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The girl with the long flowing hair – how I made an album using a drawing by Laura Woermke — March 31, 2016

The girl with the long flowing hair – how I made an album using a drawing by Laura Woermke

Laura Woermke is a talented artist, she’s also the curator of St Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre, St Thomas, Ontario. You can find out more about Laura’s artwork on her facebook  and twitter pages. I’m very grateful that Laura has allowed me to use a piece of her artwork in this way and very generously has also allowed the artwork to form the cover of the album. It seemed appropriate in these circumstances to release the album under a creative commons licence and I’m delighted that the album has been released on the Fwonk netlabel.

I’m really drawn to Laura’s artwork and wondered whether I could create an EP using a drawing as the only source of sound. I have done this process before using a photo and creating a song titled ‘Grand Central’. However, since I’ve been using Hollyhock II as my main DAW I’ve thought for a while that a number of the manipulation tools would lend themselves very well to this task and so put it to the test.

Virtual ANS is a software simulator of the unique Russian synthesizer ANS – photoelectronic microtonal/spectral musical instrument created by Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin from 1938 to 1958. Murzin named his invention in honour of the composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin. It is available for Windows, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS. More information can be found on the developer’s website.

You can convert sound to image (sonogram) or vice versa including loading image files into the program. Ink drawings lend themselves very well to conversion in virtual ANS. Dark areas of an image don’t produce sound whereas light areas do meaning that you often need to tweak the image contrast and/or brightness or in this case invert the image to produce sound in the desired way.


The title ‘The girl with the long flowing hair’ leapt out at me straight away as I looked at the drawing. A lot of my work considers perspective such as a bystander looking in or considering a situation from a different point of view. There is a certain mystery to the drawing, a sadness or solemness almost. You start to wonder who she is, if some people will recognise or know her and then also realise that some people won’t even notice her at all.

Once the sound file was created in virtual ANS it was subject to simple processing such as cutting into smaller pieces and reversing in preparation for manipulation in Usine Hollyhock II DAW. A number of manipulation processes were used within Hollyhock II including granulation, looping, creating generative rhythms, creating textures / drones and some generative rhythms were also created in Cataract by Glitchmachines. A number of effects such as bitcrusher, delay, reverb and filters were used in different combinations.


Creating an EP with 2 or 3 songs from the original sound source was my initial aim but even with all the available manipulation tools and effects at my disposal it’s quite a challenge because elements such as percussion, basslines and synths that would normally be included to give variation in the sound quality and timbre wouldn’t be available.

I also knew that a number of the processes wouldn’t layer well together so separated them out into groups which complimented or in some instances contrasted with each other. This meant there were potentially a large number of songs I could create and so the idea to create an album took hold. I did use a short vocal sample at the end of the third track, it’s like thinking out loud. I also recorded a reading but decided not to use it because it didn’t fit with the theme once the album started to take shape.

I have previously reviewed Hollyhock II DAW and since that review I’ve continued to use it for all of my projects, learning to use new features along the way. It is ideal for this type of project, once you’ve set up your workspace you record the performance live. Hollyhock II allows the use of automation through curves or more randomly with physics engines as well as modifying parameters and controls live as you are recording – with no loss or degradation to the sound quality. A big benefit of the workflow is that you can create subtle variations or complete contrasts very easily by changing settings and then recording another version. Many of the songs on this album have adjustments to the effects, processes or have samples triggered during recording of the song. Automation of some other effects was also used to give variation in sound and texture and hence a key part of the album is the creation of variations on a theme and also the creation of unique performances.

One of the tools I used is called U-Drone and is shown in the picture above. You load a single sample and then play it back by selecting the circles which represent notes across 6 octaves. This can create excellent bass drones, great textures and some unusual sound effects when the sample is played at much higher or lower note values than it was recorded at. By playing the notes in this way live as you record you create unique textures. Automation of grain sampler settings (shown below) is a great way to get controlled movement in your sounds and for more random sounds I used randomisation for the groove slicer tool (also shown below).


There are aspects of avant garde and Electronisch Musique to this album which has ambient, drone and experimental qualities. The process for creating the songs feels analogous to a deconstruction of the self and examination of its elemental parts such as personality, ego, desire, cognition. Like fleeting memories, drifting thoughts and internal conflict this album explores many perspectives on the girl with the long flowing hair.

Review of Cryogen VST by Glitchmachines — March 30, 2016

Review of Cryogen VST by Glitchmachines

Cryogen is a modular effects buffer processor designed to generate robotic artifacts and abstract musical mutations. It is priced at $39 and is available from Glitchmachines website.

The core effects are dual buffer, dual filter and dual bitcrusher. Cryogen has about 140 presets, most of which are excellent and make it ready to use straight away. I started using Cryogen in this way, exploring some of these great presets. I’ve found it works really well on drum beats as well as vocals and synth sounds, in fact it will happily process whatever sounds you want it to process.

Whilst this approach is fine, the downside of this means that you miss its real potential. This is because where Cryogen really excels is that it’s a fully modular effect featuring open ended signal routing and extensive modulation options including 4 LFOs which have rate multipliers enabling you to use them as audio generators; 4 mixers; the ability for incoming audio to modulate parameters and mod multipliers which can combine modulation and audio signals so you can create your own effects from very subtle to extensive modulations. And this is what I really like the more I use and experiment with Cryogen, sometimes a subtle effect will give unexpected artifacts and the extreme modulations can convert a fairly plain sound into something crazy.


I really like the layout of the UI, it has a clean modern look which is easy to navigate and typical of what we see from Glitchmachines. It’s also colour coded with blue representing signal path 1; green representing signal path 2; yellow representing modulation parameters and fuscia representing modulation assignments / depth.

The default signal path is parallel processing from left to right converging at the mixer before going to the master output and this is recommended to get you started. The modulation matrix is accessed by a button in the bottom right and allows you to change the audio signal path as well as assign modulations. This features a very easy to use drag and drop system where you simply drag and drop the required modulating parameter and then you can set the depth in percent.


The modular nature means that you can re-route the signal how you see fit for instance use the buffers in series rather than parallel, change the order of effects or create complex LFO modulations. You really can do pretty much whatever you want which makes it such a great effect to use.

On the main screen below each parameter are 2 boxes showing modulation assignment and modulation depth parameters. Modulation is as simple as a drag and drop of the module header to the required modulation assignment box on this screen too – you don’t necessarily need to visit the mod matrix.

The main effects in Cryogen are the buffers which loop a small portion of the input with a size control which is the length of loop; repeats control which is the number of repetitions before sampling a new part and rate which controls the speed and direction of playback.

The filters have a morphable mode featuring low pass, band pass, high pass and notch filters with cut-off and resonance controls.

The crusher has bit depth from 16 to 1 bit; sample rate 1:64 and mix controls.

The LFO has wave and rate controls which can be synced to your host clock for beat divisions. The x100 parameter makes the LFO audible but must be unsynced. The outputs can also be mixed at the mixer section including audio rates to create complex modulation. There are 4 LFOs in total.

The mixers allow combination and mixing of different sources, there are 2 dropdowns listing all possible sources and there are 4 mixers in total.

The multipliers can convolve audio or modulation parameters. Again you choose the required signals from the dropdown list.

I’ve created a demo track embedded at the top of this post using a simple drum beat, keys and vocal loops with varying factory presets and a couple that I’ve created myself to give some examples of the types of sounds it can produce. I’ve also used Hollyhock’s seq glitcher a couple of times which gives the filter type effect.

You can also hear it in use on a couple of songs from my recent ‘Tech Explorations’ album :-


The 2ube Xtra online festival returns on 13th April 2016 — March 24, 2016

The 2ube Xtra online festival returns on 13th April 2016

Highlights from one of last year’s festival performances

I’m delighted to say that Liverpool’s first and only independent online music festival The 2ubeXtra returns on 13th April 2016. Once again, The 2ube are building up to this year’s festival by staging weekly 2ube Live shows every Friday night, but 2016 has brought an exciting new development… For the first time ever, The 2ube Live will be broadcast each week on Liverpool’s Bay TV. The weekly show on Bay TV consists of past highlights from 2ube Live events punctuated by live shows, the latest of which took place on Friday 18th of March. This event was also broadcast by TV stations NVTV in Belfast and Latest TV in Brighton as well as streamed around the world via YouTube between 5pm and 7pm.

This unique proposition places new music at the top of it’s agenda, highlighting the diversity and talent of the UK’s music scene, showcasing some of the UK’s hottest breakthrough acts and featuring interviews and exclusive performances from special guests.

The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) is a specialist university level institution for performers and those who make performance possible.

Co-founded in 1996 by Lead Patron Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty RNOM OBE (LIPA’s Principal), it is housed in McCartney’s old school which underwent a multi-million pound renovation to transform it into a state-of-the-art performing arts higher education institution. LIPA is an acknowledged as part of the UK’s higher education provision for the performing arts and provides learning for the main skills needed for putting on a show, uniquely blending specialist and generic skills.

The 2ube Live takes place every Friday inside Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and presents some of the best new music from within the institution and across the local scene, as well as playing host to some of the UK’s hottest breakthrough acts. Each month The 2ube Live is streamed live to a worldwide online audience showcasing band’s sets and featuring interviews and exclusive performances from special guests.

This year’s line up has recently been announced as follows (all times GMT):
13th April 2016, Wednesday – 17:00 – 21:00

14th April 2016, Thursday – 17:00 – 21:00

15th April 2016, Friday – 17:00 – 21:00

18th April 2016, Monday – 17:00 – 21:00

19th April 2016, Tuesday – 17:00 – 21:00

20th April 2016, Wednesday – 17:00 – 21:00

21st April 2016, Thursday – 17:00 – 21:00

22nd April 2016, Friday – 17:00 – 21:00

LIPA website

The 2ube Xtra on facebook
The 2ube Xtra on twitter

The 2ube Xtra on youtube
The 2ube Xtra on facebook
The 2ube Xtra on twitter

Bay TV website
NVTV website
Latest TV website

Review of ‘Monographic’ album by The Oscillation on Hands in the Dark records — March 22, 2016

Review of ‘Monographic’ album by The Oscillation on Hands in the Dark records

Monographic is the follow up to Beyond The Mirror, a compilation of rare and unreleased tracks which I’ve previously reviewed here. Monographic was self recorded in London over the Summer of 2015 and features seven brand new tracks including the forthcoming single ‘Truth in Reverse’. It has been released on limited edition vinyl, CD and digital download, the latter two formats having three bonus tracks: ‘Alignment Zone’ (extended), ‘Lonely People’ (ambient) and ‘The End Of Conscious Thought’.

It is available from Hands in the Dark Records, The Oscillation’s Bandcamp page and also from Captcha Records for US Customers.

Essentially the project of multi-instrumentalist and producer Demian Castellanos, The Oscillation was formed in London in 2006 with the release of the debut seven-inch and Rough Trade Records ‘single of the week’; ‘New Way To Feel’ on Bee And Smoke records. Drawing inspiration from The Cure, Loop, Can, The Durutti Column, PIL, Spacemen 3, Popol Vuh and Chrome, they’ve since gone on to release three critically acclaimed studio albums; ‘Out Of Phase’ (2007), ‘Veils’ (2011) and ‘From Tomorrow’ (2013). Over the last few years The Oscillation have also appeared on several highly rated compilation albums and provided remixes for the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Telepathe, Nick Nicely and most recently the Fat White Family.

Monographic is an outstanding release which really highlights the talents of The Oscillation. There’s a great vibe to the album which features 9 excellent songs. These are definitely much greater than the sum of their parts, as well as the playing and vocals, the arrangement and production are similarly excellent. There’s some excellent grooves, fuzzed out pysch and a great ambience at times too.

Excellent opening riff with swirling haunting background sounds, the song has a great momentum from solid drumming and bass. The vocals have a spoken style and a great attitude. There’s a great groove to the song which contrasts really well against the layered background sounds. There are really nice changes in feel and a great psychedelic vibe.

Take us to the Moon
I really like the use of wah on the opening of the song, there’s a great distorted toned guitar too. Drumming provides a solid momentum and there’s some excellent synth sounds. Another psychedelic song with an uptempo vibe and a really good change in feel. There’s excellent layered sounds using delay and feedback again too.

Let it be the End
A great soundscape, there’s an excellent ambience to this song with a great contrasting edge from really well layered drone type sounds and sound effects. The vocals are superb, they have an ethereal or ghostly presence at times.

Truth In Reverse
A feedback like sound to open, the drumming and bass create an excellent groove accompanied by a riff which has a hypnotic looping quality. The vocals sit slightly behind the beat, have a laidback feel and are processed really well. The song has great hypnotic qualities with an edge from well layered feedback and distorted sounds.

Another Attack
An uptempo song with great opening riff and feedback, the drumming and bass provide an excellent momentum. The vocals have a great presence and there’s an urgency to the song which has a great change to a more laid back vibe leading to a solo and some really nice feedback to end the song.

Lonely People
There’s a great tension to the opening of this song leading into excellent vocals again. The drumming and bass gives a great momentum whilst maintaining a laid back feel. Distorted guitar riffs weave in and out of the verses building tension really well. There’s an excellent solo too which builds tension to a final release.

Alignment Zone
Another great soundscape to open with synth, feedback and delayed sounds. The song evolves a great ambience, developing more of a noise / drone feel before drums and bass enter to give an excellent change of feel. The vocals are sparse and I really like how they sit more in the background. There’s also some really good feedback and delay effects and there’s a great release of built up tension to end the song.

Lonely People (Drone Mix)
Great opening to this version of the song, a really nice tension from feedback / distortion sounds. There’s great use of tremelo, the layering creates a real simmering quality. The vocals offer a great soothing contrast to the harsher elements, tension builds excellently and there’s a great contrast between hypnotic and noise/drone elements.

The End of Conscious Thought
A great ambient soundscape, there’s a great edge of tension to the song and great movement in the sounds used. The song evolves really well.

The Oscillation have also embarked on several dates in the UK and Europe with a band line up that sees Demian Castellanos (guitar/vocals) and Valentina Magaletti (drums) joined by Tom Relleen (bass) and Cathy Lucas (keys). The dates have recently been expanded to include more UK dates:

22 Mar 2016 DE Berlin Bassy
23 Mar 2016 CZ Prague 007
24 Mar 2016 HU Budapest Dürer Kert
25 Mar 2016 AT Vienna Rhiz
26 Mar 2016 AT Innsbruck PMK
27 Mar 2016 FR Strasbourg No Smoking
02 Apr 2016 FR Lille PZZLE #2 à la Maison Folie de Moulins w/ Tomaga, Zombie Zombie
08 Apr 2016 DE Cologne King Georg
09 Apr 2016 CH Luzern Treibhaus
11 Apr 2016 CH Zurich Boschbar
12 Apr 2016 CH Winterhur Kraftfeld
13 Apr 2016 CH Dudigen Bad Bonn
14 Apr 2016 CH Lausanne Le Bourg
29 Apr 2016 UK Nottingham The Lofthouse
30 Apr 2016 UK Manchester Gullivers
21 May 2016 FR Chateaulin Sonore Festival – Run ar Puns
04 Jun 2016 UK Todmorden The Golden Lion
10 Jun 2016 NL Eindhoven Psych Lab
14 Aug 2016 BE Geel Yellowstock Festival w/ Michael Rother

The Oscillation on twitter
The Oscillation on facebook

Review of Erleen Nada – Songs from the Other Side of Infinity album — March 15, 2016

Review of Erleen Nada – Songs from the Other Side of Infinity album

Erleen Nada is a singer/songwriter based out of Los Angeles, California. She’s performed with such musicians as Jello Biafra (formally of the Dead Kennedys), and The Egyptian Lover, and continues to perform around the world.

This album has a great vibe. I really like the way it defies genres and typical conventions. There’s a kind of 80s feel from the drum patterns, bass and synth sounds but some great contrasting elements and layered sounds. There’s psychedelic and avant-garde too which makes defining the style of a particular song really difficult. The vocals are typically spoken, often with great attitude, sarcasm and flippancy / irreverence at times and are always really well processed.

The production is excellent, it’s not over-complicated and it’s not too polished which means the album retains a great edge.

Psychic Uterus
A great 80s feel to this song which has an industrial vibe at times, there’s really good layering of sounds with some great synth sounds and background sounds too. The vocals are excellent.

Psychedelic Spaceship
Great dirty bass to open, drumming gives a great momentum. Brilliant use of delay and panning on the vocals. There are some great background sounds and the song has a great vibe.

The song has a great percussive rhythm and background sounds to open, really good vocals again.

Dance Music For Russian Spies
A great synth arp and bass to open, the vocals have a more spoken style with great use of delay. There are some great background sounds too. An excellent arrangement with really good layering of sounds.

Cosmic Trigger
This song has a 4:4 drum pattern and bassline leading into a great brass sounding riff and synth sound with background sounds which provide a great contrast. Vocals are spoken again and processed really well. The song has a kind of industrial vibe.

Drop Your Pants
An urgent sounding drum pattern and bassline to open, the song has great background sounds and a spoken vocal style with great attitude. I really like the delayed vocals too. The song has a great edge of tension.

A great atmospheric opening and synth lead sound with really good layering of sounds. The song has a great edge of tension. I really like the ephemeral feel from the use of processed vocal snippets.

Peachy Keen
Great drumming pattern and bassline to open, a really nice synth arp too. There’s really good use of harmonised vocals and fantastic attitude and sarcasm in the vocals.

Cowbell Song
Some great acid type sounds to open, the vocals are spoken and the song has quite a hypnotic sound. Really good processing of vocals again and a driving drum pattern too.

Sand in Japan
Great drum pattern and use of vocals to open the song, quite a trippy sound from the layering of vocal elements and use of delay.

Mystery Bruise
Great drumming pattern, bassline and synth to open the song, again there’s great background sounds and processing of vocals. Has a kind of space feel at times.

Love City
This song opens with a great riff and has a great vibe. Vocals processed really well and great attitude again. I really like the bell type synth sound riff and the bass adds a nice tension.

Great string synth sounds and vocal harmonies to open, the song has just an edge of tension. The song has excellent background sounds and a good momentum from the drum pattern and bassline.

Radio Active Toxic Spill
This song has a brooding quality to the opening which has a style that’s really hard to pin down. Great vocals again and a really good momentum from the percussive rhythm and bass.

My Kung Fu
Great use of a film / TV quote, really good layering of bass and synth arp. I really like the drum pattern too which gives a really good momentum. Great synth sounds and layering again.

Vain Superstitions
I really like the squelchy bass that opens the song and the drum pattern gives a great momentum. The vocals are spoken and quite sultry and seductive. There’s a great edge of tension to the song and really good layering of background sounds again.

Shut the Fuk Up
An excellent drum pattern to open with synth lead and bass, the vocals are pretty much as the title, spoken with great attitude.

The song has great bass to open with a really good synth lead too. The song has an almost reggae feel at times. There’s great processing of vocals and some really good background sounds again.

A great rhythm to open, distorted guitar gives a great contrast against the synth riff. The song has a trippy feel with the combination of these contrasting elements.

Erleen Nada’s website
Erleen Nada on youtube
Erleen Nada on facebook

Review of Yellofier app — March 10, 2016

Review of Yellofier app

Sometimes when a music making app doesn’t require much knowledge of music it can be a bit gimmicky or a toy that isn’t much practical use.

This certainly isn’t the case with Yellofier, it’s an accomplished app that is easy to get the hang of, has loads of potential for creating your own songs and the export quality is very good too.

It is basically a four track recorder in which you create songs up to 100 bars long by using a 4*4 grid and coloured blocks to represent sounds and you can apply one effect from the range available to each sound.

There are 8 coloured blocks and each one represents a sound. Yellofier comes with 6 preloaded sound libraries giving 48 sounds in total. There are some pretty good bass, drum, percussion, vocal snippets, fx and synth sounds in there. These are fixed meaning you can’t mix and match between different banks nor can the sounds be altered but the good news is there are also 2 user banks you can load your own samples into.  This really expands the usability of the app allowing you to add your own style to your songs which means they shouldn’t sound too samey compared to other users.

I also really like how you can record sounds on your phone to capture a particular moment or alternatively load a wav file into the user bank.  Once loaded you can slice the file by dragging markers to the required points. A good tip here is to create a wav file with 8 sounds that you want to use and then use the markers to delineate the file into 8 separate samples. It seems to cope with a wav file of about 15 seconds, not sure what the maximum is (seems to be just under 20s) but if you exceed the maximum length it just chops the end of the file off. This tip really helps you to get the most out of a user bank.  For instance if you load a sustaining synth sound no matter how hard you try, when you slice it you’ll only get 8 versions of the same sound which is a bit of a waste.


There are also 8 effects available, one of which can be applied to each sample. From top to bottom these are higher pitch dub Delay : distortion : squelch : bassifier  : detuner : dub Delay same pitch : reverser : distortion. In fact there are more effects because each of these can be rotated to give a variation on a theme.

Creating songs is very straightforward.  The 4*4 grid acts like beats in a bar so a 4:4 rhythm can be obtained by putting a block in the first box of each row. You can add effects simply by selecting the desired effect and touching the block you want it applied to. Just make sure you haven’t changed the coloured block or the selected one will be applied instead. A little know function here is swiping up / down to change the volume shown by a lighter / darker colour and also long press then swipe up or down alters the pitch in semitones up or down. This allows you to create basslines from a single sample for instance. I do find rotating the effects quite hard to do without unintentionally changing the volume. There’s also a randomise function which is a great way to spark a few ideas, I used this quite a lot to create songs myself.  There are a good range of demo songs which will give you an idea where to place blocks if you are struggling to get the right sort of sound.


Once you’ve created a block you can copy by swiping to the bar you want to copy it to. However, BEWARE THE LONG PRESS! I’ve had to highlight this fact because if you long press you’ll delete it.  I’ve done this countless times and when it’s been a random pattern there’s no way to get it back.   To copy your pattern to a bar further along than is shown on screen you’ll need to drag to the little arrow in the gray bars at the left or right hand side of the screen to move up or down the timeline. This can be timeconsuming and a bit frustrating at times and there doesn’t appear to be a way to copy sections or more than one pattern at once.


The biggest problem I found was saving the songs. I’m not sure if it was my phone or because I was running Yellofier off my sd card but it didn’t save my songs properly even though I was meticulous at naming and saving. That’s a real shame because I created about a dozen tracks but could only retrieve about half of them.

Once you’ve finished your song you can share the song file with other Yellofier users or you can export to MP3 or export to soundcloud.

There are limitations to the app, the fact there are only 2 user sound banks and therefore a reliance on the inbuilt sounds might not suit everyone, also there is a 100 bar limit when creating songs which means the maximum length of a song is about 4 minutes depending on the tempo.

However it is very easy to get to grips with and may well provide new sources of inspiration and is definitely worth checking out.  You can create tracks very quickly with little musical knowledge, the random function is excellent for this. The sound quality of the exported MP3 files is also very good.

Despite the fact I lost a number of songs, I really enjoyed using the app and so decided to create some more to make up for those I’d lost.  Given the random nature of the app’s behaviour, I decided to use randomness as the basis for new songs using the randomise feature to create patterns for rhythms or fills / effects often using looping or repeating sections against them as a contrast. The song creation process was deliberately spontaneous with no editing and immediate export to make sure I didn’t lose the song.

This resulted in The Hesperides Sessions (released on WEATNU Records) which is embedded at the top of this blog post.  All songs were created and arranged in the android version of Yellofier on a Sony Z3 and then mastered in MuLab.