"A Vast Unwelcome:" All metal sounds + only physical reverb

Hi, folks. My new EP, “A Vast Unwelcome,” is out now, available exclusively on Bandcamp. It was made using only metal objects, metallic instruments, software models of complex metallic objects, and electro-mechanical reverb units…each of the songs has up to six channels of EMT 140 plate reverb. :wink:

Instrument list includes, but isn’t limited to, bells, idiophones, chimes, metallophones, prepared string instruments, horns, metallic objects vibrated using transducers, synthesizers played through gongs, rattling cymbals filled with ball bearings, sheet metal, found objects, springs, ultrasonic-capable microphones, and software. If anyone has questions about the techniques or sound sources, I’m happy to share/answer questions.


The metal is heavy in this one :black_heart:


Very athmospheric as usual! One thing I’ve been wondering (also with prior albums like The Right Side of Mystery ) do you first “harvest” sounds, but trying out many different ways of playing the objects or instruments, and then see what you can do with these recorded sounds, or is it more like you approach these with a composition already in mind?


Thanks very much, @papernoise. My process varied in those two cases. But both did start with just open play and experimentation, with the composing and arranging process coming later after understanding what each object or instrument could and couldn’t do.

For The Right Side of Mystery, it was very much building the instruments and trying to find a performance vernacular from there; while I didn’t have a concept for the album or anything, music was already an end goal (if it all worked out).

For A Vast Unwelcome, I had already done a ton of recordings of metallic objects for various sound design projects. As I worked with bells and a waterphone, I started to realize the musical potential of these recordings and objects, so I went back and did a bunch of new recordings, intending to make something purely acousmatic. But as I developed each piece, I kept hearing rhythm and melody, and it turned out more musical than I first expected it to. So in that case, I worked with the materials beforehand without any sense it would be rendered more as music and less as organized sound in a general sense.


Thanks a lot for sharing this insight into your process! This is very interesting to me, mostly because the way I like to work lately is by collecting sounds from objects and DIY instruments and then organizing those into more composed tracks. So hearing how other people approach this is very interesting to me!

I do have one more questions though, when you say “electro-mechanical reverb units” do you mean like plate reverbs, or the “metallic objects vibrated using transducers” you mention later?


All of the above. :wink:

Some sounds are synths played through transducers on top of which are gongs with ball bearings in them. Some are bass sounds reamped through snare drums, recording just the metallic snare wires. All the short reverb times are my own stereo spring reverb; all the long reverbs are through three real EMT 140 plate reverbs (hence the Skywalker Scoring Stage credit in the liner notes). Because each plate 'verb was a stereo unit, yes, there are six channels of reverb on most tracks. At that point, I pulled off every reverb plugin I was using and just went with natural resonances and these physical reverbs.

As to the process we both share, yeah, I find as I get older I use samplers less than I just do editing in the DAW or on tape. That way I can really perform long gestures and articulations and just work with editing instead of loading things into a sampler. I am increasingly liking that as a creative limitation.

Tip: I did the Walter Murch varispeed trick, too, whereby you pitch up the content by an octave (half the length), record the reverb, and pitch that back down by an octave (so 96 kHz really helps there)…so that’s how we got 6-8 second reverb tails out of plates that are specified to only go up to four seconds of reverb time.

Add’l tip: Booking a studio just to re-amp through their hardware is often less expensive than you’d think.


I love these explorations of various found and made metal objects. I’d add The Quivering Sky to the list of related albums.

I am drawn to the practice of recording lots over time and creating a piece from bits which are somehow related that connect and become a composition. It comes from a lifetime of sound for film practice, I suppose.

Anyway, I enjoy your explorations. Thanks for sharing them!


Thank you so much for all these insights!

And I’ll have to try the Varispeed trick also!


The title “A Vast Unwelcome” perfectly matches the music on this album, and the sound is excellent.

The raw energy of the metal instrument sounds sends shivers down my spine. It’s incredible how sounds can give us physical sensations. Listening to this album feels like touching cold metal. This album is an excellent example of how psychoacoustics works. :+1: :star_struck:

Listening to Quivering Sky now, thanks for the heads up @zoundsabar


Really digging the record! I even had the presence of mind to put it in my cart and wait for Bandcamp Friday.


You bet, @papernoise. Thanks for your interest in the process, appreciate your support!


@MengQiMusic! Thanks for your very kind words, my friend. Your description gives me great joy, as you mention a few of the key goals I had in making the record. Appreciate you taking the time to listen.


Cheers, @JES, many thanks! I am very glad you’re enjoying it. OH LOOK, it is Bandcamp Friday, what a coincidence. :-p


Hey hey! Good to see you here, @zoundsabar. :slight_smile: We definitely share the “collect and arrange” process for sure. Isn’t it just strange how sometimes it’s just the juxtaposition of two sounds that can be a springboard to a whole vocabulary? That alchemy is why I love sound so very much. Glad you’ve been enjoying the records.


Have listened to this a few times and think it’s great, curious sounds that draw you in as a listener with unusual moods and spaces to dwell in, quite an original work I would say.


I bookmarked this last week and finally got around to listening to it now - and I’m very glad that I did.


Just gave it a listen and loved every minute of it. Can you attribute “organic” quality to metallic sounds? as they definitely have something in them. :smiley: Nothing really thoughtful to say I just want to bump this thread a bit to allow others to find this gem of an album


Very kind of you, sir! (Good to see you here)

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I decided to reboot my blog at noisejockey.net and wrote a pretty deep breakdown of the making of this album, if anyone wants to learn more.