Written by Travis Shosa
This Album Auto-nalysis interview was originally published on COUNTERZINE on January 10, 2020. It has been re-edited and adapted for Stamens/Pistils/Parties.
Album Auto-nalysis is a regular feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track, to provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked glitch producer Ruairi O’Brien (ODAE) to detail their album Ataraxic.
Impressions and Sources: Playing music with my friends; walking in a circle around my recorder and clapping in the backyard of my old house; feeling sentimental
“This is one of my earlier forays into the composition process that kinda defined the sound of Ataraxic–basically I would make a thing, and then stretch it until its something completely different, and then use that as the source of inspiration. I’m not good at creating ideas out of nothing, so I took an unreleased dance track that I didn’t like and changed the tempo from 160 or whatever down to 20 to see what would happen. The little percussive elements and drum loops took on this really great unpredictable stretchy-loopy character. Each different pitch/stretch algorithm or whatever has its own unique and fascinating timbre. They’re meant to preserve a sound, but as Ableton’s limits get reached the sound starts to get destroyed. I love it. Once I changed the tempo, the dance track became this completely different fascinating downtempo thing, a progression got inspired from that, and I built the track.
“For the second half, it felt right to add a recording of an improvisation my band Pretty Dad did at a park–I was remembering how it sounded and it gave off this energy I really resonated with. Vox recorded with a 15-dollar mic cause that’s all I had! With this and with other tracks, I kinda went up to the mic and pressed record, not knowing what I was going to sing–it’s very fortunate that the themes for most of the tracks ended up similar. I guess when you’re thinking about certain things all the time those things will impart themselves into what you do.”
Impressions and Sources: A squeaky fence outside St. Peter’s Basilica; heavily noise-reduced in Audition until only the pitch remained; moving into a new place and starting fresh; construction; a conversation with a friend; walking
“Heavily edited Absynth preset, going crazy on the pitch knob on my keyboard [laughs]. Had this really pretty loop going that inspired a melody. So I went and sang it.
“The first dance section sampled a record I got at a thrift store, it was called Reeds and Percussion. I have it somewhere. I sample this record so much actually [laughs]. I love the biting transients of this section, it’s almost painful when I turn it up. To increase the uncanniness, I also automated the tempo up and down so it would shake you off a bit. Really delightfully uncomfortable to me. The ideas change really fast in this track, maybe a bit too fast in retrospect.
“I love the third section of this track. I had a lot of fun with the free Oculus Binaural Spatializer VST. It’s everywhere on this album. I pitched a sound up until it sounded almost like crickets and panned it around until it would give me ASMR. The meat of this section was inspired by the fun I had sitting alone with my Microbrute and my electric guitar as I was moving into my current apartment. I ran the guitar dry into the Microbrute and, with the oscillators turned off, used the arpeggiator with the analog filter to turn the dry guitar signal into this fantastic sounding percussive sequence thing. Almost every element of this section is recordings of the guitar-Microbrute jam. Also have some creepy phase-inverted sounds of me brushing my headset against the mic and breathing and stuff.
“I asked my roommate/best friend/violinist of Pretty Dad to improvise to the track and I grabbed a few percussive bits she did. It really makes the track in my opinion.”
Impressions and Sources: ASMR ear cupping; ASMR whispering; Can – Mother Sky / Deadlock – Live in Soest (1970); Early CGI Facial Animation (1974); cherry mx blue spacebar pressing pause
“Simple melody from inside Ableton: all other sources performed one at a time from my 404 with hardware FX. Obscure media I had stored for Pretty Dad, deciding to incorporate it into something I had been sitting on for a while. Singing about wanting to open up, wanting to express myself more.”
Impressions and Sources: Church bell and pigeons in Italy; cars passing; crowd inside the Sistine Chapel; tram from the George Bush International Airport in Houston
“A more fun track! Started out making a weird thing with a stretched-out recording of an old Casio keyboard I got at an estate sale, turning it into some sort of beat, then slowing down the tempo drastically like in “What?” It became what the first minute of “Cascade” is, and then I let it be for maybe a month or two, forgot about it, rediscovered it, and then oops! Lost the project file. So I made a new project with the stereo mix of that first minute and decided I’d continue from there! The “drop” of this track where the whispering begins came from completely resampling and bootleg remixing the first minute. I don’t really remember what I did in too much detail. That shiny metallic character that the percussion has came from like six grain delays in sequence, high feedback, super short delay time, making some instances pitch the sound up, and others pitch the sound down. Was really inspired by SOPHIE when I was doing that.
“The lyrics for this track are some of the few that I wrote down before recording. I was trying to write songs in the notes app of my phone during my spare time when inspiration hit and then trying to match them to any track I was making if it fit. It ended up fitting here!
“I cheated recording the guitar in the outro and recorded it one voice at a time because I can’t play guitar too well.”
Impressions and Sources: Acoustics; fun and dance; in the bottom of a ferry engine blaring
“This is a fun one. This is the last track I made and it all happened in about a day or so. Was feeling really manic and was having a lot of fun stretching and panning and moving around this sample of “Acoustics” by Henry Kaiser and others. It sounds so similar to how Pretty Dad sounds and everyone who listens to it thinks it’s a Pretty Dad sample. It’s really funny to me. Also sampled Stereolab on those drums. I hope I don’t get sued [laughs]. Anyway, that sample in the beginning is what you hear in the middle as well: just heavily, heavily stretched. The Binaural Spatializer plugin really came in handy with this track. The way things bounce around left and right is really frightening to me. I’m really proud of it.”
Impressions and Sources: “It’s a Blue World”; thunder tube in an abandoned house; a bangin’ donk; a church bell and a crowd; the love of my life
“This song I also wrote. It’s probably the most tied to the title of all the tracks. “Just let me speak with id today.” Surprisingly, this track was directly inspired by an Andrew Huang “4 PRODUCERS FLIP THE SAME SAMPLE” video. My partner was over and we were watching it, and I was like “let’s do it, do you have any samples for me babe?” and they sent me a playlist they had been curating of things-to-sample. I found this:
“I made most of the track with them while we were spending time together.”
Impressions and Sources: Minecraft; an orchestra; something bigger than me
“The original version of this track was like 130 BPM faster. I had been sitting on this set of notes for probably two years. After experiencing my process with “What?” and other tracks, I tried to see what chance would give me with this. Immediately was inspired to flesh it out, something I had been struggling with since it was originally doodled. Really proud of the textures here. It incorporates all the production ideas I had been experimenting with up to that point. First, keeping the original fast tempo, printing a bunch of different reverb tracks of various wetness into wav files, panning it with the Binaural Spatializer, then pitching and stretching the reverb prints by slowing the tempo by %X00. The primary synth is clean while the reverb glitches and stretches and warbles and beats with itself.
“The vocals on here were mostly gibberish. I don’t remember what I said. “It’s a growing compound / Great glory / Indecipherable.” I loved the recording, though, so I kept it in. It felt right. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the ending sample.
“So yeah! A lot of these decisions seem a bit frivolous to me, but that’s because I never imagined anyone would listen to it. I think you shouldn’t think too much about the stuff you’re doing if you are purely doing it for yourself in the moment. Thanks to everyone who’s supported me, I love you all! I have a lot of projects I’m working on, so I’ll be back.”
Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.