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
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