Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: June 2014

June 23, 2014

floats on air...

by Chris Randall

Well, it's finally done. floats on air, my new album of electronic meanderings, is now available on Bandcamp. It will be exclusive to that site until July 7th, where it will go live on all the other services.

This is my first "produced" album in some years; my last five-odd releases are EP-sized collections of various experiments and research, but floats on air is a cohesive whole, planned that way from the start. Since this is Analog Industries, a few process notes for those interested in that sort of thing (which is, I assume, most everyone that reads this site.)

1. Shoeboxen. For most (but not all) of the tracks on this album, the root rhythm comes from a rather strange source. I initially purchased a small shoebox tapedeck with the intent of finding something interesting to do with it, but not having an idea exactly what. What I ended up doing was using its little included mic to just record random semi-rhythmic sounds around my neighborhood, then taking the recordings, physically cutting out small lengths, and looping them in a different cassette body. I'd then record these short loops in to Live, and have my way with them with the various DSP tools that came to hand. The tracks sunderverl and fader in have the most obvious pieces of this sort of thing, but almost every track has at least two of these little loops in it. Once you know what you're listening for, they're easy to pick out.

2. Nagra. I used the Nagra a lot on some of the tracks. fader in has the best example. I asked Don Gunn to send me a few minutes of jazzy drumming; once I'd received his mixed stem, I summed it to mono, then recorded it to the Nagra. I then spent an hour or so slicing out half-measure chunks. (And I mean with a razor blade.) I then took these chunks, mixed them up, and spliced them all back together. I then made a continuous loop of the result. There are 4 other tracks in all in that song, and each one is a looped cassette. I fed them all in to Live on individual tracks simultaneously, and recorded the level automation on the way in with a Korg nanoKontrol. So fader in is named what it is: a live recording of tape loops that I "performed" on a nanoKontrol. I obviously added enough insert effects to stun an ox, for the final result. Most of the cassette loops are recordings (again, with the little mic that came with the shoebox deck) of the speakers in my living room system as I played Daphne Oram vinyl. Those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen my synth -> tape -> vinyl -> tape -> synth palindrome tweet. This track is what I was referring to.

3. Modules. I don't have a hugely high opinion of the modular synth in my own particular writing process, but I figured "fuck it, the damn thing is sitting here." One of the little leitmotifs I use throughout the album to tie all the songs together is a little acid line breakdown, and I used the modular for this in all cases. It appears here and there elsewhere, but that was its main task in this project.

4. Other Gear. I used the Analog Four quite a bit. Notably in porch_field, where it creates most of the sounds. I also used [redacted] quite a bit, for about half the basslines. The other main synth I used was Monark, which got a lot of mileage on this album. For effects, VallhallaVintageVerb is the two-buss verb throughout the album, with occasional appearances by Eos as an insert "effect" verb; delay is about equal parts Dubstation and the H3000 Factory from Eventide. I used several other Eventide products for insert and compressor duties; most of the sidechain pumping (and fuck it, but there's quite a bit. There's no zealot like a convert!) is done with Glue. Obviously, heavy use of AD products throughout. I mixed 8 of the 9 tracks in Live 9 Suite; the exception is dawn, which was mixed in Bitwig Studio.

Anyhow, I'll field any specific production questions you might have in this thread, but the above is the general gist of things.

June 15, 2014

I Downloaded This Amazing Free Plug-in, And You Won't Believe What Happens Next...

by Chris Randall

I'm experimenting with clickbait-style post titles. Other audio blogs appear to be testing the waters with this information abortion, so I figure "hey, why not join the crowd?" How am I doing?

Anyhow, this is just a general info-dump of goings-on in my little corner of the world.

1. Unless you live under a rock, you know about the Eventide freebie, UltraChannel. I actually wouldn't normally bring it up here at all, as even though the Eventide guys are BFFs of ours and make stupifyingly good plug-ins (and even better hardware), their plugs are iLok only. However, as a result of a UI contract I'm currently doing, I had to install and tame an iLok. (And, god forbid, PT11.) Since I have one now, I was all "fuck it" and furthermore "whatevs." And got myself an UltraChannel. (And all the other Eventide native plugs while I was at it.) I'll say this much: UltraChannel is almost worth sucking it up for iLok. A fantastic, creative channel plug that is light on the CPU, yet extremely capable. If you have an iLok, or are thinking about buying one of those little buttplugs, here's where you get the Ultrachannel; use coupon code 0F736710. It'll be like $249 or something in a month or two, so if you're gonna do it, do it now.

2. Just in case you think I might have changed my mind or am in any way endorsing it, fuck PACE and fuck iLok.

3. I'm pleased to report that my schedule, which was a bit hairy there for a while, is returning, slowly and surely, to its normal lazy, meandering ways, which means I'll be able to finish off the Audio Damage DRM Removal Event, and also bring the next Audio Damage plug-in to the finish line while Adam flails about in his Code Hole whipping Sequencer 1 in to shape. It was a little ridiculous there for a while, but I've cleared a majority of the nonsense now, and am back to being my usual self.

4. And finally, a question: what constitutes an "album" these days? Throughout my (first) career, I was all 10 SONGS OR BUST but the idea of a complete record seems to be slipping through the cracks in favor of a burst mode kind of release system. I tried this out a couple years ago, by pooping out 4 of what our oldsters call "EPs" in a row, and it was somehow... uh... unsatisfying? Even without physical media, there's just something about a cohesive chunk of music that is more visceral, at least to the maker. So my general takeaway: it is far easier to come up with 5 cohesive songs than 10, and the consumer seems to be indifferent. My forthcoming release that I'm just finishing up now is 10 tracks, but I'm left with the lingering impression that I should strip it to a pair of 5-track releases. Thoughts?

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