Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
Archives: May 2018
May 24, 2018
by Chris Randall
Between going to Superbooth (which, taking prep and recovering from jetlag in to account, sucks up almost 2 months of my time) and working on Quanta and our complete catalog rewrite, I haven't had a whole lot of time to work on music lately, which puts my regimen of one LP or two EPs a year at risk. I am of the firm belief that I can't really offer opinions on how things should be done if I'm not doing them myself, and music tech is no exception to that.
My general habit when I'm working on AD stuff (either Research or Development) is that if I come across something interesting that sparks my imagination, I stop whatever it is I was doing for an hour or two and try to develop it in to a framework. Then, when I have 10-15 of these half-songs stored up, I go through them and pick five that have some sort of sonic relationship to one another, and then finish and mix them all in one sitting. This particular EP departs from that, as the first track, getProcessor, I actually finished some months ago (January, I think) for a podcast, and the last track (strike_332) I recorded and mixed in one sitting yesterday. The other three fit that general description, though.
Unfortunately, this method of working precludes making process videos, for the most part, because the tracks are written and recorded over a fairly long span of time, and pop in to existence at unplanned moments. So, in lieu of a whole slew of process content, I'll just write a bit about each track, based on what I remember.
As I noted above, I finished this track a few months ago as an exclusive for the Headroom podcast. It starts with my usual noise bed (construction of which is detailed in several AI videos), and some synth burbles courtesy of a Reaktor ensemble. The drums are, in a rarity for me, based around a sampled loop, the beginning of 23 Skidoo's 1983 track "Coup". I re-architected it heavily, of course. The rest of the drums are various Reaktor ensembles (I believe the kick is a Blocks patch), working on drum samples I created through my usual methods specifically for the track. The synth "lead" is Basic; I actually played it in via the Linnstrument, then reorganized it with Replicant and Eventide H3000 factory.
This has the usual noise bed. The 3-note bass motif is from Live's Wavetable synth; the chord pad in the beginning is Phosphor, and the granular synth line is the first recorded appearance of Quanta in its early stages. (It couldn't even load samples back then; this is the grain engine working on the sidecar oscillator.) The chord line that doubles the main pad towards the end is also Quanta, in a somewhat later stage; the source sample is an RS09. The burbly glitchy synths you hear throughout are Basic, run through Automaton and Replicant. The drums are Axon for the kick and hat and a reworked field recording run through a whole raft of plugs for the other stuff.
This is a fun one; all the rhythmic elements are from a Max4Live patch that runs in real-time, all synthesized on the fly and played algorithmically. (Thus, it's essentially different every time I run it.) I made controls for density, and the ability to turn individual sources on and off, and that's it. It was quite challenging to put melodic stuff over the top of this. Since the source is all on-the-fly, I was able to tune the harmonic elements of the percussion to match the root, which really makes the melodic part boxy. The melodic elements come from two main synth hits; both of these are Quanta run through various effects (Grind, Eos, Filterstation, etc.). I played them in manually with the Linnstrument. This track is far more abstract than my usual stuff, but it was fun to make, and I'll probably do more like it in the future.
In this track, I was experimenting with controlling feel in weird ways; the song is in straight time, but I gave the bass a dotted 8 LFO, and the snare has a triplet feel done with the predelay in ADverb2 (the new version has a much bigger early reflection situation than the original, so you can time it appropriately.) This results in a track that can either feel straight, swung, or in trips depending on which rhythmic element you latch on to. The foot is just a resonating filter; I don't remember how I made the other rhythmic elements, to be honest, but it sounds like the usual group of glitch plugs (Replicant, Automaton, H3000 Factory, etc.). The pad is Quanta with a heavy sidechain compression, as is the synth hit, which is driven with follow actions in Live, randomly choosing a MIDI note.
This track I wrote and recorded in its entirety just yesterday; I installed Form, a Reaktor Player synth that is part of Komplete, and was experimenting with sending it real-time controller info from a Roli Lightpad Block. I got that interesting drone, and the rest of the track just fell in to place around it. Usual noise bed (you're hearing a ambience around a pyramid in Mexico underneath everything), and the initial drum loop is, in a super extra rarity for me, lifted straight from another song. In this case it is from Chris Carter's 1980 cassette-only release "Electrodub 2." (I had parted it out for a demo video, and I accidentally landed on the loop while sample surfing, and it laid right in there.) I believe it is a CR78 through an early digital reverb. The kick is, like most of my tonal kicks, just a filter self-resonating (two different flavors in this song, natch) and the other rhythmic elements are created much as above, with glitch plugs working on field recordings for the most part. The rolling snare that appears halfway through is a 606 snare through Unfiltered Audio's excellent Fault plug. The granular synth thing that goes throughout is Quanta on a sample of my CS5, and the pad is also Quanta, working on an MKS80 sample, which I played in real time.
May 6, 2018
by Chris Randall
Superbooth 18 ended yesterday, and tomorrow I'm off to TXL to begin my journey home. So today is (theoretically) a time for quiet reflection. Largely because everything in this damn country closes on Sunday, despite their professed atheism.
Obvs we had no Eurorack to show, as we're not making that format any more. We had already paid for the booth before we came to that decision, and there were no refunds available, so we decided to just go ahead and come anyhow, and show our new software. I've attended many trade shows, but never shown software, so I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I decided on a small Windows machine running Bitwig to best show off Quanta in all its hi-resolution MPE-capable glory. (In retrospect, we should have nutted up and bought a Surface Studio like the Bitwig guys used; live and learn.) There was a Roli Seaboard Rise 25 attached to this. In addition, we had a 12.9" iPad Pro with my Linnstrument attached to it. This configuration turned out to be pretty good, since the controllers attracted as many people as the software.
One interesting thing to note: this is my third time showing at Superbooth, and at Superbooths '16 and '17, we had quite a few people come up and see the Eurorack-only display and note their sadness. At this show, we only had one or two people that saw the software-only display and be demonstrably sad. This leads me to believe we made the right decision with respect to deprecating the hardware.
In any case, Simon-Claudius did the vast majority of the customer-facing demonstrations, allowing me to mostly interface with other companies and do the various press interviews. This worked out very well, as I'm no longer really physically able to stand at the booth for an entire 10-hour session by myself. I mean, I can do it, but the people towards the end of the day would get some salty comments. "Yeah. It's a fucking plugin. Yay. Go away."
But all's well that ends well. We made some new friends, got to hang out with some old ones, and talked about Quanta a lot. All in all, a successful show. I will be very, very glad to be home with my wife and cats and garden and pool and driving in a city where bicyclists aren't on a suicide jag, though. Once I have my wits about me, expect some high-quality video demonstrations re: Quanta. I also did one of Sonic State's excellent "Meet The Makers" videos with Nick. Until then, here's a fun video from Bedroom Producers Blog. For extra credit, read the comments, then come back here and make fun of them.