“For me, it’s not so much where it comes from but how you harness what you have,” says Dauwd Al Hilali. As Dauwd, the British producer makes music out of such seemingly disparate sources as old jazz records and field recordings from nature, among others. “Even something as flat sounding as vinyl crackle can have rhythm,” he explains.
When making a beat, Dauwd seeks out “natural rhythms,” which he defines as: “[finding] a groove in something that perhaps you wouldn’t expect, for example maybe a recording of an object falling and rolling on the ground. There would be an infinite amount of detail in this, where you could isolate any part and work with the ‘natural groove/rhythm’ it creates. This would be impossible to recreate through MIDI alone, and gives a really organic sound.”
Dauwd's sample editing in Sampler
To find and sculpt these natural rhythms, Dauwd turns to Sampler. “Using Sampler, you can throw in any sample or recording and start searching for rhythms and sounds that can be looped or manipulated,” he says. He will also often edit the start position of a sample, or assign an envelope or LFO to it so that it constantly changes. Working with vocal samples, Dauwd takes a similarly unusual approach. “I incorporate vocals in a similar way I do any other sound,” he says. “I don’t focus too much on the narrative of the vocal, but more the intonation and 'natural rhythm’ between sounds. Sampler makes it really easy to find fragments of sound that have vocal elements from all kinds of sources.”
Dauwd’s drum programming matches his non-traditional sampling. Using Impulse, he tends to slip MIDI notes off the grid when making a drum sequence. “If you hold CMD [ALT in Windows] and drag a MIDI note you can take it off the grid really quick which adds a more natural feel to the music - especially when trying to achieve some swing on a percussion pattern.”
Dauwd's envelopes in Sampler
Dauwd demonstrates his workflow in this Live Pack, downloadable from his label’s website, and recorded during a recent visit to the Ableton office in Berlin.