Blog

Mass Effect: Andromeda and Reason

Posted March 28, 2017, 7:44 a.m.

Edmonton based producer Neil Thompson, aka Dr. Perceptron, has been writing and recording electronic music since the early nineties. Initially from the UK, he has been in the arts discipline of the computer games industry since the late eighties, with companies such as Psygnosis, Sony, Bizarre Creations and now BioWare in Canada. He continues to actively pursue his twin passions of art and electronica, submitting music for games as well as releasing his own albums via Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

We got a chance to speak with Neil about how he approached creating music for Mass Effect: Andromeda with Reason.

You are one of a handful of Edmonton producers who’ve gotten track placements in the new Mass Effect game by BioWare. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into producing music for Mass Effect.

I've been in the games industry for a long time, but not for as long as I've been a keen amateur musician! I come from a musical family and after brief attempts at learning "traditional" orchestral instruments, I discovered the electric guitar and that was the end of any formal training. The move to electronic music came during the rise of the dance / rave scene in the late 80's and early 90's when my love for the older school of artists like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Kraftwerk started to combine with artists like The Orb, DJs like Sasha, John Digweed and CJ Bolland in particular, whose album "Electronic Highway" defined the convergence of European techno and pure electronica. Then Pete Namlook's explorations into electronic sound and his many collaborations (particularly with Klaus Schulze) were a huge inspiration.

When it became easier to self release work through sites like Soundcloud, I started to put stuff out more aggressively and several years ago the then EP of Mass Effect, Casey Hudson, heard a couple of my tracks ("The Sheep Look Up" and "The Jagged Orbit" from "The Brunner Sessions" album) and tweeted how reminiscent they were of the Mass Effect universe. Fast forward a few years and BioWare are working on a new Mass Effect title and I was approached by Jeremie Voillot and Mike Kent (the audio directors) to submit three tracks for the game's soundtrack and I was only too pleased to do it!

At the time of creating your music for Mass Effect, did you already know your songs were going to be in the game, and if you did, did that affect your writing in any way?

Originally, I was considering submitting some existing tracks, but with an opportunity like this I realized that it was a great chance to write some music specifically with the intent of capturing some of the mood of the game.

It's a really interesting story line with a great antagonist that lends itself well to a musical interpretation: anything sci fi is fun to interpret as it lends itself perfectly to the kind of avant garde electronic sounds that I love to make!

Do you have a favorite Reason production trick you can tell us about?

Not much of a trick, but more a rethink of my technique: I got really into modular synthesis a few years ago and now have a pretty large eurorack set up. It made me change the way I thought about using the modules in reason: I now do far more work using standalone LFOs (Pulsar mainly) to drive the oscillators independently of the matrix or the sequencer. It gives an unpredictable and more organic feel to instruments such as Parsec where you can drive the modifiers and filters all independently... Plenty of happy accidents to be had with this approach!

Plenty of happy accidents to be had with this approach!

Top 3 Reason devices?

Thor is fantastic and still a constant source of inspiration: I love huge sweeping tones and Thor has that in abundance.

Synchronous is my go to effect as I like to use a lot of filtering and glitch type effects. The graphical interface makes it a great tool to mess with and see what comes out.

Kong partnered with the Propulsion Drum Sequencer by Lectric Panda I find to be an immensely powerful combination. All my percussion tracks begin with this set up.

What's your favorite new Reason 9 feature?

I do like the new Players, particularly the Dual Arpeggio but the Pitch Edit has proved to be most useful so far. I use it to correct vocal tracks and it's really easy and really fast.

Pitch Edit has proved to be most useful so far. I use it to correct vocal tracks and it's really easy and really fast.

Do you have a favorite game soundtrack?

I've always admired the work of Richard Jacques and it was quite the honour to meet and work with him on a game we did at Bizarre Creations called "James Bond: Bloodstone". Richard's score for that game was tremendous! Very Bond.

If you asked me to name my favourite soundtrack in any medium, it has to be "Blade Runner" by Vangelis... It still gives me chills when I listen to it today and I've spent a lot of time in Reason trying to recreate the sound of his CS-80... with some success :)

Follow Dr. Perceptron: Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Soundcloud.

Check out Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Try Reason free for 30 days!

Posted March 28, 2017, 7:44 a.m.

Tutorials

808 Bass Lines

Posted March 17, 2017, 10:25 a.m.

Take a listen to Hip Hop, Trap, Pop, EDM, or just about any other genre these days and you'll hear the distinct tones of the "808 Bass" - a term used to describe tuned and pitched sub-bass lines whose origins come from a classic drum machine, not a bass synth. But as standard as the 808 Bass is, the way everyone makes them these days is not quite as standard. That's one reason why 808 Bass sounds and bass lines are something of a mystery for aspiring producers and beat makers.

In part one of a two part series, we take a look at the origins of the 808 Bass and the philosophy that goes into creating custom patches and writing 808 bass lines.

To learn more about Reason:
http://www.propellerheads.se/reason

Tutorials

Making Catchy Hooks In Your Songs

Posted Feb. 27, 2017, 11:55 a.m.

When it comes to songwriting, a great chord progression or melody is obviously at the top of your priority list but if you want elevate your songs from ones with a solid melody to those magical songs people just can't get out of their heads then you're probably going to need a "hook."

In this Super Neat Beat Cheet Sheet episode, Ryan introduces us to the concept of hooks, clears up some common misconceptions, and walks us through some techniques we can use to add hooks to our own music.

Try Reason for free here: http://www.propellerheads.se/tryreason

Posted Feb. 27, 2017, 11:55 a.m.

Artist stories

Niki & The Dove: Artist Feature

Posted Feb. 14, 2017, 8:23 a.m.

The way they both got into making music, by embracing mistakes and deviations in their piano lesson homework, is just the beginning of a highly compatible and equally unique take on songwriting and production for Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf. As the two producers in Niki & The Dove, they work together as a set of checks and balances - as much musical collaborators as editors, carefully crafting their sound. In this artist feature we sat down with Gustaf and Malin and had them both take us through a couple songs on their latest album, "Everybody's Heart is Broken Now."

Try Reason free for 30 days!

Follow Niki & The Dove on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube.

Posted Feb. 14, 2017, 8:23 a.m.

Crew

Announcing Reason 9.2

Posted Jan. 25, 2017, 8:41 a.m.

We're happy to announce that Reason 9.2 and a new version of the Rack Extension toolkit is now available!

When we created Rack Extensions we wanted to build a plug-in format that truly felt like Reason, with all the great workflow you guys expect. CV and audio connections, full automation, undo, integration with the Reason browser and much more.

Now, we've taken the next step! With Reason 9.2 and the new Rack Extension toolkit, developers can create devices with Reason's unique sampling feature and create much better, more user friendly interfaces with hideable widgets and panels, improved displays and more. We believe this will lead to even more exciting instruments, effects and utilities to help Reason users everywhere make more and better music. To show you just how great the new features are, Blamsoft and LoveOne have created two amazing synths.

Blamsoft's best-selling synth Expanse has been updated to version 2. The most exciting feature is that you can now load your own samples to create custom wavetables! It's also fully compatible with the Serum wavetable format, bringing an unfathomable number of new synth sounds to the Reason rack. I've personally had a lot of fun using Reason's sample feature to sample my guitar to create my own wavetables. Try it out and check the video below to see it in action.

 

Proton, developed by LoveOne in collaboration with Selig Audio, is a brand new synth and the first granular synth Rack Extension, which is exciting in itself. Based on the Neutron plug-in, Proton can load up any sample and synthesize new sound by throwing "particles" on the waveform to play parts of it. It sounds a bit like science fiction, but it's extremely fun and easy to use. Endless experimentation and interesting soundscapes awaits by simply dropping a sample on Proton and tweaking some parameters.

To update to Reason 9.2, simply launch Reason 9 or 9.1 and download your free update. And if you're on an earlier version or don't own Reason yet, there's never been a better time to get started. I'm really looking forward to see what new, exciting Rack Extensions that will be released. The only thing I know for sure is that there are now even more ways to get creative in the Reason rack.

Read all about Reason 9.2 here!

Mattias Häggström Gerdt
Reason Product Manager

Posted Jan. 25, 2017, 8:41 a.m.