Christian Bachmann talks us through ‘Stardust’
Following his debut album Premium in 2015 which was remixed by the likes of Tim Engelhardt, Applescal, Avus, Disko, Dario and Paul Hazendonk, Berlin-based artist Christian Bachmann is back with his second LP called ‘Stardust’ on Manual Music.
‘Stardust’ features 12 diverse, electronic tracks. Comfortably closing the gap between something dance floor friendly and a headphone-ready long player. Retro, arpeggiated vibrations meet futuristic sound design throughout, with Bachmann presenting a wholesome body of work which will no doubt remain a pillar within the Manual back catalogue.
We asked Christian to walk us through all the tracks on his album ‘Stardust’ and tells us the stories and inspirations behind them – whilst you read the stories you can listen to the whole album on Spotify below.
Christian: “Stardust” is my most personal album to date. I’ve done several albums with lots of different other projects in the past 13 years, but somehow I never was able to create something truly original and timeless that’s keeping up with my wife’s highest standards 🙂 When I started the record I already had some tracks prepared for an EP, but when I handed it in to my label
boss and overall legend Paul Hazendonk we started talking about extending it into an album.. So I kind of slid into a wild ride of getting it to where it is – all this in a difficult phase of my life. Changes in life, growing up (hate it), health, stress, workload – it was not the most ideal environment emotionally, but somehow writing and producing this record kept me going. Every free minute in my humble spare time went into this LP (almost 3 years in the making). I couldn’t be happier with the result and I’m extremely thankful for all the support from people that helped me finish the whole package.
So, why is the album called “Stardust”? Because music sounds better with you 🙂 Joking aside, the background of Stardust follows a simple “scientific philosophy”: In the end, we’re all made of stars. Every atom in the universe that’s heavier than helium or hydrogen has been produced by reactions (nuclear ones) inside stars. Same for the atoms in the human body! It’s random we exist at all. That changes perspective in life and makes a lot of personal problems look extremely small, compared to the dimension and power that’s going on outside of our small world. Also, there are lots of space references to discover on this record. I might open up a Reddit thread to discuss these in detail 🙂
I like to start albums in an unconventional direction compared to the other tracks. Also, I wanted to create a big bang to kick the album off. It was also the first track I wrote for this LP and it all started (as usual) with grabbing a random chord on my beloved Juno 60 (oh look, a space reference!) and took it from there. I know it in and out as it was the first synth I got. The melody solo line towards the ending is a live take on the Moog Voyager that just was the missing piece of the showdown part, really love the distinctive character of it. All in all, this track is my own interpretation of electronic post-rock. A few years ago I was playing Violin in a postrock band, so this wall of sound-energy always influenced me and my music.
02. Fog Machine
Wow, I think I never heard a track more often than this, ever. When producing an album, many people aren’t aware that you’ve probably listened a hundred times to each track during all stages before it’s released. Demo, Mix 1, Mix 43, Mix52Final7_PremasterThistime4REALfml, Mastering Revision 3, etc. So it better be good and timeless if you want to go easy on your mind during production 🙂 I wanted to create an epic club anthem that’s easy to follow, yet surprising here and there and
also triggers good old trance vibes when James Holden was playing danceable music back in the day. Really love the result and I’m proud of it – at least up to a point where I have no idea how this track came out of my hands really. Anyway. It took ages to finish it, but I still enjoy listening to it.
03. When Suns Collide
When I listened to the Talaboman Album I was really shocked, because this demo already existed way before their release and it has a similar vibe like their great album. That’s when I decided to include the vocoder which features the all-time classic Microkorg. The Vocoder-Section amazes me to date and has an instant charm if you sing through the crappy mic it comes with. I always wanted to do a slowly building track that’s kind of hypnotic and takes you on a journey. Still, it should have a punchy moving groove that I adore so much from Andrew Weatherall-Remixes and classic Italo Disco Singles (Bassdrum only on 1
and 3, compressed heavily it still creates a 4-to-the-floor feel). The pad is also a Juno 60 as it’s bringing this Hi-Fi slightly overdriven steamy pad sound to the mix. The name of the track says it all – space reference, who would have thought?
04. Hand of God
From time to time I enjoy diving through the NASA picture archives. One photography I got stuck with was this phenomenon that has been captured – a unique overlap between religion and astronomy. You can find the details here:
The track is full of special effects done on several synths fed into diverse fx pedals. The deeper bassline pattern was done on a Korg Volca Keys which has an awesome step sequencer and is just the device you want to use in bed. Actually, a huge part of the album has been at least written in bed with minimal equipment, then rolled out fully in my studio with all the gear. But for writing music I always get distracted by too much equipment, also focus suffers, so I really see the music-in-bed approach working for me. Plus – you can do a power nap while you export, save or basically wait for your computer to catch up 🙂 It was recently played by Timothy Clerkin who released an absolute killer EP on Ransom Note. I had a big smile on my face when I found out he plays my stuff.
05. That Awesome Moment
Every album needs disco moments, period. Nothing was planned with this track as it started out as a jam. Lots of Juno on this and it was so much fun to work on the drums. I felt like chasing Moroder vibes and finally could create a drum sound similar to all the 80s records I love so much. The track has a nice transition from part to part, but I was combining different jams so I wasn’t sure it would work out combining these. It built up while mixing pretty much. Usually, I strictly separate these steps, but on this track, a combined approach of mix-while-you-finish-the-track worked out quite well in my humble opinion. At least I love to dance to it in the kitchen.
06. Skylab Sunday
Imagine a Sunday on the ISS. What would the crew listen to chill out to? Do they chill out on Sundays at all? So I heard and that’s what this track is meant for 🙂 I wanted to do a slow-tempo electronic track that has a melodic dreamy vibe to it. The theme sound is the Moog Voyager again. I tuned all three oscillators of it to different tones to simulate a desperate polysynth. A bit of Strymon’s Bluesky after that and a bit of Delay before and that was it. I almost scratched that track but it developed, so I was happy to put it on the album. Commander Alexander Gerst, this one is for you 🙂
This is probably a track that sounds very “me”. It was also a jam initially, so it just developed into a full track after some months. Pretty much the whole track was done live on 4 devices. Juno 60, Elektron Rytm, Elektron Analog Four and Moog Voyager – I will never be able to reproduce it probably. The whole track is a repetitive transition with a few moments where the listener can breathe. At that time I had a few dark shitty moments that always had their upper-mood episodes that brought me some relief. That structure of life at that up-and-down time inspired me to translate it musically while still keeping it on the brighter end of moods. It’s not a Cure record at last 🙂
Finally, another space reference, right? By the time I wrote the first bars for this track I really got into packs from a sample company called Samples from Mars. I really love their approach in sampling and their creative ideas to create new original ones that haven’t been out before. They are at least as unique as the famous Goldbaby Samplepacks. I could have just connected a drum machine as well, but this time I wanted to keep it simple and composed with a few sample packs and loved it so much that there was no need to replace them through “real gear” in the end. But I did that for pretty much all the synth parts in the track as usual. My intention was to create a breakbeat track that’s just shining bright and has all these fluffy details to keep Autechre fans like me interested 🙂
An Italian word as a track title usually means……Italo Disco! And that’s what it is – or at least it’s inspired by it. I planned on doing this track but went into procrastination on youtube as I sat down in the studio. I watched a speech by Chris Hadfield who is a Canadian astronaut (space reference!) and a very inspiring nice guy. He was doing a spacewalk and went blind for a time due to a technical error in the spacesuit. He asks the audience: “What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?” which I had to sample. When I had sent the track to Paul he suggested it was a bit too long. He’s usually spot on with his advice, so I did an edit that’s 2-3 minutes shorter. It may sound like a small change, but this really lifted the track onto the
A fun fact about the break in this track: When I heard the track “Orvnge”(sic!) from Boys Noize I had to laugh out loud. It’s a great track, but from a producers perspective, it feels like he just swapped sounds every 2 bars. It grew a lot on me, so I decided to put a tribute section in the break of “Pronto” where I just swapped sounds through the drum library 🙂 Probably no one will notice it, but it’s a hidden fun reference on the album. Nerdy, right?
This track didn’t have any drums planned in the beginning, but it made sense to add them as the track developed. I’m a massive Boards of Canada geek, so I thought why not try some BoC-like drum programming. Probably the most variational drum programming I ever did as some parts were un-quantized on purpose, only slight amounts to let it swing without that
obvious shuffle feel. It was funny, when I started the first draft of the bassline on the Moog Voyager. I had all three oscillators switched on (as always). When I added the drums, the bass didn’t cut through anymore, even after mixing it thoroughly. So a friend heard it and told me: why not use one oscillator? I said: because the synth has 3 🙂 It was impressive how much it improved with only one oscillator, it sounded even more powerful. Less is more! The FX in the background are pitched down ambience sounds from the NASA sound archive. Space reference, here we go again! I also hade the RE-20 Space Echo pedal on the FX, constantly modulating it a bit.
I really love ambient music and vintage berlin-school like soundjams. So why not give the listener a break on the album to chill. I recorded it in pretty much one live-take except the resonant tone sweeps which were added as an overdub later – and actually, this was a lot of fun, because I turned up the resonance towards self-oscillation. If you alter the cutoff now it becomes a note, so it was a bit like playing the Theremin. But I’m a classically trained violinist, so I love to tune stuff to ear anyway 🙂
12. Moving On
As I said in the beginning, I had a bit of a hard time while doing this album. “Moving On” was pretty much done at a point where I just knew I had to change things. When I had to name the track, I decided to call it like this as it just was a big relief when I completed it and it gave me a lot back in return. It was a bit like a therapy. Since then pretty much everything in my life has improved. I kept it in a very positive, forward-looking mood which is supported by the voice sample in the last break (“you know what’s wrong with you? – no, what? – nothing!”). I really don’t remember how I came up with this track, it just happened really, fed by strong emotions. Anything else worth to know about this track? It’s the only one on the album that didn’t involve any hardware gear. I don’t like plugin synthesizers very much, except the Arturia SEM which sounds simply amazing once you’ve switched off the internal effects. Speaking of Arturia: their preamp collection is pretty much all over the album, almost on
every single track. Because it just sounds extremely pleasing and brings out some details in each instrument. Really brought everything to life. The downside: it came out too late. So when I bought it, I had no other choice than going back to start and mix the whole album again. Painful, as the deadline was suddenly on the horizon, but it was worth it in my opinion. If you’ve worked for so long to finish an album, then you want to make it the best it can be.
I do hope, that walking the extra mile will transcend to the listener. No matter if you’re listening on headphones, home speakers or Funktion One Systems – on planet earth or somewhere else out there – in the end, we’re all made of Stardust. Music is the international language we all speak. And if we’re all the same in the end we should be extremely thankful for a chance to live at all, be the nicest version of ourselves, collaborate, and just do what we like while being decent and totally honest to each other. Don’t take life for granted. And do the best you can.
Thanks a ton for reading through this. I really feel I need a hot chocolate now after it got so intimate. Enjoy the album and text me some nice words if you like – and tell your friends 🙂