Evy Jane is an R&B duo, but before that phrase summons an image of Ike & Tina, note that we’re talking about the evolution of R&B in tandem with the evolution of hip-hop and electronic music. Vancouver musicians Evelyn Mason and Jeremiah Klein form the respective vocal and production halves of Evy Jane, who released their airy slow jam “Sayso” earlier this year. As for their approach to the particular style of R&B they deal in, their own text says it best:
Experimental electronic musicians aren’t quite done yet finding new ways to creatively deface traditional R&B. In the past three years alone, they’ve pushed it underwater and listened to it sing from beneath the waves; tossed it on a bonfire and recorded the sound of it melting; watched it evaporate and recorded the fumes. It’s sturdy music, built on rock-solid devotionals and written according to strict dictates, so it can withstand all this formal tinkering while holding onto its soul.
For this week’s LAYERS, we’re breaking down a remix of Evy Jane’s debut track “Sayso” by Dutch producer Julien Mier, who bound the ethereal track to a harder beat and made the second half of the song go a little crazy. We’re only looking at four layers this time around, but Mier’s got lots to say about how he created each one. Let’s dive in.
I used the original drums, layered down with additive and FM synthesis (the clicks, blips and staccato hits) combined with field recordings and recordings of doors (a wink to the lyrics “shut the door”). The bass line is a free replica VST of the SH101 (called TAL-Bassline) that sounds good on it’s own, especially because it gives the same parameters to play with. With the use of side chain compression, it gives the combination a nice density. If I were someone with a lot of money, I would have bought the real deal with no hesitation.
The reason I often use “textures” (similar to the rhythmic field recordings I use) is to give the layers another dimension, especially compositionally. It allows you to accentuate the difference between some parts without moving too much from the original musical motif you are working with. Some things I’ve used as textures are recordings of pebbles scratching each other and the rainstick—you turn upside down to hear a rain of high, little things. Just before the double tempo part, I used my girlfriend’s sewing machine that was just warming up, I think, although it’s hard to tell as I didn’t properly label the recording. Another thing I often use is convolution reverb (for example Space Designer by Logic Pro). It’s a very powerful tool to make very strange effects on your recordings. A normal reverb uses a digital (or spring) impulse response, which is very straight to the point and is linked to the acoustics of a room. But with convolution, you can load in your own sample, for example a staccato hit of a car horn of 7-10 seconds with a specific tone in it. You get a very nice washed out reverb-ish blend between the original recording and the tone underneath that is bouncing somewhere around. Often when I’m creating new audio material, I randomly place my recordings in there and search for artifacts.
The synths are almost all done in FM8 by Native Instruments, a very good FM synthesis program which allows you to use six oscillators, a noise generator, and a filter. Cutting off the synths to complete silence is a tip I received from my composition and music production teacher. I once showed him a work in progress and he said to me that I should use silence as a tool as well, because it often makes a piece much more powerful.
I’ve cut a lot of the original voice by Evy Jane to let it play with the percussion, especially because the remix doubles up at the second part. It is powerful to have the rhythmic tonal voice speed up at a point to make it more interesting. I’ve layered down my own voice too (the “uuuuu”) as I wanted to give the remix a more personal spin. The way I usually cut the vocals is to impersonalize a singer as well, to make the content of the words less meaningful and much more objective, as music, in my opinion, shouldn’t make a statement. It’s something that Brian Eno once said, and to me it was a very valuable insight. This is one of the reasons why I use formant filtering (a change of the overtones of an audio fragment) as I found it very interesting to change the characteristics of a voice and change the gender of the vocalist. It creates a new person, a whole different non-existent person with no opinion and again with no prejudice within the rules of how the rest of the music should sound like. In this remix I didn’t do any formant filtering, as I wanted to stick to the original. After all, it’s Evy Jane who’s singing and, as far as I know, they definitely exist in the world.
Put it all together, and here’s what you get. Julien Mier’s remix of Evy Jane’s “Sayso”.
And for your reference, the video for the original song.
Previously: LAYERS: Breaking Down “Love Gun” By Loose Screwz