Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
1. Higher Heights
Eddie Ruscha: There’s kind of a THX oscillation of the synths coming together at the beginning, almost like an orchestra tuning up. I felt this was a nice way to start the record off. I wrote the track starting with a 909 drum machine and a Moog Minitaur bass. Gordon “Nappy G” laid down some hand percussion on the rhythm. It brought it to life in such a way that I could start hearing guitars in there – almost soulful guitars – and that’s how the chord progression came about. I felt the melody to be uplifting but tinted with sadness. Sometimes I have to actually stop myself from adding all the orchestrations that I hear in my head, but this one definitely got some painting on it. After a while, a vocal started to appear to me. This doesn’t always happen and I never try to force it. The lyrics reflect a feeling of freezing a beautiful moment in time and the bittersweet knowing that things will always change. Higher Heights is one of those tracks that took many twists to become what it is.
Secret Circuit – Higher Heights
“I come up with a lot of vocal melodies when I’m driving my car and listening to the tracks I’m working on. My car is almost an extension of my studio. It’s like a space pod and my studio is the mother ship.” – Secret Circuit
Eddie: This one really is carried by the personality of the ARP2600. The haunting spring reverbs and the warm and ominous bass vibrations are the main character. I was really listening to a lot of those Virgo Four outtakes and vibing with how natural they sounded and felt. I come up with a lot of vocal melodies when I’m driving my car and listening to the tracks I’m working on. My car is almost an extension of my studio. It’s like a space pod and my studio is the mother ship. For some reason the word “escargot” came into my head while I was driving and I thought it would be interesting to make that the focus. I had my wife say a spoken part in French. Yoel De Jesus played some piano solo trills in there that I’m not able to play skill-wise and that really brought out the feelings inside the melody. I’m really satisfied with the 2600 synth lead at the end. I think it’s because the 2600 needed to be calibrated and it was just slightly off and it gave it a really human emotion.
3. Nebula Sphynx
Eddie: Me and my friend Cole MGN were trying for the first time a midi to CV converter. It basically allows a computer to speak to the antiquated language of the elder synths. We plugged it into a sequential circuits Pro One. It’s a great synth that one – really full throttle sounds, it’s actually one of my favorites. I found it in the trash many years ago. It was in two pieces in two separate trash bins. I put it back together and it worked! Anyways, we cranked it up and just burned through a 15 minute synth freak out. We were blown away and the discovery feeling is in there. I cut it down and added some seasoning to it. The peak of this track’s life for me was hearing that Harvey played it twice in a row at a Sarcastic party.
Secret Circuit – Nebula Sphynx
Eddie: This was meant to be another track like Nebula Sphynx at first. A compliment. I started with a 707 drum machine and a pro one bass. I used the sequencer built into the pro one which is definitely more random than composing on the computer. You can tap out a random melody line and it loops it in a staccato. I set a staggered pattern pulse from the computer to trigger the sequence. This is the kind of bass line I couldn’t replicate again if I tried. I’m sure there is a mathematic code in there but I can’t figure it out. There was no way to even go in and repair parts of it because of the randomness of it. I still can’t hear how the pattern cycles back. If I had been able to hear the cycle, it may have been an entirely different track. I love that about it. I feel it’s like an undulating lava bed that’s constantly shifting. It is really a whole entire take of me messing with the filters and things, and it really starts ripping apart nastily in there. It’s really a warts-and-all take. The vocals and main synth melody hook I came up with while I was improvising on the original bed of music on stage. For some reason there were a few people close to me who passed away at that time. The lyrics were me dealing with that. The second half of this track is like a dub version. Basically I stripped it down and ran the drums and various other things through a Roland Space Echo. You can create whole worlds with one of those.
Secret Circuit – Afterlife
5. Deep Stations
“I also used a Roland Super Jupiter which is like a rack mounted Jupiter 6 essentially. With the controller you can get some insane space sounds. You can really hear it gurgling and bubbling.” – Secret Circuit
Eddie: This was another ARP 2600 track. Deep and moody. I also used a Roland Super Jupiter which is like a rack mounted Jupiter 6 essentially. With the controller you can get some insane space sounds. You can really hear it gurgling and bubbling. That’s the kind of thing I can listen to for hours really. There are backwards spring resonation sounds from the 2600 in there. Most of the lead synth melodies are the 2600 as well. At the end it resonates perfectly with the built in springs. Suzanne Kraft added a Hohner Clavinet on there to make it cohesive.
6. Sync Or Swim
Eddie: This is mainly a sequenced melody played by the Super Jupiter. There’s a bit of hi hat effect created by the noise of a Korg Mono/Poly. You can give it a lot of movement by adding phasers and filters to it. I think the bass that comes in is the Pro-One. I like the overlapping effect that happens in the middle where you get tossed in a gentle tumble, lost but still somehow comforted by the melody.
“Whenever I play live, I like to have a few wild cards in there for improvising.” – Secret Circuit
7. Words In Transit
Eddie: This one I actually wrote live in a way. Whenever I play live, I like to have a few wild cards in there for improvising. It was meant to be a segue rhythm between two tracks and then it started taking on a life of its own. Tim from Beats In Space heard me play it live at PS1 and thought it would go nicely on the record. It was really a jump off from listening to a lot of Kuduro music from Anglola. It’s basically a Roland 707 drum machine and a Moog Minitaur. I like to run my drum machines through guitar pedals. I ran this one through a pedal called the Echo Park which is a pretty ridiculous name because it’s a hipster neighborhood in LA. It’s not a great pedal by any means but it’s got some cool modulating echo effects on it. Sending your stuff through guitar effect pedals is a great way to tweak your sounds.
8. Parascopic Rope
Eddie: The crazed drum loops in this track are taken from old 4-track recordings of mine. This was the foundation for this track. The bass was played on an ARP Odyssey Mk 1. It’s the old white-faced one where it has the old Moog ladder filter patent infringement. Supposedly it sounds better than the ones that came after. Not sure about that but this one sure sounds good. I had the two oscillators synced and swept the other oscillator to create that ripping cyber envelope sound. I used a Casio SK1 for that choral vocal sound in the middle and end. I have a huge collection of those. I used to buy them every time I would see them at a thrift store. There’s a lot of Space Echo dubbing effects in the drum breakdown.
Secret Circuit – Parascopic Rope
Eddie: This one really seems to me the most melancholic of all the tracks. The pad synth in there may have actually been an plug-in pad that I ran out through this spring reverb that’s got a built in LFO. I’m not averse to using internal software sounds, I just like to make them my own by putting them out through some of my outboard gear. The Korg Mono/Poly is definitely a featured synth on this one. It’s a very clean sounding synth with a lot of nice modulation options. There’s a pan pipe solo in there. I like that quasi-mystic sound. You can refer to the Xavier Renegade Angel episode ‘Shakashuri Blow-Down’ for how I feel about that pan pipe sound.
10. Rogue Unit
“Sometimes out of tune things just work for me. I figure that the synth was doing that for some reason and I needed to respect that. I’ve since gotten the synth serviced and it seems to be working fine for a synth found in the trash.” – Secret Circuit
Eddie: This track is just synth mayhem. The first and primary underlying bass wobble line was the Moog Rogue synth, hence the title. The Rogue has some really mean sounding bass potentials. The second bass that comes in is the ARP Odyssey with the two oscillators tuned to a power chord. I ran the hi hat through a MXR flanger pedal. I also ran the conga solo through that pedal as well. I used an EMS SYNTHI in there for those sonar ping sounds. There’s a flute sounding Pro One sequence that comes in there towards a breakdown at the end and you can hear me fighting with the oscillators to keep it in tune. Sometimes out of tune things just work for me. I figure that the synth was doing that for some reason right then and I needed to respect that. I’ve since gotten the synth serviced and it seems to be working fine for a synth found in the trash.
Eddie: I had a dream that I met Paul McCartney and gave him a CD of some of my stuff and he said that I should add more chord changes to my music so this was me trying to do that. It’s got so many chord changes because I was making up for all the songs with the Tomorrow Never Knows chord pattern. I used a Juno 60 arpeggiator to write the main structure and then I pieced together all the best parts. At certain moments the track triumphantly rises and then unexpectedly dips into deep dark ranges and then back up again. It’s very orchestral that way. I think I put almost every synth I own on that track. The ending finale is so grandiose it’s almost ridiculous.
“I had a dream that I met Paul McCartney and gave him a CD of some of my stuff and he said that I should add more chord changes to my music so this was me trying to do that.” – Secret Circuit
Eddie: This was meant to be a kind of an afterthought head-cleaner at the end of the record. The entire record is exactly 120 BPM and I felt that there had to be at least one track that wasn’t. In the 60s my dad made a book called ‘Various Small Fires and Milk’. It was indeed photos of different small fires and the very last incongruous photo is of a glass of milk.