Play it on a sunny day if you’re only happy when it rains. This is a chill thing, not much going on it seems on the surface. Nice background music that will make you reach for your raincoat when you leave. The track is a simple live guitar improv run through four different lanes with the use of some rain sounds in unusual ways.

Only read more if you want to geek out on the details.

The first thing to come in….the pit-pat of drops splatting…is a guitar synth triggering samples of my home-made wooden-keyed sansa.  This is “lane 1”

IMG_0114Soon after you gradually begin to hear two sets of ambient rain sounds emerge in the background. These are the only other thing than the four-lane guitar. The first to enter are a group of snippets of from a freesounds field recording of rain on a tin roof. The recording is split into pseudo-mid-side, with one section of the clip providing the mid, the common base sound to both stereo channels. Then two other clips, both from different times on the same recording are placed, one on the right channel and one on the left, to provide some stereo, giving the track a sense of space. All this was because the original field recording was mono and I want the stereo to be big on this. The second track is a stereo field recording I made of the rain as it sounded on the 9th floor outdoor walkway of my apartment. It is in stereo from the start, and much more “ambient” than the tin roof.

The second guitar lane comes in during fade in of the ambient rain. It is still the same guitar notes as the pit-pat samples. It is electric guitar, more or less pretty clean, run through two vocoders, one with the “left” side of the tin roof pseudo stereo recording, the other with the right side. On one vocoder it is the carrier, on the other it is the modulator. This means that one side of the guitar sounds like it is playing through the rain, while the other side sounds like the rain is playing through the guitar. The two sides are sent through the rain yet again, this time using a convolution plugin that makes the vocoder processed guitar/tin roof sound as if it is playing in the tin roof rain. Got some tin roof rain for your tin roof rain sound. All of this gives the guitar a sort of watery voice I think while still keeping the notes clear.

That gets joined soon after by the third lane, the “acoustic channel” of my Godin e
lectric guitar. This makes the articulation of the “watery” guitar clearer. The fourth guitar lane (still the same single guitar playing though) then fades in, a reverb drenched, trebly guitar that smears everything up again, but just in the background, tying together the guitar with the rain tracks to complete the atmosphere. Past the middle, all of the sounds gradually fade out one by one til only the the vocoded, convoluted guitar and a little ambience is left at the end.

As a special bonus, the art for the song is made from the spectrogram of the mix, which looked nicely smeared and rainy to my eye. That is the part “outside” the car. The driver’s eye view of the road and the inside of the car is stolen. Not saying from where.


Finding patterns where none exist, I heard this as a song. you?

How to get a dub bass sound in a mixed track

You might want to give “More Lost,” from last week (see previous post), another listen.  I remixed it to get the bass to sound right and it sounds a lot better.  I know you didn’t ask, but here is what I did, in case anyone else runs into the problem of changing the sound of the bass when there is no separate instrument track. Of course, the best option is to record the sound the way you want it to its own track, but that is not an option here because of rreplay’s live workflow.  So I had to try to get the sound in the mix instead of in the recording.  We were aiming for a dubby bass sound, nice and full on the low end without being boomy.  Here is the recipe, and an A/B comparison at the end.

FIrst split the track into two: a mono (sub-) bass track with a cutoff around 200 Hz and a stereo track for everything above that. I left the top the way it was originally mixed and worked only on the bass.  Remember though that all the “finger” sounds and most of the transients of the bass are up there. I read the manuals for the two main plugins I used, a transient shaper and Ohmicide multi-band distortion.  I also did side-by-side listening with “more lost” and  Sly and Robbie’s Fatigue Chic as the dubby timbre we are aiming for on the mono sub-bass track.

For the initial mix, I muted the top (stereo) channel and worked just with the bass. Unmuting for A/B comparison was not a good idea, because as my ears got accustomed to the bass, turning the top back on for brief periods sounded way more trebly than things actually were. I needed to give the piece a listen all the way through when I wanted to hear both channels, so I got the main part of the bass working with it soloed, and then tweaked the finishing touches with the full mix. Going back and forth with “Fatigue Chic” was very helpful to see if I was getting closer on the bass sound.

I could get the bass really fat in my good monitors, but then it sounded like $#!+ on anything else. When I was turning up the bass channel, it was also amplifying a bunch of low end cruft. The solution was to use a transient shaper (I used the transient shaper included in Sonar, but you can probably score a [free] [one] or a demo to try), with a fast attack and a slightly sped up release, so that the bottom is only happening when it is either Eric’s bass playing or the bass drum. The attack does not need to be instant, since the treble parts of the attack are still in the upper bands, but fast enough so that the bass is coming in at the same time as the same transients in the upper track. Set the release really short for the moment to accentuate what you are keeping.  Fiddle with the threshold until all the bass notes and the bass drum play, but nothing else.  It is ok at this point if it sounds choppy.  Raising the threshold should make notes drop, and lowering it will introduce extra stuff.  There should be empty space between the notes.  Once the threshold is set, lengthen the release time (move from “dry” to “wet” on the plugin I was using) to bring back the tails of the bass notes, but don’t set it so long that the gate stops working and the cruft seeps back in. There should sound like there is a little (not too much) space between the notes where the gate is working. the upper track will fill those in once we introduce it back in.

This tightened things up considerably. I messed with EQ a bit on the mono bass channel to push the frequency where the bass drum sat a little.  Your mileage may vary on this, depending on the bass drum sound.  It can make it ring in an unpleasant way. the boost for this was a somewhat narrow and small one at about 130 Hz, but YMMV, so use your ears.  I also gave a lesser, rounder (i.e. lower Q) boost around 80, so there was a slight sharper peak centered on 130 over a rounder peak centerred on 80, with a sharp cutoff below 50 and above 200.  I then put a little compression after the transient shaper instead of at the beginning of the chain, which further tightened things up.  It goes after so that the cruft stays quiet and the notes and bass drum loud.

At this point, I started listening to the whole track (upper and lower bands both on).  Looked at overall EQ of bass and treble channels together in Voxengo’s free SPAN meter  and solved some dips and peaks caused by splitting the channel apart, added the ohmicide distortion, set to a mild vaccum tube emulation, to the mono bass channel but turned down to 10% in the mix — all it does now is adds a little tail of midrange harmonics that “glues” the bass channel to the high channel so it does not sound like the Eric’s bass finger work is from one bass and the sub-bass from another. Could prbably do this with many other tube saturator type thingies.  The trick is to really go light on it.  I wrecked several versions until I backed it way off until I thought I could no longer hear it, then checked by bypassing it to hear if it was an audible difference at all and if it improved the sound (yes to both).

I tested the new remix on the good KRK monitors, on Cambridge Soundworks computer speakers, and on my Bose computer speakers and the bass sounds way better …no woof, gargle, or fizz while being more prominent with a better fat dubby tone, and because of the cruft removal and glue, much tighter sounding in the mix.

Here is the old version:

Compare with the current Souncloud version:

Elephant Walk (#6/52)

Week 6 of our 52 in 52 challenge. This one is more experimental, kind of elephant sounding with spaghetti western at the tail end.


Gonna try and put up a rreplay track each week. This one floats away on guitar and bass then transforms into the bomdiddybom bewaka before exploding, after which the pieces all float down. Named after the things in your eye that float around looking like they are there but aren’t.

Welcome us home to Honolulu!

We’ll be back in Hawaii August first at long last! Come celebrate at Anna Bananas, where I’ll be playing as BeepLab (Bengali for revolution!).  I’ll be going on some time after 10:30. It’ll be all instrumental from me. Here is some of the stuff I’ve been playing lately:

. . . and below is the poster with the details. I hope you all who are in Honolulu can make it!


arcDev noise industries

Another plugin maker who makes cool music is Skye Klein from Australia, who plays under the moniker of Terminal Sound System along with a bunch of other projects.  His music, in TSS anyway, is dubby, minimalist, occasionally bordering on ambient but at other times moving towards industrial glitching.  His latest album is Compressor, and another, Constructing Towers, is due out soon You can hear the latest music at the TSS site.  His older stuff is all downloadable from Embryo Records.  Among my favorites from the old stuff are minimal tolerance to injected errata, deep trauma, and tomorrow will not come, though I have not really listened to the whole catalogue yet.

His plugin and software site is arcDev Noise Industries, which has a frustratingly cool web interface that evokes some alien version of DOS or the ancient gopher net protocol.  Type ‘help’ if you can’t figure it out.

I use two of his plugins a lot.  The first is the aptly named hosebeast, which you can hear in action on rreplay‘s sizzle.  Hosebeast is a “5-part fx processor for noisy, lofi, glitchy and general audio mayhem” with a filter, granulator, warper, bitcrusher, and ring modulator in any combination, including multiples of the same.  In other words a FSU device.

The other great arcDev plugin is arcDev’s entry in the 2007 KVR Developers’ Challenge plugin contest, Ellipsis.  It, along with mdsp‘s livecut, which I’ll discuss in its own post some time, are responsible for the drums in cubanecho and f it from rreplay.  Cubanecho also relies on mdsp’s entry in the 2006 KVR Developers’ Challenge, fire.  If you take a guitar and set it standing up with the strings against a tabletop, then pull it away a little and let go, then the strings will bounce on the edge of the tabletop ever more rapidly, just so: Booooooooing Booooing  Boooing Boing Bng Bn bn bnbnbnbnbn (I take no responsibility for any damage to guitars or furniture this may cause).  Mdsp has figured out how to mathematically model that warping speed change using delays in fire.

The way Ellipsis works is that you load ten samples into it, most usefully, drum loops that will more or less go together.  You have to tweak the settings a bit to make the drums play at the right (or wrong!) speed.  Then when you hit a corresponding note on your midi controller (usually a keyboard, but I use a footboard), it triggers the loop.  You can set it for any BPM and it will speed up or slow down your loop accordingly, or sync it to your plugin host.  If you only like the last half or the first quarter of the loop, you can play just that, or play it in reverse.  One useful way to set it is to put the same drum loop in several times and play different portions of it frontwards or backwards to give some variation to the drums.

So that’s it for today.  I couldn’t find any of mdsp’s music to play for you, but I hope you enjoy rreplay and Terminal Sound System.

and the music they make…

So, all these people making vst plugins, it seems they do it first so that they can get some sound or another from inside their head out into the world, or lacking that they try to just see how badly they can fuck with it, mangle it, stretch it, scratch it, chebyshev it, stomp it, or otherwise apply some arcane equation to hear what happens themselves and if it is anything interesting or they actually get the sound they hear in their heads out into the world, then the coolest of them release them unto the world with it sometimes becoming a business, and there are some amazing plugins that are worth parting with a few bucks, but mostly I suspect its about the sound.

So I have been listening a little to the music of plugin or bidule writers to hear what they are doing with their own inventions.  Let me start with Jerry Smith, who makes what are called “groups” for plogue bidule.  These are like plugins, but because they remain within bidule they don’t crash, which is a lovely thing.  Not that crashes aren’t sometimes lovely.  Sometimes.  Jerry and his wife Sonsherée Giles collaborate on multimedia performances.  Sonsherée is a dancer and Jerry does sound installations/music for her performances.  I don’t know anything about dance but enjoyed the pieces, but I’ll keep the details of what I enjoyed to myself so as to cover up for some of said ignorance.  The soundscapes/music are textural, you can practically feel them (tactilely rather than emotionally is what I mean here).  David Toop, in writing about the experimental music scene in one of his books (either Haunted Weather or Oceans of Sound can’t remember which, but they are both great) , talks about how musicians are playing with very short and long times, and exploring very quiet sounds.  The quiet sounds are the stuff of the textures here, and one of Toop’s points is that it makes people listen if not more attentively then closer.  I have not been through the whole site yet, but a good example of this is the first piece, “opening” for the dance piece performed by Sonsherée, Music for
One Breath is an Ocean
for a Wooden Heart.  While this piece is entirely texture without notes, when the notes do come they are sparse and placed carefully.  No pyrotechnics here, something much better.  Consider “theme 3: Collapse” or “Sad Ending” for examples.

Jerry, who travels under the moniker jersmi on the plogue bidule forums, helped me out on the one group I’ve worked on, called the rhythmecho, and has provided a bunch more help to anyone trying to figure out the workings of bidule.  To hear an example of one of his groups, called J-BGran-X, a granulator if you know what that is,  along with the rhythmecho and several others (all referred to in the title somehow or another…no time to unpack the whole thing now) check out my newest, awkwardly named crackly kerrstinn granulated double lama (fixed corrupted file. 8/6).

Gotta run to the airport, so that’s it for now.

plugin freak…

I confess, I’m a plugin freak.  I have at last count, about 500 VSTs and VSTis installed, and have just set up an ubuntu studio version of my desktop so I can try out the LADSPA plugs for linux.

dronebox and polycombI finally broke down and bought Oli Larkin‘s great dronebox and polycomb VSTs.  I’ve been using an old demo version of dronebox for a while, but when I figured out how to run midi notes out of my guitar into the polycomb filter, the results were too cool so I straightened up and bought it.  Dronebox is a set of six or seven resonant comb filters with all sorts of tweakable settings.  You tune each one to a note, and when the corresponding note gets fed through, it resonates like a sympathetic string.  I use it as the wash in these two ambient pieces: “ambient 040328” and “ambient 040428“.  The loop is recorded live with the elogoxa Elottronix plugin, which has a great filter section you can hear tweaked in both pieces.  A bit more rocking, this song combines the dronebox with another of my favorite plugs, Krakli’s TrAmp, in a song suitably named “dronebox tramp.”  This time the looper is loopy llama or mobius, can’t remember which.  Both are great…I’ve generally gone with loopy llama lately ‘cuz its simpler and uses less resources.  You can hear it a lot in rreplay, where TrAmp, Dronebox, and DK+ drums, all get worked out regularly in plogue bidule.  Mobius is a spot-on emulation of the Gibson echoplex.  You can use the same manual for most of the controls.  Oh, except mobius is like having 8 echoplexes. Oh, and with unlimited loop length.  Oh, and its free instead of about a thousand bucks.

And now back to Oli’s plugins.  If you want to know what polycomb will do to guitar, check out this freshly recorded piece, polycombatose, where I am just working through all the presets.  The looper is loopy llama this time, recording just the bass (the trusty Hohner slammer run through an electri-Q eq and ruby tube tube emulator).  Missing Eric on the bass… The drums on both dronebox tramp and polycombatose are from nusofting’s most excellent DK+ drum machine, this time imitating an ancient Acetone rhythm box.  In order to get midi notes out of the guitar, I use G-Tune (which besides being a strobe-accurate tuner, converts the signal it reads to a midi note) and then run its midi out to a maple midi port. Of course, everything is played and recorded in one take via the ever-amazing plogue bidule.

Leave a comment if you wish, would love to know if you are listening.

Way Music…some new music

Eric Parker, from Boston, is in town for a few more months. He is a great bass player and we have been having weekly jams. You can hear him in his Boston outfit, a free form music project back east called Rabid Owl. We are probably going to set up a few gigs under the “way music” moniker (alternate name: rrep) as soon as I can get the laptop stable enough to take out. Here are some cuts from a recent session:

  • outer time” bass and granulated guitar
  • rreplay“– I’ll probably chop of the end jam a bit as it gets rrepetitive.
  • B&D” — don’t worry, it stands for bass and drums, the latter of which get a bit dubbed out.
  • Eric in the Evening in Reverse,” a 40 minute jam that we think progresses in the opposite way from Boston Jazz DJ Eric Jackson, who has a show called Eric in the Evening on WGBH. Jackson starts a set with some mellow jazz and gradually, imperceptibly, edges the music toward more and more out there. Monisha and I used to regularly put him on for dinner thinking “this is nice” only to be lured into a squawking, raucous, usually really interesting excursion. We start with the rawk and mellow out later, hence the title.

All the songs are mp3, stereo at 192k, recorded in one take, Eric Parker on bass, Rich Rath on guitars and computer. As always, share them, download them tell your friends. If you are interested in hearing more of my various projects, check out Way Music. We’d love to hear from you if you listen to us, so leave a comment.