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Booka Shade's Plug-In Experiments

August 1, 2010
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Booka ShadeBooka Shade—Arno Kammermeier (left) and Walter Merziger.

Electronic artists tend to evolve in circles. They start with club-friendly numbers, shift to songbased compositions, then return to their dancetrack roots. Berlin, Germany-based duo Booka Shade is guilty of such an evolution, as is witnessed on their fourth album, More! The duo’s intention was to create an album-oriented collection of dance cuts. To this end, the twosome of Arno Kammermeier (whose specialty is drums) and Walter Merziger (the synthesizer expert) employed both what they know about writing songs and creating dancefloor smashers.

To keep the dancefloor element as the foundation, they concentrated on bass and the bass drum—with particular focus on the tuning of the latter. Case in point, “Teenage Spaceman” and “The Door” bounce along hollow, booming beat loops.

“That was hard work,” Merziger admits. “We produced 10 different versions of ‘Teenage Spaceman.’ The Rob Papen plug-in for Sub Boom Bass sounds like a low, electronic tom and gives the main riff a lot of space, and a horn is doubling the main riff, giving the tune a heroic feel.”

For “The Door,” they used a Roland TR-808 for the low end and a Roland TB-303 sound from an old sampling CD. “We wanted to create a retro sound with Kraftwerk elements, but still in the Booka Shade sound world,” Merziger says.

In contrast, “No Difference” has an intense and chunky string-synth sound, which Merziger attributes to an edited Klaus Schulze patch from the Arturia Moog Modular V plug-in combined with the string sound from GForce String Machine and a Smart Electronix SupaPhaser.

But part of what makes Booka Shade’s sound identifiable and unique is the intentional “mistakes” the two force their computer to make. For example, they take all the MIDI tracks and apply them to other virtual instrument patches, so the hi-hat sequence plays a synth line, or a bass line is played by a percussion instrument.

Then there are their reverb experiments. “[We] really like playing with backward reverbs,” Merziger says. “Have a reverb on an instrument or vocal, reverse the reverb signal, bounce it, reverse it again, and combine it with the dry signal. This is a very interesting effect on almost every instrument. A backward element in the groove can give it a very modern and unique feel.”

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