Welcome to the latest deconstruction from Point Blank, where lead course developer Ski Oakenfull takes a track apart and rebuilds it piece by piece. Recorded at Ableton Loop where Point Blank featured as a partner on the programme, Ski went to town on perhaps the best single of the 90’s: Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’. These deconstructions are used to teach students about production techniques, arrangement and composition, and there’s plenty more where this came from in PB’s course materials. If you’d like to learn how to use all of the techniques shown here and more, enrol in one of their Music Production courses.
Last year at Ableton’s industry summit, Loop, Point Blank had their lead course developer deconstruct one of the greatest tracks pressed to wax in the way only he can. ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ was a revelation on release in 1991 and continues to be so today, a triple-threat of the band’s vision, Will Malone’s iconic string arrangement, and Shara Nelson’s gorgeous lyrics and delivery. Interestingly, as we learn in the video, the track features no bassline.
Getting into the deconstruction, Ski samples the break from JJ Johnson’s ‘Parade Strut’, and the vocal snippet that appears throughout from the rather obscure ‘Planetary Citizen’ by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The string parts he composes from Ableton’s own in-built String Ensemble pack, and the bell riff he grabs from an old hotel bell. For those incredible vocals, he enlists the help of Valerie Etienne of Galiano and, lately, Jamiroquoi, who recorded some acapellas. Finally, with a few extra elements thrown in, we hear Ski’s completed version, and the results are, frankly, bang on.