APRIL 25, 2024

Pro Tools | Sonic Drop: Yesterday’s Relic

Hero relic sonic drop
This month’s Sonic Drop is Yesterday’s Relic—a collection of 15 warbly and somewhat lofi instruments for the Pro Tools | PlayCell virtual instrument. Created by sampling numerous synths through various outboard FX and guitar pedals that specialize in a dirtier and slightly unstable sound, Yesterday’s Relic brings a new flavor to your production arsenal. The sounds within are almost naturally nostalgic, often haunting, sometimes melancholy, and is personally my favorite collection of PlayCell expansion instruments up to this point. So, without further ado, let’s get into the creation of Yesterday’s Relic.
First… Inspiration. Straight up, it’s Boards of Canada. I’ve never been shy of preaching my adoration for this group, not to mention how influential I’ve personally found them (ed. note- look for the PlayCell preset “Fjords Of Canada” in the Palette Series). With a cult-like following that spurred countless copy cats, BoC had a sound that nobody else could truly replicate… and many certainly tried and failed. There’s a fair amount of mythology, not to mention misinformation, about how they made their signature sonic footprint, however there a few things we can be pretty certain of. Synths like the Roland SH101 are prevalent across BoC’s catalog, and the rare Yamaha CS-70M was rumored to be their secret weapon; however, I believe the processing they applied to these synths is often more interesting than the synths themselves. It gets murkier here as this is the area of studio black magic where only they truly know how these sounds were created, but once again there are a few consistencies. 1) Tape. There are some beautiful characteristics of analog tape that they’ve consistently used and that includes both the saturation as well as the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) pitch warble. 2) Digital Resampling. While BoC certainly resampled countless elements to tape they would also have been using samplers such as the Akai S1000 to manipulate not only their drum samples but also synths. As for how it was actually done, I think it’s best to leave that to our imaginations.
Roland Juno-106

With that inspiration in mind, I selected a small armful of synths to use, including a Juno-106, ASM Hydrasynth, Moog Subsequent 37, and Access Virus TI as I felt these would cover much of the ground that BoC does. But like I mentioned above, the processing is really where it gets interesting. The first thing was purchasing the Chase Bliss Generation Loss MKII pedal, which is a high-end guitar pedal that emulates a wide range of tape machines and can get quite wild at times. By combining the aforementioned warble (wow and flutter) plus a very healthy amount of saturation, machine noise, pops and errors, chorusing and more, the Generation Loss became the most important addition to the raw synthesizers tones themselves. You might find a number of these in Yesterday’s Relic to be rather unstable and in a couple instances like they might completely fall apart. That is the Generation Loss being pushed quite hard. Beyond that pedal I used a couple fuzz pedals from my small arsenal of fuzz: the Earthquaker Life for its octave function and the Warm Audio Warm Bender for a more vintage flavor. As always, an Eventide made its way on here to give some chorusing and space to a couple of the instruments. I combined all these elements to create some really beautiful source material to be run through the PlayCell engine.

Guitar pedals

Within PlayCell itself I set the FX to be a drive that can go from relatively subtle to downright destructive, a slow modulating chorus, a ping pong delay and a long-modulated hall reverb. In the advanced tab we have options for an amplitude as well as filter envelope for the filter, and even with a relatively basic set up that is a ton of tonal variation to be had between the 15 individual instruments. There’s a self-titled preset for each instrument that contains no additional processing and is your starting point to build your own presets, which I strongly encourage you to do.

Yesterdays Relic Instrument

I hope these instruments inspire you deeply in your writing process. They really are beautiful sounding and the inconsistencies and imperfection are the feature, not the bug. After all, if something is truly mathematically perfect, it often has little character, little life, and little humanity. At the end of the day aren’t we all simply trying to connect to other human beings? Isn’t so much of art about a shared human experience? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Like all Pro Tools | Sonic Drops, Yesterday’s Relic is FREE with your active Pro Tools annual or monthly subscription or current upgrade plan (for perpetual license holders). Download your Yesterday’s Relic expansion instruments from the Sonic Drop tab in Avid Link.

  • Matt Lange headshot

    Matt Lange is a multiplatinum artist, producer, DJ, and sound designer who recently joined the Avid team as Head of Audio Content.

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