'Finite III' - Individual Song Breakdowns


Individual Song Breakdowns

“Cosmocrator” (136 BPM, 79 BPM at 3:03, 136 BPM at 4:14)

I was sick of the usual drawn-out fade-in to kick things off (e.g. PII, FI, FII, SSII) so I wanted it big, loud, and ugly right from note #1 (after the short sample from the end of ‘Delectable Machinery’). This is actually a quote from “Grimoire”, then it slips into a greasy bass line. The B section/chorus is based on the Japanese scale. At 1:20 there's a funky bass line, which is layered with a quote from “Cascade” on the strings. This is driven home at 1:49 when the drums and bass both transition to the B section/verse quote, also from “Cascade”. Then, at 2:03 the strings quote the opening from “Whitman's Challenge”, while the synth quotes the string line from “Cascade”; two converging quotes, how fun! This builds into a froth when the charang synth also quotes ‘Whitman’s’ (the bridge melody) and the whole thing falls on its face. At 2:48, yet another quote enters: one side of the stereo string section from “My Today Is Your Tomorrow” (the other side fills in during the drum fill). At 3:05, the main melodic theme of the record wafts in, played pizzicato on the strings. I'll refer to this as the ‘Cosmocrator’ theme henceforth. This whole bridge section is pretty bizarre; I was inspired to work layered polyrhythms into something after tackling my “Egg Zooming” cover/interpretation. At 3:59 we've a little bit from “Demassify” (Projects II), with the ‘Cosmocrator’ theme atop.


“A Busy Carol Developed Expressly for Grandeur” (132 BPM, 117 BPM at 0:30, then at 2:02 the tempo drops by 2 BPM every quarter note (115-113-111-109-107-105-103-101), finishing at 99 BPM after the snare hit)

This was the last song written for the original draft of this record, and it’s one of my favorites. It's based entirely around the Persian scale, coupled with a somewhat ordered chord progression. I limited myself to a specific 'cycle', ABCDEFG (repeat), and only used chords compatible with the Persian scale. This rule is bent a couple times (like at 0:31 - 0:44 when it goes back to Baug/C7sus4 for the repeat), but it mostly moves linearly; thus the title. From the beginning up until 0:31, the drums are nicked nearly note-for-note from an ancient side project that my buddy Taylor Larson participated in, and it was entirely improvised at the time that we were demoing. The outro for this came out incredibly heavy. I utilized a Stylophone Gen X-1 for decorations, and also overdubbed a sustained note in the low register while fiddling with the settings on my Waldorf Nave synth app, which I then edited by cutting out rhythms in the wave forms to coincide with the 19-16 drum pattern. There are some rad ‘happy accidents’ here and there.


“Omphalos” (79 BPM)

This was the last song written for the record. Deep into the mixing process, I realized that I wanted to subtly introduce a theme (chord progression) that permeates the back half of the record. Combining this with the progression that’s present in “Omnigoliath”, this song is kinda like a hub - thus the title. It also provides the listener a needed respite after the raucous din of the ‘Carol’ outro. Oh yeah, and there’s a hint of the Otamatone that I also use later on in “Zephyr”. I greatly enjoy composing ambient music/soundscape ‘stuff’, it seems to come easily to me for whatever reason; it has so far, at least. I knocked this one out in two days.


“Omnigoliath” (79 BPM)

Birthed from a desire to write something based on quintuplets, rich in harmony, and with catchy melodies, this tune contains a nice balance of heavy, pretty, and weird. I love the big string melodies. I had to dig deep for that stuff; it’s not only challenging writing an interesting melody but I also wanted to keep it extremely simple, rhythmically. The chords at 1:19 are used again much later in the record. It’s funny how off-kilter they sound, yet when the drums enter they still don’t really manage to demystify the timing. There’s a “You Handsome Evil, You” quote at 1:47 and a really brief segue from “Cascade” at 2:08. The rather crushing riff that follows was originally written for Sky Eats Airplane - glad we didn’t use it, in retrospect (forgive the pun)! The string melody at 2:23 is just fun nonsense. The ‘Cosmocrator’ theme makes another appearance at 2:48, then it’s back to an altered ‘Evil’ quote. I dig how the end of the quote is layered and fades atop the same wacky chords (from 1:19).


“Cthonic Ensoulment” (120 BPM)

The A section is based on the Arabian/double harmonic scale. There are two drum takes layered there, one with my usual setup and the other with different hi-hats, my big fleece-covered bass drum beater, and a pitched-down snare played in the center of the head (no rimshots). The bulk of this one is improvised. I did five full takes of the ‘meat’ of the tune and picked the best bits. After my experiments with “35 Going on Infinity” and “Redux’, this was a breeze to comp together, hah. Cam tracked before Sophia, so he added his embellishments (the perfect amount: not too much, not too little) then Sophia hers. Sophia provided me with a surplus of material, so I chose my favorite parts and probably moved some stuff around to lock in more with the drum improv. When things settle back into the groove that opens the section (3:58), there’s a dual violin solo happening - one in each channel. Wild! Then, it’s back to the A section with dips in the melody and progression. As it moves along, I added more and more iPad synth decorations and ramped up the distortion on the master channel. My favorite component in this mayhem is in the right channel - that’s a preset on the Waldorf Nave by Richard Devine called ‘Eating Insects’.


“Are You Talkin’ out of Turn?” (102 BPM)

This is like a reverse “Coffee Terrorist”, with the beginning and end containing the groovy portions and the middle with all of the crazy shit. If memory serves, the A sections are based on the A major scale, but the strings list in and out of that during the solo at the end (more catchy melodies—to me, at least—for which I had to dig deep). The song title is something a very rude Mike Tyson said to a reporter, because it’s as if the middle section totally and inappropriately interrupts this nice, nigh saccharine groove that’s happening.


“Decapitated Tardigrade” (108 BPM)

Felt good to start with a drum intro after the fade-out of ‘Turn?’ This starts with a 'simplified' quote from “Whaddya Want from Me?” with a more complex drum pattern, then the melody emerges. The quote ends and gives way to a 15-16 section. After some cutesy melodies, we're into the big evil C section, which is based on the ‘Cosmocrator’ quote. After the frenetic drum/synth unison figures, the drums slip into this fast blast-beat thing in 5 with a half-note china cymbal on top. The bass and strings are in lockstep while these huge, glissandoing synth chords become more insistent. The theme is revealed at 1:50, but it's very brief and processed it so it isn't too blatant. The second C section is similar, but the 5 is now on the china cymbal while the kick/snare are playing this fast bomb-blast pattern in 6. ‘Cosmocrator’ theme is in full effect, although again played quickly and highly processed. The third B section features some nifty string soloing. The outro is an expansion of the ‘Whaddya’ quote, including the “Ellis Alley” unison figure. The title alludes to the song: it's big and mean and evil looking yet also pretty cute, like a tardigrade. The decapitated portion is an allusion to the plug-in I used on the drum intro.


“Blunderbuss” (111 BPM)

Love the opening synth explosions, more happy accidents. The A sections of this are based on the diminished scale. The dichotomy of the badass bass line under the cutesy string melody in the B sections is amusing. There’s a “Triple Decker” quote at 2:16, with different drum/bass figures. At 2:40 there’s the B section of ‘Decker’, but with a quote from “My Today Is Your Tomorrow” on the strings. This sounds especially bitchen and is a highlight for me because of how I processed the strings—almost sounds like a guitar! I also really dig how the compression took to the Stylophone at 2:56, timing the white noise blasts with the drums.


“Dose of Jocose” (99 BPM)

This jam is arranged similarly to “Good Night, Future Boy!” and even contains a brief quote at 0:31 (although it’s a few steps down). I like the slinky drum/bass groove of the A sections against the nigh silly-sounding synths while the strings are shreddin’ some nasty business. The B sections are based on a 6:5 pattern. The C section is a good time, with altering string/bass solos. After the second B section, the song takes a left turn and re-introduces the chord progression from “Omphalos”. Now, in this instance, it’s atop a crazily syncopated rhythm section onslaught amidst a labyrinth of time sigs, with the strings eventually entering with a quote from “Inceptallus”; the quote changes in melody to follow the progression.


“Zephyr” (starts at 56 BPM, then 57 BPM at 0:36, 58 BPM at 1:10, 98 BPM at 2:53, 56 BPM at 4:33)

Kicking this one off, the “Omphalos” progression continues uninterrupted, although now a slow, triplet-based ballad-y sort of feel. As with the A sections of “Omnigoliath”, I really tried to focus on writing some memorable string melodies for this, pulling the energy back a bit at first. After the brief pause at 0:35, the string melody is repeated with the square synth harmonizing (with some twists and turns). At 1:10, the strings quote one of the closing melodies of “Morose Park”, but since it’s so slow it takes on a different dynamic and is difficult to pinpoint. Then, a tasty bass solo at 1:44, and then—what’s all this, some damn jazz in the ‘Finite’ setting? Sure, why not, haha. There’s also a ridiculous trio of Otamatones here that leads to some cacophony and also some pretty moments. This weirdness segues into, well, a funky party, what else?! Then, a rapid-fire quintuplet funk thing at 3:23 and it’s back to the party with some alternate drum/bass figures. A quote from “Calamitous Confluence” enters on the strings at 4:12 with some rhythms slightly changed—thought that sounded neat in the funky context. This ramps up and lands nicely back into the intro, with a straight feel and some different melodies on the strings.


“Terra Nullius” (136 BPM, 119 BPM at 1:48)

The epic closer. Seeing as the album starts with a “Grimoire” quote, I thought it’d be cool to quote another part of it. There are chords (played in both instances on the charang synths) from one of the measures in the A sections of “Cosmocrator” superimposed onto this, which fade out while one of the chord partials slowly bends upward to induce a lot of tension. While this is occurring, the bass is playing the string solo from the second C section of “Grimoire” while the strings play the bass part, hah! Then, at 0:28, the strings rightfully quote itself and likewise for the bass. The “Grimoire” quoting continues with some minor changes until 0:47, when the strings and synths quote the “Extirpate” theme/one of the overall main ‘Finite’ themes, which is promptly abandoned; the effect on the synth is almost like it’s being stomped on, insinuating that the audience isn’t yet ready for this, or that we’ve heard it enough between its utilization in both EPs/‘Finite: Complete’. Anyway, another quick “Grimoire” accent quote and then it’s this insane segue section where several themes converge: the Japanese scale and chords (same chords that are superimposed at the beginning of the song) from “Cosmocrator”, along with the square chords from “Omnigoliath”. During this, on the drums I’m playing that rapid-fire ‘linear singles’ lick, which transitions from 16th triplets to 32nds; the visual this gives me (along with everything else happening) is when hyperdrive is engaged and they hit lightspeed in Star Wars, haha. This crashes into a drum/bass unison figure, the very same from the bridge of “Cosmocrator” although slower and with excessive amounts of delicious bass distortion. Synths and strings induce lots of tension just before they go tacet, then it’s just the rhythm section for a bit. A truncated version of the pattern emerges, ultimately in 5 to complement the ‘Cosmocrator’ theme which wafts in on the strings. This goes through a progression of sorts in conjunction with the bass. More creepy synth shit and the song hits a brick wall.

The chords that open “Extirpate” swell in and out; I used the Stylophone here to build waves of feedback and cut the audio in strategic places so you can hear a millisecond of it now and then after the synths subside. We go blasting (literally) into the main riff. I rearranged the rhythms, changed the drums, and introduced some other elements to avoid the riff becoming a straight-up quote—sounds mean as hell! At 2:33 there’s a brief quote from one of the synth/string parts (played on the strings an octave lower) in “Blunderbuss”. From 2:40 - 3:19, there’s a trade-off occurring between two distinct sections: one is shortening and becoming quicker/condensed, while the other is elongating, and there is volume automation on the master channel to further exaggerate the differences. The section that ‘grows’ is based on a 7:8 polyrhythm that I stumbled onto whilst improvising during the composition of this record. This is abandoned for a new section at 3:19; the charang synths are quoting and harmonizing the “Extirpate” riff here, and there are several effects on the master channel to invoke a ‘dreamy’ aesthetic. At 3:55 we’re back to the trade-off section, but starting with the shorter and quicker melodies and growing. Everything is also backwards, arrangement-wise, except for the drums, haha. At 4:37, a quote from “Cthonic Ensoulment” appears, phrased in 7-4. This segues into the charang synth quote from the same tune, but with a huge drum feel. The whole section builds epically and comes to a grinding halt, only to screamingly launch back into the death-metal-style quote of “Extirpate”. This is slightly expanded (same quote from “Blunderbuss” at 5:59, then at 6:13 played at the proper octave) and climaxes up to 6:19. The impression I get here is like the sudden end of a movie, and the credits begin to roll. There are sound design decorations aplenty, it was a real treat bringing this ambient section to life. The synths that are introduced - layer by layer - ultimately quote the progression first introduced in “Omphalos”.

At 8:02, the drums re-enter with a simple but deceiving off-kilter groove, with the synths and bass fulfilling the progression in an interesting 7-7-4 time sig sequence. From here until the end, the visual I’m going for is similar to when the ending credits portray snippets of scenes from each character in the movie, as a sort of way to see them off. I picked some quotes that I enjoy to fill it out, but I didn’t have too many left from which to choose, haha. But first, stereo strings enter, each one quoting the main themes: ‘Cosmocrator’ and ‘Extirpate’ (although in a different key to gel with everything). The first quote is on the charang synths, from the bridge of “How to Breathe Rarefied Air”. Then, the bass quote from the solo in “Zephyr”. Then, the square synths+strings quote a progression that permeates a fair portion of ‘Finite II’. Then, the charang quote to close, which is from the last bit of the synth solo in “Extirpate” (as well as a small portion of the first synth solo on ‘Silly String II’!); this climaxes and the drums and bass transition to the first pattern/groove from “Cascade”. While the rhythm section is cycling through, the synths and strings begin to duck down while the opening chord from “Cascade” gradually fades in on a different (square) synth and a different string track. The rhythm section fades away while the new synths+strings crescendo and it ends abruptly: just as ‘Finite’ begins.

I regard this work, along with both ‘Finite’ EPs (or ‘Finite: Complete’), ‘Silly String II’, and ‘Delectable Machinery’ as a ‘mini-oeuvre loop’. There may be another loop in the future.

I can point to this as a singular project and confidently state that I’ve never worked so hard and diligently on anything in my career thus far. If you have not, I hope that you’ll find the time, a quiet room, and a pair of headphones and give this record a chance.


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