The hum of a wind farm, rattle of a discarded rice cooker lid and roar of an A-League crowd aren’t the kind of sounds you would typically find in an electronic producer’s sample library. For Adelaide producer and sound designer Tim Whitt however, the occasionally eccentric realm of field recording was just the inspiration he needed to create a pop album that reflects on Adelaide’s urban environment while literally playing it back.
“I took that idea of walking around and recording things, but tried to make the result really musical,” he explains. “All the sounds were heavily manipulated to make sure it’s not just a bunch of grating and weird noises.”
Sleep At Night, the first single from his forthcoming album Geisel exclusively premiered here at The Adelaide Review, is a prime example. “For that one I was walking around looking for things to record and someone had thrown out all this hard rubbish on the side of the road… and there was this rice cooker lid left sitting there. I tried playing it in different ways, with a violin bow and drum mallet.”
With some help from guest vocalists Sim Jones and Matiah, the perhaps surprising result is a polished track that recalls the insistent bass and digital rimshot grooves currently dominating radio — a world away from a fresh batch of basmati. “Once I started playing around with it I started to get this really modern sound, like a lot of young producers. I loved being able to get this cool sound from such an uncool source.”
Whitt has form in the sampling game of course, performing in the Avalanches-inspired Adelaide combo The Waterslides and last year releasing Heart Aches & Drum Breaks, a sharply arranged, if legally dubious album crafted from both obscure and very, very iconic sounds.
“My Soundcloud account is still one strike away from being deactivated,” he admits sheepishly, thanking the crack legal teams of Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson for the first two strikes. “It’s good and bad being independent, because on the one hand you go under the radar so can get away with some things. If a record label comes knocking they know I haven’t got half a million dollars to get sued for, so the worst that can happen is a cease and desist. At least with Geisel, the odds of a lawsuit from Sunbeam are low. “It’s almost a natural progression,” he jokes in agreement. “I can’t be sued for these sounds.”
Whitt has also adopted a novel approach for the album’s release, unveiling the record for the first time as part of a walking tour and geo-coded smartphone app created by local tech startup Wandering Sound. “A lot of the lyrics were written about how people fit into the city, and the sounds were recorded around Adelaide. So I had this idea of listening to the music in Adelaide — with specific locations around the city that would unlock tracks.
In lieu of a traditional album launch Whitt will situate listeners right amongst the urban environment that inspired it, providing his own “director’s commentary” along the way. “Instead of doing a regular album launch I thought it would be really fun to lead a group around to do some of the sights, and give them an insight or commentary on the thought process behind them.”
The Adelaide Review is assured the tour won’t consist of rifling through people’s hard rubbish. But if it did, Whitt kind of makes that seem worth checking out too.
Tim Whitt’s Geisel will be released in full on October 13 and the Geisel City Soundtrack Tour will take place on Saturday, October 14. Keep an eye on facebook.com/TimWhittSound for details.
Photography: Jon Brooks