Andrulian's blog

Creating sounds | Making music | supporting fellow musicians | reflections in time

Review of Amygdala by MicrotuneX — March 31, 2015

Review of Amygdala by MicrotuneX

 

MicrotuneX on twitter; MicrotuneX on bandcamp

Amygdala is presented as one 37 min long album which is a really good idea, there is a flow between the different parts of the album in terms of recurring themes and sounds whilst exploring different textures and soundscapes. This means it also has an improvised or live recording feel.

There’s a really good selection of sounds on the album too and each of these are layered and arranged really well. The album was produced using the hardware instruments Arturia Microbrute, Arturia Microbrute SE and Korg Monotron Delay.

The fact that Amygdala is presented as a continuous track of 37 minutes doesn’t allow for the usual review of individual tracks but it does appear to have six distinctive movements, for want of a better term, which is used during this review.

Amygdala has a great opening, like a broken or circuit bent synth drone sound followed by a great synth riff and layered synth sound. There is really good movement in the sounds and great layering too which creates a really good ambient soundscape.

There is then a second movement which explores similar themes but has a more defined bassline and synth line.

The third movement has a more urgent bassline and great background swirling effects and there’s another really good synth lead with delay used to great effect. There’s also a nice change in feel towards the end of this movement slowing the tempo into background sounds effects.

The fourth movement starts with a bass drone and a really good synth lead sound. This is a great soundscape through excellent layering and lead lines.

The fifth movement then has arp type bass and synth lines which again are accompanied by a synth lead layered over the top.

The sixth movement then has quite an urgent feel to the bassline which contrasts really well with the synth lead line and drone which has really good movement to it.

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Review of Sleepers album by Phirnis / Katarrhaktes on Fwonk netlabel (FW159) — March 27, 2015

Review of Sleepers album by Phirnis / Katarrhaktes on Fwonk netlabel (FW159)

 

Phirnis on twitter; Fwonk on twitter; Fwonk on bandcamp

This is split release on the Fwonk netlabel (FW159) from two artists who compliment each other really well. The album is somewhere between ambient, drone, noise and experimental. It is excellently produced with great layering of sounds, some of which are really interesting field recordings. There is a great range of effects too.

Phirnis – Sleepers There is a really nice delayed wind chime sound with layered bass and synth sounds against a background drone to open the song. There are some great sound effects too, one’s a slightly disconcerting rattling which creates a great tension against the wind chime sound.

Katarrhaktes – Perchance to Dream This song is then quite a contrast, it has a driving rhythm from some great sounds, some of which are clicks, some impact type sounds. The vocals are choir-like and create a great tension, there are really good drone sounds too.

Katarrhaktes – Black Clouds This song has a great choice of sounds, the song opens with a buzzing followed by some great glitchy sounds that remind me of an old dial up modem. Great drone too, it’s kind of unsettling and the song has a great edge to it.

Phirnis – Stillstand 1 There’s a great sound to open, like a squeaky hinge and a really nice use of delay effect into the background. Great background drone, it’s quite unsettling and there’s a suggestion of a conversation in the background too.

Katarrhaktes – Somnambulism A great soundscape to open the song, an evolving drone in the background and really great recording of walking to a motorbike and starting it up and riding away. There’s a storm in there too, great cinematic qualities to the song, really good layering of evolving sounds.

Phirnis – Stillstand 2 Great drone with a kind of pulsing effect to open with, there’s really effective looping in the song too.

Phirnis – Animals Quite a harsh bleepy type of sound to open with, a driving rhythm is accompanied by a really effective chord progression. A great sound, like a church organ massively detuned.

Katarrhaktes – Sleepers Rising This has the same wind chimes as the opening song with a reversed sound too which gives a nice edge. An evolving drone creates a great tension and there’s some great impact and storm sounds too. A really good tension to the song.

Review of Faerground Accidents – She Makes Me Want To Die Single on Louder Than War Records — March 25, 2015

Review of Faerground Accidents – She Makes Me Want To Die Single on Louder Than War Records

 

Faerground Accidents on twitter
Louder Than War website
BlueSoapMusic on twitter

I absolutely love this song! I really like the vibe, it’s an infectious song with great drive and energy. Faerground Accidents have a brilliant sound and style, I really like the way the lyrics are bit off the wall, it’s more like a conversation you’d have with a mate when they’re telling you about the really bad time they’re having which gives it a really bittersweet quality.

The song opens with intense drumming quickly joined by great riffing and synth lead. The riffing is high tempo and maintained throughout the song with some great jangly parts and a cracking solo too.

She Makes Me Want To Die is out now on Louder Than War records. On the basis of this single, Faerground Accidents are definitely a band to watch this year!

Review of Mulab 6 DAW — March 22, 2015

Review of Mulab 6 DAW

Version 6.3.6 is the latest version of Mulab at the time of this review.

To put it simply, Mulab 6 is a very impressive DAW. It is a very capable DAW which is incredibly reasonably priced at 69 EUR (~£50). However, do not be fooled into a price comparison to other similar products, this is a fully featured DAW having a built-in sample player, multisampler, synth and drum rack. It also has a good range of built in effects and all your favourite VSTIs load very easily too. It is very well designed, intuitive to use and best of all has excellent sound quality.

One feature that will be very useful to some users is the portability. The download file is very small, 17Mb, and the software installs easily into a directory which can then be copied to a memory stick to run from different computers, for instance.

Mulab 6 also has excellent support. There’s an active forum on KVR; Youtube channel; twitter; facebook and extensive online documentation.

Audio setup is similarly very quick and easy, the default settings worked fine on my laptop. On opening the software, the GUI is clean and very well laid out. It feels intuitive having used Ableton Live 8 with the different screen options and it’s easy enough to tinker about with one of the demo tracks – for instance adding notes, effects etc – straight away and make changes and get a really good feel for the software.

Mulab_overview

I have got a few VSTIs – ok, rather a lot – and it did take a little while to load them all, about 15 minutes in total but once scanned they are in the database and that’s that. Most scanned ok, I’ve apparently accidentally installed a couple of 64 bit VSTs which Mulab didn’t like and it did crash a couple of times which I subsequently found was nothing to do with Mulab, rather a very suspect VST file which I more than happily deleted. What really pleased me was that a couple of VSTIs that had stopped working in Ableton Live Lite worked absolutely fine in Mulab.

Racks are a key part of Mulab and they are very flexible. You can load an instrument and inline effects i.e. create a bass rack and then you can send all of your bass sequences to that rack. You can also set up a delay rack and use it as a send / return effect. They can also be set up for audio or midi events, for instance an arpeggiator VST. You just need to make sure the audio routing is set up correctly but this is straightforward.

With a midi synth plugged in, it’s simply a case of selecting it as a midi input and it works no fuss and I always find you need one to get the most out of any DAW software. When you record, you are then recording ‘events’ which are like midi patterns and are easy to edit and manipulate, for instance set the grid size or no grid for exact placement of notes if you need to tweak or adjust your recording. Automation is also easy to record and control.

Recording audio is easy too, Mulab has audio recorders which are very easy to use, it’s simply a case of choosing where you are recording from and recording too. This defaults to a new track but it’s an easy task to drop an audio recorder on a track header for more traditional track-based audio recording.

Loading a built in instrument into a rack shows the real versatility of Mulab. There are options of MuSynth, MuDrum, MuPad, MuSampla and MultiSampla and there are a great range of presets for these too.

MuSynth is a real workhorse synth, having a great range of sounds and is very well featured with 2 oscillators, multi-sample player and noise generator. Each of these can be processed by a ring modulator and upto 3 filters – each of which can have a cut-off LFO and/or envelope. MuSynth allows very flexible routing, nearly everything has an on/off switch and is highly configurable.

MuDrum is incredibly powerful and gives loads of flexibility. It has 12 velocity pads which can accept 12 samples each of which can be triggered by one of the 12 notes in an octave from a midi keyboard. It’s aspects like this that clearly show how well this software has been designed. You can load your favourite samples, save them as your favourite kits and leave it there. Alternatively you can fine tune the samples to a high degree. Initially you have control over pitch, tune, attack, decay, release and pan amongst other things as well as start and end points so it’s easy to reverse samples for instance. You also have 4 assignable racks so you can assign a specific reverb to a snare, for example or EQ a kick drum. But that’s not all, each pad has 3 elements – 2 sample players and a complete MUX. This means you can layer 2 samples together and the MUX gives synthesis, LFO, VSTIs – almost endless modular possibilities.

Mudrum

MuSampla is a single sample sampler and has all of the basics you need to edit and loop samples, change pitch, apply envelopes, filters etc. I’m a bit reluctant to use the term ‘basic’ because it is very powerful, works very well and is easy to use too.

MultiSampla allows you to load multiple samples and set up zones to allow velocity cross-fading between samples.

MuPad is an element of MuDrum which can be very useful in it’s own right although I haven’t explored this to any extent.

Another great feature of MuLab is known as the MUX modular which is a modular synth and effects plug-in. The visual interface is well designed and allows you to arrange effects chains using patching cables. It is straightforward to use and incredibly powerful and I haven’t even begun to explore the possibilities of this yet.

Audio files handle really easily, you just need to make sure the cursor is in the right place (took me a little while to release I needed to click near the bar numbers at the top rather than in the ‘work area’). It took me even longer to realise that the other and far easier way is to drag and drop using the file browser. It’s quick and easy to set up your sample folders as favourites which can then be accessed very easily. Dragging and dropping a sample loop gives you the option of loading as a streaming sample (as is); pitched (loads in MuSampla so you can manipulate it as needed) or sliced (process akin to convert to midi).

There are many more features which I keep finding, such as saving racks as presets; saving a preset and sample as a MuClip so that you can easily save drum patters, bass loops to load in other sessions or share with other users. I’m sure I’ll continue to find new techniques and opportunities as I learn the software further, especially the MUX which I’ve only had a brief play with so far.

There is a learning curve when switching DAWs but it’s not really that steep due to the intuitive nature of MuLab. I’ve been using it as my main DAW to write songs and carry out this review for 3 weeks and I’m really starting to get to grips with it. I’ve not noticed any latency issues and the software has been very stable. I’ve included a couple of screenshots from songs I’ve been working on as part of this review below. The audio from the project titled Deep Tech is embedded from bandcamp below. It was going to be a short demo but ended up as the full song complete with EQ and a basic mastering to give you an indication of the sound quality and also to demonstrate that you can create songs easily which is testament to the capability and usability of MuLab. I also found that the level meters are very easy to read and level adjustment is easy too. I found Ableton could be a bit finicky and would often end up with clipping whereas MuLab was definitely easier and felt a bit more forgiving, a check in Audacity showed I was about spot on with the levels and there definitely isn’t a compromise on sound quality. I will test this again with more of a glitchy sound just to be sure. Exporting audio to wav can be to a 16 or 32 bit file and is pretty quick.

Mulab

MuLab_DeepTech

 

So in summary if you want an excellently featured DAW that has great sound quality and is very reasonably priced, MuLab is definitely worth checking out. If you’re tempted but not totally sure, why not try the free version? It has a 4 track, 8 VST limit amongst other restrictions but you’ll definitely get a good idea of how MuLab is flexible, powerful and easy to use.

Review of Lamentations by Lost Trail on Subterranean Tide — March 16, 2015

Review of Lamentations by Lost Trail on Subterranean Tide

Veteran ambient duo Zachary and Denny Corsa’s latest release is a single long-form improvisation. Recorded under icy conditions with broken equipment, Lamentations’ minor-key, wistful motifs perfectly capture the bitterly cold weather of Lost Trail’s North Carolina home.

This is a really solid release, a 16 minute long song that creates a great soundscape.

The song opens with bird sounds and a drone and has a brilliantly evolving melody backed by a haunting choral type of voice which sounds reversed at times which gives a great edge. There is excellent use of sounds throughout, creating quite a hypnotic song but with a really nice tension too. The song is excellently layered and produced, a great interplay and contrast at times between the different elements of the song.

 

Lost Trail on twitter
Subterranean Tide on twitter

Why can’t audiences clap along properly? — March 15, 2015

Why can’t audiences clap along properly?

This is something I’ve noticed for a long, long time and to be honest it’s really starting to grate. It’s especially noticeable on TV programs or at dance shows / performances.

For a start there’s the question of whether it is ruining the song. For most songs on TV programmes it’s an improvement because it drowns them out somewhat. But then you’re left to focus on the clapping which inherently is far worse. This is because the audience never claps in time but they’re not syncopated either with the result of ending up somewhere between the two so it sounds plain wrong. Kind of like a demented metronome that’s lost all interest in keeping time.

You might think it’s due to the large number of people all with just slightly different timings but no, because the audience weirdly does seem to sync itself quite well in this no-man’s land. That said, there are always a few anomalies. There are those that start very enthusiastically but give up half way ; those that feel the need to speed up half way through and those that clap furiously on ‘every’ beat – whether they exist or not – like some supercharged 4:4 regardless of the time signature or tempo.

Now I’m not a drummer and to be honest struggled for a while learning to program drum patterns. A mate suggested that I should think like a drummer. By this he meant you’ve only got two arms and two legs so there’s only so much you can play at once and you just don’t play at a perfectly consistent volume. This helps your patterns to sound more natural and he was keen to stress this should apply to all styles of music. If you listen carefully you’ll also hear different sounds and emphasis on different beats.

And that maybe part of the problem. The audience is focusing on the 1 and 3 beats which are typically the downbeats. If they focused instead on the 2 and 4 beats – the upbeats where the snare is typically – it might not sound so boring or sterile.

And to be honest that’s what I’ve always done now I think about it, syncopate on the 2 and 4 beats with a double backbeat effect on the 4 if you’re really lucky. Usually I can’t concentrate enough for all the above reasons. Of course everyone looks at you like you’re some kind of lunatic.

And so here’s my conclusion. The audience tries to focus on the 1 and 3 beats but like those early digital synths that still had analogue timing circuits their timing wanders all over the place. They’re not on the upbeat or the downbeat so must be considered deadbeats. And they need drumming lessons, urgently.

I’m acutely aware this is starting to sound like a rant so I’m not entirely convinced I’ve arrived at an objective conclusion. I would therefore be very grateful for your comments, suggestions or alternative conclusions.

Review of Rusticity – Call and Response album on Mobius Spin (mbsspn014) — March 13, 2015

Review of Rusticity – Call and Response album on Mobius Spin (mbsspn014)

Rusticity happened to come to life in October 2014, Nystada and 3dtorus spent an afternoon together in Nystada´s studio hanging around, lazily trying out some dub creations, had few coffees and finally came to the point (which occasionaly happens to befriended musicians) where they were told by the energy of music to collaborate.

3dtorus then packed up a whole lot of sampled material from Nystada´s “Uneasy Listening Sessions”, all Microbrute sounds. Back at home in the lofreqlab he did like he was told and spun music around them, some rehearsals later “Call And Response” was finished.

The EP has quite a sparse minimal feel with an industrial feel at times with a hint of dubstep in some of the percussion rhythms. The percussive sounds are excellent and layered to great effect to create complex rhythms which really hold your attention. The choice of synth sounds and sound effects is also excellent, they compliment each other really well and are used to great effect.

Sliced Rust Great percussive sounds which create an excellent rhythm, great layering. I really like the dub delay type effects, this really adds to the sound. Great bass sounds in the middle of the song where percussion is more sparse before building the rhythm again.

Mister Birdy Great percussive sounds again which build an intricate rhythm. The song also has great bass sounds and layered effects. Great pad / synth sound which creates an excellent texture and quite a mesmerising sound.

Misses Cage Great sounds to open the song which again has intricate layered percussion. A great lead line from what sounds like a circuit bent synth helps create a great rhythm. Great variations in rhythms and the song had some excellent sounds which compliment each other really well.

Bruised, Unbroken Great bass sound to open with, creates an ominous feel with the percussion which again is excellently layered and quite sparse to begin with, gradually building a more complex rhythm. The pad / synth sound is quite subtle and combined with the sound effects and percussion creates a great texture.

Rusticity Anthem (Bonus) Sparse percussion to open against a background synth sound. The song builds really well with other sound effects excellently layered as a more complex rhythm develops whilst maintaining a minimal feel. Great bitcrushed sounds and subtle use of filter effects. The song builds a great tension as the tempo increases and releases it really well through delay.

 

Nystada on twitter
3dtorus on twitter
Mobius Spin on twitter

Review of Morpion – B_ss Tr_p EP on Mobius Spin (mbsspn13) — March 12, 2015

Review of Morpion – B_ss Tr_p EP on Mobius Spin (mbsspn13)

 

Morpion on twitter
Mobius Spin on twitter

This is an excellent EP, it is really well crafted with a lot of attention to individual sounds and layering of these to create complex rhythms. Some of these give an industrial type of sound, there are also glitch elements and a hint of 2 step in some of the rhythms too. The bass and lead sounds are equally well crafted and used to similar great effect.

Bass Drop This song has a brilliant drone to open with, a really nice ambient soundscape. The percussion then changes the feel of the song, an excellently layered rhythm with great use of glitch sounds and just a hint of 2 step. The bass is deep and creates a great vibe. The song ends with a really good glitchy feel.

Bass Trip Opens with a great sound and again excellently layered percussive sounds. There’s an excellent glitchy feel to the song, it has really well layered sound effects against the melody. There’s an old school house feel to the lead chords too.

Boss Trap There’s a dirty dubstep type of bass to open the song accompanied by swirling background sounds. Great layered percussion again. It’s quite edgy with a really nice change in feel using a drone before returning to the edgy sound with another great rhythm.

Review of Rainer Straschill – Oscillator Theory EP on Mobius Spin (mbsspn16) — March 10, 2015

Review of Rainer Straschill – Oscillator Theory EP on Mobius Spin (mbsspn16)

 

Straschill on twitter
Mobius Spin on twitter

There is a very well chosen collection of songs on this EP from a hypnotic ambient soundscape, to a drum machine improvisation and an evolving minimal song. That said, the songs are not limited or defined by these definitions, there’s a great fusion or blending of contrasting elements of different styles which really grab your attention. Each song has a great selection of sounds that are really well layered to create a darker edge at times.

Schumann Resonance Schumann Resonance is basically the frequency of the earth which is 7.83Hz or thereabouts. And this song is a great example of blending of styles and ingenuity of this EP. Normally such a song would effectively be a drone with little variation but in this case there’s a great soundscape to this song, a brilliant evolving ambience with some really well layered sound effects and great synth sounds. It’s a really hypnotic song and I hear some new sounds in each listen. Just make sure you listen right to the end, it has a sort of encore.

Impatt NDR This song is then a complete contrast to the first song, it is quite uptempo and edgy. It sounds like a drum machine (an angry one, having a bad day) playing a solo accompanied by a really gritty bassline and intense melody line.

Wien Bridge This song has an ominous opening, a drone with hi hat which leads into a driving rhythm with a sparse lead. The song evolves gradually with great changes in rhythm and feel through the song which to me has a minimal feel and a darker edge at times too.

Review of Nail album by Isotherme — March 9, 2015

Review of Nail album by Isotherme

 

Isotherme on twitter

The initial idea for Nail was inspired by a visit to the Opus 40 Sculpture Park in Saugerties, NY in May 2014. Opus 40 is a sculpture garden park created by sculptor and stone artist Harvey Fite, who dedicated 37 years to its creation, dying prior to the 40 years he imagined it would take to complete (thus the name) . Here, Harvey constructed a labyrinth of stone and sculpture, mostly using basic hand and traditional quarry tools. The park includes a barn museum, where many old tools have been preserved and are displayed. One such display boasts a large circle of nails: old-fashioned, raw, rusty, but also very intriguing in juxtaposition. Seeing Harvey’s nails set me off pondering the nails in our lives. What things pierce us, and what things hold us together?

It clearly was a great source of inspiration because this is an outstanding album. The sounds have been excellently crafted and used to create excellent soundscapes through great layering. There’s some great glitchy elements too, solid percussion and many of the songs have a nice build and release of tension.

Nail 1 A great opening song, strings create a great ambience with the background conversation. The bass acts as a drone and creates a nice tension. The spoken poem gives a great dimension and the spoken background vocals work really well, adding to the feel of the song.

Angels in Black and White A great rhythm to open the song accompanied by glitchy sounds. An acid type bassline and great synth sound propel the song which has really nice changes in feel and excellent layering and maintains a great momentum.

And Bathed in Citrus Cinematic pad sounds with vocal fragments in the background to open leads to an electric piano lead. It’s a great soundscape, building and releasing tension really nicely. Some great Spanish sounding guitar too.

Static Query A really nice arp riff with choral backing to open the song and a vinyl effect to give a nice edge. The song develops a great glitchy rhythm which propels the song really well and builds and resolves tension really well too.

Nail 2 Great synth sound to open with and a nice glitchy effect too. Percussion is sparse, the song builds slowly with excellent layering. Great sound effects change the feel of the song and there’s a great tension between these sounds and the string type of sound.

Increase the Separation Opens with a string type of sound against a drone and also has a glitch type vinyl effect. Again it’s a great soundscape with really nice build and release of tension. The bassline and percussion add momentum and the piano creates a nice change of feel. Again there is great layering of sounds.

Last Sliver of Sunset Another cinematic soundscape opening which creates a great ambience which slowly evolves with some great background sounds and effects. The song creates a great tension at times.

Nail 3 This song has a shimmery opening with an almost theremin type of sound and glitched out bells. The rhythm gives momentum and the spoken poem again gives a great dimension. Another great soundscape.

A Simple Light This song has a great piano opening against a background drone. Percussion really gives momentum and there’s a solid synth sound that adds a melody. There are really nice changes in feel to the song.