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

Archives: August 2011

August 28, 2011

Viva Italia...

by Chris Randall

Yesterday, one of my many Craigslist search spiders turned up this little gem, a Melo-Sonic 350 combo organ (with drum machine, natch!) I'd never heard of this particular instrument, but that's never stopped me before, and the early bird gets the worm, as far as Craigslist postings for cheap instruments go.

As luck would have it, the dude wrote me back straight away, and he only lived like 4 blocks from here, so I hopped in the CReagle and went over to grab this mythical Melo-Sonic. It's a tiny little combo organ with integral legs. Once I got it home, I went a-googlin' to see what was known about this thing. Turns out, the "Made In The United States" sticker on the bottom is somewhat misleading, as the boards inside come from (and it says so right on 'em) Italy.

The Whippany Electronics Company in New Jersey made (perhaps "assembled" would be a better word) combo organs throughout the 60s and early 70s for several brand names, including Realistic, Rockland, Clark, and our Melo-Sonic. They're all the same organ and really there are only two models: one with a drum machine, and one without. This company sourced boards from Italy (where a thing or two is known about making a combo organ) and built the enclosures here, in their New Jersey factory.

Unfortunately, the Italian company that made these boards is not Farfisa. The guy selling this to me said "yeah, it's like the Poor Man's Farfisa!" I don't want to disagree with his detective work or anything, but it'd have to be a really, really poor man. Instead of 12 divide-down oscillators like every other solid state organ, it only has four, with each oscillator serving three notes in the octave. This makes certain chords and inversions impossible to play, and results in some very strange voicing. To add injury to insult, it is in need of re-capping (it is, after all, over 40 years old) and some of the notes bend a bit when you strike 'em.

So, being me, I took the couple hours necessary to do a full multi-sample, so I can pack this thing up and put it in The Land Of Unused Instruments. I have added a Live Set to the "Free Shit" page (link on the right) that contains an Instrument Rack with Samplers for every voice in the organ, plus the bottom octave monophonic synth bass (which is, by far, the best feature). I've also cloned the knob functionality, including the "Vibrato" feature (which is, of course, actually tremolo.) For some strange reason, the designers chose 7Hz exactly as their tremolo speed, which is a punk-rock clip for organ trem. Maybe they were doing amphetamines or something. Anyhow, I've duplicated that as well.

Also included in the set is a Drum Rack containing every drum sound the little fucker can make. The drum loops are actually not terrible for this sort of donka-donka drum machine, but I didn't bother to sample them entire, as most of their character comes from the unpredictable nature of the result, and I can't duplicate that with a loop.

Anyhow, this is the sort of sample set that you need when you need it, and the rest of the time you don't need it. Everything is parted out inside, so you can, if you so desire, just grab the samples folder out of the project and make a set for your sampler of choice. As always, hitting the Donate button is appreciated but in no way required.

August 24, 2011


by Chris Randall

Fs qd1 by Chris Randall

Fs qd2 by Chris Randall

Here's a couple quick (well, "quick" as in I just banged 'em together, not "quick" as in "wow, that Soundcloud embedded player loads quick!") demos of the upcoming AD plug. I imagine that if I give you a little context, you can figure out what it is. In Fs_qd1, the source is Massive, with the filters turned off. First you hear it dry, then with the effect. In Fs_qd2, the source is FabFilter Twin2, again with the filters turned off. Any delay or reverb you hear is coming from elsewhere, not the effect.

I'll bet you crafty fuckers can tell exactly what it is from that information.

We're on a Death March to finish it before Adam leaves for Japan; we've currently run in to an interesting issue wherein the VST2.4 and AU plug-ins created by the built-in VST3 wrapper code can't read the VST3 presets. This is something of a conundrum. It's not really that big a deal with the AU, as worst case scenario we can just clone the VST3 presets as AU presets and put them in the preset folder on install. With the VST2.4, however, the user will most likely have to load a bank manually, unless we figure something crafty out. Working on it.

Anyhow, the plug-in is pretty much feature-complete at this juncture, and we're just working on "tuning" and that. Once I'm 100% certain the UI won't change, I'll throw it up. Not gonna be all secretive and shit about this one like the last couple.

August 19, 2011


by Chris Randall

My latest micronaut EP, particular, is now available at Bandcamp for download, pay what you want at least a dollar. This EP was essentially an experiment at removing the DAW and its ludicrously powerful audio editing tools and stacks of effects from the recording equation, and hitting a reel of tape like the Old Days.

I also, unlike that recent YouTube video I put up, eschewed MIDI entirely, relying on CV/Gate sequencing from the Roland CMU-800R/Apple //e combo or good old-fashioned playing. The majority of the percussion on the EP comes from a combo of the CMU-800R's built-in drums and the Monotribe. Either one by itself wasn't sonically sophisticated enough to support a track, but the two together opened up a much broader spectrum.

Most of the pad sounds are from the alphaSyntauri, something it is singularly good at. They are all coming through an Eventide TimeFactor pedal to give them some motion and stereo width. I necessarily played all these, as well as the main melody line in compumusic, direct-to-tape, as there is no way to sequence the alphaSyntauri, at least where it can sync with the outside world. (It actually has a fairly powerful sequencer in Metatrak, but it can only sequence itself.)

I use the Korg 770 here and there for sound FX and drones, the two things it is good at. The MS20 gets used quite a bit, and any time you hear a sequenced melody line, it is most likely my little Euro-Rack modular, sequenced from the CMU-800R. In a couple cases, the bass or a melody are coming from the Monotribe, but as I haven't given it separate outs yet, I'm not a fan of tracking melodic material in with one of my two drum tracks. But needs must...

One of the two places I bowed to modernity was with the Curtis app for the iPad (stuck in its iO Dock), which I used for a lot of the little squeaky sound effects and shit.

The other place I allowed for the 21st Century was in send 'verb. The only hardware verb I have worth a shit is the Lexicon 300, and for reasons that would be tedious to explain here, it would have been difficult to use. However, Eos has several patches that are direct clones of Lexicon 300 patches, so I made a little patch in Plogue Bidule, and used my MacBook Pro as, for all intents and purposes, a hardware 'verb on an aux send from the console, with Eos on one aux for the long 'verbs and ValhallaRoom on the other aux for the drum 'verb.

Anyhow, this was quite fun to make. A real brain-bender in places as I tried to either figure out a technique for doing what I was hearing in my head, or tried to remember long-forgotten methods of recording in an all-analog environment. Note that there are no bounces on this EP. I did all four tracks with four mono tracks and two stereo pairs. I mixed sounds in some tracks where they could stand it (notably in the first song, synclok, which has quite a bit of overdubbing) but otherwise, what you hear is what I recorded, in one pass where I could pull it off; mostly I had to do the alphaSyntauri shit in a second go-round because it uses the same computer as the CMU-800R, and, well...

The one thing I forgot about working with tape: when you're doing multiple takes on a 7 minute song late at night, the minute or so it takes to rewind is good for nodding off.

August 14, 2011

Movin' Right Along...

by Chris Randall

As you've probably guessed by the lack of pithy posting, I'm in one of those super-busy times that always seem to occur around August/September/October. Just trying to plow through this mountain of work, keeping my head down. Some updates:

1. The iOS app I'm doing under contract is nearly finished, so I'll have that out of my hair soon.

2. I'm about 3/4 done with the next micronaut E.P., tentatively entitled "analogical." That name is kind of Captain Obvious, given the paradigm of the record, though, and I'm not completely sold on it. This collection of songs is, while not strictly analog as such (the alphaSyntauri and iPad both make appearances, and the CMU-800R is used for all sequencing) about as close as you're gonna get to 100% these days. No DAW, no MIDI, recorded to and mixed from tape. It should be up on my Bandcamp page by the end of the week.

3. The next Audio Damage product is moving in to the home stretch. We (and by "we" I mean Adam) have all the difficult pieces done, and now it's just a matter of hooking everything up and tidying up the UI. No time frame yet, but watch my Twatstream for leaks and such, as that's where I tend to do such things. I will say that this plug will definitely be from the VST3 base; hopefully this entire operation is problem-free and we've got our building framework for the next couple years. We won't be porting our existing line to VST3, but assuming this works out, all future products will be built using this system.

That's it for now. Open thread! What's on your mind? First person to post gets to set the topic.

August 8, 2011

micronaut -oxide

by Chris Randall

Something a little different this time. I've been trying to come up with a workflow to enable direct-to-tape "live PA" style performances for the next round of micronaut stuff, and this video is a proof-of-concept of that.

(As an aside, every time you see me use the word "workflow" you are to drink one shot of The Macallan 18-year-old Scotch whiskey. It's the new AI drinking game.)

In any case, with this one, I'm only using Live for sequencing during the performance itself. There are 6 sound sources, two of which (the TETR4 and the iPad) are running in stereo, for a total of 8 tracks. These are sent to the 8 tracks on the (conveniently enough) 8-track tape deck. I've been trying to come up with an 8-buss console solution that didn't take up half my office, but in the mean-time, I just bussed these direct. What this means is that there is no EQ or mic pre prior to the sound hitting tape. Each sound is, for all intents and purposes, plugged right in to the deck.

This would only work if you had all line-level signals to work with, as is the case here, obviously.

Anyhow, coming out of the deck, I'm using my lil' trooper, the Yamaha MW10, to mix the outputs of the deck, and apply a touch of EQ. I've also got an instance of Eos on my MacBook Pro, which I'm using as the sole send effect. So a tiny bit of cheating, but I didn't have cables long enough to use my Lexicon 300 as the send 'verb, and really, when you get to it, they're both digital, so it's not that much of a cheat.

Anyhow, the net result is a 7-minute hybrid analog/digital synth jam recorded to and mixed from a 1/2" 8-track tape deck. In 1990 this would be a stupid high-end home recording rig. In 2011, it's a silly anachronism that really only proves I have time on my hands. But it's puzzles like this that make life worth living. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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