Reference track details
Artist: Running Touch
Released: 31st March, 2017
Album: A Body Slow (EP)
Genre: electronica / dance / experiemental
This case study has been designed to assist myself and my project partner Shay Mitchell, in the process of ‘reverse engineering’ this chosen reference track for project two: Short film soundtrack. Reference tracks are chosen on the basis that they should meet a particular outcome for the project and the case study assists in creating a recording that not only resembles the sonic qualities of the reference track but also draws upon the elements that are most appealing.
Listen to the finished track below:
The approach taken to this case study has been organised as follows:
- The reference track was imported into pro tools
- Various sections of the song were identified using markers and colour coding.
- The song is considered from and analytical perspective
- Analytical resources section provided
Background / genre / era
This song was released first as a single and then as part of an EP in March 2017. The track represents a new wave of musical artists that not only produce the music electronically, but also performs a major amount of instrument parts within the track.
The artist Running Touch utilises many elements of sound design in his music as can be seen in the video above. An electric guitar for example, has been positioned lying flat on a raised surface and is played in a very unconventional manner. A sound is produced by striking the strings percussively with his fingers. The result is very much like sound design when the guitar signal is then processed with delay.
What is interesting about Running Touch’s production process, is that we see every element of the track being assembled by him ‘live’. Keyboards trigger samples, percussive elements are produced within software and sent to a sequencer, guitar lines are played, and then the rhythm track is created using a Roland SPD-SX sample pad. Every note, instrument track, performance and vocal part is captured using software or hardware, sequenced and then played back instantaneously. The whole process takes the concept of a ‘one man band’ to a new level as the music incorporates; electronic production, sound design and live performance on traditional instruments (electric guitar) with vocals.
What’s clear about Running Touch’s music is the ‘sonic’ textures that have become part of his signature sound. Running Touch, also plays guitar in well established Melbourne band: Ocean Grove who play a heavier style of new metal. Both projects for the artist are notable for blending various genres. This is most likely a result of the vast array of possibilities that are now available with electronic hardware and recording software such as Ableton Live and Pro Tools.
The Intro / Verse 1 – Breakdown / Verse 2 – Drums / Chorus
The introduction section of ‘Lovely’, is quite unusual for dance music because it features major ‘sound design’ elements that wouldn’t normally be associated with the dance genre. While this song might be considered dance music there are also elements of experimental electronica.
Verse 1 – breakdown section. This section of the track is driven by the piano, kick drum and various musical elements that have been created. The guitar part is created using single notes that have been processed using lots of delay. The same process is applied to the keyboard part which, is also single note played that has delay applied. The variation within the keyboard part occurs at bar 7 of the 8 bar phrase which forms the the Verse 1 section. The keyboard melody plays a combination of chord tones, almost like an arpeggio that starts high and travels a minimal distance of intervals to centre around the 5th note of the chord, then repeat the same pattern again a little quicker.
The verse 2 + drums section has bass, snare and a tambourine is added. This section seems to accelerate the song, which has started with a very ambient introduction that displays elements of experimental sound design, to the second verse section which sounds more like a regular dance track. The vocals have been treated in this section with a treatment that sounds like a mixture of both pitch shifting and phasing. This effect begins at the verse 2 section and serves to be another layer of musical element that is added as the track progresses. The drum roll at the end of this section, is unique because the snare sound isn’t used. Instead a floor tom sound is used to herald the chorus which follows. The type of drum roll used also suggests that the composer / producer has borrowed a technique that reminds me of how a timpani might be used to build anticipation toward a segment in the music. The floor tom appears to be the sample used but it has been treated with EQ so that it doesn’t overwhelm as an untreated timpani or floor tom may do, if required to perform the same function. The result is that anticipation is managed as the chorus arrives and the whole song seems to lift.
The Chorus section introduces new elements that elevates the song and brings the section that sounds most like a dance track. The tambourine is still present but now, an open / closed high hat is introduced and is much higher in the mix than the tambourine was in the verse 2 section. The open and closed hi hat technique is most commonly found in dance music. The roto tom sound is also introduced in this section as are regular tom toms. The result is a very dense drum sound that has a variety of drum ‘textures’ that contribute depth and texture rather than being used to signal expression or build anticipation of another section.
Another important musical element in the chorus is the sampled background vocals that are added as a form of response to the rhythmic phrasing of the main vocal part. The vocal melody is almost a stand-alone feature and functions as another layer to the main vocal rather than merely complimenting it. The background vocal melody, in conjunction with the main melody, suggests the deliberate use of counterpoint.
The last feature of the chorus is the use of sampled white noise to replace a traditional cymbal ‘crash’ at the end of a passage. The white noise sample is processed using delay and repeated at long, regular intervals until the final sound finally decays four bars later. The effect of this is to create a transition from one section, the chorus, to the more subdued groove of the first part of the verse section.
This section is really interesting in that there is a cacophony of samples and musical elements. The result is a dense texture of sound elements to a steady pulse of kick drum and compressed toms that were chosen for their tonal and tuning characteristics. The section creates a launch point for the last section of the song. This section is comprised of two chorus sections repeated twice to build the song to a high point which then fades to the end.