Platform: Windows/Echo audio Layla soundcard

Software: Sonic foundry's Acid and Sound Forge, Cubase, various freeware

To create the symphonic robo-pop of Manic Expressive (Tiger Style), Her Space Holiday's Marc Bianchi used a surprisingly basic setup: He recorded to a Tascam 1/2-inch 8-track, cut the tracks into loops with Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge editing software, and then painted out his arrangements in SF's Acid. "I know that to a lot of people in the industry it's a really low-end program, but it's really simple to use," Bianchi says. "That's what I started with so I pretty much stick with it." Manic's sweeping string arrangements sound like they were done by a string quartet - or at least an expensive sampler. Not so: All the string tracks were made, piece by piece, in Acid. "I used a sample CD that just had individual notes of real instruments," Bianchi says. I'd open [a string sample] in Acid, use its pitch change and make a little melody. It was made like a DJ Shadow record, where there were a lot of samples that I manipulated. That's the toughest thing, I think, when you're working with strings, to get a realistic feeling of an actual player making the sound and not make it sound like a Moby song, where you can tell the pitch is just shifting erratically."

Mush Records