Originally recorded with the entirely outboard setup in 2008. This is fairly synth-heavy, with a lot of Waldorf Q, Micowave XT, Nord and MS2000R. The original mixdown was severely lacking low end, aside from the occasional boom, which was fairly overwhelming and chewed up all space for the main kick. Now fixed up with a functional kick and some changes to the hats.
Zero tracks in nearly ten years, then two within a month. It’s like London buses here!
This track started as a variant of Memories of Time, but it was always my intent to take the bits wherever they wanted to go at a higher tempo. And so we have here a track that includes one or two bits that are time-stretched or just sped up MIDI from the original recordings, some bits that have been slightly re-written, and more than half net new parts (although some of those parts use the same sounds from Memories of Time). Is it a reprise? It’s definitely not a remix. I reckon it’s a new track with some common bits. It really doesn’t matter, but having finished another thing does, and hopefully the name establishes sufficient commonality. In any case I hope it is well received.
For the first time in nearly a decade, I’ve found my feet in the studio, and have actually managed to finish a track (embedded below). There are so many contributing changes, including:
- Removal of the massive 32-channel Soundcraft mixing desk.
- Replacement with a set of sound interfaces that can meet my needs digitally and the right control surfaces to retain tactile control.
- Acceptance that I work better with a screen, even if I don’t want making music to be fully synonymous with looking at a screen.
- Adding some simpler analog synths to complement the more complex digital synths that have been my primary focus forever. I’ve discovered that the immediacy the analog synths afford is incomparable, even if I don’t subscribe to digital vs. analog sound quality dogma. The TD-3, MS-1 and Pro-1 work for me because the sounds they make work, always have worked, and are incredibly effective for creating a foundation. They are lovely machines. I probably should have embraced this sooner, but the raft of cheaper clones has finally made this more possible without so much risk, and I really love them.
- The time spent late last year with MidiQuest to gain control of the external kit was an essential foundation I’d discarded for far too long. Particularly, the time spent working with them to create a Jomox AirBase 99 module was critical, as a mechanism for engaging with the instrument and learning how to manage it, but also MidiQuest taught me how to use the Jomox, even if that eventually made me less reliant on MidiQuest.
- I’m old enough to be pretty comfortable with my own creative idiosyncrasies.
Ultimately, I finally have a way of working that allows me to start and stop without so much fear of volatility, I have the sound quality I need, I have the inputs I need, I have learned how to handle this complex arrangement of disparate things, and I feel like the things I’m making are of a quality that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trading on past glories.
Hope you enjoy this.
A few years ago, before things went quiet here, I uploaded an older track (2001 IIRC) to Soundcloud, because I’ve always liked it and I’ve unfortunately lost the parts. I was pretty meticulous about saving/backing stuff up at the time, but this was a casualty of some mistake or another. I still have a .WAV of the track in its final state, which I like, but a lot of people have told me they’re not massively in to the distorted 909 kick (there are two 909s – one of which seems to be a bit on the Lenny D side of things for some people). Anyway… this song did a lot of things I was happy with at the time, and if the kick is a blemish today, so be it.
Many apologies for the disservice here. Fatherhood and the rest of life have taken precedence over writing about music. It’s probably going to stay that way, although I have actually been buying a lot of music, and really spending time taking it in. Some updates on this flow from @phonopsia.
By inserting some distance between myself and the pressures of keeping up with new music, I’ve found myself drawn to albums, which has resulted in a long-overdue engagement with my musical past. To this end, back in January I filled loads of holes in my music collection along the lines of The Pixies, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock; but I also started exploring a load of things I’d intentionally overlooked forever, which is an impulse that’s stuck with me throughout the year. I say, “intentionally” because I prioritised purchasing new music pretty much non-stop for the last twenty-five years and it now feels like the right time to start spending more time looking back.
I haven’t forgotten the present, and a few things will pop up here from recent months, but this is largely a view of the old stuff that caught my ears, as inspired by brelson’s top 10 albums of 2011. This is a selection of YouTube clips and is taxonomically muddled but I think this is the easiest way to present my interests these days and hopefully an easy way for you to consume it. So, without further digression, here’s some stuff I’ve been listening to.
His Name is Alive
I first rediscovered His Name is Alive via the Brothers Quay’s video for “Are We Still Married”, which I vaguely remembered from when it used to get play on MTV. They were also one of the miriad bands that I overlooked in my late teens, as I developed a short-lived aversion to everything without synths, which is something I’ve been trying to rectify by revisiting this period in particular. At any rate, I was reminded of His Name Is Alive after plundering a load of Brothers Quay short films.
Here’s a few other examples of the variety of their sound:
The first few albums have really clicked with me. It’s somewhat irritating that a lot of material reappears on subsequent releases – sometimes in new versions – other times the same. But that shouldn’t scare anyone off. The early releases are full of ideas and maintain an exceptionally high level of quality as individual tracks and as proper albums. Their newer works are more variable.
Mark Seven’s Salute 2
The Mark Seven “Salute 2” mix probably did more to kick-start my drive to explore the past than anything this year (it came out late 2010 but I only got to it early in 2011). I know I should know more of this stuff better, but I didn’t and the mix did precisely what a good mix should do, insofar as I rushed out to buy the key tracks that I was missing. They were:
There’s loads of other great music on these three discs (or free downloads from the link above). A track list can be found over here.
Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles
I’m not sure when I first started paying attention to Grizzly Bear. I certainly never realised they were massively popular until recently. I think it was probably when my high school friend Ben who mentioned them to me a couple of years ago. At the time, I listened, thought, “this is alright”, and then moved on. For whatever reasons I went back again and bought Veckatimest, perhaps buoyed by the fact that it’s been released on Warp Records in the UK. I love this album, but I’ve also visited their earlier works since then, which are probably just as good. For whatever reason, I’ve particularly clung to the Department of Eagles side project, for which I cite “Around the Bay” here. I’d recommend it all. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally listen to, but it’s so well written, arranged and coherent, there’s not much to dislike. And it is all very well produced by band member Chris Taylor, for people who geek out on such things.
I’m late on the Scott Walker boat, but I suppose there’s a lens through which everyone getting to him after 1965 is late. The dude is a genius, although I find his hit/miss ratio a bit unfavourable. That said, I’ve bought nearly every Scott Walker release and some of the Walker Brothers releases to boot. In fact, my favourite Scott Walker tune, “The Electrician”, is drenched in his influence, but was released as part of the 1978 Walker Brothers album Nite Flights.
If you’re looking for a good place to start with Scott Walker, look no further than the 30th Century Man documentary.
Am I the only person alive who didn’t know that Stevie Wonder did Pastime Paradise? How many other tracks had unimagined Stevie Wonder beginnings? I decided I wouldn’t live any longer without knowing and started plundering the back catalogue, specifically Songs in the Key of Life and Secret Life of Plants. I actually know some of the other 70s albums reasonably well, but these two are huge and so important. On these two albums I think it’s the synths and the wild inventiveness that do it for me most, but of course his music wants for nothing.
Back to Pastime Paradise… just imagine hearing this in 1976.
Steve Spacek and Mark Pritchard sounds too good to be true if you look at my music collection, but this puts their talents together in a way that makes sense, while moving in to new territory for both. It’s probably the freshest dance music I’ve heard in 2011. It’s a rare collaboration that lives up to its promises on paper. I’d recommend the album, 93 Million Miles, as the singles in advance of it didn’t do as much for me. This is “Light the Way”.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
A work colleague who plays in a metal band recommended these guys. I’ve known the name for ages but never seriously sought out their music before he sent me some clips. At any rate, I was missing out, and it’s prompted me to check out Kranky in more detail to boot. Great stuff. This track, Gathering Storm, from the Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven! album is the second part of a 22 minute song, which cresecendos ridiculously.
I would literally recommend buying all of their music. And their A Silver Mount Zion project. If you get impatient with this clip on the first listen, skip to about 4:20. The impatience will not persist.
Talib Kweli is an MC I’ve never given enough time. I’ve bought some of his singles, I have a Black Star album and I’ve always liked him, but I’ve never sought out his albums. Late this year I sought to rectify this, purchasing the Reflection Eternal album Train of Thought, produced by Hi-Tek. I also bought the first two Hi-Tek solo albums, because the beats are as good as they get. It’s very difficult to choose a single track to highlight here, as the lyrics, delivery, beats and production are all so good. This is “Too Late (feat. Res)”.
This is a track that I first heard on the superb Noctambulo mix. I bought it late this year and listened to it loads again. Huge tune. Immense strings. Italian disco rather than Italo disco I suppose.
“Nights” is a track that I’ve known for a few years, but I don’t think I really knew it was Billy Ocean. At the same time, I had a notion that he made some amazing tunes, but didn’t know where to start. Eventually I started with the “Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” album, rediscovered this song and found an album that has few equals from this style/era. Really listenable stuff that should stay in rotation for a long time, and a rare dance music album that holds together properly.
Six or Seven HonoUrable mentions
There’s loads of other stuff to mention, but I need to save on words, actually finish this post and properly get ready for the beginning of a new year, so hopefully this fairly succinct list will serve as a pointer or a starter for discussion.
Twin Shadow’s is my favourite new 4AD artist. The debut album is very good throughout, with only one song that I can do without. “When We’re Dancing” is probably my favourite, and you can fit it in a mix! Lots of 80s references on this album, without sounding regurgitated.
Deep Chord presents Liumin
I have no particular tracks to mention, I just haven’t stopped listening to this album since it was released 18 months ago. Worth a listen or fifty for any “dub techno” sceptics. The ambient second disk is good as well. It’s worth mentioning that it took a few listens to really grab me and at first I actually thought some of the effects were a bit crap, but since getting inside this music all reservations have been left behind. “Maglev” is one of the murkier examples:
I bought Floreat for my wife just a few days ago, but I strongly suspect this will get routine play for many years to come. You may remember Mara Carlyle from her Accidental Records album, The Lovely (produced by Plaid), or the tracks on Plaid’s Not For Threes which she contributed vocals to, like Rakimou.
Floreat was actually finished in 2008 but it only got a release in mid-2011 after getting shelved by EMI. It’s coming from a similar musical place to The Lovely. I’d be very surprised if people who liked that album didn’t like this one. It oozes auteurship, as she handles nearly everything herself on the album, and with a voice like hers it’s a very complete package. Probably should be in the top 10 were it not for the fact that I’ve only heard it twice so far!
Dimlite has been probably my favourite left field hip hop producer for some time. This year’s Grimm Reality reaffirms this view with tracks like, “One Of Uh Infinity’s Countless Uh Tiny Cycles”, which scarcely resembles hip hop at all any more.
Damu’s debut album took some time to sink in, but having done so, it feels like a keeper. “Plasm” is a great introduction. One review I read likened it to a pastiche of everything that’s happening in London at the moment, which isn’t too far off the mark I suppose, but I certainly don’t read that in a negative way.
Siouxsie and The Banshees/Cocteau Twins
Lastly, I’ve bought nearly every album from Siouxsie and The Banshees and the Cocteau Twins. There’s not much to say other than that I’m kicking myself for not moving from dabbler to obsessive sooner.
That’s it I reckon. Hopefully I’ll finish some tunes and post them up here this year!
Since not too long after finishing Nuba Tuba, I’ve been working on a new song. There’s been much disruption in the studio during this process, as I’ve upgraded my mixer and added a few other pieces of kit that I’m still getting to grips with. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been moving on to the arrangement of that track but on Tuesday night I decided to divert completely and write something new with the same sounds that I’ve been working with forever. To my surprise I “finished” something in two or three hours. On Wednesday night I revisited the mixdown and tidied up a couple of sloppy notes, etc, but basically just re-recorded Tuesday’s work.
I reckon this is far from my best track, but it’s an interesting result given that I intentionally thwarted all of my normal tendencies in the writing of it. Rather than thinking of it as a separate version or mix, it’s more precisely a “rewrite”. I left all of the sounds unaltered, save the tiniest of level/envelope tweaks. When I wrote it I started playing one part until I decided to stop. Then I played another part on top of it intuitively. And then the third and the fourth. There was some minor editing and quantising along the way, but the approach was completely linear, rather than assembled, and I didn’t really pay attention to an 8-bar structure other than once or twice. I certainly left it behind a few times. In short, I let my ears do the writing. It’s kind of sloppy and some things are rough but these are things that I normally omit and I’m fairly pleased with this antithesis. It sounds completely different to the still-unfinished original.
The result is more repetitious than my normal stuff, although the synthesis itself goes some way to conserving novelty over the fairly brief 4:15 duration. In the name of trying something new I thought I’d post it up here. Hope you enjoy.
I need to preface this by disclaiming that I’m a n00b when it comes to hardware compressors and I have pieced together these notes from various trusted and untrusted sources. I should also mention that this comes from the perspective of an electronic musician who is entirely outboard, and one who is in the unusual position of having digital synths routing through an analogue mixer, so one of my main hopes is that I can add some warmth.
Additionally, I think that getting started with compressor shopping is particularly daunting. I found it even more difficult than shopping for a mixing console. However, there’s a lot of great used hardware going relatively cheap these days, as people sell it off to invest in their DAWs, so you can get some pretty good kit for less than a fortune. These are basically just shopping notes, which I told a friend I’d put together, so I figured I’d post them here in case anyone else finds my entirely subjective and relatively uninformed research helpful, having not even put the compressors properly to the test yet. But without further rambling, this is wot I found:
Probably most importantly, I stumbled across this article called All about Compressors, which is a great starting point. Definitely worth a read. I also found this article about compression on the Mix bus (Master), which I am about to read shortly.
In the end, I wound up buying two compressors. I got a Drawmer DL441 off of a guy on Gumtree. It’s a quad compressor, i.e. 4x mono or 2x stereo (in 1U). It wasn’t really ideal, because I kind of wanted a gate/compressor for my drum mix bus, but it should basically do the trick and I found it for £250 so I just went with it since it cost less than a Drawmer DL241, which I originally wanted (more on this below). I will now be using two channels on my drums group bus and two on my synths group bus. I’ll be experimenting with mono and stereo settings, as I don’t want to take anything for granted there. Ideally I would have a different type of colour on the synth bus, but I’ve opted to try and make up for that with some subtle tube compression on the Master. Or I may experiment with the routing over time.
As I said above, I wanted some tube amplification on my digital synths because I think they could use a touch of added warmth. I looked at a huge amount of stuff before provisionally deciding on an SPL Stereo Vitalizer Mk2-T, which I found used on SOS for £250, but when I went to look at it the unit it was not balanced properly (really quiet on the left channel), so I passed on it. This wasn’t really a good fit with the DL441 that I wound up getting either. It’s kind of like an aural exciter or a stereo widener, but with tube compression, so it’s a funny piece of kit, but I thought it might suit my synths well because they recommend not using it on the Master (although many people do). I was actually looking at it when I thought I was going to get a Drawmer DL241, and it seemed like an OK option to put on the bus with all my synths, but really it was never going to be right on the Master for every track. It’s just not really what it was designed for.
So… last night (I was well sick of all this by this point) I stumbled on the ART PRO VLA (Mk2), which I’d previously written off because I’d read some bad things about ART kit, but when I found a couple of favourable reviews I decided to look closer and it seems like most users and reviewers say that ART sucks except for this and one or two other pieces, and a lot of people said this was the most bang for the buck of any kit that they own. At £255 new, I took the plunge. I wanted to “try before I buy” with all of this stuff but I really have no idea where one would do that. When I e-mailed DV247 about their in-store stock I got no reply.
After research, I think I’ve figured out a few things:
- You can spend a great deal of money on compressors, especially with tubes. I couldn’t convince myself that I really needed to spend more than £300 on one of these devices in my home studio.
- I think a gate is pretty useful for drums (and other stuff potentially), but if you’re trying to get a gate/compressor you should find one that gets the two to work together well. The only stereo models I found at a reasonable price like this were the Drawmer DL241 and the Aphex 240. Both are around £500 new and a little more than half that used (rather, I’ve not seen the Aphex used, so I’m not sure about that one). The Drawmer DL241 has a great reputation though and it shouldn’t be too hard to find one for ~£250. I lost an auction for one that went for £222 because I stopped bidding too early.
- Note: both of these models are not tube compressors.
- The whole question of whether to get something with tubes in it seems really complicated. I can’t really speak about it all that sensibly, but in the end I went with the ART PRO VLA precisely because it’s harder to go overboard with the tube on it. It just seemed like a really sensible unit to apply subtly to the Master mix.
- A lot of the opinions that you’ll find on the forums like Gearslutz are from people working with bands, so you need to understand what perspective they’re critiquing from. Sometimes a good touring compressor may not be great in the studio and vice versa. Other people may really be after a limiter, not at all interested in colouring sound with tube characteristics.
- A lot of people say that if you’re doing stuff all digitally on the computer that there isn’t much point using external compressors. Of course there’s quite a bit of debate on this point, but you probably wouldn’t want to come out of the computer just so that you could use a hardware compressor.
- There’s other stuff specifically for mastering, like the TC Finializer, if that’s what you’re after, but that stuff is quite pricey.
- I think the main thing, like with most things, is that you really need to find the right answer for the problem that you’ve got. It’s taken me some time and a great deal of this research just to be able to articulate my problem and refine my search. No doubt I will feel differently about most of this stuff in a couple of years.
- The SoundOnSound, etc. reviews are excellent, but they rarely slate anything, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt.
- Lots of stuff isn’t stereo so you need to think about the impact on cost, power, space, etc if you buy mono stuff. Note: some people seem to prefer dual mono modes on stereo kit when the stereo mode can be disabled, which I find pretty surprising, but interesting.
- It’s also worth figuring out early on how much time you want to spend getting to grips with a compressor. If you want to ease the learning curve, an automatic compressor may the way to go, depending on the model. I went with the DL441 largely because the automatic mode evidently “just works”, and so on something as active as a group bus I think this is probably the way to go.
All that said, my choices were not clear cut, so here’s some other units that may be worth looking at or may get you on your way if you decide you want to buy a hardware compressor.
- I really liked the looks of this because it is meant to be very transparent and it has some logic behind how the compressor and gate work together as I mentioned above.
- Lots of people on the Gearslutz compressor thread have them and use them on drums.
- Evidently the DBX 166 (not to be confused with the DBX 166XL) is very similar but the 166 evidently has a click.
- The Drawmer MX30 is a budget version of the DL241 according to this.
- The Drawmer DL221 and DL231 are earlier, similar versions of the DL241, but they do not have the gate.
- The DL441 (that I wound up getting) is basically two DL241s without the gates.
- I was originally drawn to Drawmer stuff when I stumbled on this TS2.
- I would have considered getting this over the ART if I’d also not found the DL441. I probably would have gone for this on my synth bus and a gate/compressor for the drums if I’d seen one of these used at a good price.
- These are £510 new @ Dolphin.
- One thing that may be of interest is the optional digital output with S/PDIF (the DC1) for £166.37 @ DV247. I imagine at this cost that the converters must be pretty sweet.
- Can request pricebeat at DV247 and most other good shops.
- The analogue/digital outputs are “simultaneous”, so presumably if you get the optional digital out you can record digitally while sending the analogue outputs back to your mixer, or to another recorder, or speakers, or wherever, if so desired.
- £254.99 at Pro Audio Systems http://www.proaudiosystems.co.uk/product-1766.html
- This is a stupid price for what you get.
- I’ve not found another piece of kit with such agreement on quality-per-£££.
- Some people recommend replacing the tubes in them, but others say not to bother. Either way, there’s a fairly cheap and easy upgrade to try out.
- As I said above, this was in strong contention beside the Drawmer DL241 for my drum bus. Because it’s new there aren’t loads of used ones about and not a load of people stock them. This is the main reason I didn’t get it. They just didn’t appear used in the last week or so that I was looking at them.
- This gets very good reviews suggesting that it links compressor/gate functions in a unique way. Quite a few other positives. It has EasyRider compression, which is meant to be awesome and it’s stereo.
- Here’s some reviews:
- I also stumbled across the Chameleon Labs stuff last night, which is supposed to be awesome. Unfortunately they just didn’t look better-enough relative to the ART and the Drawmer for the money, but this looks like very high-spec stuff at a fairly low cost.
- Unfortunately there isn’t a UK distributor.
- There are lots of articles on these and a specific thread comparing them to the ART PRO VLA on Gearslutz.
- I was very tempted by these forever but finally decided not to get them because they are not stereo and I didn’t want to have to power two units for one stereo bus.
- Jim Williams from Audio Upgrades rates these incredibly highly.
- The difference between the 651 and the 661 is that the 661 has the Tube.
- Both are mono but units can be linked to operate in stereo.
- There are some of these on eBay now.
- This was the first tube compressor that I was seriously interested in, and I stumbled across a friend’s eBay auction. When I asked him why he was selling he said it just never imparted the character he was after.
- The MK1 version goes for as low as £200 on SOS/eBay. The MK2 is considerably more expensive.
- The MK2 version has hard and soft knee modes, four attack and release times, an improved optical gate design and an optional digital output
- SOS review: http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Board=MRT&Number=639074
So that’s it. I’m not sure who or how that might help, but hopefully it will refine shopping options for people that are looking for stereo compressor in the £200-£300 range. I’d definitely suggest doing more research beyond these notes if anything piques your curiosity.
My friend Rory recently got to exhibit his Sonic Rolling Ball Sculpture at the Royal Festival Hall during the Ether Festival 2010. I was quite pleased to catch it on the final day in April, having seen some of the work in progress a few weeks earlier.
A few days ago he posted a video of the sculpture in action, accompanied by a proper mix-down that really helps convert the sculpture to film. Both the sculpture itself and the film sound showcase everything he’s learned during his BA in Sound Arts and Design, for which he completed this project.
It’s a truly ambitious idea. He used many musical objects for the structure itself. It’s powered by turntable, the tracks that the balls roll down are melted vinyl. The supports of the structure are music stands and the platforms that the balls roll/bounce through are often musical instruments themselves: from triangles to tambourines to make-shift string and mallet instruments. It’s sweet! Try to find two minutes to check it out if you can. Full-screen is recommended.
Full details, as on the Bleep43 website:
Sadly, Iceland’s geothermic fuck you to Europe in the shape of a volcanic cloud has pretty much decimated our original line-up for tonight which had included Mika Vanio, Donato Dozzy and Terrence Parker.
Mika Vainio had already cancelled due to illness, and his replacement Lerosa then had to cancel also due to a lack of flights from Ireland.
Terrence Parker then found out that his flight had been cancelled. We had fingers crossed for Donato Dozzy coming from Rome, but as the flight ban has been pushed to Saturday 0100 BST (at time of writing), he has now had to withdraw, too.
It’s as if the Scandinavian gods were punishing us for our steadfast refusal to book Adam Beyer.
Surgeon and other UK talent come to the rescue
Taking a quick break from getting ready for this Friday’s gig, I was just looking for video of TP in action. I happened upon this clip from the last time we played together, back in 2000 at Gabes in Iowa City (glow sticks and all). The video starts with a glimpse of Ryan Burns, who passed away a few years ago. It’s nice to think that this video captured him at his happiest. He loved seeing TP.