Track By Tracks: PHARMACOSE - Ascension’s Constraint Pt 1 (2023)

1. Cleanse You:

This was the first song I wrote for the album. It was before I had the idea to pair the record with a book. It was around the time the COVID lockdowns started, and our lead guitarist and drummer had left the band. Also, Lu Rubino, our bassist and producer, was getting a lot of work, so I realized that if I wanted to keep going, I was going to have to assume the primary producer role. I wasn’t a stranger to production, but I wasn’t very good at it either. I remember sitting in my apartment at the time being disappointed about how everything had turned out. I was sort of by myself again. I was upset, and I just had a moment where I told myself that if I had to do it on my own, then so be it. I was going get good at production and mixing. This song was the result of my trying to find a new sound that involved mixing synths with heavy guitars. I’m not exaggerating when I say I re-recorded the song a dozen times. It was all part of the learning experience. The song itself is about the hypocrisy of corporations. They jump through hoops to appear as though they care about us and our well-being, and they spend a lot of money on PR to try to drive that point. In the end, though, it’s all lip service. All they care about is profit, and they don’t care who or what they have to sacrifice to get it, since “it’s just business.”

2. If I Were Better:

This was the second song I wrote for the album. It’s about the dangers of placing our faith in others. We look to celebrities, politicians, and other public figures to lead us to salvation. They make promises and then let us down. We forgive them, and the cycle repeats. Each time we do, we lose a bit of faith in ourselves. So, the title of the song is a lament about that. The song was also another step towards finding a new sound. All the synths you hear were made on a euro rack.

3. Beyond The Singularity:

This was the last song I wrote for the record. I’ve talked before about my interest in consciousness, and this song is sort of a brainstorm on what consciousness is. There is evidence that consciousness could be received by the brain, rather than generated by it. If that’s the case, then where does it come from? For this song, I used soft synths, particularly Arturia’s MS-20 emulation. Hardware synths are expensive, so I’ve bought and sold a lot of them to try and see what I like the most. I was sort of between hardware synths when I wrote this, so I decided to give some soft synths a try. The MS-20 just sounded great to me. I ran a few parts through an amp emulation, and that was basically the song.

4. Could I Be Dreaming:

This is the fourth song I wrote for the album. It was back before I sold my eurorack, so that’s where the bass line came from. The other synth parts were done with an Elektron Digitone. The song itself is just about confusion. Sometimes I feel like we’re just lied to from dawn to dusk. Everyone wants something from us, and they’ll create whatever reality they have to in order to get it from you.

5. Unworthy:

This was the third song I wrote for the record. The synth parts were all done at various times over the course of a few years. This was by far the hardest song for me to do produce because it was just so involved. I think the parts that made it were mostly a Moog Matriarch, which I’ve also since sold. It was an awesome synth, but it was just so big. Desk space is a commodity in my studio. I’m very big on ergonomics, so something has to sound good and fit. I know, I’m picky. The song itself is about an evil boss talking down to one of his employees. It parallels a part in the book where the protagonist’s brother is verbally cut to shreds by his boss, Leopold Karpus, who also happens to be the book’s primary antagonist.

6. Make ‘Em Pay:

This was a song that was produced by Lu Rubino, who has produced most of the songs that Pharmacose has done. I’d like to do more songs with him, but he’s a busy guy, and I like to work sort of late at night. That’s when I get my best work done. I walked into his studio with nothing prepared, other than it parallels a major event in the book, which I don’t really want to spoil. He and I like to write songs from scratch in the studio from time to time. It’s just a fun thing to do, and we usually get something cool out of it. In the past, we’ve even finished songs in one session, but this one took a couple. He had just gotten an SSL Origin, so it was my first time getting to see a console in action.

7. Do Something:

This was the second to last song I wrote for the album. I think by this point I had started to hit my stride. I may not have mentioned it before, but all the songs except Make ‘Em Pay and Obey were ones that I did by myself. I had released them all as singles previously, but when it came time to compile all of them into a record, I decided that I hadn’t done a great job on them. At first, I was just going to remix all the songs, but then I decided to re-record most of them, including this one. When I went back and compared this one to the old one, it was better, but the old version was not as bad as I thought it was. I guess the lesson is that when you are too close to a song, it’s easy to think that it’s not good enough. That’s when it’s time to take a break from it for a few days. The song itself is again about consciousness. It introduces the fact that consciousness is something that could be received rather than generated. It goes a little bit further, though. I think a lot of us feel that there is just something not right. It’s as if things aren’t how they should be. It’s hard to put my finger on it, so it would be nice to feel if others feel that way, and maybe it has something to do with our collective consciousness. I might be wrong, but at the very least it’s a feeling I wanted to explore.

8. Duress:

This song is about mind control. If consciousness is received, can it be hijacked? That’s a plot point in the book, so I won’t spoil it. I want to point out that I don’t think that something like 5G is doing it. I think there are other, more conventional ways to accomplish this goal, such as TV and social media. None of that stuff is real, but it sure seems like it at times. This song is where I started experimenting with software synths. I tried a bunch of them, and I really fell in love with Arturia’s MS-20. It’s so ballsy. I’m also using their Prophet emulation. One of these days I want to get a Prophet, but they are expensive so it’s hard to justify.

9. Obey:

This is another song about mind control. This one is more of a commentary on how society is manipulated. I think it’s some sort of tribute to both They Live and George Carlin. I can’t really speak much about the production because Lu had already recorded the music. It was intended for another band, but they decided against using it. I thought it was cool, so we used it for Pharmacose instead. I think it might be the only song we’ve done together to which Lu contributed lyrics. It’s not that I don’t want any help. I think Lu enjoys hearing what I come up with. He’s genuinely supportive, and that is something I really appreciate about him.

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