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Review of Ruby Black (and the Layabouts) Imaginary 10″ #18 on digitalDIZZY — October 27, 2016

Review of Ruby Black (and the Layabouts) Imaginary 10″ #18 on digitalDIZZY

digitalDIZZY is the 21st century incarnation of the legendarily shambolic Dizzy Positivity cassette label based in Bristol, UK and has an extremely impressive catalogue considering they’re only just approaching their second anniversary.

This album is a release featuring one of its founders, Ruby Black. There’s a great tension to this album, some excellent harsh sounds often contrasting with softer sounds and layered background sounds / percussion. I really like how the arrangements and production are controlled and give each sound space to grow and evolve.

A vinyl type noise to this track which is a great introduction to the album.

Underground shakedown
This song has a Vocoder type of sound to open which pulses and is layered against background sounds.

Pessoa in the margin(s)
A harsh drone type sound to the opening with a sound like radio static in the background. A synth sound adds an ambience which has great movement and kind of ebbs and flows between a more ambient and harsher sound.

Derelict air
This song has a haunting quality to the opening, a swirling synth sound and contrasting noise type of drone. There’s great movement in the sound with a great edge of tension at times.

Punchcard dub
Opening with emerging background and percussion sounds, this creates a great atmosphere with some excellent dub type sound effects too. The subtle drone elements and a sparse piano add great contrasts.

This has a drone type quality to open with a subtly used string sound which has great movement. A nice contrast against the background sounds too.

Cultural artefacts as socially symbolic acts
Great field recording to open with slowly emerging high pitch drone, there’s great movement in the sound with some excellently layered background sounds. It’s quite trippy at times.

Inside the outsider
An excellent edgy glitchy sound to open, there’s an emerging rhythm from great use of delay. Really well layered sounds, some are quite subtle which gives a great depth.

We all fall down
A great way to end the album, it sounds like a recording outside whilst tidying a table. A field recording with percussive sounds.

digitalDIZZY on soundcloud | facebook | twitter | discogs

Review of Incipit creative delay toolbox VST by Inear Display — October 24, 2016

Review of Incipit creative delay toolbox VST by Inear Display

Incipit is a delay plugin effect which can be used as a conventional delay but is really geared towards experimentation and sound design. At its core, Incipit comprises of 3 effect layers each of which has a pitch shifter, delay and amp controls. These can be routed in parallel or series and there’s a multimode filter that can be applied to their output.

The real creativity and power of Incipit comes from the 4 LFOs and 3 macro modulators that can be applied to the audio signal. The modulation sources can be mapped to most of the effect parameters in complex ways where they can be combined and cross-modulated.

Incipit comes bundled with more than 70 presets with template presets in the root folder and there are 3 subfolders titled dubs (echo effect patches); manglers (mutate and destroy the input signal); tones (add overtones, turn into textures).  A number of these are excellent and can be used ‘as is’ or as a basis for further modulation or variation.  There’s also a handy randomiser module which can give useful and sometimes unusual starting points.

The interface has two main views, the control panel and the modulation matrix panel and you switch between them using a button located in the top right corner.

The 3 effects chains are displayed at the top of the control panel screen:


The output module, preset, oscilloscope and randomiser module are displayed in the middle on the control panel screen:


The LFOs and modulation scale control / macro modulators are displayed at the bottom of the control panel screen:


Each of the 3 effects chains has the set order of pitch shifter, delay and amp sections.  

The pitch shifter is geared towards creation of interesting timbres and artifacts rather than a high fidelity transposed signal.  There are controls for pitch (-24 to +24), grain size, feedback and mix.

The delay can be used with a sync timing or set in milliseconds and has a ‘wide’ toggle which alternates between a regular delay and ping-pong mode.  There are also feedback and mix controls.

The amp section has level and pan controls which can be left, central or right.  It can also be turned off (bypassed) which is recommended when not in use rather than lowering the output.  On the left of the bypass switch on chains 2 and 3 is a switch for parallel processing which is the default or serial which routes the output of the previous chain to the input of the current chain.  It is also possible to combine parallel and serial processing.  There’s also a very handy option to copy/paste settings from one effects chain to another.

The output section sums the output from the 3 effects chains and processes them with a multimode filter before mixing with the original signal.  The filter has the 4 usual modes of low pass, high pass, band pass and notch with cut-off and resonance settings.  The output amplitude is displayed in the top right corner and can be altered up and down as if it were a regular slider and this only impacts the wet portion of the dry/wet mix.  There is a dry/wet parameter in the output module which mixes between the input and processed signal.

The modulation matrix looks like a beast but it’s easy to get the hang of when you start using it, I’ve probably made it sound more complex than it is in my explanation.


It contains all of the parameters that can be modulated and these modulations are applied at audio rate but to limit CPU usage only those modulations in use are calculated.  The modulation signal consists of the sum of each source’s current output scaled by the corresponding modulation matrix depth control.  These are bipolar i.e. negative to the left and positive to the right which means that when the depth is in the negative range the modulator output will be inverted and will act on the same range.  This means in practice you can alternate between delay and pitch shift effects rather than layer them by using a square LFO as the modulator on both effects and using the negative range on one and positive range on the other.

The global scale parameter determines how much the modulated signal is scaled and then there’s a final scaling by the global modulation depth parameter which is the mod scale knob in the bottom left of the control panel.

There are two types of modulators, LFOs and macros.  Both of these are set from the main control panel but must be assigned in the modulation matrix.

The macros are the 3 knobs at the bottom of the control panel labelled 1, 2 and 3.  Once routed to a target in the modulation matrix, the knobs off-set the value of the target parameters by the amount specified in the modulation matrix.  They are available as modulation targets themselves so can be modulated with one or several LFOs.

The LFOs are colour coded yellow and located at the bottom of the main control panel.  They all have 7 wave shapes – sine, square, saw up, saw down, triangle,  sample and hold, smooth random – with an optional 20+Hz toggle which gives access to a wider range of frequencies and can give audible artifacts, FM tones for example.

The randomizer has 4 buttons which correspond to the sections that can be randomised and a knob which determines the amount of modulation applied when you click one of the buttons.  There are buttons for LFO, effects, matrix and all which is the equivalent of the other 3 at the same time.

There’s also a config menu which has a range of options including undo/redo, scale display, initialise etc.  Incipit also has midi cc learning and midi program changes.

Incipit really excels at producing some unusual delay effects so it is ideally suited for experimentation and is equally capable of producing subtle or extreme effects.  So whilst you can use it as a conventional delay you’re really missing the point. As with a lot of effects, the results are very dependent on the input signal so you’ll get different results whether you use percussive or string sounds, for example.

The presets give you a really good range of sounds, I especially like the dub and tones ones.  I’ve used a few of the presets on a simple drum loop and Incipit creates some excellent rhythmic effects and implied basslines.  On this demo track I’ve used bipolar echo and squirrel exorcism (dubs)  Impersonating and skank_feeder (tones) then the plain loop with no effects followed by clown wars (manglers).

I’ve also created a demo track titled ‘Guilty Little Secrets’ using 4 instances of Incipit on keys, background sounds, drums, vocal samples and bass drone which is embedded at the top of this post. I’ve also used Dirty Delay by Metric Halo on the spoken vocals.

Incipit is available from Inear Display for 39 euros + VAT.

Inear Display website | twitter | facebook

Review of Ephemere VST by Inear Display — October 17, 2016

Review of Ephemere VST by Inear Display

Ephemere is a glitch percussion synth by Inear Display which has 12 sound generation engines assigned to each note of an octave. Sounds are generated using FM synthesis with a multi-mode filter and 2 envelope generators and there are also extensive randomisation options.

The UI has a clean look and is designed to be easily accessible and they have definitely achieved this. The top half displays the synthesis settings for one sound with a mixer below for balancing sounds and selecting which one you want to edit. Below this are several global functions to allow quick edits.

The synthesis engine has one engine per sound and one sound per note type. Only one engine is displayed at a time and you click on the background of the desired mixer to display the sound to be edited. In practice this is very straightforward, I’m sure the description makes it sound more complicated.

Ephemere comes with a number of preset kits which can be loaded from the blue bar at the bottom of the display. It also has about 160 factory sounds presets which can be used as is or edited to suit. The preset kits sound great and have different sound characteristics which would suit different styles.

Randomisation is set through the RND button in the top right corner. The knob immediately to the right sets the amount of randomisation which can be used to vary the sound a little or a lot. Additionally, most of the synthesis engine controls have a small slider underneath which allows you to set their randomisation range. These are ‘bipolar’ so you can have a negative value to the left and positive value to the right. In practice this means if your parameter has a value of 25, a negative value setting means the randomisation value will be less than or equal to 25 to the minimum value; a positive randomisation value means the randomisation value will be greater than or equal to 25 up to the maximum value.

FM synthesis is used to generate tones. This is deceptively simple having only 4 controls but being capable of producing a very wide range of sounds. In essence there are 2 sinusoidal oscillators, a carrier and a modulator. As you increase the FM value, the modulator acts as a modulation source for the carrier oscillator frequency. The more FM you apply, the more metallic and noisy the sound will get. The final feed control adjusts the level of oscillator output sent back to the carrier to use as an additional frequency modulator. Adjustment of this value is highly dependent on the other 3 controls.

The filter has 4 modes – low pass, high pass, band pass and notch with cut-off and resonance settings. You can use one of the 2 envelope generators to modulate the cut-off frequency. This is the A (ENV) P control which is bipolar and as it’s name suggests in an anti-clockwise position makes the envelope impact the cut-off frequency whilst turning it clockwise will make the pitch envelope impact the cut-off frequency.

The pitch envelope only has a release stage. The attack stage is instantaneous meaning the envelope directly fades out when triggered and it also has a looping option.

The amplitude envelope has attack and release times as well as attack and release curves.

The output module has drive, random velocity and trigger probability which determines the probability for a sound to be triggered. There’s also a velocity track option which enables sound amplitude to be dependent on input midi velocity.

The mixer view is where you select a sound for further editing and you also have amp, pan, mute and solo settings.

The global functions have randomisation settings; copy/paste functionality; resetting mute/solo settings; options to route to main stereo output or each mixer to a separate channel if your DAW supports this. There’s also an amplitude setting for the final output.

The config menu has a number of options for undo/redo; random seed; directory settings plus others.

I really like the preset kits, there are some great sounds from glitchy to industrial to more melodic and you can mix and match sounds as you want to. It’s pretty much ready to go straight away.

Creating your own sounds is easy too. There’s great scope for a wide range of clicks, dings, thuds, impacts even reversed or side-chained sounds to squelchy LFO type sounds.

An important point to note is that you need to control it via midi, there isn’t a built in sequencer as such. You can of course use a standard midi piano roll but in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II DAW which I use there are a number of modules and add-ons that can give you great variety and control and really bring the best out of Ephemere. I really like the depth of sound and control that it offers.  Randomisation is a great way to add subtle or more extreme variation into your patterns and you can easily create simple to complex patterns with midi sequencers or controllers. 


For example, Tremoresque is an add-on produced by drakh on the Sensomusic user forums. It is based on FX Pansion Tremor and is an 8 track 16 step sequencer with probability and velocity controls. There are randomisation options too to give an excellent starting point. This track uses only Ephemere and also A1 trigger gate at times.  It starts with the leftfield kit then I’ve used A1 trigger gate. I’ve then used the clicking kit, then the glitch kit and applied A1 trigger gate.



Hollyhock also has an excellent advanced midi sequencer add-on which has 32 steps, with sequence, velocity, length and probability settings plus a few other controls. This track again uses only Ephemere and A1 trigger gate at times.  It starts with the digits kit then A1 trance gate; technoid kit then A1 trance gate and then the  industrial kit.

To give an example of Ephemere in a full song, the one embedded at the top of the post is an alternative take of a song which will appear on an upcoming EP – The Kalipheno Trilogy Part Two which also features sounds from a pack which will be entered into the KVR Developers Challenge 2016 and also uses the Frostbite VST by Audiothing which I’ve reviewed separately.

Ephemere is available from Inear Display for 49 euros + VAT.

Inear Display website | twitter | facebook

Review of Frostbite VST by Audiothing — October 14, 2016

Review of Frostbite VST by Audiothing

Frostbite is a multi-effect plugin featuring ring modulator, feedback (delay) and freeze modules. What’s great about Frostbite is the range of sounds you can get from it but also the differences you get with different input sounds. For instance, you can create a preset using a certain type of input sound to give a particular result but when you change the input sound, Frostbite can give unexpected results. String sounds seem to work better with soundscape type sounds whereas metallic effects work well on one-shot or percussive sounds but certainly don’t be afraid to experiment, it’s often the unexpected results that give you some great sounds.

There are 6 different signal paths selectable with the signal chain A to F buttons. These give all the possible combinations:
Ring mod – Freeze – Feedback
Ring mod – Feedback – Freeze
Feedback – Ring mod – Freeze
Feedback – Freeze – Ring mod
Freeze – Feedback – Ring mod
Freeze – Ring mod – Feedback

Each of these are also switchable on and off as required. There is also a limiter which is a hard clipper at 0dB, dry / wet controls and an excellent random option which randomises all parameters.

The ring mod has frequency, low pass filter and amount controls. It can produce pulsing noises to dissonant drones to metallic sounds.

Freeze is like a reverb with fade in, fade out, high pass filter, size and amount controls. It can produce subtle to huge reverb tails.

Feedback is like an LFO delay with LFO rate and depth, delay and amount controls. It can produce subtle motion and overtone type sounds to a fast tremelo effect.

So basically Frostbite can produce anything in-between these extremes, it’s a really pronounced effect at times but can be more subtle too with the dry / wet controls giving added control over the sound.

The presets I created were a reverb delay / effect with subtle movement and metallic dissonance; metallic sounds; cinematic soundscape type sound; soundscape with metallic dark edge.

I’ve used two simple but different sounds from TAL Noisemaker played clean and then processed with the presets I created to show the range of sounds it can produce and these are embedded below. The third example uses a chord progression with a keys type of sound to show the contrast. I’ve also embedded a song at the top of the post which is an alternative version of a song that will appear on The Kalipheno Trilogy | Part Two EP. This uses samples from an upcoming sample pack “Kalipheno” that will be submitted for the KVR Developer’s Challenge. I’ve used these sounds in the U-Drone add-on of Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II and processed them with Frostbite. I’ve also used Ephemere by Inear Display for the percussive rhythm and a separate review of this will follow.



Frostbite is available for 35 Euros from Audiothing

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Review of ‘My Spirit Animal is a Goth Teenager Remixes’ album on Romeda Records — October 13, 2016

Review of ‘My Spirit Animal is a Goth Teenager Remixes’ album on Romeda Records

This is an excellent collection of remixes which compliments the original release (reviewed here) really well. There are ambient soundscapes, drones, darker ambient and uptempo tracks. It’s available as a digital download and limited edition cassette – only four left at the time of writing – from Romeda Records.

Mike E Scum Must Die (Geeburd remix)
A great tech / old school acid feel to this song which has an evolving opening and excellent synth and vocal parts against a solid beat and subtle background drone sound. There’s an ambience in the background sounds at times too which adds a great contrast.

How can someone who wears so much orange be so dead inside (Morpion remix)
A sparse dub feel to the opening of this remix which evolves a drum n bass type vibe. Great layering of sounds.

He’ll get his skeleton (Frissk distant acydd remix)
A great bass sound with glitch / noise to open is given excellent momentum by the kick rhythm. The synth lead is a great sound contrasting against drone and background sounds to give an uptempo track with a dark edge.

Halloween debris (Heskin Radiophonic remix)
Interesting quote to open, the track has a laid back feel, I love the syncopation between the pulsing synth and kick rhythm. There’s also an excellent ‘squelchy’ type of sound and some great dub type delays too.

He’s magic and you’re not (Concrete Belly remix)
A great evolving opening with a laid back groove and excellent lead line. Really nice changes of feel through the song. The percussive background sounds are excellent.

Hugging a Ghost (DNP Spectre remix)
Great ambience to the opening, a haunting quality to the vocals with a contrasting subtle background drone type of sound and percussive sounds. There are some reversed sounds too which add a great element.

U.T.M.N.I.D.B (Nystada noname remix)
Great synth sounds to open with an emerging drone, nice change of feel with really well layered background and drone elements. There’s a great edge of tension to the track.

He’s magic and you’re not (Belly Full of Stars fading magic remix)
Brilliantly atmospheric track, the minimal production really adds to the feel. I like how the percussion is sparse and layered with great use of delay and sits more in the background.

Hugging a ghost (DNP Chasm remix)
There’s an ominous feel to the opening of the song which has excellently layered sounds. There’s a great drone quality to the song, I like how the vocal type sounds contrast really well with the harsher drone sounds at times.

Spirit Elderflower (Andrulian remix)
This is my track, I’ll let you add your own comments.

Solihull = Zelda Hair
A very atmospheric opening to this track which has drone qualities contrasting against subtle background sounds which have the feel of a field recording.

Romeda Records bandcamp | website | twitter | facebook

Review of London Metal / Body double A single by Blasts Atomic! on Verses Records — October 6, 2016

Review of London Metal / Body double A single by Blasts Atomic! on Verses Records

Blasts Atomic! are Dave Harris and Doug Kallmeyer whose collaboration in studio
and live performance has spanned 2 decades. London Metal / Body is available from the Bandcamp embed above or Versus Records.

This is an excellent 2 track single with a great sound. London Metal has a brilliant brooding quality and is kind of a fusion a between a psych rock type of sound and electronic. Body is an out and out heavy affair with an industrial kind of feel and great momentum.

London Metal
There’s a great brooding quality to this song, opening with a dirty bass sound and snare, the drumming pattern gives a solid momentum and the guitar riff is great, especially with the howling distortion and feedback. The 8 bit synth type sound adds a great element and there’s a solo too.

An edgy sounding riff to open with a great percussive rhythm and sound effects. The song has a kind of industrial feel and a great momentum. The guitar adds a great element again.

Versus Records : website | twitter | facebook 

Blasts Atomic : Dave Harris on twitter | Doug Kallmeyer on twitter