My Favorite Machines

Buraka Som Sistema

By Ken Taylor

Last year’s Komba really helped put Lisbon, Portugal-based kuduro hybridists Buraka Som Sistema on the dance world map, following up on their debut LP, Black Diamond, and further cementing on record what their legendary ass-shakin’ live shows do for the club. In that respect, the band more or less put the decision of choosing their third single into the hands of their fans—and the crowd’s reaction spoke unanimously to them: “Tira o Pe” would be that tune. Lucky for us, they’ve decided to release that single, and its requisite remixes from Roby Howler, JWLS, and Jay Fay, exclusively on Beatport.

Tira o Pe” and all the tunes on Komba combine kuduro‘s hard-edged Angolan dance vibe with BSS’s modern, technology-forward bent, so we asked member J-Wow to tell us about the choice pieces of gear in their arsenal that make their super-unique sound possible.

1. My Apogee Duet soundcard

The Apogee Duet is a soundcard that first came out a couple years ago, and it’s actually super-common. We all have one, just ‘cause they’re so portable and sound so good. I remember once we actually had to go to Guitar Center in LA in the middle of a tour to buy one to finish a remix. We love it so much because Apogee has such a clear sound that it generates amazing work possibilities while on the road. We have an Apogee Symphony/Rosetta setup at our studio in Lisbon, and the Duet lets us have a similar two-channel system on the road that’s easy on the back. The only reason I’m talking about it is ‘cause we’ve wasted so much time tweaking songs because something sounded weird when in fact the problem was actually the lack of clarity on the regular MacBook Pro soundcard.

2. My LennarDigital Sylenth-1 soft synth

The Sylenth-1 is a VST soft-synth. I think it’s like two years old or something. Also not very rare at all, and in fact, I think everyone that makes music with a laptop probably has it. But we’ve developed a special relationship with it. We’ve got our own presets that we’ve created over the past couple of years, and it’s just easy to get to the sound you want with it. We almost never use it for basslines (there’s a lot more stuff out there that handles bass frequencies better than a Sylenth), but we do use it for the percussive synths that have already become a trademark of Buraka’s sound—short, staccato with pitch automations. You can hear it on a lot of songs on Komba, like ”Hangover (BaBaBa Remix)” and ”Tira o Pe.” We were already using this sort of synth before Sylenth, but this little VST just made it simpler and more versatile.

3. My TK Audio BC1 stereo buss compressor

The BC1 is an outboard stereo buss compressor. I don’t know a lot of people who use it, but it’s pretty easy got get your hands on one. We bought this compressor when we were mixing down our last album, Komba, about a year ago, at a shop in Lisbon. 95% of the music we do is created in the box with VSTs and random samples we collect, so lately we started feeling the need to add an extra analog dynamic to our songs, especially on vocals and getting those drums and percussion elements blending in. We tried all sorts of things and came to the conclusion that the answer for what we needed was mostly in good buss compressors to add different analog tones to different sections of the songs, creating a unique personality and deepness to how our songs sound. With its Blend function, the BC1 compressor is one of our favorite tools to make this happen; we use it both on the drum buss and in the overall output of a song—it glues stuff together. We also use Empirical Labs’ Distressor and other cheaper stereo compressors for this purpose. We used the BC1 for mixdowns on almost every song on Komba. I remember being especially happy with the results on album-oriented songs like ”Eskeleto” and ”Voodoo Love.”

*Check out J-Wow’s Beatport chart right here.