Society of Sound: Low Island production notes

Low Island 2018

When we formed Low Island, our main idea was to bring together indie songwriting and electronic dance music.

We all grew up playing in bands and listening to guitar-based indie music, then later we got into producing and DJing electronic dance music. Low Island is our way of trying to have both, because one was never enough for us.

We write and record almost all of our music in our home studio, which is a converted garage in Oxfordshire. Most of these tracks were recorded either here or in a small remote cottage on the edge of a moor in Exmoor National Park. We always go there for intensive writing/recording because there’s no signal, Wi-Fi or neighbours. The drums and vocals on our latest EP This Other Life were recorded with engineer Joe Hartwell-Jones at Miloco’s Hornsey Studios (London). This EP was mixed by Matt Wiggins in Strongroom Studios, and our previous two EPs were mixed by Neil Comber at Miloco’s Bermondsey Studios.

We often gather field recordings, then sample them to create instruments, e.g. one of the ambient synth sounds in End Piece was made out of a field recording of Felix humming in a reservoir. A lot of our more straightforward synth sounds have been re-amped through bad guitar amps, e.g. the bass synth in Holding it Down is a Novation Bass Station 1 sent through some pedals and a Peavey TNT-100 bass combo amp (which was found being used as a doorstop in our local music shop). Carlos is very fond of his Roland Juno-D, which he’s used for ten years as his home writing keyboard. A lot of the Juno D’s sounds survive from early bedroom demos right the way through to finished/released songs.

We’re yet to learn how to do it ourselves, but we have a collection of circuit bent devices, one of which is called the Quad Nand Mood Cube. It’s basically a colour-changing white box that someone has circuit bent into an out-of-control synthesiser…it’s the sudden siren sound in Too Young. We like glitching and malfunctioning sound, e.g. on Tomorrow, we put the piano layer onto a CD, scratched it with rocks and then recorded the sound of our CD player struggling to play back the audio.

We like glitching vocals too, using Forester, PaulStretch and a Korg Kaoss Pad 3. The indecipherable rhythmic vocal sounds in End Piece were made out of a vocal melody we recorded and instantly discarded. Our drummer Felix spent six months living in Rio de Janeiro studying percussion instruments, some of which feature on our recordings, particularly on Holding it Down.

We used a Neumann TLM-102 condenser mic for almost all our recordings, which gives things a particular sound.

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