The darkness is intense on Moby’s just-released new album, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt (Mute). The new song “The Waste of Suns,” for example, expresses profound loneliness, and “Like a Motherless Child” relates personal loss to a broader world of brokenness. But like the blues, Moby’s brooding, rhythmic music can spread joy simply with its beauty and the resonance of his understanding.
The sound of this album is so complex, with layered and processed synths and percussion, crooning and spoken-word vocals, and more, that it’s almost funny to think that the artist recorded in a small home studio, but Moby fleshes out his copious song ideas in a 12x15-foot bedroom space that contains, among other things, a Pro Tools rig and some of the artist’s favorite keyboards: an AceTone Top-5 electronic organ, and Korg’s M500 Micro Preset and MiniKorg.
“I write around 300 songs a year, and each song has it's own odd and fairly unique genesis,” Moby says. “Some start with guitar, some with drums, some with old broken synths, some with a tape delay feeding back on itself, some with a vocal sample or other sample. And then over time I work on them, add things, take things away, until I end up with something that seems ostensibly finished.”
“Finished” ideas are tracked to Pro Tools mainly via a Shure KSM44 microphone. “It’s my go-to for everything,” Moby says. “For vocals, I keep it simple: just the KSM44 to an API mic pre to a Neve EQ.
“For the most part, the sounds are processed with tape delays and old spring reverbs and old analog delays. I don't mind digital processing, but I prefer older equipment that doesn't work very well.”
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt was mixed in Apple Logic X by engineer/producer Steve Dub (Chemical Brothers, New Order, Slovenlie), who brought the project to Silver Shark Music, a studio owned by the production team of Grant Strang and Pascal Glanville.
In addition to Logic and a Pro Tools 10 rig, Silver Shark is equipped with an SSL G Series console, Euphonix Mix series controller, and outboard equipment from GML, Tube Tech, Summit, Empirical Labs, UREI, Chandler and more, plus a host of plug-ins from most of the major players: Waves, Celemony, SoundToys, and Arturia among them.
Dub made use of hardware and plug-ins alike: “The vocals were mostly going through a UREI 1176 [compressor limiter] or Empirical Labs Distressor, and then maybe some very subtle delay to give it space,” he recalls. “EQ-wise, I was using the BX-Neve VR plug in.
“On a lot of the tracks, they had also been printed to tape, so in general most of the parts already had a nice amount of analog grit and dirt. So, it was just a question of bringing that out as much as possible. Effects-wise, I used a little bit of chorus for width and an EMT plate reverb on a lot of the background vocals.”
And though he mixed in Logic, Dub also made good use of the SSL console: “On pretty much every mix, the SSL bus compressor was used,” he says. “Most of the drums were processed through the G Series. On many of those tracks, again, things like reverbs and delays had already been printed [in Moby’s studio] using plates and tape delays, so it would be a question of balancing those in and getting everything to sit correctly.”
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