Electronic music is one of the few genres that require very little to create. With nothing more than a laptop and a pair of headphones, one can create chart-topping music. Such is the case for Afterlife duo Mathame, whose latest release 'For Every Forever' was made on the road. This rolling progressive techno cut features the vocals of their previous collaborator Lyke, and draws a conclusion to "trilogy" that includes Skywalking and Nothing Around Us. Below, they walk us through the simple but unique process of how the track came to be.
Words and photos by Mathame
"For every Forever" was made just with a laptop. We are going to show you the breakdown of the project, from the idea to the main lead to the recording and the writing process of lyrics.
Our workflow, you know, is not really "standard. "Last year we had a lot of days out of the studio so we could make new music. We also found how to do it on tour, and it worked.
Anyway, we started to take an HDMI cable to connect our laptop screen to the hotel room’s TV, and a wireless mouse and a bunch of controller midi, that we use also for our Hybrid Live setup. Then, of course, good headphones and a Bluetooth standard-monitor that is now something that every producer needs to have. So, we were in Tel Aviv this summer, actually at the beginning of the summer, and we had this vibe full of hope and love, but being in Tel Aviv and the Middle East you feel also this "post-apocalyptic" mood so our general emotions were one of love...and unfortunately, violence.
So we liked to recreate this feeling with a lead idea. We can't speak about "Forever" without speaking about "Skywalking" and "Nothing Around Us", because we think it’s kind of a trilogy, that evokes a certain kind of feeling, that is the exact same: love and violence. So, we started jamming on the main lead, we avoided the same technical solution of the past tracks so we wouldn’t be repeating ourselves. Because in our game it’s important to find new solutions to be creative -- to be alive and push the boundaries.
So we started to write this in a very uncommon musical scale: "B Phrygian". We will not explain the boring musical theory too in-depth, but this kind of "Phrygian mode" is used to colour the music writing into something that can be translated with a "surreal feeling" or a "darker" or "sadder" tone. Understanding a mode and how it works is something that we suggest you do to permit your music to go out on the same scale that everybody uses. And don’t forget that a lot of classic hits, in both rock and electronic music, were written in very strange and specific modes!
So... let’s get to the lead. We write it in a very simple way, you wouldn’t believe it. Just on the piano roll, This is something we can't really explain: it is alchemy, it takes like 2/3 hours to get the idea out, but it was clear from the beginning where we wanted to land. You know, I think part of our secret is to understand functions of time and space of single notes in the space of a club track and how they react on the brain of the people, and this is why a lot of people say that they are "touched" by our works. Really, we can't explain that because it’s something that is more in our hands and hearts than in our rational mind. But in the end, it happens.
Then we passed it to a bunch of top-notch plug-ins (Diva) with max-MSP for live module that help us to use Ableton 10 as a real powerful modular system to modulate the value of the sound as we want (for example, cutoff, attack, glide, decay, filter envelope) to make the lead "live" in the track and follow the flow of a club track because dancing is the main point of every track we made. Then everything come very fast: kick drum is made by samples collected from machine we had in the past and worked in Kick2, and all the drum section is made by an analog white noise with different envelope and layers applied, in a very simple way.
So we had this powerful draft that convinces us from the very beginning. Arrangement and mix are 2 phases very very long if you compare it with the idea draft. It takes 2 months to get the right mix and arrangement. Then we felt that with a voice along we complete our trilogy as a pure synthesization of our style. So we wrote them with our in house talented poly-instrumentist Lyke that gave us the voice to jam and we wrote the lyrics in a musical way to make something memorable and not boring. The idea was to remark this language game we had of “Forever for Ever” that has a great meaning for everyone and a great sound because of the alliteration and repetition, so we thought could work in a techno environment.