Two years after Monolake’s ‘Silence’ release, Robert Henke is back with a new Monolake album entitled ‘Ghosts’. Dark and colorful, with haunting and deep excursions into magic worlds of sound and grooves, held together by a fragmentary story as part of the artwork that indicates a continuation of themes present on ‘Silence’: Precisely crafted earthshaking beats, rough dirty noises, wide lush soundscapes and little sonic creatures inhabiting a fascinating planet in which a lot of things go badly wrong and nothing is taken for granted. Music that augments reality when listening to whilst commuting, music to get lost in when experienced loud in a club. There is nothing minimal in that music, it is bass heavy and full of detail.
Ghosts is released on Robert Henke’s own label Imbalance Computer Music on CD, double vinyl in gatefold packaging and download. The vinyl version includes on bonus CD with all tracks in digital format. CD version comes in luxury digipack.
The title of this album, Ghosts, came to my mind at a quite early stage. I liked it due of the large field of associations it provokes. I started taking notes about topics connected to the term, read about mythologies and collected ideas. I also often write fragmentary texts, short cinematic scenes that I come up with when my head is idling and I have time to kill. One of these texts is included in the artwork of the CD and the vinyl edition and it is an essential part of the Ghosts album, it serves as a window to a bigger drama, and the music offers another view. The text also links the Ghosts album to the Silence album from 2009. Both stories are related, I just don’t know yet how.
Independently of the aim to create a new album I constantly try out things in the studio, and some day in December 2010 a structure started to emerge that had a dark and evil quality. I knew this would become a core part of a future album and I gave that sketch the working title ‘Ghosts’. Finding new material with similar color turned out to be more difficult than I did anticipate so I changed my strategy and worked on sounds and shapes of very different vibe; whimsical little sonic creatures, potentially mean or helpful spirits that have their very own life. I recorded and transformed sounds from objects I found in my flat; glasses, paper, thin plastic sheets, stones, pebbles in a salad bowl and so on. I believe I became a pretty good foley artist by doing so. The track ‘Taku’ mainly consists of recordings I made with two empty glasses clicking at each other, and ‘Unstable Matter’ is an exercise in applying complex transformations to all kinds of recordings: a bunch of vintage cymbals, my own voice, metal plates, singing bowls, bells, and a rusty hi-hat.
During the entire year 2011 I composed a lot of sketches, mainly rhythmical tracks, but most of them I had to discarded at some point. Either I did not like specific elements in them or they did not fit in my theme of a world of ghosts. Very often I assigned the same title to numerous different tracks in that process, since I did like the title and the message it potentially could convey but not the music assigned to it. ‘Foreign Object’ is the most extreme case here; a track with that name got completely discarded on the evening prior to the final CD mastering process and replaced by a new composition created in a rush at that very night: During the creation process of the album I spent a lot of time trying out different orders of tracks, order is important to me, I aim to create a work of art that works as one large structure, not just an arbitrary collection of songs. Even whilst, or maybe even because this is not the way most music is consumed in the age of random mp3 collections.
I always felt that my Ghosts album needs to end with the track ‘Ghosts’ and every other decision had to be a consequence of this paradigm. I wanted the album to end with a dark and sad message: get out of my head. you do not exist anymore. However, when playing back the final edits in Basel prior to the mastering, my friend and host Daniel Teige insisted that ‘Ghosts’ has to be the first track and just grabbed my computer to completely rearrange the album. Blame him on the final order of tracks on this CD. After his intervention everything seemed to make much more sense, the transitions between the emotional states of each track provided new pleasurable surprises – apart from the very end of the album, which just did not work at all anymore. I decided that there are only two possible ways out; either entirely discarding the last track and ending with ‘Aligning the Daemon’ or coming up with something new in three hours, with nothing but my laptop on a chair, and two cheap hi-fi speakers. The ghosts and spirits of that night liked the idea, and when they told me to record a Macintosh system voice and showed me how to transform these recordings in a parody of a medieval chant full of devilish minor thirds I knew it would turn out to be great.
The album was composed, edited and recorded entirely in Ableton Live and the synthetic sounds are the results of tweaking the Operator, Simpler, Sampler and Live’s audio effects, my Max4Live synthesizer ‘Granulator’, a bit of convolution reverb and a lot of Live’s own reverb. An important role in the sound design also played the creative usage of Live’s various time stretch algorithms. The ‘Tension’ synthesizer’s physical model of a violin string bombarded with rapid parameter changes sent from a Max patch is responsible for the odd sounds on ‘Phenomenon’. Other important contributions to my sonic universe come from my collection of vintage hardware synthesizers: Resonant timbres of a Sequential Circuits Prophet VS on ‘Afterglow’, bell-like sounds of a NED Synclavier II on ‘Foreign Object’, various timbres from a Yamaha DX-27 piped through an Alesis Quadraverb and a Lexicon PCM-80 reverb, pads from a Oberheim Xpander and more I forgot about. Very essential for my creative process and for the incredible fun whilst working on this album are my newly acquired Strauss SE NF-3 studio monitors. One of my best purchases ever. The entire album was recorded in 96kHz and only the final master files were down-sampled to 44.1k for the CD / mp3 releases.
‘Ghosts’ has been mastered in December 2011 at Idee und Klang in Basel by Daniel Dettwieler. Playing back the individual songs directly from my original sessions in Live at his room equipped with Strauss SE MF-2 speakers and state of the art DA converters allowed me to control the spatial placement and final corrections of timbres in each track in more detail than I ever dreamed of.
During the creation of Ghosts several friends provided essential support, critical comments and inspiration: Justine Lera, Torsten Pröfrock, Susanne Kirchmayr, Gerhard Behles, Vance Galloway, Harry Ed Roland, Stefan Brunner, Matt Jackson, Johannes Kiersch, Tarik Barri, Daniel Teige, Daniel Dettwieler.
Recorded bit by bit at the Foggy Playground Berlin.
Label: Imbalance Computer Music
Cat no: ML026
Release Date: Feb 27th 2012
CD track list
01 Ghosts 5:05
02 Toku 5:42
03 Afterglow 5:14
04 Hitting the Surface 7:42
05 Discontinuity 4:49
06 The Existence of Time 5:09
07 Phenomenon 5:59
08 Unstable Matter 5:42
09 Lilith 5:07
10 Aligning the Daemon 4:51
11 Foreign Object 5:19
Total running time: 60:43
Please note: The vinyl version includes a bonus CD with all tracks in digital format