DIRTYBIRD recently a two-track EP from favorites VNSSA and Lenny Kiser that reinvigorates the sounds of Rave’s heyday. It begins with a trip to the after-hours, where a smooth bassline glides over a road of thick percussion—set beneath a sky of filtered synth bursts and VNSSA’s own hypnotic vocals. The beat gets broken in “Cue The Rhythm,” where quirky whistle effects and a simple, yet earworm of a melody join with a gritty low-end in a warm embrace. The EP as a whole gives off a classic feel, yet is seated firmly in modern sound design. Below, the duo breaks down the release for the latest installment of How It Was Made.
1. Audio-Technica AT2020 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
This is such a great mic and you can't beat the price either. It has a wide dynamic range and always delivers a super crisp sound. I've used this mic (paired with a cheap pop filter) to record all my vocals, including "Sinking". Proof that you don't need an expensive mic to record clean vocals.
2. CAD VocalShield VS1 Foldable Stand-Mounted Acoustic Shield
Since I don't have a vocal booth, I use this shield anytime I record vocals. It's lined in acoustic foam and makes for a really dry vocal. It also folds up so it's easy to store which is a huge convenience for those of us with smaller workspaces.
3. Zone Synthesizer plug-in by Audiaire
This is one of my favorite soft synths. I've used it in "Cue The Rhythm" and a few other tracks (Run Me My Money, Dazed, Feed The Flame) and again for the lead synth in "Cue The Rhythm". This plug-in is super user-friendly and it has amazing presets. I find myself getting lost in this synth for hours at a time just playing around and creating new presets. The sequencer is also a game-changer for me.
4. Diva Synthesiser plug-in by U-He
Probably my most used soft synth. It has such a warm, analogue sound with presets that emulate the Rolland Jupiter 6 and Moog Minimoog. I use it for everything including leads, white noise, pads, strings, fx, you name it. When I'm looking for a realistic analogue plug-in, Diva is my go-to. It's a little taxing on your computer at times but in my opinion, it's totally worth it.
5. Moog Sub 37
The Moog Sub 37 is an absolute powerhouse synth. It’s super thick, and it has so much classic Moog character. I use this synth in almost every track, and it’s great for bass sounds but also leads, arps, and sequences. On “Cue the Rhythm” the bass sound was made by layering separate recordings of two Moog patches and then squashing them together with the SoundToys Devil Loc Deluxe. That plugin is a combination of compression and distortion, and it imparts a gritty and dark tone.
I also used the Sub 37 to create the bubbling arpeggiated sequence in “Cue The Rhythm.” For me, synths are about movement, so I always try to write automation for different parameters or manually move them while recording. To create movement in the arp sound, I manually changed the filter cutoff, resonance, noise oscillator volume, and the amp envelope release time.
Finally, I used the Sub 37 to create additional melody lines on top of VNSSA’s original melody for “Cue The Rhythm.” One of my favorite things to do with lead melodies from the Moog is to add the Ableton Echo Device and turn up the Wobble amount. This introduces random pitch changes to the delay and creates a gliding haunting sound that feels like it’s falling apart—in a good way.
6. Ableton Push 2
I can’t say enough about the Ableton Push. This is basically the centerpiece of my studio. I used it to write the melody in “Sinking.” The actual instrument was Ableton’s Analog device, which is a great example of how you can create professional sounds with stock Ableton devices. I put the RC-20 Retro Color plugin on it to make it sound nice and lo-fi. Then I used the SoundToys Crystallizer effect to add a glittery delay sound to it.
7. Arturia Prophet
I’m constantly amazed at the sound quality of soft synths. The Arturia Prophet has been a go-to for me when looking for chord and pad sounds. I used it for the chords on “Sinking.” To evolve the sound and add movement, I added some simple filter and amp envelope automation.
8. Native Instruments Monark
When I’m not using the Sub 37, I like to use Monark for bass. I think this is absolutely one of the best-sounding VSTs for emulating Moog-style bass. I used Monark for the bass sound on “Sinking.”
Grab your copy here.