Damian Taylor

( the making of "Volta" )

Björk didn’t have a manifesto for this record .She only wanted it to be a bit more extroverted than some of her previous records. And she wanted it raw and pretty rude, which are the words she was using. Unlike having a very definitive description of how [the record] was going to sound like she did with Homogenic or Vespertine, it was more of an exploration of the whole process. She wanted to have an adventure, like jumping off a cliff, just going somewhere and working with someone without preconceived ideas — what happens when you put Björk in a room with Toumani Diabaté or Konono N1 and hit go, basically.


On Vespertine, we went as superhigh-tech as we possibly could. Every single sound was chopped up on a grid, and I would be drawing in little clicks and pops by hand. It was really meticulous, but with this record, we agreed that we find that approach a bit tired. Now we want stuff to be very raw, basically. It wasn’t so much like Björk would sit down with Pro Tools and loop something up for 4 bars on 16th notes ; she would choose several bits or phrases and direct where she wanted them. She will sit down at the rig and hack away, but when there is an intricate bit of editing, she makes good use of her time in making decisions, like, ‘How do we shorten that syllable ?’


"Vertebrae" was actually created out of a loop manipulating the different channels of the 5.1 mix, as opposed to having them play out in a conventional timeline. The beats were originally programmed with 808 kicks and static-y noises. I used NI Kontakt for the snare-drum rolls and really careful programming. I layered up a whole bunch of different snare samples and detuned them and used some randomization to spread them out. And then I added an orchestral kick-drum sample and orchestral percussion to replace the electronic stuff. The swooshing sounds are some white noise that I automated with EQs in Pro Tools. Originally, I took that sample from a Moog software synth, used a white-noise generator, recorded a bunch of noise and automated some high and lowpass filters and Pro Tools EQ3, and I used the Echo Farm plug-in as well.


Because we didn’t work in one central studio, we had a full-on HD rig in a flight case that we carried around with us in a soundproofed Isobox case. That was critical because we usually set up in a hotel room or a cabin, and we didn’t have a separate control room. We used all the EQs and plug-ins in HD and the different Pro Tools rigs in the different studios. I was minimalist with the plug-ins. I used the stock Digi stuff. If you actually A/B the really expensive, esoteric third-party stuff against the Digi stuff, it holds up really well and, in some cases, a lot better. I used the stock Digi EQ2 and EQ3. And I am a huge fan of Lo-Fi, one of the best Pro Tools plug-ins because it is so versatile, and depending on where you put it in the chain, you can get a lot of different effects out of it. On Volta, a lot of the vocal effects are a combination of those EQs and compression, before and after Lo-Fi. If you squash something really hard, brighten it up, then hit Lo-Fi gently with a little bit of distortion and 1 on saturation, then re-EQ it afterwards, you will get a totally different kind of roughness than if you put Lo-Fi in front of the chain then squash it. It’s a huge thumbs-up for stock Digi plug-ins !

remixmag.com - 01.07.2007