This case study is a critical analysis of a song by Gorillaz entitled “Slow Country“. It will aim to break down the song in terms of tempo, pitch, structure, instrumentation, interest, and the use of dynamic, spectral, and time domain processing to better understand how the song recording was constructed and produced.
- Song title: Slow Country
- Artist: Gorillaz
- Release Date: March 26th 2001
- From the album: Gorillaz (March 26th 2001)
Calling me all the time
Me and my soul
Geared to attack
Never get another chance
So what you doing
Gotta get money
Keeping me real
Can’t stand your loneliness
Can’t stand loneliness
Can’t stand your loneliness
Can’t stand loneliness
Shit night life
Been trying not to laugh though
You won’t get money
From doing what you loving
I’m moving out of city
Victor of a second chance
Get a lot of problems
We kicked a lot of them
- Stuart Harold ‘2D’ Pot
- Murdoc Alphonse Niccals
- Russel Hobbs
The brains behind Gorillaz:
- David Albarn (music – everything)
- Jamie Hewlett (character design)
With this final case study, I’ve decided to do something different and base it on a band full of fictional characters – a ‘virtual band’. Gorillaz, not unlike other virtual acts such as Alvin & The Chipmunks, Dethklok, Hatsune Miku & Your Favourite Martian, is a virtual band made up of fictional characters from the minds of David Albarn (lead singer of English rock band ‘Blur’) & Jamie Hewlett (comic book artist).
Breaking It Down
This section will break down the song to highlight these fundamental composition elements.
Waveform of Slow Country (captured using FL Studio 11)
BPM & Time Signature
Time Signature: 4/4
Scale & Key Signature
Key: B Major
Amount of bars: 127
- Intro (4 bars) Bars 1-4
- Chorus A (8 bars) Bars 5-12
- Verse (16 bars) Bars 13-28
- Pre-Chorus (7 bars) Bars 29-35
- Chorus A (8 bars) Bars 36-43
- Pre-Verse (3 bars) Bars 44-46
- Verse (16 bars) Bars 47-62
- Pre-Chorus (7 bars)Bars 63-69
- Chorus A (8 bars) Bars 70-77
- Pre-Verse (3 bars) Bars 78-80
- Bridge (15 bars) Bars 81-95
- Chorus A (8 bars) Bars 96-103
- Chorus B (8 bars) Bars 104-111
- Outro (16 bars) Bars 112-127
- Fade/Ring Out
I was able to identify 5 different sound elements in this recording. Below I will explain where the different elements occur in the structure of the song and what processing has been applied to the recordings to achieve the sound.
1 – Drums
- Sampled drum beat from The Specials’ late 1980’s reggae hit Ghost Town (‘Air’ sound effect was also part of this sample). Sounds like EQ processing was used here to ‘remaster’ the sound and bring in some low to mid frequencies into the mix. Also sounds like the sample was duplicated and a expander/gate was used on the copy to fatten up just the kick and snare a little bit, which is evident through the release time and how the kick and snare sound a little ‘choppy’. Light reverb has been utilised on this sound.
- Crash cymbals, open hats, closed hats and additional snare hits were added in to accompany the sampled beat.
The drums occur all throughout the song except for the pre-chorus and pre-verse sections.
2 – Bass Guitar
The bass guitar occurs all throughout the song, except for the intro and pre-chorus sections. It does not feel picked but rather fingered as the method of performance – there is not much attack on the notes of the bass.
3 – Vocals
- Main vocals – occur from the first verse onwards until the outro. They do not occur in the pre-choruses or pre-verses.
- “Woop woop” vocal cuts – most prominent in the verses but also occur in the choruses (past the first one), the pre-verses, the bridge, and the outro.
4 – Keyboard / Synths
- Piano riff in first chorus A & outro. Delay is noticeable on piano at the end of the song once everything stops and the delay lingers. Subtle, higher-pitched chords can be heard in the pre-verse and chorus B as well.
- Octaved additive synths which sound like a mix of sawtooth and square waves occupy the pre-choruses (also leading into the choruses a bit). Some portamento is used to help the notes ‘glide’ from one note to another. Delay and reverb are used on these sounds to help them sound a little atmospheric and ‘spacey’.
- Deep sounding string/horn stab samples (could even be pitched down vocal cuts) which sound like there’s a fair bit of reverb on them to help achieve such deepness.
5 – Sound FX
- The breezy ‘air’ sound effect from the Ghost Town sample – occurs all throughout the song but is attenuated with a low pass filter at times when the song becomes more quiet so it does not overpower the atmosphere the other elements are trying to create (filters noticeable in pre-chorus and pre-verse sections).
- Ambient noises accompanied by a wind chime sample – occuring in the pre-verse and chorus B.
Spectral balance and stereo field of Slow Country’s bridge section (captured using EasySSP vo.1)
The dynamics for this song are all fairly similar throughout. There are no distinct places where it feels less ‘loud’ in comparison to anywhere else in the track.
Overall Spectral Balance
The overall feel to the track is a warm feeling which comes from the overall mix being run through a low pass filter with no signal at all going over the 15kHz mark.
The mix is very mono, and only gets a little wider in the pre-chorus sections with the additive synths – the higher one panned to the left a little and the lower one panned to the right. As an alternative sample based easy listening track, it’s supposed to sound downtempo and mellow, so hardly any number of elements can be causing interest at the same time as each other.
Personally the most interesting parts about this song lie in the use of vocal ‘woop woops’ in the verses as opposed to synths, and keeping the actual synths as the main thing that mixes up the track a bit, and takes you to a different place for a few seconds before bringing the beat back in. It’s a nice mellow song that you can throw in a chill-out playlist, and that’s what I like about this song.
WhoSampled (2016, March, 13) Gorillaz’s ‘Slow Country’ sample of The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town [Website] Retrieved 7th November, 2016, from http://www.whosampled.com/sample/17762/Gorillaz-Slow-Country-The-Specials-Ghost-Town/
Wikipedia (2016, November, 14) Gorillaz (album) – Wikipedia [Wiki Page] Retrieved 7th December, 2016, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorillaz_(album)
Wikipedia (2016, December, 7) Gorillaz – Wikipedia [Wiki Page] Retrieved 7th December, 2016, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorillaz