control issues.

(n.b., If you just want to see and hear the Hot Hand in action, scroll to the video at the bottom of the page)

I have control issues.  Guitarists have it rough in the all-digital world.  Both hands are full with the playing of the thing.  The foot (two is harder) is useful on stompboxes and wah pedals, but not as easy for the digital world, where effects can be free but seldom come in a box.

Hot Hand
Hot Hand

Enter into the arena the SourceAudio Hot Hand,
a little box about a third of the size of a flash drive attached to a
rubber strap that you can wrap around what you wish, default being a
finger.  It has the accelerometer built in and sends three signals, one
for each axis of the three dimension of the space we live in.  Move it
along an axis and it sends out midi control changes which can be pumped
into the digital guitar rig and attached to anything a midi signal can
control.  It takes some calibrating and “fingering” out to actually
control the thing, but when it works, you can flail your picking hand
around in the air or move it subtly, both of which guitarists have been
known to do, and the midi flows to whatever you hook it up to. I opted
for the obvious here and hooked it up to filter cutoffs (three of them),
resonance (three of those too), distortion amount (one on the Z axis,
which takes the most conscious effort to get off of zero), and filter
attack.

After messing about the whole day I got a mostly good take that
demonstrates some of the possibilities for expression in the Hot Hand.
 The first part sets up a loop with the instruments modulated by the
ring, then some lead over that with some extra expression, and a drum
drop where I use the Hot Hand to mangle the loop full time without
playing guitar, then on to the glorious finish where I heroically try to
stomp out all the loops and drums at once.

I am really enjoying the thing so far, but it will take more
calibrating and more learning on my part to get expressive control over
it.  I relearned what pitch, roll, and yaw are to try to figure it out,
but it does not exactly work on those principles.  Instead it is more
like a carpenter’s level, the little tubes with the bubbles in them, and
I have to figure out how to control where the bubbles float to, all
three at once.

I had much fun, and I hope you enjoy the video!  

Some Background . . .

Expression is my dream, a way of manipulating tone and timbre on the guitar as complex and rewarding as the fingers/ frets/ wood/ amp/ speakers/ ears combo.  Textures, spaces, shapes: I have a little synesthesia in my dreams of expressive control. There is a remarkable amount of expressive power packed into stringed instruments. MIDI controllers, with their one parameter at a time functioning, seem rigid in comparison.  Sure tones can be shifted about, but real expression remains elusive — though not impossible, given that the instrument itself has a lot of expressive wallop already.

I have a couple of useful foot controllers.  One is the venerable Behringer FCB1010, which is a bit of a bear to program and somewhat big to carry around.  If I am going to replace my amp with a laptop, I don’t want a giant floorboard.

SoftStep
SoftStep

I recently got Keith McMillen’s SoftStep as a replacement.  It is small, sleek, and has really neat blue and red LED lighting so you can see what you are doing.  The SoftStep is used to control the drums in the video.  It works well for triggering, though the “steps” are a little small for feet with shoes on.  It has the ability to send several different continuous controller midi signals, but in practice they are not that easy to control with foot pressure.  It does have a plug for a good old expression pedal though.  Both it and the Behringer are pretty involved to program, but I have to give the SoftStep the edge there, even though the software crashes every time you close it and fails to save the midi device it is supposed to send to.

vPedal
vPedal

I also have a vPedal transcription pedal set to spit out mouse clicks.  That works well if you can move the mouse where you are going to click next, which can be tricky, but having a mouse click handy is useful. Its hella loud in the mechanics though.  I have a stealth switch II that is a bit quieter, but does not trigger until you release it, which is difficult but interesting for timing — I have to pull the time out of it instead of stomping it into it.  That gets used for my linux mouseclick needs rather than on the main music laptop — I am one of those odd non-Ableton, non-Mac electronic musicians.  I use a combination of Plogue Bidule with a little bit of Max MSP here and there with a few hundred (not kidding) VSTs in Windows, with Linux when I need realtime kernel and gnarly guitar sounds via Guitarix and Jack. (down to 64 samples latency with this combo on a five year old computer — I can’t hear it so much as feel it.  The low latency makes playing seem a bit more responsive)

I rigged up a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet to spit out OSC and Midi, and it sounds cool and is quite expressive, but the pen takes a hand, so it mostly gets used as its own instrument, a sort of theremin on steroids.  I have a MAX patch that can control MIDI though video gestures, like a Kinect but without all the gizmos, but it is not done yet, and pretty much has to be run by itself.  No guitar signal there yet, though I am working on it.

Envelope followers are helpful but limited, and LFOs sound too regular when they are regular and too random when randomized, even though I use them a lot.  They are prefab instead of expressive.  I have explored some fractal and game-of-life controllers (like in this song), but they are too wild for everyday use.  All of this still sounds more toward the artificial end of artificial intelligence.

stc-1000
Mercurial STC-1000

I have two hand controllers, the underrated and out-of-business Mercurial STC-1000 touch surface and a Korg nanoKontrol, but when I touch the touchpad or twiddle those knobs , I can only play guitar with one hand.  I often tried to work out a way to get an accelorometer attached to a guitar that then produced MIDI or OSC, even buying a WIIMote when I have no Wii in order to get it to send midi via GlovePie.  Never figured that one out in any useful way, and the WiiMote would have to be in a hand or strapped on to the guitar somehow.  An out-of-business company called FreePlayer almost got it right, but they could not get a wireless one to market and it required modding the guitar and a USB cable on the guitar, which was  a no go for me.

As usual, lots more music is on the blog and on the waydio at way music.  Pop it out and listen to it in the background.

Amongst the guitar players: conservative fetishization and its discontents ;^)

Recently, Peter Kirn over at the excellent blog Create Digital Music wrote an article about Antares, the makers of the much misused and reviled Autotune, and their experimental onboard guitar processor that brings it to the guitar, an instrument that already has it (they are called frets).   It set off an interesting discussion that mostly bears out a couple of things I have thought about guitarists (of which I am one) for a long time. First, we are usually really conservative when it comes to technology.   Second, we usually simultaneously have a hardware fetish: When we do want tech, we want a physical thing even when there are software solutions that do the exact same thing, often better, often for free.

Got to have that box to stomp on, gotta feel it. As an avowed tube snob for the first thirty years of my playing, I have a keen understanding of this. Guitars have vibrating strings sunk into resonant wood. Tubes compress and distort in some wonderful non-linear way that creates a feedback loop, from guitarist to strings to wood to pickups to amp to speakers and back to the player. Its a little mystical and still gives me the warm fuzzies (as opposed to the solid state cold fuzzies). This is no BS and there is a connection.

But tube snobbery has fallen on hard times lately IMHO. Yes, I still think single coils through a tube amp sounds great, but digital modeling has gotten way better over the past ten years, and much of the responsiveness and harmonic structure of tube compression and distortion is available on my laptop. For example, this is all laptop guitars and it sounds as good as tubes to me, both the spanky, new string sound of the rhythm and the just-on-the-edge-of-distorted lead. Plus the Hammond B3 sound is through the guitar and the laptop too. Try bringing a real one of those through TSA, which I did with this whole setup. And try to get this out of a tube amp. Same guitar, same day, same laptop, same song. Its to the point that I never play my lovely vintage tube amp any more, which is a bit of a shame. It has no master volume and I live in a condo, so that is how its going to be. While I give up a few things, like responsive feedback (of the Jimi variety this time) and early deafness, my tonal pallete is vastly expanded along other axes, so to speak.  A look around waymusic or listening in on the waydio will give you an idea of what I mean.

ampeg vt40
My amp, the ampeg vt40

I still have a longstanding plan to lug the old tube monster (see image) and the SG out to a practice room with some new strings and earplugs, but somehow have not had time to get around to it. I also had to test drive the newest piece of future vintage gear, the all tube, no nonsense Vox Night Train. It rocks, but I probably won’t drop the five bills for it cuz I can get close enough with my laptop. But I think the guy in the video is pretty much what we tube snobs look like to the rest of the world…just not aging gracefully, no?

The thing that most of us guitarists have not figured out yet, and which gear companies don’t want us to know, is that anything that can be modelled as a DSP circuit in a piece of hardware can be modelled just as well or better, and cheaper too, in software on a standard issue laptop.  Its the nature of DSP.   My favorite example is the thousand plus dollar digital echoplex vs the free vst plugin Mobius, which is in effect, 8 echoplexes with no limit on the loop lengths. Remember, going digital means we are already out of the analog realm of the tube snob, even if the thing is in a box. But there must be something about the FEEL of that box, right? I think that is nonsense and habit rather than ears.

There is a wonderful piece of research that my friend Jon Sterne told me about, where a Stanford Prof played back different kinds of music to incoming students in different digital formats. What he found was that they liked the sound of 128K mp3 files, complete with hiss, more than the sound of uncompressed audio which was technically much better.  Why? Habit. That is what they are used to hearing so that is what they like.

I think this is much of what my cousins the vinyl snobs hear in their LP collections, which have to be massively EQd and adjusted in a giant gnarly kludge to compensate for intrinsic sonic weaknesses of scratching sound into slabs of petroleum byproduct before it ever gets to the main stage of the amplifier, and sounds different on the inside of the platter than on the outside to boot.   But cuz will insist that he (and its always a guy. sigh.) hears a warmth in the vinyl that is missing from digital audio, no matter how good the format. They are hearing something, but it is not intrinsic to the music, it is an artifact of the vinyl, and they like it.

So what is Antares doing? They have put a mini-computer into the underside of a guitar — forty thousand bucks of hardware according to the video — <sarcasm> whoo wee, wish I had that! — that brings us guitarists all that autotune goodness that has done such wonders for pop music and the news </sarcasm>.    

So this is where the discussion gets interesting on the CDM blog. One group of tech embracers drool (and we do that sometimes) over the possibility of getting their hands on one of those $40k guitars while the other says, phooey, you lose the feel.  Well guitarists, listen up:  I’ll give you most of one of those 40k jobbers for free. Autotune is software. So is GSnap, a free VST plugin. There is your 95%. There are about five other ways of doing it too. And the last five percent is doable with some DIY noodling, along with lots of other stuff that that guitar can’t touch because the processor is artificially limited to doing that one thing.

Ah, but the feel, the bends, the touch — without the $40k guitar, it is all for naught alas. One of the features many guitarists lusted after (and we do that sometimes) was instant retuning. It has been possible since the beginning to transpose midi, so I have experimented a lot with doing the instant retune trick on my midi guitar. Here is the rub though: The gizmo retunes the signal, but not the resonance of the wood, the frequency of the strings, or the quiet sound of the acoustics of an electric guitar — all those stay in the actual tuning, leading for me to a tremendous cognitive dissonance. Here it is about the feel, and you would have to play really loud to offset that dissonance in the aural dimension, and still be left with the haptic dissonance. I am sure, in fact, that the guitar mix for the demo video is run straight to the mixing board so that we cannot hear the actual acoustic sound of the guitar bleed into it. That is why the guitar comes through much clearer than the the voices.

Autotune guitar is a boondoggle, a gizmo. Anything it can do with its processor, your laptop can do, probably better and for free, with its processor. Let the guitar do what it is made for, which is get an interesting signal out to the mangling stuff that follows. A hex pickup along with your regular pups is actually a useful piece of hardware for this. Use the computer you already own to do the rest. The hardware makes you do what it does. Not that I am against hardware…I’m a guitarist, so there is always some new thing that I sure would like.

Software, when it is nice, can be made to do what you do (most of the time). That is why I opted for the no-synths-built-in synth box when I did get a midi guitar setup. I’d rather use my ideas than what somebody pre-decides for me, which is what the pricier guitar synth boxes are doing. In fact, the guitar synth box itself could be done away with if there was a six-in soundcard interface that could feed the hex signal to the computer. All that pitch recognition and midification could be done on the laptop too if there was the right I/O. I’m sure Radio shack has the adapter somewhere….

Watch ’em Burn

This is an old thing I probably wrote 30 years ago  It is a bit orchestral in a post-trippy sort of way.  It has words, and this is just a draft of it, but I was pleased with how it worked out.  Hope you like it.  As usual, FB people might have to come to the waymusic page (http://way.net/waymusic) to hear it.  I hope you enjoy it.  It is not my usual fare.  I’m not sure if that means it is more or less likely you will like it!

For plugin freaks, the strings are from Cakewalk’s Dimension synth.  The acoustic guitar is the Godin xTSA played through Voxengo’s Perfect Space, but with the convolution set to the sound of ice defrosting in Lake Baikal instead of crossing it with the usual acoustic guitar body.  The loop for the acoustic sound is made with Mobius.  The electric guitar in the rhythm is played through a twangy setting on Voxengo’s great free boogex amplifier then piped through the no longer available Glaceverb reverb set to model the inside of a piano with the sustain pedal down and all the string resonating.  The electric guitar in the last half of the piece is again the Boogex, this time heavily distorted with the speaker modeling turned off and run through the same setting on the glaceverb.

Godin xTSA review: the “acoustic” part

Yesterday, I reviewed the Godin xTSA strictly as an electric guitar.  Of course, alone, that would miss the point, seeing as it also has a piezo pickup that doubles as an acoustic guitar emulator and a synth pickup.  Today, I’ll focus on the acoustic sounds you can get from the instrument.

Godin xTSA piezo EQ
Godin xTSA piezo EQ

Here is an mp3 that demonstrates the sounds I get out of the piezo.  You might want to leave it open in the background to refer back to.

The first thing to note is that the “acoustic” sound does not really sound much like an acoustic guitar out of the box.  It sounds more like a solid body guitar played without amplification and miked, which is a bit like what is actually happening.  The pickup itself is part of the bridge, and as I understand it, picks up the vibrations of the each string directly from the string’s contact with the saddle.  That signal is then routed through a small preamp with volume and a three band equalizer.

Tone

The EQ is quite responsive, and jacking or cutting the mids in particular completely changes the tone.  The result is a jangly sound with mids cut a little and a cutting sound with the mids punched.  It still does not sound very acoustic, but it could be useful to adding some definition to an electric sound, particularly on the attack portion.

the convoluted part

I mess with this basic tone to give it a more realistic acoustic flavor.  First I run it through Voxengo’s Perfect Space, a convolution reverb plugin I got with Cakewalk’s Sonar.  They also sell it separately as a plugin called Pristine Space.  Convolution is the process of combining your signal with the sound of some real or imagined acoustic environment.  In this case, I mixed the piezo sound of the guitar with the characteristics of an actual acoustic.  The sound file that Perfect Space needs to do this is called an impulse response, because it is a recording of the sound of something as close to an impulse as possible, often a balloon popping.  In this case, the author of the IR tapped a ceramic spoon against the bridge of his acoustic guitar.  I used the “near” version of the acoustic guitar IR from Noise Vault.  They have a great selection of acoustic instrument responses, speaker cabinet responses, and various hardware.  It is a great resource.  If you need a freeby convolution plugin, you might try freeverb3 but it is hard to set up and a resource hog.  There used to be one called revolverb, also less than perfect, but that’s gone it seems.  If you want to drop a few bucks,  Elevayta’s ConvoBoy is good, as is Voxengo’s previously mentioned Pristine Space. Both are reasonable and worth the money.  Voxengo is a little less resource hungry, but ConvoBoy lets you load a different IR in each channel of your stereo output, which is kind of neat.  Since most of the guitar’s sound comes from the strings, the convolution is kept down in the mix, a flavor rather than the substance.    This gives the sound a “woodier” feel, but the resonance gets a little obnoxious if the mids on the eq are turned to high.

Next in the chain is the best fifteen bucks I have spent in a long while, G-Sonique’s FSQ1964 vitalizer/exciter.  It grabs the transients…just the part of the signal we are most concerned with in getting a realistic sound — and makes them sound wonderful.  After that comes a touch of reverb, then out.  I experimented with light chorusing, but ultimately realized whenever I could hear the chorusing it was too much and let it go.

12 string

Not content to have an acoustic, I wanted to see if I could get a twelve string sound out of the piezos.  I split the input signal, before all the other effects mentioned above, and ran the unaffected signal in one side and sent the other side first to a very short delay with no feedback to emulate the space between the strings when you pick a twelve string, and to articulate the higher note just a little clearer.  Then the delayed signal goes to a pitch shifter set to raise the pitch one octave.  The delayed, raised note then gets fed back in with the slightly earlier unmodified note before coming out the convolution “body.”  It is not exactly accurate, as the high E and B strings on a real twelve string are not an octave higher like the lower four strings are, but it still sounds neat.  As the sound file makes clear, it is not perfect.  It warbles a little as an artifact of the pitch-shifting effect, but when it is mixed back a little and accompanied by other instruments, it passes reasonably well.  Take a listen to Be Miner for an example.  The rhythm part is all on the “12-string.”

Conclusion of acoustic part

Obviously, I like the processed sound a lot and have spent some time to get it as good as I can.  If I really need acoustics on a recording, I’ll go with fresh strings and an XY arrangement of a matched pair of mics on a real acoustic, like in Bomb the Beach.  But having an acoustic-sounding guitar that you can mix in with your electric and synthesized sounds as you are playing is a blast.  A couple of things I like to do are to chop the attack off a distorted electric guitar and replace it with the acoustic attack, or have one delayed a beat or portion of a beat behind the other.  It is also really nice to be able to put an analog, human touch sound into a synthesized one, opening up lots of new textures and spaces, which is what I am all about musically.

Well that is it on the acoustic portion of the xSTA.  Two down, with the synth section yet to go.  Even without the synth, this is a blast of a guitar.

Finally, If you didn’t get a chance the other day, give a listen to the four new tracks from rreplay and let me know what you think!

looping

[2/18…fixed link to mp3]

For my friends who might not know, looping is the one of two ways to play with yourself live and not get arrested for it  (the other way is to lucubrate).  The term comes from the old way of doing it, which was to take a piece of reel-to-reel tape and make an endless loop out of it by taping its end to its beginning and then running it between two decks set however far apart the loop would stretch.  I’m forgetting exactly how it worked, but you could basically record on one of the decks and it would playback a few seconds later on the next one while you were still recording on the first one.  Depending on the deck, it could be set up for sound on sound, so that the recording got denser as you proceeded, or it would regenerate every time it went around if not.

Echoplex first managed to fit the whole contraption in a single box, but the tape heads were only a few seconds apart at most.  The cool thing was to be able to move the tape heads while playing, giving a great flying saucer/swooping effect (heard about four minutes into this song by the Mess) and generally good for dubbing out.

echoplex
echoplex

It got stolen or I got drunk and sold it or something, and the Mess self-destructed fairly quickly, so the old echoplex is one more of a series of musical things I wish I never sold or lost.  I was more or less broke through the rest of the 80s and 90s, so I missed the new digital loopers which for a thousand bucks or so would get you maybe thirty five seconds of loop.  I started messing with vst plugins and software loopers in the late nineties.  I could never afford a mac or protools, instead slowly worked my way into the wild world of windoze plugins (can you say “crash?”).  Discovering Plogue bidule changed everything for me, and that is what I use for live playing and spontaneous recording today.

Software loopers come in many flavors and have reduced the price point from thousands of bucks to zero, as long as you have a computer and a sound card.  I still have files from an old program called ambi-loop which was not half bad, but now my main loopers are mobius, when I can keep it running, an ancient, idiosyncratic plug called ellotronix which has some cool features (here hear), and a thing called Loopy llama, which is stable and never seems to fail.  Mobius is the most advanced, being a dead knockoff of the thousand dollar digital echoplex except that the loops are however long your computer can stand it and you can stack up eight of them instead of just one like the hardware version.  I also really like arc-dev’s free drum looper ellipsis (here/hear in action).  It is versatile and easy to control externally.  I like setting that up against another “accent” percussion loop in bidule’s looper, which lets you only play portions of a loop and leave the rest silent (hear here).  That last one also uses a one-bar looper called repeatler with a neat feature of letting you slice chunks out of the loop as well as put them in.  The mix is not finished, so it is a bit long.  Here is a shorter one using repeatler if you are either in a hurry (just listen to this) or have too much time on your hands (listen to both).

If you like any of the music, I have tons more posted at Way Music, about half of which uses loops in one way or another.

Working on new rreplay album

Eric and I are slowly sorting through our collection to find candidates for the next album.  I’ll post a couple of mine for right now because I haven’t gotten to remixing Eric’s mixes, as he only has Garageband and the mp3s sound kind of fizzy when processed by it.  As always, it’s just Eric on bass and me on guitar and laptop.  No overdubs, all live.  First up is “cutter” — the mix of the day with a lead in the middle that sounds to me like very acidy Beatles.  “Sizzle” is a bomping one-note workout.  The hosebeast, one of arcDev‘s creations turned all into a single note with lots of different tones.  But its a great note.  “Cubanecho” vaguely recalls exile-era Stones trying to play a Latin groove from the bottom of a swimming pool.  Ksshuck emulates ZZ top playing disco with a whomping bass drum…watch yr woofers.  As always, leave comments if you listen…we’d love to hear from you.

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.

A little ambient

I’ve long been intrigued by ambient music.  I like the idea of playing a space and blending in, becoming part of the atmosphere, reflecting it as much as creating it.  With that in mind, here is new ambient loop.  If you put it on repeat, it should loop pretty seamlelessly, with just the fade in and out.  It might be good for working or chilling.  This one was created with Oli Larkin‘s dronebox again, which I wrote about just a few days ago.

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.