Hold down and repeat

CONCEPT: Seventeen-year-old Gisborne student Jack Heikell, and soundtrack creator for his team-winning entry in the 2017 HP48Hours filmmaking competition, releases his 19-track album of electronic soundscapes online today. The track concept is bass driven with what sounds like deep piano notes from under the sea with some radioactivity and randomness on the surface that builds its own beats. Picture supplied
UNDERROADS: Jack Heikell, creator of the online album release1 (released on YouTube today), produced this picture as album art for his single underroads. The image combines several pictures taken by Heikell. In many ways it neatly encapsulates the release1 sound. Picture by Jack Heikell

TAKE a single tom-tom drum beat.

Donk.

Bend it, shape it, anyway you want to through audio-production software and you’re on your way to creating a multi-layered composition from a single note. With the software’s analogue imitator, instrument range and Fruity Slicer to chop wave files into pieces, that process might not be as easy for most as tapping a tom-tom.

But that process is what last year’s local HP48Hours filmmaking competition co-producer Jack Heikell did for his instrumental piece, you’re lying always, the 11th track on his 19 track instrumental album, release1.

Composed entirely on his laptop and FL Studio’s Fruity Loops software, the album was released on YouTube today and can be heard here.

With its dirty fuzz, repetitive beats, unfamiliar instrumentation and tenuous melodies, the album shares some of the industrial-and-white-noise soundtrack from the Heikell film team’s movie Kelvin. Heikell’s composition also won Ma am the best soundtrack creator accolade.

The 17-year-old’s online album is made up of soundscapes. In much the same way a pizzaiolo might excite his customers’ palettes with dirty, low-end contrast through controlled charring of the base, Heikell often explores the fine line between music and noise. An aural flavour he is partial to is the “crunchy” sound, the fuzz that is created when the quality of the delay function is turned down.

The fuzz

Another Fruity Loops feature at Heikell’s fingertips is the arpeggiator, a real-time sequencer designed to take a chord as an input and turn it into an arpeggio. The effect was possibly used in the track question mark. The instrumental opens with a pleasant jangle that sounds like chords struck on piano strings. These are accompanied by arpeggiated notes possibly drawn from the same chords. The mood is punctuated by short bursts of electronic drum beats and the track is rounded off with industrial-style noise.

“It’s not music to dance to,” says Heikell.

“I don’t know what it is really. I make a lot of stuff without questioning it. I go in, play around and you have something. Sometimes I drag an effect into the instrumentation.”

Heikell cannot read music or play an instrument other than a laptop and, for now, does not want to adulterate his exploration. Instead, he has allocated notes to his laptop’s keyboard keys. When pressed, the letter Q, for example, plays c5. Z gives him c4, an octave up on Q.

“I’ve had no formal music education so what I’m doing here is what I assume is music,” he says.

He figures out on a piano at home, or on his laptop’s musical keys, notes that make chords he likes the sound of, then might ask his music teacher what they are.

Sonic sculpture

“I open the music software and find a couple of sounds and sculpt from there. Sometimes I mess around and come up with a coherent idea.”

He might begin with a music sample but by the time he has looped, sliced, arpeggiated, stretched and augmented it “past the point of no return”, the starting point is irretrievable.

Heikell is not alone in his Fruit Looped universe. After he had completed his album, a friend introduced him to the music of Boards of Canada. The Scottish electronic music duo incorporates in its sound vintage analogue synthesisers, hip-hop-inspired breakbeats, and samples from 1970s public broadcasting programmes.

Heikell was “retroactively inspired”.

“When I heard Boards of Canada, as I kept listening I realised it was kind of like the stuff I was going for.”

Ohio electronic musician Keith Rankin of Giant Claw is probably closer in spirit to what Heikell is exploring.

“Using melodic keyboard lines, plunderphonic sampling, and incessant jump cuts, Giant Claw sketches out a jagged topography of the digital landscape,” says a page on bandcamp.com.

Heikell’s “songs about making songs to show identity” should be played in order, he says.

“When I made the album I tried to make a thing about who I am. Then, no, to tell a story. Then no, to just get something out there.”

It’s likely the recording does all of the above.

Electronic soundscape

Communique, the first track on release1, opens with what sounds like strings, a smooth calm sound, then transmutes into an electronic soundscape.

The third track on the album, guilty patterns, is characterised by reversed sounds in a repeated pattern that gradually become more uplifting in mood.

After a stretch of white or thinned industrial noise, the track wake to the wind opens with a piano bass note then builds on it and explores that fine line between melody and noise (or charring). Towards the end of the album is the sweet, almost cheesy, possibly ironic, piano piece, pen pals in a digital era.

For interaction one, the last track on the album, Heikell recorded the first part on the upright piano outside Snackisfaction during a thunderstorm. Distant voices, traffic, rain and thunder rolls can be heard in the background as he tentatively explores chords and notes. Then almost a minute into the recording the tone changes. Repeated notation is played in a minor key, free of background noise.

Where to go with his electronic sound is another question altogether.

Heikell is considering a kind of reality show, a documentary, in which he and his film crew follow with a camera a friend who is of an idiosyncratic disposition “but in a good way”. The edited footage would be accompanied by an idiosyncratic soundtrack composed on laptop by Heikell.

“This is going to go somewhere,” he says of his electronic soundscapes.

“I just don’t know where that somewhere is yet.”

TAKE a single tom-tom drum beat.

Donk.

Bend it, shape it, anyway you want to through audio-production software and you’re on your way to creating a multi-layered composition from a single note. With the software’s analogue imitator, instrument range and Fruity Slicer to chop wave files into pieces, that process might not be as easy for most as tapping a tom-tom.

But that process is what last year’s local HP48Hours filmmaking competition co-producer Jack Heikell did for his instrumental piece, you’re lying always, the 11th track on his 19 track instrumental album, release1.

Composed entirely on his laptop and FL Studio’s Fruity Loops software, the album was released on YouTube today and can be heard here.

With its dirty fuzz, repetitive beats, unfamiliar instrumentation and tenuous melodies, the album shares some of the industrial-and-white-noise soundtrack from the Heikell film team’s movie Kelvin. Heikell’s composition also won Ma am the best soundtrack creator accolade.

The 17-year-old’s online album is made up of soundscapes. In much the same way a pizzaiolo might excite his customers’ palettes with dirty, low-end contrast through controlled charring of the base, Heikell often explores the fine line between music and noise. An aural flavour he is partial to is the “crunchy” sound, the fuzz that is created when the quality of the delay function is turned down.

The fuzz

Another Fruity Loops feature at Heikell’s fingertips is the arpeggiator, a real-time sequencer designed to take a chord as an input and turn it into an arpeggio. The effect was possibly used in the track question mark. The instrumental opens with a pleasant jangle that sounds like chords struck on piano strings. These are accompanied by arpeggiated notes possibly drawn from the same chords. The mood is punctuated by short bursts of electronic drum beats and the track is rounded off with industrial-style noise.

“It’s not music to dance to,” says Heikell.

“I don’t know what it is really. I make a lot of stuff without questioning it. I go in, play around and you have something. Sometimes I drag an effect into the instrumentation.”

Heikell cannot read music or play an instrument other than a laptop and, for now, does not want to adulterate his exploration. Instead, he has allocated notes to his laptop’s keyboard keys. When pressed, the letter Q, for example, plays c5. Z gives him c4, an octave up on Q.

“I’ve had no formal music education so what I’m doing here is what I assume is music,” he says.

He figures out on a piano at home, or on his laptop’s musical keys, notes that make chords he likes the sound of, then might ask his music teacher what they are.

Sonic sculpture

“I open the music software and find a couple of sounds and sculpt from there. Sometimes I mess around and come up with a coherent idea.”

He might begin with a music sample but by the time he has looped, sliced, arpeggiated, stretched and augmented it “past the point of no return”, the starting point is irretrievable.

Heikell is not alone in his Fruit Looped universe. After he had completed his album, a friend introduced him to the music of Boards of Canada. The Scottish electronic music duo incorporates in its sound vintage analogue synthesisers, hip-hop-inspired breakbeats, and samples from 1970s public broadcasting programmes.

Heikell was “retroactively inspired”.

“When I heard Boards of Canada, as I kept listening I realised it was kind of like the stuff I was going for.”

Ohio electronic musician Keith Rankin of Giant Claw is probably closer in spirit to what Heikell is exploring.

“Using melodic keyboard lines, plunderphonic sampling, and incessant jump cuts, Giant Claw sketches out a jagged topography of the digital landscape,” says a page on bandcamp.com.

Heikell’s “songs about making songs to show identity” should be played in order, he says.

“When I made the album I tried to make a thing about who I am. Then, no, to tell a story. Then no, to just get something out there.”

It’s likely the recording does all of the above.

Electronic soundscape

Communique, the first track on release1, opens with what sounds like strings, a smooth calm sound, then transmutes into an electronic soundscape.

The third track on the album, guilty patterns, is characterised by reversed sounds in a repeated pattern that gradually become more uplifting in mood.

After a stretch of white or thinned industrial noise, the track wake to the wind opens with a piano bass note then builds on it and explores that fine line between melody and noise (or charring). Towards the end of the album is the sweet, almost cheesy, possibly ironic, piano piece, pen pals in a digital era.

For interaction one, the last track on the album, Heikell recorded the first part on the upright piano outside Snackisfaction during a thunderstorm. Distant voices, traffic, rain and thunder rolls can be heard in the background as he tentatively explores chords and notes. Then almost a minute into the recording the tone changes. Repeated notation is played in a minor key, free of background noise.

Where to go with his electronic sound is another question altogether.

Heikell is considering a kind of reality show, a documentary, in which he and his film crew follow with a camera a friend who is of an idiosyncratic disposition “but in a good way”. The edited footage would be accompanied by an idiosyncratic soundtrack composed on laptop by Heikell.

“This is going to go somewhere,” he says of his electronic soundscapes.

“I just don’t know where that somewhere is yet.”

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