“We’re a yin and yang,” explains producer Lara Rix-Martin, referring to her creative/marital status with Planet Mu founder Mike Paradinas. “Mike likes cheesy and dramatic, dynamic things, and I like droning, off-beat drums and I dunno… silence?”
The pair’s opposites-attract approach was at the heart of Heterotic’s debut album (2013’s Love & Devotion LP) and it continues to flourish throughout the Weird Drift full-length that’s set to drop next week. Loosely inspired by everything from Dire Straits to Snoop Dogg, it features French vocalist Matthieu Le Berre (a.k.a. Vezelay) on more than half of its tracks, drawing a distinct line between his fluttering falsetto and the grittier folk textures Gravenhurst added to the duo’s last session.
We’d explain things further, but track-by-track breakdowns don’t get much more revealing or off-the-rails than the commentary the couple shared with us below…
Lara Rix-Martin: Mike wrote the main riff for this one himself. To be honest, I wasn’t keen on it at first. Is it okay to say that?
Mike Paradinas: This was the last track we recorded for the album. I thought it lacked a bit of drama, so I wanted to make something that was a bit self-consciously pompous. Funny that it’s ended up as the intro.
Lara: I don’t like songs with drama; I like more subtle songs. That’s the problem. I guess I’m a bit dynamically monotonous. What do you think?
Mike: Well, I like it. It was going to be the last track—an ‘end credits’ sort of thing, but I think it works well at the start because it’s like a bridge between the more arpeggiated tracks on Love & Devotion and the material on Weird Drift, which is, well, more weird and drifty… Like all our tracks, this is made entirely in Logic with soft synths. This was a readymade environment which I’d already used for the track “Amniotic,” and we put everything through several AutoFilters, which warms the sound up and compresses it in a different way than the actual soft compressors. It does mean you have to add an exciter to the output bus, but it just makes the whole sound warmer and softer. We did that for the majority of the tracks on this album, and on our previous album.
Lara: Oh I love “Rain”!
Mike: I came up with the main riff for this too—the ‘jazzy chords’, which I made one afternoon while I was waiting for Lara to come home from work.
Lara: Yeah, I was working at an online pharmacy in North London and had a 5-hour commute everyday; it was a killer. It reminds me of watching the changing seasons out the window on the 6:50 a.m. Brighton to Victoria.
Mike: It was the first track we sent to Vezelay, and he sent it back almost fully formed. We just changed the arrangement slightly and added a few harmonies… perfect.
Matthieu Le Barre: Mike sent me a bunch of tracks to sing on and “Rain” was an instant favorite. I felt at home with it, like I had written it myself. I think I remember Mike saying even his parents liked it…
Lara: I was really pleased actually, because I had thought of asking Vezelay originally as a vocalist for the first album.
Mike: Well, we wrote these tracks at the same time as the first album didn’t we? We had originally tried to compile Weird Drift and Love & Devotion as one album, just the vocal tracks, but Vezelay and Gravenhurst’s vocals didn’t gel very well on one album.
Lara: I thought it was my suggestion to make two albums? Just saying…
Mike: Yes, it probably was. You did the drums on this track didn’t you? We’re now listening to…
Lara: Yes, sounds like my simple, slightly boring drums.
Mike: Shut up.
Lara: But good nevertheless.
Mike: I did do those hi-hats—actually a shaker.
Lara: We used to start tracks together and Mike would finish them…
Mike: When you were at work.
Lara: Yeah. This was the second one we sent off to Matthieu.
Mike: It was.
Lara: I think Vezelay stays true to the original atmosphere of the track here. He brings out the subtler dynamics of the track.
Mike: I think when we started this off, it was the sort of ‘zither’ sound which inspired us—a bit like Orbital’s “The Box”. Lara, you said it reminded you of old ’60s films…
Lara: Did I? Oh I remember, yes.
“I had to give in on this one—your little furrowed brow working away”
Mike: We wrote this in your very small room at university. You wrote most of it actually.
Lara: It’s the dinosaur song.
Mike: What is that?
Lara: Because it moves like a dinosaur. Although it comes off more as prehistoric reggae.
Mike: Okay. I just did the bleeps; the rest is Lara. And Matthieu of course. I think he changed the atmosphere of this one a lot.
Lara: His vocals sort of fly and glide over everything. Maybe we should do a video of him flying over dinosaurs.
Mike: I love where he breaks out of the falsetto and into ‘normal’ singing for a few bars. This is definitely the song that’s most different from our first record.
Lara: Matthieu gives the track a lot more scale. Makes it sound much bigger.
Mike: The instrumental is like industrial trip-hop or something; Matthieu made it soar.
Lara: I think I did that original electric piano thing at the start and you finished it.
Mike: Yeah, I just added the bass. This was done at Writtle College, the same place as “Lumber.” This is just the intro of a much longer piece that went into darker, techno-y beats and stuff, but it really didn’t work
Lara: It sucked.
Matthieu: I think my inspiration for this one was the vocals on « Black milk » by Massive Attack.
Lara: Shall we tell people where this comes from? I think I actually came up with the melody for this?
Mike: Yeah. I did the electric piano, and you played a lot of the different riffs over it. It’s named after “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, ’cause that’s what it reminded us of—that whole ’80s thing.
Lara: And Oriol! Was that a part of it? We were listening to Oriol’s album a lot when we wrote this.
Mike: Yes, it had just come out, or was about to. That shows his old some of this material is…
Lara: Your keyboard solos work on this song; it’s the only one which I’d allow. I had to give in on this one—your little furrowed brow working away on this one.
Mike: And the drums are all sampled loops of live drums.
Lara: Oh, this is an early song isn’t it?
Mike: Yeah it’s from the same time as “Lumber” and “Liverpool.”
Lara: I thought Gravenhurst was going to sing on this, but he wasn’t that sure about the arrangement or something?
Mike: Yes, he gave it a good go, but didn’t come up with anything in the end. It’s got a 17-bar section which repeats; I think that was the issue.
Lara: In fairness though, he’s more of a ‘songwriter’ isn’t he? And the structure was too freeform for him, whereas Vezelay came from a more freer place, maybe?
Mike: It works well as an instrumental too.
Matthieu: If by ‘free’ you mean ‘let’s just do it, send it and cross fingers’, then yes.
Lara: He does add a bit of triumphant drive! A lot of sadness here too. You’ve won the war, but killed too many people. Sad times.
Mike: I think Matthieu’s vocals are all about his relationship. It’s a really long song, this one, isn’t it? The sub-bass was actually inspired by Nightmares On Wax’s “Aftermath.” Perhaps you can tell?
Lara: I don’t know the song. I think we wrote it after we’d just been to see Oni Ayhun at XOYO, and we were trying to do something a bit techno-y, but it just ended up quite long and emotional.
“I also think he sings something about the Flintstones… that must be wrong”
Mike: This is one I started when you were at work—just the synth riff. And the piano. It was such a finished song that I didn’t think that vocals could be added. It’s quite dense, but Matthieu just adds to the density of it.
Lara: And makes it even more textural.
Mike: I was imagining a singer like Morrissey or something on this.
Lara: Really? I can’t imagine that. It sounded so finished to me.
Mike: Again, another sad song. But with a glimmer of hope, optimism.
Lara: The drums give it a rush of anxiety. Which works to offset the sombre vocals.
Mike: Nice delay on the synths though, eh?
Mike: The chords sounded so much like a sample; they’re just going through a phaser, or chorus or something, and then through a filter. But they gave me the idea to do a ballad, like Neneh Cherry’s “Manchild” or “Unfinished Sympathy.” Both Nellee Hooper aren’t they?
Lara: Didn’t you call the album Weird Drift from Matthieu’s vocals in this song?
Mike: He sings “we drift…” but I heard it wrong. I also think he sings something about the Flintstones, but that must be wrong. I was going for a sort of Snoop Dogg vibe with this. What’s that track?
Lara: [Sings] “Sexual seduction, it’s an eruption”—something like that.
Mike: That’s the song. We put a lot of parts into the track, and then edited them all out again, kept it more open. I like the 808 drums in this—very soft, very light.
Lara: Yeah. I like this song more because when I write it’s a very personal thing and a lot of my inspiration is that fact that I have insomnia or lucid dreams, so I’m always bloody tired.
Mike: I think you can hear some tiredness in the song. But bliss as well…
Lara: A bit like our marriage then [yawns].
“”You were even vomiting during the birth. Puking in the birthing pool.”
Lara: “Foghorn” reminds me of Hype Williams. I don’t know why. I love that degraded sound, like it’s falling apart.
Mike: It’s because we had really harsh filters on the drums, which kept all the treble down. Dynamic filters, squashing out the sound. They have some resonance too. “Fanfare” from Love & Devotion is from the same session, with the same filters. I managed to sneak in another solo too!
Lara: Maybe you should do an album called Mike Going Solo.
Mike: I think Kuedo was the big inspiration for this piece. It was about the time his album was released
Lara: I think you were compiling it. It was done just after we did the Kuedo remix for “Shutter Light Girl,” which sounded lush.
Mike: That’s right—we were listening to Kuedo all the time, and obviously he’s inspired us. We used the same instrument patches in our Kuedo remix as we did in this. He’s been really successful hasn’t he, Jamie?
Lara: What, more than us? Well, he has.
Mike: The title came more recently when we were expecting our first baby.
Lara: And when I was puking everywhere [baby screams with joy in the background].
Mike: You were puking for pretty much nine months, or eight months anyway. We couldn’t do any recording during that time could we?
Lara: No, music made me feel sick, feel dizzy.
Mike: You were even vomiting during the birth. Puking in the birthing pool.
Lara: I hated this. I hate U2. That was the working title: “U2.”
Mike: Or Coldplay?
Lara: Both awful bands. I was trying to stop it. You kept writing it. I was saying ‘No!’
Mike: I think it had potential.
Lara: You loved it; you really loved it. I hated it. the only reason I’m happy with it on the record is Vezelay’s vocals.
Matthieu: I think Mike insisted I do this one. I’m not a big fan of U2 either but I went for it. I refused to do the “I Love Your Smile” cover though.
Mike: So what is he singing?
Lara: “In the eyes of a Russian toddler.”
Mike: And I thought he was referring to that U2 cover with the boy. Is it War? Black and white photo. I mean, I’m not really into U2, but I do appreciate the craft of writing epic songs.
Lara: Shut up. Literally shut up.