Brilliant Shower

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Summers

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

In high school, I studied a bit of music theory. In college, I studied some sound recording. And I also took a class about the physics of musical sound.

With Summers I was able to merge all three studies into one weird track.

I know it sounds kinda stupid to say that I required music theory, sound recording, and the physics of musical sound to create Summers. It's not like this song is the incredible result of all three. Still, I never could've created it without them.

Most of that knowledge is lost to me now, but I'll do my best to retrace my steps. In music theory, I learned about notes and their relationships to each other. In sound recording, I learned ProTools and digital editing. And by studying the physics of musical sound, I came to understand hertz, semitones, and more -- basically, the properties of sound waves as they apply to music.

In early 2005, my friend sent me an audio file of himself playing the electric guitar. Just guitar. That's it. I dragged the recording into ProTools to see if I could put some digital drums behind it, but that didn't work.

However, I'd recently begun sampling music with electric guitars and I was beginning to understand how to slice up guitar into individual chords (which is faaaaar different from sampling plain drums, for example). I cut my teeth chopping up guitar-heavy samples for beats like Got Laid, Proton Cannon, and Rawk.

Using that new experience, I decided to see if I could slice up my friend's guitar riff and turn it into a beat. I isolated one especially sweet sounding chord and I started digitally shifting the pitch of the chord in ProTools using my knowledge of semitones. Soon, I'd created a tiny guitar orchestra from a single chord.

INTERMISSION! Summers on SoundCloud:

Honestly, I think I'm exaggerating the virtuosity of what I did to craft Summers. There are hordes of digital musicians who perform similar feats on a daily basis. But regardless, I'm proud of the sound I captured here.

I tend to view Summers as the least popular track on Brilliant Shower. I just don't think the sound clicks with most people, or at least not enough for them to say anything about it. Maybe it's the drums, which are pretty repetitive... or maybe the pitch-shifted guitar is grating to some people... I dunno!!!

NEXT: Running an acoustic guitar through a vocoder yields some funky results.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Street Drums

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

I'm a little embarrassed to say this... but I just now taught myself the difference between the 3/4 and 6/8 time signatures. And I'm happy to say that I can proudly claim Street Drums to be in 6/8 time.

This song is just drums. Well, drums and a juice bottle. But I'll get to the juice bottle later. First up, I want to explain why this track is just percussion.

See, back in college, I was in a band called Dirty Weekend. We had a song named Street Vending Man. I don't have a recording of it posted anywhere online.

About one year after college, I became entrenched in writing and recording instrumental songs as Nik Furious. But I still wanted to keep the Dirty Weekend torch lit, so I started building the drums and bass for a couple of Dirty Weekend originals.

But the full-band recordings never got off the ground. So I ended up with a couple of fantastically tight drum tracks and nothing to put on top of them!

INTERMISSION! Street Drums on SoundCloud:

And that's how Street Vending Man became Street Drums. But wait... didn't I say something about a juice bottle?

While recording, I decided that I wanted to give this drum track a more unique flavor. I remembered a Marvin Gaye biopic where they told the story of the Got to Give It Up recording session. According to legend, Gaye plays a half-full bottle of grapefruit juice among the many layers of percussion.

I decided to steal a page out of the master's book and play a juice bottle of my own on Street Drums. You can first hear it at 0:54 and again at 1:47. (It's weighted towards the right, in case you're having trouble distinguishing it from the cymbal.)

NEXT: A sample of a friend's electric guitar turns into a digital symphony.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Speechless

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

I fell asleep while I was recording Speechless. In fact, I didn't even realize I was recording the song at the time. All I knew was that it was 2 AM and I simply couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

See, I'd laid down 10 minutes of funky electronic drums. But I was having a hard time coming up with a melody for the beat. I decided to improvise an extended jam on top of the drums. My plan was to relisten to the recording and cherry pick the best moments of the performance to create loops for a rap track.

Well, that never happened. I listened to the recording over and over again -- for years, really -- trying to find the best parts to loop into a beat. But somewhere in the process of relistening to the song, I began to really enjoy it as a work of its own.

Speechless was raw and improvisational, capturing the moment instead of trying to fit riffs into a tight structure. I really appreciated the free qualities of the song.

INTERMISSION! Speechless on SoundCloud:

And before I even realized it, I was copying my accidental recording style to make new songs. I'd construct a 15 minute drum loop and lay a few raw tracks over it. That's how Purple Suite and RAW both came to be.

So despite the fact that Speechless was an accident, I learned to cherish the way it was created. Nowadays, most of my songs are built with the Speechless method. Eventually, some get shaved down into tighter sections while others retain their spontaneous qualities and remain just as they were performed.

NEXT: Digital drums built for an abandoned ditty about street food set in 6/8 time become their own musical beast.