Saturday, April 18, 2015

Schoolyard Crows

In case you missed it, I (finally) released a new album called Schoolyard Crows over at Kahvi. (And, note: I did the album artwork myself, on a Cintiq with Photoshop CS.)

This was a bit of a whirlwind album. ...I'd had a handful of tracks that I was kinda saving for an album, and then Nik (of Kahvi) asked me for a single track to release as part of their Christmas package. (...which I did; you'll find the track "Thread on the Water" there, it's not bad.)

That motivated me to do more work... I ended up almost completely re-writing the tracks I'd had waiting around, and I quickly added a series of new tracks. ...And I continued to add tracks to the release between the time when Nik said "yup, I'll release this" and when it was finally pushed. :) ...Interestingly, I actually think those last-minute tracks are some of the best on the album.

Anyway, this was produced with quite a different set of tools than listed below. It was a combination of Maschine, Omnisphere, Trilian, Diva, D-CAM, and Electra 2 for the most part, with effects almost entirely handled by Timeless, Pro-C, Saturn, and 2CAudio Aether (and Live's built-in limiter). For hardware, it was almost entirely done on an Ableton Push, which I quite like, modulo a few quirks (which should be addressed with the next release of Live, so I'm holding on). ...I do own a Novation Ultranova at this point (I couldn't afford the Virus that I wanted--money has been tight), and a Maschine Mikro, but they saw limited use on this album as controllers; I didn't use the Ultranova as a sound-source at all.

I am moderately pleased with the results, now that a few months have passed since finishing the album. It's a bit busier than I envisioned, and shortly before release, I realized how HEAVY the bass was on the whole thing (I master with Sennheisers, and they are so clear in the bass that I didn't notice the problem). ...I'll watch that from now on.

I've also written some "easy" Berlin School, which you can grab over at Soundcloud, but I can't promise it will stay up forever. Those tracks were just an exercise is writing music for the sake of writing music... I wasn't really going back and editing anything, I was just letting it flow in pseudo-realtime. They are listenable tracks, but would need serious work for professional release.

I have started work on another album, but only just. ...I need a little more time to digest Schoolyard Crows and think about where I'm headed, musically.

But not another five years.  :D

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Are You So Petrified of Silence?

Yes, yes, I've been silent.  But not idle.  Not at all.  So here's an update.

My music is in a state of metamorphosis.  I'm... playing a lot.  In the background.  Recording a little, but nothing worth posting (I have much to learn).  My style is changing, becoming much more rhythmic. In fact, I've been using my Alesis Control Pad almost as often as my ReMote. I think this is born of a change in listening habits: Hybrid, Max Cooper, Booka Shade, Boris Brejcha, Deru, Yimino, Thom Yorke, Trentemøller... and a relative increase in spins for old friends like Vibrasphere, Sasha's stranger side projects, Massive Attack, and Aes Dana. And, yes, I still listen to an uncomfortable amount of Nine Inch Nails. ...he's just got such an acute sense of rhythm, tonality, mood and texture. He's brilliant. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.  :)

And now for the abjectly gear-headed update:

I've slowly acquired a few additional synths in the past few years; namely U-he Diva and Tone2 ElextraX... and those two have changed the way I think about music, really: they have helped attract me to purity of sound instead of adding a bajillion layers to make things interesting.  They're both beautiful, in their own way.  But I'll go into that in another post. I will add that I've narrowed my overall pool of synths as a result: those two plus Omnisphere (for which I recently wrote a review), Absynth, and D-CAM.  Yes, of course, I occasionally reach for Komplete or Largo for the occasional click, boomklang, or tinkle... but rarely, now.

I've also been spending quite a lot of time at the local hardware stores... and I've decided that hardware does sound better. ...But I suspect much of that (not all) has to do with better D/A than comes standard on my iMac, so I'm planning on "upgrading" my D/A ... in the form of a Virus TI Snow. Yes, yes, I could have gone with an Ultranova, but I figure the sound of the Virus (which I am quite fond of--I used to own one, sort of) would be worth twice the price.  ...I also hear the D/A is better on the Virus.  Go figure. Yes, I'm selling out and joining the ranks of the Virus-lovers.

I also need (heh: "need") to pick up a Korg Wavedrum to assist in the percussive, rhythmic department. But beyond that, there is only one more thing on my Christmas list. A secret weapon, even: something to further turn my software into hardware (to a degree). ...I'm choosing not to mention it, even.  :D

Of course, I am presently--as I have long been--very poor.  ...But without going into the messy specifics of the problem (which would just piss me off anyway): my budget should slowly start crawling out of the abyss at the end of this year.  So the expansion of the studio, barring any serendipitous boons or frustrating travesties, shall begin in 2013. ...apocalypse notwithstanding.

I am rather excited about music, though. That's a safe assertion.

"Watch this space," as they say.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


My.  It's been so long since I've posted here that Blogger has changed entirely since my last visit.

I've not been ignoring music... I am quietly honing skills, synths, and patch-libraries behind the scenes. In the news: I updated Largo from 1.0 to 1.5 (it's awesome), I bought Gladiator (it's quite good), and I bought Sylenth1 (also awesome).  I ditched Morphine and SynthMaster.  And I've spent a whole lot of time re-learning my scales (useful) and organizing/editing my patches.

For now, that's all.  No music written, really, other than the equivalent of "thumbnail sketches" (of which I've done quite a bit).  But it sure feels like music is coming.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keyboard Tracking

On synths where the keys light up as they're being played, you can't see the "black" keys being pressed clearly (if at all).

...Why don't synth makers lighten the dark keys the same way they darken the light keys?

[shakes head]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Studio, January 2011

...Obviously, this doesn't include Ableton Live, nor the effects that I use (mostly just Ambience, the Blue Tubes reverb, and Live's built-in effects).

And, honestly, I have not been impressed with SynthMaster.  It keeps crashing on me and refuses to render its audio, sometimes.  :\  I may abandon it and write it off as a loss.

Synths I'm thinking about picking up right now are ChronoX and Drumaxx.  Nothing else, at the moment.  I think after getting those two, I'll be heading toward the world of hardware synths.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yeah, I was bitten by the Synth bug again.

So, yeah.  I made it a few years without being struck by synth-lust... but here we are again.

I realize now, though, that hardware synths aren't so much about the sounds.  Between Omnisphere, Surge, Massive, Absynth, FM8, and Predator*... there really isn't much sonic territory beyond my capabilities.  And I love them all dearly.

But they are not hardware synths.

After much consideration, I decided that hardware isn't about the sounds, really: the sounds might be marginally better than a soft-synth, but my level of skill with sound--though I consider it well-trained--is not to the point where I can tell if a track was made with a $2000 Access Virus or with Rob Papen's $200 Predator, barring the "signature" sounds and presets of each.  It seems silly to me to spend ten times as much for perhaps a 5% improvement in sound quality.  And I prefer the interface on soft synths: I can get a sound out much faster.

But softsynths, while attractive on-screen, lack something in charisma that only hardware can provide.

And though the ReMOTE 49SL has a really nice keyboard... the knobs kinda suck, and the LCD feedback isn't quite as useful or cool as I'd hoped it would be.  And it's lacking a bit in... sex.  I guess I'm just not fond of that grey grid look over the interface.

There's also a small but non-neglible sense of "collecting" involved with synths.  A greater sense of ownership.  ...of identity, even.

Plus they look awesome.  And they're fun.

Fun is a key concept when looking for what synths to invest in. Perhaps better, though, is the idea of enjoyability.  How much would you enjoy owning a given synth?  ...Balance that against cost, and you might find that while an Roland Jupiter 8 might be a joy to own, for 1/16th the cost, a Korg Radias--perhaps less enjoyable to own--is a much bigger bang for your buck.

So that's what I'm looking for.  Enjoyable synths.  For reasonable prices.

Of course, as usual, this is all an exercise in futility for me, since my synth budget right now is around $50 a month, and I have a few more soft-synths to buy** before I'm satiated there.

Still, a large part of the fun here is thinking about it.  And though it may be three years before I buy my first piece of gear, I'm enjoying the process of thinking about it.  Quite a bit.  :)

Which synths would you say brought you the most joy to own?

* For the record, I also presently own SynthMaster 2, Stylus RMX, Morphine, and MicroTonic.  And I like/use them all, too.  Just meant to emphasize the synths with which the sonic palate expands.

** Largo, Drumaxx, ChronoX, and an update for my aging version of Absynth.  Maybe Albino, Zebra, and Gladiator.  Not sure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vision Take Two

  • Novation controllers, because they are the best controllers available for reasonable money.
  • Blue microphones, because they are elegant, functional, and unique.
  • M-Audio monitors and interfaces, because they're cheap and they work.
  • Spectrasonics synths, because they sound better than anything else, and are really flexible.
  • Tone2 filters, because they sound better than any others, and the software has a superb interface.
  • Massive, because it's got one of the best interfaces to modulation I've seen, combined with a huge, wavetabliciously digital sound.
  • Vember Surge, because I love it: the WT sound, the interface, the modulations, the "I'm digital, now deal with it" attitude.
  • Audjoo Helix, because it sounds awesome, uses WTs, and takes so little CPU.
  • Rapture, because of it's uniquely digital sound.
  • MicroTonic, because it sounds great doing the "electronic percussion" thing.
  • Drumaxx, because it sounds great doing the physically-modeled percussion thing.
  • Ableton Live, because it has a great workflow, decent mastering tools, and an elegant interface.
...This "plan" will be setting aside some truly incredible synths, some of which I already own, but... I like the message this setup sends, I love the sounds, and I think this will be enough to keep me inspired for a long time.