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Culture music

Melt: A Genre of Pitch Shifting and Arpeggios


I’ve been thinking about inventing this genre for quite some time because I have always wanted a word for the style of music I make besides just calling it “noise.” I also don’t feel like calling it “psychedelic” would be entirely accurate either. Enter “melt,” a genre I’ve started calling some of my more electronic tracks with a hyperfocus on surrealism and abstract sound structures.

The basic idea behind melt music is that it incorporates a heavy amount of pitch shifting or arpeggios. When I first started creating music in 2001 I was obsessed with the arpeggiator that Fruity Loops (now FL Studio) had and I would mess around with it on every track. Performers hate arpeggios, and think they’re below their pay grade, but I always tried to experiment with them anyways.

I ended up arpeggiating most of the synths I had in each track to some degree, sometimes going with the random option. The idea was to overdub more and more different types of chord structures happening all at once.

Then I’d go through and pitch shift certain tracks so you’d get this feeling of “bouncing.” However, as opposed to playful bouncing, it was a more dissonant sound. I want to create soundscapes where everything expanded and contracted on a bigger scale. Most music has its own structure based on techniques in music theory in order to sound good. There are basic design philosophies musicians tend to go by when creating new music. However, I do not like rules and tend to create my own.

Instead of writing my own chords or key changes, I would just throw whatever loops I wanted into an arpeggiator and set them to expand and contract in certain ways.

I found this easy to do with more visual or tactile methods of music creation. Theremins, kaoss pads, and other pad-based synths are ideal for this style of music.

Not only that, but you have to add a certain amount of delay, reverb, and echo to give it that chamber/baroque/hypnogogic feeling. That’s an important element of Melt music, is that it also must sound surrealistic. I suppose I could have called it Dream-Psych, but I feel like “melt” can be a good prefix for anything.

The key components to melt are these:

  • Pitch Shifting
  • Arpeggios
  • Dreamlike sound effects a la shoegaze, psych, or chamber pop.

You don’t necessarily have to do all three; however, I’d wager the dreamlike state is the most important.

I feel like this term can bridge the gap between certain types of noise, psych, and dreampop aesthetics. While I feel this ‘melt’ aesthetic is part of psychedelic music, it isn’t the defining factor, and can be a key element for other genres that aren’t exactly considered psychedelic.

Psych generally focuses on an outward surrealism. One that you can see and touch and that is made tangible. I feel like songs that have melt as an aesthetic might tend to push you more into an introverted dreamstate like trance.

Groups like Acid Mother’s Temple or Christine 23 Onna/Acid Eater would be good examples of this:

Basically, the idea I’m trying to support is that just because you have theremin type sounds, does not instantly make a song psychedelic. I feel like melt, describes the aesthetic of an x/y axis visual control you’d get with a pad synth or theremin. The wobbling back and forth, and the constant pitch shifting you get because you’re physically making the notes slide as they do. There aren’t clear jumps, there’s just a lot of expanding and contracting.

I have a number of examples I’d consider “melt-noise” that I’ve made over the years. You can tell they are different genres of noise, but the chief concept is wobbly-ness of the notes and the dreamlike aesthetic pitch-shifting with delay and echo can give.

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