This week’s entry of The Weekend Album is a little different…it still looks at an album from Redshift (the self-titled “Redshift“), but mostly discusses the group itself.
Did you ever see the Family Guy episode where Peter is granted three wishes, and he uses one of them to gain a personal soundtrack that changes depending on what’s happening in his life? Well, if space made such a wish, this album is what would play. Seriously; this album (and group) sounds like space. I’m a huge fan of spacey ambient (I even make some myself, under the project name “The Transient Unknown”), but I think Redshift has this style of music perfected. Sounding like it would be right at home on Bluemars.org, Redshift is a perfect example of why this genre is so amazing.
Most of their tracks are structured the same: different pattern sequences are lined up, bolstered by a few different layers of varying synths. Most of the pattern sequences are processed with a reverse reverb patch; while all of them are different, they follow a style that stays constant throughout each track. They are usually given slow end-to-end filter sweeps, with smooth transitions between each pattern. Synth versions of wind instruments are a common theme used throughout this album, appearing on every track in one form or another. Arpeggiators also play a big role (no surprise, given the album’s 1996 release date), and help chop things up.
It’s difficult to convey just how big and spacey sounding Redshift is…I’m constantly amazed by their ability to create soundscapes using no more than three or four layers at a time, with everything processed in such a way as to avoid the dreaded “in your head” feel. As with most music of this type, its best listened to with your eyes closed and a good set of headphones. It isn’t just the layering, but rather the placement of textures on the soundstage that make Redshift’s tunes so awesome. Textures slowly shift and undulate, changing their position, and preventing things from ever sounding too static. “Blueshift”, is, to this day, their magnum opus. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes, it starts on an alien planet’s surface, slowly rises up through the atmosphere, and eventually travels past galaxies and on to a different universe. Like any suitably epic ambient track, it takes a little bit of time to get going, but once it does, ho-boy.
Using classic synths, combined with modern techniques, Redshift presents a wholly unique sound that is simultaneously nostalgic yet futuristic. A lot of the big sounds they use would be impossible without the use of analog synths, since they rely so much on the “punch” that you only get with analog. Some of their instruments are more modern devices, but the really crazy sounds (i.e. their best textures) appear to have been made with older analog equipment. Most of their synths that are pattern sequenced sound like they are analog, while most of the supporting features that help round out the different textures sound like they are digital, more modern instruments. Since they use mostly the same instruments across all tracks, there is a uniformity to their sound that gives them a unique identification: when you hear a Redshift track, you know its a Redshift track.
There are a ton of artists and groups out there that release spacey ambient tunes, but none of them come even close to recreating the soundscapes and beauty that Redshift puts out. Put on some headphones, close your eyes, and float away.