Andrulian's blog

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

Review of Perfect on Paper album by Georgia Fearn — September 28, 2018

Review of Perfect on Paper album by Georgia Fearn

This is a stunning album, the songwriting / songcraft is outstanding. There are some classic influences but the resulting sound is very original and modern. I really like the clever use of instruments like accordion and mandolin that add extra depth. Georgia conveys superb emotion that connects with the listener, some of these songs could easily be tv or film soundtracks.

L’Amour
Opening accordion and bass creates a great groove, spoken intro leads into excellent vocals. There’s a kind of dubstep feel to the percussive rhythm, great layering of sounds and unexpected instruments like a mandolin and strings. A sultry, brooding quality.

Catch Me When You Can
A haunting quality to the opening, sparse guitar and rhythm with excellent vocals that develops a great momentum, nice changes of feel through the song. Great layering again, excellent control with the distorted guitar.

Misty Mae
Love the mandolin and acoustic percussion to open, vocals are excellent again. A superb change of feel to a more uptempo fuzz feel for the chorus and a guitar solo too.

Be Careful What You Wish For
Accordian, spoken vocals and sparse plucked string bass to open creates a brooding quality leading into a more defined rhythm. There’s superb contrasts between the layering and use of different instruments.

Does it Ever Make You Wonder
Strings and piano to open, vocals have a haunting quality. The arrangement is spot on, it’s a stripped back feel but with great emotion and momentum. Percussion and strings add tension.

Sharp Objects
Slowly evolving strummed distorted riff, processed vocals and processed drumming pattern create a growing tension leading into an uptempo groove for the chorus. Great layering and a simmering tension to the song.

Perfect on Paper
A kind of mystery to the string rhythm and guitar opening, spoken intro leads into more defined groove with bass and percussion. Vocals have superb emotion, somewhere between angst and haunted. An excellent flow to the song with changes of feel from despair to a hint of optimism all the time retaining the mysterious feel.

Master of Jazz
Superb jazz groove and laid back feel, vocals suit the style perfectly. The arrangement is spot on, it’s a solid groove with swing and swagger.

Emptiness
Haunting vocals with piano and synth, it’s a very emotional song that’s arranged superbly. Strings add an excellent element.

No Need to Hide
A toy piano sounding riff and gnarly bass to open, drumming gives excellent momentum and a solid groove. Vocals superb again, the chord vamp adds to the tension. Nice changes of feel.

Always Be Yours
A kind of twinkly riff and spoken vocals to open, there’s a more defined momentum from bass and melody, further developed by guitar and piano. Great momentum and subtle changes in feel.

You wouldn’t Do This if You Did
Uptempo drumming and backing vocals to open, there’s an urgency to the groove with a strummed guitar chord vamp with shaker type percussion. Vocals are superb again, creating a tension at times and a more laid back feel at others.

Keep up with Georgia: twitter | facebook | website

Review of Spit it Out EP by Fairy Godmother — September 21, 2018

Review of Spit it Out EP by Fairy Godmother

This is an excellent EP, it’s got a superb vibe somewhere between shoegaze, stoner, post punk and indie pop. There’s a tight knit sound propelled by solid drumming and bass, the guitar leads and chords compliment each other really well and the vocals are dreamy and often edged with a sadness. Songs often have subtle changes in feel that add a great tension with excellent production.

Invited
Opening vocals and strummed chords are given momentum by drumming and bass, it’s a superb groove with an edge of tension from the guitar lead and changes in feel. The vocals are superb, dreamy and have a kind of optimism.

Happy Man
Jangly chords to open that are propelled by drumming and bass, it’s an uptempo groove contrasted by laid back dreamy vocals. There’s an edge of sadness to the song. The organ lead adds a great element.

Rockstar
A laid back groove from guitar lead, drumming and bass to open, the song has a kind of stoner feel to it with dreamy vocals again and an excellent guitar lead with subtle changes in feel and a nice release of tension to end.

Take Me
Drumming and strummed chords to open, there’s a shoegaze / stoner feel to the song. The jangly guitar riff adds an urgency contrasting against the laid back vocals. Great change in the chorus with a more upfront feel that adds tension.

Goodbye
Strummed chords to open, drumming and jangly guitar chords give a groove and the bassline adds a momentum. The vocals are excellent again with a dreamy quality.

Review of The Climatronica Collective 5 x 2 EP by Various Artists on Pink Dolphin Records — September 16, 2018

Review of The Climatronica Collective 5 x 2 EP by Various Artists on Pink Dolphin Records

The idea for this EP was for members of the Climatronica Collective to produce collaborative tracks. There are 5 tracks on the EP featuring collaborations between aNIfaDES and Lemonade Kid; Myself and All Star Motivator; screamershock and Jayber.C; Simon Irvine and All Star Motivator; Jeff Appleton and myself.

The result is an EP that features a superb sound with a great diversity of styles. It’s also available on major digital services from this link.

They Know It (aNIfaDES and Lemonade Kid)
A subtle tension to the opening riff with sparse percussion, a nice change in feel. There’s a laid back groove to the song with a range of synth sounds, excellent glitchy elements and background sounds that are really well processed and layered. The vocals have a similar laid back quality with just an edge of tension at times.

Chasing Time (Andrulian and All Star Motivator)
I’m delighted how this track turned out, it started out as chords, glitchy sound effects and a sparse delayed rhythm that has been given a great momentum from bass, the addition of a synth lead and the excellent vocal samples. All Star Motivator took an idea and added drive, an excellent ambience and hint of tension too.

Rise Up From Your Dust (screamershock and Jayber.C)
I love the reflective qualities of this song, it opens with a delayed piano lead accompanied by a drum pattern that gives a future garage / liquid chill type of feel. Great contrast between the different elements and nice changes in feel between synths and guitar riff. The song achieves that difficult balance of having a laid back feel and ambience yet also having a solid drive and momentum.

By The Sea (Simon Irvine and All Star Motivator)
There’s a brooding quality to this song, the opening riff, bass and drums give a great edge to the sound. There’s also a background sound effect that adds a great element. The vocals suit the style of the song really well, they’re quite dark. The piano adds an excellent contrasting element.

Curiosity (Jeff Appleton and Andrulian)
The idea for this remix was to take the stems that Jeff provided and mangle them with a variety of effects – SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio); Cryogen, Cataract (Glitchmachines); Physion, H3000 Factory, Blackhole, Octavox (Eventide) and layer the results to produce an atmospheric, glitchy type of sound. Think haunted memories of a fairground.

Review of Dub Time album by Tender H on Cold Tear Records — September 12, 2018

Review of Dub Time album by Tender H on Cold Tear Records

Cold Tear Records is a Lithuanian label that specialises in dub techno, deep techno and ambient music. They currently have 105 releases on their Bandcamp page and tend to release an album a month.

Dub Time was released in September 2017 and is an excellent album, it hits a sweet spot by creating ambient soundscapes that are accompanied by a dub vibe. There’s great use of delay effects and some excellent synth sounds too.

Dubby Time
Opens with a wind / rain type of sound, a chilled ambient groove with evolving synth, stab chords, excellent delay effects and sparse percussion. The percussion takes on a more defined feel and the kick gives a real momentum. Processed vocal elements add a great element.

Frogs
Opens with a similar wind / rain effect and slow evolving synth, sparse percussion and delayed effects. Drumming patterns give a more defined momentum. An excellent groove from the bass and Stab type chords.

Sun and Shadow
Ambient, evolving opening with swirling synth sounds and rain / wind effect. Subtle delayed background sounds create an excellent atmosphere. Kick enters to give a solid momentum accompanied by percussion and some great sound effects.

Symbiosis
An evolving opening with subtle chords, wind / rain effect and background bird sounds. Excellent ambience from delayed sound effects. Percussion and kick give a more defined momentum.

Review of MixChecker Pro plugin (VST/AAX/AU) by Audified — September 6, 2018

Review of MixChecker Pro plugin (VST/AAX/AU) by Audified

MixChecker_Pro_1

Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 16.42.18

Introduction
Having amassed widespread critical acclaim with its innovative MixChecker mix-assisting plug-in that transforms studio monitors into classic reference monitors or one of several consumer devices to quickly and easily ensure that studio mixes translate to other environments, host application and audio effects developer Audified is proud to announce availability of MixChecker Pro — advancing making sound mixing decisions still further featuring a user interface with the same elegance and ease of use as the original MixChecker but boasting a whole host of new features to simulate surroundings and devices, thereby allowing its users to try walking in the shoes (or even ears) of their listeners.

MixChecker Pro is available to purchase at $199.00 USD from Audified’s online shop (Note MixChecker Pro requires iLok License Manager 3.1.6 or newer as it is protected by PACE Anti-Piracy Inc.’s software machine license or USB smart key device, details of which are highlighted here.

MixChecker Pro can be directly downloaded as a multi-format (AAX, AU, VST2, VST3), 32- and 64-bit native plug-in for MacOS (10.9 and above) and Windows (7, 8, and 10) — alongside a fully-functional, 30-day trial version — from Audified’s website.

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated MixChecker Pro website.

Background
Anyone accomplished at mixing content for an audience is painfully aware of having to ensure that their mixes sound great when freed from familiar studio surroundings and let loose into the wider (listening) world. Which was exactly the thinking behind MixChecker upon its well-received release in 2016; clearly, consumers — the everyday people for whom that content is mixed — did not (necessarily) have access to high-end studio monitors, but more often than not used desktop speakers, tablets, and smartphones to satisfy their everyday listening needs, while watching TV and listening to music in the car remained routine; reality dictated, therefore, that best mixing practice involved ensuring that mixes were going to sound the best that they could on a wide range of different devices that sounded so wildly different by their very nature, and not just on high-end studio monitors. MixChecker made that possible by transforming studio monitors into classic reference monitors or one of several consumer devices at the press of a (virtual) button. And all without having to leave the so-called studio ‘sweet spot’ — a term used by audiophiles and recording engineers to describe the focal point between two speakers, where an individual is fully capable of hearing the stereo audio mix the way it was intended to be heard by the mixer; in reality, the sweet spot is the location which creates an equilateral triangle together with the stereo loudspeakers.

But before MixChecker’s timely arrival, the tried-and-tested way to (physically) check a mix involved having to waste time and energy exporting it to a smartphone or burning a CD to listen in a car or elsewhere before going back into the studio to tweak as appropriate, all the while facing the distinct possibility of having to repeat the tiresome process time and again. As an altogether more convenient and clever software solution, MixChecker can perform a quick round of tests in only a matter of seconds, allowing users to get on with the task in hand — making mixing corrections at a (key)stroke, still fresh from knowing what the problem in the mix actually was! Wisely, MixChecker took all the pain out of checking mixes. Mission accomplished!

Fast forward to today, though, and — as implied by name — MixChecker Pro places a whole host of new features to simulate surroundings and devices at the fingertips of its users, ultimately advancing making sound mixing decisions still further; fortunately for all, it features a user interface with the same elegance and ease of use as the original MixChecker, but professionally polishes that convenient concept claimed by its predecessor to reach a whole new level of perfection in the process.

Put it this way: with MixChecker Pro, everything is new! Numerous new (self-explanatory) Simulations of various devices are available, categorised (and grouped) as follows: Studio (Studio 4” Vintage, Studio 5” Modern, Studio 6” Modern, Studio 7” Vintage, Studio 5″ Vintage, Studio Cube); Live Sound/PA (PA Disco Pool, PA Disco Stage, PA Cheap Satellite, PA Club Engineer, PA Club Near, PA Club Center, PA Cheap Full-Range); Computer Audio (Desktop 2” Black, Desktop 3” Wooden, Desktop 3” Red, Desktop 5” Black, LCD Screen 24”); TV (TV 24”, TV 37”, TV 22”, TV 32”); Laptop Speakers (Laptop 12” Grey, Laptop 13” Silver, Laptop 15” Black, Laptop 15” Silver); Tablet (Tablet 9” Grey, Tablet 9” Golden, Tablet 7” Black); Smartphone (Phone 5” Grey, Phone 4” Black, Phone 5” Silver, Phone 5” White); In-Ear Headphones (Earplugs White, Earplugs Black, Earplugs Grey, Earplugs Iso Black); On-Ear Headphones (Studio 30mm Silver, Studio 40mm Black, DJ 40mm Black, DJ 40mm Red, DJ 50mm Red, HiFi 35mm Black, HiFi 40mm Grey, Studio 45mm Silver, HiFi 40mm Silver, Studio 40mm Blue, Studio 40mm Yellow, HiFi 50mm White); Car Audio (Combi Driver, Combi Co-driver, Sedan Driver, Sedan Co-driver, Sedan Passenger, Minivan Driver, Minivan Co-driver, Minivan Kid); Radio (Bluetooth Speaker, Small Radio Silver, BoomBox Silver, Smart Home Speaker, Small Radio Black); HiFi (HiFi Micro Silver, HiFi Micro Black, HiFi Mini Silver, HiFi Floor-stander). Seamless switching between those devices is perfectly possible with MixChecker Pro — perfectly in keeping with its professional nomenclature, thanks to the overall gain of all devices being normalised to the same objective loudness using an algorithm derived from the LKFS (Loudness, K-weighted, relative to Full Scale) loudness standard designed to enable normalisation of audio levels for delivery of broadcast TV and other video (as standardised in ITU-R BS.1770-3).

Similarly, (self-explanatory) simulated environments also abound in MixChecker Pro — namely, Exterior Street 1, Exterior Street 2, Exterior Park 1, Exterior Park 2, Exterior Playground, Exterior Station 1, Exterior Station 2, Exterior Subway, Interior Bar, Interior Bus 1, Interior Bus 2, Interior Car 1, Interior Car 2, and Interior Mall.

MixChecker Pro not only obviously features far more Simulations than MixChecker, it also advances the science powering them. The original MixChecker only simulates the linear behaviour of the devices, whereas MixChecker Pro not only adds the modelling of nonlinear behaviour but also completely rewrites the original signal processing code to achieve phase linearity, lower latency, and better resolution in all parts of the frequency spectrum. Therefore, the linear part of the model uses transfer function modelling by fixed-pole parallel filters that are based on a dual-band warped filter design using a warped frequency scale so the frequency resolution of the model takes into account the frequency resolution of the auditory system, while the dual-band design brings even more precise modelling at low frequencies without reducing precision at high frequencies. Furthermore, the parallel structure of 2nd-order minimum-phase filters enable extremely low latency, minimal phase distortion, and high stability.

Saying that, the nonlinear part of the model uses a proprietary model based on the Wiener model but extends it to introduce dynamic nonlinearity and frequency- dependent nonlinearities while maintaining low CPU (Central Processing Unit) load. This extended model makes use of technology that maintains constant energy of the output signal for all distortion levels to allow for simulation of Distortion produced by the chosen device at a higher SPL (Sound Pressure Level) without increasing the SPL produced by the user’s studio monitors. More significantly, this also protects studio monitors against mechanical damage. Distortion level is calibrated in real SPL measured at a distance of 1m in free field, while all characteristics of the devices used for identification of model parameters were measured using Audio Precision’s APx525 audio analyzer (for R&D engineers and production technicians who want fast and easy audio testing) with acoustic option in an anechoic chamber; headphones, however, were measured using a Brüel & Kjær Type 4128-C HATS (Head And Torso Simulator) system (designed to provide realistic reproduction of the acoustic properties of an average adult human head and torso, therefore ideal for performing electroacoustic tests on headphones in situ). Speaking of which, with MixChecker Pro it is even possible to add some audio background noise with adjustable volume; when selecting Simulations of headphones, for example, the path of the noise through the headphones and ears is simulated, so the user hears a realistic combination of the mix playing from the headphones and also outside noise coming through the headphones!

In-Depth Review
Considering all of the technical requirements to simulate such a large range of listening devices, the interface is very clean and easy to use.

GUI-1

The menu bar is located towards the top of the display. This has a zoom option – the GUI isn’t scalable but you can choose 75%, 100%, 150% or 200% to suit your screen size and resolution. The spanner icon is the services menu giving access to the user manual, calibration settings, support and feedback. The preset name is displayed in the middle, there are 5 presets – default, default mastering, home devices, on the go and solid low end. To the right of the menu is the edit button that allows you to configure the settings for each simulation.

The 12 simulations occupy the main part of the display.

simulations

The icons are pretty self-explanatory, on the top row – Studio monitor, PA, Desktop computer, TV, laptop, tablet. On the bottom row – phone, in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, car, radio and HiFi.

At the bottom of the display are five buttons to adjust simulation settings. You can add real-world noise, auto allows you to auto-advance through each simulation (1 to 12 seconds), effect bypass, mono mode and simulated distortion. Clicking the down triangle displays the options for each of these underneath, they are colour coded for each button.

The edit button allows you to fine tune each of the simulations.

GUI-2

You can rearrange icons, change the stereo base, adjust distortion and volume level. You can create custom labels for tooltips and save individual buttons or the whole set. You can also change the simulated device, for example the on-ear headphone options are shown below.

Edit.

There’s also a Remote Control that allows you to control the plugin remotely either from your mobile device using the MixChecker RC mobile app or from another computer or a mobile device using web browser based control.

Conclusions
What’s impressive about Mixchecker Pro is that a long, laborious task is made incredibly easy and extremely quick. I have a minimal setup and it offers options to check a final mix that I don’t currently have access to. I especially like the noise and distortion options as these enhance the simulations for travelling on public transport or people out walking and if you listen to a lot of music in these circumstances like I do then you know how much they affect the audio quality for the listener.

It’s hugely customisable with a large number of tweaks that you can make but it is very easy and intuitive to use. The auto function is a brilliant touch to enable you to focus on listening to each simulation in turn without having to manually switch between them and Remote Control offers further options to free you from your audio space to check your final mix.

If there is a criticism then I have to say that I think it is that it is fairly expensive. If you’re on a budget and don’t already use mixing / mastering software it’s in the same sort of price range as software such as the Elevate Bundle that should improve the quality of your final mix. It’s also worth noting that Ozone 8 Elements is currently available for free from PluginBoutique and similarly is likely to improve your final mixes. That said, I used Mixchecker Pro to check a track I’ve previously mixed with Elevate and the difference in audio quality between simulations is really quite staggering – it’s really bass heavy on some ear-phones yet totally lacking bass on a TV. This shows that you can’t make a perfect mix for every device but Mixchecker Pro could help you get more out of software like Elevate and Ozone Elements 8 to make your final mixes even better.