’ or ‘Interludio Tercero’
The last instruments are the acoustic ones. Any material or object can get a second chance as a recycled musical instrument.
All percussions and atmospheres in ‘Tu Ansiedad Como Receta’ were made with old cassette players, recording all their own sounds when playing, rewinding, clicking on its buttons, etc.
This also happens with the percussions and the atmospheres in most of the tracks. I pick up any object I find and use it as an instrument, hitting it and listening to the noises that it makes, and then use these sounds to create my music. I have a lot of inputs on my mixer just for piezo microphones and for the handy recorder. The last one is routed to a tactile app to touch and modify the sound waves that come from it.
With an old hard drive that didn’t work anymore, disassembling it and making the platter spin, I could create some deep frequencies and recorded them with a microphone, and then used them as bass and sub-bass. All these sounds that I got from this hard drive were then introduced in a keyboard’s toy through a microphone input, creating a chaotic distortion.
I use all of this sounds in almost every composition, and I could talk and talk more about it… about the bicycle instrument I had, or the crafted didgeridoo or even about how the key track ‘Afiladas Vergüenzas’ was made, which was fully made in the first synthesizer I ever did four years ago, but let’s stop here and if you are still interested in my project, you can invite me to come again.
Grab your copy of his new album here.