The Director’s Cut: Jody Wisternoff – Nightwhisper

Anjunadeep regular, Bristol native and Way Out West member, Jody Wisternoff released his new album Nightwhisper earlier this month. His first solo album in eight years, the record brings together what has been a decade of reinvention, solidifying with his relationship with Anjunadeep, often shepherding compilations, tours and remixes, while also bringing back Way Out West for another album in 2017, Tuesday Maybe.

The album was written during a hectic time in his life, but still sounds as serene as it can. There are nods to the dancefloor he has presided over these past several decades, but also calming and gentle melodies that fit with the deeper side of the Anjunadeep catalog. The album toes the line between trance and house, with drum beats carrying the album underneath soothing melodies floating on top with occasional vocal features to add another element to each song. Albums like this need to flow effortlessly from start to finish and Nightwhisper does just that.

We had Wisternoff explain further how this album came together in a new Director’s Cut feature to go behind the scenes on each track and see where he was in his life when making this album. It was a difficult time, but he still was able to put together something beautiful.

Grab your copy of Nightwhisper here and listen as you read.

"I wrote this album last year during the most hectic period of my life so far. Playing incredible parties in faraway destinations pretty much every weekend, coming straight home to be a full-on family man, and looking after my dying dad," explains Wisternoff. "I suppose the creative process of making this record was a form of meditation; trying to find a peaceful headspace amidst such contrasting lifestyles and emotions. I wanted to sonically portray a wide spectrum of feelings, from the buzz of a rocking party to the comfort of domestic bliss and the sadness of losing a loved one. I hope you guys enjoy what I've come up with – thanks so much for listening and I'm sure we will be fist-bumping again soon."

1. Morning U

This track began life in a bath, thousands of miles away from home. I was Netflix and chilling, trying to pay attention to some plot but distracted by a beautifully melancholic soundtrack. Risking electrocution but full of inspiration, I fired up Ableton and quickly laid down a bunch of ideas in a similar vein. Later in the year, whilst dancing the morning away during Yotto’s sunrise set Anjunadeep Albania, I met a classically trained cellist from Montreal (Michael Spleit) who seemed like a great guy. We struck up a friendship, stayed in touch and I sent him a bunch of rough ideas to have a work with – this bath-born idea being the first. One heart-wrenching topline later, a poignant spoken word sample taken from a video my brother made a few years ago with our Dad when he was still alive (discussing such things as the purity of childhood, honey badgers, where all the lost lighters go, and the pros and cons of beanbags), and a sprinkling of found sound type percussive loops resulted in this album opener.“

2. Nightwhisper with James Grant

When I was a kid I was spellbound by this book called Where The Wild Things Were, about a naughty kid who sails away to some faraway island and gets declared king by a gang of huge hairy creatures. Spike Jonze’s awesome movie interpretation, which came out about 10 years ago, kicks off with an incredible haunting female humming melody (Karen O – Igloo), which really caught my attention.

After the success of mine and James’ and Xinobi remix a few years back, in which the main hook is a looping female hum of similar qualities, I couldn’t help but wonder how this movie intro voice would work in the context of a club track. As I was working on some ideas with this, my daughter came downstairs to the studio and muttered the immortal line “This sounds like a night whisper.” Feeling a rush of inspiration and clarity, James and I knocked together an early demo, which was first dropped at Anjunadeep Gramps in Miami 2018. Following a couple of years road-testing, sample clearance/replay, and endless tweaking, we finally nailed it in time for inclusion on Anjunadeep 11 – a great bit of exposure for this album’s lead track

3. Here To Stay

The initial sound palette for this track was the result of a manic vinyl sample session during which I pilfered an almost random batch of progressive/breaks/techno and deep house records spanning the last 20 years. This technique can be a great jump-off for inspiration, but also a terrible waste of time if nothing dope shows up. Luckily for me, I stumbled upon some good shit and proceeded to chop and dice beyond recognition. 

Some late-night festive studio sessions (was working on this very close to Christmas) with my wife as creative director began to yield something interesting, and a major turning point was the inclusion of a classic boogie vocal hook which I’ve always loved from back in the day. Heavily stacked Prophet 5 chords mixed with Spectrasonics Keyscape layers really began to give the track some warmth, and classic mono-synths such as the Roland SH5 were put on bassline duties. Many textures and meticulous arrangement modifications later we have the final product.

4. Emochine

The plan for this was a non-club track and the sound source would be entirely hardware – no soft synths at all! Sometimes it's fun to set limits like this, especially in the current day and age of infinite possibilities. Option paralysis can be a major cause of writer’s block, and we all find our own ways to navigate this minefield. Anyway, I woke early and fired up the instruments of choice for this one – TR808 drums, Roland JX8P, Jupiter 8, Juno 106, and Prophet 5 for the chords/pads, whilst SH101 and Macbeth M5N would be on lead riff and arpeggio duties. I wrote some mad rhythmic techno-y style loops from the often-overlooked Kong MS2000R, and brought some bassline action from the mighty SH5. 

I had my parameters set and got to work jamming in MIDI with the machines. A super chilled, slightly melancholic ambient style track began to formulate. Liking the direction, I rendered everything to audio and went about my day. As is often the case, I ended up going totally against my word by taking a massive vibe detour; I ended up chucking in a 4/4 kick and giving it the peak-time club treatment, with the welcome help from a few of my trusty favorite VST’s :).

5. Lately Featuring Rondo Mo

Recently I’ve had a strong urge to make a track which shamelessly uses one of the most famous sounds in dance music ever – the “Lately Bass” bass preset from the infamous 80’s Yamaha TX81Z synth module. You’ve heard this a thousand times before; practically every single dance and pop record in the late 80s, early 90s featured this elastic bouncy sounding bass patch, but way back in the day I swore I would never use it (and pretty much rarely did). Anyway, fast forward to the present day and Ableton have come up with a super nice copy called “Ultra Lately Bass,” which seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue said urge. I also took a kind of old skool house direction with the track itself, harking back to the early days of progressive house with stuff like Gat Decor “Passion.” With the addition of Rondo’s beautifully grainy vocal layers, and some tripped out Macbeth synth loops, “Lately” came to fruition.

6. Story Of Light

Truth be told, the story behind this track was an attempt to create something as hugely powerful as Tinlicker’s “Need to Feel Loved” remix. A mainstay in mine and James’ sets for over a year, the remix would always render whoever’s turn it was to play it out the “Hero“ for six and a half minutes. With this in mind, and feeling deeply envious at the reaction this track was garnering, I got to work. “No mean feat” I hear you say! I rose to the challenge with a master plan. The vital elements would be cinematic chords and soaring strings, pummeling beats, plenty of percussion, driving synths, a growling low end, and big room dynamics. After testing and refining following every show last year, and with the help of master cellist Michael Spleit, my vision was realized. Imitation truly is the highest form of flattery :).

7. Blue Space With James Grant Feat. Jinadu

The majority of this track was written the day I got back from Dhermi Beach in Albania, grieving the recent passing of my father but also full of light from the five days spent with so many amazing people. Following on from a musical idea James had knocking around; I immersed myself in creativity and allowed the healing properties of music creation to help me through this tricky week. Sonically we wanted this track to have a really natural, almost soothing quality. Simon Jinadu’s exquisite vocal was the icing on the cake, we really felt he complimented the sentiment expressed by the music and reflected what I was going through personally.

8. For Those We Knew Feat. Mimi Page

This is a particularly personal one for me here. I started it around Christmas (hence the sleigh bell loop lol), and it was about this time that I truly realized and accepted that my Dad was not very well at all. I wrote the cascading lead melody very much with all this in mind. The working title for ages was “HappySad,” as I really felt the driving force behind the music and chord progressions was the contrast between these two emotions. I needed to find a way to make the track uplifting, whilst still portraying the feeling of impending loss. 

When Michael got involved I asked him to mimic the notes I had written, but also gave him carte blanche to go wherever he felt suitable, and what he came back with totally blew my mind! He just tapped into what was going on. Mimi Page seemed like the perfect vocalist to approach, there is an extremely spiritual and ethereal quality to her voice, which I thought would make perfect sense contextually. My dad had recently passed when Mimi became involved, I opened up about my situation, and honestly love what she delivered.

9. Something Real Feat. Jinadu

It’s no secret that I’m an old skool raver. I was 18 when the UK rave scene exploded, back in 1991. Oh what a time to be alive, no mobile phones / no internet. Truly incredible. That golden era still inspires me in a big way, even more so these days with this current breaks revival we seem to be experiencing. Whilst most young producers these days are re-living that summer of love through YouTube, I was lucky enough to be there in the flesh and young enough at the time to really absorb everything. This track is a reflection of those halcyon days when the breakbeat was king and sub-bass was queen. I was really into the more soundscape’y, chord-based melodic side of rave/hardcore, and have reflected that in the sound palette here. Jinadu’s sweet vocal acts as a great juxtaposition to the samples used and adds a warmth which is super complimentary to the vibe.

10. Andromeda

To quote the late and great Douglas Adams “Space is BIG. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemists, but that’s just peanuts to space!” Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way, being a mere 2.5 million light-years from Earth, which is just too far away for any sane human to comprehend. Yet, it is visible to the naked eye on moonless nights, which I find strangely reassuring. 

Andromeda its also a preset from the ANA softsynth by Sonic Academy, which just so happens to be the main chord sound in the track itself. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I take great inspiration from all things cosmic and love to express what I can imagine space travel feels like when I make music such as this. I also had quite a profound feeling of realization when my father passed away, looking up into the night sky wondering where he was actually going on this ultimate trip, and taking some comfort in knowing he was being returned to the dust of space where we all came from in the first place.

11. The Spark Feat. Christian Burns

The initial “spark” for this basically came from mucking around with one of my favorite plugins, Aalto by Madrona Labs, which is a super experimental semi-modular softsynth. The basic melody came very quickly, Madrona provided the chord sounds as well as the rhythmic synth parts plus all the quirky sci-fi EFX bits. Omnisphere (desert island softsynth no doubt) was also used occasionally but the majority of the other sound sources came from random sample sessions. I did try layering and stacking the chords using the Prophet 5 and Jupiter 8 but much as I wanted them to, this just didn’t really add anything the vibe. 

One of my favorite elements in the track is the beats, having a similar swing to Hall & Oats “I Can’t Go For That” which is a firm favorite. Christian Burns was on my radar, I remixed a track of his “Diamonds in the Snow,” which he did with BT under the alias All Hail The Silence, and had loved his voice since then. Luckily he was well up for a collab, like a true professional he delivered within 48 hours, and the puzzle was complete.

12. Reverie

“A state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing” pretty much describes how I was feeling whilst writing this one. Through the ups and downs of the year, I was in a pretty good place at that moment, and the positive chord progression + general vibe of the track definitely reflects this! I wanted to close out the record with something chilled and optimistic, but still on the club tip. A gentle 4/4 underpins the quiet rolling breakbeat (inspired by the rhythm in Madonna’s “Frozen”) and the strings lend an almost filmic quality which is a technique I often rely on 🙂 The majority of the sound sources were VST’s, I didn’t go crazy with the hardware this time and made major use of a Kontakt soundbank called Nostalgia which includes loads of samples from cheap old Casio toy keyboards such as the VL1 and SK1. A few organic sounds and random atmospheric’s were also chucked into the mix, and the album finale was complete.