Back to blog
December 10, 2014

Gust of Wind - Pharrell Williams

In the Wake of the Daft Punk 2013 Tsunami, the team responsible for that record working together. One of the tracks resulting from that collaboration was released on the Pharell Williams record under the name Gust Of Wind. Pharrell + Daft Punk + Mick Guzauski are an interestingly diverse team and Gust Of Wind is a great mix of old and new. Let's investigate.

Listen here:

Structure wise, the song opens with Pharrell's signature stuttered intro and flows into the string line hook (Real strings Ladies and Gentlemen, for real).

The first verse gives way to a pre-chorus (where the strings return). The chorus is brought along by Daft Punk's vocoder lines. Then there is this cool post chorus / Bridg-ey thing which we'll hear again later. Then there the second verse. The second pre-chorus has a totally different melody and vocal shape but the second chorus is basically a copy paste version of the first one and so is the post chorus part. Then we get into a real bridge section feeling with a choir drenched in reverb giving into a repeat of the first pre-chorus and one more chorus (Notice how the bleed from the vocoder is a nice pick up to the chorus everytime). By now we realize that the chorus is meant to be the vocoder plus the 'after-chorus part'. They close the song on a replay of the bridge part and an old school fade.

Sonically the song is in the vain of Daft Punk's 2013 hit record with a little more muscle. It was mixed by Mick Guzauski in the box, at home at first, and then taken to Conway Studios in LA and ran it through a Neve 88r, an Avalon EQ, a Neve 33609 compressor and 1/2 inch tape. It was a mid-size session (I counted 72 audio tracks outside routing tricks and aux returns when Mick showed it to me). Most instruments were on separate tracks except the strings which came as three premixed stereo pair. Mick mixes in stems which allows him to keep dynamics alive but still deliver a mix that is able to be played next to more compressed records.

The bottom of the track is the most interesting. Notice how the bass is very forward and holds the fort. The main bass drum sits above it and pokes thru without being in the way. It's a great puzzle. The best part is the tuned 808 bass drum that hits on the 'and' of beat 4 every other bar. Check it out. It allows the bass to be lyrical without loosing the bottom. Very smart production. These kinds of things help songs get mixed faster, fatter and with less trickery. Notice the fierce bass playing while you're at it. It's a bass sample played by a serious keyboard player. It's not copy pasted, it changes slightly all the time, which make the record alive and fun to listen to several times in a row. You can tell it's a sample because all attacks are exactly the same.

The snare is actually bone dry but the claps are run through a big very stereo reverb. It gives the track this front to back quality. It's easiest to hear on the verses, see how the contrast between the two generates enormous space for the whole mix. The snare actually drops out of the chorus along with the hat pattern leaving the bass drum and claps alone and completely changing the motion of the rhythm section.

To wrap the rhythm section tracks there is that Chic style guitar, a very sparse part designed to give the slight abruptness to the groove. Notice how the guitar is panned dynamically. One hit in the middle, one on the right and one on the left. Cool idea. And it creates more space.

There is also a cool little riff track that comes in on the left to punctuate phrases. It sounds slightly different than the main one. Both are very dry.

Keyboard wise, there is a Rhodes that creates the velvet for the song. Very discreet, very stereo, probably by using a short delay on a mono track because there is no modulation showing. The part provides a gliding motion that interacts well with the staccato guitars.

On the intro there is a cool open filter square wave pad that provide grit in the middle. It pans smoothly while is plays. It's absence on the verse creates a nice transition between intro and verse. It also show up again in the post chorus parts becaseu they are basically the same as the intro without vocals. Or probably, the intro is the same as the post chorus part without vocal, because that's an old school trick used by producers in this kind of Music for a long time.

You'll also notice a very light choir style synth holding a pedal on the verses. (It is later reused on the bridge to good effect).

The strings, which define the sound of the whole track, were arranged by Hans Zimmer. You can tell they are real because they push and pull a little bit, they are not perfectly quantized. They are augmented by some samples but the main take is a real orchestra. Pay attention to the room sound on the end of lines, it has a certain color that is hard to get with sampled strings only. They also have a plate style reverb tail for sauce. It is very interesting to hear such a color in a modern pop track

The vocals are treated in a very classic way. The vocal has reverb and delay on it. Probably a quarter note with long feedback and one very long plate like reverb.They are constant from part to part but get colored by the amount of surrounding material that influences them. For example, Mick chose to subtly raise the vocal on the prechorus to create a pickup for the song. It also sounds a bit drier there because there is some pad material coming in that soaks up the reverb.

On the chorus the vocal are made up of Daft Punk's intricate vocoder work and a multitracked Pharrell unison set of doubles. See how the Pharrel vocals cradle the vocoders and give them more attack. You can hear at least two vocoder tracks. Probably more but Mick was sent a finished comped version for mixing so it's hard to figure out what is really going on even with the raw session.

On the bridge, which reportedly was supposed to be a rap verse but was later left instrumental, Mick chose to treat a choir fx synth into a lot of reverb then passed through a flanger to give it a vibe and a reason to be. There is also a vocal sample popping thru on there to keep interest going, It's all very discreet but help fill the gap in real vocal presence.

The thing that is lovely about this song is that it's all very simple and empty feeling but that in reality a lot went into making it feel that way. It is a great example of a team bringing back an old school sound with a modern sensibility. Strings, vocoders and Chic style guitars are part of our collective musical consciousness, but the way they are treated here gives them a new modern tint. If you are interested in checking out where this song comes from, I recommend checking out Earth Wind And Fire 'Let's Groove' or "Serpentine Fire" for example. Shiny jacket required.

Fab Dupont.


Pianist and Resident Engineer of Fuseroom Recording Studio in Berlin, Hollywood's Musicians Institute Scholarship winner and Outstanding Student Award 2005, ee's worked in productions for Italian pop stars like Anna Oxa, Marco Masini and RAF, Stefano 'Cocco' Cantini and Riccardo Galardini, side by side with world-class musicians and mentors like Roger Burn and since 2013 is part of the team at Alberto has worked with David White, Niels Kurvin, Jenny Wu, Apple and Apple Music, Microsoft, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Virgin Airlines, Cane, Morgan Heritage, Riot Games, Dangerous Music, Focal, Universal Audio and more.