Crate Diggers: Solaires makes blissful beats with bargain-bin samples

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Crate Diggers: Solaires makes blissful beats with bargain-bin samples


Welcome to Crate Diggers – our new collaborative series with Savers. Each week, follow us as we team up with some of Melbourne’s most inventive producers. Their mission? To raid the vinyl section of Savers, pick some records, sample those bad boys and make a brand new track from scratch. They’ll be taking us through the entire process, as well as premiering the track with us online each week. Let’s dig. 

First up is Solaires, a music-gear obsessed chap who’s been kicking around Melbourne’s scene since 2012. Having put out two EPs, an album and a single in the last six months, he certainly knows how to build a track. Check out his tune, ‘Feel Alright’ — a mellow, roastrip-worthy banger made entirely from Savers records.

What records did you dig out? I picked some Tijuana horns, Hawaiian acoustic music, Soviet folk music, some mid ‘90s UK hard-house/trance from Space Baby and some Russian classical. A fairly eclectic bunch.

How did you decide which records you were going to take home with you? I generally look for records that might have more melancholy sounds. I think the lo-fi nature of old records adds a sonic texture that accentuates sadder feels. The more heartbreaking the source material, the better. The exception in this pick though is the Space Baby record – it’s some of the cheesiest, most ‘90s sounding, uplifting crap I’ve ever heard – but it was a no-brainer because it has an a capella track on it. Kind of a rarity in bargain bin crate-digging. When sampling, not having to cut around interfering instrumental tracks makes life a lot easier.

How did you approach the sampling process? I spent a couple of hours just going through all the records and recording snippets that I thought could be useful into Ableton Live, building a bank of source material. The next step is experimenting – chopping, pitching up, pitching down, reversing, stretching – putting those bits of audio through the ringer in search of that elusive, “oooh that’s nice,” moment.

What mood or feeling were you trying to create? I mostly left it to be dictated by what I found on the records. Eventually, I stumbled into a nice sounding chop-and-rearrange of some acoustic guitar that I wrote a lazy super-swung hip hop beat around. I gave it a bit of a breezy feel-good summer vibe. Adding some tuned and slowed down snippets of the a capella – by some miracle – suited it perfectly and I ended up with a kind of mellow pop song. Those three elements are the main construction blocks of the track, but the final track also has samples of chopped up percussion, horns, marimba, synth, and a string section.

What limitations can come from working with random selections? It depends on what you’re hoping to do with these record samples. If you’re wanting to do some traditional hip hop style slicing and dicing then obviously you need to find some sounds and melodies you can work with, which you don’t always get. I bought a bargain bin Australian jazz record that featured African drums the other week, thinking there might be some cool percussion I could pull out. But it was super tacky, like a collection of ‘50s sitcom opening jingles, and the percussion was really low in the mix. I couldn’t get anything out of it. Was really bummed. 

If you had one piece of wisdom to share for aspiring producers, what would it be? Calm down on the reverb and take your bass volumes down a notch. I wish I had someone sitting in my studio whispering that in my ear every now and then. But really, just be obsessed with learning. Read lots, learn the basics of how sound waves work, learn how the human ear works and the Fletcher Munson loudness curve, actively listen to and dissect music to identify what you like about it. Hell, maybe even learn some music theory if you’re feeling crazy.

What does it take to be a good producer? I don’t really consider myself a “good producer”, but I’ve been doing it a long time now and I think one of the things I love about producing music is that it’s a never-ending hole of learning and experimentation. I’m guessing that hunger for knowledge and to create is probably essential to being a “good” producer. Being commercially successful at it isn’t something I really aspire to these days, so I’m the wrong person to ask if you want to make a living doing it. 

Are we likely to run into you at Savers picking up more records? Probably, yeah. Making an entire track from bargain-bin samples (besides the beat) was a really fun challenge and I’m stoked with how it came out. I’d recommend any beat-makers give it a whirl. Plus, I can buy groceries next door so it’s pretty convenient.