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

Archives: September 2007

September 30, 2007

Soniccouture Hang Drum mini-review...

by Chris Randall

Got a copy of the Hang Drum library Soniccouture released a few days ago. For those of you not in the know, the hang drum is an instrument made by some Swiss hippies, sort of a cross between a steel drum and a tabla made of brass. YouTube has tons of grainy videos of people using hang drums. Aside from apparently being a fairly expedient way to earn money while sitting on a street corner in Amsterdam, the hang drum is a complex and sophisticated instrument, with a broad sonic palette, yet is basically quite simple to play.

Like a harmonica, hang drums come tuned for specific keys; they have a bass (base?) note made by whacking the central nub, and 7 or 8 harmonics, depending on the model. Watch one of the YouTube videos and you'll quickly get the idea. Since it is essentially impossible to buy one, a sample set like this is pretty much the only way you're gonna get the sound of the hang drum in to your music, unless you want to get out the brazing torch and go to work on your wife's cooking gear.

Soniccouture's library comes in two flavors, the Hang Mk1 (the 8-dimple variety), and the newer Hang Mk2, with 7 dimples. I'm loath to go in to great detail about what's provided, as we'll be here all day, and that's not really the purpose of this website. Suffice to say that if it's possible to make a particular sound with a hang drum, Soniccouture sampled it, at multiple velocity layers, and three samples of each. Literally every single possible sound has a round-robin layer, so you don't get the typical "I'm whackin' this key over and over again" vibe. At all. This is definitely the most sophisticated sample set I own, of any instrument.

Where Soniccouture really shines, as usual, is in the Kontakt skripts. The way they've set the initial patch up, you can literally make your settings (root key, note speed, and how much randomization you're in the mood for) and mash down a bunch of keys on your keyboard, and you have Cool Shit. It is so easy to get something interesting out of this, I'm a little worried that someone like me may be completely obviated. They'll come out with a "Chris Randall Programs Your Shit" script, and I'll be done for.

Anywho, there are several samples on the Soniccouture site, and you can read all about it here. I made a little ditty just fooling around with the automagic script stuff, which you can hear here. The drums are from Konkrete V2, and the bass is from Abstrakt Bass, so it's an all-Soniccouture demo. Effects used are Replicant, Reverence, and Dubstation, and Sonalksis TKB3 (my lil' one-knob buddy) on the drums and hang and SV-315 on the 2-buss.

September 29, 2007

How to make mayonnaise (hint: you start with eggs...)

by Chris Randall

Frequent visitors will remember a comment I made in, uhh, the comments of a post that I'm too fucking lazy to find, the gist of which was "Steve Albini is cool and all, but he says some stupid shit from time to time." To cultivate his odd personality trait (flaw?) of holding court in strange places (like, e.g., a the forums of a poker site, just to name one), he gave an interview with Gourmandizer, which is either a record label with an atrocious web site, or a food blog with a really atrocious web site. I'm not sure which. (Note to web "designer": Flash-based splashes with music and rollover sounds are the strictly the domain of car companies, c. 1998. Don't do it. Ever.)

Anywho, I managed to sift through the single most pompous interview ever, in order to farm this little hidden gem:

Compare the advent of digital recording to an event in the history of food or agriculture.

Mayonnaise is as it is now known a bastardization of the Sauce Mayonnaise every saucier learns to make his first season as an apprentice. Pre-packaged mayonnaise sold in jars is almost nothing but tasteless vegetable oil and water, emulsified by gum and gelatin. I think this product is analogous in many ways to the CD, and it's introduction has degraded the standard of eating in much the same way digital recording has degraded the standard of music.

We'll avoid the obvious fact that both the question and response are a fantastic example of non sequitur logic and just say that, sorry, Steve, but digital recording has nothing whatsoever to do with the standard of music. Or mayonnaise, for that matter. I realize, of course, that you know that as well as I do, and you were just trying to figure out a cute way to get your mayonnaise recipe in to what is obviously an e-mail interview, but even so, since the God Hath Spake, this will get bandied about the Interwebs for time immemorial (it may be 10 years old already, for all I know).


Or, to put it crystal clear to the fanboys: there is just as much (if not more) singular shit recorded through tubes, on to tape and cut to vinyl. THE MEDIUM IS NOT THE MESSAGE. Shitty songs won't be improved by good technique, and a great song will survive the worst recording methods.

September 28, 2007


by Chris Randall

One of our good Audio Damage friends is Jon Burton. He does live FOH sound for, among many other acts, Prodigy. One of the interesting things he does is use Live as an effects rack for Prodigy's live show, and he uses a lot of Audio Damage stuff. Whether you like them or not, Prodigy is quite experimental, and Jon uses our effects during the live show to, I assume, really fuck shit up. The above photo shows Dr. Device getting a workout during the show.

He just told me that lately he's been using Replicant on lead vox, which is unnerving.

In any event, you know we don't normally go in for celebrity endorsements (in actual fact, if someone writes me and says "I'm famous and you should give me your stuff for free" I usually write back with "if you're so fucking famous, you can afford to buy a god-damned $29 plugin, so tell your story walking...") and we won't be issuing a press release saying "Prodigy use Audio Damage plugins on tour..." or anything, mainly because that sort of shit is lame. I just think it's fairly cool and forward-looking what Jon is doing, and worth mentioning here.

September 26, 2007

Freek Box...

by Chris Randall

Just got my shiny new Moog FreqBox from Analogue Haven, and got it stuck in my Analog Effect. (Yes, it has occurred to me that I could have purchased H3000 x 2 for the money I've spent on this monophonic wonder so far, but... yeah...)

Initial impressions: it's freaky. Exactly how useful it would be is open to question, and depends largely on what you're trying to accomplish. The other three I have (LPF, ringmod, phaser) all have obvious uses, but this guy I'll have to ponder for a bit. But if you want to just fuck the shit out of a signal, you could do worse. I'll probably not put up any samples, as the ones on the Moog site do an admirable job of displaying its capabilities.

EDIT: At the risk of being incredibly tedious, like every other owner of boutique gear on the planet, here's a little snip of what the whole shootin' match can do to a kick drum. Delay is after the fact, courtesy of Dr. Device. (Because without delay, well, life isn't worth living.) Clip.

September 26, 2007

My god... it's full of... tubes...

by Chris Randall

TL Audio has announced (released? vaporized? dunno) the Fat Track Production Suite. Aside from its absolutely tragic name, and the typical TL habit of trading on the concept of "tubes = phat" (which was nifty in 1995, but is stupid in 2007, since we all theoretically know better now) this appears to be an actually quasi-useful product. There's a studio control section, two input strips, and an 8-input summing section (which, I assume, you could then patch _back_ through the input strips, for extra gooey tooby goodness.)

All silliness aside, I do see a market for this kind of all-in-one product, although this is the only one I know about. It's essentially a 10-channel mixer, but only two of the channels have input strips, when you get right down to it. See, it all depends on how you say it. ?1169, which is like US$30,000 or something.


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