I'm very used to acting as both the engineer and mixer, but I also often slip in and out of a producer-like role that I refer to as 'creative engineering'. But sometimes my ears still yearn for a little something extra that will carry the production to its full potential. In such cases, my first instinct is to reach for effects that can enhance what's already there, but if that doesn't cut the mustard I'll probably try adding in some new elements. I'm not talking about overdubbing a face-melting guitar solo or splicing a whole new section into a song. Rather, I'm talking about 'ear candy': subtle, sometimes momentary textures, layers and sound-design elements that will enhance the existing material. The sort of sounds that the listener might not always notice immediately, but which leave the song sounding that bit 'flatter' when they're removed.
To illustrate what I mean, I'm going to use audio examples from my mix of 'Silence' by three-piece indie/art-pop band Neue York. This song involves a four-minute atmospheric build to a crescendo, which is followed by a long, slow fade-out. Layers of acoustic drums, electric guitars, a brass ensemble and a few VST synths are topped with a dual male/female vocal. In my full 'Sound Design In The Mix' article in SOS October 2020 issue, I describe how I used these techniques to add interest to the vocals and drums, before discussing the new elements that I added to this production and why I felt they were needed.
Below you can find a few SoundCloud audio clips from this mix in lo-res MP3 format, demonstrating how Matty's mix treatments and new parts lifted the production. Alternatively, download the ZIP file of hi-res WAVs and load them into your own DAW.