Mmd + Mr = Our Blood Is Black

Download the new song by myself and Mick Rippon – Our Blood Is Black

This was composed in seven swaps between Mick and myself over the last few weeks. The style of music is a strange mix of chiptune, breakcore, and a weird dark angry Arabic scale meshed into a pop drama with sung vocals and lead guitar. While on the surface it may appear as another one of my epic dark pop songs, it has got its lion share of Mick’s classic composing styles, with ‘tracker’ style strings, structure and lead synth melodies. The mix work was also 50/50, and Mick played a big part in bringing out the dynamics of the piece.

The song had a bit of an unusual birth: I was mind numbingly bored at work and decided to open up Renoise and have a play with making hand drawn waveform instruments. After tracking a simple drone I added a little Arabic chiptune melody. Feeling it was pretty one dimensional I posted the file on the #renoise IRC channel and see if anyone wanted to co-op on it. Mick went for it and before long we had some seriously accelerated song development happening. And it was turning out surprisingly dark and angular, especially in contrast to some of Mick’s upbeat music.

The Arabic feel inspired me to think about Dubai and some of the horror stories I’ve heard about that place. I remember once seeing that they had so much money they could afford to build this massive indoor ski field, right in the middle of this desert country. It’s the kind of decadence that seems to have little to do with reality. It made me think of this bizarre love hate relationship the west has Arabic oil power – both a reverence of decadence, but a grudging dependence on this economic and cultural lubricant that is oil. So the lyrics came from that tension, a kind of corrupt fatalism that could really apply to any sort of trade based drama.

The song was mastered in Reaper digitally, and then recorded to my tape setup (the Tascam BR20T calibrated with Ampex 456 tape). We both chose to have a very clear and dynamic sounding mix and master, which during the loud sections are at around K-12 leveling. If it seems a touch quiet to begin with, please turn it up nice and loud and enjoy the dynamics!

This is also our Mutant Breaks Competition #2 entry.

As you know i’m not an expert regarding to mixing/mastering thingies. So this “review” is more from a “normal” listeners point of view.


Start: Very promising. Great atmosphere you build up here. One thing is already crystal clear: The Sound is awseome. At least as far as i can say.

The vocals fit the atmosphere perfectly.

0:53 : Nice progress on the textures. Underlining the arabic atmosphere very nicely.

1:57 : i find the panning to the left of the percussions a bit odd.

2:45 : Now you pan different percussions to the left and to the right. That again works pretty good.

3:17 : Awesome solo there

4:35 : Great outro with many nice little details

Although it is not 100% my genre i enjoyed the track a lot. Somehow i was waiting for a massive breakbeat to kick in all the time. But maybe that would be too predictable. Overall a very professional production. You guys know what you are doing.

Thumbs up! :)

MR and MMD!

Been listening to this for a bit now. Excellent work. It has such a dramatic position about it and after reading the origins of the song it certainly hit me in all the right places lyrically and musically. Great work man, all the best with the track!

Thanks for the replies Amok and Hunz! You’ve made my day… :D I’ll make sure Mick see your feedback…

Yeah, we know that this style of music isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t necessarily what Mick and I want to do into the future - but it all happened very quickly, very automatically, without much ‘sitting around planning it out’ strategy.

Some people have complained they feel it’s too angry. Others have said the beat work isn’t clear and forward enough like other club styles. That’s ok, we gave it our best and this is us doing what we do.

Two technical notes I didn’t mention in my first post: the guitar solos are done with my Jackson DK2S with the Sustainiac on going through the EMG85 pickups. I wish I had an amp to record though, so unfortunately the guitar is running through a VST which isn’t quite the best tone. The other note is that none of the vocals have any auto-tuning on them. If you listen closely enough there’s all sorts of errors in there. I did a lot of takes, especially with the higher notes and I’m still happy with what came out, warts and all. If I keep on with the practising I hope to get better.

Excellent! Very nice atmosphere. Along with the Arabic vibe, it has some Far East/Indian vibe associated with it.

edit: I’d love to remix this as soon as I get some time…

Thanks for the reply Ashkan! I think you’re right about the far east influence. I really wish I could sing as good as some of those Quwalli singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - one can only dream!

Regarding a remix you can have the XRNS if you want, but be warned: it’s over 65mb, and contains a few commercial plugins. Just PM me if you need some help.

Thanks for the nice words guys. Me and Mark had loads of fun with this one - more to come in the future we would expect!!

Definitely wasn’t my cup of tea first time around, however, after seeing this post I gave it a second shot and it is definitely catchy! Gr8 work being true to yourselves and coming out with something original and unique…you(Mark) had remarked once that your creativity has suffered due to your obsession with sonics…I beg to differ, not what I expected!! Keep it up!! :)

Cool! I guess I’ll just keep kicking my own arse then :P

This song freaks me out every time I listen to it. Very intense and haunting, it gets the message across almost too effective. Truly amazing work!!!

Hooray for the haunted freakout! Thanks for the words VivaceBotB!

I can still hear more improvements in your vocals Mark, getting better and better and better etc. May I ask how many takes it was until you got here, or would that be telling? ;)

I think this works quite well, but I think maybe you’re hiding your vocals in the mix more than is necessary again, they sound great, but could maybe be a little louder or something? I dunno.

Forget I said anything, its really good. :)

reminds me on “perfect drug” / nine inch nails somehow.

love the ending :)

It’s very nice that you know the King of Qawwali! Your vocals already have the Sufi vibe, but I might be of some assistance next time you need Qawwali vocals, I’ve had some practice and experiences.

And I’m too busy these days, but as soon as I get some spare time, I’d contact you. :)

Thanks for the feedback Alex and basil!

More notes on the vocal process: Some of these parts came really quickly and others took a lot of work, but there’s more to it than that in the heat of the creation process. Fortunately I trust Mick enough to put up with a thing called ‘scratch vocals’ which are basically very rough place holders for where an idea will go and be polished. So for example I may have some words drafted for verse 1 and I quickly record a bit of ‘oo ahh blablah’ rough stuff in there just so we’ve got an idea of what will belong with the sound. While we’re working on other stuff I reflect on that idea and keep rehearsing the part, over and over and over - each time I think about improving the phrasing, note selection, dynamics and rhythm until I hone in on a ‘perfected idea’. Later on it comes time to record the final takes.

Every engineer is a bit different on how they track, edit and build vocals - some like to piece together all the best bits into something finished, but I tend to like it more when I’ve recorded a whole section in one ‘as near to perfect as possible’ take. I work in sections, so Verse 1, Chorus 1 etc. In this song some parts, after warm ups and rehearsals, I got in about 2-3 takes, e.g the Bridge where I’m singing ‘The Almighty crowns us kings…’ because I just found that phrasing so easy and fun to sing. Other bits were much more hard, and this is usually because of high extremely pronounced notes. The 3rd Verse was particularly hard with a few high G# notes and even an A - I had to learn and think about new technique to get up there without straining my voice too much and have it sit near enough to the right pitch for a take. From memory I probably tried 40-50 takes. If I keep practicing like I have been lately I’ll look back on these hard parts and think they’re a walk in the park - the more your practice with the correct technique the better you get. I think I’ve changed my attitude toward all of this, instead of waiting for it all to improve I’m just working harder with focus and slowly building the results that way.

Ashkan, I’d love some Qawwali advice! But I think you’ll find I’d be beyond help in trying to learn something like Urdu!

Thanks for the detailed response regarding vocals, seems as if things dont just “sound” like they’re progressing for you there. Great stuff, can’t wait for more releases :)

I don’t like the distorted vocals, but other than that it sounds really good B)

During the mixing process, me and Mark had a fair amount of discussion about the vocals, especially the tone.

We applied various distortion settings so many times we probably over-listened; even in hindsight I have no idea what I would do(suggest) differently… :)