Phaeleh has released his new album / EP Embers via his Undertow Records. The Bristol DJ and producer has carved out a niche blending together warbling dubstep, garage, electronica and house music into a sound that morphs all of that into something a little different. This new album captures of all of that with modern UK electronic sounds, but also remaining true to the type producer he has been over the past decade. Contributing to the organic and warm sound of the album is that he has loads of gear. Like a lot. We asked him to explain how the new album was made and he delivered.
There are dozens of synths (look at that synth wall), pedals, drum machines and more that all played their part in putting this together. You can some reading to do, so get listening to this album and follow along for each piece of gear. Pick up your copy of the album here.
See other How It Was Made features now.
This is always going to be one of my favorites, and it was responsible for most of the sounds on my album Illusion of the Tale alongside the SH-101. It was used for some of the bass sounds on “Moving On,” the main arp on “Spellbound,” the intro stabs on “Unity” and the main synth part of “Solace in Tomorrow,” which used the onboard sequencer.
Like the Prophet-6, this synth is on so much of my music. It's so hard to make it sound bad, and just sounds more alive/expressive than a lot of synths. It's used on "Spellbound" for the soft-attack synth riff, the bleepy synth riffs in the chorus of "Unity" and the synth melodies of "When You Left" and "Solace in Tomorrow." The SID chip sounding synths towards the end of "Floods" was the 101 too.
Vermona Perfourmer MKII / Tom Oberheim SEM Pro
The Perfourmer was mainly used for bass on this EP, making the main bass wobble on "Moving On" and the fuzzy bass of "When You Left." The track "Floods" was written around the bassline from the Perfourmer that was also doubled with the SEM Pro which was creating some higher frequency content. They sound great together. I also ran a lot of white noise and other found sound through the SEM Pro filter on a lot of tracks too, the filter on it is probably the nicest in my studio.
This got used a lot more on my previous release "Clarity," but was responsible for the low end bass of my favorite track "Unity." It's great for those sort of sounds.
I got the XT back in 2003, it's always a go to synth for evolving pads and all things ambient. It did the main pads on "Moving On" and "Unity."
Yamaha Reface CP
Another one that was used more on my previous release, but I love this little keyboard. It was used for lots of live Rhodes style fills on the track "Spellbound."
The JV1080 was mostly used for pads, drones and incidental sounds. It's most notably used on "Moving On," "Spellbound" and "Floods."
Oberheim Matrix 1000
I use the Matrix a lot on my ambient output, but it was responsible for the main keys on "Spellbound" which were originally played on the Yamaha CP, but it just sounded a lot sadder using the Matrix.
It was used more on previous releases, but really helped keep the percussion on "When You Left" interesting with some tabla sounds. The conditional trigs and individual track lengths really help give a more organic feel to all things percussive.
Kemper Profiler + Guitars
I use the Kemper for all the guitar parts on the release. The PRS Custom 24 has been my main guitar for the last 20+ years. It was used for most of the guitar parts on Embers, including the lead melodies on "Floods" and the harmonics on "Unity" and "Solace in Tomorrow." The Fender Jazzmaster and PRS SE24 were used on "Floods" for the add9 riffs and doubling the Custom 24 parts.
Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet, API 2500 and API 5500
The Silver Bullet is one of the best additions to my studio. I tracked everything through it when recording, and for mixdowns I'd run stems of grouped instruments through the Silver Bullet with the API 2500 as an insert. On things which needed a little more tidying I'd go through the API 5500 EQ for a bit more surgical work before hitting the Silver Bullet, where I'd use the EQ for more overall tone shaping.
I ran all my synths and guitars via the Soundcraft mixer. It's mainly used as a way to use a lot of FX sends and have the pedals coming back into the mixer so I can sculpt the sound. My dry sounds always track through the Silver Bullet, and I have my reverbs and delays on 2 other busses going straight into my RME UFX soundcard. I like being able to control the wet/dry mix in Cubase after recording, and if I need to do any edits on the dry sound I can just send it back out to the mixer to record the reverbs and delays again.
I use a Strymon El-Cap, Volante, Timeline and Bigsky alongside a GFI Specular Tempus, Meris Mercury 7 and two Neunaber Stereo Wets for my FX sends. I often layer the reverbs and delays, to make things quite interesting texturally. I also love being able to send things out of Cubase to the mixer so I can do live takes with the FX sends, this is most notable on "Unity" and "Moving On."
I also use a lot of pedals as inserts on the dry synths. The Radial EXTC-SA allows me to have 2 different chains and easily adjust the dry/wet blend and the gains going to the pedals. This is connected to the Boredbrain Patchulator 8000, so it's easy to switch up the order of pedals and get quite experimental with things. I have things like the Cooper FX Generation Loss, Fairfield Circuitry Shallow Water and Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl permanently plugged in as I use them so much, but generally will swap out other pedals quite regularly.
The percussion on the track "Halo" was just me randomly hitting this little Kalimba and tiny Djembe. For the kick drum in that track I just tapped the floor with my foot with a JrF contact microphone nearby.