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100% Fleisch & Ritual by John Der Kreativreaktor on LowHop Records — December 14, 2017

100% Fleisch & Ritual by John Der Kreativreaktor on LowHop Records

There’s an excellent vibe to this album, it has a lo-fi hip hop feel with looping samples, solid beats and an experimental feel at times which gives a great edge. I really like the use of film quotes and the atmosphere created by bassline and background sounds.

A1 Welcome Digger
An eclectic opening song which is a great intro to the album.

A2 Holy Mountain Dew
A lo-fi hip hop groove with an experimental vibe and great changes in feel.

A3 Promise, Major Label
A quote with a groove. Short and to the point.

A4 Fuck You All
There’s a brooding quality to the song with vinyl crackle, drone, drum groove and guitar riff.

A5 Tribute to Santo_S
Another Lo fi hip hop groove, bit of an old school sampler / rave feel with great use of opening quote.

B1 Circle of Circus
Another solid groove, the bass has a dark quality.

B2 Forcefield
Dirty bassline and swirling background sounds create a great opening, an edgy sound with a great groove.

B3 My Choice
Another atmospheric groove with great use of film quotes.

B4 Church of Blood
Great opening with a film quote, an atmospheric song with a solid groove.

Review of Population album by Crown Larks on Already Dead Tapes and Records (AD249) — December 12, 2017

Review of Population album by Crown Larks on Already Dead Tapes and Records (AD249)

Crown Larks are a four piece band from Chicago comprising Lorraine Bailey – vocals, keys, alto saxophone, flute, synth bass; Jack Bouboushian – vocals, guitar, organ, microphone; Bill Miller – drum kit, percussion and Matt Puhr – bass.

Population is available as a cassette, digital download, and deluxe black vinyl from Already Dead Tapes and Records and also available as a blood red vinyl, deluxe black vinyl, cassette and CD from Crown Lark’s bandcamp page.

There’s a great vibe to this album, it has elements of indie, psych and jazz amongst others and a great jam quality at times. Not being bound by any particular genre gives Crown Larks a great free sound giving each song its own style. The vocals are excellent, ranging from laid back to more intense. The bass and drumming provide a great momentum and there’s excellent use of organ and sax / trumpet at times too.

Howls
A great jam quality to this song which is propelled by solid drumming / bass and keys. The guitar lead and vocals have an improv feel and provide a great contrast.

Circus Luvv
Another opening jam with drumming and bass providing momentum against the more uptempo keys, the song develops a laid back groove with similarly laid back vocals and some excellent feedback / scrape effects. A great improv quality again.

React

I really like the opening bass and drums, vocals enter to add an edge of tension. There’s a brooding quality to the song with a superb psychedelic vibe and a slow building tempo leading into two solo sections with a great release of tension to end.

TFZ Interlude
A slow Latin / bluesy / jazzy feel to the opening with keys, guitar lead, bass and drumming. The drumming changes to a more defined momentum. Vocals are excellent and the song has a laid back groove throughout.

Lithops Life
The opening has an uptempo, urgent feel from guitar riff, bass and drumming. Vocals have a great laid back quality with a kind of call and response feel against the vocals and trumpet. Great change of feel when the keys enter and the processed vocals add a great element.

Swoon (For Fred Hampton)
Keys to open the song have a reflective quality, distorted guitar effects, vocals and trumpet add a great edge. The song has experimental qualities at times.

Burn it Down
Uptempo feel to the opening from drumming, strummed riff leading into organ chords and vocals. Another great jam feel with development and variation in sound, the sax adds a great element.

“Watchful, Spellbound”
Atmospheric opening from delayed guitar and laid back vocals, there’s an ambience which slowly evolves a more uptempo sound with the introduction of percussion and feedback / distortion. The song takes on a more urgent, uptempo feel with a crescendo to a final release.

Goodbye
A drone type sound to open with organ riff and chords, there’s an evolving quality leading into laid back vocals which contrast really well against emerging distorted guitar which builds, releasing to a solid groove building tension to a final release.

Stranger (Unce down to the new store)
Opens with spoken vocals leading into uptempo synth bass riff and drumming and guitar lead. Vocals are excellent again, there’s a brooding quality to the song, an evolving tension to a final release.

Review of MangledVerb H9 Signature Series reverb effect by Eventide — December 11, 2017

Review of MangledVerb H9 Signature Series reverb effect by Eventide

Introduction
Eventide have released MangledVerb reverb plug-in as the newest in its H9 Signature Series.

MangledVerb is available as an AAX/AU/VST plug-in for Mac OS X 10.7+ and Windows 7+ at an MSRP of $79.00 USD from Eventide dealers and its website. A fully-functional 30-day demo version is available; MangledVerb is also available as part of Eventide’s Ensemble Subscription bundle.

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated MangledVerb webpage.

Overview
MangledVerb combines reverb and distortion, providing power to create unique spaces full of beauty or drenched in mayhem, with complete control over all the elements. Eventide has repurposed MangledVerb for anyone working ‘in the box’ by following in the footsteps of the first H9 Signature Series plug-in, UltraTap, drawing from some of the most popular and powerful algorithms from its award-winning H9 Harmonizer® Effects Processor stompbox. Similarly, MangledVerb makes a signature effect first popularized in its rack mount Eclipse Harmonizer® Effects Processor available as a namesake new plug-in.

Designed for real-time manipulation, MangledVerb features The Ribbon, an innovative control that allows anyone to program two settings for any combination of the controls to transition between them. The programmable HOTSWITCH helps push creativity further still by enabling users to instantly jump to an alternative setting at the push of a button. Other controls include PRE DELAY, reverb DECAY time and enclosure SIZE, OVERDRIVE, and pre- distortion (post-reverb) equalization, as well as a proprietary WOBBLE parameter. This combination of controls is intended to make MangledVerb as close as possible to the experience of tweaking real hardware.

In-depth Review
I was delighted when I heard about the release of MangledVerb, it follows hot on the heels of the recently released Ultratap.

MangledVerb

The GUI has a very similar look and feel to Ultratap, so if you’ve used that effect you’ll instantly feel at home.

MangledVerb is a superb sounding reverb effect which is easy to use and get to grips with. It comes complete with over 180 presets from acclaimed artists including Christian Cassan, Richard Devine, and Vernon Reid which give an indication of what this effect can do.

It can produce a huge range of reverb effects from subtle ambience, huge ambience, large spaces, distortions, metallic sounding, subtle movement to more swirling effects. Using the ribbon to change various parameters emulates hardware and offers great flexibility and usability.

I’ve really enjoyed using MangledVerb and have created a demo album which is embedded at the top of the post. I’ve created this in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 using a variety of samplers and MangledVerb as the only effect. I’ve subsequently mastered it in MuLab 7 using Elevate and Stage.

MangledVerb has a clear, well defined interface although it isn’t resizable. The control knobs are large and allow easy adjustment of the controls to shape your sound as desired. There are 2 additional controls which give you further control over your sound. The ribbon allows you to program 2 settings for any controls and morph to any sound between the two. Hotswitch is programmable to instantly change to an alternate sound. This hardware emulation is an excellent feature that MangledVerb handles seamlessly.

The input level is on the left hand side with a meter above and the output level is on the right hand side also with a meter above.

The signal flow is essentially input -> pre-delay -> reverb -> EQ -> distortion -> out.

The controls are pretty self explanatory.

Mix is the dry/wet setting. This control has a non-linear taper which puts most of the knob travel in the most usable range.

Decay is the length of reverb decay scaled from 1 – 100. Higher values give a traditional reverb tail whereas lower values can result in reverse reverb with more build up.

Size determines the size of the reverb. Low settings (<15)enable use as a distortion effect.

Pre-delay is the amount of delay before the reverb section.

Lows / Highs are controls to boost/cut the low or high frequencies before distortion.

Softclip is a dual control with the first half of travel determining the softclip gain level from 1 – 100. When you pass 100 the distortion changes to overdrive and the second half of travel controls distortion gain from 1 -100.

Level – controls the output level of the distortion section from -18dB to +6dB. It is used to compensate for changes in level when using softclip or overdrive.

Wobble controls depth and rate of reverb modulation. Increasing the value can create some interesting detuning effects.

Freq sets the centre frequency (300Hz – 2kHz) for the mid-range EQ before the distortion section.

Mids boosts or cuts mid-range frequencies before the distortion section.

Tempo sync has 3 settings. When off, the tap button adjusts the pre-delay. You can also choose sync to sync to your host DAW tempo or manual to set times as required.

The Ribbon is an innovative feature designed to emulate hardware. You can program left and right ranges and morph between them with the ribbon which looks like an electric arc.

ultratap

It’s as simple as clicking on the white dot in the arc which shows the position of the knob dial in the range of travel and dragging it to the left hand side of the ribbon. You then click the blue dot on the opposite side of the arc and drag it to where you want the right side of the ribbon to represent. You can then adjust the range of ribbon settings by moving the dots or right click to delete them.

Active turns the effect on and off.

Hotswitch allows you to adjust settings so that you can switch between effects. It’s easy to set up, long-press to enter programming mode, make the required changes and then long-press to exit programming mode. When you press the hotswitch button you toggle between the two settings.

Review of Elevate mastering limiter / maximiser plugin by Newfangled Audio / Eventide — December 7, 2017

Review of Elevate mastering limiter / maximiser plugin by Newfangled Audio / Eventide

Introduction

Newfangled Audio have partnered with Eventide to produce Elevate — a pioneering plug-in that elevates mastering technology using intelligent, adaptive technology that responds in real time to music. Elevate is exclusively available through Eventide (as an AAX/AU/VST plug-in for Mac OS X 10.7+ and Windows 7+) bundled with Newfangled Audio’s EQuivocate EQ plug-in with an MSRP of $199.00 USD.

For more in-depth information, including a free demo download, please visit the dedicated product webpage ;

Watch Newfangled Audio founder Dan Gillespie’s enlightening Elevate overview video;

See and hear how producer and recording artist Matt Lange has been using Elevate here.

Overview

Elevate is the most advanced mastering plug-in ever created. This unique multi-band limiter, human ear EQ, and powerful audio maximizer will increase the loudness of a mix while maintaining or improving its dynamic perception. It uses intelligent, adaptive technology that responds in real time to music, creating not only the loudest but also the best-sounding master.

Developed by Newfangled Audio, Elevate maintains subtle dynamics and improves the tonal balance of a mix. The adaptive limiter analyzes 26 frequency bands and alters the gain, speed, and transients for each band in real time. This results in a transparent, natural sound — no matter how hard it is pushed.

Elevate utilizes 26 critical filter bands modeled on the human ear. Each of the bands are spaced to give maximum control over how sound hits the eardrum. Draw curves, solo bands, and manipulate the transient attack for each individual band to bring out instruments such as kick or snare drums.

Elevate uses artificial intelligence algorithms to make it easy to get the best sounds, but users can still get under the hood to access as much precise control as deemed necessary. This includes control over tonal balance and transients inside the final limiting stage. Adaptive algorithms reduce audible artifacts while additional controls provide maximum flexibility with professional results.

Elevate in use

As with the EQuivocate plugin, the GUI has a clean modern look and is easy to use and navigate. Incidentally, if you want to learn more about EQuivocate, you can read my review.

The top section has presets, load/save options and a drop down offering colour schemes. Underneath is an ‘active’ button which switches the effect on and off. There’s also a very handy ‘gain lock’ option, useful when switching presets so you don’t get large volume or value changes. The match level is also useful to boost the dry signal when the plugin is inactive to compare the processed and unprocessed sound with the same amount of gain.

If you’re familiar with EQuivocate, the display will look very similar with the input vu meter on the left and output vu meter on the right of the display, both showing peak and rms levels. On the output is an ‘auto’ button. This option automatically compensates for any volume changes and it is sometimes useful to switch into manual mode so you can hear the changes to your audio.

The three options at the top – input/output, gain reduction and filter bank determine what is shown in the main display. The lower part of the display contains controls for the main parameters and associated sub-modules.

Selecting ‘main parameters’ displays the filter bank, limiter, transient and spectral clipper options. The limiter can use up to 26 bands. These are based on the ‘Mel’ scale which are the critical hearing bands. The gain control lets you set the amount of gain and the speed control acts as a sort of combined attack/release control. These both have adaptive options which means the limiter will act on each individual band. The value for adaptive gain determines how far (in dB) bands can differ from each other. The value for adaptive speed will adapt the setting for each filter band individually reducing artifacts. The ceiling control is the maximum output.

For more control over how the limiter works, there are filter bank, limiter/EQ and transient sub modules. The number of bands chosen for the limiter will determine the number of EQ bands in the filter bank sub-module. When you choose the number of bands, Elevate automatically places them on the Mel scale between the minimum and maximum values. Although they are fixed in terms of frequency, you have a lot of flexibility because you can skew the weighting of the centre frequency, solo individual bands and add or remove bands. Any changes you make triggers the custom mode and if you change the number of bands the limiter setting will be automatically updated.

The limiter/EQ sub-module allows you to adjust the gain for each frequency band and see the relative gain reduction being applied. You can adjust individual bands or draw EQ curves. This will be familiar if you’ve used the EQuivocate EQ plugin.

The transient emphasis can be adjusted from 0% to 100% and the adaptive control enables the transient shaper to work on each individual band. Clicking on the transient sub-module enables greater manual control over each band.

The spectral clipper is designed to clip the fast transients which pass through the transient emphasis section but also allows you to add up to 12dB of distortion based gain. Elevate applies this according to the shape curve shown on the clipper sub-module.

Elevate comes with 55 presets to get you started. Some of these are excellent in their own right but are more useful as a starting point to tweak to your own requirements or you can start from scratch.

Elevate is a fantastic plugin, it has an extremely impressive sound and despite the internal complexities is easy to get to grips with. When I started using Elevate I wasn’t sure if it would suit my ambient / downtempo style of music because some of the presets produced a very loud resulting sound. This just highlights why you can’t rely on presets, spending a little time to get to grips with Elevate, I quickly found a more suitable preset that I tweaked to meet my requirements. I have used Elevate to master my latest two albums, 259e and veirteiliger satz. I’m very impressed with the results, I can see that I will be using Elevate on a lot of future albums and songs.

Review of EQuivocate auditory graphic EQ by Newfangled Audio / Eventide —

Review of EQuivocate auditory graphic EQ by Newfangled Audio / Eventide

Introduction

Newfangled Audio have partnered with Eventide to produce an EQ based on the critical bands of the human ear. EQuivocate is exclusively available through Eventide (as an AAX/AU/VST plug-in for Mac OS X 10.7+ and Windows 7+) for an MSRP of $99.00 USD. It is also available as part of the Elevate mastering bundle (it is integrated into the Elevate mastering limiter and maximiser plugin) for $199 USD.

Visit the EQuivocate webpage for more information.

Overview

EQuivocate is the ideal EQ for naturally changing the tone of any sound, so it is perfect for mixing and mastering applications. As EQuivocate uses filters that are modelled on the human ear, each of its 26 bands tickles a different part of the inner ear, making any combination of settings sound as natural as ‘humanly’ possible. Combining this with a linear-phase filter shape that reduces pre-echo makes EQuivocate an EQ with a difference that can clearly be heard.

Use EQuivocate’s Match EQ feature to make the sound of your track match or complement the audio signal streamed to its sidechain. You can also use it to make a final master match the tone of a reference track, or help fit a sound into a dense mix. Unlike other match EQ plug-ins, EQuivocate provides a transparent match without trying to model imperceptible differences which can cause a match EQ to sound unnatural. Feed your favorite song or individual track into it and instantly morph your tone to match.

EQuivocate in use

The GUI has a clean modern look and is easy to use and navigate.

The top section has presets, load/save options and a drop down offering 3 different colour schemes. Underneath is an ‘active’ button which switches the effect on and off.

The input vu meter is on the left and output vu meter on the right of the display, both showing peak and rms levels. On the output is an ‘auto’ button. This option automatically compensates for any volume changes caused by any boosts or cuts to eq meaning no changes to volume level.

The main part of the display highlights how this plugin works differently to many other EQs because it is based on the ‘Mel’ scale which are preset values based on the critical bands of human hearing. Although they are fixed in terms of frequency, you have a lot of flexibility because you can skew the weighting of the centre frequency, use any number from 1 up to 26 bands and solo individual bands. Any changes you make triggers the custom mode which enables you to add and remove bands and draw EQ curves. The display shows the chosen number of bands at the bottom with EQ cuts and boosts above. You can select to show input and/or output monitoring for a visual representation of the changes you have made.

The match EQ is a cool feature, you load an audio file into the side chain and EQuivocate listens to the source and matches levels. There’s a scaling option which also features negative values that allow you to invert an EQ profile.

EQuivocate comes with 69 presets to get you started. These are excellent in their own right and can of course be tweaked to meet your requirements or you can start from scratch. I’m really impressed by how easy and flexible EQuivocate is to use. It handles mixing tasks such as taming low end, adding guitar presence, adding a bass presence or more extreme filtering; equally it can handle mastering tasks such as tightening and brightening. I really like how you can use EQuivocate quite subtly on individual tracks which adds up to a big change to the overall sound or use it for specific filtering effects such as producing a lo-fi sound.

EQuivocate compliments Elevate really well. Both plugins have been developed with the same principles of operation. EQuivocate can easily handle your EQ tasks and Elevate will definitely improve the quality of you finished song / mix. If you want to learn more about Elevate you can read my review.

Review of ‘A Fixed Point’ album by Petridisch on I Heart Noise label — December 1, 2017

Review of ‘A Fixed Point’ album by Petridisch on I Heart Noise label

This album was released in the I Heart Noise label back in June, the CD and cassette have sold out but the digital version is still available.

I really like how this album is difficult to define in terms of style, which gives it such a great sound.

The arrangements and layering are excellent, there are contrasting ambient / uptempo elements and subtle unexpected chord changes which add a great tension and often an edge to the songs.

The Unknown Rabbit
A great edge of tension to the song from drone bass, synth and swirling pad which has vocal qualities. The drumming pattern gives a momentum leading into an organ riff which adds a great tension with vocal background sounds.

In the Red
Opening vocals have an ethereal slightly disconcerting quality. There’s a great contrast between the laid back kick rhythm and more uptempo arp.

Operation Interlude
There’s a contrast between the ambience of the pad sounds, synth and more uptempo drumming pattern. A subtle edge of tension too which works really well.

In the Black
Opening vocals have a great tension to them accompanied by bass and synth riff. The song is quite edgy and has a great flow.