BlogThe usual and unusual happenings involving me and my musical projects

Ghost in the Machine Track Deconstruction

neo | Nov, 29 2013 at 12:59 UTC | Track Deconstruction

The second track on Smear Campaign, Ghost in the Machine, was the true beginning of the album. Although it was not the first to be completed, it was the first to have an arrangement, which actually dates back an entire year.

Ghost in the Machine was conceived through experimentation with Nasca Paul's utility PaulStretch. Upon finding the utility, I began sending just about everything I had on hand through it to see how it would sound. At first the sounds used were longer and layered pieces, often making for overly confused soundscapes. It was when I delved into my custom sample directories that I found the base for this particular beauty.

In one of my directories existed a short message which I sampled off an answering machine many years ago. The caller was unknown and the message was unclear. It was the sound of a girl who appeared to be crying, the only intelligible words being "I'm so sorry". It was all a bit unsettling.

Needless to say, I loaded it up into PaulStretch to see what would happen. What came out were some of the creepiest sounds I had ever witnessed. I continued to experiment with lengths, blur settings and harmonics. When I was done I had a directory full of different versions, of which I chose four to use in the final arrangement.

The four versions are each presented with a unique sound. One is heavily reverberated, one is bit crushed, one is degraded with a vinyl simulation and the final is mostly plain, which is the most prominent in the mix. Each of the more heavily effected layers fade in and out through sections of the piece.

Ghost in the Machine is the only piece on the album to include parts which were not based on existing recorded material. These parts are the spoken word and the supporting bass. The bass was necessary because of the narrow frequency spectrum of the phone message. Without this bass, there wouldn't have been any activity below the lower-mid frequency range, meaning rumble would have been way out of the question.

The spoken word was added as I felt a bit of chanting would fill out the track nicely. I had an idea of something I could use from a past recording, but it turned out that I no longer had the individual files. So I brought up a lorem ipsum generator online and recorded some nice latin-esque spoken word parts. 

The original arrangement was close to 11 minutes and included a spoken word dialog placed in the foreground. The dialog had a great sound to it, but ultimately I felt it took away from the ghostly atmosphere. After this exclusion some trimming was more than necessary, bringing the piece down to it's final duration.

On a side note, the completed chanting portion was also used in my Halloween setup that year. 

Regarding the original phone message: The reasoning behind the call was never discovered and was assumed to have been a wrong number. The meaning was also lost in her crying. Was it a breakup? or worse yet, was it a call for help? To this day, I still have no idea if it was real or a prank.

comments powered by Disqus