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AIM - Gemini

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Author Comments

2nd submission into AIM 2018
Inspired by Cairnsey's artwork

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Such a serene and ambient piece. :) It starts like a crystal cave... the listener journeying through gates into a world of wonder, and starts building into something a bit more energetic, picking up speed, running through the chrysalis; into the world outside.

I really like the trippy beat, the calm, the energy, the ambient bits inbetween - the volume and balance all feels just right. Good softness. Could maybe have a bit higher frequencies along with the deep ones, bordering on that lack of range that comes with loudness, but otherwise all good. For a hiphop track this'd be perfect, consistent and really dynamic as a beat, though as an individual composition it does get a bit repetitive with the same melody that goes on; moves from one phase to the other. Good stuff though. Love the ambience, and the wavy eighties-like feel of it. Almost tropical too.


DarkHorseOrchestra responds:

Thank you for the reviews and feedback on both tracks, theyre much appreciated!

Official AIM 2018 Review!

From the jump, I like that first chord. Second could probably use an inversion. Third and fourth resolve well together. This is an improvement from your first entry; the chords aren't laying down flat but instead sway in the sound space a bit. This is good.

I like the general premise of this theme, and it certainly has the spacey feel you were going for. However, I do notice a definite structure and still feel like some elements have been copied and pasted throughout. Rather than applying variants to this structure (since there are no lyrics, we must strive to say something different with each phrase while holding onto the nuances of the theme) it feels like you've kept most of the elements the same, without applying an overarching melody. This is great for an instrumental to rap over or a background piece, not so much as a thematic statement. It ends up feeling incomplete.

You might try experimenting with overarching melodies in your choruses -- with sustains, not stabs. I hear what you're doing with those bells, but it sounds less like melody and more like harmony.

I would also say that this piece fits more into synthwave than it does modern hip-hop; that suped up reverb on your percussion, the straight hats, toms, and etc. until your chorus lends so strongly to an 80's vibe, I can't shake it.

I would also like to say I do appreciate this contrast of styles. It lends to a more living, breathing piece.

Now, onto instruments and mixing.

Mix wise, this piece is very quiet, and it feels almost as if the high 15-22khz has been severely chopped off, seemingly for each instrument. Looking at the spectrograph, I can also see that mastering compression has not been applied to the track as a whole. The peaks are all sitting about where they should for pre-mastering. This is taking a lot of polish off your mix, alone.

Also, it sounds like a LOT of reverb has been applied, perhaps a bit clumsily, to give individual instruments a very roomy sound. I'm hearing so much 'verb at points, I can hardly pick out different percussion instruments, where they're supposed to lay in the mix -- kind of like being closed up in a shipping crate with a bunch of rocks rolling down the side of a mountain. I can hear the metallic attack, pre and post delay, and decay. Either bring that big 'verb signal down a tad or dampen and EQ it. As is, your perc is sounding less spacey and more muddy.

Delays, for the most part, those are sounding good. I'd like to hear them panned a bit harder, but that's probably my personal taste.

Transitions for this piece were mixed in fairly well. I'd have liked them a bit more obvious, perhaps longer.

At 1:01, this drum loop is loud enough, it almost sounds like it's being treated as the melody. I would have appreciated more variation on this. 30+ seconds of the same drums? No matter how good they are, they become too predictable to be enjoyable; this section is longer than your chorus!

I also don't like that triangle; it's sounding pretty dry. It comes in better context in the outro.

808's could have been louder. Percussion as a whole is lacking the high fizz edge around 16-19k and in general needs compressed to stand out in the mix without laying over it.

I would have appreciated more variations and fills in hi-hats and toms rather than simple overlays alongside the track. Using a structure is fine, but remember to use your percussion to accent what your melody and harmony are saying.

Also, I'm noticing in both of your pieces, you tend to use bells to convey your melodic content. Bells have a great attack, and if sustained can be good vehicles for melodic content, but I'm noticing you tend to use them as background harmonies with a few accents over the main theme. If you're going to use them melodically, remember to bring them up in the mix at the appropriate times (and bring other instruments down if necessary). Upon listening to your song a fifth time, I noticed some melodic content that had been buried in the mix.

Throughout, I'm noticing the melodies at some points do feel rehashed. I realize this is a convention of trap music, since the primary focus of trap is not the melody but its ability to carry lyrical content consistently.

Also, at your choruses, I would have appreciated a crash or something at the first measure. Having your riser cut off right there with no fizzy overhang -- afterglow of some kind, almost makes it feel like a non-sequitur.

Other than that, good work. I enjoyed the piece. My top recommendation would be to study mixing and mastering from here on out. You've got the basics of songwriting down pat. Now you just need the secret sauce. :)

Anything else I could have mentioned has already been covered in TL's review. Lemme know if you've got any questions or comments.

DarkHorseOrchestra responds:

Thought it was a good idea turned down the master volume on both tracks for some reason, don't ask why. About genre, idk I just put that one most of the time. Thanks for the review!

---Official AIM review---

I like the dreamy vibe at the beginning and the bell-like synths. The vocal samples and the gritty bass at :14 are also good. The beat at :26 is very catchy. I think you have a fantastic sense of rhythm, and the sound design in the pieces I’ve reviewed for you is very well done. You didn’t foreshadow the slightly more laid back section at :55 very well, though. The melody at 1:09 is nice, although the rhythm of it is a bit square, especially compared to some of the exceptionally creative drum patterns you have in this piece. The dreamy synth pattern at 1:49 is really nice, too. While in general the piece is well-structured, it feels like you’re following a formulaic pattern for the progression instead of taking the piece in a new direction with each rendition of the theme. I’m sorry if this advice sounds repetitive from my other review, but I’d love to see you vary 1:49 a bit more given that you have the same exact same section at :27. That might help give your piece a bit more directionality and resolve. Stylistically, this is very similar to the other piece you submitted to the contest, although I love the interaction between the two melodic synths at 2:30 in this piece. Strong work yet again. :)


DarkHorseOrchestra responds:

Thank you for the reviews! Helps put in perspective what I needa work on. Definitely appreciate it!

Credits & Info

4.03 / 5.00

May 1, 2018
2:05 PM EDT
File Info
7.3 MB
3 min 11 sec

Licensing Terms

Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.