Monday, March 07, 2011

"Kaffe Katt" by Pico & Alvarado

Several months ago, Kevin Cogliano -- the "Alvarado" in "Pico & Alvarado" -- sent me a demo titled something like "That's What I Call 80s!"

And he was right. It was a perfect distillation of the fun pop songs we'd grown up with, all jangly and bouncy and downright carefree.

My task -- as I saw it -- was to maintain that feeling while simultaneously beefing up the song and over complicating it, adding enough twists and turns to make even the most ADD listener happy. One reason I wanted to do this was because I felt that "Style Kitchen" had never gotten the loving care it had deserved (an opinion -- I realize now -- more to do with overexposure to the song than to any actual defects), but also because I know I shy from experimentation...I don't like throwing in big changes, moving things around a timeline, or trying anything new.

So consider the final result -- "Kaffe Katt" -- as a journey outside my comfort zone. And while I'm still too close to it to give it an honest evaluation, I think it's pretty darn good.

(Photograph "Awning" by Patrick!)

Want to know more? Here's the finished timeline:

You'll notice a LOT of guitar tracks this time. The first track is the ongoing "cha-cha-chung" with a nice flange, and many of the rest are Kevin's experiments with doubling. The final four guitar tracks are more recent versions that he sent along during the course of the project, but I loved the rougher ones in the original batch...the cleaner tracks (including a nice delayed guitar) provide a good gentle conclusion.

My first real bombastic addition was the "G Blast" guitar, which coincides with a hyperactive series of crashes at the end of every verse. Kevin's guitar was already going manic during those segments but I really wanted to bash them "G Blast" gets the "Modern UK Stack" treatment with Guitar Amp Pro, and the "crashes" are just a re-routed track from EZDrummer boosted all the way to heaven.

EZDrummer provides the main beat, while Ultrabeat provides a non-stop 4/4 kick and iDrum adds a snare and -- during the high point -- all those cheap drum effects. Lots and lots of drums in here, but I think it works.

Kevin's original tracks had included a Hammond-ish organ and a synth bassline...I kept the organ (augmented with the EVB plugin) but used his MIDI files with the same Minimoog/Taurus IK Multimedia "SampleMoog" preset I'd created for an earlier song. Also from IK Multimedia is the choir in the third section and the recurring pizzicato violin that I hope is "interesting" instead of "annoying."

This song's big additional experiment: Loomer's brilliant "String" instrument, which emulates 70s string machines WITHOUT eating all your CPU (and all your money). I'm totally in love with Loomer String and I highly recommend it.

The really abrasive portamento synth is Tal-Elek7ro, based off the "LD Club Saw XS" preset. There's also some Ensoniq ESQ in there with the organ stabs and the bells, and some really inconsequential DOD pitch/echo modulation on the plucky violins.

And there you have it!


Unknown said...

Couple more notes from the Kevin (aka Alvarado):

This is based on a riff I've had kicking around for years, born out of a young teenage-hood of too many Men Without Hats records. (By the way, "Pop Goes The World" is the most overlooked pop album EVER.) Part of the fun of working with PicAdam is sharing a common musical language, so I knew he'd know what to do with this immediately, and I was right.

Ideally, to complete the full musical tribute to the 80s, there should also be a ten-minute long 12" dance remix, with cowbells, electronic tom rolls, maybe a vocoder and a sample of a Southern preacher, with scratching. A boy can dream.

Adam Thornton said...

Heck, now that I have my DJ rig I CAN do some scratching! Though the only thing worse than unskilled scratching is...well, there's probably nothing worse.

I agree about "Pop Goes the World," it's an amazing album through-and-through. Jenny wore black!

Koshka42 said...

Interesting, very interesting...