by Icarus in New Music on Wednesday 8 February 2012

Fake Fish Distribution was made by adding a ‘version dial’ to Ableton Live. We wrote the tracks mostly as you would normally do in Ableton, but we made custom timelines that contained different sorts of control data that could be used to remote control different aspects of the track: from the tempo, to choices about what parts were being played, what sounds were loaded into the samplers, what rhythmic stress the drums were playing, and so on.

Then we hooked up the version dial so that it made smooth transitions between different instances of the timelines, a bit like the way you use key frames in animations. Wherever you set the version dial, a particular version of the track will come out.

If you nudge the version dial a bit to the left or the right, the timelines will all be minutely adjusted and a slightly different version of the track will come out. In some cases, we used the version dial to choose between different “paths” through a track (imagine different remixes, some starting on drums, others on bass, but basically being the same track).

In one track we let the version dial control how much stuff was going on. So some versions are minimal with just a single part and others are more hectic with additional parts. In another track, we let the version number determine how quickly various composed elements progressed: a bit like in Terry Riley’s “In C”.

There’s one track, the opener Dumptruck Cannibals, where we got so into a specific arrangement that we were reluctant to subject it to our ‘variation’ process. So the variation is ultra minimal. To compensate for this, we set it to a backdrop of London cab radio, which is different in every version, as it was recorded live during the take.