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Future Imperfect

Sounds:

  duration mp3 quality size
excerpts 1:17 96kbps, 24kHz 0.9 Mb
Future Imperfect (lo-fi) 5:15 96kbps, 24kHz 3.7 Mb
Future Imperfect (hi-fi) 5:15 192kbps, 44.1 kHz 7.4 Mb
Early stages: demo (1990) 3:37 96kbps, 44.1kHz 2.6 Mb

Notes -  December 2006

So here's our attempt to be Rush.

This track warns us against the dangers of using technology for its own sake. The lyric has always wanted to be, "We live in the 21st century" which was always chronologically incorrect until recently! I never thought the song would remain unfinished up until now. I started out using "Funk Fingers" with the Ibanez fretless bass but lately I have fallen in love with the sound of regular fingers on the Carvin so that is what we end up with here.

Early stages:
This piece emerged on the scene pretty well fully-formed, complete with lyrics. Actually if I recall correctly the basic lyrics may have come first and the music written around them. Of course it wasn't until much much later that I found myself in a position to try and sing them... The earliest version in the archives dates from the latter half of 1990, produced with a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder, and features a Korg Vocoder (the DVP-1) that I borrowed from the local music store. I don't think I had any real intention of purchasing it but the guys behind the counter were so used to seeing me (and they had sold me an M1 the year before) that they just told me to take it home and have fun with it, and to not break it if I could help it. That version was recorded 16 years ago. (Yikes!)

Instruments:

Lyrics:

We live in a world of inequity
Where some die of hunger, and some learn to fly
We welcome tomorrow, and look to a future
Safe and secure, in cities that reach for the sky

   It's tense in the present
   The future's imperfect
   Our vision obscured by the stars in our eyes.
   We entered the Race, advanced with technology
   Listening to voices of reason, telling us why

We live in the 21st Century
Sometimes I feel that we shouldn't have tried
Every day we get to live with our legacy
Reflecting in windows of buildings and blinding our eyes

Remixing the media, framing the news
the picture they're painting says everything's fine
but look through the cracks, to the fault of society
the closer you look the more puppets on strings that you find

Wake up from a dream, and we're back to reality
The state wants to know if we wish to complain?
They've got our description and left us with memories
Of spies in our bedroom, pushing at things in our brains

    It's tense in the present
    The future's imperfect
    Our vision obscured by the stars in our eyes
    We stay in the race, enslaved in technology
    Silencing voices of reason, questioning why?
 

Techniques: Vocals

I don't consider this track to have weird vocals or anything but after listening to it, Eldest Brother asked me what I'd done to my voice. So here's the process:

First, I recorded 6 or 7 takes of the vocals. I use a nice cardoid condenser microphone with a pop screen but no additional FX, accepting the natural reverberation of my studio room.

I cut the tracks into separate clips for each contiguous lyric phrase, and selected the best to construct a single best take for each verse, and two best takes for the choruses. Not surprisingly, usually I ended up selecting from take 2 or take 3.

After assembling the vocal tracks, I use the Tools menu in SONAR to run Adobe Audition 1.5 as an external wave editor, and clean up each clip - removing any obvious spikes and reducing "breath" sounds, not to eliminate but just to reduce them a bit. This step could have been done using a compressor FX during the recording, but I've tried doing that, and I prefer to do it manually. (I probably just don't know what I'm doing with the compressor parameters.)

At this point I cheated very slightly and used a pitch correction tool to fix the worst vocal glitches. It was usually just two or three slightly flat notes per verse. The tool in SONAR is called V-Vocal and although it has an 'auto-tune' mode, I don't use it. I fix the flat notes manually, basically just moving them enough so that you no longer notice the flatness, rather than making them perfect. Subtle is best for this sort of thing. It's easy to inadvertently introduce noticeable pitch artifacts so I always listen carefully to keep it natural.

For the choruses I panned the two takes 25% left and right for a "double-tracked" sound.

The verses are the single take, panned center. I also made a duplicate of the verse vocal track, and applied a "Guitar Amp Distortion" FX plugin to it and reduced the volume, so what you hear in each verse is the natural tone plus just a hint of the distorted version, giving the verses a slight gritty edge.

I have separate busses for the vocal reverb and vocal delay effects, and I use buss send envelopes on the vocal tracks so that I can be precise about what parts of the track have reverb and delay applied. That's why only certain words in the phrase are accented with echo delay, and only certain parts of certain words get reverbed. The effect is to make the lyric flow and sound good without drowning it.

Finally, and most obviously, in this track I have duplicated certain select phrases from the chorus and placed them into a separate track, using the Pentagon I virtual synth as an FX plugin to get the vocoder effect (the technique is explained here). I've used the Pentagon's 'PWM Pad' patch for this.

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2001-2006 Colin Nicholls