The time of way too bright mixes has arrived (again). I have recently noticed this, while listening to all kinds of modern stuff. Especially hip-hop and EDM tracks. It’s the new shit, man. Kids are learning all the stuff about “expensive high-end” and adding that precious “air” to the sound. So they do the same, but going by the good old principle. Which one is that? The one that says “more is better”, of course. Who’s to blame for this? Certainly not me. Whatever happened, it wasn’t me. Don’t ever forget that.
Machine hi-hat eats your head off
Yeah man, that’s a common symptom. I can kind of see why they do this though. With putting these very loud, metallic, robotic sounding hi-hats in the mix, they can fight the levels of the enormous low end. Also the overly in-your-face vocals, and the hard biting, loud snare. So everything is turned up in a highly obnoxious way, that create the signature of these aggressive genres. They are meant to be played in a car with powerful hi-fi systems. You know, the kind that easily blows your tiny, miserable hatchback apart from three corners away. Then they turn ’em on. Anyway. So to a pair of ears trained on subtle dynamics and smart roll-off slopes, these loud hi-hats jump out like the sore genitals of a power-hardon suffering male whale.
Speaking of slopes – harshness anatomy
I mentioned them roll-off slopes above. You know, the curves that can describe how natural the sound of your music is, generally speaking. What? You haven’t heard about the 3dB and 6dB per octave slopes? Well, the former one is the way the pink noise rolls off, gradually. The 6dB/octave one is even softer, mellower and belongs to the Brownian noise (sometimes called red noise). These are kind of the golden standards of mastering, and if you check out a well recorded, mixed and mastered track, the top end roll-off will fall somewhere around these lines. Usually between them, sometimes even below the 6dB one. Not because someone said they should fall there, mind you. It’s because they sound the most natural to our ears. Erm, naturally. But that also means they might not sound the most aggressive.
Express your aggression – with brightness
That’s what it this harshness is for. Back in the old(er) days, it was the mids and high mids. Think of those hard, distorted guitars. Then came the big bass. Everything was booming, the sub was flowing through the walls. Even at those guys living on the other side of the planet. And with digital, the possibilities of new, unheard details of fidelity have opened up. So kids are now naturally exploiting these new possibilities, with adding their heart and soul and pain into that fukken high-end. And their dirty desires, too, of course. And so it becomes this harsh, cutting shit. Enjoy!