Electronic sound sculptures send Soulstice in myriaddirections.
The music of San Francisco's Soulstice is a rich amalgam ofstyles — including soul, R&B, techno, house, andBrazilian jazz — that evolved from the group's foundation inDJ performance. Soulstice comprises vocalist Gina René,turntablist Mei-Lwun Yee, and keyboardists Andy Caldwell andGabriel René. The band's debut CD, Illusion (Om Records), is afinely crafted tapestry of samples, drum loops, keyboards, guitars,horns, and vocals.
“A lot of it is experimentation,” says GabrielRené. “We went through pretty much every genre ofelectronic music before we settled into our current ambiguousstyle.” Caldwell adds, “We're waiting for everyone elseto describe it for us.”
Soulstice has been together for five years, and Illusion is theculmination of its efforts. “We've been through severalrecord deals,” Caldwell says. “For the samerecord,” adds René. “Plus, we're perfectionists.We're trying to be Steely Dan now or something.”
The band recorded most of Illusion in a rented warehouse spacein San Francisco. “It's about a 250-square- foot room that webuilt in one corner,” Caldwell says. “We built a vocalbooth and put a sliding-glass door in there. It's veryindustrial.”
Illusion was tracked on a Digidesign Digi 001 digital-audiosystem connected to a Mac G4/450 MHz running Pro Tools 5.0.“Earlier we used [Opcode's] Vision, but for the album, wejust did it in Pro Tools 5, all the MIDI and everything,”Caldwell says. Soulstice captured vocals and acoustic instrumentswith a CAD E-300 large-diaphragm condenser microphone and a JoemeekVC3 mic preamp/compressor.
“We used the Soundcraft Ghost 32-channel [mixer],”says Caldwell, noting that they mixed a few of the tracks on afriend's Pro Tools system. Their outboard processors consist of anAlesis Midiverb II, Alesis Quadraverb, and a Lexicon MPX1.“The dbx 1066 compressor was our workhorse for a lot of thedrum sounds.
“Our main instruments were the [Ensoniq] ASR-10, the[E-mu] E4XT, and the [Clavia] Nord Lead,” says Caldwell. Healso mentioned a Yamaha EX5, Yamaha FB01, a Roland Juno 60 with abuilt-in MIDI converter, and a Roland SH-101 bass synth.
“There's no real formula for the sound sculpturing that wedo,” he says. “For every song, we pretty much constructa whole new set of sounds.” Soulstice sampled most of thealbum's drum sounds from vinyl, and only the title track includesacoustic hi-hat and cymbal samples. “We'll spend a whole daylooking for a snare drum sound,” says Caldwell. “Snaresare key. Distortion is always friendly too. We put a littledistortion on certain sounds, and it just fixes things.”
Several freelance musicians augmented their tracks with freshmusical ideas, instrumental expertise, and acoustic sounds.“We're treating session players as human samplers,”Caldwell says. “They lay a bunch of samples down, and we putthem together.”
Soulstice occasionally ventured outside of its warehouse torecord tracks at three commercial studios in San Francisco: Toast,Mobius, and A Different Fur. “Over the course of the record,we recorded on every level of system,” says GabrielRené. “We were actually on SSLs and Neveconsoles.”
“I think if we had owned all that gear ourselves, thatrecord would sound really insane,” Caldwell says. “Butthe times that we did go into thousand-dollar-a-day studios, I wasnever satisfied with what we came out with. Once you know thelimitations of working in another environment, you tend to maximizewhat you already have just because you know what you can dothere.”