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.