EML Features: HIGHWAY by ACE

ACE is an R&B / pop instrumental composer based in Singapore, and a member of the NUS Electronic Music Lab. We caught up with ACE to find out more about the newest track HIGHWAY.

What is the story behind your new release? Why did you create it and what is it about?

I always looked at Western artists and how they referenced the streets of New York, LA, etc. and Western listeners naturally know what all of it means. So I decided to create a beat that captured that same familiarity but among Singaporeans instead! I stay in the East side of Singapore, and the signboard I always see whenever I come home is the Changi Airport-bound text. Whenever I see that sign go by, I know I'm arriving back home - to a safe space. So while I was inspired by Western artists' references to their street names, the originality I added to this was a personal story about the road home, instead of the road to material glory.

What is your musical story (briefly) that brought you to create your new release?

-The drum pattern was the first element laid out for the song. I have always envisioned a simple but groovy kick, snare, and hi hat pattern while going down the highway towards the East side of Singapore. Some things are just left up to the vibrations. And then I slowly layered a really chill chord progression, with a cheeky melody, and then an explosive outro because arriving home gives a sense of euphoria for me.

What did you use to make this: software, hardware, devices?

-I mainly used Ableton to create the song, with a generous mix of stock sounds and external plugins like Dune and Tyrell. but I had the help of my trusty M-AUDIO Midi keyboard for the drum pattern. I tried not to quantize it because, like I said before, I wanted a groove. So having the drum pads on the M-AUDIO were useful in giving me that physical outlet to groove while inputting the sounds of the kicks, snares, hi hats, cymbals, etc. 

What was the most challenging part of this release? And the most fun?

-The challenging part was the outro. I never knew I wanted to include electric guitar-sounding textures but here we are. I riffed hundreds of times and made it even more complicated than the previous attempt. I realised a simple adlib was good enough for the vibration I was going for. Groovy. Home. The most fun has to be the cheeky and bouncy melodies that vary each chorus. I am greatly inspired by Charlie Puth's rule that each chorus should have something ever so slightly different from one another. So trying to create that difference was fun.

Where can we find it, all the links?

-"Highway" is available on my soundcloud! I never really promoted it much because I was hellbent on just letting it out as soon as I could. So any listen means the world to me. Enjoy! https://soundcloud.com/ace002/highway

As a bonus, here is a video of ACE performing live with W/AI at NUS Arts Festival 2022 First Light, National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre.