Ambient Breakbeats with Spitfire Audio’s Aperture: The Stack

In these traffic notes, we get our hands dirty with a Spitfire Audio: The Stack. We’ll be using drum, synth, and guitar patches from her most ambitious instruments yet to groove into the beat of the ambient rhythm.

In late 2021, Spitfire Audio released a slot – The Stack. The British company described it as its “biggest” gadget to date. “Large” here doesn’t necessarily mean most sounds or presets, but instead the massive size of the recording device! The elaborate setup at AIR Studios’ Lyndhurst Hall consists of four levels of rigging, containing 56 world standard guitar amps and four subs. I think slash on steroids and then some.

The drums and tuners created with this stack are pre-tuned with an impressive assortment of synths and drums. Sensats used include the massive modular drill Christian Henson, co-founder of Analog Solutions Colossus and Spitfire—which was modestly dubbed “the wall” in the tool’s presets. Other notable mentions include eight Soma Lyra-8, two Deckard’s Dream MKII, two Roland Juno 6, two Prophet’s serial killers, and the original Roland TR-808. This is the kind of thing that will drain your bank account…

Recording Slot – The Stack at AIR Studios’

The main concept of the instrument stems from a dynamic parameter that delivers the next level of amps as it increases. With the setting max, all four levels of the device operate simultaneously, producing 3D sounds. Each major preset contains a selection of presets with different expressions, textures, and tones.

In this article we are going to use Aperture – The Stack to compose a quick 1-minute tune in the style of artists like Stenny and Skee Mask. We’ll start with the organic textures and pads and then move on to the synthetic drums and the bass line.

Here’s what we’re creating today:

Scattered soft guitars

We’ll start our track with some acoustic guitar sounds. “The Guitars” is a very powerful preset that contains a lot of different expressive sub presets. We especially like the scatter presets because they act as a perimeter receiver.

Holding down a chord results in the guitar being realistically played for each individual note. It was recorded live with four guitarists and two guitarists playing simultaneously.

Slot: The Stack

Let’s start with a continuous F# Minor 7 (add9) frequency, containing the following notes:

F #1 – F #2 – C #3 – E3 – A3 – C #4 – G #4 – C #5

After the introduction of the eight columns, the progression of the chord is repeated as follows:

Episode 1: F# Minor 7 (Add 9)

F #1 – F #2 – C #3 – E3 – A3 – C #4 – G #4 – C #5

Chord 2: E Major 13 (Add 9)

E1 – B2 – E3 – F # 3 – B3 – C # 5

Group 3: B Minor 7 (11) (Additional 9)

B1 – F # 2 – C # 3 – E3 – A3 – C # 4 – A4 – C # 5

Chord 4: E Major 13 (Add 9)

E1 – B2 – E3 – F # 3 – B3 – C # 5

The first and third chords continue for three bars. The E major chord 13 (add 9) has only one bar duration in both cases in which it is played.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about writing wide chord gradients, be sure to check out our recent article on “Hover Notes” about megachords.

You will notice that the notes are spread widely across several octaves. This works great with the sounds of The Stack and gives us a lot of flexibility in mixing.

The next step is to program some bullish dynamics automation. By doing this, the first 8 guitar strings will gradually rise.

Here’s what the introduction to ambient guitar looks like:

Slot: The Stack
Slot: The Stack
Slot: The Stack

pads

We are going to add two parts to the board that play the same notes as the guitars. This is a shortcut to creating a huge wall of sound!

For the first pad, we’ll choose Dave’s setting: Sub-FACSIMILE preset.

Here’s how this looks as our strings progress:

For the second pillow, we’ll use the The Synths subset: Swarm’s IT TREMBLES. We’ll also introduce Live’s Auto Pan and increase the amount to about 84% to move audio dynamically across the stereo spectrum:

Slot: The Stack

Here’s what both pads look like with guitars:

Slot: The Stack

Trailer-style bass notes

One of our favorite traits about The Stack is how full the low recordings are for the preset audio. It also looks great with a bit of bending and dynamics tweaks. This kind of automation on low continuous notes leads us into the world of movies and especially trailers.

We’ll use this first while you play guitar melodies on the long-running F# Minor 7 chord. Blending: The long soft sub-tuning of the replicas is perfect for the task.

We’ll write in two steady notes as F# with a separate octave for a more complete sound. These will play for four bars. To turn things around, we’ll add continuous B notes for the next four bars. Next, we’ll play in some bends and tweak the dynamics with a MIDI keyboard, using the Pitch Bend Wheels and Mod.

Here’s what the Replicants solo part looks like:

Here’s what it looks like with the provided guitars:

Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Pitch bend adjustment
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Dynamics automation via the adjustment wheel

Drums

Sound designer and AFRORACK founder Aaron Jess was also involved in recording this instrument. His cylinder block presets within the ‘MACHINES: AFRORACK KITS’ preset contain a unique and amazing selection of modular cylinder blocks.

We will preload the KIT MENU sub-setting and program the BRIC style rhythm. Ignoring the toppers for now, the first step is the main kick and snare hits. We can also program other drum beats between them to add groove and movement.

Here’s what the rhythm looks like:

Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot

In addition to the AFRORACK groupsets, the Spitfire has also powered the original Roland TR-808 through its army of loudspeakers. We’ll use three different hi-hats to write a pattern that complements the rhythm.

As we did with the pad parts, it is possible to use the Dynamics key parameter to add an expression. The higher this parameter, the more leadership and warmth are added to the hats. With constant adjustment, the part looks more lively.

Here are the 808 solo hats:

The echo effect inside the plug-in is high quality and accurately simulates the space in AIR Studios. There are also other effects to choose from including low pass filter, attack, fire, noise, and navigation.

Here are the hats with the AFRORACK drums:

Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot

Sub Bassline

We’ll move on to another tuner for the sub-bass line. This is mainly because the lower recordings of The Stack’s sync preset sound much better with long-lasting bass parts, as opposed to the more lively lines.

We will be using the Unisub Bass preset for the Kilohearts Factory Phase Builder. We’ll also add some chorus via the free OSL Chorus plugin from Oblivion Soundlab. This will help the line appear more prominent in the busy mix.

The notes mainly play chord root tones with scattered fillers in the middle. The only exception is on the fourth bar when the bass plays the G# note under the E major chord. This works because G# is the third major note of the root, E.

Here’s how the bass sounds in the solo:

Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot
Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot

Here’s the full arrangement with all the parts turned on:

You can learn more about Aperture – The Stack at Spitfire Audio.

Spitfire Audio - The Stack . slot

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author Aykan Isin
January 14, 2022

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