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The Director's Cut: Reid Willis - Mother Of

Composer, producer and sound engineer Reid Willis breaks down the themes and inspiration for his new album 'Mother Of.'
Reid Willis

Reid Willis

Composer, producer and sound engineer Reid Willis has released his eighth album Mother Of. The 13-track, 56 minute LP is centered on the theme of divine singularity with otherworldly textures that rise and fall to mimic Willis’ battle with anxiety. The complex tracks channel the opposing ideas of beauty and destruction, fear and bliss and comfort and chaos, all organized in a cohesive record.

“I was drawn to the concept of the universe as an infinitely large womb, which can be either liberating or terrifying depending on how you react when faced with something vastly unknowable,” explains Willis.

The album opens with the morphing and glitchy “She Dreamt Her Hands Were Constellations” that at times sounds like wind chimes on a porch with glitchy electro. There are moments of pure beauty as well with the beautiful and fluttering “Memory Ribbons” that sounds like a kite floating in the wind. “She Planted Stars At Her Feet” has a sweeping and cinematic feel to it, while “Leadcast” follows its namesake as a haunting and heavy production with dark and deep strings.

The LP always has an edge to it, exemplified with the skittering, frenetic 90’s electro on “The Separator.”

To get a better idea of how this album was made, the ideas behind it and the creative process for each track, we asked Willis to do a Director’s Cut feature to break down Mother Of. Read on as he goes through each song, track-by-track and get your copy of the LP here via Max Cooper’s Mesh.

1. She Dreamt Her Hands Were Constellations

The album opens with a simple drone that blossoms into a bunch of elegant plucked instruments. A sort of Big Bang idea. A single point containing a bunch of potential energy that flowers into a vast, colorful wash of sound. I wanted the opening to be a grand, but alien landscape, incredibly beautiful, yet with an underlying threat. Something askew bubbling beneath the surface.

2. Finger to Pulse

You’re dropped into the seedy underbelly of a more urban setting, more spiky and gritty that the lush wall of sound of the opening track. I also wanted to write a more straightforward, beat-driven track that you can enjoy while driving, that is if you’re driving through some post-industrial wasteland, past a preacher, yelling some strange sermon about a new man-made god.

3. Crying Particles

I wanted to write something very crystalline and microscopic with this track. Lots of loose piano arpeggios and harps. I leaned heavily into my melodic side on this one. It’s pretty straightforward and icy. Tears of diamonds that shatter when they hit the floor.

4. The Ocean Won’t Allow

I wanted to see how heavy of a beat I could write that still sounded rich and welcoming. I often think about the oil rigs off the coast that I used to stare at during beach trips as a child. The mix of industrial human made machinery against the sea horizon always gave me a really strange feeling. This song is in a way a bit like that. I liked that contrast. This one has an interesting time signature too. It’s in six, but grouped in 2, until the last section, where it starts to swing. I’m sure it can be heard in other rhythmic groupings as well. I don’t want to force the listener to hear it in any particular way.

5. Slow Sympathy

I love short vignette tracks. Most of my favorite artists write them. I love how a dense and direct mood can be created, or a spell can be cast in a very brief moment. I’m obsessed with the way the pads merge with the vocal sample when it all rises up together. I thought it sounded so immense when I first wrote it.

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6. Helix Flecks

This track is very cyclical in sound. The synth arpeggios that are the backbone of the track have a very spiral-like nature, and I wanted everything to kind of circle around that. I put a hard swing on the rhythm to give it that twitchy nature, which I think is funky as hell. The guitar sample comes in around the halfway mark, to warm up what I thought was a rather cold track. It’s like a light beam shining through a dusty, dark cellar.

7. Memory Ribbons

I’ve always been obsessed with those powerful, yet fleeting feelings you get when you’re struck by a vivid memory. (The way the light hits an object, a driving route to pre-school, a favorite park.) Those little jolts are so powerful yet so hard to grasp for any length of time. This song is kind of a celebration of those. I wanted it to be pure nostalgic joy. I went back to the style of late 90s/early 2000s IDM that really captured a playful and mischievous nature with bright melodies and rapid percussion.

8. She Planted Stars At Her Feet

This song is the sister track to the opener. I find this one to be the nocturnal flip side to the first track. I wanted to create synths that sounded like meteors falling to earth all around you. Very northern lights inspired imagery. I actually played violin on this one, towards the end. I buried it in the mix a bit, cause I’m still learning how to play.

9. The Great Blank

I wanted to write something extremely sad and isolated. It’s a simple piano track, but with a lot of little things happening in the background. The feeling of watching a radio tower blink at night comes to mind. Floating out to oblivion. I find that imagery really beautiful and moving.

10. Leadcast

This is another more straightforward track, with a less straightforward time signature. Kind of an ease back into the darkness of the next few tracks. I really like how comfortable and confident this song ended up sounding, like it doesn’t need to prove itself to anyone. It’s brooding and comfortable that way. I was also obsessed with the harmonics of that deep cello sample.

11. The Separator

Probably the most intense track of the album. This one is another nod to some of the great electronic music artists that influenced me in my formative years, but with updated sound design. I miss that stuff. It’s still such incredible music. I wanted all percussive and propulsive instruments in this song, with elongated pads and ambience, to give it that angsty, racing feeling. There are a lot of manipulated vocal and choir samples that give a nod to Penderecki (RIP) and neoclassical music.

12. Mother Of

The title track is a celestial ambient piece that I wanted to sound like massive planetary bodies floating through space. In contrast, I wanted it to sound womb-like and comforting. This is kind of the statement piece of the album. The vastness of space that functions as the universal womb.

13. A Home in the Void

When I started writing this piece, I knew I wanted it to be the final track. It had this bittersweet finality to it that most endings come with. It’s melancholic, but sounds self-assured, like the song is about to set out on a long journey to find its purpose. It’s about finding comfort in the discomfort, and peace in the chaos. It comes to a climax of worlds imploding and collapsing, then resolves itself to its own ending, slightly sad, but accepting.

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