“This project felt like being a beginner producer again. Suddenly everything is possible”: KOAN Sound on recording cello and piano on their new album

Led By Ancient Light arrived on 8 September.

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KOAN Sound

Credit: Sarah Koury

KOAN Sound has revealed why they chose to focus on cello and piano on their newest album, Led By Ancient Light.

In an interview with MusicTech, the electronic duo explain why they used the two instruments for their newest project, which acts as a soundtrack to their 9,000 word story, written to accompany the album.

“We chose those instruments partly because they’re so versatile. We associate them on one hand with emotiveness and vulnerability,” says one half of the duo Jim Bastow.

“On the other hand, they could be transformed into these much more aggressive and foreboding elements. That was really fun for us to explore all the different types of energies that we could create through processing them in different ways,”

However, as both Bastow and Will Weeks explain, a lot of this fun comes from the experimental ways to record, and therefore transform the instrument.

“Being literally close to the instruments that we were recording you get these incredibly detailed and up close takes,” explains Will Weeks. “It makes you want to let them breathe and let them exist by themselves.”

During the recording process, Will Weeks discovered that the cello produces waveforms like a sawtooth wave when it plays low notes. He would then tune the cello down as low as possible and process those ‘saw waves’. He also used mallets and beaters to tap the wooden body of the cello, before transforming them into new forms on his DAW.

For the piano, Bastow borrowed a recording technique from Nils Frahm. This involved covering the strings of the piano with felt and placing the microphones extremely close to grab the mechanical sounds of the hammers and other internal components of the piano, which they then processed into oblivion.

“One of the most exciting things about this project is that it felt like being a beginner producer again. We tried so many new things; literally everything about the process was new,” continues Weeks. “It’s very freeing to reset to everything being new. Suddenly everything is possible.”


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