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How It Was Made: Rob Macleod - Pàrtaig EP [In The Event Of Capture]

Rob Macleod breaks down his debut EP.
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On March 26th, Rob Macleod released his debut EP, Pàrtaig, via Glasgow-based label In The Event Of Capture. The 5-track EP is a tribute to the city and its legendary club scene. Drawing on influences from early house and techno, the EP combines timeless grooves with the more progressive, narrative-driven sounds that In The Event Of Capture are becoming so fast known for.

The release weaves its way between house and electronica, with hints of classic sounds from yesteryear. We loved the EP and invited him to break it all down for another installment of How It Was Made.

Words and photos by Rob Macleod

Rob's setup

Rob's setup

1. Elektron Octatrack

This is the hub of my setup. It inspired me to get away from the DAW almost entirely and my whole Eurorack modular rig has been built around it. I found it in very bad condition in a second-hand store and brought it back to life with patience and the help of the Elektron engineers. This thing was made for me. I absolutely love it. The Elektron workflow divides opinion which is well documented online but for me, once I got to grips with it, I've only ever found it to be intuitive, inspiring, and amazing. You may need to read bits of the manual several times over while getting used to the lingo but once you crack the code with Elektron you're free and expressing music. 

For example, in the middle of a jam, I might think “it would be good if this button plus that button did that'' and it actually has worked. The designers are definitely on the same wavelength as me. The Octatrack is unbeatable for certain types of composition. It blows any DAW I've ever used away. The “limitations” are its strength especially for jamming live.

I tend to use it as the clock master and branch out via a Polyend Poly 2 which lets me customize and convert the Octatrack MIDI sequencer data to CV and gates and then send these off to various parts of the modular system depending on what I want to do. I tend to play about with things, recording dubs of the modular output back into the Octatrack as audio and jam along to build up tracks. This sort of technique is featured heavily in “Partaig.” The Elektron sequencer coupled with a modular system is almost limitless in terms of fun things to try when making structured electronic music

Elektron Octatrack

Octatrack

2. The harmonàig four-voice voltage quantizer with intuitive harmonic capabilities

I love the Instruo modules. They are very musical. Some modular manufacturers focus so heavily on features that I end up being driven away from the moment I was in, but the Harmonaig strikes a perfect balance of functional depth with intuitive playability. It takes one note and distributes it ‘musically’ to 4 sources, some of which I multiply and redistribute to further destinations. The joys of modular. The chord voicings are CV sequenceable and the modes can be switched at the press of a button so it can easily become the core of an entire symphonic piece if so inclined. I recommend everyone download the free VCV Rack and the free Instruo modules and explore. The track “Harmonaig” is named after this beautiful musical machine.

Harmonàig four-voice voltage quantizer

Harmonàig four-voice voltage quantizer

3. TipTop Audio 808s. Clones of the Roland TR-808 voices

I love the 808 hi-hats. I think they are the nicest sounding Roland hi-hats ever made. The 606 is close, the 909 is required to lift a house or techno track but the 808s can be slotted into things in many more ways - there is just something so nice about the way the open and closed hat choke together (like in Downie Sunset). The 808 snare is also a favorite and it's pretty prominent in the EP, particularly in the track Yamazona giving the beat a nice old-school feel. I could listen to an 808 kick/snare/hats combo for hours (and often do).

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TipTop Audio 808s

TipTop Audio 808s

4. Make Noise Morphagene

This granular recorder and sampler is the go-to module in my eurorack system for anything weird - it does syncopated, rhythmic parts very well and covers abstract and textural tones too. It's very prominent in Yamazona when the beat kicks in. It's the sound of my girlfriend saying something about the weather chopped and pitched in harmonic intervals. It's one of those pieces of kit I can use for several hours and make absolutely nothing musical with, then suddenly a magical thing happens so I hit record and capture it because it'll vanish just as quickly as it appeared and certainly never come back again quite like it did.

I like that about it. It's a module I’ll use when I'm feeling more adventurous (and have more time to play). I've just finished an album worth of music which has some of the results and it sounds really special to me. I see it much more like an instrument in the traditional sense of the word. It rewards practice and some days I play it well and some days I’m left completely frustrated with it.

Make Noise Morphagene

Make Noise Morphagene

5. MFB family Kraftzwerg/Nanozwerg

These synths are mostly used for squelchy, mono bass duties. MFB synths sound amazing but they make some of the most frustrating equipment I've had the pleasure of owning. Until very recently their units were a bit flimsy (like these are) and would drift miles out of tune (like these do) so it takes a bit of endurance to appreciate them BUT they reward that patience by having such a nice, basic, warm tone. Each unit they make has its own charm. Since recording this EP the Nanozwerg has stopped working. I Love MFB and I am a fan for life but it's a strange relationship. As soon as I see another Nanozwerg pop up on eBay I’ll be bidding.

MFB family Kraftzwerg

MFB Kraftzwerg

MFB Nanozwerg

MFB Nanozwerg

6. Roland Paraphonic 505

This string machine was one of my first synth purchases in my mid-teens. I managed to find it in a now-defunct synth shop called Earth Music for around £200 in fully working condition. The chorus effect unit in this synth would be worth double what I paid for the entire thing! After sampling it within an inch of its life, I have sold it on to a really lovely software company, which specialise in libraries of vintage string synth sounds and are masters at taking care of vintage gear. This synth is typically for pads and strings and is mostly noticeable heard in the track “Electric Squib” doing the slightly detuned strings.

Roland Paraphonic 505

Roland Paraphonic 505

7. Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 & EX

For those moments when a synthetic kick drum or weird FM squelch won't do for percussion, I like to use one-shot samples in Distings SD 6 triggers mode and fire off sounds from my collection of recorded audio. From metal-on-metal clangs to vocal hiccups, lots of these sounds are buried in as many of my productions as I can put them in. A keen listener might spot a few things re-emerging from time to time.

Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 & EX

Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 & EX

Grab your copy of the release here.

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