Submotion Orchestra – a study in bass & production

Formed in Leeds in 2009 the Submotion Orchestra are touching the zeitgeist with their dynamic frequencies and crisp production. Their sound has been heralded by younger dance fans and ageing beard-stroking musos alike. Influences span the decades, from jazz, to soul, ambient, dubstep, electronica and house but are all nailed firmly to the ground with some very sharp production and use of ground-breaking technology.

While each musician is very talented in their own right they are the sum of their parts thanks to producer Dom Ruckspin (real name Dom Howard).  Dom has been a DJ and producer since he was 15 and is responsible for the band’s delicate but heavy, spacious but dense, highly atmospheric sound. Influenced by the likes of Leftfield, Goldie & Moving Shadow Records and with a canny grasp on the technical in the studio he’s also in charge of the band’s live sound while touring. And if you’ve ever been in front of them at a live gig (as I was at Wilderness Festival last year) you’ll appreciate how important a part of their attraction this is. Ruby Wood’s crystal clear vocals and the band’s huge dynamic range are an awesome juxtaposition.


Dom Ruckspin at work

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Left: 2 x strips from SSL E 6000 console (custom racked). Top Rack: Control Synthesis Deep Bass 9 / Summit Audio DCL 200 / Avalon 737sp / Apogee Rosetta 800 / Apogee Ensemble. Bottom Rack: SSL Alpha Link / Behringer Tube Compressor / Focusrite ISA 828 / RME Pre 8

Chris Hargreaves is the other key component of the band. Aka Fatty Chris brings the bass. He’s a bassist but like Dom a technician too. Chris uses banks of foot pedals to apply effects to his basslines. His influences are dub and hip hop but he’s equally at home playing over Wood’s slow vocal tracks.

In an interview on the Shep On Bass blog Chris had this to say of his style:

My live sound changes for different gigs. It all starts with a synth sound on the M9 and then I try assigning expression pedals to the different parts of the sound so that I can automate the cutoffs or resonance within a bass line. The LFO’s are all done by using a panner in mono with the Moog Bass MuRF and the mix is assigned to an expression pedal so I have complete control of when they come in and out.


in reality this translates to give the bass lines of Submotion Orchestra music a whole landscape and depth of their own. Rather than being flat and monotone the way Chris layers the effects and bends the sounds gives a real unique flavour to the bass line.

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Recorded in part at the Prince Fatty studios in Brighton the new album Alium is a delight and a worthy follow up to the awesome Fragments. Listen to and download it here:

Further reading:

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Not in the least bit copyrighted by Tim Aldiss 2012