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MIND Music Labs showcases seminal ELK MusicOS at SUPERBOOTH19 with prototype products and announcements — May 19, 2019

MIND Music Labs showcases seminal ELK MusicOS at SUPERBOOTH19 with prototype products and announcements

Swedish startup MIND Music Labs lets loose by showcasing several super-cool applications of its award-winning ELK MusicOS — the world’s first ultra-low-latency music operating system developed specifically for audio applications, ushering in a new era where the power, flexibility, and selection of audio and music software can be run in real time on embedded hardware with full MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) support — at SUPERBOOTH19 in Berlin.

Further fulfilling its ambition of creating new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how to learn, create, record, and share music, MIND Music Labs will be demonstrating the potential and flexibility of its seminal ELK MusicOS by showcasing a number of hardware product prototypes based on existing VST (Virtual Instrument Technology) and RE (Rack Extension) releases from world-class developers at SUPERBOOTH19, Europe’s first and largest trade fair for electronic musical instruments.

First stop: media production products provider Steinberg’s stand on owner Yamaha’s booth (H310). Here the German giant continues its partnership with MIND Music Labs in making VST a standard for hardware by showcasing the co-developed ‘Powered by ELK’ Retrologue 2, a proof-of-concept prototype desktop synth running Retrologue 2, Steinberg’s VST Virtual Analog Synthesizer — successfully emulating the warmth and fatness of classic analog synthesizers — on hardware.

However, ELK MusicOS is not only VST compatible but also runs RE plug-ins from fellow Swedish company Propellerhead, creators of innovative and affordable music software. Supporting the Propellerhead partnership, MIND Music Labs will be showcasing a Eurorack format synth module running the RE-compatible Polysix for Reason — utilising Korg’s proprietary CMT (Component Modeling Technology) to precisely model the circuitry of an analog polysynth classic from 1982 — on booth (O504).

Other must-see SUPERBOOTH19 showcases scheduled to take place at MIND Music Labs’ location there include several contrasting conceptual collaborative projects with the likes of plug-in developer Stefano D’Angelo, former DSP engineer at Arturia; Italian music and audio software company Audio Modeling, creators of the SWAM (Synchronous Waves Acoustic Modeling) engine; HISE, an open source framework for sample-based instruments; and Igor Nembrini of Nembrini Audio, creator of some of the most revered guitar amp plug-ins under the Brainworx brand for Universal Audio’s UAD (Universal Audio Digital) platform.

Concludes MIND Music Labs CEO Michele Benincaso: “The different hardware prototypes we will be showcasing at SUPERBOOTH19 are all great examples of what ELK MusicOS is capable of. With ELK MusicOS you add the feel of playing an actual physical instrument — without losing the benefits and qualities of desktop plug-ins. I am very excited to show everyone at SUPERBOOTH19 what we have been working on.”

About MIND Music Labs (www.mindmusiclabs.com)
MIND Music Labs is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and develops technologies enabling a new generation of connected musical instruments. Its ambition is to create new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how to learn, create, record, and share music.

© 2019 MIND Music Labs

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Review of String Studio VS-3 String Oscillator Synthesiser (VST/AU/AAX) by Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS) — May 17, 2019

Review of String Studio VS-3 String Oscillator Synthesiser (VST/AU/AAX) by Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS)

Introduction

Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS) have released an all new version of its string oscillator synthesiser, String Studio. String Studio VS-3 plug-in runs on both Windows and Mac OS X in 64-bit host sequencers that support the VST2, VST3, Audio Units, AAX Native, and NKS formats, typically priced at $199. There are a number of upgrade options for users of versions 1 and 2. Further details can be found on the String Studio page of the AAS website.

Background

String Studio VS-3 is a synthesizer in which a collection of unique string oscillators replaces the traditional VCOs, DCOs, and operators as the main sound source. Consisting of picks, bows, and hammers interacting with a modelled string, these oscillators offer a special blend of modern and creative synthesis. Augmented with a soundboard, classic filters, an envelope generator, a LFO, and studio-quality effects, String Studio VS-3 proposes a brand-new path in the quest for tone.

“This new version is all about adding new dimensions to the distinctive sonic signature of String Studio,” says Eric Thibeault, product designer at Applied Acoustics Systems. “String Studio VS-3 is now multitimbral. Combining two independent String Studio synthesis engines opens up a whole new world in terms of content. We’ve also added per-layer modulators that allow sound designers to make sound variations an integral part of the design process. Most importantly, a huge effort has been put into the factory library to exploit all these new possibilities. Each and every sounds were fine-tuned to provide a consistent gain-stage, unity-gain effects, better dynamics, and compelling MIDI-controlled sound transformation assignments.​ ​We’re confident that you’ll love this new iteration of String Studio.”

Conclusions

It’s hard to put into words just how good this synth is. It sounds awesome, is incredibly powerful yet is really intuitive and easy to get to grips with at the same time.

It’s one of those that took me by surprise, I was expecting typical string sounds like violins and guitars but the depth and breadth of sounds is quite stunning. Basses, guitars, plucks, rhythms, sequences, textures, pads, arps, leads – the list of sounds that it can produce is huge.

The bundled presets highlight this. They are extensive, sound excellent and allow you to use String Studio straight away. They also give you the option to tweak sounds and learn how to create your own sounds.

I’ve used String Studio to create the tracks for the EP embedded at the top of the post. It’s based on the contrast between the lure of a big city and the peacefulness of the country. wen was created using Scaler and uses multiple instances of String Studio along with a drum loop and a vocal loop. taiga was created using RapidComposer and uses multiple instances of String Studio and a field recording. Both tracks were mixed using Eventide effects (Blackhole, SP2016 reverb, H3000 Factory, Ultrachannel) and mastered in MuLab 8 using Magnetite (Black Rooster Audio), Stage (Fielder Audio), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Youlean Loudness meter.

Because String Studio models the sounds, you’d expect to need a fairly high powered machine. The manual recommends an Intel Core i5 or faster, however, I’ve used it on an old Dual Core 2Gb Pentium and it runs perfectly ok although the CPU can only cope with about 4 instances.

In-Depth Review

The GUI is well designed so that it is easy to use and find your way around. There are a series of tabs that change the display to the desired controls, some of these have additional buttons to display further parameters. This approach keeps the interface clean, preventing an overwhelming display. There are play, synth, effects and browse tabs for each layer as well as a master effects section.

The utility section at the top of the display has functions such as browse presets, compare, save, history and settings. As well as the usual polyphony, tuning and midi settings one excellent feature is the potential to tune String Studio to different temperaments – microtonal tuning – using Scala micro-tuning files.

The architecture is inspired by the functioning of string instruments. The vibration of a string is the main sound production mechanism and can be produced by a hammer, pick or bow. The frequency is determined by string length controlled by fret or finger interaction. You can apply a damper to reduce the decay time and the body for acoustic instruments and pickups for electric guitars also shapes the sound.

This is the basis for the string oscillators that replace traditional oscillators you find on a synth. String Studio provides three types of string oscillator, a bowed string oscillator (BSO), hammered string oscillator (HSO), and a plucked string oscillator (PSO). The output from the oscillator is filtered by the Filter and Body modules and then processed in a mixer and multi-effects module. You can use two oscillators simultaneously layered or in split keyboard mode.

On loading, the play tab is loaded. This has the main performance orientated modules. You have quick access to switch on/off effects and access to key parameters; the clock module allows you to sync to host or use the rate knob; the keyboard module controls how String Studio responds to midi, this can be mono or poly with a control to adjust tuning; unison module; glide module; two modulator modules that can be used to assign midi controllers to destination parameters; vibrato module; arpeggiator module with 16 step pattern underneath. The ribbon controller is a handy feature, it’s a 7 octave keyboard that can be used to test sounds or determine where the split occurs when using split mode. There are also pitch and modulation wheels.

Synth view is the heart of String Studio. There are ten modules organised into four groups that can be switched using the buttons beneath each module.

The Exciter module is the method used to vibrate the string – bow, hammer 1, hammer 2 and plectrum. The controls vary to reflect their different properties and characteristics.

The body module adjusts the properties of the body of the instrument that radiates the sound. This includes size. shape, materials and decay time.

The damper module attenuates the vibration of the string, for example felt on a piano or using your finger on a guitar.

The termination module models the finger / fret / string interaction where the string is pressed down to play a note. Essentially this considers how hard you press the string and the stiffness of the fret underneath.

The geometry module alters the point of action of the damper and exciter on the string and the option to use a pickup and determine its position.

The distortion module offers a range of distortions from mellow to metal.

The filter module is a multi-mode filter including a resonant low-pass, band-pass, high-pass, notch and a formant filter. The cut-off and resonance can be modulated using different sources.

The envelope module is based on a standard ADSR envelope.

The LFO module is used as a modulation source for the filter module.

The effects tab displays the multi-effects processor. The first two effects are equaliser and compressor that can be switched on or off. There are a further 3 effects that you can also switch on or off and can choose from Delay, Distortion, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, WahWah, AutoWah, Guitar Amplifier, Tremolo, and a Notch filter. There are individual effects for each layer as well as a separate master effects layer.

The browser tab gives you access to the library of presets that can be loaded as a layer. You can search by pack or sound type.

Review of Pro-Q 3 (VST/AU/AAX) Equaliser plugin by FabFilter — April 30, 2019

Review of Pro-Q 3 (VST/AU/AAX) Equaliser plugin by FabFilter

Introduction

FabFilter is proud to announce the availability of FabFilter Pro-Q 3, a major update to the acclaimed Pro-Q equalizer plug-in.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is now available for EUR 149, USD 179 or GBP 134, supporting both Windows and macOS in VST and VST 3, Audio Units, AAX, and AudioSuite plug-in formats. Bundles with FabFilter Pro-Q 3 and other FabFilter plug-ins are also available from the FabFilter website

Existing FabFilter customers can purchase or upgrade to FabFilter Pro-Q 3 with very attractive discounts by logging into their online user account.

System requirements are either Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, or XP, and a VST 2/3 host or Pro Tools, or Mac OS X 10.8 or higher with Intel processor, and an Audio Units host, VST 2/3 host, or Pro Tools. Both 64-bit and 32-bit hosts are supported.

Background

Pro-Q 3 improves on its predecessor in every area, introducing dynamic EQ, surround support, per-band mid/side processing, and much more, while maintaining the pristine sound quality and exceptional ease of use for which Pro-Q has always been known.

Integrated dynamic EQ

Pro-Q 3 adds the ability to switch any of its 24 bands to Dynamic EQ mode, with a simple, elegant workflow: just raise or lower the Dynamic Range ring around the Gain knob to apply smooth compression or expansion to that band. An intelligent algorithm automatically chooses program-dependent attack, release, and knee settings, while the Threshold can be set automatically, according to the input signal level, or manually. And, of course, dynamic EQ bands continue to operate with perfect analog matching and support Linear Phase mode.

Surround support

Pro-Q 3 works with all major surround formats, up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2. The plug-in automatically configures itself to the multichannel format of the hosting surround track, and an intuitive selection panel enables EQ adjustment of multiple channels together.

Mid/side processing

Pro-Q has long been able to work its equalization magic on the mid or side channels in a stereo signal, as well as left and right, and this functionality becomes even more flexible with Pro-Q 3. Each individual band can now be set to process only the Mid, Side, Left, Right, or Stereo channels, so users can get truly surgical with their stereo frequency-shaping on a band-by-band basis.

New filter types

Pro-Q 3 adds to Pro-Q 2’s multitude of filter types with the all-new Flat Tilt shape, applying a flat tilting correction curve to the entire audible spectrum. And for those occasions when even the super-steep 96dB/octave roll-off slope isn’t precise enough, the Low and High Cut filter types can now be set to Brickwall mode for the ultimate in top/bottom attenuation.
Improved spectrum analyzer and Spectrum Grab

Pro-Q 3’s spectrum analyzer makes it easier than ever to find and correct problem frequencies in the mix. Activate the new collision detection to view clashes between the source signal and the spectrum of any other Pro-Q 3 instance in the session, and get an instant handle on the most important peaks in Spectrum Grab mode with frequency/note labels.

Key features:

∙ Professional mastering-grade EQ plug-in with exceptional sound quality

∙ Up to 24 bands with a huge range of filter types

∙ Dynamic EQ option for every band

∙ 6-96dB/octave slopes for all filter types

∙ Additional Brickwall slope for the High Cut and Low Cut filters

∙ Per-band Stereo, Left, Right, Mid, or Side mode

∙ Zero Latency, Natural Phase, and Linear Phase processing modes

∙ Extremely efficient processing and low memory usage

∙ Surround support, including Dolby Atmos 7.0.2 and 7.1.2 formats with flexible surround channel linking

∙ Adapts automatically to stereo, mono, and surround channel layouts

∙ Intelligent multiband selection and editing

∙ Intelligent band solo mode

∙ Powerful real-time spectrum analyzer

∙ External spectrum visualization from any other Pro-Q 3 instance in the session, including collision detection

∙ Spectrum Grab: grab and adjust a peak directly in the spectrum analyzer

∙ EQ Match for imposing the tonal characteristics of one signal on another

∙ Piano Display switches the frequency scale to musical note values

∙ Separate mastering (3/6dB) and mixing (12/30dB) display ranges

∙ Undo/redo and A/B comparison

∙ Beautiful, responsive, resizable GPU-accelerated graphical interface with full-screen mode

∙ MIDI Learn with option to control the currently active band

∙ Retina support on macOS and High DPI support on Windows

∙ Supports common Pro Tools hardware control surfaces

In Use

Pro-Q2 is widely acknowledged as one of the best EQs available and Pro-Q3 brings a whole host of updates to further extend functionality.

I have to admit that I haven’t previously used Pro-Q2 but I’ve found that Pro-Q3 is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, you can pretty much open it and get a handle on how it works without reading the manual.

The first point to note is that Pro-Q3 has 3 processing modes, selectable from the bottom of the display. Zero latency matches the magnitude response of analog EQs as closely as possible without introducing latency. It’s the most efficient processing mode. Natural phase performs better, closely matching the analog phase response giving the most accurate frequency response and best sound quality. Linear phase is a problem solving tool to avoid phase cancellation issues.

Upon opening, the default screen is blank. To add a band you either drag the yellow line up or down or you can double-click anywhere in the display and floating controls appear underneath. You can either click and drag the dot or adjust the settings from the floating controls, you can set the filter shape, frequency, Q and channel. By default, stereo is selected but you can also choose left, right, mid or side for each band. One thing to note is that the display auto scales to any adjustments you make which allows for really subtle adjustments.


The vast number of bands and options that you can use gives you scope to do everything from simple EQ tasks such as low cut, high cut or using a shelf to more complex tasks such as per-band left / right / mid / side processing to precision EQ adjustment.

Dynamic EQ is an excellent feature and there are a number of ways to make the EQ dynamic, one is to adjust the dynamic range ring around the gain knob for positive or negative values. You can then set auto or manual threshold controls.

With multiple instances loaded, Pro-Q3 becomes very powerful. As well as loading the sidechain input, you can pick any other instance of Pro-Q3 to compare against the signal you are EQing. These are named after the track the instance is loaded on but can be renamed. This means that problem areas such as overlap between kick and bass can easily be viewed and corrected. You can view the spectrum of the bass whilst applying EQ to the kick and shading shows frequencies common to both parts allowing you to easily make adjustments. You can also match the EQ of one track to another.

As an example, I’ve loaded a drum loop and a bass loop with no other processing or effects and loaded Pro-Q3 on each channel. The subtle red shading shows the problem areas allowing you to make adjustments as necessary. With more tracks loaded you can make further adjustments as required and the spectrum grab tool is very handy to identify problem peaks.

Conclusions

I’m very impressed with Pro-Q3, it’s an incredibly powerful and easy to use EQ. It sounds amazing too. I’ve been getting to grips with EQ and what I love about this software is that despite it’s complexities, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s easy to start using it intuitively and there are often several ways of doing a task meaning it will suit different workflows. It also offers scope to fine tune or learn new techniques to improve your sound.

Analogue Solutions ships compact true stereo analogue monosynth/sonic realiser as perfectly-packaged desktop device — April 28, 2019

Analogue Solutions ships compact true stereo analogue monosynth/sonic realiser as perfectly-packaged desktop device

British boutique electronic instruments innovator Analogue Solutions is proud to announce availability of Impulse Command — creatively crafting a true stereo, semi-modular analogue monosynth/sonic realiser, replete with fanciful features like DUAL DYNAMIC ANALOGUE OSCILLATORS; DUAL ANALOGUE FILTERS; stereo digital EFFECTS; 16-step MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER and STEP SEQ (with radical REORDER! function); and more, meaning it can conceivably sound like several simultaneously-playing synthesizers as a perfectly-packaged desktop device

As is, indeed, the case with all Analogue Solutions’ innovative instruments, Impulse Command is a ‘real’ analogue affair… as in its audio signal path — post effects apart — and all modulation routings really are analogue through and through. The chosen company name gives the genuine game away. After all, Analogue Solutions’ circuitry capitalises on superlative-sounding designs dating back to the Seventies, so no quantisation for CPU (Central Processing Unit) reading required. The VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillators), VCFs (Voltage Controlled Filters), EGs (Envelope Generators), and LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) are all truly analogue in the Seventies sense of the word, with transistors, op-amps, and resistors. Reality dictates, therefore, that — apart from the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) conversion, sequencer control, and digital delay/reverb essential elements — Impulse Command is really analogue. As such, sound benefits become apparent as soon as anyone feasts their ears on the remarkable result. Is it any wonder, then, that there is so much favourable commentary about how good Analogue Solutions’ synthesizers sound!

So potential purchasers can clearly take it as ‘red’ — pun intended, given its eye-catching colour scheme! — that Impulse Command sounds as good as analogue gets. Given that Impulse Command is designed by Analogue Solutions founder Tom Carpenter, this surely shouldn’t come as as surprise. As a fervent fan of electronic music and also an active electronic musician himself, he naturally knows a thing or two about programming synthesizers. So his current creation clearly wasn’t the result of engineering design decisions driven by a steering committee of men (or women) in suits, compulsorily constrained to maximise profit for faceless shareholders. Far from it, in fact. Fortunately for all, the fanciful features available and resultant range of tones they can capably produce have all been carefully thought through to impart Impulse Command with what’s required to speedily bring about a wide range of sounds that true analogue admirers could conceivably call for — from huge basses, synth leads, percussion, and effects through to modular system-like stylings.

So what makes this superlative-sounding, Seventies-inspired innovative instrument truly tick? The subtractive synthesis signal path in Impulse Command creatively gets going with two VCOs, producing the raw audio sound source for later processing. Providing a wealth of features and modulation choices in and of themselves, VCO1 boasts a white noise generator alongside sawtooth and triangle waveforms, while VCO2 DETUNE does just that — detuning VCO2 to thicken up the resulting synth sound. Thereafter, things start to take a turn towards the fanciful with AMOUNT applying the amount of MIDI VEL (velocity) or EG2 signal that will be applied to modulate VCO2’s volume, selected via a toggle switch, while I.L. manually sets the initial level of VCO2 volume, and allows that level to be dynamically controlled when set to zero; speaking of oscillators, the VELOCITY control sets the amount of MIDI velocity that will be applied to the square wave-equipped SUB (sub-oscillator) volume, while I.L. manually sets the initial level of SUB volume, so also allows that level to be dynamically controlled when set to zero — hence the DUAL DYNAMIC ANALOGUE OSCILLATORS wording boldly blazoned across Impulse Command’s easy-to-follow front panel!

Pitch modulation, meanwhile, such as vibrato or a pitch sweep, can be obtained by patching with cables using the mini-jack sockets sited along the top of the front panel. Put it this way: while Impulse Command is mostly pre-patched, it has such a wide range of modulation routing possibilities that it is almost as versatile as a full modular system and is capable of producing the same types of sounds — albeit without the mess and confusion of cables. It does, however, have a sizeable selection of patch sockets that allow adventurous users to re-patch it or connect it to an external modular system.

So what about that DUAL ANALOGUE FILTERING wording? Well, as implied, Impulse Command comes complete with two CEM chip-style filters — the same type as those used in classic synths such as the Elka Synthex, Fairlight CMI, Oberheim OB8, and Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, to name but a notable few. Despite sharing the same core circuitry as those vintage classics, Impulse Command is imbued with its own sonic character, rather than simply sounding like them. Many of the controls are duplicated for each of those 24dB/octave filters. The upper VCF is called VCF-L (left) and the signal — following its own dedicated VCA — is routed to the left output jack. It stands to reason, then, that the lower VCF is called VCF-R (right) and the signal — following its own dedicated VCA — is routed to the right output jack. Commonly, CUTOFF sets the master frequency cutoff for both filters, while PEAK sets the resonance/feedback level of both filters. Further left field, perhaps, VCF-R DETUNE offsets the second filter’s frequency cutoff, while VELOCITY sets the amount of MIDI velocity that will modulate the cutoff of both filters, and AGGRO adds cross modulation from VCO2 to the filter CUTOFF, creating a more edgy sound — increasing PEAK to higher levels emphasises this effect. Elsewhere, there are no fewer than four modulation sources — namely, EG1, EG2, LFO1, and LFO2, while LEVEL sets the level of modulation applied to the filter CUTOFF. Creatively, MOD INVERT inverts the modulation for VCF-L, which, as an example, enables pseudo-auto-pan effects. External sound sources, such as vocals, guitars, mixer sends, and samplers, etc, can be sent through the filters for further treatment by simply plugging the sound source into the rearside IN (input) socket. All in all, a flexible filtering section that belies this relatively diminutive desktop device’s space-saving (322 x 270mm) footprint.

Following on from filtering, Impulse Command’s signal path arrives at two separate analogue ADSR envelopes. EG2 is hardwired to control the VCAs that follow the VCFs, but both EGs are available for modulation of various circuits and have trigger and signal output jacks for further patching.

Processing plays a part in Impulse Command’s musical makeup. Primarily designed as a powerful analogue synthesizer, some essential effects — bit crush, delay, flanger, and reverb — have been included to give the resulting sound some ambience. The latter three effects can even be modulated to a degree by the STEP SEQ (sequencer), so they can be dynamically controlled! Control-wise, turning EFFECT selects the eight presets, while ASPECT1 and ASPECT2 are used to make some adjustments to the sound space preset selected. Sequencing is where the sounding-like-several-synthesizers-simultaneously-playing-Impulse Command can come into its own like no other, though. There are two sequencers — an analogue STEP SEQ (that produces voltages) and a MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER (that produces MIDI note loops). Both are clocked from the same signal source, selected using the SEQUENCER SYNCHRO switch, though the MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER can be independently stopped and started. As implied by name, the MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER is used to record melodic loops and will always run in time with the analogue STEP SEQ, which is primarily used for modulation. But both benefit from the radical REORDER! function that affects the sequencer stepping order — forwards, backwards, and all sorts of strange yet wonderful variations! It’s a lot like life, even.

Ending on a high note, Tom Carpenter concludes — somewhat thoughtfully — thus: “This synth is a journey of discovery. You’ll take the occasional wrong turn, but you’ll also make many exhilarating turns, and each destination will be nirvana-like. Life is all about the journey. So experience and play.”

Impulse Command is now available for purchase — priced at an RRP of £849.00 GBP (ex. VAT)/€1,179.00 EUR (inc. tax)/$1,199.00 USD (inc. tax) — through Analogue Solutions’ growing global network of authorised dealers or order online directly from Analogue Solutions via the dedicated Impulse Command webpage which also includes more in-depth information.

About Analogue Solutions (www.analoguesolutions.com)
Analogue Solutions is a UK-based boutique electronic instruments innovator that specialises in true analogue synthesizers, sequencers, and Eurorack modules. More than 25 years experience in the industry means that they were right there at the start of the Eurorack revolution — the third company to start producing modules, in fact. Furthermore, Analogue Solutions products are all hand built in England — many being tested by founder Tom Carpenter himself, who has hands-on involvement in all aspects of the company. Characterful to boot, Analogue Solutions innovative instruments are applauded for proudly possessing a truly vintage sound — synthesizers featuring fully-analogue audio paths with analogue LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) and EGs (Envelope Generators) are the order of the day here. Having no memories means that nothing is being made to sound sterile by CPU (Central Processing Unit) control; conversely, turning a knob directly changes the voltage or current in an actual synth circuit to audible affect. Analogue Solutions founder Tom Carpenter consistently constitutes proof of a genuine passion for analogue synths, drawing upon his years of owning and using vintage analogue synths and drum machines that he still uses in his own music productions — alongside Analogue Solutions products, predictably!

© 2019 Analogue Solutions (UK) Ltd

Doepfer dives deeper into industry-standard Eurorack small-format modular system with quirky quintet of polyphonic modules — March 31, 2019

Doepfer dives deeper into industry-standard Eurorack small-format modular system with quirky quintet of polyphonic modules

Having made musical waves during a show-stopping showcase of prototypes closer to home at SUPERBOOTH18 in Berlin, Germany, esteemed electronic musical device designer Doepfer is proud to globally announce availability of its A-111-4 Quad VCO, A-105-4 Quad Poly SSI VCF, A-132-8 Octal Poly VCA, A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR, and A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface — a quirky quintet of polyphonic modules that sees the trailblazing company diving deeper into the now-industry-standard Eurorack small-format modular system standard that it initiated and popularised with its ever-expanding A-100 ANALOG MODULAR SYSTEM

Who better to throw light on the thinking behind this quirky quintet than company CEO Dieter Doepfer himself. “Modular synthesizers are almost exclusively monophonic structures since true polyphonic patches require a lot of modules — at least four VCOs, four VCFs, four VCAs, and eight ADSRs for a ‘classic’ four-voice patch,” he begins. “But even then it’s difficult to control filter resonance or modulation depth of all the filters, for example, or the attack and decay time of all the envelope generators simultaneously. So now it’s possible to integrate these functions into the modular synth world with our polyphonic modules, though the idea is not just to recreate a standard polyphonic synth within the modular system but rather realise new polyphonic structures that go far beyond a standard polyphonic synth and also far beyond the typical monophonic structures of a modular system since they still offer access to all parameters via CV or gate.”

Getting going, then, the A-111-4 Quad VCO module features four precision CEM3340-based — triangle core — VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillators), each with its own separate internal +/- power supply (to ensure stability and prevent unwanted VCO synchronisation). Each VCO has the same individual controls, and inputs/outputs, as follows: 1V/Octave CV In (Control Voltage input); +1 / 0 / -1 Octave switch; Tune control, with ~ 2 semitones / ~ 1 octave / ~ 4 octaves range selectable via internal jumpers; Mod. (modulation) CV In (Control Voltage input); Modulation Destination — upper position equals exponential frequency modulation (XM) and lower position equals linear frequency modulation (LM) or pulse-width modulation of the rectangle waveform (PM), selectable via internal jumper; frequency modulation (FM) or pulse-width modulation (PWM) of the rectangle waveform; Mod. Level (modulation intensity); triangle waveform output; sawtooth waveform output; rectangle waveform output — about 50% without external pulse-width modulation; SYC (sync) input — (CEM3340-type) hard or soft sync selectable via internal jumper; and minimum 10 octaves range (with appropriate external control voltage). Continuing further down its familiar (silver-grey) front panel, a Master section for all four VCOs includes the following controls and inputs/outputs: 1V/Octave CV In (Control Voltage input); +1 / 0 / -1 Octave switch; Tune control, with ~ 2 semitones / ~ 1 octave / ~ 4 octaves range selectable via internal jumpers; exponential frequency modulation (XM) CV In (Control Voltage input); triangle waveform sum output; sawtooth waveform sum output; and rectangle waveform sum output. Typical applications include: fat-sounding monophonic VCO with the ability to adjust any intervals; paraphonic patches — when working in combination with the A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface and all four VCOs being processed by one VCF/VCA section; fully polyphonic patches — when working in combination with the A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface and four complete VCF/VCA sections; complex VCO patches with up to four VCOs by means of the — exponential and linear — frequency modulation features and sync functions.

Following in (traditional subtractive synthesis) sequence, the A-105-4 Quad Poly SSI VCF module is Doepfer’s first polyphonic filter, featuring four identical 24dB lowpass (SSM2044-type) filters. The module itself includes the following controls and inputs/outputs: F (frequency); FM (frequency modulation) intensity; Q (resonance); audio input L (level); CVF (control voltage frequency) attenuator; CVFM (control voltage frequency modulation) attenuator; CVQ (control voltage resonance) attenuator; CVL (control voltage level) attenuator; CVF (control voltage frequency) socket; CVFM (control voltage frequency modulation) socket; CVQ (control voltage resonance) socket; CVL (control voltage level) socket; FM (frequency modulation) 1 – 4 sockets; audio In (input) 1 – 4 sockets; and audio Out (output) 1 – 4 sockets, so each filter features a separate FM input as well as an audio input and output. The FM input is typically connected to the output of the associated envelope generator, such as Doepfer’s A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR, while the envelope amount for all four filters is controlled by the FM knob and the CVFM input by four built-in VCAs, which are also controlled by the FM control and CVFM input to also allow voltage control of the envelope amounts. Additionally, it is also possible to apply frequency modulation to all four filters — for example, using an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) patched into the CVF socket and using the associated (CVF) attenuator. The range of the audio input level (L) control also allows clipping/distortion with typical A-100 ANALOG MODULAR SYSTEM audio levels — from, for example, the A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR module — at the filter inputs. This parameter is also voltage controllable, as is the resonance (Q). Applications include polyphonic patches requiring four VCFs with the same parameters.

Perfectly named, the A-132-8 Octal Poly VCA module is an octal VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier), primarily primed for polyphonic applications. As such, it includes four pairs of VCAs — each pair including two daisy-chained VCAs, with one VCA having a linear control scale and the other a linear or exponential control scale, selectable via internal jumpers. Two VCAs are provided for each voice since one VCA is usually required for the loudness envelope and another for velocity (or other functions like individual voltage-controlled loudness of each voice, amplitude modulation, and so on). All VCAs are DC coupled and can be used in specialised applications and also for processing control voltages. The module features two Default Gain controls — GL and GX — that enable opening of the first four VCAs (L) and/or second four VCAs (X), with GL and GX generating two internal (0 – +10V) control voltages which are connected to the switching contacts of the 1L – 4L sockets (controlling GL) and 1X – 4X sockets (controlling GX). If no patch cable is inserted into the socket in question then the internal default (GL or GX) control voltage is used to control the corresponding VCA. This is necessary when the VCA in question is not in use — when no external control voltage is available, for instance, otherwise the VCA would close and there would be no output signal even if the other VCA in the chain is open. On the other hand, as soon as a patch cable is inserted into one of the CV Inputs then the corresponding internal default control voltage — CL or CX knob — is no longer used to control the VCA in question; rather an external control voltage patched to the CV Inputs now controls the level of the VCA in question. The GL and GX controls are also useful for testing polyphonic patches — tuning VCOs, for example.

Again, as implied by name, the A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR module is a quad voltage-controlled envelope generator — again, primarily primed for polyphonic applications. As such, it features four ADSR-type voltage-controlled envelope generators with exponential curve shapes (charge/discharge curves of a capacitor). Common manual controls and CVA, CVD, CVS, and CVR inputs with corresponding polarizers are available for the attack (A), decay (D), sustain (S), and release (R) parameters. All four envelope generators have a gate input (G1 – G4), a control LED, and an envelope output (Out1 – Out4). Applications include polyphonic patches, such as four envelope generators with the same envelope parameters to control four VCFs, VCAs, or other modules.

Last, but by no means least, by providing four voices with a 1V/octave-standard CV Note (pitch control voltage) to control VCOs and a Gate output (to control envelope generators), alongside two additional (CV2 and CV3) control voltages, the appropriately-named A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface module does what it says on the tin. Those two additional control voltage outputs can be controlled by MIDI velocity, volume, modulation, pitch bend, aftertouch, or freely-assignable MIDI controllers. Multiple — four-voice monophonic (to control four monophonic voices by four successive MIDI channels); four-voice polyphonic (to control four monophonic voices by one MIDI channel) with several (rotating/non-rotating) sub-modes; two-voice polyphonic (to control two monophonic voices by one MIDI channel); and unison — modes are selected by switches with the result shown in the LCD. In play mode, for example, the LEDs of the first four switches display the gate states, while certain parameters of each mode can be edited.

Ending on a high note, Dieter Doepfer deduces, “Modular synthesizers will still be predominantly used for monophonic sounds, as I’m well aware, but at least one polyphonic sound appears in many pieces of music and now it’s possible to integrate this into the modular synth world with our polyphonic modules.”

Within Germany, the A-111-4 Quad VCO, A-105-4 Quad Poly SSI VCF, A-132-8 Octal Poly VCA, A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR, and A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface modules can be ordered online from Doepfer or via one of its German dealersfor €400.00 EUR, €200.00 EUR, €160.00 EUR, €160.00 EUR, and €300.00 EUR, respectively.

Outside of Germany, the A-111-4 Quad VCO, A-105-4 Quad Poly SSI VCF, A-132-8 Octal Poly VCA, A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR, and A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface modules can only be ordered from Doepfer dealers in listed territories (Note that residents in countries without representation can, however, order from Doepfer directly.)

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated webpages:

A-111-4 Quad VCO

A-105-4 Quad Poly SSI VCF

A-132-8 Octal Poly VCA

A-141-4 Quad Poly VCADSR

A-190-5 Polyphonic USB/Midi to CV/Gate Interface

About Doepfer (www.doepfer.com)
Doepfer Musikelektronik CEO Dieter Doepfer began building electronic musical devices in 1979 with a voltage-controlled phaser module for the Formant modular synthesizer, a Moog modular system-style DIY kit documented as a series of articles in Elektor magazine; moving onwards and upwards, he then began developing devices under his own name, including the classic MAQ16/3 MIDI ANALOG SEQUENCER (in close collaboration with German techno-pop pioneers Kraftwerk), and subsequently spearheaded an analogue renaissance with the MS-404 MIDI ANALOG SYNTHESIZER in 1995: “It was such a big success, it opened the door to the A-100. We designed a lot of stuff for Kraftwerk, and they wanted everything in silver. So, when we started with the modular system, since we had such a strong relationship at that time with Kraftwerk, and everything was silver, we made it silver!” Kraftwerk’s Kling Klang studio that toured throughout 1998 laden with distinctive silver-grey Doepfer devices like the super-sized SCHALTWERK MIDI TRIGGER SEQUENCER and REGELWERK MIDI FADER CONTROLLER had a lot to answer for! Today, Doepfer’s diverse range of products — also available in black! — encompass USB/MIDI interfaces, master keyboards, sequencers, synthesizers, and more; musically, the Graefelfing-based German company counts such synth luminaries as Hollywood hotshot Hans Zimmer and stadium superstars Depeche Mode amongst its global user base. Better still, the A-100 ANALOG MODULAR SYSTEM remains the most compact, affordable, and flexible such system ever produced with over 125 of those still-silver-grey modules in the range… more are (always) on the cards, including more polyphonic modules. Meanwhile, the so-called Eurorack small-format modular system popularised by Doepfer has mushroomed to industry-standard status with hundreds of third-party manufacturers — both bigger and smaller — making compatible modules.

© 2019 Doepfer Musikelektronik GmbH

Antelope Audio announces availability of Orion 32+ | Gen 3 innovative interface and cutting-edge AD/DA converter —

Antelope Audio announces availability of Orion 32+ | Gen 3 innovative interface and cutting-edge AD/DA converter

Having made momentous musical waves with a show-stopping premiere performance at The 2019 NAMM Show in Southern California, January 24-27, trailblazing pro audio manufacturer Antelope Audio is proud to announce availability of Orion 32+ | Gen 3. Boasting brand-new AD/DA converters capable of achieving up to 129 dB dynamic range alongside Antelope Audio’s next-generation 64-bit AFC (Acoustically Focused Clocking) technology and jitter management algorithm and a rich collection of circuit-level gear emulations running in real-time on an integrated FPGA FX platform, this third-generation improved interface is industry-leading like no other.

Offering low-latency recording and playback of up to 64 simultaneous 24-bit/192kHz audio channels via Thunderbolt™ and up to 32 audio channels over USB, Antelope Audio’s latest addition to its ever-expanding range of innovative interfaces connects seamlessly with any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on a Mac or PC. Powerful flexibility for easy workflow integration is all there for the taking, thanks to the colour-coded software routing matrix with four separate mixers, effects chaining, and zero-latency monitoring capabilities all residing within an easy-to-use application for macOS and Windows. With all selections viewable in the centre of the routing matrix when hovering over a connection, colour-challenged users are also well catered for.

Fortunately for all comers, Orion 32+ | Gen 3 comes complete with a complimentary suite of outstanding effects essentials, each running in real-time on an ultra-fast FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) platform. Put it this way: with Antelope Audio having helpfully selected six effects from its incredible library, they collectively cover a wide variety of tracking and mixing uses. Ultimately, each effect brings mastering-grade precision and clarity to the production table — traversing all essential mixing and mastering needs, from the Clear Q linear EQ to the spacious-sounding, advanced AuraVerb. Also included is Master De-Esser, Antelope Audio’s long-anticipated debut de-esser effect plug-in; PowerEX, Antelope Audio’s in-house expander featured in all its interfaces; PowerFFC, a feed-forward compressor — also featured in all Antelope Audio’s interfaces; plus PowerGate, Antelope Audio’s inaugural noise gate tool. That said, additional effects, of course, can be purchased from Antelope Audio’s acclaimed library of FPGA FX

Superlative software integration apart, Antelope Audio also prides itself on its innovative hardware. Here Orion 32+ | Gen 3 far from disappoints. As Antelope Audio itself is renowned as the world’s premier practitioner of audio clocking, it is hardly surprising that this admirable attribute continues to make momentous musical waves with the company’s next-generation AFC technology and jitter management algorithm. A pair of Word Clock outputs (WC OUT) turn the Orion32+ | Gen 3 into a world-class master clock fit for any user’s studio setup, while a 10MHz input (10M IN) allows it to be used with supreme stability using Antelope Audio’s 10MX Rubidium Atomic Clock — itself really representing an epiphany of more than 20 years’ worth of expertise in the digital audio world, making analogue’s clarity, depth, width, and distinctly three-dimensional traits sound so vividly real.

Reality dictates, therefore, that Orion32+ | Gen 3 advances Antelope Audio’s hard-won reputation for pristine conversion quality, thanks to its brand-new AD/DA converters achieving up to 129 dB dynamic range (at the MONITOR output stage). Simply speaking, Orion32+ | Gen 3 allows anyone to hear the true sound of their music with both digital clarity and analogue warmth.

While consummate clocking and conversion are hallowed hallmarks of any Antelope Audio interface, it is the fact that Orion32+ | Gen 3 delivers true sub-millisecond round-trip latency for both AD and DA conversion that also distinguishes it from the (sound of the) crowd. Clearly the trailblazing pro audio manufacturer has some seriously-impressive figures with which to back up this impressive claim — figures that surely speak for themselves with round-trip latency times between line inputs and outputs being measured as low as 0.904ms (64 samples at 192kHz) and line inputs and monitoring outputs as low as 1.155ms (64 samples at 192kHz). Considering AD/DA conversion’s inherent latency and the technical state-of-the-art in the pro audio industry, it is currently impossible to achieve sub-millisecond latency under each and every recording and playback scenario. Saying that, the latency achieved in those quoted measurement examples are low enough as to be practically imperceptible.

Interfacing is — by its very nature — all about connecting to the outside world. Within the confines of its single rack space-occupying rear panel, Orion32+ | Gen 3 packs a lot of connectivity courtesy of 8x DB25 connectors for analogue I/O alongside 2x ADAT, 1x MADI, and 1x S/PDIF digital connections.

Clearly, then, Orion32+ | Gen 3 has what it takes to make momentous musical waves with its extensive connectivity; exemplary AD/DA; flawless clocking; intuitive control — from any computer on the same network, no less; real-time effects; and sub-millisecond latency… literally a fitting tribute to Antelope Audio’s continued commitment to trailblazing technology in the pro audio industry, if ever there was one!

Orion32+ | Gen 3 is now available for purchase — priced at an RRP of $2,595.00 USD — through Antelope Audio’s growing global network of authorised dealers or order online directly from Antelope Audio via the dedicated Orion32+ | Gen 3 webpage that also includes more in-depth information.

Watch Antelope Audio’s audio frontier-expanding Orion32+ | Gen 3 introductory video:

About Antelope Audio (www.antelopeaudio.com);
Antelope Audio is a leading manufacturer of high-end professional audio equipment. Founded in 2004 and reinventing the industry with its flawless master clock technologies and versatile multi-channel interface solutions, the company has been steadily expanding its portfolio over the years under the guidance of visionary engineer and CEO Igor Levin. Antelope Audio’s products offer the best of both analog and digital technologies. Among its most recent innovations are compact interfaces with discrete mic pres, FPGA-based FX plug-ins for all DAWs, and next-generation modeling microphones. These are distributed through Antelope Audio offices in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, and highly acclaimed by users all over the world. The company’s customers include GRAMMY® award-winning sound engineers, top-tier producers, world-class artists, and some of the most renowned, recording, mastering, and post-production facilities around the globe.

© 2019 Antelope Audio

Review of Subvert multi-effects processor (VST/AU) by Glitchmachines — March 29, 2019

Review of Subvert multi-effects processor (VST/AU) by Glitchmachines

Introduction

Glitchmachines have updated Subvert to version 1.2, a multi-channel distortion processor designed to decimate the frequency spectrum.

It is available for Windows and Mac as a 32 bit and 64 bit VST/AU plugin typically priced at $59 available direct from Glitchmachines and selected resellers. The update is free for existing customers.

The version 1.2 update retains the core functionality of Subvert but brings a whole host of improvements –

  • New scalable user interface
  • Revamped modulation system
  • 70 new factory presets
  • Various fixes and internal changes
  • Rewritten user guide

Note that substantial changes to source code mean that Subvert 1.2 is not backwards compatible.

For more information, see the overview video:

Background

Subvert is a three channel multi-effects processor that can be used to process any audio signal, including real time audio or hardware synths or guitars. It has three identical channels each containing 5 signal processor effects – filter, ring modulation, metalizer, distortion and digitizer.  The individual effects as well as the effect channels can be activated or deactivated as required, enabling you to create a huge range of serial or parallel processing combinations. However, the real creative power of Subvert is with the extensive modulations options which is typically seen in Glitchmachines VSTs and a similar modulation system implemented for Convex has also been implemented for Subvert. There are 4 LFOs and 2 envelope followers which can modify virtually all parameters and this modulation is extended beyond LFOs / envelopes because they can have their output inverted or combined using mixers.

What this means is that whilst the effect is primarily a distortion effect, it is capable of so much more from subtle saturation, bit crush type effects, metallic glitches to flat out distortion. What I really love about Subvert is the power / flexibility and the ability to surprise we tend to see in Glitchmachines products. When you think you know what sort of a sound you are going to produce, you often get unexpected results.

In-depth Review

The UI has been completely redesigned which improves the workflow whilst retaining the clean, modern look we typically see from Glitchmachines. It’s split into three sections:

The individual effect channels are located towards the top of the display;

channel_one

The lower middle section contains the modulation parameters;

modulation

The lower section has the master controls;

master

The bottom of the display has the menu, settings. presets, randomiser etc.

menu

Other changes in the new version include:

  • The use of 4 colour coding options for different processes which are fuschia for audio processing, green for modulation source, blue for audio output and light blue for targeted parameters;
  • The interface is resizable by dragging the bottom right of the window.

Although the focus is on distortion, the combination of effects makes for a much more versatile effects processor.

The filter effect has low pass, bandpass, high pass and notch filters with cut-off, resonance and mix controls;

filter

The ringmod’s input is modulated by a high frequency sine oscillator (OSC1) whose frequency is modulated by another sine oscillator (OSC2).  You have controls for carrier wave frequency (OSC1), modulation wave frequency, FM that controls the amount of modulation applied to the carrier and mix; 

ringmod.

The metalizer effect has controls for delay time, feedback and mix;

metalizer

The distortion effect is a reworked version of the now discontinued Gorgon effect by Inear Display.  It has four distortion modes – gorgon, shape, fold and creeper with drive, oversampling and mix controls;

distortion

The digitizer effect combines sample rate reduction and bit depth reduction.  Each of these has their own mix control making it effectively two effects in one.  The bits control emulates the effect of bit-rate reduction and the ratio control is sample rate reduction.  A combination of these two produces some cool sounds;

digitizer

The master controls has input levels, output levels and a bypass switch for each individual channel along with a 3 band master EQ and a master dry/wet and amplitude controls;

master

Subvert has very similar extensive modulation options to those seen previously in Convex that can be combined to create really complex modulation parameters. Each parameter that can be modulated has a modulation source menu and a small crescent knob to the right. The modulated parameter’s current value is used as the floor value for modulation. The modulation depth knob then represents the range in percent that will be used for modulation between the current parameter value and the maximum parameter value.

There are 2 envelope follower modules with sensitivity (gain), attack and release settings.

env

There are 4 LFOs with a wave menu to click and drag to choose the waveform and a rate which can be set in hertz or beat divisions using the sync option. The rate value can also be modulated.

lfo

The modulation mixers can be used in one of two ways, either to get the mean of two signals or to morph between two modulators using a mix control which itself can be modulated.

mix

The inverters do exactly what you’d expect and invert a parameter which is especially useful to modulate 2 parameters in opposite directions using the original and inverted values.

inv

There are also midi learn options, a randomise option and the usual preset options of load and save.

Conclusions

I’m delighted to have been part of the beta testing team for Subvert. The new UI improves the workflow and it’s very easy to start using and creating your own effects. The presets give an excellent range of sound possibilities of Subvert, you can also use randomise settings to create interesting sounds, though often you’ll need to tweak these to get the most out of them. Although it’s primarily a distortion effect, it is capable of so much more, including buffer effects, subtle saturation and bitcrushing effects and the ability to process in serial or parallel really extends your options.  It gets very interesting when you start using modulation and again it’s easy to get to grips with modulation options and you can use them subtly or in more extreme ways.

I’ve used multiple instances of subvert on the EP embedded at the top of this post.  effusion has 4 instances of a processed field recording with 3 instances of subvert, delay and reverb and a drum pattern; cascades uses a processed field recording with bass, chord, arp and drum loops processed with subvert; emanations uses 3 instances of a processed field recording  with delay, reverb and Subvert with mid/side processing.

Review of ‘Finger of God’ album by Azuresands on power_lunch corporation — March 22, 2019

Review of ‘Finger of God’ album by Azuresands on power_lunch corporation

There’s a familiarity to this album, a kind of nostalgia trip but probably not how you thought you’d remembered things.

At times floaty and dreamy, others more uptempo there’s an unsettling quality at times from an edge of distortion, lo-fi feel and the slowed down nature. Some songs you’ll recognise instantly, others take longer whilst some others you can’t quite put your finger on.

Parasomnia

Atmospheric opening from pad and almost dissonant piano, there’s an ethereal sounding trumpet contrasting against a harsher sounding pad. 

Telesueno

An 80’s synthwave feel from arp and chord stabs, strings lead into an upfront vibe with bass and drums, vocals have a slowed down feel. It feels familiar but can’t quite put my finger on it…

StaleMate

Fuzzy memories of an 80s nightclub with a distorted edge, the kind you get from drinking too much.

Fellas is it Mellow

Yes it is, a mellow groove with a pop / funk vibe.

Spectrum

Edgier feel to this one, at times it’s floaty, others more of a groove.

Subliminal Cinema

Appropriate title, it sounds like many films I’ve watched over time. It has the slow intro, build and release.

Moomin Matrix

Reminds me of many a kids TV theme tune, a groove from percussion and riff with a distorted edge although the vocals are a bit unsettling.

Je Suis le Meme

Slowed and distorted, there’s a familiarity as it speeds up yet it retains its elusivity. The vocals have a disembodied feel.

CloudLoft

A more uptempo opening, the occassional glitch / stutter is subtle but effective. 

HoverCruise

Another appropriate title, the soundtrack to a binge of Tom Cruise 80s films. I think the song is Too Many Walls.

Mistaken Identity

A subdued feel, the slowed down nature gives a hazy, ethereal feel. 

Skipping Stones

Another hazy, dreamy feel.

Aeternalis

There’s an unearthly, dreamy quality to this song, as soon as the vocals enter you instantly recognise them. There’s a great contrast with the rhythmic drums / percussion.

Jenseits

Edge of distortion contrasts with the ambience, vocals are rather unsettling. Glitches in the guitar solo also add an edge of tension. 

Amepnkaha

Uptempo opening from drumming, bass has an edgy quality. Once the synth riff kicks in you’ll recognise it straight away and certainly won’t be expecting it. A perfect end to the album. 

Review of Junior Bill s/t EP — March 17, 2019

Review of Junior Bill s/t EP


Formed in 2013, Junior Bill have been through a few incarnations, but the writing talents of Rob Nichols have combined with keyboard & synth player Joel Beswick and bassist Rory Saunders since the bands inception. The five-piece is currently completed by drummer Jim Strickland and newest member Luke Owen on vocals, samples and guitar. Junior Bill’s live show has been highly praised for its enthralling energy and has earned them the reputation of being one of the best new acts in Wales.

The self-titled Junior Bill EP has infectious grooves, sax, great vocals and a really tight-knit sound that gives a superb vibe to this EP, it’s a sound somewhere between ska, dub and reggae.

There’s also a great energy to this EP, the arrangements and production are spot on.

There’s a Wolf in Grangetown

Delayed dub effects to open, tight-knit drumming, bass and guitar create an excellent groove. The vocals are superb with a great passion.

Romas

Recording of children’s voices to open, vocals and synth build to a wicked groove from bass and guitar propelled by drumming. Superb vocals again, the Sax adds a great element to the song. 

The Butetown Rats

Spoken vocals to open, shimmery guitar chords, drums and bass give momentum. Great change in feel and the organ is excellent, it really adds to the feel. There’s more of an edgy feel to this song.

Old Cardiff Winds

Excellent groove to open, stripped back feel when vocals start before drumming and bass enter to give momentum. Great changes in feel, it has a kind of jam quality with some excellent delayed effects / feedback before returning to the groove. 

Keep up with Junior Bill:

website | facebook | instagram | twitter

Review of Sounding Nature – reimagined sounds album by various artists for Cities and Memory — March 12, 2019

Review of Sounding Nature – reimagined sounds album by various artists for Cities and Memory

This is a superb album comprising the best submissions to the Cities and Memory Sounding Nature Project.

The 16 songs cover a range of styles from ambient, noise / drone to glitchy and IDM.  There are excellent soundscapes and great use of field recordings both as background sounds and processed for use as rhythmic elements. 

In the Storm (Iceland) – Richard Watts

Atmospheric opening from a tremelo type effect and rhythmic percussive sound, a contrast between ambience and the more uptempo organ riff and synth riff. Excellent layering and a building tension. 

The Fate of Bees (England)

A slow evolving opening evokes the feeling of a colony of Bees, orchestration and sound effects are used very subtly to create movement. Its a haunting track. 

With Whispering Ambitions (USA) – Jeff Dungfelder

Rain, sound effects and delayed vocals create a soundscape given momentum by a more defined percussive rhythm. I really like how the layering creates movement and fluidity, for example, as the rain intensifies it has a bass or drone kind of feel, similarly a delayed percussive element has bassline qualities at times. 

Broken Dawn (Vietnam) – Matt Chapman Jones

Evolving atmospheric opening from strings, a breathing sound and heartbeat from a kick changes to a much edgier feel as the distortion / noise builds to create a tenser sound ending with feedback. 

Infinite Nightingale (England)

A beautiful opening from piano with delayed Nightingale sounds, strings and bass add movement and a subtle tension at times. It’s a captivating song. 

Meadow (Laos) – Qush Abdul (leholyghost)

An edgy / glitchy opening builds to a more defined rhythm with great interplay between spoken descriptions and synth lead lines, sound effects and feedback. 

Fifty-Nine Degrees North (Finland) – Chris Ray (Enisle)

Ambient opening from sound effects and synth sounds, excellent layering creates a soundscape with bass, sound effects, synth leads and subtle momentum from a percussive rhythm. It’s a superbly ambient track that has an edge of tension. 

The Hour Glass (Senegal) – Nick Jones

An edgy song from spoken words and a wind type of sound. Subtle distortion with delayed and layered vocals add a great tension.

A Secretive Call (Scotland) – Alex Hehir

An ambient glitchy opening from delayed and processed bird sounds that takes on a more menacing feel with the evolving bassline and transforms superbly into an IDM kind of feel with momentum with the drumming pattern and synth chords.

Baboons Dance (Senegal) – Ricky Milano

Atmospheric opening from Baboon calls and synth chords, synth bass enters with intricate percussive rhythm from layered processed baboon calls. It’s very cleverly done, slow evolution of the song into an ambient techno / IDM type of sound releasing to baboon calls to end.

Protect the 62% (Slovenia) 

Atmospheric opening from pad, synth chords and bird calls, there’s a subtle movement given momentum from hi-hat and kick drum leading into a full drum pattern with excellent glitchy elements and a kind of decline / collapse to end.

Wales Tanat Valley Epic Thunder (Wales) – Andy Lyon

OK so this is my entry, I’ve tried to create an ambient / neo-classical piece with subtle orchestration around elements of the storm but feel free to make your own conclusions! 

English Lullaby (England) – Kieran Mahon

Noise / drone with strings and background insects fades as an evolving delayed plucked string riff emerges into a lullaby before fading away leaving the noise / drone, insects and strings. 

Dream (Canada) – Karhide

Delayed percussive sounds lead into metallic synth type sounds, it’s an edgy atmosphere, industrial type of sound. 

The Siren Call (England) – Rob Knight 

Opening strings with evolving background sea sound creates an atmospheric piece with just an edge of tension. There’s a great movement in the sound, the arrangement is superb. 

The Cornfield of Forking Paths (USA) – Marco Colocci

A glitchy opening from insects, rustling and rattling type sounds, it has a tape loop kind of feel evolving with a contrasting ambience from strings.