Emptyset's feedback loop techniques

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kiddcabbage
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Emptyset's feedback loop techniques

Post by kiddcabbage » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:43 pm

So I've been really into this band Emptyset for about half a year or so. They've got a very experimental sound, extremely heavy minimal techno. I'll post an example:

[video][/video]


I'm fascinated by their sound design and have tried figuring out whatever I could about their process.


In the one video interview I could find, they said this:
"Yeah we've got two Akai sequencing samplers running very barebones parts of what we're doing that's getting processed with a bunch of analogue outboard and then all kind of fed back on itself through a couple of mixers. So I guess it's very much akin to our studio process which is based more upon creating processes in which we're feeding skeletal sounds through and the process itself is what's imparting any kind of interest because we're always starting with sine waves and noise and that's where the music happens. So kind of creating the conditions for the music to come alive."

And this from another obscure interview.
"We wrote the entire album in the Multiverse Studio. The signal chain we used was based on using Logic 8 as a playback device for the noise and sine waves and sending it through a series of valve compressors and EQs, various transistor based gear and series of microphones set up in the control room and on amplifiers set up in other isolated rooms. We wanted to create situations where the music came alive from its own side by finding the points within signal chains where distortion begins to form before it overpowers. If you listened to our source material it would sound pathetic, everything interesting happens in the relationship between different elements in the chain."

Does anyone have any experience with anything like this? Getting good results from it? Maybe suggestions of routing to create these types of chains? Thanks.

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Post by mt3 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:24 am

Huge fan here.
Check out Blush Response as well. He's a fan as well and gets similar textures and rhythms, but over a deep kick.

Emptyset reminds me of most noise acts, but with an interesting rhythmic structure.

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Post by mt3 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:27 am

[video][/video]

[video][/video]

[video][/video]

Haus Arafna has similar textures.

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Post by stk » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:49 pm

I had not heard Emptyset before, enjoying the sounds. I must say I think they are a lot more interesting than the Haus Arafna stuff posted.

My techno stuff is a little less "noise" but I can definitely relate to their approach - I tend to feed very simple sequences with maybe 2 - 4 voices through complex sidechaining and feedback chains created with a combination of outboard (mixer, fx) and inboard (DAW, plugins). It's all about little tweaks until all the elements kind of merge into more than the sum of their parts.

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justin3am
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Post by justin3am » Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:12 pm

I'd never heard of emptyset, thanks!
Based on the quotes, I think you'd want to start with a mixer that has a bunch of sends. Route the send outputs to effects and the effects back into channel inputs, so that the effects can then be routed back to sends. That way, you basically have a matrix mixer. If your mixer has groups and enough sends (I use a mixer with 4 pre-fade monitor outs, 2 port-fade fx sends and four groups), you can get more than one voice going on simultaneously.
Now, if you put VCAs in front of the effects or after them, you can control the amount of feedback happening on each channel, with CV. With careful gain staging you can have the whole system on the verge of feedback, and then use simple sounds to get the system going. At that point routing envelopes to the VCAs which control the send levels will allow you to sculpt the feedback in a rhythmic way. In this kind of setup, very small changes can have dramatic effects, so always be recording!

I'm not sure if that is exactly what they are doing but it's how I would approach it.

This is the closest thing I've done to something like that track:
http://soundcloud.com/justin3am/umb
That was just a chaotic pulse generator (Horndog), running through a Realistic Reverb and a Danelectro EQ, in a feedback loop. The rhythms are more freeform but some of the textures are similar.
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Post by submute » Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:26 pm

have nothing helpful to add, but I'd never heard of Emptyset and fuuuuuuu

Futuresound

Post by Futuresound » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:17 am

I’d heard of them, but for some reason I thought they were horrible EDM crap.

Glad I was wrong!

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Post by PhineasFreak » Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:01 pm

i'm another in the heard of but never listened to camp - and i really like what im hearing. i been pondering some sort of matrix mixer for my modular, but recently i tarted leaning more towards getting something like the doepfer performance mixer, including the envelope follower section and the send/return section - this is definitely encouraging such thoughts...
https://thomaswulfe.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundcloud.com/ylem-records/
http://www.soundcloud.com/best-of-ylem/
http://www.soundcloud.com/waxcide/
http://thomaswulfe.muffwiggler.com/
http://ljunggrenaudio.com/
http://waxcide.bandcamp.com/
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Post by defenestration » Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:30 pm

highly relevant video on the sound design for the most recent Doom game, which utilized some similar processes

[video][/video]


heavy usage of sine wave sequences fed into multiple pedal chains with lots of compression

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suboptimal
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Post by suboptimal » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:30 am

I've found that the Metasonix R-56 spring reverb module has some of the Emptyset vibe with the right material and gain staging. It has the right mix of growly tube distortion and, of course, that feedback.

The T-Resonator has some of the vibe too. Again, the feedback.

Neither of these things is the complete answer, of course. I think their process renders results that are hard to replicate through straightforward subtractive means.

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Post by kiddcabbage » Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:39 am

Glad to introduce so many people to Emptyset; sounds like a lot of people are enjoying what they've heard.

Thanks for the suggestions mt3. Went and listened to Blush Response's whole Boiler Room set. Real heavy stuff.


Thanks for the routing suggestions, Justin. This is definitely the type of stuff I was looking for. I've currently been running signal into my mixer's channel 1, the output R into Channel 2, and having Channels 1, 2, and 3 running into Aux 1, which is inputting into Channel 3. Trying to insert effects in between Out R and Channel 2 mostly. I have a lot of guitar distortion pedals, but those are sound manglers which turn the sound into complete garbled noise super easily. I'm wondering if something more subtle in a feedback chain might get closer to the results I'm looking for?

I'd seen the Doom sound design talk. I know Mick and we've talked about his process for the game. He definitely created an "instrument" through his chains which represented the game so well. Huge respect for the guy.


Thanks for the gear suggestions, suboptimal. I'll look into those, especially the R-56. Do keep in mind that I am not necessarily hoping to do this entirely within my modular system though! As much as these things are great, I do expect that if I'm going to be feedback looping it's going to have to include a mixer and maybe some outboard!

Cheers guys! Keep the comments coming, hoping to get cool stuff out of this soon!

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Post by suboptimal » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:13 pm

For sure, mixers and outboard are in order. I mentioned those two devices only to highlight that they have characteristics that might be worth studying. It's clear from those interviews that these aren't close to the process Emptyset actually uses.

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Post by justin3am » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:07 pm

kiddcabbage wrote:I have a lot of guitar distortion pedals, but those are sound manglers which turn the sound into complete garbled noise super easily. I'm wondering if something more subtle in a feedback chain might get closer to the results I'm looking for?
Yes, when doing complex feedback systems, it's easy to just get garbage. Especially, if you are using a mixer which doesn't have much headrooom. Graphic EQs and BBD delays are fun. So are phasers, particularly if you can turn off the modulator and control it manually. But yes, subtlety is the key and getting fine control of each gain stage.
It helps to get each feedback loop going on it's own and then try to route them into each other. It'll be a delicate balancing act at first, but once you get the hang of it it's easier to know how to keep it all under control.
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Post by Rosaria » Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:58 pm

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Last edited by Rosaria on Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by stk » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:08 am

Yeah with feedback stuff you've got to keep it super subtle. The magic is in the sub-millimetre range around the feedback point. The trick is finding that point, then massaging things ever so slightly so they revolve around it.

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Post by mt3 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 11:41 am

stk wrote:Yeah with feedback stuff you've got to keep it super subtle. The magic is in the sub-millimetre range around the feedback point. The trick is finding that point, then massaging things ever so slightly so they revolve around it.
:zen:
Good stuff here.

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Post by burnn_out! » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:11 pm

From what I've gathered over the years from emptyset is that it's a couple signal generators with heavy fx shaping them chains. The sounds are from sides chains and gates. They've also used amplicfication, natural room reverb with Mic placement. The imo obviously use very quality mixers and mics. They're pretty reclusive so I'm just doing a guesstimate here. They're imo closer to SUNN0))) than straight techno production techniques
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Post by mt3 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:29 am

burnn_out! wrote:From what I've gathered over the years from emptyset is that it's a couple signal generators with heavy fx shaping them chains. The sounds are from sides chains and gates. They've also used amplicfication, natural room reverb with Mic placement. The imo obviously use very quality mixers and mics. They're pretty reclusive so I'm just doing a guesstimate here. They're imo closer to SUNN0))) than straight techno production techniques
Ya, the Pan Sonic approach. I'd say they're more the electronic noise scene than SunnO))). The techno elements are due to the fairly straightahead rhythm of their envelopes I would guess. Excellent shotgun marriage of styles.

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Post by lasesentaysiete » Mon Oct 16, 2017 12:01 pm

I interviewed Paul from Emptyset a couple of years back, and he admitted that they mostly start with samples. This leads me to think that the DOOM video game music video above pretty much nails it.

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Post by mt3 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:13 pm

Link to interview?
How do they process the samples? What do they do live with the samples? Do they create the samples themselves?

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Post by lasesentaysiete » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:21 am

mt3 wrote:Link to interview?
It was actually just an email exchange I initiated for some research I had been doing. It was never published. I was asking about Emptyset's synthesis techniques, and the answer I got was more or less:

"synthesis? No. We process samples."


Now, this was a few years ago, so who knows where they're at now.
How do they process the samples? What do they do live with the samples? Do they create the samples themselves?
I didn't ask much more about the sampling, etc. because it was irrelevant to me at the time.

Did you watch the video posted above about the music for the Doom video game? Seems bang on.

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Post by mt3 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:22 am

Ha, ya. Huuuge Mick Gordon fan.
:harvestman:

Curious. What was the research on?

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Post by lasesentaysiete » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:31 am

mt3
kick drum synthesis.

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Post by kollo » Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:11 am

One of my favourite bands all time!

Try mixing noise, kick, slow (lfo speed) sine or sine slowly modulated and some higher pitched sine or feedback. Set the levels very carefully. Run it all through distortion/wavefolder etc. The kick will eat the headroom making everything duck, the noise and high pitched sounds will slowly come back at the decay of the kick and the slow sine will create rhythms by eating headroom.. Fine tune. Introduce hihat. Etc. I often start patches like that,get results similar to emptyset. The doepfer a137 is great. (When the kids are sleeping, i cant feedback freely in my basement ;)

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Post by Val » Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:13 pm

yo
what burnn_out! said
it's more about the processing and sidechaining compression
very simple it's some sound compressing another one
basic sound doesn't matter what's why they're working with sines and noise, it just gets heavily processed / distorted, and the "arrangement" comes from natural interaction between the sounds via sidechaining

also, i saw them in berlin few month ago, they were using some string thing, one of the two would pluck or pinch that thing, the sound would go to some processing machine

i saw them another time, but that was a long time ago, can't really remember what was going on, laptops and stuff, maybe that was just them playing back recordings

i think that distinctive distorsion comes from the expensive outboard they're using

that's all i can say

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