Lonesome Lanes


Production: Mixer Jaëxx
Album: Sound-sized Treats

Mastering: Mixer Jaëxx
Copyright: Mixer Jaëxx, U.S. Copyright Office, 2018


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When creating Lonesome Lanes, I started by creating a song surrounding the idea of walking late at night. The feeling of empty, lonely streets. Sprinklers performing their thankless job of spraying lawns in an arching motion, only to rapidly return direction and start again. The look of a night sky slightly illuminated by light pollution caused by distant city lights. Of street lamps casting light down on vacant streets. Distant emergency vehicles sound waves being carried for miles due to the vacancy of competing sounds.

This was the goal I had in mind for Lonesome Lanes. Much of Sound-sized Treats pays homage to MIDI Controlled Addiction. As the foundational building block for the song, I thought about which MIDI Controlled Addiction song I should incorporate. I decided Been So Lonely’s glockenspiel would be perfect for the goal of Lonesome Lanes (named “Xylaphon” as it shows up better on my mixer’s digital scribble strip). Been So Lonely’s glockenspiel worked out really well.

The sound is generated by an NN-19 digital sampler. The melody is only 13 seconds long and mostly repeats. In order to create a more natural sounding performance, I used the device Little LFO. I used a random smooth low frequency oscillator (LFO) and connected its CV out cable to the level CV in of the NN-19. This then modulates (automatically and randomly) the level of the NN-19 that perfectly simulates the velocity changes a person makes when they are actually hitting a percussion instrument. This allowed me to loop a section of Lonesome Lanes and the glockenspiel would sound live and not simply like MIDI notes repeating.  

The drums, powered by my beloved Kong drum machine, is one of the most complex drums of my songs. What makes it complex is the fact that, for most drum pads, I set it up so that a drum pad as multiple sounds to choose from each time the pad is triggered. So for a cymbal crash, I setup six different cymbal crashes and which sound is triggered is randomly selected. I did this for nearly every pad and all 16 pads are used throughout the song. Some pads include different types of sounds, such as shaker sounds or field recordings of myself shaking my keys or unscrewing a jar.

What this does is create drum rhythms that are both familiar and predictable yet varying and exciting. I can play the same four bar MIDI drum notes, on loop, and the beat will change and vary itself automatically. So awesome. I’ve done something similar like this many times before, but this method is a little more efficient so I plan on incorporating it into future productions.

Part of what makes Lonesome Lanes succeed in its vision is the fact I did a field recording of someone’s sprinklers watering their lawn. I drove around at 4 in the morning through residential streets until I came across someone’s automated sprinklers watering their lawn on, literally, a lonesome lane.

Incorporating that sound (“Sprinkr”) into the song as-is simply wouldn’t work. I ended up time-stretching various parts of the waveform. The goal was not to make the sprinkler become synced with the song; I didn’t want that. I wanted the timing of the sprinkler to fall off. Instead, I time-stretched portions of the waveform so that they would fall out of rhythm but in a consistent way.

I then used a virtual device I created, the MJ 4 Band Auto-Panner, to slowly move the stereo field of just the low and high bands (frequencies) of the sprinkler field recording. This creates impression you’re either standing in the middle of multiple sprinklers or, as was my intention, given the impression you’re walking down a lonesome lane hearing multiple sprinklers pass by on either side of the street. …Groovy.

Something interesting about Lonesome Lanes is that it officially has no bass line, yet you can clearly hear one. This baseline is being generated by one of the Rhodes MkI’s. I created a parallel channel of this Rhodes MkI’s and cut out all frequencies except for the low-end and then boosted it up. I then used the EQ section of Reason’s mixer channel (an emulation of an SSL 9000K console) to sculpt and boost the low frequencies until I could turn it into a baseline.

The sound effect of the sirens in the distance (“Streets”) isn’t a field recording. It’s a Thor synthesizer. The sound is being generated primarily by applying a low frequency oscillator (LFO) with a sine waveform that speeds up or slows down depending on which note is played from the keyboard.

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Recording artist & producer.