“I deal with the total club heads and everyone else,” says Markus Moser, one half of chart-topping dance duo iiO. “For the club heads, anything but the typical four-on-the-floor groove is an insult. Then I deal with the other people, the open-minded pop artists who believe that anything goes. That is where we fit in. Poetica was about writing a real song first, and the dance element was just used as a means of delivery. It didn't start with a beat, and then we added the music.”
The Austrian-born Moser and New York (by way of Libya) vocalist Nadia Ali have scaled the charts as iiO. Their debut album, Poetica (Made, 2006), includes previous hits “Rapture” and “At the End” and the single “Kiss You.” Poetica features Moser's arty production and Ali's drop-dead gorgeous vocals in stylistically diverse material that hints at the history of dance music. That is no surprise given Moser's bio as a successful DJ/producer with such '90s acts as Bingo Boys (“How to Dance,” 1991, Atlantic) and Edelweiss (“Bring Me Edelweiss,” 1992, Warner Bros). Although iiO is certainly cut from the house-music cloth, its ethereally tinged arrangements and zigzagging grooves are wider than typical dancefloor fodder.
Like Everything But the Girl, it's a beautiful female vocal that makes iiO so captivating. iiO is Nadia Ali's first professional singing job, but her rich delivery hints at an old soul.
“I double track her voice and distort it slightly,” Moser says, “then I insert effects where they are barely audible. I use a Neumann U 87; that is key in producing a warm voice, and I always have Nadia eat the microphone, so to speak. She sings at a very low volume; that really colors her vocal even before I begin treating it.”
Calling himself a “delay nut,” Moser culls from literally hundreds of effects, including plug-ins from Native Instruments (Komplete 3), Spectrasonics, Universal Audio, GRM Tools and Waves (Diamond/SSL Bundle), which he programs via Steinberg Cubase SX3 and Apple Logic Pro 7.2 running on a Pro Tools 7.1 platform.
“I do believe that less is more,” he laughs, “but I use them all. And I am equally enamored of dry mixes where you work off reflections, and the reverb is dry and short. That gives the mix so much power and presence. In between my love for the wetness and the delays, I also like it dry, so I bring in the effects but keep them very low.”
Moser may work in Cubase and Logic, but he remembers the era of 2-inch tape machines and analog consoles like it was yesterday. “I program in Cubase and mix in Pro Tools,” he says, “but I cannot work on a console anymore. I do so many things — including producing Made artists Jimmie James and SLM — that it is not unusual for me to mix two songs a day. I appreciate the ease of Pro Tools because I come from the days when everything was on tape. You weren't always lucky enough to work on an SSL or a Neve board where you could store your mix settings. But nowadays, I work off presets and worry about effecting the sound later. I don't sit there adjusting a sine curve trying to program a sound from scratch. I much rather work off presets, then modify the sound to my liking.”
Nowadays, because it's so easy to work a song to death with thousands of plug-in and soft-synth options at his beck and call, Moser understands more than ever that it is best to avoid second-guessing himself. “If you have found your niche,” he says, “your first instincts are always best. I have taken the best out of my screw-ups, distilled it and moved on. If a track is not working, then the initial output is what I go back to. Sometimes when you are too close, you lose perspective, and you can't see the forest for the trees. Stick with the original.”