Booka Shade—Arno Kammermeier
(left) and Walter Merziger.
Electronic artists tend to evolve in circles. They
start with club-friendly numbers, shift to songbased
compositions, then return to their dancetrack
roots. Berlin, Germany-based duo Booka
Shade is guilty of such an evolution, as is
witnessed on their fourth album, More! The duo’s
intention was to create an album-oriented collection
of dance cuts. To this end, the twosome of
Arno Kammermeier (whose specialty is drums)
and Walter Merziger (the synthesizer expert)
employed both what they know about writing
songs and creating dancefloor smashers.
To keep the dancefloor element as the foundation,
they concentrated on bass and the bass
drum—with particular focus on the tuning of the latter.
Case in point, “Teenage Spaceman” and “The
Door” bounce along hollow, booming beat loops.
“That was hard work,” Merziger admits. “We
produced 10 different versions of ‘Teenage
Spaceman.’ The Rob Papen plug-in for Sub Boom
Bass sounds like a low, electronic tom and gives
the main riff a lot of space, and a horn is doubling
the main riff, giving the tune a heroic feel.”
For “The Door,” they used a Roland TR-808 for
the low end and a Roland TB-303 sound from an
old sampling CD. “We wanted to create a retro
sound with Kraftwerk elements, but still in the
Booka Shade sound world,” Merziger says.
In contrast, “No Difference” has an intense and
chunky string-synth sound, which Merziger attributes
to an edited Klaus Schulze patch from the
Arturia Moog Modular V plug-in combined with
the string sound from GForce String Machine and
a Smart Electronix SupaPhaser.
But part of what makes Booka Shade’s
sound identifiable and unique is the intentional
“mistakes” the two force their computer to make.
For example, they take all the MIDI tracks and
apply them to other virtual instrument patches, so
the hi-hat sequence plays a synth line, or a bass
line is played by a percussion instrument.
Then there are their reverb experiments. “[We]
really like playing with backward reverbs,” Merziger
says. “Have a reverb on an instrument or vocal,
reverse the reverb signal, bounce it, reverse it
again, and combine it with the dry signal. This is a
very interesting effect on almost every instrument.
A backward element in the groove can give it a
very modern and unique feel.”