"It Was a Statement Album": The Making of Ohbliv's 'MindGarden'

How the veteran producer used an SP-404, an open source audio editor, cassette sample drums, and a centerpiece track to make a defining album.

On June 17th, 2014, Richmond, VA producer Ohbliv dropped MindGarden.

After nearly five years of consistently putting out instrumental albums he wanted to demonstrate a new level of confidence and musicianship. “It was a statement album," he said in a 2020 Reverb article.

In addition to serving as an important component of Ohbliv’s vast catalog, the album was the debut effort for Courtney Blood's Thrash Flow label. In the six years since MindGarden, Thrash Flow has released records by Buscrates, Butcher Brown, Count Bass D, DJ Harrison, and others.

To create his statement album, Ohbliv pushed his creative use of Roland’s SP-404 sampler to new levels. On a number of tracks he sampled loops into the 404, recorded them with the open source audio editor Audacity, dropped the pitch, and resampled them with the 404. Perhaps a bit labor intensive for some people’s taste, this is a strategy he still uses today.

In addition to his use of Audacity, Ohbliv also recorded to cassette tape and sampled the tapes directly into his trusty 404. This was an ever-present strategy in his 2013 and 2014 releases and a technique for drum samples on some of his newer material. For an example of how cassette sample drums make the music on MindGarden sound so beautiful, give a listen to the track “Ohgirl.”

Though the memories of creating songs like “Ohgirl” remain vivid for Ohbliv, “Southside Vibrations” in particular stands out to him for being a foundation for the whole record.

More than six years have passed since the release of MindGarden, yet it remains an ever-important moment in instrumental hip-hop. It marked a new stage in a seminal producer’s career, helped put an important label on the map, and showcased an abundance of innovative production techniques.

The instrumental genre is quite a bit more crowded than it was in 2014, but MindGarden is still “a statement album.”

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