Episode 4 featuring Sole Vale is ready for your listening pleasure… You’ll find the show notes/ highlights below!
- Along the Crooked Path
- Moonwake EP
- Feel a Little (Julian Gray remix)
- Kosmos (collaboration with 28mm)
Background & Overview
- Sole Vale is a producer out of Ontario, Canada. He struggles to put himself into a genre but is kind of [Editor: definitely] techno … of the dark, ambient variety.
- Finding he really enjoyed deadmau5’s older material, Sole Vale got FL Studio for free online and started making bad mashups of Skrillex. He found some recently and they are so bad it’s hilarious … but he declined to share any with us ;)
- The Sole Vale alias is a recent invention. He was looking for something that could both stick and be something people hadn’t heard before. He came across the word “vale” (an old English word for valley) and accented it with the word “sole”, to express the idea that everyone has their own metaphorical valley they can go and lose themselves in from time to time. The “deer” motif in his beautiful, atmospheric visuals followed soon after.
- Sole Vale listens to a range of different genres but in terms of electronic, he tends to listen to tracks by his friends. He used to listen to whole albums but doesn’t have the attention span for that anymore: now if he hears a sound or something he likes in a track, he’ll add it to a playlist but 10 minutes later won’t remember who the artist was!
- Inspired by both the change in his own listening habits and his observation that consumers no longer have the attention span for long bodies of work, Sole Vale is considering switching from longer EPs (4-5 tracks) to shorter ones (2-3 tracks).
- If he could speak to his beginner self, Sole Vale would simply say “chill”. He sees that for so many young producers (including himself) it’s easy to think you’re much better than you are, finish one song and immediately spam it to 100 people. It’s only when you listen back much later that you realise it’s wasn’t that good… That’s why he switched alias: he found a more precise sound that required it. And no, he doesn’t want to share his old alias :)
- After he switched to Sole Vale, he put out a few tracks and then had a six-month lull where he didn’t release anything until he dropped Neglect. He was super-surprised by the feedback people were giving it.
- Kosmos (with 28mm) came quite a bit before Neglect. Sole Vale has known 28mm a long time and they were used to share tracks and feedback under their old aliases. Once they both switched aliases, the friendship continued and they decided to collaborate. With Splice it’s so easy to collaborate when you’re both in the same DAW (like Sole Vale, 28mm is also a Logic user). They’ve been talking about a follow-up collaboration but they’ve been pretty busy working on their own stuff.
- In terms of career highlights so far, having “In the Deep” featured in Dom Kane’s “For Lack of a Better Radio” mix was definitely a very cool feeling. Sole Vale was at work and didn’t hear it live but Bentley Dean got in touch and told him. He had spoken to Dom in the past and sent him the Moonwake EP before it was finished. Dom liked it and told Sole Vale that In the Deep was his favourite. Fast forward months later and he ends up playing it!
- Sole Vale has been working on a few different side projects but doesn’t want to say much at the moment. Definitely expect more from him in 2018…
Working Style & Equipment
- Sole Vale has played guitar since he was about 14 (about 10 years) and has a bass that he never really touches. He also wishes he took piano lessons when he was younger too because it’s a good way to learn the fundamentals.
- For Sole Vale, producing came before DJing: he never had any equipment to DJ with, until the last couple of years. Now, he has a Behringer midi controller and NOX303 mixer. He would like to incorporate some live elements into his sets eventually but for now his midi controller is mostly mapped to effects within Traktor.
- On the software side, Sole Vale is a big fan of Xfer Records Serum and doesn’t use many other software instruments. He uses a few small effects plugins (like iZotope Neutrino), plus a lot of Logic’s internal library, which he finds really powerful.
- Sole Vale doesn’t have any hardware but wishes he did, were it not so expensive! If money wasn’t an object, he would buy a Moog Sub37. He played with one in a Sam Ashe in New Jersey a few years back and it sounded crazy… for now though he likes using his Korg Microkey midi keyboard to control his DAW.
- To deal with creative block, he tries to just work through it. A lot of the time all you can make is junk but the only solution is to make that junk and get it out of the way. He also finds sound design and playing around in the DAW helpful.
- When it comes to remixing, Sole Vale approaches the task the same way that deadmau5 discusses in his masterclass: take little pieces that hint at the old track, without referencing it too much and build around it. The goal is to make something fresh so that, if you strip out the old elements, you can still build a full track.
- Sole Vale doesn’t agree with people that say “a track is never finished”: once a track is finished it is very unlikely he would ever go back to it. It’s hard to pinpoint when a track is finished but it’s mainly when he can’t think of anything else to add in or take away. There are always that you might have missed, or could have done but once you think it’s done, you have to commit to it.
Track Breakdown: Immersed
- Sole Vale’s approach to starting tracks is similar across the board: he’ll start with a kick and build some basic drums around that. Usually, he will also create the drop first and then move to the other sections (intro, build-ups, breaks, etc.)
- To get his percussions tight, Sole Vale doesn’t do anything particularly fancy. It’s mainly careful application of EQ to ensure everything has its place and a touch of sidechain. He will sometimes group tracks so you can apply a compressor across all of the drums at once. The drums are generally left pretty dry but he will sometimes automate reverb around the drums to help make them flow more smoothly.
- For most of his bass sounds, Sole Vale uses Xfer Serum and sticks to a sine wave to keep things clean. He tends to use a really deep kick, so will include a really deep sub in the kick tone. For his melodic bass elements, he will use distortion and different wave shapes to create contrasting layers.
- To create the eerie soundscapes that surround his tracks, Sole Vale uses trial and error, trying anything until he finds what fits. For breakdowns specifically, he uses a lot of reverb, specifically ValhallaDSP Room, as well Serum’s reverb for sounds he creates in it, when it’s easier to use one of the pre-built LFOs.
- Sole Vale’s build-ups pack a lot of punch, partly through careful use of filter and reverb automation but one important aspect is to use what’s already in the track, removing elements and slowly introducing them, rather than adding new elements. This ‘less is more’ approach helps to ensure cohesion and increase tension and anticipation. Finally, Sole Vale likes to streamline the elements once the drop hits, to ensure maximum force.
- When it comes to the mixdown, Sole Vale likes to re-arrange things into stacks (Logic’s method for grouping tracks) because he always ends up having a really messy template in Logic, with percussion all over the place. Once everything is nice and tidy he will apply effects onto the stacks. A common setup is iZotope Neutrino (a spectral shaper) to clean and brighten sounds, followed by a limiter to keep everything contained. Sole Vale usually tries to keep tracks peaking around -10db pre-master. Right at the beginning, once he adds the kick, he’ll set it to around -10db to ensure that the baseline level is pre-established!
- For mastering, Sole Vale mostly uses Logic’s built-in plugins: the multipressor, the adaptive limiter, the linear-phase EQ. If he does use anything third-party, it would only be an analyser and stereo-tool.
Credits & Shoutouts
- Intro Music & Graphics: Deadly Custard
- Show Notes: SierraOskar
- Social Media & Online Presence: No Good, Manuel & SierraOskar
- Promo animations: Serenade Production Studio