The Director's Cut: O'Flynn 'Aletheia'

O'Flynn gives a deep dive into the making of his sample heavy and collaborative outstanding new album 'Aletheia.'
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O'Flynn

O'Flynn

London producer O’Flynn has released his debut artist album Aletheia. Hotly tipped this year with a slew of singles, he has put this all together into a soaring the euphoric project. Aletheia is fun, well produced and feels like as cohesive a record as you will hear this week. With some stiff competition for album of the month in September, O’Flynn has potentially topped the list.

With the new album out today, we asked O’Flynn to take us behind the scenes and explain how each record came together. There are loads of hardware components used like the Prophet 6 and samples of various artists. It blends together atmospheric electronica, (often) African vocal samples, eclectic live drums and more all melded into one cohesive piece of music.

Listen to the album now and follow along with our latest The Director’s Cut to see how the whole thing came together. As you read and listen, try and find the samples, live drumming or pieces of hardware that were used in this record. Though they operate in different lanes, listening to this record for the first time may give you the same sense of joy as hearing Bicep’s LP for the first time. It is fun, danceable and at times stunningly beautiful like on “Seamstress.” Listen below and get your copy here via Silver Bear Recordings.

60 Rutledge:

The first time I went to America was to visit my friend out in Charleston 2 years ago. He went to university there and the road he lived on was called 60 Rutledge. This was the first track I made after coming back from America. I think like most of my Logic track names I was supposed to change but ended up growing attached. The chords were played on my Prophet 6 synthesizer and done in one take, which is pretty rare for me, as I can’t play any instruments well. The track starts with a field recording from a festival, taken whilst walking around with my friends, and exploring the different locations we could go to. I think I wanted the album to feel like a festival in a way: walking around to different stages and rooms, hearing different genres and styles of music. That is exciting to me.

Mesablanca:

This track started with the Peter Abdul sample. When I heard his original track I thought it was great and wouldn’t take much work to re-contextualize it into something that could be played in clubs today. Most of my time on this track was figuring out how to compliment the sample in a creative and fun way. It took quite a while to find all the samples I needed, including some of the percussion at the beginning, which was taken from a vinyl and the vocals halfway through. A pretty simple technique I used in this was having a big dynamic difference between the build and the drop. The first drop seems to catch people off guard a bit on the dance floor, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Aletheia:

I’m very proud of this; it was a real blend of lots of different creative techniques, which came together to what I think, is one of my best tracks. Sometimes I rely on the music within the sample to carry the track but this is a blend of synths / samples / live recordings and Midi. The drums at the drop were actually recorded about 5 years ago at my university with my friend Ed and the drummer Tom Higham. It was important to have lots of real sounds and instruments in this track because I didn’t want the vocal to stick out. I wanted the environment they were in to sound natural.

Sunspear:

“Sunspear,” like “Mesablanca,” is an example of where I take a musical part from another track and try to re-contextualize it. The original track was so great already but I wanted to make it so it would be played in clubs today. The percussion at the start pulls together lots of different sampled sounds (as opposed to all being from the same place), with the purpose to build some tension before the main sample comes in. I keep dance floors in mind when I’m making music, I’m always thinking about what will make people’s energy come up and how I can capture their attention. Lots of dance music starts with kick drums, usually to make it easier for the DJ to mix. However, starting with the bass of a kick in tracks can take away from the impact the tune has on the dance floor when it drops. I decided to keep out the kick drum until the main drop to create as much suspense as possible, whilst still keeping the intro danceable.

Udu:

Before starting work on the album I was making dance floor tracks, they would have to be around 4 minutes or longer and have certain structures to accommodate a dance floor. “Udu” is very much the opposite of that format and much more an album track. It started with a percussion loop. I added a kick, clap and a vocal sample. I was a bit stuck at that point and it took working with another producer to finish it. Will Bradbury was jamming on an OB-6 synthesizer over the beat, which I went home and cut up. I then added the hand pan sounds to create a melody and suddenly the track sounded complete to me. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s short and in some ways was supposed to be some kind of interlude - but I enjoyed the fact I didn’t overthink it. I didn’t try and make it 5 minutes and add loads of other sounds to fill it out, I thought it stood on its own being strong at 2.33 minutes.

Celestine:

This track started with a Kalimba sample from a vinyl I found in a Guildford record fair. It was around 120 bpm and I decided I wanted to make an emotional dance floor tune from it. I used the main sample as a base for the track but I also added the sample to a sampler, which allowed me to play it at different pitches and speeds. Playing the sample an octave or two higher creates the little glitchy effects you can hear. I also recorded in my own Kalimba for an extra melody. At the drop there is a sequenced synth line that fades in, this was made using Reaktor Blocks.

Tru Dancing:

This track was never actually meant to be released. I originally made it to play at a festival. The reaction was so good that I decided it should be put out there. The main sample was taken from Tru Tones “Dancing.” It was always an edit of their track, which again I wanted to re-contextualize to make it more club focused. I wanted everything I added to stand up to the original track. This includes the drum intro, which was made from a series of breaks I cut up and percussion loops. The build in the second half was important to get right, my aim was to build up tension, again to get people on the dance floors attention. I referenced the track “Dope” by Butch and used techniques I heard in that to try and create the best build up possible.

Aeolian:

This track was built around the drum sample. The drums have a really old school hip hop feel to them, I decided to cut up this harp sample over them and then build the track from there. Again this was very different to my previous releases, which were aimed at the dance floor. I was consciously thinking about an album format and to challenge myself I wanted to include slower tempos and different genres. I think looking further ahead into my career it’s important to be able to adapt to different styles to keep ideas fresh.

Painted Wolf:

This track started by cutting up a sample of a guy on YouTube demonstrating his Rhodes electric piano. When sampling from YouTube the quality always suffers but you can find very interesting sounds. I found the percussion loop on an 80’s record and put the two together. From there I added sounds from my Prophet 6 synth and some vocal samples. The track felt good but came to a bit of a standstill whilst I was trying to find that final element to make it complete. Finally I came across this field recording by Hugh Tracey from the 50’s of a man singing along to a homemade string instrument. The sound was beautiful and I placed it on top of the Rhodes and I realized this was the final element.

Seamstress:

This track actually started like “Aeolian,” cutting up a harp sample to a drum break. I added a Maori choir sample over the harp, which luckily worked very well. I used similar techniques to “Celestine,” running the harp sample through a sampler and being able to play it at different pitches and speeds. It’s a really handy technique for filling up space in a track. Lucy Evans added some backing vocals to this and the track seemed complete but I wasn’t completely happy with it. I decided that the drums were the problem and that I wanted to have a live drum track instead of sample. Firstly because I felt the style was too similar to “Aeolian” and secondly because I thought it sounded like an imitation of some other established electronic artists. I went into Numen studios with the drummer Tom Higham and we recorded a bunch of live drums for me to work with. After I had cut up and mixed the drums I was so much happier with the track. I feel like it makes the album more varied and dynamic.

Desmond’s Empire:

I made this track a long time ago, it has been out in the world for a few years now and has done much better than I ever expected. The sample I found for this was complete gold; it was from a South African compilation I bought from Ben’s Records in Guildford for £2. I couldn’t use half the track because there was what looks like a cigarette burn in the middle of the record and the vinyl was completely distorted - but I had enough to work with. The chords I put over the sample were not complicated in the slightest but they complimented the sample well and suddenly made it sound more emotional. My friend Tom Blip wanted to have this track as the first release on his label Blip Discs and when I gave him what I thought was the finished track, he insisted the bass was not good enough. I disagreed but gave it another crack anyway, using the technique of pitching an 808 Tom drum used by artists such as Julio Bashmore and Claude VonStroke. Suddenly this gave the track much more bounce and undeniably improved it.

Neptune:

One of my favorite tracks off the album and also technically one of the more complex. I had a fair bit of modulation happening on the master channel, something I hadn’t really done before but I now try to use in all the tracks I am currently making. It can give subtle dynamic changes, which make a big difference to the quality of the overall track. I wanted the structure of this track to be like the last swell of noise before the album ended. It starts quiet, builds and then ends quiet but with completely different sounds. It felt right to end the album on this track.

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