It’s not a surprise that great creativity often comes from heartbreak, whether that’s from lost love or lost time, as music helps us to express our most difficult emotions while connecting us with others who feel the same. For Movement Machina, the creation of his latest album Timeshifter was a way to process the experience of heartbreak while also providing a memento of where he was at that moment in time. To be released on July 16th, Timeshifter comes from a different approach than his previous Analog Politics album on Mango Alley. Using his own label Outlet for the release meant that Timeshifter would be able to fit his exact vision for this project from start to finish, featuring “a bit harder or techno-y sound” with plenty of vocals, all recorded and mastered in his own studio. Written about the “inner battle to keep pushing forward, getting through the dark days somehow,” it is a personal story which listeners may find helps get them through their own.
Photo credit: Anna-Kaisa Kaplas
What inspired you to take on another full album project?
Love and the scars it has left behind. Making the album was definitely a healing process for me. If you truly love someone, you can’t just sweep those feelings under a rug. You need to live with those feelings and try to understand and express them. Love is the best inspiration for music. I think it’s good to work on a big project every now and then because it keeps me busy and creates a sense of purpose for me. Albums are also a nice way of recording a certain period of an artist’s sound – and in this one I felt like I was in a nice place sound-wise.
What can you tell us about the theme behind “Timeshifter”?
I think the core theme would be that “there is light at the end of the tunnel”. The title itself is derived from the TV broadcasting term “time shifting”, which means the process of recording data for later viewing, even on the fly. For example, you’re watching a live broadcast but missed the beginning of the program – time shifting enables you to watch the entire thing from the beginning because that data has already been stored. This idea applies to ‘Timeshifter’ in the way that I can simply express whatever feelings I have, record them and then later return to see whether or not I have grown over these feelings – while life goes on.
When addressing life’s struggles through your music do you find it emotionally difficult to re-listen once it has been released?
Not really. When you work on music, you have to do so much listening that in the end you become numb to it. I feel like the hard times are already in the past at that point anyway – or at least processed to some degree. The struggles are usually addressed when writing the music. I don’t really listen to the music I’ve released, I just kind of forget about them and get to work on the next one.
How does this album differ from “Analog Politics”?
Well, there are no third parties or labels involved in the making of this album, so basically no one else had a say in it but me. Naturally, I asked and received some feedback from a close circle of friends and adjusted a few things, which made the result even better. ‘Analog Politics’ went through Mango Alley’s quality control and taste (both of which are great, by the way) so I had to tweak certain parts of that album to their wishes. ‘Timeshifter’ is entirely my own vision. I also included a lot more vocals in this one, and the overall sound is a bit harder or techno-y, whereas ‘Analog Politics’ was a bit softer. I also did the mastering myself this time, which I didn’t with ‘Analog Politics’. Basically this was a bigger project because I had to do a lot of things myself, such as the artwork and promotional materials.
What lessons did you learn from your first album that you have applied to this 2nd release?
I learned that it’s easier, and smarter, to work with a big bunch of tracks instead of focusing on a single track too much. I would basically write the majority of the music in a few weeks to a few months time. Then I would jump between tracks, work on each a little bit and include similar elements in some of them to create a unifying album-like palette. Producing the entire package as one. I also knew that the sequencing is important so I tried to order the tracks in a way that the entire album could be listened to in one go. 80% of the music are dance tracks, so I couldn’t do any creative crossfades between them, but I gave special care to the rhythmic transition to the next track, so it sounds musical throughout.
I remember that it was important for you to keep “Analog Politics” as close to 100% self-made as possible. Was it the same for this album? Can you give us some insight into the production process and equipment used for “Timeshifter”?
Yeah, I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to the sound I represent. I guess it’s the pride I have towards the craft. The equipment itself is the same, all drums come from Elektron Analog Rytm MK1 drum machine, which is easily my favorite synth ever, it’s just so versatile and sounds incredible. I love designing kick drums with it. Then there is the Moog Sub 37 which I use mostly for groovy basslines and arps, thanks to its amazing sequencer. The bassline in ‘All My Love’ is all Sub 37. For pads I like to use the Waldorf Blofeld, which is a digital FM synthesizer – you can easily get large, evolving ambiences out of it and It’s a polyphonic synth so I can use it for large chord voicings too. My first synth, Waldorf Pulse 2, is used here as well. That high-pitched one-note thing that sounds like an alarm in ‘Still Think of You’ is made with it.
I create the basic groove and theme of the track usually as a 4-bar loop, all synths being live together. I try to use the synths’ own sequencers for writing as much as I can, but often I’ll send MIDI out of the DAW to get chords out of the Blofeld. I just jam out the raw track and record it. When I’m happy with the take, I clean the audio and keep the best parts of the live jam to make it sound more natural and human. All sounds are recorded to their own tracks in the DAW so I can get my hands on the full mix instantly.
Afterwards, I do overdubs with more synths and vocals for a more “produced” sound. I sing all vocals myself and they are recorded via a Shure SM7 microphone into a Summit Audio 2BA-221 preamp, which I bought from an old rock’n’roll guy, so it definitely has the warm, kind of noisy character I need. I record electric guitars through the same preamp.
What music is inspiring you right now?
Here are a few favorites:
John Mayer Trio – Ain’t No Sunshine (live at the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010): This performance is incredible. I’ve been on a bit of a John Mayer phase lately and he’s truly a master performer and guitarist. The playing is virtuosic and the kind of microtonal bending and dynamics he’s able to do is impressive. This also acts as ear-training for me and the concepts can be advantageous in electronic music production too, to understand the subtleties of pitch and dynamics. The drummer, Steve Jordan, has a killer groove.
Ricardo Villalobos – Fabric 36: I love how minimalistic Villalobos’ music can get. It just makes you want to dance and have fun. By watching his live show recordings, you can see that he has a fun personality behind the decks and the music reflects that. It’s definitely a fantasy of mine to be able to drop music like that to a heated open-air crowd. This album has some gems!
Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans: I just love Bill Evans so much. ‘Lucky To Be Me’ has been on repeat for ages and is an incredible solo piano performance. The chord voicings are out of this world and I’ll probably steal a few for my future tunes. A romantic evening at home? Can’t go wrong with Bill Evans, ever.
What are your goals with your new label Outlet? What would you like it to represent?
I simply felt that I needed a little outlet of my own, hence the name. Just something personal that doesn’t require asking permission from others. I can release music myself and more often. What I probably lose in marketing I gain in creativity. It’s also a nice learning progress to see how the whole label system works. I’ve had to learn designing things, artworks, marketing and promotion, all that. It’s nice to have another skill under the belt. I plan to release sample packs via the label too, so more news on that soon. I just want to put good stuff out there that doesn’t necessarily fit other labels I like.
What do you feel would make this album a “success” for you?
Well, I think that the fact that I put it together is already a success for me. It’s about climbing that personal mountain. With that said, I wouldn’t mind getting some recognition for it. It’s great to get the music heard and receive comments from people – this is ultimately what gives me energy to push on, because making music is a lonely road.
What can you tell us about your mix you’ve prepared for this special release?
It’s a producer’s set, representing the sound I’m at right now. Both a playthrough of the album, and a showcase of other tracks I’ve made recently.
Is there anything else you would like listeners to know?
Born and raised in Finland. I started producing music in 2006. I have a furry white cat who is the cutest and friendliest little thing. I’m a movie addict. I like deep talks with close friends. When I’m not making music, I like to go skateboarding, which I have done for over 20 years. I feel like there are lots of producers that skate and would love to go on some fantasy producer skate tour one day. I think the skater mentality is great for music production: you fail a lot but when you get a trick, it’s the best feeling ever. Music production takes a lot of patience and isn’t for people who want instant success. So I try to stay humble and stay on the path that makes me happy.