Under a heavy moon last October, synth magus Dylan Packard loosed Ritus Accersendi from its tomb. An unwieldy alloy formed of sizzling noise and percussive wallops, the project saw Packard’s more unholy urges crystalize in satanic electronics. Of its four tracks, named solely in unflinching Latin, “Ex Igne Infernali” could be considered its moment of respite. While the other tracks lay waste to all sounds organic, “Ex Igne Inferni” burrows deep underground, at once spacious and muffled in gloriously unfurling din.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with Packard to shed some light on the ideas and sounds behind his befuddlingly diverse discography:
I'm curious as to how you formulate an album or an EP. Sometimes they're Ambient, sometimes House, 70s Moog mood music, Noise, etc. ––it really blows me away how well you switch modes up and nail the mood every time with incredibly deft production:
What are the driving factors behind approaching so many different styles of electronic music?
Typically my EPs/albums will just be a loose collection of tracks that I did in somewhat the same time period. I tend to go on benders with one type of music or another, like a couple months of old-school Detroitish Techno and House, then all of a sudden go on a total kick of Synthwave, then Ambient, then weird Experimental beats, then some heavy stuff come Halloween time. Throw in some weird forays into Funk and R&B and you've got a recipe for probably the most confusing discography on Bandcamp!
It just comes down to however I'm feeling or whatever I'm listening to. I'll be listening to [Aphex Twin’s] Syro or druqs, then, all of a sudden, everything comes out kinda Braindance-y and Techno'd. With my crippling gear addiction, a lot of my music is honestly just made to test gear. I'll buy something like the Reface CP, then, bam, I've bashed out a weird little R&B/Funk project that night.
Havana Lounge was a lot of experimentation with my Quadraverb and slowing down tape. I'd record down a couple tracks, one of the preset organ drum machine and one of pads. Then come back through with a few more layers, record down and absolutely compress the shit out of it.
I enjoy doing these sort of short-form projects, and ironically they tend to be the most cohesive vision-wise. Oh well haha.
That being said, I do sometimes make an album with a purpose. I'm working on a Lo-fi Synthwave thing right now and that one has been somewhat planned.
Could you describe the process and ideas behind Ritus Accersendi?
I noticed the especially witchy use of Latin!
When listening to the EP I instantly thought of Emptyset and Container––especially the former.
Hahaha, I'm glad you noticed the eeeeviiilllll Latin in there, I wanted to make it a bit more mysterious and ominous, and what better way than invoking a dead language to heavily distorted synths?
Ritus was actually started as a submission for the /r/synthesizers October competition (and also for the discord channel's as well), inspired by another heavy track I made on the modular that acted as a bit of a prototype.
I had been playing a shit ton of DOOM 2016 again at that point. I was super inspired by Mick Gordon with that soundtrack, and watching his developer conference talks where he went over the signal chain and the nitty gritty details of the sound was hugely helpful. Lots of feedback, lots of barely stable delays and distortions. Always just on the edge of self-oscillation and falling apart to give it that really raw gritty sound.
I think I was making Ritus with my still somewhat freshly acquired QY700, came right after QySeq. So, I've got this brand new Arturia Drumbrute Impact and it's got a drive knob. I crank that sucker up to 11, and put the kick delay way the hell up. Alright, that sounds pretty gnarly! So I sequence some stuff on the QY700 to drive the Drumbrute, and that's sounding extra nasty. A really slow backing beat with sudden sporadic bursts of 16th notes and triplets. Add in some pads with chords that mostly consisted of me smashing my hands on the keyboard, then add in a freeware tube driver VST I found that can crash your DAW if you crank the oversampling too high (did that and nearly lost my project lol), and bam! Ritus was born.
[The four tracks] were all produced chronologically, one after the other. I'd finish one, then move onto the next after a day or two. “Spiritus Immundus” was my entry into the competition, and after I had finished that I realized I could probably make a full project of material like that, just noisy and chaotic. “Immolationis” was a bit faster, with some random elements thanks to the Lorentz Modelling in the Ornaments and Crimes Eurorack module. Same deal as before, lots of heavy distortion to entirely alter the original sounds till they're unrecognizable. Played around a lot more with heavier-handed feedback as well with this one, wanted to give this feeling of slightly more rapid/purposeful movement. Still sequenced on the QY700.
“Ex Igne Infernali” I made as a bit of an inbetweener. I had the MS-20 mini and the Monoloue just kinda droning and being fed through multiple compressors or back into itself in the case of the MS-20 Mini. This one was all unsequenced, just live playing and messing with parameters to smash some speakers. Wanted this ominous building feeling that would eventually just go away, I love those sort of anti-climaxes in spooky movies and the like. Keeps you on edge, basically anxiety music.
“Agnus Dei” was made pretty late into the cycle of development here. It's probably the most noise-wall out of all of em, featuring some insanity from the TX81Z and the JD-800 making some truly terrible screeching sounds. I tried my hardest to make that JD-800 emit some truly nails-on-chalkboard using some of the built in pitch randomness, and that worked quite nicely haha! I almost wanted the drums and FM plucks to sound like a demented helicopter, sounds like you're being attacked by this track. Plus it has a similar drum pattern to the first, but like three times the speed. I wanted something super heavy to jam out to in the evenings. Very cathartic, that last track. I was jumping around like a lunatic, head-banging and everything. What a time!
Concerning the idea / narrative process behind songs: the final product of your releases is sometimes very specific. I mean, you could title your tracks like Autechre or Aphex Twin with numbers and arrangements of letters, but on a release like Hollow you title each track as another line of a poem:
Could you describe how you go about creating a narrative for your work through album art or song titles?
With regards to naming conventions, I'm just honestly really bad at naming things haha! When I open up REAPER, I always save once before starting to make sure that the damn thing auto-saves. Typically I just either smash my hand on the keyboard, write down some funny little thing, take out my frustrations at REAPER crashing, or list whatever equipment I plan to use. A few times I actually have a name in mind, but mostly I start with garbled nonsense. For names I generally actually just look at the front of the equipment I'm using, find cool or unusual phrases/words/abbreviations on them, and make that the title.
Hollow was a bit different. I actually just recorded the whole thing in one go, pausing once to flip the tape over when it hit the end of side A. Everything was just improvisation, no plans, just kind of wandering around from idea to idea and letting the weird harmonies formed by whatever I've played being pitched upwards by the granular processor I was using. I would transition from thought to thought and try to keep things flowing as much as possible, figured I would chop the thing up in DAW once I was done.
So, I chopped it up! As for the poem, I actually just wrote it keeping in mind how many lines I could write. More improvisation, still quite free-form, but I was already in the mood of the music I had just recorded. It's all a bit loose and janky, but at this point I think that's quite solidly my aesthetic. I'm the master of jank and I relish it haha!
I'm reminded a bit of how, as an artist, titling work can completely change how something is read!
I wholeheartedly agree. Titling is huge for understanding when it comes to the listener; it provides really the only moment of framing you get as an artist. I can write a diatribe about what this and that meant, but most people aren't going to bother with that. They'll hear the song on shuffle or while they're driving, maybe while they're studying or working. When they look down at their phone wondering what the racket is, the first and probably only thing they will see is the title and maybe the artist's name. All that being said, I'm terribly sloppy with naming. I'll typically ask my wife for a name and build off of that, or do the look around on my desk and find interesting words method. For some of the more Techno-y stuff (like Dualtech) I'll use some bizarre naming convention listing BPM and equipment usage and the like. That can be quite fun, though not terrifically unique haha.
I can tell from your Instagram that you’re very passionate about synthesizers:
How did this develop over time?
I am verrrry passionate about synths these days. It’s a combination of appreciation for the engineering and science behind them and also having a background in music. I've played clarinet for about 15 years now, and have done a little bit of music theory through classes and self-teaching. Generally I was always very centered around music and making/recording it. I think I've even got some old videos on my youtube from the days when I'd arrange pieces for multiple clarinets, then multitrack a one-man-band of clarineting Dylans!
You can learn more about Dylan Packard here:
About the Curator - Psetta
Psetta is an interdisciplinary artist & musician. Hailing from Portland, Maine, he curates community radio programming, flirting with mundane, innovative & surreal sounds.
With his radio show, So Fertile, he runs a biweekly submission-friendly playlist, “summer but I don’t like heat”, covering upcoming, obscure, and quintessential Lo-Fi, Electronic, Dream Pop, Ambient, Post-Punk, & Experimental music.
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