This post is the second and final part of the analysis of the original compilation, and ties up all my findings ready for deciding how to implement everything into an ‘Anniversary Edition’.
After devoting an entire weekend looking into the inner workings of the original compilation, it was time to sit down and look at what I was actually going to do in preparation for the remake, and to do this I divided my analysis into 3 separate areas:
1. WHAT I WOULD CHANGE
In terms of making changes there were a number of key elements that struck me, and I’ll go through each one in turn:
The original Euphoria album was mixed live back in 1998, and in terms of compilation production this was an era when the majority of DJs mixed entire albums live on a pair of turntables using vinyl.
Unfortunately a decade later in a world where silky smooth and technically perfect beatmatching is taken for granted, the original Euphoria does look a little long in the tooth with its loose beatmatching, random drops and quick fades.
Despite the obvious shortcomings in terms of modern production standards, this style of mixing stands as a testament to not only the talent of Moussa Clarke as a DJ, but also to the era and the character of the album as a whole – it brought with it a raw edge which puts the listener one step closer to actually being within a club setting.
For the remake I decided that I was going to tighten up the mixing of the album by beatmapping all the tracks to perfection in Ableton, and mixing the entire album digitally allowing me far more time to focus on the transitions and to ensure I was achieving the perfect mix.
- Track markers
The track markers on the original album fell under the curse of ‘DJ mixes for CDs’, where although the DJ performs a great mix, the transitions do not really translate well to CD track division, with elements of the transitions dripping over into the current track, and having to listen to remnants of the previous track before you actually get to hear the track your want.
I decided that for the remake I would change the track markers, and edit each marker so that it appears exactly where you expect it to appear, and you can use the markers to dip into the mix and listen to the music in a similar fashion to playing radio edits – no remnants of previous tracks, no transitions still going, just clear and tight edits so each piece of music can be enjoyed on its own merits.
- Track times
The individual track times across the original album were also an area of focus for me, as some tracks took up nearly 8 minutes of time where as others barely scraped over 2 minutes.
I felt that because the album is a compilation and ideally designed to be not only work as a DJ mix but also a showcase of the individual records within the album, the tracks included needed to be ideally edited so as to include all the main elements of the 12″ mix but condensed into an extended radio edit length.
After thinking what the ideal time for each track should be in order to create the edits, I looked at what I had available to work with:
80 minutes runtime per CD
18 records on each CD
from this I basically just did the simple math of 80 minutes shared across 18 tracks, which came to the outcome of 4.44 recurring, giving me 4 minutes 44 seconds of time for each track.
This length was what I decided to base my editing around, although I was aware time lengths could vary due to the complexity or simplicity of the individual records, I would try to stick as close to this number as possible, and at the very least enable each record to showcase as many elements of the full 12″ mix as possible.
- Harmonic Mixing
As the original album was not mixed in key, you can hear various aspects of the mix clashing and not sounding as potentially musical as they could. I decided to restructure the track order so that the mix would now flow harmonically and be more pleasing to the ear.
2. WHAT I WOULD NOT CHANGE
As I’ve discussed above, there were a number of elements that I was going to alter within the remake, but I also wanted to keep certain aspects of the original intact and take them with me, this was mainly due to wanting to have enough difference going on within the anniversary edition for fans familiar with the original to enjoy the anniversary edition, but also have certain elements follow through from the original so that new listeners could experience a similar vibe to the older fans.
One of the first things I noticed about the original album was the tempo of the entire mix, the bpm of the mix as a whole is faster paced compared to today’s standards, and at first I was tempted to slow the entire mix down to keep it relevant to today’s tastes, but after experimenting I realised that not only would I be changing the vibe of the original album and the producers intended bpm for each track, I would also be extending the length needed for the mix, so in the end it felt more natural to keep the bpm settings similar.
The second aspect I wanted to keep the same was a particular area of focus around the track listing. I will be doing a post involving the track listing later in the blog, but for the purposes of this section I’ll explain a little about it here:
Linking in with the ‘method mixing’ technique I touched upon in the previous chapter, I decided that I was going to keep the first and last track of each disc identical to the original album in terms of track listing, as I wanted to ‘bookend’ the atmosphere of the original mix, giving the older listeners the sense of nostalgia of hearing the same tracks open and close the discs, but also give the new listeners the same effect of the older fans ‘first impressions’ from back in 1999.
3. MODERNISING THE ALBUM
As mentioned earlier in the post, I wanted to be able to strike a balance between keeping certain elements of the original album intact, whilst at the same time updating the mix for a modern audience.
The task of modernising the album was approached by taking into account all the areas I had mentioned above, and light cross referencing aspects of modern mix CDs in relation to the original album, and highlighting these areas to see what could be altered.
One of the first and most obvious areas of interest in this particular exercise was the topic of beatmatching. As I touched upon earlier, beatmatching has been all but removed in terms of any form of skill in compilation CDs over the past 10 years, where although at one stage it was required that DJs mixed the albums, we now live in an age thanks to digital technology that people with relatively no skill can put together tight mixes in their bedrooms.
Obviously for this remake I wanted to improve on the mixing standards of the original, and create transitions and beatmatching rivalling commercial compilations on the market and this was the main reason for using Ableton to produce the mix.
The topic of digital DJ’ing is quite the can of worms, and as such I’ll be dedicating an entire chapter to the subject later on.
Staying on the topic of DJ’ing, another aspect of mix construction that is more commonplace in todays standards is the subject of harmonic mixing (another area I’ll be doing a post on later) which when I started out DJ’ing back in 2002, was a relatively niche skill used only by DJs who actually had musical ability and understood theory.
As with the art as a whole though, modern advances in technology has enabled various software to be created that enables people with no musical ability to create harmonic mixes, and gone are the days of finding it rare to find compilations that were mixed musically, as some of the most bargain basement quality compilations these days have this once rather dark art as standard.
For the remake I was going to mix the album harmonically, not only because I’ve always mixed in key and felt the album deserved it, but as mentioned previously people in this modern age expect it.
Another can of worms in terms of modernising is the topic of mastering and overall sound quality. Anybody working within the music industry especially in production circles, will tell you (or groan at you) about the current trend of making everything super loud, super compressed and in my opinion super lifeless.
This trend is counter productive in my opinion as whenever a producer tries to make things more dynamic it just sounds at first glance not to be as exciting as the more heavily squashed material. The problem that arises is that the majority of music consumers are oblivious to the nuances involved in limiting and compression, so producers carry on.
For my remake I wanted to gain a balance between making the CD loud enough to be competitive to todays standards, but not at the expense of sound quality. Again I’ll be doing an entire chapter on this process later on.
The last area of focus in terms of modernising is connected to the track editing. We live in an age where a much larger slice of the music consuming audience listen to their music on the go, with think tanks dubbing it as the ‘iPod Generation’.
This is not a new trend, people listened to cassette Walkman back in the 70s and 80s, I did myself when the original Euphoria came out, but the difference with today is that everything is at our fingertips.
You can use Shazam to point your mobile phone at an unknown track playing anywhere, find out the title and artist, purchase the track online and own it in less than 60 seconds, and whilst it is downloading you can watch the video on YouTube, become a friend with the artist on MySpace, look at their holiday snaps on Facebook and even find out what they had for breakfast on Twitter.
The point I’m trying to get across is instant gratification. If we cannot get everything we want immediately we get bored, and in this internet age there is absolutely no excuse why the information cannot be absorbed at speed.
In terms of the remake, I wanted to make it clear I was aware of these factors and it was one of my main reasons behind wanting to edit the tracks so tightly in terms of arrangement, as I wanted the album to work as well as it could for its purpose of a compilation and DJ mix, but be aware that it had a large chance of being listened to on an iPod or other portable device.