When introducing a new take on a famous nameplate there’s reason to be bold. For example, if you’ve got an all-electric crossover wearing the same badge as a classic American pony car, it’s smart to enlist Idris Elba for the launch, the way Ford did for the Mustang Mach-E. Idris Elba is cool. People like him.
Then Ford created a howling, seven-motored, 1400-hp version of the Mach-E to show fans that, if endlessly modified, this horse will drift. Up next: a soundtrack. Ford hired Detroit electronic DJ/producer/musician Matthew Dear to turn the sounds the Mach-E makes into a dance track called “New Breed.” If this doesn’t prove to consumers that electric cars have a BPM rate somewhere above the Leaf/Bolt flat-line, we don’t know what will.
“With a song like this, it can be a daunting task,” Dear says. “Do I make a song like you would hear in a race car movie? Does it need to be fast paced? There are so many preconceived notions in my head about what a car song would sound like. But, honestly, as soon as I heard the sounds, it became apparent that this would be a really cool thing to do, because the sounds are so out there. The sounds are something that I would have had in my arsenal, anyway.”
Dear’s goal then was to take the sounds Ford gave him and use them in a way that reflected the sequence drivers will experience: getting into the car, starting it, and driving away. “A full experience, start to finish,” he says.
Electric cars can be eerie. Lacking the rasp, whoosh, wallop, and white noise of an internal-combustion engine, they coast along in uncanny silence, decoupling our limbic system’s typical, and often gleeful, association of speed and sound. In order to counteract this freakiness, automakers have taken to piping accelerative soundtracks into their new electric cars, sometimes even going so far as hiring famed Oscar-winning tunesmiths to compose these futuristic warbles.
“Sound has always been an important part of a vehicle’s identity and arguably none more so than the rumble of a V-8 Mustang many are already familiar with,” Ford sound engineer Mark Clapper says. “Since this would be the first electric Mustang, we wanted to create something unique that would draw on its classic sound but still stand out on its own.” Using the chirruping electric vehicles from Eighties movies like Blade Runner as a foundational influence, Clapper’s team worked with a studio called Ozone Sound to craft what Ford’s press release describes as “electronic oscillations that emanate in and outside of the Mustang Mach-E while the vehicle is in motion.”
Dear, one of the founding artists at the independent record label Ghostly International, used that work to go about his, a feat that was somewhat complex, given the nature of the samples he had to work with. “They’re not all in key, and some of them don’t really have a key. So there were a few things I had to do in order to trick the ear or navigate around that,” he says.
He didn’t stop with the theremin-like trill of the speeding up or slowing down. He also used turn signals, door chimes, backup beeps, the welcome sequence, and the noise of the motor “idling.” In fact, Dear ended up building the song’s key base around one of the interior sounds. (“Maybe it was a B-flat?” he says.) Then he added one of the idling noises. “I had to re-pitch it,” he says. “Then, I had to pick a tempo, so I re-timed it. And once I did that I had to make the other sounds work in that tempo.” So, a lot of the work at the beginning of the process was just, “opening up the toolbox and trying to get everything to fit together in and of itself.”
This process was strangely similar to the way Dear typically approaches composition. “Like any kind of sample-based song, you can’t just take a loop off of one song and expect it to work with another. You have to kind of match everything,” he says. “Then, from there, I did what I normally do. I let the sounds dictate where I’m going.”
Of course, working with Ford brought something fresh to Dear’s experience as well. “I don’t usually have a major car manufacturer as the executive producer,” he says. “Though of all the commercialized projects I’ve done, Ford was the coolest, and the most hands-off of my clients. They really let me do whatever I wanted to do. They really trusted the artistic integrity of the project, which is really rare.”
Listen to “New Breed” on your streaming service of choice.
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