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How I Got That Sound: Leo Abrahams

Leo Abrahams ‘Harm Organ’ By Joe Matera
Published April 2023

How I Got That Sound

As a composer, producer, engineer and musician, Englishman Leo Abrahams has worked with artists ranging from Brian Eno, Goldfrapp and Brett Anderson of Suede, to David Byrne, Regina Spektor, Carl Barât and Katie Melua, to name but a few. His experimental and innovative spirit is always at the fore in his continuing search for new sounds, textures and sonic landscapes. Asked to choose a favourite sound to dissect, he nominates the track ‘Harm Organ’ from his 2021 solo album, Scene Memory 2.


“Although it sounds like there’s a lot going on in the track, all the sounds are coming from one guitar. My initial concept for the record was to try to achieve a multi‑layered sound without resorting to any kind of looping. The setup for this track — and the rest of the album — starts with my guitar going into a Plus Pedal, which is like a piano sustain pedal with a granular freeze function.

Leo Abrahams: I’m really interested in grooves that aren’t divisible or repeatable, but still have an internal logic.

“The signal then splits, with the sustained sound going into one input on my interface, and the dry guitar into another. From there, both signals are treated quite heavily with parallel Audio Effect Racks in Ableton Live. The source of the pulse in this track is a Max For Live plug‑in called Vibrato Cauldron. The rate of the pulse is being modulated by a sine‑wave LFO, with a further LFO modulating the rate of that sine wave, very subtly. So, you can feel there is a kind of groove, but you can’t predict the rhythm because it’s essentially irregular. I’m really interested in grooves that aren’t divisible or repeatable, but still have an internal logic.

How I Got That Sound“The dry guitar is going through a number of different effects, the main ones being [Plugin Alliance] Byome which is a modular‑style effect, and [Sonic Charge] Echobode. I use MIDI expression pedals to control these plug‑ins and to sort of morph and switch from one bunch of settings to another. When the groove changes at the end of the track, that’s the Vibrato Cauldron chain switching over to another set of effects built around [Sinevibes] Inertia. I spent a long time building the patch and figuring out the general approach, but the performance itself is one improvised take without any overdubs.

“Once I captured the performance, I printed out the stems, which consisted of four or five elements, and then mixed them in the conventional way — nothing dramatic or very creative, it was more corrective. Most of the work was in controlling resonant frequencies, and I mostly used [Oeksound] Soothe and the FabFilter Pro‑Q 3 for that. I added a little bit of saturation on the mix bus with a UAD Studer A800. The idea is that I can go out and improvise with these patches live and have it sound like the record, without relying on too much post‑processing.”