Title: As The Lights Fade
Release Date: 2014 May 17
Genre: Trip-Hop / Downtempo
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Pricing: Name Your Price
Label: Cult Classic Records / BandCamp
When the moderate lights fade… Throughout 2012 Moderator released a six volume series of recordings called MODulations. On As The Lights Fade, Moderator has gathered twenty-six soulful downtempo tracks into a single collection. These remastered recordings have been released for the first time under a Creative Commons license by Cult Classic Records.
When the moderate lights fade…
What can be said about this collection of tracks? First, it’s quite delightfully old-school in style. Moderator has chosen a lot of varying songs to take samples from. He cuts them up, makes his own sequences, loops and manipulates them (for tone, texture, tempo, etc.) then starts layering on his own unique beats and other bits and bobbles.
Some of the tracks are instantly recognizable: Tom Jone’s cover of ‘Sealed With A Kiss’ (originally by Gary Lewis and the Playboys), or Alan Parson’s Project ‘Old And Wise’. While some tracks are at least vaguely familiar, even if you can’t identify the source, ‘Night Bird’ for example.
But what is important in this collection isn’t the sources. It’s the mood. It is that late night, past sundown chill feeling that you get when listening to this release. It’s the smokey lounge hanging with friends and having a few drinks.
Moderator (who hails from Athens, Greece) has the production skills of a DJ who has done this kind of work for a long time. This collection represents the kind of work that is impeccable in several ways.
One of the things that sets his work apart is his ability to take small samples of these songs (he generally uses only about 10-15 seconds of the original tracks) and edit and sequence them in a such a way as it’s barely perceptible that there has been any editing done at all. If I weren’t familiar with some of the tracks already, I would likely not have known that there was any edits done to them. (Although, admittedly, Tom Jone’s vocals do sound a bit odd due to the tempo manipulation of the samples for ‘Sealed With A Kiss’.)
(Update: Moderator sent me a message on Twitter indicating that the version of ‘Sealed With A Kiss’ is actually not Tom Jones. “It’s a more rare record.” Well, now that means I have a mystery to solve.)
The way in which Moderator layers in beats and other samples is amazing. They sound completely natural. You can’t tell that they weren’t part of the original track in the first place. And that is something that is not easy to pull off. Even more accomplished artists have found that matching recordings from different time periods was a very difficult task. In this case, I believe Moderator has exceptionally good ears to not just follow the equipment and meters on his system unlike many re-mix producers.
The third way I find this work to be impeccable is in Moderator’s ability to chose material from different periods and make them work together. There are tracks in here from as far back as the 1950’s, and through at least the 1980’s. It’s one thing to be able to produce individual tracks that sound this good. However, it takes another level of skill to bring a consistency of production to such a large collection of tracks.
I’ve questioned a lot of trip-hop and downtempo recordings recently. Wondering exactly what qualities make for a good release versus a not so good release. One of the things that I was using to judge such releases was the transformation of the sources. Moderator definitely has that down in spades. Using very small samples of works to build his own tracks on.
And, Moderator brings a lot of qualities to his work that make it stand out in several ways. His ability to edit / manipulate his samples in ways that are all but unnoticeable. his ability to layer beats and samples into the tracks that match so well that you would have thought they were actually part of the original track. And, last (but not least) his ability to support a highly consistent production across the tracks in this collection is almost breathtaking.
He does get a little down-side from me for a few spots where some things just don’t sound natural due to tempo manipulation (as I mentioned, the Tom Jones vocals). But overall this is a first-rate downtempo release.