Welcome back to our exclusive feature ‘The Director’s Cut’, where your favorite artists provide a never-before-seen look into the creative process of their latest album. This time, we are joined by techno veteran Marc Houle, whose newest work, No One Knows, shows his prowess as an artist and producer. In this edition of TDC, he not only provides written cliff notes but also audio examples to add even more clarity. This is perhaps our most in-depth feature yet, so thank you Marc!
How to listen: There are a couple of ways to proceed. First, you can listen to the whole album, which you will find below, and then read the notes. Or, read the notes as you listen to each track. This will completely change your perspective on the whole release itself and bring you closer to the artist and their work
Words by Marc Houle
Thought it might be interesting to include some soundbites from individual pieces of the track – like isolated vocals, etc to better illustrate what I am talking about. I just did it for a few tracks but I think it’s interesting….
No One Knows
There’s nothing wrong with a little sadness. There’s nothing wrong with a little pain. The vocals are straight up me speaking in a lower voice with some trippy effects giving everything a schizophrenic feeling. I made a nice simple bassline to keep everything together and organized with a couple of snares running through a spring reverb. After realizing it’s a bit too dark I threw in a 303 acid line to give a fun groove to it all. Overall I’d say this is the theme of the album – Somewhere between the darkness and a nice groove.
Started with a nice simple melody which I turned into minor chords and fed through a Deckard’s Dream synth that Hawtin lent to me. It’s the same melody all along going through the DD but with different patches. So throughout the track, I’m bringing in and out different sounds. Realizing it was just a bit too clean I also fed the notes through an Arp 2600 to dirty things up a bit. The vocals are just there to ground the whole thing and give you something to latch onto. That quick minor chord stab is what I’ve always loved about the old Detroit tracks.
Begins with a haunting vocoder track that I really loved. The synth melody drops in which has a heavy 80s feel. It actually reminds me a bit of the Airwolf theme song. Once the vocals go away I bring in a weird acid melody to fill the spaces and push things up a notch.
Glit for Pink
I was making a weird 303 melody and I noticed that as I started dropping out notes, the melody got way better. I’m running it through an H8000 for some nice reverb air. There’s a Jupiter creating some 5th chords which sound almost like a choir with all that chorus on it. The background sound is a BBC sound effect of a trolly driving through the streets, run through a few filters and delays. It’s a nice break from the album, giving your ears some rest before the techno starts again.
Usually, when I make a track I map out all the changes and layout all the notes and drums and slowly rearrange everything till it sounds good – the way most people do it today. For this track, I decided to do things the way I had originally done them decades ago, which was to make loops and loops and bring things in and out using faders in realtime The problem with this is that you can make mistakes and your levels aren’t always so accurate but it’s definitely way more fun to do.
For the growls, I went to an old VST Absynth that I have always loved but rarely used. The main melody is a CS-30L which adds just the right amount of brightness when I need it.
I think this track is more of a celebration of my favourite synth sounds than anything. I was working in the studio trying to decide what sounds I like the best and this sort of happened. Some of the synths are from old analog gear and others are from various VSTs. I love how the different sounds come in and out so you can really hear what they add. Loads of chorus and an EMT plate to give some life. Schoenerism.
This one started out by me watching hours of Waterphone footage, the staple of horror movie soundtracks. Such a peculiar instrument that moves in and out of scale. I created a dreary synth line to match but also to keep things a bit consistent.
Another one through the Deckard’s Dream, This one was made right after Deckard 6 since I was still glowing from the sound of the minor chord melodies running through that amazing box. Made almost the same way – started out with a melody which I turned into minor chords. Some simple vocals come in midway, basically, my friend saying ah then running through the molecular NI effect.
Here We Are
For the last track, I wanted to come out of the grey and hit back with something fun and housey. Quick minor stabs are going through a whole bunch of synths in a call and answer sort of way. Karla Houser’s vocals seem to fit perfectly frequency wise. Those are run through the CLA Vocal plugin then chorused out and an EMT Plate is thrown on top. They spread out nicely to the point where the track slowly fades away right before coming back with a strong punch.
No One Knows is available now via Items & Things. Grab it here.