Judson "Tettix" Cowan describes Finest Designs
, his new album of electronica, as a 'throwback' to his own earliest work. To those mostly familiar with game-influenced stuff like TKOEP
and his fantastically savage remix of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring
, the surprise comes just a few seconds in, when Tettix's trademark staccato percussion and bleepery is joined by new wavey vocals not heard since Conformatigmatic
"It's a strong departure from my usual style," Cowan said. "I felt like I owed to myself to explore singing on another album. It was easy to get complacent making video-gamey stuff, because it's so easy to get attention on the internet with that sort of sound."
In tracks like Simple Devices, Flicker and Finest Designs, there's a warmth and presence that often feels forced in modern electronica, but here it's well-blended with the hardness of the underlying sound. Though the lyrics (and their delivery) are languid and reverberant, that's not to say this is a downbeat LP: there's a lot of fun to be had in Fucking Robots (a collaboration with Dana Swanson) and Hothlanta, a driven techno-pop number that recalls everything good about the 1980s, from the Human League to shoot-em-up soundtracks by Chris Huelsbeck.
"It's a scary thing, putting your voice into a song for everyone else to hear. It's always been much easier for me to put an instrumental in front of someone to listen than it has been a vocal song. Closer to the heart, perhaps? More personal?""
Cowan's process is likely familiar to people who create music without a large budget: his simple set-up is a Mac, a MIDI controller keyboard, and a mic connected via a firewire interface: "I work solely in software. I used to have a bunch of hardware -- a triton, a JP-8000, a Microwave XT - but I scrapped it all when I got Reason," a powerful music-making program by Propellerheads.
Reason was recently joined by a companion app called Record, together creating a suite useful both for creating electronic music and recording real-world vocals and instruments to go with it.
"For once, I could do everything in the same place, which made way for creativity," Cowan said. "Less hassle means that it's easier to dive right in. So I just plink around on the keyboard for a bit, building a synth that sounds nice, then sing along while I work out the melody. I program it all into the sequencer, then hop in the laundry closet and record some vocals."
It usually takes him a night or two to write a song, but weeks to tweak and master it until he's happy with the results.
Finest Designs, like Tettix's previous work, is free of charge to download and made available under a Creative Commons license. You can donate at Paypal at the Download page
At first you’re just knocking over, like, cups and tables and band members and stuff, but then you start to play with the sliders.
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