Interviews Music Industry Tech

Conjure One – Holoscenic: 11 ways to thrill music tech junkies…


At long last, Conjure One’s ‘Holoscenic’ album emerges as one of the world’s best kept secrets. As it happens, the man behind the Conjure One tag, Rhys Fulber, owns a studio filled with equipment that would make music tech junkies drool in excitement. Apart from a few words on the album itself, he’ll run through each of the breath-taking album tracks to give you a taste of the striking sound sets and the synths that created them. Take note, as Rhys Fulber explains…

“I had been thinking about the concept of the Holocene epoch for a while – the ruins of civilization that a decaying society leaves behind to be consumed by nature once again.  The word itself is a bit dry, but one day, the word play just came together as ‘Holoscenic’. It was then was written down to be rediscovered a couple years later as this album took shape. It then seemed like the perfect title for this collection of songs, and directly inspired the artwork which perfectly conveys the feeling of the music.  Here is a song-by-song breakdown of the ‘Holoscenic’ album along with some technical information from the studio it was created in.”

1. Conjure One – Kill The Fear (feat. Hannah Ray)
Featured instruments – Ableton Live, various soft synths….
“‘Kill The Fear’ is based around a melancholy piano riff written during the ‘Extraordinary Ways’ album sessions, waiting for the right fit.  It’s also the only all digital track on the record as the idea was put together in Ableton Live with lots of elastic audio manipulations. Replacing the synths would have changed the energy and vibe too much.  I sent the track to a great writer I know in London named Peter Wright, who I’ve worked with several times. He nailed the vibe and brought in a great new singer named Hannah Ray to give it a voice.”


2. Conjure One – Miscreant
Featured instruments – Eurorack Modular, Omega 8.  
“‘Miscreant’ is a very personal piece to me. The melody just came to me during a stroll and I tried to replicate the sounds and mood I heard in my head.  It’s meant to start from a dark, contemplative place, blossoming into something more hopeful.  An up and coming vocalist named Deniz Reno sent me some improvisations, which were then heavily manipulated to give it some extra feeling.  The groove was put together on my Eurorack Modular system, with the arpeggio and lead line at the end from the Omega 8.  The Omega has a lovely liquid sound that is great for moving ambient arpeggio lines. The Eurorack can do so many things – especially rhythms that sound ‘human’ – because every strike is different. It’s also worth noting my old friend and UK A List string arranger Chris Elliott, because he added some of his extra magic to this one.”


Eurorack Modular Synth

3. Conjure One – Under The Gun (feat. Leigh Nash)
Featured instruments – Eurorack modular, Jomox Sunsyn, Vermona DRM1 MK2
“‘Under The Gun’ emerged through playing with chord progressions until they all fit together and conveyed the right emotion.  Leigh Nash, who can bring the beautiful sadness like few others, then put the right words to the music.  The Eurorack modular synth was used for the blips because of its warm and ‘human’ sounding touch, and the mighty Sunsyn did the bass. The Sun is probably the biggest and rawest sounding synth I own, though it has a mind of its own. The analog percussion unit Vermona DRM1 added lots of nice blips and those big claps at the end, which is what I use it for most.”


Vermona DRM1 MK2

4. Conjure One – All That You Leave Behind
Featured instruments – Eurorack modular, Jomox Sunsyn, Roland Alpha Juno 2
“‘All That You Leave Behind’ is another contemplative song about reflecting and moving on from the past. It featured an outro melody that just came to me, and a powerful vocal improvisation by Leah Randi was given the granular treatment throughout.  This song features most of the analog synths in the studio. The intro has some nice sine bells from the Eurorack, and the main riff and sequence are coming from the Sunsyn with its quirky tuning and all.  The old Alpha Juno appears to make a wide detuned bass sound, which is the type of thing it does best.”


Jomox Sunsyn

5. Conjure One – Only Sky (feat. Christian Burns)
Featured instruments – Waldorf Pulse and Q+
“‘Only Sky’ started out as a writing session with Christian Burns and Victoria Horn over a completely different track. Loving the vocal but not the track, a new one was written to the vocal. It highlights Christian’s emotive vocals, and Victoria’s poetic lyrics, as those perfectly fit the moody introspective style of Conjure One.  The Waldorf Pulse, a synth I’ve used on almost every record I’ve worked on, supplies the deep bass line while the Waldorf Q+ provides soft pads from the middle out. The Pulse is a simple, yet deep and underrated bass monster, while the Q+ is a complex beast I use mostly for ambient pads, even though it can do so much more.”


Waldorf Pulse

6. Conjure One – Serac
Featured instruments – Nord Wave, Omega 8
“‘Serac’ is a piece inspired by Himalayan mountaineering. It’s inspired by its tension and its beauty, complete with some Tibetan bells that represent the rest before the ascent. The lovely intro string swells are the Nord Wave, which has a nice clear sound that fits into any production. The perfect fifth riff is from the Omega 8, which is on almost every song on the album along with the Eurorack, which provides the bass here.”


Nord Wave

7. Conjure One – Still Holding On (feat. Aruna)
Featured instruments – Omega 8
“The first track written for Holoscenic was released earlier as a single in a different form, but this is the original version. I had wanted to work with Aruna ever since I heard her vocal on “Let Go”, and had an idea with some suspended chords I thought would work well with her haunting voice. She added a great vocal, the B section, and also played some keyboards.  Once again, the Omega provides that liquid arpeggio sound in the middle break down and the organ like chords at the end. String arranger Stevie Black had arranged the real strings that were excluded from the single version, but hearing this original version again after the single came out made me think that it would be nice to have this more elaborate version for the album.”


Omega 8

8. Conjure One – Ghost (feat. Kristy Thirsk)
Featured instruments – Eurorack modular, NI Reaktor
Another song that started off as an undefined writing session with Victoria Horn and Kerli turned into what I feel is one of the strongest songs I’ve worked on in a while.  The basis of the track was written on the spot as Kerli and Victoria came up with the vocal melody and wonderfully visual lyrics about reaching out to someone not there for you.  In turn, it gave the song a kinetic energy that it almost finished itself with.  I like to try and make tracks that could easily translate to acoustic instruments and I feel this is a good example.  This song features a bit of everything – real guitar and strings, some Serge Modular sine waves, and my talented friend Matt Lange added his Reaktor magic and retriggered the bass line in his Eurorack modular. Old friend Kristy Thirsk provided the voice and brought precisely the emotive feeling it required.”


Eurorack Modular (Serge Modular)

9. Conjure One – The Garden
Featured instruments – Eurorack modular (Nebulae module), Waldorf Q+, Omega 8
“Like ‘All That You Leave Behind’ and ‘Miscreant’, the melody for ‘The Garden’ came to me while out for a hike.  The idea evolved into the concept of an emotional utopia – a place one can exist with purity and without judgement.  The song features almost every synth in the studio, but the intro granular drones are from a Eurorack module called Nebulae, while the rest of the system provided the bass parts.  The massive sounding Q+ with its analog filters provided pads and riffs and the Omega once again brought the liquid sounds and arpeggios.  The analog synths provided the warm glow of emotion this song means to convey.”


Eurorack Modular (Nebulea Module)

10. Conjure One – Brave For Me (feat. Jeza)
Featured instruments – Omega 8, Eurorack modular (Braids Module), NI Reaktor
“I had met Jeza through a mutual friend at Amsterdam Dance Event. I really liked some of her work, so I was excited to try something with her as I had really liked some of her work.  I had this broken beat that seemed to fit her style and after going back and forth with file sharing, she provided this fragile but powerful vocal that has the feeling of an introspective late night drive or walk.  I had just gotten a new module called Braids that features on this and provides that water sound in the beginning and the middle bass build up. The Omega does the bassline and Matt Lange truly shines on ‘Brave For Me’ with his wonderful acoustic guitar talent and secret Reaktor effects to give it a sparkle that still has an organic quality.”


Eurorack Modular (Braids module)

11. Conjure One – Oceanic (feat. Mimi Page)
Featured instruments – Waldorf Q+, Omega 8, Nord Wave
“‘Oceanic’ is a song that tries to convey the cleansing spirit of the ocean. It’s enhanced by Mimi Page’s ethereal “Siren of the Sea” chanting, which – in essence – provides the end credits to the album.  The Q+ does all the ambient and sweeping pad sounds, while the Omega does the traditional 70s inspired synth sequences. The Nord Wave carried on the retro feeling with its samples of the obscure Orchestron keyboard, which was an early sample playback keyboard.”


Waldorf Q+

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    John Flaherty
    November 20, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Fantastic breakdown of Rhys’s process and the equipment he used to produce a fantastic album! It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s here.
    Being a techie geek, it was fantastic that you took the time and explained the array of gear you used.

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