Ghost Train

And to the people He said, “Take care, be on your guard against all covetousness, for no one’s life consists in the superabundance of his possessions.” And He spoke a parable to them. “A certain rich man’s lands,” He said, “yielded abundant crops, and he debated within himself, saying, “‘What am I to do? for I have no place in which to store my crops.’ “And he said to himself, “‘This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and in them I will store up all my harvest and my wealth; and I will say to my life, “‘Life, you have ample possessions laid up for many years to come: take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.’ “But God said to him, “‘Foolish man, this night your life is demanded from you; and these preparations–for whom shall they be?’ “So is it with him who amasses treasure for himself, but has no riches in God.
Luke 12:15-21.
Then Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, my friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill the body, but after that they can do nothing more to hurt you. I will show you the one to fear. You should fear God, who has the power to kill you and also to throw you into hell. Yes, he is the one you should fear.
Luke 12:4-5.

Extract from my post on the REAPER audio forum:

This track is the newest track (as of 17th June, 2014) from my new album, “Hidden Gems | Instrumental Journeys,” and is a complete rework of a tune I originally composed nearly 1/4 of a century ago as part of a long since disbanded duo I was a member of. This new mix has undergone a specific surround treatment so it should work well on Dolby ProLogic II systems (use movie mode rather than music mode on Yamaha amps).
This one makes use exclusively of my Yamaha SY77 synthesizer, one which is in my opinion and that of many others, a HUGELY underrated synth capable of emulating many of the analog classics of the 70s and early 80s. Of course, it is eminently capable of delivering the palette of other Yamaha classics such as the DX7 and creating textures and sounds unique to its hybrid mix of AFM, AWM and analog style filtering.

Anyway, enough raving about the synth and on to the tune.

As mentioned, I originally composed this track almost 1/4 of a century ago using the SY77 on board 16 track sequencer and the data for the track was saved on 3 1/2“ floppy disks in Yamaha SY77 sequencer format. As we all know, those floppies were not known for their robustness so it was a gamble as to whether the data would still be intact all these years later. Indeed, it was enough of a challenge finding the track amidst all the floppies I have and then finding the original sound banks I created for the track.
As it turns out, I found the original sound bank first. In went the floppy and, much to my delight, the SY77 read it and loaded its contents without a problem. However, for some unknown reason, I DIDN’T save the sequencer data on the same disk!
So the next challenge was to find the sequencer data which was probably on one of the MANY unlabelled ones I have! The first of these disks I tried would not load. The SY77 came up with a corrupt disk error. Hopefully that wasn’t a sign of what was to come with the other disks. Hmmm……
On went the search through my other disks and along the way, I found the original disks I got with my SY77 which contained six sound bank collections and their associated demo tracks. Anyone who has owned an SY77 and had these disks will remember those six collections as the Manhattan, Platinum, Alchemy, California, Benelux and PJ collections.
As I did when I first got this synth, I saved some of my newest tracks to those demo disks (without erasing the sound collections of course!) so I searched through them for Ghost Train but to no avail. Another hmmmm…..
Then, I found a disk which was not even labelled as an SY77 disk. It was labelled ‘ideas, games.’ I have no idea what it originally contained (when I wrote that label on it) but what it DID contain was the sequencer data for Ghost Train and again, the SY77 read it and loaded it without issue! Whew!

At this point, I loaded up SY Manager on my laptop and saved all the SY77 sound bank data from that floppy disk to my HDD. I also recorded the MIDI data along with the audio for each track of Ghost Train to the REAPER project for this song. I’m actually planning to do that with all the songs and sounds I have on floppies while they still work.

OK, with all that sorted, let’s move on to the music…..

The concept behind this track is the idea of an otherworldly train entering the picture and taking the listener on a journey beyond our physical world and into the realm of eternity.
The track opens with a somewhat ominous mix of bubbling lava and enveloping textures enhanced with the use of Valhalla Shimmer reverb.

At around 30 seconds, a chord progression gives a clue as to what is to come and the sounds of what I envisioned to be electrical disturbances from the imminent entry of a ghostly train from an eternal dimension begin.

At 49 seconds, the sound of the train racing along its tracks breaks into the soundscape and leads us to a change of perspective…..

At 1:05, our perspective switches from that of an observer to that of someone immediately transported on board the glowing, multi-dimensional, speeding train.
The patch for the haunting Moog style lead at this point was created two days ago specifically for the remake of this track and the solo is a brand new addition. Again, I make use of the pitch wheel and the two modulation wheels on my SY77 for this patch. The first mod wheel controls the typical LFO modulation of the oscillators and the second wheel controls the cutoff frequency of the filters. For this patch, I performed the solo with the synth in patch edit mode and used the data entry slider to control the resonance of the filters as I played the solo.

There is also another monophonic, portamento style solo which begins at 2:08 and continues for a few bars (to 2:40) on its own before counterpointing the main solo for the majority of the rest of the tune. The mono solo was actually the original and only keyboard solo for this tune. My partner in the duo mentioned earlier originally played a guitar solo on this track using a Roland GR1 guitar synth but, while I really like what he played, I had always envisaged something different for this track and the new solo is much closer to my original vision.

At 2:40, we change keys and the new solo re-enters, joining the original solo. As with my previous tune, O Jerusalem, I made use of the stereo stage and kept the original solo in the middle and spread the new solo wide. I also used sidechained compression on the original solo, sidechained to the new solo so they would share the space without getting in the way of each other. The sounds are also quite different in their frequency content which helps them sit together without ending up an unitelligable mess.

At 4:12, the train takes us to our first stop to pick up more passengers and the music gains a fairly traditional ‘middle eight’ which may, or may not be eight bars long!!

At 4:28, we head off down the tracks again for the final part of the journey and the tune picks up some ‘weight’ with a sequenced octave bass part and a change of emphasis via some active ‘playing’ of the filters on the new solo. Have a listen for the rich resonating top end on the filter at around 4:49. THAT is one of the reasons I have no plans of selling my SY77!! It has filters more typical of a 70s analog monster than that of a 90s digital synth…. and yes, they can self oscillate.

At 7:08, the train once again disappears into eternity…… with the passengers still on board!
The echoing of the train on the tracks here is created with Variety of Sound, NastyDLA MKII which is BY FAR my favourite delay plugin. I just LOVE the accuracy of its vintage delay emulation and that chorus, the modulation and the filters are SUPERB! Grab it if you haven’t already. It is FREE!!

The rest of the track is a palette of sounds to leave us contemplating the destination of that train. The lush reverbs here are once again courtesy of Valhalla Shimmer. The main reverb on the rest of the track is Valhalla Room and the delays are a mix of Nasty DLA MKII and ReaDelay. Most of the phasing effects are Arts Acoustic Big Rock which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone who loves the Electro-Harmonix Small Stone. It is basically a Small Stone on steroids!!

Stereo widening of some sounds, multiband dynamics (on individual channels, NOT the 2 buss), harmonic enhancement and 2 buss EQ is all via iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced and everything was recorded from my SY77 into my new RME Fireface UFX. I actually recorded the tracks one by one into REAPER even though I could’ve recorded four tracks at a time via the SY77’s four outputs. The reason I did this was to avoid any channel crosstalk between tracks. The SY77 actually has a bug which prevents sounds from being fully panned left. The maximum left pan value is 31 rather than 32 and results in a very slight leak into the right channel of anything panned hard left. Panning hard right does not present the same problem.

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