With my drafts folder brimming with 80% finished long-reads I thought it a neat idea to get out a really quick recreation of a classic Ibiza house record. This actually took a little longer than it should have done but I had great fun researching and doing it.
Additionally I’ve done a lot of recreations in Ableton recently and have recently re-fallen in love with Logic after discovering a few neat features and been marginally underwhelmed by the Ableton 10 update (maybe more on this once I get my hands on a copy?).
The song in question is The Ones’ Flawless which discogs credits to 1999 but Wikipedia to 2001. My guess is that is was rereleased then to a larger fan fare by Positive (part of EMI) as was not uncommon with house records in this era. We’re not looking at the original mix which is a good few bpm slower but the Atoc Reremix, which seems to be the version everyone is familiar with. Apparently the song was inspired by the film Nashom (which I’ve not seen).
As I’m writing this I’ve not even loaded Logic up but after a quick peruse of WhoSampled there seems to be three listed samples and through my own analysis I can hear some vocoder, so it covers a few bases and should be an interesting thing to tackle.
Sourcing the Samples
As mentioned above there are three dominant samples throughout the track, a synth melody lifted from Gary’s Gang’s 1979 Keep on Dancin’, a synth stab from Tom Tom Club’s 1981 Wordy Rappinghood and some drums and guitar from Alec R. Costandinos and The Syncophonic Orchestra’s Romeo and Juliet (from 1978).
I managed to find them all on iTunes including the Atoc mix of Flawless, totally £3.96. That said, Romeo and Juliet was actually some sort of re-edit, but hopefully this wont hinder me too much.
*edit* It turned out to be a huge problem as I couldn’t find the sample in that version, so I recorded the audio straight from YouTube using Loopback.
Using this tap tempo I estimate the track is around 124 bpm, however as the iTunes purchase is likely from a mix or a vinyl rip I’m going to use flex time to help it work perfectly with Logic’s grid. Once flexed I used a No Output track to delineate all the main sections.
Building the Beat
We can use Logic’s ES24 to generate a similar drum pattern to the original. I’ve loaded several different one shot samples into the mapping editor to emulate approximate the drum sound on this record; an acoustic kick, snare, closed and open hat and an electronic sounding clap.
Using EXS24’s multiple outputs I’ve routed each of these to an individual output so they can be processed individually. The hats are coming out of the same output and important are in a choke group to close the open hat when the closed hat retriggers.
It’s possible to hear a percussion (congas or bongo, sorry!) loop throughout too. I’ve added something from a sample pack but even Apple Loops have similar sounding patterns you can use. Our Kick drum is from Ultrabeat and there’s a sampled crash with some healthy EQ to shave off any harsh high frequencies. All the drums are routed to a bus with a little Classic VCA compression:
Alec R. Costandinos and The Syncophonic Orchestra – Romeo and Juliet
Let’s move on to the dominant sample, which starts at 48 seconds in:
It’s a one bar sample comprising of two guitars, drums, bass and less obviously identifiable yet important atmospheric sounds. I’ve transposed the sample up a semitone tone and then down two semitones for the repetition.
I’ve added some light bit crushing to simulate the vintage sampling techniques as well as Logic’s Auto Filter (removing the bottom end) and some light compression.
To my ears the bass has been replayed. This gives us more control using the bass and samples independently later on too. The bass has some Studer tape saturation on, as well as an Ampeg bass amp simulation, sub bass and a healthy dose of low-pass filter to take all the top-end out.
There’s a fairly aggressive pull-off at the end of every four bar phrase too, this doesn’t seem to be subjected to the same processing, and is likely an overdub.
Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood
The memorable synth stab is lifted from this record at around 36 seconds in:
First we need to isolate the stab with some cutting and then pitch it up five semitones. I’ve used similar amounts of bit crushing to give it some extra grit. Add a low-pass filter and some healthy tape delay to dub it up a little:
Gary’s Gang – Keep on Dancin’
Lastly let’s move on to the arp. The sample start 20 seconds in:
This was a little harder to isolate properly and goes through different guises throughout the track but the main bulk of it similarly is transposed similarly to the main sample – the first two bars are a whopping 13 semitones up (one octave plus a semitone) and then second two bars are 10 semitones up. It’s not perfect but close enough:
Add some bit crushing, low pass filter and a tiny bit of slap back echo to get it to sit.
Oddly enough it’s not entirely clear what the lyrics are, and various sites seem to disagree but I used this one to get the vocoder section down.
I recorded into logic and added and processed with a Gate to reduce headphone spill and De-Esser to tame the brittle sibilance. Next, disable the output of the vocal track by setting it to ‘No Output’ on the channel strip. That’s our vocoder modulator signal sorted, let’s move on to the carrier:
Using Logic’s native vocoder (EVOC PS) I added the below chords. Here’s what they sound like with just a simple sawtooth:
Route the newly recorded vocal (Audio 7 in my case) to the Side Chain analysis input and set the Signal to Voc. I’ve blended in a sawtooth one octave lower and a little bit of blue noise to help with the intelligibility of words a little.
Ensure the Sidechain Analysis in has a suitable attack and release and set the Voices to Poly, anything above 8 is fine, I think my preset defaulted to 16. I used the Formant Stretch and Shift to try and more closely match the original spectral qualities of the vocoder.
Lastly I’ve added some reverb on a return track, a little EQ, compression and echo. Here’s what it sounds like:
Arranging, Mixing and Mastering
There’s a synth string section that’s added during parts of the track that uses the same chords as the vocoder (Bb∆7, G∆7).
I started off using Logic’s EXS24 and got some great results in the synth string portion of the library but I settled on an Arturia Jupiter.
It’s simply two detuned sawtooths with a little low-pass filtering and some envelope modulation on the filter and amplitude. I’ve dipped the EQ around 250 Hz to thin it slightly and added a slow churning phaser to get sweep sound just right.
There’s also some sporadic dub fx throughout, I’ve used ES2 to get mine. Use a pulse wave with some 12 dB/oct low-pass filtering. I used an LFO synced to 1/16 with a ramp-up wave to module the pitch and filter. Add a little distortion, another low-pass as an insert, lengthy echo and reverb of your choice and you’re there!
For the mix, I’ve added some Logic EQ to boost the bottom end a little and Sample Magic Boost to finish it off with some sparkle. Here it is!
If you’ve enjoyed this deconstruction please check out some of the other ones I’ve done on this site:
- Get Down Saturday Night (this song inspired Voyager, Make Luv Tonight and Weekend)
- Kool and the Gang – Summer Madness
- Air – La Femme d’Argent
- Stranger Things – Kids
- Jill Scott – A Long Walk
- Aphex Twin – Xtal
- Radiohead – Everything in its Right Place
- Aphex Twin – Cliffs
- Roy Ayres – Everybody Loves the Sunshine
- Squarepusher – Tommib