morasso delivers an analog array of tracks that are nothing short of resplendent on their debut release, the same imaginary place: a convergence of dream-state tranquility and industrial phantasm
“Billy”, aka morasso, is a longtime contributor to the Surfers. He’s the resident analog-fiend that last appeared on the Couch Surfers Festival Stream back in June, and is one of the initial artists on our [Sine Wave Sample Pack] project.
the same imaginary place is an evocative expression of modular sound. The record kicks off with [a stillness of mind] a creaking door opens into an expansive serenity that’s breathing, levitating, as subtle sinister tones peak around the corner; the door then slams shut. The following track [overwhelming wonder] is cavernous, industrial, as darkness seeps through growling synthesizers. An anarchic light-dark motif permeates the whole record, where one minute you’re floating in the wonderous void and the next, reflecting on it’s oppressive darkness. The penultimate track [devouring body] provides the most crushing and contorted kick-bass blasts, layered percussion with icy precision, that leads into the ethereal titular track [the same imaginary place], widening into the comfortable hallucinatory space. It’s electronic instrumentation at it’s finest, an exploration of analog synthesis to close your eyes to and get lost in.
morasso took the time to share his thoughts on the debut album, giving us a deep dive into his technical prowess and the drive to create electronic music.
“What’s your process for creating a track? Does a DAW come into play?”
Yeah, I’m totally in the hardware world. All the sound generation is done by a series of drum machines, samplers, and synths running into and out of each other. Some old, some new. Everything is MIDI clocked to an Elektron Octatrack. Once I press play, all the machines fire up at the same time.
It’s certainly not a linear process. Sometimes I’ll start with a beat, or a sample, or a pad, but having all the instruments MIDI clocked is great because I can work it all out on the fly. Having different instruments to sequence keeps me from getting bored too.
The audio is eventually summed into an Apogee Quartet into Ableton, which I’m just using as a recorder.
All the tracks on this album were recorded live into the DAW with very little processing other than EQ and compression. It’s not as flexible as multitracking, but in some ways it’s the best workflow for me. I can make things fast. When it’s done, it’s done, and I can just move on.
“You got any opinions or anything you wanna say about your methods of sound design or hardware?”
I’m fortunate that I work in development for a synthesizer manufacturer in Asheville, so I’m lucky to be able to play with all sorts of different instruments that I would never be able to afford.
The “analog vs. digital” debate is tired, but it does have some merit. I would recommend producers consider picking up at least one hardware synth, sampler, or drum machine. Even if you just work in the box. There are loads of options out there.
It’s weird to build an organic, emotional bond with a box of circuits and components, but you learn its nuances, quirks and what pisses you off about it. It’s fun.
For example, a lot of the pad sounds are from my 1984 Kawai SX-240. It’s a simple poly synth, but I know it so well. It still sounds amazing even though its older than I am. The main pad in “the same imaginary place” is the SX-240. I will just leave it on, droning, and it will put me in such a mood. I remember laying on the rug in my studio thinking about family and friends that I missed, wondering how they were doing and crying listening to it. That synthesizer just washes me in emotion. You can connect with these machines deeply.
“What’s ‘the same imaginary place’ inspired by? Like, what’s the head-space you were in during the creative process?“
I started recording the album when the COVID-19 lockdowns started. My buddy Youniss, (https://www.instagram.com/youuuniss) had started an Instagram account, encouraging producers to make music, every day, until the lockdowns were lifted. So, I decided to participate. All the tracks on the album came from that effort. I have a highlight on my Instagram of every single one of those days for anyone that’s curious. (https://www.instagram.com/_morasso)
It was weird though when the virus really started to spread and everyone was closing shop, in like May or June. The George Floyd protests hit Asheville with some steam, and local government was a mess and totally toxic. People here were very upset. I was angry too. Social media was a constant reminder of it.
Good moments of reflection came from that too though. Focusing a lot on self-care and making these tracks every day to try to cope. I had, ironically, met someone during that time too, which helped me escape a bit. There was a lot of comfort in being able to confide in someone during all that.
I guess a bunch of swirling emotions inspired this album more than anything. I’m just glad to have had an outlet for them. Looking back now, it was beneficial to wade through those experiences, which I admit is somewhat of a privileged statement. The release of this album has nurtured a sense of closure for me in some ways.
“Throughout the record, there’s a ton of contrasting evocative sounds, almost like a light/dark theme throughout the tracklist. Are these sounds a reflection of how the album was made?”
So, there’s a little underground dance party out here called “party w/djs” (https://www.instagram.com/partywdjs) that was super fun to play and has really pushed me towards making more dance music. It’s always been easier for me to make moody, sadboi things though. I’m just a naturally emotional person, for better or worse.
I’m glad you picked up on this, because it’s something that I try hard to incorporate. It’s a challenge finding ways to blend those two spheres together, but I love the contrast of moody, airy, ambient music with the underground club vibe. It’s something I’ve been trying to more intently work on when I make tracks.
“Anything to promote? What we can expect in the future?”
There are a few more things coming up to finish off the release of this album. I also have a bunch of new stuff that I’m working to get out to the world. This is my first album, but it’s been a struggle to build the confidence to release anything. It’s taken years of dead projects to get here. The response to it has been far and beyond what I ever expected. It really means a lot that it’s resonating with people. It’s extremely motivating.
Lots of love to Sine Wave Surfers too. I can’t wait to come back up to Blacksburg and see you all again. A truly special community and it’s been beautiful to see it grow. So many amazing, and talented people. It gives me hope.
I also want to give a shoutout to a few artists/friends that actively encouraged me to put this album out. I suffer, as I’m sure many people do, with incessant overthinking and self-doubt. These people helped me push past that mental block.
Big thanks to morasso for interviewing with us and for the insights within. He’s a big part of the SWS fam, and we’re so excited to hear more. Throw him some dosh on the album over on Bandcamp if you can, and be sure to follow him on Soundcloud. If you saw a track or link in bold-text, hover over and click to get directly to the relevant page!
Support morasso below: