With a rapidly growing catalogue spanning techno, jungle, trance and East Coast club variations, AceMo is one of the leading lights of Brooklyn’s dance resurgence. Between his solo records – including 2018’s instantly memorable ‘90s mash-up ‘Where They At? (ft. John FM)’ – and his frequent collaborations with fellow NYC DJ MoMa Ready, he’s built a formidable dance-floor reputation since his first cassette release, Boarders, in 2014. The Connecticut-raised DJ, who grew up playing trumpet and studying jazz, has spoken of his vision to create a “living museum” of electronic music’s past, present and future through his work. Of his many releases this year, SYSTEM OVERRIDE is proof of concept, deftly switching between ragged techno and explosive breaks in a celebration and reclamation of black musical history.
Opening with a drifting synth arpeggio recalling the dreamiest ‘90s ambient techno, AceMo’s sketch combines the warmth of vintage electronics with phased drones and a classic drum machine. Unusually for him, the track ticks along at the in-between speed of 150 BPM, creating opportunities to explore internal rhythms and switch to halftime during a misty breakdown.
Tell us how you made the sketch – what was your starting point?
I started with the pad. Using Komplete Kontrol, it’s easy for me to scroll through hundreds of presets and click at random trying to find something I like. I found the Ponds patch using the Junatik II Reaktor synth. For more delay and spatial effects, I added a phasing delay using the Phasing Medium preset, tweaking it a bit. I then added an arpeggiated synth line using a string patch, the Carpad preset from the Reaktor 4 Legacy Library. I automated the cutoff of the filter, to add more movement within the sound.
For drums I used Battery, pumping up a regular TR-808-esque pack using the Picked E Guitar preset within Reaktor’s Banaan Eletrique 2, giving it a more saturated and compressed sound .
For bass, I wanted a retro, ‘80s-style analog sound, so I added a synth using the Interval Bass preset from the Analog Dreams sample library, added more phasing and movement with the Reaktor preset effect Single Delay 1, and then arpeggiated it using Ableton’s MIDI effects.
Lastly, for a crying, rave-like lead line, I used the Junatik II Reaktor synth preset Phased Noise Drone with the Molekular delay effect preset Dual Delay to give it more character.
What do you think of when you think of ‘sketching’?
Sketching is just like sketching an idea or image that you have in your head, just as an artist would do when asked to draw something on a paper. It’s the same to me, just with audio.
Did you set out to achieve a particular aim with this sketch, or was it more exploratory?
I wanted to see how my ideas translated using only the Komplete 12 library. It’s really fun to be able to browse through all the different instruments and effects Komplete offers in one plugin.
Do you have a particular favorite element?
The strings patch CarPlay in Reaktor is really simple and nice – it emulates a string synth very well. I really love all the different instruments in Reaktor.
And what about your usual process – how do you go from a sketch to a finished track?
I would give more time and space to each instrument and let them breathe a little more, and add other parts and movements if need be. Sometimes a refined sketch is all that’s needed.
Can you tell us what’s the best production advice you’ve ever been given?
Always back up your work.
Solid tip. Last but not least, could you tell us about some of your favorite online resources for music making?
The NI Reaktor User Library actually has a vast amount of user made synths that are free to download. I always love wandering YouTube to find things like synth demos and gear reviews.
Using mobile apps and different applications to make music and integrating it into your workflow is a thing. I have been doing that a lot recently. Try and experiment with making a song in a medium or software you don’t usually use – a great exercise for the brain.
Until the next installment, check out a full playlist of all the sketches so far over on our SoundCloud.
Words: Chal Ravens