Made In Japan Retrospective-Track 7 “Yamanote Line”

If you want a single track on the album that contains all the ideas and techniques implemented “Yamanote Line” is the one. It took the longest time for me to create and was the most involved process.

Like most of the tracks on the album most of the instrumentals from “Yamanote Line” stem from a couple of field recordings made during my trip around Japan. The two central recordings that make up almost all of the track are a single long recording made on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo (which provides the sections of speech and the sounds of the interior train) and a sample of a train on the Yamanote line pulling up to a station recorded from near the station which you hear in full at the end of the track.

It was this recording that was my original inspiration for the track and can be heard from 7:40 on to the tracks conclusion in full. When I first heard this field recording in my studio I decided that the warning bell sounds for the trains arrival could make a great melody for a track. I was interested at the time in experimenting with generated sounds and Tape loops. I have loved Steve Reich’s use of tape loops since I heard them in high scool and later William Basinski work with similar techniques and thought about applying them to the bell sounds on this recording to create a generated ambient piece.

This ambient piece is how the original version of “Yamanote Line” started. I used Izotope RX to isolate a collection of the bells and then recorded them into the “tape” function of the Teenage engineering OP-1 at different speeds. I then played out and recorded the OP-1 back into ableton giving me a few minutes of randomly generated elongated bell type sounds. I did this three times and panned them into the Left Center and Right channels to create a stereo image. Originally this was the full track, however It quickly became only the opening. As I continued to go back and experiment with the sample picking new tones and sounds out of it I realised I could flesh it out into a more elaborate track.

I remember listening to the band Swans a lot and I had seen them live during making this track. Although “Yamanote Line” sounds Noting like a Swans track the technique that band apply to rhythm and tempo is something I really wanted to replicate. Swans will often have minutes of music that doesn’t fit into a tempo or key, It can make many people switch off from their music. But if you keep listening and entomb yourself in the drones they can create a disorientating effect on the listener. This effect then enhances the power of melody and rhythm when they finally do slip their track into a more ridged structure.

I remember thinking about the techniques Swans apply in their music whilst I was deciding how much of the original “tape loop” track I would play before locking into a drum beat. There were several places that could have worked in the original recording, All of different lengths. Eventually I decided on a shorter 50 seconds as the duration of “Yamanote Line” got longer and richer with ideas.

The only thing In the track that isn’t made from the recordings from Japan are the Drumkits as I wanted to give the track a Hip-Hop Flavour. These were made by taking sample librarys of traditional drum kits and then processing them with some distortion tools and compression to give them a more old school feel. The Bass Lines in the piece were recorded off the Op-1 into my recorder whilst in Tokyo. The choir like pad sounds are samples of Geisha singing stretched out using a mix of reverbs, looping and PaulXStretch (these techniques are described in previous blog posts about the album).

Throughout “Yamanote Line” I repeatedly go back to the original idea of Tape Loops, bringing back segments of the original bell loops back into the piece. At the 6th Minute of the piece after its large crescendo I moved the whole track into tape loops and (with the exception of the field recording of the Train) and processed them with separate fx live as they ran. Each tape loop is a slightly different length so as the piece continues all of the tracks start to drift away from each other. At 6:55 the instrumentation changes to a new bass line, choir and bell Loops that are running at different lengths all together and slipping apart. Many of my compositions feature me building and then destroying the composition with different techniques and as the Tape Loop was the main technique applied during this track I thought it would be suitable for the tracks conclusion.

At the very end of the track we have the original recording that was the basis for many of the samples in the piece. I decided to put it in there to bring the track back to its original moment of conception after pulling it apart in many ways over the previous seven and a half minutes.

“Yamanote Line” was the hardest and most complex track to make on the album. I have mainly focused on the technique of “Tape Loops” regarding the track as the other techniques I used in the piece I have and will describe in more detail in previous and future tracks.