The debut launch of #II3 on Tracy’s EOP show

#II3 on Bandcamp

Ok, So I missed the boat for #II2. But the experience was a very positive one. Which is why I signed up for #II3. The problem was the rules were even tighter, it was a similar idea that the recording was supposed to be all about the performance but this time overdubs or layering were not allowed. You press record, play your song and press stop. That’s it.

It just seemed even more improbable that I could actually produce a track in accordance with these rules. It’s just not how I normally work. What made it worse was that I knew there would be a lot of talented people entering tracks who do this sort of performance all the time and have an appropriate level of hardware to do it. But I had determination and quite a tight deadline on my side.

My first thought was Reaper. As I mentioned previously it is a fully fledged DAW but much, much cheaper than alternative versions costing 60 euros for a licence (other licenses are available but I think this would be the appropriate licence for most people in this situation). I didn’t really have time to sort out a lot of the setting up despite giving it a good go. That seems to be the thing with Reaper, a lot of the setting up is manual but that’s not a bad thing, it is very customisable (if you like that sort of thing) but conversely that may also be the very reason that people are put off.

I decided that I would use Ableton Live Lite 8 and work within the 8 track, 4 VSTi restriction. After all, how many instruments can you play at once when you’ve only got 1 keyboard?

My second thought which was very close behind was drums and/or percussion. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to play these live. I looked into options to record them ‘as live’ and then loop them but I like a bit of variety in patterns and couldn’t find an option that would allow me to do this easily and cheaply. To be honest I wasn’t keen on this idea anyway.

I’d been learning how to use Virtual ANS and decided an alternative was to make some effects loops from images created in Deco Sketch and use these as percussion. I couldn’t quite get a repetitive percussive sound although I’m sure it is possible with some maths, instead I experimented a bit more with shapes and patterns. I exported these to wav files and loaded into Ableton Live Lite 8 to use as loops.

This reminded me of the first ever recording I made which was direct to tape using a ‘ghetto blaster’ and playing on a Yamaha PSS680. Yes, it was a long time ago, circa c.1988; no doubt very bad and fortunately lost forever. However, I decided to use the same name of ‘Voyage to Arcturus’ because the idea and process is principally the same but evolved over time. This meant I knew pretty quickly which synths and effects I wanted to use : for effects AlienSpaceWeaverFree + NastyDLA MkII; Atonoise Pro + grain delay + outer space reverb and TAL Noisemaker + auto filter + filter delay; for the lead sound SerenityFree + AMVST double delay.

I also intended to use Saucillator on my phone and plug it into the laptop so I could play it at the same time as the keyboard. There were a couple of other android apps I wanted to use on old spare phones but I haven’t got a mixer and when I tried with Saucillator it completely killed the audio settings. I’ve no idea why it did but whilst it was ok following a reboot unfortunately, that was that.

So my setup was complete. I really wanted to use midi mapping but just couldn’t get it to work as I wanted. I also couldn’t seem to setup automation on the fly either. Maybe I’m too used to Caustic, maybe I needed more time or maybe just more practice. This resulted in a very manual process with a lot of switching between tracks, some horrible timing issues and overrunning by 3 minutes. Subsequent runs were a gradual improvement and I eventually ended up with a song that I was happy with.

Now at this point I would usually take quite a while adjusting levels and effects, adjusting EQ and compression settings. The funny thing was I never even thought about compression or EQ which is normally a large part of defining the sound. I’d set the levels upfront so when I pressed stop that was the finished song. It was really refreshing to make a ‘best guess’ and leave it at that.

The album had it’s debut airing on Tracy’s EOP show which is embedded above. It is also available for download from Bandcamp which is also embedded above.

It seems wrong somehow to review the album of which I was a part of. But I am going to say that the other 18 songs are all excellent tracks by very talented people so it is highly recommended listening. And I have lots of room for improvement, but really want to repeat the process.

You can check out Dr Existenz on twitter and also his blog

You can also check out Tracy’s EOP on twitter and also mixcloud