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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Aug.08.2011 @ 1:57 AM
I started playing the AI drinking game by doing a shot of tequila every time you twittered a "fucking x" tweet, but I ended up blacking out so many times that I have no clue at all what happened during the month of July... I haven't been served with any papers yet, so I couldn't have done anything too stupid. I hope...

Anyway. Good stuff as always. I've been itching to get back to recording some stuff to tape, but I'm thinking more lo-fi. Like 1/4" 4-track lo-fi. This might inspire me to really buckle down and do it.

Also, are you using a new lens/video setup? And is the MW10 any good? Been thinking about getting a small mixer for very light duty work, but (for obvious reasons) don't want to just plug in that behringer eurorack that's buried under a pile of junk in the studio.


Aug.08.2011 @ 6:48 AM
Which box is on drum duty ?

Aug.08.2011 @ 7:28 AM
Awesome. There's something soothing about seeing the reels spinning - gives a recording a sense of finality or urgency or something... whatever. It's cool. I'd like to pick up a tape deck like that.

Aug.08.2011 @ 9:46 AM
This new AI drinking game is fun, but expensive.

Good stuff, and yeah, what's the drum sound?

Aug.08.2011 @ 10:01 AM
Chris Randall
@inteliko and @dgillespie: The iPad is doing the drums, via the iMS-20 app. If you're not familiar with it, aside from the normal MS-20 emulation (which is quite good, and I have a real one here to compare it to, obviously) it has 6 slightly less sophisticated MS-20s assigned to "drum" duties. They're just like the main emu except they have less envelope controls.

The only problem, if you could call it such, is that the higher you cascade the sounds in the drum queue, the less likely you are to hear any given sound. For instance, in the very beginning, you hear a hi-hat and a zap sound. To give you an idea of what it's doing, the hi-hats are programmed to play 16th notes, and the zaps play 4 16th notes. You're lucky to hear a third of the hats, and one of the zaps, in any given measure. I find this kind of cool, but you're not getting what you programmed.

There's also a 16th note snare pattern and a kick coming from the Monotribe, which you can hear (and see) me fade in about 30 secs in.

@thehipcola: Yeah. Plus you have time to think about what you did while you wait for it to rewind.


Aug.08.2011 @ 10:12 AM
Chris Randall
@will: I love the MW10 as a utility mixer. The only complaint I could come up with is that it doesn't have mute buttons. But it is quiet, the EQ sounds good, all the features one would need on a mixer this size (aside from mute buttons).

As far as the camera / lens, same as the last few videos: D3100 w/ Nikkor f1.2 50mm. I didn't color-correct the video, because I decided I kind of liked the greenish tint. (The sun was shining directly through my office window, which is covered in morning glory.)


Aug.08.2011 @ 10:43 AM
The spinning tape reel is a nice visual touch.

CR, do you "write" this live as well, or do you have the sequences, etc. programmed ahead of time and then mute/unmute/edit/tweak (isn't that how Underworld plays live as well?)

Aug.08.2011 @ 1:18 PM
Apparently David Briggs, the producer (engineer?) of a bunch of Neil Young records, preferred to have as direct a channel from the audio source to tape as possible. In his case, microphones were clearly involved, but it sounds like he would go straight from mike pres into the tape deck, bypassing any mixer. Once mixers started evolving away from the custom built boards of the 1960's (like Wally Heider's, that used a bunch of UA components), Briggs felt that the more complicated electronics got in the way of the sound.

I've never mixed to tape without having an undoubtedly crappy mixer in the path, so I'm just talking about something I've read here. But it sounds interesting. And I love the sound of the Neil Young albums from around 1969 through the mid 1970's (After The Gold Rush and Zuma being good examples). For the most part, those records are DRY AS A BONE.

Aug.08.2011 @ 2:45 PM
Jason Duerr
funny, i had some 18yr Scotch on Saturday.

Aug.08.2011 @ 4:34 PM
Fun. A patchbay would streamline your analog workflow.

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