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Review of Cult Classic Records Presents on Cult Classic Records by Various Artists — May 27, 2019

Review of Cult Classic Records Presents on Cult Classic Records by Various Artists

This is a superb album, it has a vibe somewhere between soul, jazz and hip hop. There’s often a lo fi sound, the arrangements are excellent contrasting atmospheric and more upfront elements. There’s an overall chilled vibe with more of an edgy feel with the rapping on some tracks. 

Uppeach and Thomas Prime – NordenVinden

Vocals and pad to open, bass and drumming pattern give a laid back groove. It’s a sparse feel with excellent vocal processing. Layering of background sounds and synths works really well. There’s almost a jazzy feel at times. 

SamuraiGuru and Thomas Prime – Watch’N lol Bill

Excellent atmospheric opening from electric piano and spoken recording, bass and drumming enter to give the song a lo-fi / hip-hop / jazz vibe. It’s a slow groove with looping electric piano riff and ethereal vocals. 

Saib. & Thomas Prime – Sand Castles

Superb jazzy / lo-fi / hip hop vibe from opening shimmery guitar, drumming and bass. Another smooth groove, the vocals are perfectly done. 

Vessel and Prime – These are my Tears

Great contrast between the smooth groove and more upfront rap, it’s a foot tapping song with the rap weaving around the groove.

Anna Morley (Heightened Senses Thomas Prime Remixes)

Atmospheric opening with guitar, electric piano, synth and vocals, it’s a smooth groove with an edge of tension. Really good changes in feel, vocals are subtle but really well balanced. 

KAA DDU & Thomas Prime – Patterns

Atmospheric opening leads into a laid back groove with shimmery trem electric piano riff that adds a great element. There’s a subtle movement to the sound with layered arp, vocals and background sounds. 

ETOAS (deeB & Anonymous Musik) – On the Nature of Things

Edgy opening with evolving pad and piano, they support and underpin the spoken words that are well paced. 

Lancet & Thomas Prime – Kanopie

Laid back guitar and synth to open given momentum by drumming, it’s another lo-fi / hip-hop groove with great layering. Vocals are excellent.  There’s subtle changes in feel and just an edge of tension. 

Thieta & Thomas Prime – No Way in Hell

Vocals and piano to open, the drumming is quite upfront and so are the vocals, a great angst and passion. There’s a kind of lazy triplet feel to the song, a stilted groove. It has a great lo fi vibe. 

KAA & DDU – Never Give Up Feat. NoMads

A subtle opening leads into an upfront hip hop groove. Solid vocals, great passion that contrasts with the atmospheric background vocals. 

Sickmind193 & Thomas Prime – In the Streets

Edgy tension from delayed impact sounds, drumming and bass enter to give a solid momentum. Strings add a great edge of tension. Vocals are excellent, really add to the tension. 

TwoDaystoAlaska & Thomas Prime – Polaris (Shelter)

Very atmospheric opening from synth and spoken words, distorted riff leads into a kind of dubstep / liquid dubstep groove with dreamy vocals and a percussive rhythm. Excellent release in the middle of the song returning to the groove. 

Terrane and Thomas Prime – I’m not Ready

Excellent intro with electric piano, vocals and emerging pad leading into a solid groove. It’s really well layered, quite hard to describe but somewhere between soul, jazz and hip-hop. Excellent changes in feel. 

Review of ‘The Last Days of Jack Sparks’ book by Jason Arnopp — May 26, 2019

Review of ‘The Last Days of Jack Sparks’ book by Jason Arnopp


It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account. Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now.

I wanted to write a review without spoilers, which is quite a difficult task.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a gripping story about that journey of his last few days. You’ll probably not be too surprised to hear there’s a fair dose of horror as well as suspense.  Yet it’s also funny and witty and very intelligently written.  It keeps you guessing, there are more than a few twists and turns and I didn’t see them coming.  It’s a book that I couldn’t put down – that hasn’t happened in a while. 

Character development is a key part of the plot. You find yourself thinking one thing about Jack Sparks then as his childhood and background become better known you’ll probably change your mind about him and probably more than once. 

It’s very fitting that Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘reality tunnels’ get a mention because there are times you get the story from different perspectives and as you’d imagine, they are very different perspectives making you question the reliability of the account at times. 

I also like how it’s written in the first person with comments from the editor and other people. Although a fictional character, there are character traits that are captured perfectly that will bring to mind certain people. It has the feel of a story about a real person and there’s even a website that really adds to this. 

I’d highly recommend this book, but maybe not for bedtime reading with the lights off like I did. You might start to see things out the corner of your eye and start hearing things too. In fact the other day whilst driving I looked in the mirror and saw that the lady in the car behind looked a lot like Maria Corvi. That’s the thing with the last days of Jack Sparks. It will get in your head and get you thinking, often when you least expect it. 

MIND Music Labs showcases seminal ELK MusicOS at SUPERBOOTH19 with prototype products and announcements — May 19, 2019

MIND Music Labs showcases seminal ELK MusicOS at SUPERBOOTH19 with prototype products and announcements

Swedish startup MIND Music Labs lets loose by showcasing several super-cool applications of its award-winning ELK MusicOS — the world’s first ultra-low-latency music operating system developed specifically for audio applications, ushering in a new era where the power, flexibility, and selection of audio and music software can be run in real time on embedded hardware with full MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) support — at SUPERBOOTH19 in Berlin.

Further fulfilling its ambition of creating new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how to learn, create, record, and share music, MIND Music Labs will be demonstrating the potential and flexibility of its seminal ELK MusicOS by showcasing a number of hardware product prototypes based on existing VST (Virtual Instrument Technology) and RE (Rack Extension) releases from world-class developers at SUPERBOOTH19, Europe’s first and largest trade fair for electronic musical instruments.

First stop: media production products provider Steinberg’s stand on owner Yamaha’s booth (H310). Here the German giant continues its partnership with MIND Music Labs in making VST a standard for hardware by showcasing the co-developed ‘Powered by ELK’ Retrologue 2, a proof-of-concept prototype desktop synth running Retrologue 2, Steinberg’s VST Virtual Analog Synthesizer — successfully emulating the warmth and fatness of classic analog synthesizers — on hardware.

However, ELK MusicOS is not only VST compatible but also runs RE plug-ins from fellow Swedish company Propellerhead, creators of innovative and affordable music software. Supporting the Propellerhead partnership, MIND Music Labs will be showcasing a Eurorack format synth module running the RE-compatible Polysix for Reason — utilising Korg’s proprietary CMT (Component Modeling Technology) to precisely model the circuitry of an analog polysynth classic from 1982 — on booth (O504).

Other must-see SUPERBOOTH19 showcases scheduled to take place at MIND Music Labs’ location there include several contrasting conceptual collaborative projects with the likes of plug-in developer Stefano D’Angelo, former DSP engineer at Arturia; Italian music and audio software company Audio Modeling, creators of the SWAM (Synchronous Waves Acoustic Modeling) engine; HISE, an open source framework for sample-based instruments; and Igor Nembrini of Nembrini Audio, creator of some of the most revered guitar amp plug-ins under the Brainworx brand for Universal Audio’s UAD (Universal Audio Digital) platform.

Concludes MIND Music Labs CEO Michele Benincaso: “The different hardware prototypes we will be showcasing at SUPERBOOTH19 are all great examples of what ELK MusicOS is capable of. With ELK MusicOS you add the feel of playing an actual physical instrument — without losing the benefits and qualities of desktop plug-ins. I am very excited to show everyone at SUPERBOOTH19 what we have been working on.”

About MIND Music Labs (
MIND Music Labs is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and develops technologies enabling a new generation of connected musical instruments. Its ambition is to create new ways to bridge the gap between musicians and technology, changing how to learn, create, record, and share music.

© 2019 MIND Music Labs

Review of String Studio VS-3 String Oscillator Synthesiser (VST/AU/AAX) by Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS) — May 17, 2019

Review of String Studio VS-3 String Oscillator Synthesiser (VST/AU/AAX) by Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS)


Applied Acoustics Solutions (AAS) have released an all new version of its string oscillator synthesiser, String Studio. String Studio VS-3 plug-in runs on both Windows and Mac OS X in 64-bit host sequencers that support the VST2, VST3, Audio Units, AAX Native, and NKS formats, typically priced at $199. There are a number of upgrade options for users of versions 1 and 2. Further details can be found on the String Studio page of the AAS website.


String Studio VS-3 is a synthesizer in which a collection of unique string oscillators replaces the traditional VCOs, DCOs, and operators as the main sound source. Consisting of picks, bows, and hammers interacting with a modelled string, these oscillators offer a special blend of modern and creative synthesis. Augmented with a soundboard, classic filters, an envelope generator, a LFO, and studio-quality effects, String Studio VS-3 proposes a brand-new path in the quest for tone.

“This new version is all about adding new dimensions to the distinctive sonic signature of String Studio,” says Eric Thibeault, product designer at Applied Acoustics Systems. “String Studio VS-3 is now multitimbral. Combining two independent String Studio synthesis engines opens up a whole new world in terms of content. We’ve also added per-layer modulators that allow sound designers to make sound variations an integral part of the design process. Most importantly, a huge effort has been put into the factory library to exploit all these new possibilities. Each and every sounds were fine-tuned to provide a consistent gain-stage, unity-gain effects, better dynamics, and compelling MIDI-controlled sound transformation assignments.​ ​We’re confident that you’ll love this new iteration of String Studio.”


It’s hard to put into words just how good this synth is. It sounds awesome, is incredibly powerful yet is really intuitive and easy to get to grips with at the same time.

It’s one of those that took me by surprise, I was expecting typical string sounds like violins and guitars but the depth and breadth of sounds is quite stunning. Basses, guitars, plucks, rhythms, sequences, textures, pads, arps, leads – the list of sounds that it can produce is huge.

The bundled presets highlight this. They are extensive, sound excellent and allow you to use String Studio straight away. They also give you the option to tweak sounds and learn how to create your own sounds.

I’ve used String Studio to create the tracks for the EP embedded at the top of the post. It’s based on the contrast between the lure of a big city and the peacefulness of the country. wen was created using Scaler and uses multiple instances of String Studio along with a drum loop and a vocal loop. taiga was created using RapidComposer and uses multiple instances of String Studio and a field recording. Both tracks were mixed using Eventide effects (Blackhole, SP2016 reverb, H3000 Factory, Ultrachannel) and mastered in MuLab 8 using Magnetite (Black Rooster Audio), Stage (Fielder Audio), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Youlean Loudness meter.

Because String Studio models the sounds, you’d expect to need a fairly high powered machine. The manual recommends an Intel Core i5 or faster, however, I’ve used it on an old Dual Core 2Gb Pentium and it runs perfectly ok although the CPU can only cope with about 4 instances.

In-Depth Review

The GUI is well designed so that it is easy to use and find your way around. There are a series of tabs that change the display to the desired controls, some of these have additional buttons to display further parameters. This approach keeps the interface clean, preventing an overwhelming display. There are play, synth, effects and browse tabs for each layer as well as a master effects section.

The utility section at the top of the display has functions such as browse presets, compare, save, history and settings. As well as the usual polyphony, tuning and midi settings one excellent feature is the potential to tune String Studio to different temperaments – microtonal tuning – using Scala micro-tuning files.

The architecture is inspired by the functioning of string instruments. The vibration of a string is the main sound production mechanism and can be produced by a hammer, pick or bow. The frequency is determined by string length controlled by fret or finger interaction. You can apply a damper to reduce the decay time and the body for acoustic instruments and pickups for electric guitars also shapes the sound.

This is the basis for the string oscillators that replace traditional oscillators you find on a synth. String Studio provides three types of string oscillator, a bowed string oscillator (BSO), hammered string oscillator (HSO), and a plucked string oscillator (PSO). The output from the oscillator is filtered by the Filter and Body modules and then processed in a mixer and multi-effects module. You can use two oscillators simultaneously layered or in split keyboard mode.

On loading, the play tab is loaded. This has the main performance orientated modules. You have quick access to switch on/off effects and access to key parameters; the clock module allows you to sync to host or use the rate knob; the keyboard module controls how String Studio responds to midi, this can be mono or poly with a control to adjust tuning; unison module; glide module; two modulator modules that can be used to assign midi controllers to destination parameters; vibrato module; arpeggiator module with 16 step pattern underneath. The ribbon controller is a handy feature, it’s a 7 octave keyboard that can be used to test sounds or determine where the split occurs when using split mode. There are also pitch and modulation wheels.

Synth view is the heart of String Studio. There are ten modules organised into four groups that can be switched using the buttons beneath each module.

The Exciter module is the method used to vibrate the string – bow, hammer 1, hammer 2 and plectrum. The controls vary to reflect their different properties and characteristics.

The body module adjusts the properties of the body of the instrument that radiates the sound. This includes size. shape, materials and decay time.

The damper module attenuates the vibration of the string, for example felt on a piano or using your finger on a guitar.

The termination module models the finger / fret / string interaction where the string is pressed down to play a note. Essentially this considers how hard you press the string and the stiffness of the fret underneath.

The geometry module alters the point of action of the damper and exciter on the string and the option to use a pickup and determine its position.

The distortion module offers a range of distortions from mellow to metal.

The filter module is a multi-mode filter including a resonant low-pass, band-pass, high-pass, notch and a formant filter. The cut-off and resonance can be modulated using different sources.

The envelope module is based on a standard ADSR envelope.

The LFO module is used as a modulation source for the filter module.

The effects tab displays the multi-effects processor. The first two effects are equaliser and compressor that can be switched on or off. There are a further 3 effects that you can also switch on or off and can choose from Delay, Distortion, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, WahWah, AutoWah, Guitar Amplifier, Tremolo, and a Notch filter. There are individual effects for each layer as well as a separate master effects layer.

The browser tab gives you access to the library of presets that can be loaded as a layer. You can search by pack or sound type.