|55||Oct 3||Sea Glass||3:09||The fourth quarter of 2016 starts with another track that proceeded directly from sonic experimentation. This time, I was digging into the Reaktor Blocks User Library and just started assembling a few things. Noisy, noisy things. Three instances of Reaktor 6, one of which feeds the MicroBrute's envelope and filter.|
|56||Oct 8||Mantis Chops||3:55||I'm in a noisy mood I guess. Chromaphone into a Reaktor patch, three samples from Luftrum's Nano Electronics, and Olegtron*4060.|
|57||Oct 10||Frog Cop Clone||4:21||MicroTonic lays down the beat, while Chipsounds lays down the beeps. Thingamagoop 3000 makes electronic frog noises, and Korg M1 Legacy is put through the blender to make its chords noisier. The name doesn't really mean anything, unless it's subconscious.|
|58||Oct 15||EXEC_FN||4:05||I've been reading Joe Zieja's Mechanical Failure, a sci-fi comedy novel where most of the robots announce in a very robotic way what they're about to do, even if what they're about to do is talk. Or not talk, in some cases ("CALL FUNCTION [MAINTAIN AWKWARD SILENCE]"). And I've been frustrated by some slow tests and weird legacy code at work, although that's nothing new. And I've been planning my entry into the world of Eurorack synths, to find the best way to add to my sonic palette without spending a fortune (which is kind of a minefield).|
Did these things inspire me to create another track entirely from Olegtron*4060 samples? Perhaps.
|59||Oct 16||Mesh80||3:13||One of the Eurorack modules I have researched is The Harvestman's "Zorlon Cannon", a fancy LSFR noise generator. I admit, partially I just like the name. But while it's got a bunch of other features, the sound of LSFR noise is nicely covered by software I already have, such as the quasi-percussion by Chipsounds in this track. Those resonant sweeps and some of the later drones are done with the Darkstar. Bass and lead-ish line is the Atmegatron, while additional bass once the Atmegatron jumps up a couple of octaves is PlastiCZ. Maschine Drumsynth adds some slightly weird high-hat and kick drum.|
|60||Oct 24||ByteBeater Demo||0:37||This is a little bit of a cop-out, I suppose. I've been working on an 8-bit VST synth plugin called ByteBeater for a few days now, based on bytebeat techniques. It's been right on the edge of "done" until last night when I finally straightened out the bugs. Since this was meant to be a quick demo of the synth, it's just 7 instances of it, and very little EQ and compression. Perhaps now I'll pick back up on the "real" track I started which I had meant to use this in.|
|61||Oct 30||Glow Lite||2:43||This is one of those tracks I brought to a certain point, realized it was better before I started developing it, and pared it right back down to what I had at the beginning to rebuild in a different direction. The initial sound is an induction coil recording of my phone while it was more or less idle; Chipsounds plays the main line, Atmegatron the chippy "drums", MicroBrute the second line, and my own ByteBeater the sustained notes that come in at 1:29.|
|62||Nov 2||Bottom of the Sky||2:00||My first track with modular synth! Mutable Instruments Tides, with the Parasite alternate firmware, in Two Bumps mode, PLL tracking a triangle wave from my MicroBrute. Tides' shape and slope are modulated by clocked LFOs from Mutable Instruments Peaks, which instead of being clocked at a steady rate, are triggered with each note. The beginning synth in the track though is Korg Legacy M1, and later on my ByteBeat synth and some noise drums join in.|
|63||Nov 3||All Of Them||4:23||Today is Drone Day, a tradition I just made up and probably won't continue. Here we have Tides droning in a manner that gets kind of tense and maybe a little violent. Two parameters are modulated by wobbly Peaks LFOs. All four outputs of Tides are patched -- one for audio, two to modulate the MicroBrute and one to gate the MicroBrute repeatedly so I don't have to hold down a key -- and almost all my current stock of patch cables was put to use (thus the song title). No sequencing, but I did play a couple of notes on the MB's keyboard and retune Tides via its frequency knob a few times. On the software side, Ratshack Reverb and Valhalla Plate give it a little unnatural space.|
As usual, I put a lot into processing the tail of the piece, fading it into timestretch and reverb and EQing and all manner of things just to get a nice goodbye that's more than just turning down the volume.
|64||Nov 4||Antagonistic Undecagonstring||3:53||My Mutable Instruments Rings arrived this evening, and it's a challenging device. Not precisely an oscillator, not quite a filter, not really an effect, it's a modal resonator that simulates the vibration of pipes, bars, membranes, strings, and so on. It needs to be fed the right kind of input to work well, and the levels coming out can be pretty extreme. But it's capable of sweet guitar-like tones, chimes, percussive objects, bowed and blown instruments, and all manner of exotic stuff.|
Or, of course, you can get weird. I'm currently reading Iain Banks' Hydrogen Sonata which features a bizarre oversized string instrument that's difficult to play (requiring four arms, careful balance, and proper weather conditions as well as skill) and was invented specifically to perform a cranky composer's satirical piece. As soon as I saw the name of the instrument I knew I had to write a tribute to it, and Rings seems like the best tool for that job.
I fed it slightly kinked waveforms from Tides, tuned sympathetically to Rings' strings, and then fed that back into the FM input on Tides. Several of the notes in this piece that have a different character are just the same note played again with nothing intentionally changed.
|65||Nov 5||Electrostatic Hygiene Protocol||4:26||If I get on a drone/dark ambient kick for a while, you can chalk it up to November or point to experimenting with the new gear. On this one, my ByteBeater VST is feeding slow envelopes to Rings, which is modulated by Peaks and Tides and FMd by MicroBrute. The outputs are going into my Horse chorus plugin, Spirit spring reverb and Valhalla Vintage Verb. Serum is by itself on another channel, playing some background pads. Induction coil recordings of the alarm on my Pebble Time add a little bit of fuzzy squiggling and chirping. The opening drone is sampled from the first "real" note of the song and manipulated in Sound Forge.|
|66||Nov 8||Patience, Traveler||1:29||I am avoiding news, and thus the internet, so I can check the election results tomorrow instead of letting it potentially ruin my sleep. Also we just came back from a second viewing of Doctor Strange (a great way to stay away from the news) and this probably had just a little influence on the track.|
Some digital noise drums from my "Fnord" plugin inspired by the Turing Machine and upcoming Malaclypse modules -- in this case, a value noise table, interpolated over time, and gradually morphing at random. Rings in a very typical guitar-like usage, with its position parameter randomized by Tides in Two Drunks mode, into PSP PianoVerb and Uhbik-P Phaser. Additional kick and snare sampled from Peaks, and weird percussive bits from Ephemere. ArcSyn on bass.
This falls into a category of songs that remind me of walking along some distance on a trail; not a march (as this clearly is not) but still a sort of forward plod. I think I've written about that here before.
|67||Nov 9||Not What We Wanted||3:30||A bit of a raw noise track this time because that describes how I'm feeling about this election. I employed MicroBrute and all four of my EuroRack modules (Peaks, Tides, Rings, and Doeper A-133 Dual VC Polarizer); some of it is sequenced, some is played by LFO and there's a little bit of "live" knob turning. Serum FX and Valhalla Vintage Verb at the end of the chain.|
There is a saying among modular synth enthusiasts: "you can never have too many VCAs." I wasn't really feeling that in previous tracks and experiments, but yeah, I would have used one or two more VCAs if I'd had them.
|68||Nov 10||Phosphor Bronze||3:10||Geeking out calms me down I suppose. I started setting this one up absently while looking into Eurorack cases, having "finished" the first stage of mine and not being as happy with the slightly lopsided, difficult to work with results as I'd hoped. Peaks clocks Tides and modulates Rings' structure. Tides self-modulates its slope, clocks Rings and modulates Rings damping. Tides envelope rate slowly turned down by hand. Chords made via pitch shifting in post-production.|
|69||Nov 12||Ye Be Warned||5:15||More noisy drone! I'm going to have to intentionally start something rhythmic next to change it up again. Lots of interplay between Peaks, Tides and Rings here and I'm just going to bypass any specific patch notes from now on unless it's an exception to the new rule somehow. Once again though, just changing the amount of one of the modulations over time, and Tides' smoothness knob, creates most of the change in the sound, and the overall pitch change was done in Sound Forge after.|
|70||Nov 12||Erratic Materials||2:39||It's two-fer Saturday! This is noisy and chaotic. It's the Olegtron*4060 modulating Rings' V/OCT frequency input, with a simple LFO from Peaks modulating Rings' position input. Everything else is just me live-patching the 4060, turning the Starve and Frequency knobs and moving the one LED and capacitor to different divider pins. I'd played with clocking the 4060 from other sources, but that turned out a bit awkward and not as cool as using it as a source itself.|
|71||Nov 13||Cosmoctopus||2:43||Can't stop the rhythm, even if it's 5/4. Two instances of my ByteBeater VST and two of my Fnord noise VST, plus a Peaks kick drum with a little support from Rings, and filtered white noise from Bazille.|
|72||Nov 14||Realistic-Looking Electric Animals||1:59||Since the recent posting of "He Say You Braidrunna!" I figured I would answer with what androids dream of, in the form of the "Sheep" alternate firmware for Mutable Instruments Tides (with shape FM from MicroBrute). Other voices include PlastiCZ and Atmegatron, and Bitkits drums.|
|73||Nov 15||Four Quarts||2:35||My CV.OCD arrived today, enabling much more control over the modular. Instead of one pitch and one gate through the MicroBrute, I'm now set up for two pitches, velocity, an extra control, and multiple gates and triggers and clocks. This increases the tangle of patch cords, but awakens many possibilities. This track was done with Tides (lots of modulation, yes), Analog Lab 2, Chipspeech, ByteBeater and one of Detunized's noise samples.|
|74||Nov 16||Determining Coincidence of Faces||3:18||Having long since blown past my original track-a-week goal, I've set a new one: finish 100 tracks during 2016. I can do this. Going on vacation next week, but I'm brining a laptop so I'll still have some subset of VST plugins to work with.|
This particular patch is a configuration I'll probably come back to many times: MicroBrute into Rings input, Tides into Rings FM. Since I'm no longer stuck sending the same pitches to everything, there are shifting relationships between the three even as a basic "melody" persists. Frostbite, Ubermod, Replika and MTransformer process the output, and the "breaking waves" of digital noise and some other distortion layers came from processing the recording and layering parts back in.
|75||Nov 17||Last Ditch First Pitch||1:28||Should be simple -- it's just Atari Tape Drums (from where I don't recall), Rings in FM mode on bass, and Tides on melody/pad. Except that it's 7/8 time and busy, and Decimort is doing weird things to the tails of the drums that makes it even busier. Like I feel right before going on vacation!|
The laptop is set up with a very minimal subset of software because I didn't want to futz with digging up license keys, and I'm not bringing any additional hardware on the trip -- so it's going to be a challenge I expect. ByteBeater and Fnord will probably get a workout, as will ArcSyn.
|76||Nov 18||Gooseneck||1:36||Part of the unwritten contract with myself that I have about this project is I won't worry too much about the length of tracks. If a track seems to want to be short, I'll let it be short. Sometimes though, after the fact, I like where an idea was going and wish I'd given it a little more time. I feel that way about the previous one now. But this one is also short, and I still think that's okay. Three drum sample kits, one of which is feeding Rings input (using it as a sort of very colored reverb) and Tides' Freeze (rapidly, intermittently disrupting it as it plays).|
|77||Nov 20||Cold Ant Gaze||2:33||I guess when my options shrink to not much more than I started with in 2003, I start making music a little bit similar to what I did then. Except, well, I do have my ByteBeater and Fnord plugins and ArcSyn. I miss all kinds of things about using the Maschine hardware though: adjusting parameters with knobs instead of a jumpy mouse, easily doubling, duplicating and rearranging patterns, trying out different drum kits by playing them instead of having to sequence anything to hear it, etc. But this still works.|
|78||Nov 20||Enquiry & Output||3:22||This title comes from the documentation for a solid modeling library we use at work -- I just thought it sounded neat. Hopefully the track does too. Some calm ambient stuff where the pads and slightly crackly noise are done by Fnord, and the cello and sustained/falling tones are from the Maschine factory library.|
|79||Nov 20||I Am Still In The Mud||2:50||A sort of horror soundtrack inspired by the Strangers plotline of Welcome To Night Vale, and some paranormal investigations TV shows that were playing in the background. Drum samples & too many instances of lo-fi reverb, mostly Ratshack Reverb.|
|80||Nov 21||Chicken On A Mission||1:31||As we were driving through Arkansas on our way to Louisiana, my spouse spotted a chicken walking with a determined gait. "That's a chicken on a mission," she said. This is two instances of the same Maschine drumkit treated very differently, one extra Maschine factory sample, and enough of my not very optimized FFT-based plugins to make the laptop CPU cry.|
|81||Nov 21||No Gap, Two Loops||1:21||Sometimes simple stuff works, at least if it's in 9/8 time. Two Maschine drumkits and a couple of Maschine factory samples. The name comes from the same set of documentation as "Enquiry & Output."|
|82||Nov 22||Silk Tower||3:22||One voice of PlastiCZ, with lots of granular and reverb effects. Two Maschine drumsynth instances, with more reverb. Vague inspiration from Fallen London.|
|83||Nov 22||Thirty-Five Phosphorescent Scarabs||2:10||A cello sample dirtied just a little, a simple sine left pretty clean. Name also from Fallen London.|
|84||Nov 25||Ceremonial Pie||2:38||What better way to avoid the monotonous droning of HGTV than a couple of instances of ArcSyn and some ceremonial pie?|
|85||Nov 25||Spiders Are Listening||2:07||Well, they are. Listening, taking notes in arachnid shorthand, and reporting to a vague yet menacing government agency. Night Flight, two Maschine drum kits, two instances of ByteBeater (one shaky noise, one bass).|
|86||Nov 29||Tennessee Ashfall||3:59||Back home early from our trip. When we drove through Great Smoky Mountain National Park Sunday afternoon, there was a plume of smoke on one mountain, a closed trail and a bit more haze than normal in general. Our stay in Gatlinburg and dinner and a movie in nearby Pigeon Forge were pleasant, but we woke to a sparse, gentle ashfall that we first mistook for snow flurries. There was time for breakfast and a visit to Ripley's Aquarium, but by the time we were done with that a bit before noon, the air was a yellow murk that irritated eyes and throat, and we decided to go home. Six hours later officials began evacuating the town and the aquarium was surrounded with flame, though thankfully it and its 10,000+ animals seem to have come through unharmed.|
Thus, the title. As for the gear: the Mannequins Three Sisters I bought from someone who decided he didn't need two, in a complex feedback relationship with Rings. It all feels very physical and unpredictable, though Sisters is capable of many different moods. The bass part is Tides, with its smoothness driven directly by a gate from CV.OCD, the thumping proving those gates aren't terribly clean. The effects chain is Space Modulator, Frostbite, Sandman Pro, and ValhallaPlate.
|87||Nov 29||Dab Hand||1:26||More fun with the Sisters. This time it's self-oscillating, and also feeding Rings. There's a tiny bit of feedback from Rings into Sisters for a little extra growl. There's a touch of Haaze on Rings but otherwise no software effects on the modular stuff. A couple of Maschine drum sample kits round it out.|
|88||Nov 30||L'Ortolanalog||2:13||Three Sisters can act as an ordinary filter, a vocal-ish formant filter, a pure chord oscillator, a sort of twisted FM synth or a self-modulating monster, but here I'm mostly using it as a colorful sort of mixer. A Maschine drum kit, both directly and through Rings, as well as Tides feed three out of four Three Sisters inputs. Tides frequency and smoothness are driven by separate short envelopes, and Tides controls Rings' frequency. (The start of the track is just Tides.) A little extra from Fnord and Synplant.|
|89||Nov 30||No Stars No Mars||3:27||Another Rings/Sisters feedback configuration; simpler, if such a thing can ever really be said about feedback. Much of the melody is being driven by Peaks rather than written as such, as it modulates Rings' chord structure with a stepped triangle wave.|
|90||Nov 30||Dramatis Automatae||2:00||Fake/questionable Latin: a long tradition in the arts. I had the image of robots with an array of industrial tools and percussion instruments performing this piece in an empty hall, witnessed only by cameras and microphones. Inspiration came from taiko and the Thirty Days of Night soundtrack.|
Bazille oscillating in deep "undertone" range sends impulses into the Three Sisters All input. Three Sisters All output is routed to Rings input, the Low output to Rings frequency control, and Center output to self-FM. Rings stereo outputs recorded, with a touch of Spirit reverb (but most of the audible reverb is inside Rings).
|91||Dec 1||Craywave||1:57||At long last, there's a Korg Kaossilator for Android, settling once and for all the question of whether to pick up the hardware on eBay someday. There's also "THumb", a very basic VST plugin I wrote which performs track-and-hold at audio rates at a selectable pulse width to incoming audio. I used that THumb to dirty the main (out of four) parts from the K-osc, decided that was a bit much, but that the only way out is through -- instead of dialing it back I reverbed the stuffing out of the high end to make a sort of bell tree background out of it. A little bit of reverb for other parts, and that's that.|
This is in 4/4, but it doesn't have a pulse per se, so it sounds like it might be some exotic time signature.
|92||Dec 1||Tesseract||5:38||This was Rings, Sisters and Tides recorded and improvised live; then I couldn't decide between forwards and backwards so I chose both and made it a palindrome.|
|93||Dec 1||Not Tines||2:37||I've been telling myself I haven't used NI Form enough; it's a neat thing I want to explore more and I keep forgetting about it. I wound up firing up a pitched percussive sound and immediately wanted to feed it to Rings to enhance it, which it does admirably. Korg Legacy Polysix handles pads, there's a sample from a lost granular synth, and Three Sisters does slightly-off FM bass. I need to calibrate the Sisters 1V/octave tracking I think, but I liked the effect it gives here.|
|94||Dec 2||Seeds||2:57||Kaossilator drum loop through Red Witch Fuzz God and Three Sisters, and Kaosillator bass parts. The sitar-like instrument is Tides Parasite in Two Bumps mode with Echobode creating the shifting repeats.|
|95||Dec 2||Yodan||1:31||The "Tetra" drum kit from the Hexagon Highway Maschine expansion gave me the name -- from the taiko piece "Yodan Uchi" or "Hitting Four Sides." (There are also 2, 8, and "many" sided variations.) There's also a tiny granular snippet from Potter Puppet Pals, because why not; Tides Parasite in Two Bumps mode, synced to a screaming tone from Sisters; Rings fed by bytebeats from Peaks, FM'd by the tone from Sisters.|
|96||Dec 2||Smelter||4:48||Warning: noisy and squealy! I pitched it down a little after recording and filtered off some of the ear-burningness but it's still the noisiest track I have done in quite some time. Rings droning in Disastrous Peace mode, modulated by two Turing Machines from Peaks Dead Man's Catch. Its outputs go to Three Sisters, whose frequency is modulated by a very slow but gnarly Tides waveform and also self-FM'd; Sisters feeds back into Rings' reverb (though not a resonator because of the mode).|
Basically none of the events in this track were planned; I set it up and let chaos run its coarse, intervening only a little with a few knob turns, then deciding when to stop the drone and wait for the filter/reverb feedback to try to settle into relative stability.
|97||Dec 3||Deflection||2:32||I disagree with Duke Ellington, who famously was all about that bass. But swing does add a lot of flavor even to weird music, particularly when tempo-based effects are involved. Here's a Bitkits drum kit with TimeShaper, an FM8 part, and MicroBrute FMd by Tides, modulated by Peaks and run through a more conventional use of Three Sisters than I've used up to now.|
|98||Dec 3||Forest Floor Timelapse||4:38||I once praised the Soulsby Atmegatron highly, and there's a lot about it I still like. But it's often difficult to make it sit well with everything else, which is not a problem with any of the other chiptune-ish synths I've used in software or hardware, and I'm thinking about letting it go. It was with that in mind that I used it in this track, to see if it would change my mind -- and I still found it difficult to work with and had to re-record with some different settings to make it settle down. I'm not going to be too hasty though, and will keep working with it regularly to see if I can get around the issues.|
The four parts in this track are Atmegatron strings, Rings in Disastrous Peace mode with Three Sisters as a sine oscillator into Rings' reverb, NI Form doubled with Tides, and Lord of the Strings from the KVR Developer Challenge 2016.
|99||Dec 4||"Not" Haunted||2:47||Atmegatron in Duotron mode, through Three Sisters used as a mild notch filter with the frequency slowly swept by Tides; Bytebeater; Rings in FM mode through a VCA so it could have a properly gated envelope, with another envelope modulating the FM index for that swelling effect. Some Atmegatron modes are less finnicky than others but I still had to work at it a bit. And now I'm swinging back to "keep it" because there's not really much out there that can do some of what it does.|
The "haunted house" feeling I guess comes from some similarity to the harpsichord.
|100!||Dec 4||Goes Ping||2:41||This is it: track 100 ...out of 52. When I planned this project around this time last year I thought maybe one track a week would be difficult, and indeed it took a while to get past the feeling that starting each track was a drag. Like when I was a kid and I hated going to the beach, but once I was there I had to be dragged out of the water.|
I'm announcing here that I'll just keep doing this next year -- no particular track goal, just a lot of music. I'll call the next year-long album-thing "Expedition," so I suppose it has a theme of exploration and discovery but anything can happen.
As for this track: the deep organ-like pads are by Tides Parasite in Two Bumps mode. First "ping" part is Atmegatron in Delayertron mode. The vague electric piano part is Rings with its Damping parameter gated instead of just letting it ring, and with a high brightness setting but lowpass filtered by Sisters. The second "ping" part is MicroBrute with a fast envelope affecting the triangle metalizer, and PWM modulated by Peaks. The background noise that comes in with that part is sampled from the Devi Ever Rocket fuzz I used to have.