Album retrospective: PCI Expression

PCI Expression was a collection of music, mostly created in SunVox, similarly to the previous album, A Few Good Bloops.

Initially, I was going to release a few of these tracks as a sort of DLC to A Few Good Bloops, named A Few Bloops More, but I ended up with enough tracks to make an album, and I enjoyed the title of PCI Expression.

The last three tracks of this album are a set I call the Relaxation Triptych, three pieces of music written to be suitable for background music while relaxing, writing, or sleeping, without too much interest or jarring sounds.

I didn’t end up publishing PCI Expression on Spotify and Bandcamp etc. until I put out the next album, Meander (up a mountain).

I’ve put an optional mental image for each track in this post. This doesn’t necessarily reflect what I was thinking about when I made each piece, but it’s an idea of how I see and experience it now.

PCI Expression

The base of this piece (all the bloops) were created in SunVox (1.9.4c), from where the song was exported, loaded into Adobe Audition and more tracks (whistling, mandolin) were added.

The swooping harmonic whistling duet was somewhat inspired by the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes’ opera, Lakmé.

The mandolin chords in this piece were originally added mostly because I wanted to justify having bought a second hand mandolin, but I ended up quite liking the strange vibe they gave to the piece.

Optional mental image: A wandering minstrel following a digital adventuring crew on a long march through a pixelated landscape.

Dat F Min Do

I created this piece of music using the Ableton Live 10 trial, using a few loops, as well as some pre-made instruments. This track brought back up the question for me of what it means to create. I felt hesitant to be proud of the creation, since a lot of it had come from fitting pre-made elements together, rather than creating from scratch.

Dat F Min Do refers to the transitional key change at around 1:28 to F minor. The change back to the base key signature is less smooth, but still fun.

Optional mental image: A space-age heist crew plans their next big job.

The Far Reaches

Created in SunVox 1.9.5d. Arpeggios are very fun. This one is structurally similar to the one used in the Final Fantasy soundtrack’s Prelude track, playing note 1, 2, 3 and 5 of a scale.

I also started playing with a noise generator with a moving filter to simulate the sound of the beach.

The drums are put through a heavy distortion, creating a fun digital-sounding crunch when they are introduced.

Optional mental image: Setting out on a journey into the great unknown of space, hit with the sudden comprehension of how far you are from home, paired with the excitement of the possibilities in front of you.

Fell Outside the Box

This one was written in SunVox 1.9.4c, using the instruments in the default project setup.

Yet again, this made me question what it means to create, if I could create a piece of music using a pre-made set-up in SunVox and actually take pride in it.

Optional mental image: Riding a train through a cybernetic 1980s future.

The Sinking Mind

I wanted to make a piece of music that was very slow. (SunVox 1.9.4c)

Partially inspired by the “Justin Bieber slowed down 800%” thing, as well as the Antichamber soundtrack (Siddhartha Barnhoorn), and looking for music I could listen to while I write that wouldn’t be too disruptive.

The Sinking Mind, The Eternal Ebb, and The Timeless Flow make up what I call “The Relaxation Triptych“, three pieces of music that get progressively slower and less detailed.

This one still has a few random bleeps and bloops with an echo on them (a staple in my music).

The Sinking Mind and The Eternal Ebb were also used as the background music for my (semi-)satirical instructional video on enabling the CALM setting on your HumanOS 7.3 unit. I’m still quite proud of that video.

One day I’d like to make an album that is all one piece of music that gets slower and slower.

Optional mental image: A bird flying in slow motion, feeling the effect of each pulse of its wings as the air washes over it like water.

The Eternal Ebb

SunVox 1.9.4c, part two of the Relaxation Triptych. In this one I leaned into generating a beach sound using a noise generator.

I enjoyed the sound of playing (mostly) one note on a bass drone, and playing chords over the top of it.

Very much inspired by the Antichamber soundtrack, particularly “Beginnings I“, where slow-moving chords are formed as notes enter and leave.

The bass was a bit more complex than it may initially seem, being made up of four oscillators (a sawtooth, a triangle, and two square waves) passed through various LFOs so they come in and out and create a subtly morphing bass drone.

Optional mental image: Lying in a chair on the beach listening to the echoes of the fundamental tones of the universe, contemplating the effects these ancient notes have on the way the world has unfurled.

The Timeless Flow

I will admit, The Timeless Flow was a bit of an attempt to re-capture the lightning of The Sinking Mind and The Eternal Ebb a year or so later.

It ended up sounding a lot like The Eternal Ebb, but with more high end filtered out.

Optional mental image: Allowing yourself to be consumed by the echoes of the creation of the universe.