EXCLUSIVE Ukkonen “The Ancient Tonalities of…” the making of…


Today’s the day when Ukkonen’s long-awaited new album – The Ancient Tonalities of… – finally arrives. And it’s worth the wait. Free track to download of unique, warm, organic ambient. There’s also an exclusive peek into what goes into his productions. Buy here.

It’s been eighteen months since debut album The Isolated Rhythms of… arrived. Difficult second album syndrome? Not a bit of it. Finnish recluse Ukkonen has produced another masterpiece. The first album drew comparisons with Carl Craig in its delicate, slightly glacial approach to things. Designed around scenes from trains, there was a slightly one-step removedness about it that was part of its brilliance.

This time, inspired by early music and a respect for tradition, there’s a different stance. This is more ‘engaged’; it’s ‘warmer’; and altogether more ‘organic’ sounding. All a bit more Boards of Canada. As I’m proving, it’s quite hard to react to this album without stretching for things that verge on the pretentious. The titles are not accidental, as they’ve moved around in  the process of settling the album. But, unhelpfully, I’m not sure what they mean.

Opener A New Technique, starts things of with a surprisingly clattery set of scales, as if to mark out early on that this is a different album which demands your attention. In an almost Overture way, it has a false break half way through to retrain the synths and allow Ukkonen’s unique poly-rhythmic approach to show through. This is Autechre with a human face. Eighteen Pitches retreats into itself. Strings draw distantly, as rippling synth lines float across the water. This is one of THE tracks of the album. It’s where all that early music and what has gone before comes together.

Viva Las Huelgas appeared back here, when I said “This is music that bears comparison to releases of the quality of early Aphex Twin. The track Viva Las Huelgas (a Chicano battle cry, made famous by Hugo Chavez) has a clattering of block and an enveloping analogue warmth. I adore this.” Let’s get medieval with My Euouae and one of the few other titles I could make sense of. It’s a very ‘church’ sounding track, with a basic distant hand drum sound, covered by organ and tones that could almost be chanting. There’s something of reverence and comfort about it. Euouae says Wiki is “Euouae is a mnemonic which was used in medieval music to denote the sequence of tones in the “seculoruAmen” passage of the lesser doxology, Gloria Patri, which ends with the phrase In saecula saeculorum, Amen.” It’s also the longest word in English comprised only of vowels.

Viva Las Huelgas

Color Cas is another brief track, with an inward looking musical sound but which simultaneously looks at the stars. Or more specifically, the planets. Mars in this case, with the redness of it. Iraupen Kuus takes this inward/outward dichotomy a stage further, with swirling, spiraling sounds coming and going. A bit like the atmosphere of Jupiter. There’s really a sense of wonder at the vastness of it all. A less bombastic Holst The Planets perhaps. Kayamanu Divided comes back more towards electronic music but with a tinkling approach to the house music.

Kayamanu Divided

Planctus Voiceless again searches the past for meaning. A planctus is a sound of mourning or lament. And there is a sense of loss about this. Perhaps a reference to the half-hinted personal stuff that under-pinned some of the album’s creation. But perhaps I’m reading waay too much into this. Nine Vjetar has stop-start drums that leave the smooth synth tones feeling oddly unsettled. The album closes with Three Durations. This is a reference to the 11, 13 and 15 beat cycles that underpin this track. This is partially recycled from 11, 13, 15. There’s again an air of melancholia to the slightly dreamy start. A tone comes and goes in the foreground whilst more anxious beats throb in the background. Eventually the beats become a bit more insistent and a bit more prominent until a hopeful and positive keyboard refrain takes over and remains as the other elements fall away. A brilliant way to close a wonderful album. It draws all the elements of the album together in a final movement, which eventually fade to nothing.

And, kindly, Ukkonen has given us a little peek into what he aims for with his productions:

I try to keep the production simple and sort of neutral, as I feel that cutting edge production techniques age very quickly – good music doesn’t.

So I use the four corners of the compass of effects: eq,reverb,compression and distortion – in order of importance from most to least.

I EQ every detail to the point of obsessiveness. By far the most work I put into the mixing side of things is in the EQing. I find digital music too harsh on the high end so I tend to boost mids and roll down the high frequencies. I like a slightly boomy sound – I don’t like searing, glassy noises.

I use combinations of different types of reverb in very small doses to build up a sound that I like. Usually a tiny amount of a plain digital reverb set to a small room/short delay setting, and then a longer convolution reverb after that. But I generally go for a boxy room sound. I think so much electronic music sounds like it’s created inside a computer, I like to make mine sound like it was played in a room, for the most part. I want a character and age to the sound – but not aged in a retro way, just a mature “this sound has traveled through some air” tone.

I very rarely use compression, mostly it is just for sidechaining – but I have developed what I think is a pretty nice sidechaining setup that is more subtle and creative than a simple pumping effect. It call it invisible sidechaining. I usually set between 1 and 3 separate kick drum patterns to affect the volume of groups of different instruments across the mix.

Then…and this is the important bit…I make those three kick drum patterns inaudible in the final mix. All the listener hears is the effect those patterns have on the volume (or another parameter) of other instruments – but of course with three patterns going on you can’t make that effect out clearly, you just hear it as a moving, flowing, feel to the sound.

The kick drum part that you hear on the tracks is usually separate from this process.

I use distortion very sparingly, but it is vital to my music. I use many layers of very slight distortion – so slight that you might not even be able to make it out – but it degrades the sound slightly. Run sounds through this a few times and it roughens the edges, makes them slightly less normal, and adds a richness in the harmonics. My guide here is if i can notice it, it probably needs to go down a notch.

I rarely use any other effects – and these four are always used with a purpose. If I find I’ve got a mix going with too many effects happening – or stuff happening for the sake of it – I’ll tear it all out and start from scratch.

There’s more from Ukkonen on what he was aiming for here: http://ukknn.com/the-ancient-tonalities-of/

Buy: http://nopaininpop.greedbag.com/buy/the-ancient-tonalities-of

~ by acidted on November 11, 2013.

8 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE Ukkonen “The Ancient Tonalities of…” the making of…”

  1. Hello Acid Ted Aid00 Here – New Blog Address

  2. Hello Acid Ted Aid00 Here Back On Blogger At

  3. […] new mix of tracks from Ukkonen’s new lush ambient album (reviewed here) and influences. Plus he’s becoming a bit less mysterious, since there’s an interview […]

  4. […] is beyond me). The track is a bit more offbeat than the more melodic, churchy, flowing stuff on The Ancient Tonalities of… LP (buy here) but with a rather fine oboe-sounding theme interplaying with lounge piano. He says […]

  5. […] runner up, kind of inevitably, is Ukkonen’s The Ancient Tonalities of… (review here). Another conceptual piece. This took in early music in tradition to bring an album of warm organic […]

  6. It’s nice to read a review like this one. It is written in a friendly way, not harsh towards the artist just to appear “pro”.

    Shows off the good sides of the record, then we can decide what to do with what we read.

  7. […] although only just released contains tracks which date, I think, originally from around the time of The Ancient Tonalities of… album. Ukkonen says “once again I want to change direction a little, whilst still keeping all the […]

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