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Ellen Allien: Parameter-Tweaking Experiments

July 1, 2010

ellenallienGerman DJ/producer/techno artist Ellen Allien—and founder of the Bpitch Control label—has released six rather experimental and theoretical albums since 2000, but she wanted a warmer, more direct sound for her latest album, Dust.

“I had to find a producer who would not put his own loud volume of art on music,” Allien says. “So I found Tobias Freund, who is very elegant and organized, but he doesn’t push you into corners.”

Freund’s Berlin home studio includes a Mac G5 with Logic Pro 7, Lynx Aurora 16 converters, and an adt-audio ToolMod modular analog mixing console. For designing sounds, Allien and Freund used Native Instruments Reaktor, Absynth, FM8, and Battery, as well as SFX Machine Pro, and analog synths such as a Waldorf MicroWave, an Oberheim OB-Mx, and a Roland TR-808 and TR-909.

To add some interest to the pneumatic beats of “My Tree,” the duo used MFB’s Dual LFO to trigger the release times on a Cwejman BLD synthesizer. “I used a simple sawtooth waveform from one LFO that was set to a slow tempo to make the BLD’s beats sound more alive and unpredictable,” explains Freund.

In other experiments, Allien recorded her vocals into a portable flash recorder through either its internal mic or a Shure SM58, and then sent the signal through the adt mixer’s EQ/compression and Logic’s Vocal Transformer to craft effects such as the pitched female/male dancefloor flirtation heard on “Flashy Flashy.” Freund also used a Lexicon LXP-5—controlled via Lexicon’s MIDI Remote Controller—to process a piano sound from Logic’s EXS24 sampler.

“I used the LXP-5 to change the piano samples pitch while simultaneously delaying it,” Freund explains. “The more feedback you use, the more the signal changes pitch. For example, you can adjust the feedback so that a C5 note spirals down in pitch until it hits C1. So I used a certain feedback level to create harmonic textures that I could blend with the dry piano signal.”

Dust is a mixture between nightlife and my day life—a mix of instruments and voice with programming and effects,” Allien says. “So this album was more about moving people, not just programming numbers.” Tony Ware

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