HAPPY MAG PRESENTS
The UMAMI compilation is a collection of remixes by contemporary Australian artists and producers. Each artist has chosen a song well outside of their established style to tackle; a process designed to push themselves out of their comfort zone, taking the song to places that are entirely unexpected.
For the compilation’s third and final remix, The Goods decided to take on a rocky, industrial track by San Mei named I Can’t Sleep. What came out the other end was a different story altogether – wobblier and funkier than ever.
“The approach we’re going to take today on this remix is Little Dragon meets a UK garage/UK dub lean.”
The Goods are a Sydney-based act known for their sultry house jams and funk-heavy RnB, more suited to thumping club dancefloors than the venues you might catch San Mei playing.
They’re a three-piece band, but commonly a single member will take the reins on each of their projects. For UMAMI this was Badmandela, who used the remix to pay homage to the sounds he was introduced to playing in his parent’s bands as a teenager.
“My father is from the Caribbean, from Trinidad and Tobago, so my love for Afro-Cuban music came from my father. Both my parents were in the same band, so quite often I would spend time sleeping and chilling out in rehearsal room and green rooms.”
“I’ve never attempted to remix a song like San Mei’s before”, said Badmandela from his home studio. “So yes, this is going to be a challenge.”
After laying down a few ideas at home, Badmandela head into the legendary 301 Studios to dive into the bulk of his remix.
Armed with Ableton Live 11 and a Push 2 as his controller, Badmandela sat down to refine the sounds he’d created for The Goods’ take on San Mei’s I Can’t Sleep. His sound design leaned into the “night owl” elements on San Mei’s lyrics, focusing on synths and FX processing that lent the track a dreamy, old-school quality.
“Remixing something that’s out of your comfort zone is difficult, but because I’ve got an isolated vocal, I’m able to see it in a different light. All of a sudden the arrangement written around the vocal is not a thing at all.”
“The vocal then transcends the genre that it was in. All of a sudden it’s a melody you can then use to create anything, really. In any genre that you’re brave enough to attempt.”
The Goods’ remix of I Can’t Sleep has an undeniable bounce to it, capitalising on the frenetic energy of the original and building a hypnotic world around it. The UMAMI series has been all about transformation and Badmandela embraced the theme with ease, his touch taking San Mei’s fantastic original into bold new spaces.
Listen to The Goods’ remix of I Can’t Sleep below, and stay tuned for an in-depth technical walkthrough showing how Badmandela created this track in the coming days.
UMAMI is very much a producer’s compilation; it’s about making distinct creative choices that define a remix as your own, no matter where it came from. With that in mind, Happy Mag has asked each UMAMI artist to give us a technical walkthrough of their remix.
With every upgrade to your DAW of choice comes a honeymoon period where you’ll take great pleasure in tweaking the shiny new features. Given his recent upgrade to Ableton Live 11, that’s exactly the thread The Goods’ own Badmandela followed with his UMAMI remix.
Go Freek wasn’t the only UMAMI remixer who chose to incorporate MIDI Molyphonic Expression – colloquially referred to as MPE – into his track. The Goods are a band with feel and improvisation at their heart, making the added intricacy and expression of MPE that extra bit attractive to a producer like Badmandela.
In combination with a MPE-compatible controller like the Push 2, one can bind parameters such as cutoff, oscillation, or anything really, to your pad pressure, aftertouch, and more.
“[It] really opens up the performance capability of the Push”, said Badmandela. “Kind of reminds me of a Seaboard or harpejji-type thing.”
Using Ableton’s native Wavetable synth on a modified electric piano preset, Badmandela assigned a slight pitch modulation to his pad pressure, as well as a subtle oscillator pan. Altogether, these seemingly small tweaks add a surprising about of character to the instrument’s tone.
“Probably my favourite feature in [Live] 11.”
A new device added in Live 11, PitchLoop89 is a pitch-shifting device based off the Publison DHM 89 signal processor. It’s application on The Goods’ UMAMI remix was relatively simple, as Badmandela describes:
“On this Wavetable chain I’ve also got PitchLoop89, another cool new device. Here we’re using PitchLoop to create a bit of reverse reverb.”
Badmandela then added a little Chorus-Ensemble to the Wavetable chain, completing the “lush” sound.
“There’s also the new Chorus-Ensemble update which I’m absolutely loving. Their Ensemble module just sounds super lush and expensive – I am a fan.”
In speaking to a few Ableton users since Live 11 came out, one thing is for certain; the new Spectral devices, Spectral Time and Spectral Resonator, are proving hugely popular. At their core they’re processing devices which split your audio signal into partials, then allow a huge amount of customisation in creating weird and wonderful new sounds.
Badmandela employed these devices on more subtle elements of his mix, embedding ghostly shouts and whispers into a remix that’s all-round trippy.
“These Spectral devices I really dig for modulated time effects. I’m using Spectral Resonator here to liven up and wetten up this little effect I’ve got by yelling into the back of a steel drum and recording its resonance.”
Where Spectral Resonator was used to digitalise and bring out the harmonics in that steel drum vocal sample, Spectral Time was used on a breath effect. It’s most obvious at the very start of the remix, right as you hit play.
“It’s adding like a modulated, pitch-diving delay, which is really cool. Something that you probably wouldn’t use on a melodic element, but on percussive and effects elements, works really well.”
All these creative choices, though they may seem insignificant by themselves, pull together in a perfect weave on The Goods’ UMAMI remix. San Mei’s original I Can’t Sleep is punchy, and inhabits the whole room its played in, whereas the remix chugs along like an underwater freight train.
Check out The Goods’ full technical walkthrough of their UMAMI remix in the video above, and listen to the track below.