Something Slow - Reel Three

There’s static in the air. Constant, chaotic… but if you don’t listen for it, barely noticeable.

There’s a rich warmth inside us. Calming, consonant… but if you don’t listen for it, barely noticeable.

I feel torn between these two worlds. I appreciate my friends and family who help me get back to where I belong. I appreciate the artists who speak of the rich inner world inside each of us, if only we could listen.

This record is all about the boundaries between what’s inside us and what’s outside. As I get older, the lines seem fuzzier and fuzzier. It all feels like so much noise. But… in a way that feels more soothing than it is harsh. It’s hard to describe with words, so I hope to have described it here with music.

I think it feels like this is because what we put out into the world determines so much of what the world gives back to us. So: I hope this record gives you great vibes, and a healthy dose of self-reflection, and I hope you pay it forward :person_in_lotus_position:

Making Of

As with Reel One and Reel Two, almost all pieces were improvised and recorded in one or two takes. As I dig deeper into the Reel series, a repeatable process has definitely emerged: learn about a new technique or piece of gear or something (typically via a wonderful Lines post from one of y’all), and take a stab at making music with it. As soon as it’s anything interesting at all, capture that wonderful first-time energy by recording to norns tape or the DAW. Then, either during that same session, or coming back to it a little while later: trim down to the interesting bit, and improvise another, more familiar instrument on top (typically piano).

Oh, and the album art is a film photo I took of the San Francisco skyline from the top of Potrero Hill. I’ve just… cropped it so you can only see the sky and power lines :smiley:

The gear

  • Software Instruments: Slate + Ash, Felt Instruments
  • Instruments: Nord Stage 2, Teenage Engineering OP-1F, Paul Reed Smith Standard 24, Taylor 114E
  • Modular: Hermod, Teletype, Marbles, Rings, Mangrove, Just Friends, Tides, Peaks, Ripples, Three Sisters, Disting EX, Lo-Fi Junky, Beads
  • Norns: Otis, Samsara, Just Play
  • Key effects: Goodhertz Tupe, XLN Audio RC-20, Manley Vari-Mu, Ampex 102


(Use the prev/next arrows in the player above to jump to the track that interests you! Also let me know if you’d like to know anything deeper about how any track was made, this is just a sort of high-level overview :smiley:)

#1 Austen

  • This one was kicked off by getting to know Otis. There are two guitar tracks in there which formed the base of the track, just letting the noise and echoes build and dissolve
  • Bardzo (Glimpse of Hope) for melody, Landforms for the cello swells

#2 Recon

  • My first real track made from scratch on the OP-1F! I recorded a short loop with their factory rhodes patch, then layered in a short vocal idea with the onboard mic. Then I resampled that loop back into the drum engine, and sequenced it with The Monkeys (aka Finger sequencer).
    • Resampling more complete loops into the Drum sampler, then sequencing with Finger is a huge favorite of mine – it always yields something unexpected and interesting
  • I pasted that core loop into the tape a bunch, then added tracks for drums, bass, and the pad
  • Finally, I added a piano melody on top to give the piece a real arc and interest

#3 Kaliyuga

  • I had just gotten Slate + Ash Cycles, and had been mainly playing with their factory samples. But I knew I wanted to try out putting my own stuff in there
  • I had been playing a lot of Breath of the Wild, getting ready for Tears of the Kingdom, and was really inspired by their little random piano motifs layered with electronic soundscapes. So I thought I’d love this big textural wall of sound with a lot of variety, and made the start of the track with a bunch of Slate + Ash Auras instruments, plus some piano runs on the Nord
  • I kept throwing different snippets into Cycles, but nothing clicked. Finally, I tried removing instruments, and found that just the piano by itself was really compelling on its own. By controlling the sample pitch with MIDI, I was able to keep the harmonic interest moving throughout the second half of the track

#4 Venus

  • I was in Utah while my partner was on location for a photo shoot. We had this tiny little AirBnb up in the mountains, and she was gone for the day. This was before I got the OP-1F, so all I had was my laptop, but I knew I wanted to make some music
  • I programmed a wonky drum beat in Superior Drummer, and fired up the Logic stock Rhodes sound and added some chords. I used the crappy Macbook built-in mic to record a little guitar for a B-section. So I had something here, but wasn’t able to take it to the finish line.
  • When I got back home, the piece that really tied it together was actually the bass. I swapped out the Logic Rhodes for the Nord, and had a lot of fun playing the low bass part super quietly with a lot of compression. That little hook carried the song through, and everything fell into place
  • I added a little piano melody improv on top (Felt Instruments Lekko & Jasno), and the track was good to go!

#5 On the Wing

  • I made this track soon after getting Slate + Ash Landforms. I loved the orchestral sounds (and you’ll hear them throughout the album), but the processed pads also had a lot of interesting ideas. This track was definitely built around this simultaneously heavy and airy pad
  • Lekko and a Nord rhodes for the melody, and added another Landforms low winds sound to add weight for the ending

#6 Highball

  • I mainly made Samsara as a clock-synced looper, but one day I was having fun just throwing totally asynchronous sounds into it
  • Once I got a texture I liked, I hooked it up to Beads. Beads set up where when there’s no control input, it’s completely dry and unaffected. But when I play notes on an attached keyboard, it goes full wet and pitch shifts the loop to whatever notes I’m playing. So most of the performance is that, plus some live knob twiddling to increase the chaos and effects as the song moves forward
  • Added some Moog D + Choreographs for bass

#7 Active / Passive

  • This one was a lot like On the Wing, except built around Auras instead of Landforms.
  • Still used Landforms for that glorious low winds sound, and added some melodic piano on top, mainly playing with these wide, free-time octave voicings

#8 Winter Sun

  • Inspired by @mattlowery Just Friends Patch from Scratch here: Patch From Scratch! Mannequins Just Friends, Monome Teletype, Qubit Nautilus, and more - YouTube
    • The main take-away I had from it was to set Just Friends to a chord you like, and then try routing each of the Just Friends outputs (aka different notes in the chord) through different effects chains. The main two I ended up using were:
    • Output 1 (fundamental) being routed through a 3 Sisters in crossover mode self-patched to span. This one is just teetering on the edge of instability, creating these really nice moments of breakup
    • Output 3 (up an octave and a fifth) run through Disting EX Augustus Loop
  • Then I went back later and added a piano melody to complete it

#9 Submersible

  • This one was simpler than most tracks: I just sat down and improvised the piano bit in one take.
  • From there I added a few sparse Landforms winds tracks to fill out the emotional arc of the song

#10 Běitóu

  • The core idea was trying to make a generative soundbath. Marbles is limited to some really consonant notes, and is sequencing Rings, Mangrove, and Ripples pings. Everything is tuned to resonate and feedback and bloom together as much as possible. Then it’s routed through Beads for some mangling spice
  • Wanting more interest, I went back in and used Just Play to play a big chunky pad on Just Friends, modulating absolutely everything with slow, free-running LFOs

#11 Alternate

  • It’s all Landforms, baby. Just these big fat 6/9 chords back and forth, transitioning from this big oppressive pad into a light and airy arpeggiated version

#12 Wide Open

  • This one, unlike most tracks, started with a planned-out chord progression. I started mucking around with it on guitar, but wanted something fuller
  • So I programmed the chord progressions into Hermod, turned on the arpeggiator, and routed it into Just Friends. Mix out went thru a bunch of effects (Disting EX Augustus Loop, Blades, LoFi Junky, Ripples, Beads, VCA for sidechaining). Then I used some free-running LFOs to modulate Just Friends, and played the effects by hands over the course of the song
  • Finally, I went back in and added some piano. Left in the original guitar take from my Zoom H4N, including the sound of my 3-year-old playing with toy trains in the background :smile:

I really appreciate the background and info on process and love your approach. Looking forward to listening!


Ah man, this is super lovely. Excellent work, and thank you so much for explaining your process. So much to dig into here!


Wow! This is really my kind of record. Bought!

Listened to four tracks so far and I really feel the energetics.

I love how this breathes… the dynamics are going up and down… but so gently. Your write ups are so great and inspiring. Feels like we should all be minding these details and sharing our process.

If you ever want to collaborate on a track or two, let me know. I love your work!


I listened to this last night and this morning and it’s a really beautiful album. What impresses me is how you managed to take such different approaches to writing/crafting each track while achieving a cohesive vibe and sound for the collection of them. Really nice work!! Again, thanks for the peek into your processes.


Love this so far, just as I loved Reel Two. Thank you so much for taking the time to write up your process too.

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