The relationship which exists between science fiction and electronic music has been heavily documented across decades. It makes sense that the abstract, the cosmic, the technical and the downright weird might merge with the glitchy wonderland which is that of flashing buttons, odd noises and distorted soundscapes. This is all but stating the obvious.
However, then there are those who have managed to build their musical narrative around the wonderful world of science and fantasy in all its glory. Those who have recorded soundtracks, composed scores and entered the realm beyond with no other focus but to create a soundtrack to a vision and a dream which runs amidst their head.
Mark-Henning Sargent is set to release a new album on the recently founded Dead Bison Records, a body of work he describes as musically reflective of an imaginative tale of science fiction deep within... We invited him to take us through the album piece by piece as he tells a blistering story from the deep...
"This album is the soundtrack to the Sci-Fi movie swimming round my head. It fittingly marks my departure from touring as a DJ and producing club music to focus on the pure enjoyment of writing music from the heart with no agenda, influence or boundaries."
I imagined this as the opening track to the movie. Long shots of a space station in orbit, a sun rising up across a mountainous planet. The shimmering pianos in the background are my favourite part of the track despite having been recorded last.
I recorded the bass sequence whilst testing a new synth (Macbeth Elements) and instantly fell in love with it. The strings and synth hooks over the top came very naturally. It's my personal favourite track on the album. When the strings come in over the top it invokes strong feelings of euphoria; discovery. Due to the fact that the Elements was drifting in and out of tune whilst being midi sequenced I had to do a lot of tweaking afterwards with Celemony Melodyne - a painful process! Amazingly, I think the sound is just as rich and deep as the original unedited audio. Much of the timbre comes from the heavy dose of the Elements spring reverb.
This was a contender for the first track of the album as it would make a great movie opener. The crew departing their home planet. The main brass/synth hook was recorded on my old Jupiter 6 in one take - I pretty much just left the whole thing as it was. I think it's the closest thing to the signature hook of the movie. I worked hard on the interplay between all of the layers (of strings, guitar, synth) so that it really feels dynamic and constantly evolving.
B1 Ursa Major
Life, birth, oxygen, discovery.
When I recorded this I was really in the mood to write something cinematic and timeless. The track definitely sounds the least electronic out of the whole album - it has the most traditional instruments in it. The horn sounds so authentic, crazy to think it actually comes from the Jupiter 6.
B2 Block 9000
This is my take on deep space horror. The high whistling sound at the start could have been lifted from an old sci fi movie - I have no idea how I came up with. I think it ended up as a very short loop taken from another completely different sound on my Emu Proteus 2000. This was the first track I wrote whilst pitching for a sci fi movie soundtrack. It paved the way for the whole concept of the album.
I took inspiration from other sci fi movie scores (especially Ex Machina by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow) in the way the different sections of the track transition from one to another and the use of silence. It’s a great way to build and release tension.
B3 The First Hour
This track appears on an independent documentary (Tore, The Sky & The Sea), for which I wrote the music (along with a few other tracks from the album). It was the first ambient style track that I'd ever written at the time. My friends (Ecke Film) who produced and directed the film asked me to do the music and that night I sat down and recorded most of the parts within a couple of hours. I love the bell sounds on this - all of which come from my Yamaha TX81Z. It is the sound of a complex machine, computer or artificial intelligence.
C1 Love & Bias
A song oozing optimism and feelings of belief. There is hope for civilisation despite the alien entity that will clone you, then slowly kill you leaving your evil identical twin to live your life for you. This is the only track on the album to feature drums, though they are far from the straight, linear beats that I employed in my club tracks for the past 15-odd years. The timing is pretty fucked up. I like how they turned out - the bongos and congas started off as very basic samples but I ran them through my old Boss SE80 FX box and added some delay and weird reverb.
C2 The Dark Wave
The dark entity arrives. Death is imminent. Unspeakable horror. Bad shit happens. I imagined scoring a future Ridley Scott Alien trailer (although since watching his latest incarnation - Alien Covenant - I take this back!)
I had fun writing and recording this although I must admit I did obsess over the most minute details of the big scary bass sound. My young kids love the track and whilst working on it they insisted on hijacking my studio sessions, turning off the lights and playing it super super LOUD whilst I pretended to be a monster.
A really simple track with only 2 elements. The lush reverb and delay helping to push each successive wave of sound (Jupiter 6) crashing over the repeating arpeggio (TX81Z). I love the lushness of the sound, a head on collision of a digital machine and an analogue machine.
C4 Static Shift
A crew preparing to leave on a mission into deep space which will undoubtedly end in their gruesome death.
The last of the dark sci fi type of tracks but perhaps my favourite. The viewer senses that some bad stuff is about to go down but it takes a while until the true extent of the horror is revealed. An alarm sounds on and off throughout the first half of the track.
Tension builds to an unbearable level. The perfect sound track to a psychological sci fi horror movie.
As for most of the evil, scary bass sounds I used my Macbeth Elements through a variety of delay and reverb effects (e.g. Valhalla DSP, Eventide H9).
D2 Halycon Charm
Eyes closed. Dream state. Tranquillity. Floating. An undiscovered planet of unimaginable beauty.
Cue end credits of the film. So many of my favourite motion pictures end with unanswered questions and this film would follow suit.
A very simple track to end the album. A sizzling FM pad courtesy of the TX81Z and some modulated organs and synths from the Proteus 2000.
Buy the release HERE.