Ferry Corsten has released an album as his ambient alias FERR titled As Above So Below. Though not intentional, the album comes just at the perfect time where we are stuck indoors and need music that reflects that situation. The album brings together many different types of ambient music with soft percussion, flowing pads and gentle melodies. There are also beatless compositions that can be melancholic, but also hopeful at the same time. To go deeper into the album, we asked Corsten to take us behind the scenes with a Director’s Cut feature that explains the creative process behind each song on the album.
Read on for his take on each track and listen to the album as you read. Get your copy of it here. Feel the tranquility and calm wash over you with this album.
This track was a fun experiment for me. I took a recording that I made of wind and rain hitting the trees and their leaves and used that as a sort of white noise. But raindrops hitting a surface give you much more texture than normal white noise. I ran this sound through a resonator plug-in to give it a musical note. Then I used lots of reverb and weird delay effects to add spaciousness. This sound I then used to create the pad sounds you hear at the beginning and throughout “Caim.” Adding this beautiful distorted piano halfway gives you a sense of shelter and security, almost telling you that everything will be alright.
This is very melancholy. The track develops from a pad and the main musical parts and layers outside of that are comprised of reversing sounds with heavy use of delay and reverb, which brings them gradually to the fore before they step back in the soundspace again. This track reminds me of a beach, where the waves ebb and flow, much like life. It’s uber-reflective.
Definitely one of the more rhythmic tracks on the album, “Sehnsucht” has that almost heart wrenching quality that you sometimes just want to hear in today’s film music. A great combination of cinematic and electronic instrumentation and different time signatures that makes you want to put this track on repeat.
There is a real sense of scarcity in “Closer,” which allows the piano to take center stage, planting the seed early on with an introspective tone. This develops into a much more hopeful piece as the track evolves and takes on a more developed feel, full of atmosphere and a more complex musical line. Much like a flower blossoming, the track sees growth throughout, and the end product is a lot grander than the beginning.
5. When Thoughts Become You
I absolutely love moody piano pieces. This one tells the story of wanting everything there is in the universe, but simply having enough with your family by your side is all you really need. Therefore, it is also just piano and no other instrumentation. The only thing I did extra with this track was playing with reverberation, bringing the piano closer to you and moving it farther away into the back of the room.
6. Dark Water
This is one of the two tracks on the album that I made with fellow Dutch classical composer Geronimo Snijtsheuvel. This heavily arpeggiated synth journey takes you from a very small single repeating note into a big blissful harmonic synthesizer rollercoaster ride. Although it’s a very electronic piece, the subtle presence of violins adds that classical touch and that orchestral human element to this track.
7. Arcane Soul
I love the calmness in "Arcane Soul." It starts off with soft pads that lead you into a serene vibe that makes you feel totally relaxed. The beauty in this track is its simplicity, showing that not much is needed in a piece of music to make you feel completely at ease. And just when you thought you were relaxed, the piano chords are introduced at the end, and suddenly you start noticing that you are slipping into an even deeper comfort.
The word that springs to mind with this track is ethereal. The pads and atmospheres that sit behind the piano in this have a choral quality, which makes the track feel almost heavenly. They flow with the piano quite nicely and the distortion introduced towards the end helps with that sense of development
I used a repeating sample in “Sweven,” which gives it the sense that it’s ticking along like a clock. This becomes more prominent throughout the duration, creating a real sense of momentum in the track, as if something important is going to happen. I use an arpeggiator bubbling underneath to further this increasing intensity, opening up the cut-off filter at points to give piques of interest throughout.
10. Gravity Waves
This is the second single I worked on with Geronimo Sinjtsheuvel and follows on nicely from “Sweven” as a subtle drum and repeating piano note keep that sense of forwardness as a nice transition. The middle section is the key to this track, where everything is stripped back and a beautiful piano solo plays out on its own, and the theme that is teased throughout finally blossoms. It feels like a real moment, as if you have reached your destination.
“Void” has a real tranquil tone to it. It is a moment of calm and peace following on from the previous two songs. I feel this is meant as a moment of reflection, and visually I’m reminded of a still lake when I listen back to this song. Everybody needs their moment of calm.
12. Beyond The North Wind
This track was another fun experiment with sound for me. The main piano element was drenched in reverb as if it was being heard in a cavernous space like a cave, which is a completely different approach to how I would normally present my music, where the melody or lead are front and center.
I like the turn in pace on this one; it feels like the journey is reaching its conclusion. I like the way the syncopation from the repeating piano melody gives an underpinning rhythm to the track, without making it obvious. It also increases and decreases in tempo throughout, which I think gives a human touch and leads it smoothly into the next section.
“Opia” feels like the culmination of all the tracks. It has moments of serenity, flecks of delayed sound that are used creatively and outside of how I would usually utilize delay. A synthesized arpeggiator breaks through and takes a hold as the album draws to its conclusion. It felt like a really balanced way to end the album on.