Age of Echoes being interviewed by Morgana, about their new album with MG Music – Life in Slow Motion.
Age of Echoes is the recording partnership between Andrew Kinsella and David Stanton. With several independently published albums to their credit, Life in Slow Motion is their first joint album with MG Music. Age of Echoes has a reputation for ambient mood music that is both relaxing and reflective. A unique sound steeped in mystique, combining hypnotic rhythms with haunting melodies. Regular followers of MG Music will remember Andrew from his 2008 solo release, Evolution.
(Morgana) First of all, welcome back Andy, welcome to Dave and congratulations on the release of your first collaboration album with MG Music – Life in Slow Motion. Can I start off by asking how you first got to know about each other’s work and what brought you together as Age of Echoes?
(Andy) We have known each other since secondary school, and were involved in various musical projects together before we formed ‘Age of Echoes’.
In the mid nineties both of us wanted to move away from the traditional way of making music, of forming a group. Luckily for us the technology that would allow us to do this, whilst still achieving the rich, epic and multi-layered sound we wanted was starting to come of age and so formed together as ‘Age of Echoes’.
(Morgana) How would you describe the style of this album?
‘Life In Slow Motion’ is a blend of cultural influences with a fresh approach and whilst it is modern and leans toward chillout it is still quite acoustic and relaxing. It is a very typical ‘Age Of Echoes’ album, layered with guitars, synths and acoutic elements like guitar and piano. It’s a constant evolution of blending the best of the modern and the unplugged.
(Morgana) Can you describe for our listeners how your writing process works. How does a track develop and who does what?
The reason we enjoy writing music together is because we both have complimentary styles. In general, Andy is more rhythmical in nature and likes to use a lot of arpeggios, percussive structures, rhythmic melody and bass lines. Dave is more melodic in nature, composing piano, guitar melodies, lead synths, as well as choral and string elements.
That doesn’t mean we both don’t get involved in all aspects of the writing though, for example we’ve both written lead guitar, piano, choirs and strings lines on the album.
In terms of the writing process we usually lay down a foundation of chords, pads, and rhythmic elements like drums, percussion, bass and synth arpeggios first and then focus on the melody which usually takes shape more easily around the mood we have created.
(Morgana) As a concept, Life in Slow Motion represents an antidote to the chaotic pace of modern life. It is bound to strike a chord with anybody seeking a slower pace. What message or feelings would you like to leave your listeners with after hearing this album?
The concept is a shift in awareness where you suddenly find yourself at a still point with the hustle and bustle of life passing by. Your consciousness expands so it seems as if everything is happening in slow motion around you and then you wake up, seeing the world in a new way and feeling a renewed sense of the wonder of it all. We hope when people listen to the album it will elicit this response and allow them to take time out mentally from their busy modern day lives.
(Morgana) What’s your favorite track on the album and why? You’re allowed to choose two – one each
Andy: That’s a tough one, whatever I say here I’ll have probably changed my mind by the time this interview gets published If pushed I’d say the last track which was ironically the first track of the album written. A long time ago we came up with a phrase which describes our whole inspiration for writing music… ‘Our music is inspired by the vastness of life, time and destiny’…this is certainly true for ‘Life In Slow Motion’ and for me ‘The Longest Day’ sums up those sentiments in the best way we have so far achieved. It represents a sense of eternity for me and fits into the concept of the album beautifully.
Dave: That’s a difficult question but if pushed I would say ‘Invisible Landscape’. For me this is where the blend of rhythm and melody is at its strongest. There are more atmospheric and reflective moments on the album which are effective and resonate, but for me music is at it’s most powerful when it is driven by memorable melody and ‘Invisible Landscape’ although up against tough competition, is the album’s best example of this.
(Morgana) As you say, a tough choice The album incorporates an array of hypnotic rhythms as well as some intricate weaving themes and expansive effects. How do you go about selecting sounds and putting a track together?
(Andy) I think some sounds are very primal and seem to resonate with how we think and feel. In very ancient times vocal drones, chanting etc. were used to quieten the mind, to slow us down and bring about a more introspective state of mind. Rhythm, percussion, melodic percussion like marimbas etc. had a very important role to play in tribal and shamanic spiritual practices. We feel all these sounds have a modern equivalent – synth pads for drones, synth arpeggios for the rhythmic parts and melodies. So even though our music has a modern sound, it still has something in common with humanity’s oldest forms of music. We hope our music will always stir thoughts and feelings at the deepest level.
(Morgana) What is the hardest part of producing an album for you, the writing, the arranging, or the final mixing and mastering? Do you enjoy any one part of the process more than another?
For us it’s all about the writing. We find this the easiest and most enjoyable part of the process.
One of the biggest problems with our sound and that of other similar artists is background chords and pads, they spread across the frequency spectrum and it can be really hard for the other instruments to find space and be heard. In the past this has caused us big problems so on this album we approached the mixing phase with some trepidation. Add to this the fact that some of our pieces have 40 or so individual instrument tracks, because when we are into the writing we just keep throwing in idea after idea into the pot. This gives the greatest possible scope for creativity.
Anyway, to cut a long story short it turned out that we had a bit of a breakthrough this time and found a new approach which has really revolutionised the mixing phase and we are really pleased with the results.
(Morgana) You found a new approach? This sounds like an opportunity to talk technical for a moment so my next question is especially for anybody out there with an interest in the technical side of musical production – what software packages did you find most useful in making this album?
We always write in FLStudio. It is both our composition/arrangement tool and host to a variety of software synthesizers and Virtual instruments including the Sampletank family of instruments and virtual Korg M1 and Korg Wavestation. We still have a number of old hardware synths and workstations knocking around the studio, these were our staple instruments in the late nineties and early naughties, but these are sadly rarely used nowadays.
FLStudio has the promotionaltag line of…. ‘The fastest way from your brain to your speakers’ and we think this is true. It’s really easy to write in patterns and blocks and arrange your music by just dragging and dropping, slicing, dicing and mixing everything up in new and interesting ways. The only downside for us is the mixing which can lack clarity and this became a problem.
Whilst this approach is great for writing, it can create all kinds of problems for mixing and production – the kind of balance problems we mentioned earlier.
To get around this we exported all the individual instrument tracks out of FLStudio when the writing was complete and mixed them in Reason Essentials. The mixing environment in Reason Essentials is based on a classic hardware mixing desk called an SSL 9000k and has accurately modelled all of the features of this really expensive piece of kit including it’s legendary master bus compressor. The clarity and definition you get when mixing with this thing straight out of the box is just awesome and we couldn’t be more pleased with how the album turned out in terms of audio quality, clarity and just plain listenability.
(Morgana) Finally, is there a question you’ve been burning to answer that I have failed to ask? Anything you would like to say to anybody who has helped you, a dedication or a message to your listeners perhaps?
We’d just like to give a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has listened to our music and given it a chance. For all the comments and feedback, whether good or bad, we have received over the years.
We hope everyone will enjoy ‘Life in Slow Motion’ and come back for more!
Andy & Dave, Age Of Echoes