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

Tags: Where Is The Drop

May 24, 2018

hardfault process...

by Chris Randall

Between going to Superbooth (which, taking prep and recovering from jetlag in to account, sucks up almost 2 months of my time) and working on Quanta and our complete catalog rewrite, I haven't had a whole lot of time to work on music lately, which puts my regimen of one LP or two EPs a year at risk. I am of the firm belief that I can't really offer opinions on how things should be done if I'm not doing them myself, and music tech is no exception to that.

My general habit when I'm working on AD stuff (either Research or Development) is that if I come across something interesting that sparks my imagination, I stop whatever it is I was doing for an hour or two and try to develop it in to a framework. Then, when I have 10-15 of these half-songs stored up, I go through them and pick five that have some sort of sonic relationship to one another, and then finish and mix them all in one sitting. This particular EP departs from that, as the first track, getProcessor, I actually finished some months ago (January, I think) for a podcast, and the last track (strike_332) I recorded and mixed in one sitting yesterday. The other three fit that general description, though.

Unfortunately, this method of working precludes making process videos, for the most part, because the tracks are written and recorded over a fairly long span of time, and pop in to existence at unplanned moments. So, in lieu of a whole slew of process content, I'll just write a bit about each track, based on what I remember.

As I noted above, I finished this track a few months ago as an exclusive for the Headroom podcast. It starts with my usual noise bed (construction of which is detailed in several AI videos), and some synth burbles courtesy of a Reaktor ensemble. The drums are, in a rarity for me, based around a sampled loop, the beginning of 23 Skidoo's 1983 track "Coup". I re-architected it heavily, of course. The rest of the drums are various Reaktor ensembles (I believe the kick is a Blocks patch), working on drum samples I created through my usual methods specifically for the track. The synth "lead" is Basic; I actually played it in via the Linnstrument, then reorganized it with Replicant and Eventide H3000 factory.

This has the usual noise bed. The 3-note bass motif is from Live's Wavetable synth; the chord pad in the beginning is Phosphor, and the granular synth line is the first recorded appearance of Quanta in its early stages. (It couldn't even load samples back then; this is the grain engine working on the sidecar oscillator.) The chord line that doubles the main pad towards the end is also Quanta, in a somewhat later stage; the source sample is an RS09. The burbly glitchy synths you hear throughout are Basic, run through Automaton and Replicant. The drums are Axon for the kick and hat and a reworked field recording run through a whole raft of plugs for the other stuff.

This is a fun one; all the rhythmic elements are from a Max4Live patch that runs in real-time, all synthesized on the fly and played algorithmically. (Thus, it's essentially different every time I run it.) I made controls for density, and the ability to turn individual sources on and off, and that's it. It was quite challenging to put melodic stuff over the top of this. Since the source is all on-the-fly, I was able to tune the harmonic elements of the percussion to match the root, which really makes the melodic part boxy. The melodic elements come from two main synth hits; both of these are Quanta run through various effects (Grind, Eos, Filterstation, etc.). I played them in manually with the Linnstrument. This track is far more abstract than my usual stuff, but it was fun to make, and I'll probably do more like it in the future.

secondary interface
In this track, I was experimenting with controlling feel in weird ways; the song is in straight time, but I gave the bass a dotted 8 LFO, and the snare has a triplet feel done with the predelay in ADverb2 (the new version has a much bigger early reflection situation than the original, so you can time it appropriately.) This results in a track that can either feel straight, swung, or in trips depending on which rhythmic element you latch on to. The foot is just a resonating filter; I don't remember how I made the other rhythmic elements, to be honest, but it sounds like the usual group of glitch plugs (Replicant, Automaton, H3000 Factory, etc.). The pad is Quanta with a heavy sidechain compression, as is the synth hit, which is driven with follow actions in Live, randomly choosing a MIDI note.

This track I wrote and recorded in its entirety just yesterday; I installed Form, a Reaktor Player synth that is part of Komplete, and was experimenting with sending it real-time controller info from a Roli Lightpad Block. I got that interesting drone, and the rest of the track just fell in to place around it. Usual noise bed (you're hearing a ambience around a pyramid in Mexico underneath everything), and the initial drum loop is, in a super extra rarity for me, lifted straight from another song. In this case it is from Chris Carter's 1980 cassette-only release "Electrodub 2." (I had parted it out for a demo video, and I accidentally landed on the loop while sample surfing, and it laid right in there.) I believe it is a CR78 through an early digital reverb. The kick is, like most of my tonal kicks, just a filter self-resonating (two different flavors in this song, natch) and the other rhythmic elements are created much as above, with glitch plugs working on field recordings for the most part. The rolling snare that appears halfway through is a 606 snare through Unfiltered Audio's excellent Fault plug. The granular synth thing that goes throughout is Quanta on a sample of my CS5, and the pad is also Quanta, working on an MKS80 sample, which I played in real time.

May 30, 2017

New Kid On The Block...

by Chris Randall

Our habit, for the last couple years, has been to port our existing product line to Eurorack hardware. However, there is one product we have that is unique to Eurorack, our Shapes module, that I really wanted in the DAW. So, after we got done making Eos 2, I scraped all the Sean out of the project and got to work, moving the code from Shapes, and adding to it given the somewhat more expansive CPU real-estate available in DAW-land.

The result is what you see above, Grind. It can run both "wave" and "algo" modes of Shapes simultaneously (with some additions to both the waveform complement and the algorithms), and we threw in a huge raft of filters and a tempo-synced LFO because hashtag yolo. I was going to say that this is probably the first direct code port of a digital Eurorack module to a plugin, but I haven't looked closely at that SoftTube thing, so I couldn't say for sure.

In a nutshell, the input level determines which sample of the wavetable is accessed, and we replace the input sample with the wavetable sample. Then, this hot mess passes through the algorithms, which are mostly of the soft sat / clip variety, with a couple exceptions. After that, it hits one of the 11 filter algorithms. The filter frequency and wavetable can be hit with the tempo-synced LFO. It is a fairly unique distortion plugin, and incredibly capable. You can turn the wavetables off and just use the algos and filter and access the entire range of "analog warmth" tricks that we use in the plugin business, or go screaming acid banshee on whatever the input is. Add the wavetables to that, and it's a god damn nightmare machine.

Tonight or tomorrow I'll have a video overview of this bad boy up, but it is available for purchase now. VST/VST3/AU/AAX.

Speaking of AAX, while I was waiting for Adam to finish the Grind manual, I plucked some low-hanging fruit and ported our free FuzzPlus3 plug; while I was at it, I hit a couple little bugs. So FuzzPlus3 is now VST/VST3/AU/AAX as well. Get it here. We're going to have to do a version upgrade to do the same to Rough Rider, as it is not a JUCE plugin to begin with, so we have to essentially remake it from scratch. There's not a ton to it, though, so it should be fairly easy.

EDIT: It was, in fact, fairly easy. And is now done. Rough Rider is at v2, and includes AAX, VST3, and a new UI.

In unrelated news, working on my Summer Vibes EP. Like you do, while Adam lays out the PCB for [REDACTED]. More on both those things as they become pertinent. I also finally bit the bullet and bought a smoking new Kaby Lake PC (literally the day before Intel announces Kaby Lake X. Go team) and a glorious 4K monitor to peer at its innards with. That'll be arriving tomorrow, so system migration ho!

Anyhow, that was my week. What are you up to?

December 27, 2016

Groove Experiments...

by Chris Randall

During the course of testing products, I often end up with more-or-less full patches. It is important to test everything in context; you can't just listen to something by itself and expect to just know how it sits in a mix. This is especially important for effects, as they generally end up far too thick for normal production if you don't test them in a song while you're developing.

Our next product is a Eurorack hardware version of our Eos plugin, and during the course of development, I built up a patch with several different sound sources; this morning, I was like "oh, that's almost music right there" and popped out a quick video. This, like most of my modular improvs, doesn't have much of an arrangement, but I kind of liked the feel of it. These sorts of pieces of music are not created with the intent of having a finished song, but rather to test something, and thus they tend to not have much Song to them. But if you know that going in, I think they turn out okay.

As is usual for me, everything is sequenced from Sequencer 1 and White Whale. The bass is coming from the WMD/SSF voice; the melody line is Noise Engineering LI -> our own analog filter prototype. The drums are Boomtschak x 2 and Neuron x 2, and the effects are the usual gaggle. The chord drone and found-sound voice are coming off the 4-track cassette, like normal. In short, nothing in this video you haven't seen a dozen times already in my stuff, but I think it's probably a fun insight in to my workday.

October 26, 2016

Oscillator Breach...

by Chris Randall

As some of you may know, I dropped a new album on Detroit Underground™ two weeks ago. It is unusual for me not to self-release, as has been my habit for the last 15 years or so, but I really like what Detund is doing; they first popped on my radar when they put out Richard Devine's excellent RISP project, and their releases comprise a major percentage (maybe 80%?) of the music I've been listening to since then. Kero has an amazing visual sense, along with his great taste in IDM stylings, and I wanted to be part of that family.

The album consists of six tracks and four remixes (from Baseck, Proem, Qebo, and Corbin Davis.) The six tracks are, as is my way for the last couple years, all Euro and tape loops of found sounds. The Tech Time videos in my Analog Industries YouTube channel accurately describe my methodology for making these tracks, so in lieu of an extended process explanation, you can go watch those. The tracks all start with a stand-alone Euro patch and tape loops, and once I have something that I like, I part them out in to Live, and do the arrangement and post-production there. Once each track was done, I pre-mastered it to my Otari MTR-12 two-track deck, and then dumped it back in to the computer and sent it to Wade Alin at Standard Mastering for the final squish. (The remixes were mastered and level-matched by Detund. Not sure who they used.) These are mastered to what Wade calls "Old Guy Levels," which is to say that they retain most of their dynamics, and are not square waves at 0dBfs. The artwork was done by the amazing Layer-Based Human Activities™ from Athens, Greece.

If you guys have any technical questions or comments about the album, now is the time and this is the place!

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