Right then. Blurb about the mix. Hmmm… I watched the project grow from an idea off a Facebook thread into a heavy, slick compo of 61 tracks – how did that happen?! – A few weeks before the final deadline, the idea occurred to do a mix for the comp, as a way to introduce first time listeners to the music in a way that was easier to digest. After all it can be a bit daunting to be presented with that many new tunes. Boothie had asked for help with the boiler room mix before, which was fun to do.
I like how Boothie trusted producers to just send in what they felt was best, unlike some other labels which water down or distort the tracks just to fit some kind of concept or identity that turns out to be weaker than the original music itself. The result of this no-rules policy is that the EE compo became quite varied and interesting.
There’s some proper bangers and some brutal hi tech rage (you know who you are!), as well as tunes more subtle and deep, and not in the “typical” dancefloor DJ format. I made a deliberate point to include the unusual ones to show that they can work nicely in a DJ set, given a bit of thought. Especially so for the more subtle tracks that take a few listens to sink in (these tend to haunt the head for longer too). There’s a few added strings from the track “Focus” to help glue the whole thing together. Listening back it sounds like dark strings from Bola, which i like.
The mix started off with a personal challenge in mind, to fit all 61 tracks inside. But I realised people might then have an excuse not to buy the compo, so this idea was scrapped haha.
By last Sunday the mix had reached up to 38 tracks. At that point I was going to stop, send it off and meet a mate to finish some music for my own label Combat. As it happens, the mate got too fucked the night before and didn’t turn up, so the whole day was free again to work on the mix! More tunes found their way in, so here we are at 43 tracks. There’s still several I wanted to include, but you’ll just have to get the compo yourselves haha.
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Cheers to Richy at Binary Feedback for the excellent masters, it helped make the mix really quick to do.
In preparation for Rob Booth’s Electronic Explorations compilation, we spoke to Hue Jah Fink from Binary Feedback, who had the epic task of mastering all the tracks.
Well I’ve always loved working with audio in many ways. Growing up in the 80s I was fascinated with cassette, vinyl and EQ controls. That early exploration really laid the foundation for what I do now.
In 1991 I became increasingly attracted to the UK’s rapidly moving breakbeat/jungle movement and began to teach myself to record, edit and program using digital audio software. There really wasn’t the wealth of information and learning opportunities available that there are today and especially not for someone based outside of a major city, who had not learned an instrument at grade level. However, I remained determined to develop my technical skills as well as DJing across South West England at various raves and clubs.
At the turn of the millennium I moved to London and immediately began working with various sound-systems, labels, schools and PA hire companies across the capitol. I became known outside of my local network as someone with both technical know-how and also a healthy background in the arts of DJ’ing and electronic music in general. I didn’t really go looking for mastering work, people came looking for me! Eventually through a lot of hard work, I had got my own studio together and started offering digital mastering services professionally around 08/09.
Key labels for me have been Combat, Frijsfo, Section 8/Plush, Qilin, Yellow Machines, Rag&Bone and more recently the Boka/Tank/Saigon family. I couldn’t be happier to be working with them all, because they are all great tastemakers who have regularly championed underground talent and helped to catapult them into a wider recognition. Back in the mid-90s I would never have dreamt that I would later be working with artists who would release on key UK independents such as Ninja, Mu, Warp, Metalheadz, V and Renegade Hardware. I’m equally pleased to work with a lot of up-and-coming artists on a one-to-one basis, not just to master their dubs and demos, but providing feedback and advice on mixes and production in general.
It’s really different every time and that is one of the gifts of this kind of work.
For me it usually pays to be more emphatic when the song is virgin to my ears, before shifting attention closer to the more analytical and technical aspects.
I love the feeling of being in the zone with a fresh piece of music, but I also enjoy the process of communication with other creative people. Sometimes a potential pathway to success in mastering is immediately forthcoming and at other times it takes a little more reflection and discussion. But for me it’s always a balance between understanding the emotional content and context of a group of recordings, as well as the more technical aspects of post-production and preparation for specific media and playback environments.
I prefer not to be secretive, endeavouring to explain any processes I have used so that the experience is as transparent as possible.
I think this helps to encourage clear and specific feedback should any changes be required. TC Electronic’s MD3 has been a reliably punchy workhorse in the EQ and Brickwall departments, and also their superb Dynamic EQ has been a saviour for tackling issues such as overly bright sibilants or intermittent resonances. I regularly use the Algorithmix RED PEQ for the mid / top frequencies and for mid/side processing. It seems to excel more as a tone shaper, subtly shifting the musical content with a less pronounced movement to the texture and transient detail than a traditional equaliser. I have many other tools, but they have been my backbone.
This field is one normally associated with gearlust but think I’ve proven that even with minimal equipment you can compete if you have a great focus and relevant experience in specific areas of music.
Some of the great feedback I’ve had from well known artists is a testament to that. A lot of people think of mastering processing and it stops at EQ and dynamics.
A revolution for me was Izotope RX, a spectral editor which helps me to identify and perform many clean up tasks such as reducing unwanted hiss, resonance, glitches or distortion issues. Sometimes I barely touch the mix at all with EQ or compression and may only make subtle spot edits in RX. All my final QC and fades are performed in there, plus it has superb quality resampling and dither built in – so for me it’s the perfect finishing tool.
Once I was working with this funk band and they said to me in an email “Hey, can you fix the bad trumpet note as well?” as a joke. Using RX, I was able to extract a different trumpet note from elsewhere in the song and patch it in over a three part brass harmony and all the rest of the band. It took a lot of very small edits to reconstruct some of the overlapping drum parts and seamlessly blend it in, but it was so rewarding when it was done. It just sounded like a natural part of the performance and the band were overjoyed.
It totally varies. I try to be open about the process. Sometimes whole projects can be done in less than an hour, others can take weeks. It’s not just sitting down, listening and tweaking an EQ, there can be many factors including communication and developing an understanding with those involved. In that respect, I generally find that the longer I have been working with a client or artist, the quicker we can get stuff done.
I can’t speak for other engineers, but this is certainly the first time I’ve worked on a compilation of this magnitude. The fact that music has been coming in over the course of several weeks has meant that I’ve had to form an overall strategy earlier on in the process than I normally would where all the tunes are presented to me in one go. For EE I decided to wait until we had over half the tracks before evaluating and sending back potential masters. That was very helpful because the compilation ranges from the extraordinarily delicate to the insanely banging. While normally I would have an opportunity to try to engage in a single artist, concept or style, this time the central reference was Rob and his podcast show.
So spending a little time getting to know Rob and the diverse music he supports has been a top priority.
There have been a lot of high profile acts from our scene involved, so I’m naturally thrilled that the overall reaction to my involvement has been very positive from Rob, his selected artists and those lucky DJs that have been sent pre-release promos. Plus, all the music on the compilation has been absolutely superb and a joy to work with. I feel so very fortunate to have such a rewarding job!
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