We didn't have to fight through competing walls of sound in this month's Mix Rescue, but a sparse arrangement offers challenges of its own...
The original kick-drum part wasn't too bad, but I felt that both the edge and weightiness could be improved.
The attack of the kick drum sample was shaped using Stillwell Audio's Major Tom plug-in. First of all I applied lots of compression at a 9:1 ratio, and then experimented with the plug-in's various other controls to find a sound I liked -- a soft-knee feed-forward topology worked best, with peak-sensitive level detection enabled.
Underpinning the compressed kick drum part in the final mix is a synchronised low-frequency (45Hz) sinewave pulse. In Reaper the Jesusonic 50Hz Kicker plug-in generates this sinewave automatically, but you can achieve much the same thing in other sequencers by feeding a continuous sine-wave oscillator to a gate, the gate's side-chain being fed from the kick-drum channel. The most important thing it so tweak the frequency of the sinewave so that it fits with the frequencies in the drum part it's reinforcing.
Here's a section of the original recording of the main bass riff. The prominent upper frequencies were conflicting with many other parts, including the vocals, but there was very little midrange density to give the sound body in the mix.
Part of the processing for the final mix involved EQ from two different sources. The first was an 8dB high shelving cut from 700Hz, simply to reduce all the higher frequencies in the mix, but this was then followed up with a 6dB peak at 1.2kHz using Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ, a plug-in that's good at adding character and aggression while boosting.
Despite the midrange boost with Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ, the bass sound simply didn't feel thick enough in the central area of the mix, so I decided to increase the density of the harmonics in that region using some selective distortion, courtesy of Mda's little Combo plug-in set up as a send effect in its Radio mode. EQ in the distortion return channel was used to keep the distortion products away from the low end of the spectrum.
The original hi-hat part felt a bit duff to me, narrow-sounding and with precious little bite. I tried various processing approaches to salvage something better, but with little success. If you fancy a challenge, try downloading this WAV file from the SOS site and have a go for yourself!
In the end I threw in the towel and decided to add some extra samples, in this case a couple of TR909 samples from the Loopmasters sample library Marshal Jefferson's House Generation. In this example you can hear them on their own, complete with a little gentle high-frequency EQ that I used to massage the tone a little: a 12kHz low-pass filter on one and two 3dB peaks (2.5kHz boost and 9kHz cut) on the other.
Here's the final mixed hi-hat part combining the new samples with the original part. I also added some very short (70ms) reverb from Christian Knufinke's SIR2, partly to adjust the tone of the hi-hats -- heavy EQ in the effect return helped here to mould the extra reflections to fit the mix. The stereo spread of the reverb was also increased using the M&S matrixing within SIR2 , and the reverb lengthened the envelope of the hi-hat hits too, which helped make it more audible in the mix.
Here is the main lead vocal without any processing at all.
Sending the vocal part through four different compressors working in parallel (a trick I borrowed from top engineer Michael Brauer) helped give the vocal more attitude and also helped with the intelligibility of the lyrics. The compressors in question were URS Console Strip Pro (running a Teletronix LA3A emulation), Stillwell Audio's The Rocket, Jeroen Breebart's PC2, and Bootsy's Density, and their combined outputs were further EQ'd with another instance of Console Strip Pro, using small boosts at 2kHz and 6kHz and small cuts at 440Hz and 167Hz.
The processed lead vocal had a double-track part mixed in, but I deliberately kept it lower in level than the lead part to avoid the two homogenising and smoothing out the aggression too much.
Although this synth riff sounds quite rasping, it was having difficulty cutting through the mix because of all the other parts which were on the go.
To get the synth to cut through more, I first tried distortion processing to increase the density of the sound's upper harmonics, but found that this made the pitches a bit indistinct, so instead I took the unusual step of doubling the part an octave higher instead, using Reaper's internal pitch-shifting plug-in ReaPitch.
The octave-doubled part was then further processed for the final mix, first with ReaEQ (a high-pass filter at 600Hz and a peaking dip of 5dB at 4.9kHz), then with Tin Brooke Tales' Pocket Limiter (using lots of squish but a fairly soft knee) and an instance of Mda's Leslie rotary-speaker simulator (set up as a split-frequency auto-panner).
The original mix of Punkdisco's 'Oral Hygiene', as submitted to Mix Rescue.
My remix, working from Punkdisco's original multitrack files.