Being Analogue In A Digital World
In the 21st century, electronic music and the technology that comes with it has advanced in leaps and bounds. The advent of various commercially available digital audio workstations (DAWs), software synths, emulators and other virtual studio technologies (VSTs) have now transformed the way music is made. Bringing the capabilities of music production right down to the producer’s bedroom has made it affordable and accessible to the normal (curious) Joe. Of course, some purists would argue that digital music production sounds mechanical and computer controlled compared to using analogue machines and hardware. Analogue machines impart a feeling of warmth and originality to the sounds themselves .
Iconic drum machines like the Roland – Tr 808, 909, Linndrum and classic synthesizers like the Moog MiniMoog, SC Prophet 5 & the Arp 2600 have paved the way for modern music production.
Electronic music would not have been what it is today without these machines on the one hand. On the other, DAWs have made life so much simpler for the average producer. Nowadays most contemporary producers choose to bridge the gap between the two and find ways to incorporate the best of both worlds. Being analogue in a digital world was never as interesting and stimulating as it is now, with the possibilities being endless.
Enter Akshay Rajpurohit from Mumbai, the former guitarist from experimental metal bands Scribe and Pangea. Under his new moniker ‘ Aqua Dominatrix’, Akshay has released his debut LP ‘Sadomist’ which was incidentally recorded almost completely using analogue hardware.
Aqua Dominatrix ushers the listener into his voltage-controlled world with ‘The Scarred One’, an intro that instantly transports you 20 years back in time. Beautiful melodic pads, a growling synth lead and an offbeat drum pattern give it a unique character that can only be described as electronica. ‘Morticia, You Spoke French ‘ follows, an intimately deep track with a base conjured out of Akshay’s skill as a guitarist. Lush harmonies, crisp percussions and well designed atmospherics take you on an electric aural journey. ‘Von Braun’ follows suit, Akshay means business with his versatility. Futuristic and funky, ‘Von Braun’ has a noticeable nu disco feel to it.
‘Pink Stockings’ greets the listener with what is by now, an identifiable soundscape with raw and intelligent drum patterns. Euphoric and uplifting, this should have a lot of takers. The next track greets you with a (disturbing) vocal of a baby crying as it slowly gives way to a groovy, yet cheerful rhythm. The song aptly titled ‘I Know You Are, But What Am I ‘, is one of the more dance friendly tracks on the album with ‘Cuffs’ more or less being in the same vein. Speaking of veins, Aqua Dominatrix unleashes ‘My Veins Are Marooned ‘, which sounds more experimental than specific to any genre. Attention to detail and the sheer originality of synthesised sounds are in full view.
My favourite offering is ‘The Baroness Ovh’, which incidentally is also the longest. It can only be defined as a trip itself with an impressive change in pattern and tones, adding a human quality. ‘Shrue’ and ‘Kracken Curve’ sounded a little repetitive and did not appeal much, but the same cannot be said about ‘Disco Volante’. The penultimate track of the Sadomist is deep and sexy, almost Chicago-esque with a beautiful ambience to it and a bubbling lead. ‘That would be 900$’ rounds off a very intelligent and gutsy debut from Aqua Dominatrix.
We were able to catch up with the man himself, and here’s what he had to say:
Being a successful guitarist with Scribe/ Pangea, what made you decide to take the plunge with live electronic music?
“I think movies and TV programs played a huge part in it. (Van Damme movies especially).
Playing synths on Scribe and Pangea albums pushed me further into the world of electronic music. I started collecting synths and before I knew it, I was making music that I really wanted to with them. The fact that it’s live is because I still watch videos of bands from the yesteryears playing instruments and adding variation to their music on stage. That’s why dance music sounds so monotonous now. No one cares for improvisations and human error. Believe me, that’s where it’s at.”
The entire album was recorded using analogue hardware. Could you walk us through your set up?
“Different songs on the album used different pieces of gear and not all of them all the time. It’s actually not that tough to sequence gear with say an interface and Ableton. But I really didn’t want computers to be a part of the writing process. So everything is sequenced either via an Octatrack or an iPad for midi. An analogfour sequences all the CV and Gate gear. I sampled a lot of stuff for the album- from iOS synths and drum machines to toy pianos, vinyl records, beat up Casio keyboards, video game sounds, noise floors and much more. It was chaos at one point, but I like that.
As of now, my setup includes:
– Eurorack Modular
– Microbrute SE
– Kaosspadd Kp3+
– Peavey Mixer
– Zoom FX
– Line 6 FX
– Scarlett 18i6
– Rokit 6 g2 Monitor speakers
…With more stuff coming in soon!”
Live performances using analogue machines would be awesome. How do you plan on going about this?
“As I’ve said before, the live set would be different from the songs on the album. Trying to recreate those songs in a live environment would be next to impossible, (just getting some of my gear to stay in tune in clubs where the temperature keeps fluctuating would be a task) unless I just carried a .wav and pushed play. Live music has to have a live touch to it, so I’m currently in the studio cooking up more live sets. Hopefully it works out well. Cables crossed!”
Do you plan on integrating DAWs / VSTs and their capabilities in your future projects ?
“All the post production for the album has been done on DAWs and VSTs. Not sound-wise but production-wise. To my ears, computers sit well in that domain. They’re better at garnishing a good dish rather than doing everything all by themselves. On the other hand, I’ve used my iPad a lot on the album and in a way I regard the synths on there to be VSTs with more hands-on control than a computer. So as of now, they are a part of my arsenal. I’m not an elitist or a purist, anything that sounds cool to me will make it on to my music regardless of it being voltage or binary.”
This article is titled ‘Going analogue in a digital world’. With digital music production now advancing leaps and bounds, the bridge between analogue and digital capabilities is now reducing further. What’s your take on this?
“There are tons of things that analogue gear cannot do properly and tons more that digital can’t. Whenever I speak to people about this, I stress on one thing, “You need two to tango.” Digital and analogue go best when they work together. Your processing power should be digital and your creation tools should be analogue. The power you feel when you ‘ghumao’ a knob for a filter sweep cannot be replicated with a mouse. And when you play something like a Prophet VS with its unlimited polyphony, musical FM and Vectors, you want them in your analogue gear too. I would just say, be smart, use what sounds good to you. Fuck forums and fuck stuck-up people. Keep dancin’.
written by Achal Khanolkar