Andrulian's blog

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Review of Teufelsberg Reverb VST by Balance Mastering — April 26, 2017

Review of Teufelsberg Reverb VST by Balance Mastering

 
Prior to the fall of the Berlin wall, the Teufelsberg listening tower in Berlin was run by the NSA with the main objective of intercepting and processing any Soviet and Eastern Bloc communications as part of the ECHELON intelligence gathering network.

A couple of years ago, Balance Mastering recorded impulse responses at the facility with great care and mastered them to be useful in a wide variety of situations. Finding an opportunity to approach the towers and record the impulses was tough, not to mention having to climb and squeeze through a tiny gap to reach the uppermost tower to enable anyone to incorporate a piece of Cold War history into their music and audio productions. Six quite different variations were produced and available for use, but as impulse responses, they were only useful for convolution reverbs.

So it’s great news that Balance Mastering have made the impulse responses available to all as a VST in Windows 32/64 bit, Mac AU/VST and Linux 64 bit versions for free on their website.

If you’re looking for a flexible and customisable reverb then this isn’t the reverb plugin for you. However, it is very easy to use with 6 excellent and unique reverbs with outstanding sound. I’ve used the impulse responses in the past and I’m really pleased that Balance Mastering have made these more readily available as a plugin, it’s a very useful reverb to have available.

balance-audio-tools-teufelsberg-reverb-plugin

The interface has a very clean, minimal design with a slider to select the reverb impulse; mix; gain; A/B compare and preset save/copy/delete functions. Each of the reverb types has its own characteristics – type one is a large space with a big echo and slow release; type 2 is a large space but less echo; type 3 feels similar but is a bit darker; type 4 has a strong bass presence, an enclosed sound; type 5 is similar but more expansive; type 6 has an enclosed sound with large echo and short release. The effect doesn’t come with any presets but to be honest you don’t really need them because there’s only 3 controls to adjust and you can of course save your sounds as presets once you’ve created them.

The demo track below shows a simple chord progression with no reverb on the first chord and then each reverb type applied to successive chords. I’m not sure this highlights the full sound potential of the effect so the second track uses a spoken vocal phrase with no effect and then each reverb type in turn.

 

 

 
I’ve also created an EP using multiple instances of the reverb effect, embedded at the top of this post. The tracks use Ephemere (Inear Display) with Outer Space (Audio Thing); Sounds from my ‘Kalipheno’ sample pack in the Hollyhock grain sampler each processed with Incipit (Inear Display) and Teufelsberg Reverb. Two of the tracks also feature drum and piano loops from the Terry Grant Dark Dub Odyssey sample pack by Loopmasters.

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Review of The Climatronica Collective Vol 1 compilation album on Pink Dolphin Music Ltd — April 21, 2017

Review of The Climatronica Collective Vol 1 compilation album on Pink Dolphin Music Ltd

 
The Climatronica Collective is a small group of musicians working in the field of electronic music to raise awareness and money for climate change charities.

This first album will see all artist royalties donated to Solar Aid, an international charity that combats poverty and climate change. They do this through a social enterprise called SunnyMoney, who travel to remote rural communities where they spend time educating people about the benefits of solar lights. They make clean light available where previously there was only unhealthy and expensive alternatives like kerosene lamps and candles. They help instil trust and create demand in a new and unfamiliar technology – which helps build the foundations for a sustainable solar market and a lasting energy legacy.

But this is an expensive and time consuming business. If it wasn’t, private companies would be piling in, ready to take advantage of the millions of people living without access to electricity. Their teams travel thousands of miles – spending days with local community members – sometimes only selling a handful of lights. Because that’s what it takes to help people leave the darkness behind.

I’m delighted to be a part of this compilation which includes artists from Australia, the UK and beyond, covering a wide range of electronic styles including synth-pop, chilled vibes, cinematic soundscapes, downtempo and ambient. The songs are excellently arranged and produced, often with great changes in feel and an edge of tension.

The album releases on the 29th April 2017 but is available for pre-order now, where you will be able to download and stream the first 7 tracks from the album instantly. The remaining 6 tracks will be available upon release on April 29th.

You can also listen ahead of release to a special show which will be hosted by Andrew Maley on Artefaktor Radio on Monday 24th April 2017 at 8pm UK time.

Lemonade Kid (feat. Nim Chimpsky) – Not Falling Out
There’s an upbeat synth-pop feel to this song with momentum from bass and drums with arps, squelchy synths and excellent vocals with some nice harmonies. There’s a great edge to this song too.

Rodney Cromwell – Cassiopeia (Cfrain remix)
The opening processed vocals lead into a synth lead propelled by bass and percussive rhythm. There’s a great contrast between uptempo and more ambient parts. A great flow to the song, a kind of build and release of tension.

Man With Glasses – Biting a Wet Sponge (All Star Motivator Remix)
I really like the layered opening with percussive hit sounds, driving kick rhythm and synth chords which also have a percussive feel to them. The synth lead and bass give a great change in feel to an upbeat synth-pop sound.

Simon Irvine – Natsu
There’s an excellent chilled vibe to this song, ambient pads contrast with more stab like piano chords, bass and smooth piano melody to create an excellent laid back groove with great use of layered background sounds. It has an ambience with a dub feel.

ds73 – After The Reign (feat Ems Loxley)
There’s an excellent hook to the opening melody which leads into the verse with great vocals. The bass has an edge of distortion which adds a great subtle tension. Some excellent synth sounds, a great momentum to the song.

Grids-Unit-Plains – Ocean Depths
An excellent ambience to the opening with an ethereal choral type sound and spoken vocal parts which sound like they are from a documentary. The percussive rhythm, synth lead and bass give a great contrast and momentum.

All Star Motivator – Be Strong
Processed drums to open lead into an arp and are given momentum by bass and layered background sounds. A synth adds a melody and there’s some really well processed vocals too.

Nathan Carlson – Ominous Portents
A very atmospheric opening with electric piano and background noise, like distant rain. The synth bass adds a great element. The percussion is sparse and works really well. The emerging strings build a tension to a cinematic soundscape with a nice change in feel with an emerging arp, uptempo drumming pattern and layered background sounds with a final release to the background rain sound.

Teslacoil321 – Silver Sea
The opening drumming pattern creates an excellent groove which is propelled by bass, lead synth and layered background sounds. The vocals are excellently layered and panned and have a laid back feel. The song has a brilliant vibe, it’s upbeat with a great groove but also has a quite chilled, hypnotic feel at the same time.

Andrulian – Poleward Shift
This is my entry so feel free to add your own comments…

Pas De La Dame Sauvage – Castles
A very atmospheric evolving soundscape with a great edge of tension, the sounds are layered to great effect. Percussion is sparse and adds a great element especially when contrasting with the more defined drumming pattern which gives a great momentum. The song has an excellent ebb and flow feel.

Foreign Technology – Tokyo
There’s an urgency to the opening with piano arp, bass and background sounds which has a great tension resolving to an synth sound which feels like it has the rhythm of a heartbeat. This leads to an excellent change in feel propelled by uptempo drums which are really well processed, bass, layered background sounds and excellent vocals. There are great changes of feel throughout the song which build and resolve tension excellently.

Random… – Skylarking
An excellent downtempo vibe to this song which has a great groove from processed drums. There’s great layering with a swirling synth pad, bass and processed looping vocals which have an ethereal, floating feel. The sequenced synth adds a great rhythmic element as well as a melodic one and there’s a subtle lead which also adds an excellent element having a middle eastern kind of feel.

Pink Dolphin Music Ltd: twitter | facebook | website | bandcamp

Climatronica Collective: twitter | facebook

Lemonade Kid: twitter | facebook

Rodney Cromwell: twitter | facebook

Man With Glasses: twitter

Simon Irvine: twitter | facebook

Ds73: twitter | facebook

Nathan Carlson: twitter

Teslacoil321: twitter | facebook

Pas De La Dame Sauvage: twitter | facebook

Foreign Technology: twitter | facebook

Review of Medea EP by Ullapul on Dhatura Records — April 19, 2017

Review of Medea EP by Ullapul on Dhatura Records

 
This is an excellent EP, it’s one of those that the more you listen, the more you hear and the more interpretation you can apply each time.

It has a dark, haunting feel at times with processed vocals, breaths and a baby’s cry which give an excellent eerie feel. There’s great layering of sounds and really clever development of themes.

Lolcos
A slow evolving drone, the strings add an excellent element. A keys type of sound plays a melody that has a great tension against the drone. There are some excellent background sounds and a haunting feel to the song. The baby sounds give a very sinister edge. I really like the evolution and movement in sounds and how the song resolves the different elements.

Exile
Background drones move and swirl against piano chords and sustained bass notes.

Colchis
This song has great drone qualities, there’s a pulsating / looping quality to the sound with some excellent emerging sounds and evolution to an almost white noise.

Nothing But The Past
Looped vocal breaths to open, there’s a similar feel to the keys sound heard on Lolcos, it’s like a reprise. The strings add a great element and there’s a slow release which rounds the EP off really well.

Dhatura Records: facebook | soundcloud

Ullapul: twitter | facebook

Review of Outer Space tape delay VST effect by Audio Thing — April 18, 2017

Review of Outer Space tape delay VST effect by Audio Thing

 
Outer Space is a faithful emulation of the famous Roland RE201 Space Echo from the 1970s. It is available from Audio Thing in Windows and OSX versions, 32 and 64 bit priced at 49 Euros. It’s also worth noting that registration of Audio Thing products is very easy, simply download the registration key file and load this into the plugin.

Roland manufactured Space Echos between 1973 and 1988 and they are still sought after units, selling for around £1000. When introduced, the effect was somewhat of a revolution. Roland had only been trading for a couple of years when ‘Space Echo’ products RE100 and RE200 were introduced, quickly followed by the RE101 and RE202 a year later in 1974. They were popular for many reasons, including that they were solid units and affordable.

In essence it’s quite a simple system – a loop of tape records the input signal and immediately plays the recorded sound back over play heads before being erased by new incoming audio.

It’s a true analog system and each one tends to sound a bit different due to the quality of components used, the distance / position of tape heads which varies (albeit only a very small amount) between units and the condition of the tape. They offer a warm and somewhat unpredictable sound but they also require quite a lot of maintenance – the tape heads need regular cleaning and the tape needs periodically replacing.

Creating a digital equivalent is therefore no mean feat. The good news is that Audio Thing have done an excellent job. Being faithful to the original, Audio Thing’s Outer Space features an echo section with 3 playback heads and a spring reverb tank. They’ve also modelled 3 different tape frequency responses and saturations along with all the analog imperfections of tape recording / playback. Another essential feature is the modelling of the ballistic response of the delay (repeat) rate which creates unusual pitch shifts due to the doppler effect and is a key feature of tape based echo effects.

Outer Space looks very cool just like the original unit design. It can be described in 5 sections:

The top section contains the preset list – Outer Space comes with 40. There are also save, delete, a very handy random feature and advanced options to enable/disable HQ mode; enable/disable soft clip limiter; apply EQ to reverb (by default only affects the Echo section); oversample to avoid some aliasing when automating the rate of the heads.

The input / output section contains a VU meter, input volume (which can be used to add saturation) and output volume.

The mode selector faithfully reproduces the original 12 combinations of echo playback and reverb. There are 4 echo only, 7 echo and reverb and 1 reverb only.

The main controls are on the right hand side, bass and treble for the echo and short/long decay and volume for the reverb. The delay controls are repeat rate (emulates changes in tape speed); intensity (feedback); wow/flutter (pitch and volume imperfections) and echo volume.

The bottom section contains a number of switches and tape head controls. The send switch is known as the dub switch. When set to off, no input is received into the echo section but any repetition or self-oscillating sounds will continue to play. Wet only disables the dry signal. Stereo enables a 15ms delay on the right channel (off by default). Noise controls the volume of background noise and the envelope control enables/disables the envelope to activate noise only when a signal passes through. Sync enables the delay time to be set to the host BPM and there’s a selectable drop down list for each tape head. When sync is off, the tape head delay can be adjusted manually. The maximum delay lengths vary for each tape head – head 1 is 175ms; head 2 is 340ms and head 3 is 500ms.

The selector switch for different tapes has the orignal RT-1L, a more modern replacement and an older worn out tape.

The presets are an excellent place to get started. There’s a great range showing the potential of the effect and these can easily be tweaked to your own requirements. As with most delays, you’ll get the most out of it by adjusting settings to meet your own requirements, for instance a delay just out of sync creates a really interesting effect. The sound is very warm and captures the analog imperfections really well. Changing the tape type has a noticeable effect on sound quality as each has its own characteristics. You can adjust sound quality further using the wow/flutter, noise controls and saturation to the input signal.

Changing the repeat rate has some unexpected and unusual effects, especially in combination with adjusting the intensity setting. This takes a bit of practice with different input sounds to get a perfect effect, anything from dub type delays to rising pitch effects to psychedelic sounds and feedback loops.

I’ve used Outer Space extensively on the album ‘fading transmissions from a lost satellite’ embedded at the top of this post. I’ve used a range of effects from straightforward reverbs and echos to dub delays, pitched delays and more extreme effects resulting from changing settings during the recording. It was recorded live so there are some imperfections but I’m really pleased with the overall result which includes analog ‘wobbles’ and some really interesting delay effects.

Overall it is an excellent and very interesting delay effect. If you want a clean, precise digital delay then this is not for you but if you like a rich, warm analog sound with all the imperfections of tape and a bit of unpredictability then I would highly recommend it.

Review of Meat for the Beast compilation on Factory Fast Records — April 5, 2017

Review of Meat for the Beast compilation on Factory Fast Records

 
This compilation features a very heavy rock / metal sound with a range of songs and styles, each of which have a few things in common – high energy, very heavy riffing, superb drumming and intense vocals. Strap yourselves in, it’s a high tempo ride.

Dust – Veil of Faith
Harmonised guitars and brooding drumming to open leads into a speed metal kind of feel with really intense drumming and very heavy riffing. The vocals have a great intensity too. Some really good changes in feel through the song with a great release to end.

S Punk – You Make Me Spew
A brilliant punk vibe to this song with uptempo drumming, bass and riffing with a great solo too. The vocals have a great passion, the lyrics are not very flattering so let’s hope you do not end up in a relationship like this.

Throttlegod – Underlord
A chime type sound to open is followed by an excellent harmonised distorted lead. There’s some great heavy riffing propelled by solid drumming and bass. The vocals are intense.

Terry Dark’s Jameson Raid – Uninvited Guests
Opening with strummed acoustic guitar, this leads into a very chunky, heavy riff propelled by solid drumming and bass. The acoustic riff adds a great element. There’s an excellent groove to this song with great changes between riffing and lead parts. The vocals have a laid back feel which works really well.

God of Death – Proliferation of Death
A very heavy bass and riff to open, there’s a brooding quality to the song which has intense riffing and growly vocals.

Vulgar Speech – Scarred
An excellent uptempo groove to this song with a nice change in feel into the verse. There’s excellent riffing and soloing propelled by very tight drumming and bass.

MM3 – In the Moment
Excellent heavy riffing to open leads into a more acoustic and stripped back feel for the verse. The vocals have a great edge of angst to them. Great changes in feel between the heavy riffing, solo and more laid back parts.

 
Factory Fast Records: website | twitter | facebook

Dust: twitter | facebook

S Punk: twitter | kicktone

Throttlegod: twitter | facebook

Terry Dark’s Jameson Raid: twitter | facebook

God of Death: twitter | facebook

Vulgar Speech: twitter | bandcamp

MM3: twitter | facebook