It was the 20th of April, 2018, when we introduced our readers to Obscure Transmissions via Demo:listen. Now, less than a year later, TG (the sole artist behind Obscure Transmissions) has returned with five more tracks of lonely space synth to help you simulate the feeling of free-floating through the desolate cosmos.
TG also runs the tape label NVNM, and he plays in numerous bands, including but not limited to Death Fortress, Damnation Lust, Jaws of Hades, Massive Retaliation . . . the list is practically endless. Obscure Transmissions is, without a doubt, his most unique project. But even in its own realm, up against other dungeon synth, dark ambient, or space synth projects, Obscure Transmissions remains a singular entity.
Volume 2 is set to be released on cassette tape in the coming weeks through TG’s other tape label, Antignosis (the name of TG’s ‘old’ solo black metal band’s demo, incidentally), which seems to (so far) focus on synth and noise projects. When it’s released, get yourself a copy of Volume 2 from NVNM.
An interview with Obscure Transmissions’ producer, TG.
Have you acquired any synths or new “toys” since Volume 1 that were implemented on this new installment?
Indeed I have. Very much so. When last we spoke I had just gotten my Korg MS-20 mini which, as I predicted, has become a cornerstone of the setup. I have also since sold the Microbrute, but acquired two of the Behringer analog synths–the Model D and the Neutron. I now have four main “voices” to work with—I am experimenting with doing more interesting compositions taking a sort of four part harmony approach. Some of that is at play on Volume 2.
Aside from that, I have also extended my analog recording capabilities, namely purchasing a Tascam 488 8 track cassette recorder. This will also theoretically allow me to do some more interesting stuff—I look forward to experimenting more in the future.
What did you want to do differently on Volume 2?
Musically not much changed on this batch, save that the arrangements are becoming more complex. Technically speaking, aside from using synths I didn’t have before, I also mixed these tracks on a separate mixer than the one built into the Tascam, and mastered the tracks through a spring reverb unit. Definitely a more involved process, but I think the sonic benefits are evident. This is part of a broader project of building an analog mixing setup for all my other projects . . . all part of my obsessive quest to build a suitable home studio. May it never be complete.
What did you want to carry over from Volume 1 and do the same on Volume 2?
Mainly to uphold the spirit and approach of Volume 1. To me, Obscure Transmissions is an expression of wanting to do things a certain way, and having a concept to work within. All Obscure Transmissions will be recorded using only analog synthesizers on tape with analog effects. This does not stem from some misguided belief that analog is totally superior–it’s just what I want to do in this context. I have a few digital synths as well, but I find they don’t fit the vibe for this project. The fact that I was not only able to work within the same concept, but improve it (at least, in my opinion), means I have done what I set out to do.
What all goes into creating an Obscure Transmissions song?
It depends on the song. Some pieces I already have some ideas fleshed out, and some pieces are more or less created on the spot. I will typically start with two parts, one sequenced and one performed live, recorded simultaneously to tape. Any additional parts are then overdubbed. Songs that are more fleshed out typically don’t take very long to record, but ones I make up on the spot can sometimes take hours to complete. I spend a lot of time playing over what’s recorded and experimenting with building harmonies . . . this amounts to spending a lot of time on rewinding the tape alone. Recently I have begun working on the arrangements ahead of time using the computer to flesh out the different parts. The pieces that will be featured on Volume 3 will likely be composed this way, though I still intend to perform the parts by hand when they are recorded.
Once the parts are all recorded, each track on the cassette recorder is sent to an external analog mixing board, where the levels and EQ are adjusted; and in the case of Volume 2, spring reverb was added to give the overall mix some space. They are then mixed down either on to the computer or to a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
You’re in a ton of black and death metal bands. How does a project like Obscure Transmissions fit in? What makes it rewarding enough to keep after it?
I suppose it fits in because I’m the one doing it, if nothing else. Obscure Transmissions is rewarding for me because it allows me to utilize different approaches and abilities that are often not or under-used in a metal context. I never spent much time composing music in a more traditional way, and doing this project has revealed that I really enjoy it and extract a lot of personal satisfaction from doing it. Personal satisfaction is always the bottom line for me when it comes to making music. Sometimes that’s a metal project, sometimes it’s electronic, and someday it might be something else. If I am interested in and able to do some sort of musical or creative project I will at least give it a shot.
Volume 2 is somehow lonelier, and feels more isolated than the first work. “2-4” is a great example. It’s an active, even upbeat song, but there’s a persistent haunted feeling. Would you agree that this release is moodier?
I wouldn’t say that I made it moodier by design. I do not typically have a preconceived notion of what any Obscure Transmissions song is going to be or sound like. Usually I will “discover” a melody as I’m messing around, and if I like it enough I will try to expand on it. I find that the overall vibe of a piece often becomes clearer as more layers are added—building different harmonies creates different moods—and sometimes a song winds up sounding totally different than what I originally thought. It’s funny that you describe Transmission 2-4 as haunting—to me it’s the most upbeat song of the batch. That particular piece has possessed me since I released Volume 1—it’s probably my favorite OT track thus far.
Why is keeping the process completely analog important for you and this project?
Mainly for the sound and the process. I am not an analog purist overall—I grew up on digital recording and still do it very frequently. I mainly just love how it sounds, and I think it’s perfect for this project. I also enjoy working within the limitations that are inherent in analog recording. I tend to work better within confines rather than having infinite options. After spending six months mixing Arms of the War God [Massive Retaliation’s debut full length], having to do everything on the computer is significantly less appealing to me. Thankfully I’m about at the point where I don’t have to if I don’t want to.
Well done on the last track. In some lunar mountain chain, on the dark side, of course, the Chinese found weird onion-domed ruins. That’s what this song makes me think of. This is the closest I think OT has gotten to something like dungeon synth. What’s the story with this closer?
The last track was actually the first recording I made with the Neutron, taking advantage of its oscillator sync and paraphonic mode. I hadn’t planned on including this in the beginning, but when I listened back I realized it made for a perfect closer. It was definitely not a conscious effort to write a dungeon synth track—frankly, that was never my aim with Obscure Transmissions in the first place—but most people I talk to liken it to that style, so if the shoe fits…
All that being said, I do have something more traditionally dungeon synth in the works. It’s still a very nascent project, but I am excited to explore some different vibes with different equipment.
What’re the details on the tapes for Volume 2?
They are dubbed and ready to go. They will be available for purchase when the next NVNM releases are unleashed, which will be at some point after we return from Siege Column’s performance in Portland at the Torment is Flesh festival.
What’s next for Obscure Transmissions? What’s next for Antignosis?
I will continue to work as I have been. I could not say when to expect more music, only that I am continually working on new ideas. As for Antignosis, there are no firm plans, but plenty of ideas.
Thank you for your continued interest in this project!