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Pro/File: Chillin' and Thrillin'

June 1, 2008

Science for Girls is the brainchild of New York-based producer, bassist, and composer Darren Solomon. Though the band name may conjure images of young women training for careers in genetic cloning, Solomon's mission is anything but academic. Science for Girls' eponymous, self-released debut CD, which officially hit the market in March, mixes electronica, Brazilian, and pop influences and features a range of guest vocalists from the New York indie music scene. Solomon's music bridges the natural with the artificial: for example, the sound of a Fender Rhodes and a supple female vocal with Native Instruments Absynth and a Roland SVC-350 Vocoder.

“I like really simple sounds like Wurlitzer electric pianos,” Solomon explains from his studio at Big Foote Music, the busy Manhattan music house where he pursues his day job, composing and producing music for American Express, M&Ms, and Pepsi, among many other large brands. “Even when I use synths, I try to only use one or two oscillators and keep the tones really simple. Hopefully, the soul of the sound is interesting rather than it's got tons of effects and it's blasting. I want to keep things minimal and let a synth be a synth.”

Solomon records in Apple Logic Pro through Digidesign Pro Tools HD hardware on an Apple Mac G5 desktop. To personalize his glistening electronica, he uses software tools such as the Alphakanal Automat synth, GForce Minimonsta Minimoog emulator, and Cycling '74 Pluggo Jr. On songs like “14 Days” and “Sleepwalking,” he couples smooth organic sounds with nervous electronic energy.

“You can choose a certain filter or wave in Alphakanal Automat, and they will each sound different,” Solomon says. “Then I pick the one that works best for the particular tune. The GForce Minimonsta is another favorite; it really has the soul of a Minimoog.

“The two [signal processing] plug-ins I really use are the Waves Renaissance EQ and the McDSP CompressorBank,” he adds. “The McDSP is a great vintage-sounding compressor; you really hear the compression. Together, those are my salt and pepper. That's all I need to make a good mix.”

From the fuzzy Vocoder effects of “You'll Never Know” to the drum 'n' bass agitation of “Sweet Life,” Solomon creates chilled electronica that even non-club-goers can love. His svelte production is the result of choosing sounds that jell rather than sounds that shock.

“The timbers and textures I chose share similarities,” Solomon observes. “Like those between a Wurlitzer and a Rhodes and a sine wave. Not a lot of overtones — they are very mellow sounds. A lot of synth or electronic guys would rather see how wacky they can make everything sound. But if you are running something good, even one simple oscillator with a lowpass filter will sound like it has heart.”

A Fender Jazz bass leans against one of the walls in Solomon's office, which is also crammed with a treasure trove of sealed action figures. Miniature molds of Public Enemy, Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Gorillaz, Beethoven, and Run-DMC seemingly watch over him as he works.

“When I listen to music, I want to hear Coltrane, Stan Getz, and Mozart,” Solomon says, referring to his other heroes. “I don't hesitate to try something musically sophisticated, but I want to keep the mix accessible as well. The challenge is to find sounds that do what they do naturally and that have a heart — whether it's from texture or chords — and then combine them. And hopefully, they will fall nicely together.”

SCIENCE FOR GIRLS

Home base: New York City

Sequencer of choice: Apple Logic Pro

Go-to synths: u-he Filterscape,Alphakanal Automat, Apple Logic ES1, GForce Minimonsta

Web site: scienceforgirls.net

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