Revisiting Brainorchestra.'s 'The Wizard's Scroll'
With the one-year anniversary of his innovative, '90s video game-inspired EP approaching, the New Jersey native explains what went into making it.
Prior to the creation of his July 2020 concept EP The Wizard's Scroll, Elizabeth, New Jersey-based MC/producer Brainorchestra. took a trip to Baltimore. During his time in Maryland he lost himself in a number of retro role-playing games stored on his ANBERNIC handheld gaming console. Of the 10,000 games included with the device he was especially taken with Electronic Arts’ 1990 offering The Immortal.
Featuring goblins and trolls, a healthy dose of vintage video game violence, and a clever twist ending, the game revolves around an unnamed wizard trying to save their mentor Mordamir from deep within a place called the Labyrinth of Eternity. The Immortal also features an engrossing score composed by Michael Bartlow, Douglas Fulton, and Rob Hubbard - a prolific composer known for his work on Skate or Die! and a variety of other titles.
Impressive as the music is, Brainorchestra. found himself especially captivated by the storyline and atmosphere. As he played the game repeatedly a lightbulb went off - what if he made an instrumental album prequel to this 30-year-old gem? The grim realities of COVID and subsequent quarantine further inspired him to craft an unconventional musical storyline that might provide his listeners - and himself - with a bit of much-needed escapism. “I Just wanted to do something different and have fun,” he says.
With a wide range of recently composed beats sitting in the stash, he was confident he could find a handful that fit the desired mood. “I was like, ‘Let me try to see if I can finagle some beats into something,’” he says. “And then I ended up sonically finding some some really good catches.”
Though the Elizabeth resident is known for utilizing a wide range of gear in his production arsenal, the beats that appear on The Wizard’s Scroll all came from a fairly similar process. The instrumentals often started in his MPC Live before the stems were exported to Ableton for further adjustment and manipulation.
In addition to leaning heavily on Ableton and his MPC Live, Brainorchestra. also felt a special affinity for Universal Audio’s plugins. “They're some of the best plugins ever right now,” he says. “I use a lot of their reel-to-reel emulator shit when I can't get any reel-to reel-tape dubbing. But I do a lot of mastering with those too.”
He also used a number of plugins from Splice for video game effects and the interlude bits of the score that appear at the beginning of each track. Additional samples came from vinyl rips from his personal record collection and sound sources discovered through various online spaces.
The music that comprises the entirety of the EP came together quickly. Likening his releases to “moments in time,” Brainorchestra. explains that creative windows of just a few weeks sometimes generate enough instrumentals for a full project. Most of the beats that made the final version of The Wizard’s Scroll represent a two to three week window of work.
Though there was a certain vibe that drove the beat selection process, Brainorchestra. didn’t limit himself to one genre or style. “When I was choosing the beats, I felt like I just wanted to find mystical feels,” he says. “Like the intro song [“The Wizards Scroll (Mystical Spliff)”] is very triumphant and then “Joy Road”is very jazzy, but sort of thoughtful. They all had their own type of feel.”
On the subject of “The Outlands (Joy Road),” he divulges some interesting info about how the track came to be and the original music he used. “I made that in the beginning of quarantine,” he says. “I sampled this crazy Russian vinyl that I have. I slowed it down a pretty good amount and then just added a nice kick and additional drums on it.”
Maintaining a cohesive sound with different musical genres, a short run time, and a narrative focus is no easy feat, so Brainorchestra. made sure that he handled every single part of the production process including mastering and mixing. “I did everything,” he says. “I had to get my vision out a little bit better, it’s easier to do it myself. I've always been doing it myself.”
He also took no shortcuts with packaging once the EP was ready for release in late July of 2020. The limited edition 7-inch vinyl of The Wizard’s Scroll on Bandcamp includes an exclusive comic book drawn specifically for the project. The hard work that went into the music and rollout paid off - The Wizard’s Scroll trended on the streaming service Audiomack and received strong praise from significant outlets on social media after its release.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Brainorchestra. has five releases in the past 11 months - Marmalade, SACRED, E-Town General, My Persona and his most recent effort Message To You. Whether it’s The Wizard’s Scroll or his most current release, the goal remains the same: take risks, enjoy the process, and keep an element of surprise with each new rollout. “I wanted to show people you can just kind of do whatever you want really and just have fun,” he says. “I want to keep people on their toes.”
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to the Micro-Chop newsletter to support independent music journalism.