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Review of Shaperbox 2 – six powerful Cableguys effects in one plugin (VST/AU) — May 26, 2020

Review of Shaperbox 2 – six powerful Cableguys effects in one plugin (VST/AU)

Introduction

Cableguys have released Shaperbox 2, six of their powerful effects in one plugin. It is available in VST (32 & 64 bit) and AU (64 bit) versions typically priced at 89 Euros / $99 available from Cableguys.

Overview

Shaperbox 2 is a hugely powerful and creative plugin that combines six Cableguys effects in one plugin, namely Timeshaper 2, Crushshaper, Volumeshaper 6, Filtershaper Core 2, Panshaper 3 and Widthshaper 2. Each of these is available to purchase as separate effects.

It’s an incredibly versatile tool that can easily handle production techniques such as producing louder, tighter mixes; expanding stereo range; adding subtle motion and creative tasks such as turning single notes into melodies and mangling sounds to your heart’s content.

It really is staggering how awesome this plugin is, it can produce so many effects and has a huge number of uses from inspiring creativity to improving mixes.

There are an absolute tonne of presets in the Cableguys cloud, these are official ones and those shared by users. I’ve just sync’d with the cloud which revealed a total of 2880 presets. That’s certainly more than enough to get you started and keep you going. For a long time.

In Use

When you launch Shaperbox 2, you have the option to load an individual shaper, each with 3 quick, common presets if required or you can load all 6 shapers at once.

Each of the shapers has a virtually identical look and feel and are colour-coded for reference. This makes using them very quick and easy to learn.

Each is built on LFOs with the ability to create any wave shape you could possibly imagine with a few clicks and powerful pens that help draw lines, arcs and S-curves. You can lock to tempo or trigger with any rhythms that aren’t 4:4 using midi notes / triggers.

Furthermore, each shaper can be split into 3 bands – low, mid and high for focussed processing.

Timeshaper 2

The init patch loads the basic timeshaper window.

The controls are intuitive and easy to get to grips with. The top of the display has settings to split into low, mid and high bands if required, set the time length, set the step mode as smooth or instant, set the LFO mode and length (beat / beat division; hertz or pitch), turn the midi trigger on and set the mix level.

Underneath this is the main LFO display. There are editing tools at the top of the display and underneath are 9 wave presets in different categories that can be used as a starting point or help you learn wave shapes that create different effects. There’s also the midi switch and the ability to save your designed waves as user presets.

It’s very easy to create anything from simple slopes to complex patterns like the one above. Timeshaper 2 can produce anything from stutter, scratch, tape stops, reverse to half-time effects.

The edit tools are very easy to use, in the order shown below you can move individual points, an area between points, creates lines, arc, S-curves, select multiple points, move the wave left or right, randomise the position of LFO points, double the entire wave, delete, undo, redo and more wave / oscilloscope options.

The very bottom of the display shows what shapers are loaded, gives controls to turn on/off, remove, reorder and there are also preset load options, the preset library and the name of the current loaded preset. The master mix is located in the bottom right corner.

Volumeshaper 6 modulates the volume of the audio signal based on the LFO. This shaper also has a compressor that can be used or the with or separate from the LFO.

The sort of effects it can be used for are sidechaining / pumping effects, achieving louder mixes, multiband compression, enhanced punch and snap, precision control of dynamics.

Filtershaper Core 2 is a powerful three-band multimode filter that enables independent modulation of both cutoff frequency and resonance, with a dedicated LFO and Envelope Follower for each.

Zero-delay feedback DSP is used throughout, ensuring an analogue-like response with even the fastest, wildest modulations. In addition, internal saturation and resonance compensation is used to ensure that you can push these filters to the brink of insanity – and beyond! – while still enjoying a dynamically consistent, musical output that sits well in the mix.

The sort of effects it can produce are rhythmic filtering, isolating or removing kicks, snares and hi-hats from drum loops, elaborate multiband filtering with a different filter type on each band, dynamic filter modulation, complex ‘wah’-style effects with an envelope follower on every band, radical multiband sound design with audio-rate modulation.

Panshaper 3 modulates the stereo position of the audio signal based on the LFO waveform and/or the Envelope Follower, using a blend of regular level-based panning and psychoacoustic Haas placement.

The sort of effects it can produce are detailed and precise rhythmic panning, adding stereo movement to mono drums, dynamic or surgical panning, adding stereo energy to specific frequency ranges, mixing regular and psychoacoustic panning, energising basslines, modulating the panning of one track based on the volume level of another.

Widthshaper 2 modulates the stereo width of the audio signal based on the LFO waveform and/or the action of its Envelope Follower.

The sort of effects it can produce are creating huge, stereo-filling risers, spreading out the high frequencies without affecting the midrange and low end, making the bass mono without affecting midrange and high frequencies, widening or narrowing sounds as they get louder or quieter, modulating the width of one track based on the volume level of another.

Crushshaper is a recent addition to Shaperbox 2, it is a digital distortion effect that enables independent modulation of wave wrapping overdrive, bit depth, sample rate and FX mix (applied in that order), using a dedicated LFO and Envelope Follower for each.

The sort of effects that it can produce are rhythmic distortion, lo-fi melodies, adding sizzle to high frequencies, brightening up elements of drum loops, adding top-end clarity to vocals.

I’ve used Shaperbox 2 extensively on the two songs embedded at the top of the post. I’ve used Volumeshaper as an ‘invisible sidechain’ on the drums and bass. This means they don’t play at the same time and creates more headroom.

I’ve used a number of instances for subtle compression, expansion and bus effects as well as for some less subtle effects such as width flutter, beat repeat and rhythmic stutter.

Review of Boy by Brett van Staalduinen published by Dundern Press (pub. date 20 October 2020) — May 17, 2020

Review of Boy by Brett van Staalduinen published by Dundern Press (pub. date 20 October 2020)

An ARC copy was provided by Netgalley and Dundurn Press in exchange for an honest review.  I’ve written the review as spoiler free as possible.

Boy is a story of immense tragedy that is powerful, intelligently and empathetically written with a determination and optimism despite the circumstances. 

The protagonist, Boy, is in his final year of school but the tragedies of the past and difficulties of the present mean that a talented student is struggling at school and his life is slowly unraveling during the story. 

His Sister, Charlie, died 8 years ago in a car accident whilst their Dad was driving (he survived) and appears as a ghost. His grades in school are falling. His mother is often absent leaving Boy to look after his baby brother. Furthermore he’s named after Boy George, the flamboyant 80’s pop star which no doubt generates a lot of questions and interest. 

The character of Mara, a pastor, lives in a secluded culvert by a lake. He has the ability to pause time and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. This element of the story could have been developed further but I think the point the author is trying to make is that we all have grief, regret and tradegy in our lives but is drawing a distinction between the choices we make ourselves and those that are made by other people that lead to circumstances we find ourselves in. 

This is because despite the circumstances, Boy finds a way through. There’s a positivity, a determination to carry on. Whilst he doesn’t accept the help of his teachers or his friends as much as he should, he talks to Charlie a lot and this appears to be his coping mechanism although this does seep through into talking out loud at times. This is in stark contrast to the attitude and behaviour of Mara. 

The story covers a lot of issues and complex characters that are relatable even if some of them are not especially likeable. The author does this without straying into cliche and uses magical realism as a relatively minor element rather than a central theme which helps focus the story on the characters and situations and he achieves a good balance in this regard. 

Review of Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon published by Angry Robot Books — May 12, 2020

Review of Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon published by Angry Robot Books

Creeping Jenny is the third in a series of John Nyquist novels following on from A Man of Shadows and Body Library.  It is published by Angry Robot Books and is available as an ebook from their website with paperback and hardback versions available from all good booksellers.

I haven’t read either of those previous two novels and came about this one through synchronicity on Twitter. I saw people taking about how good Jeff Noon books are and saw Creeping Jenny was available as a wish on Netgalley. Angry Robot Books very kindly granted the wish but unfortunately the book expired the next day but Angry Robot still very kindly still provided an ARC copy for review.  

That said, I didn’t find that an impedance reading Creeping Jenny. It’s a captivating, enthralling mystery with magical, horror and occult themes. At times the edges of reality are blurred between waking, dreaming and altered states of consciousness.  The plot development is really well paced with plot twists throughout. 

I’ve written this review as spoiler free as possible.  John Nyquist is a down on his luck private eye who is investigating the disappearance of his father. The story opens with him on a bus, heading to the village of Hoxley-on-the-Hale. After alighting the bus, he walks through a field finding woodland with writing on cards tied to the branches of trees. 

That’s the first indication that Hoxley isn’t quite what it seems. The village appears fairly normal with houses, a village green, shop, a pub and church but his first interaction with the villagers reveals a strange and sinister side. 

The village is large enough that there is some anonymity but there is also a wariness of strangers and a feeling that quite a few of them probably know everyone’s business. 

This presents challenges in itself but the task is made much harder by Saint’s Days. This is a clever twist on how we know Saint’s Days, in Hoxley they are part of everyday life, there are only five days a year that aren’t Saint’s Days. These Saints are randomly chosen throughout the year and govern the villager’s behaviour in a number of different and at times very strange ways. It’s almost like a cult, the villagers struggle to know what to do on those five non-Saint days. 

The story reveals a hidden web of dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly normal village. And not very far below the surface. There’s the mysterious and very creepy Tolly Man who makes an appearance each year but is so deeply woven into the psyche of the villagers he’s an ever present. 

And then there’s Creeping Jenny, immortalised in particularly freakish nursery rhymes and songs and never too far away. 

The connections are gradually revealed as the plot unfolds through twists and turns and character development and a number of impediments presented by various Saints. 

It’s hugely enjoyable and a gripping read. The plot twists kept me guessing and there are several unexpected twists and turns as the story reaches its climax. 

Noiiz launch Project Unity – a HUGE 10Gb donationware sample pack with all donations to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund — May 7, 2020

Noiiz launch Project Unity – a HUGE 10Gb donationware sample pack with all donations to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund

Project Unity is a HUGE sample pack created by the generosity of Noiiz creators, partners and their community with 100% of proceeds going directly to charity.

Project Unity contains over 10GB of exceptionally well produced sounds with 5,604 incredible loops and samples made by 96 different Creators.

100% of the amount donated goes directly to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organisation.

The minimum donation is $5, suggested donation is $25.

Get the Project Unity pack here.

Review of Carousel by The Orange Kyte on Little Cloud Records (US / Canada) and Cardinal Fuzz (UK / Europe) — May 4, 2020

Review of Carousel by The Orange Kyte on Little Cloud Records (US / Canada) and Cardinal Fuzz (UK / Europe)

This is a superb album, it has infectious toe-tapping grooves, singalong qualities and a solid indie vibe infused with psych, ska / 2-tone and shoegaze elements. Production is spot on, it’s a modern style with a lo-fi retro vibe giving a very distinctive sound. Vocal processing is superb, giving a dreamy, hazy kind of feel. 

It was released on pink vinyl by Little Cloud Records (US / Canada) and Cardinal Fuzz (UK / Europe) – sold out.

Masquerade

A solid opening to the album, an uptempo indie vibe with a hint of two tone, it’s a foot tapping high energy groove. 

The Modern Day Saints

Opens with uptempo guitar riff and drumming releasing to a more laid back feel. It’s another solid groove with a vibe somewhere between indie, jangly pop and 60’s psych. 

Distractions

A laid back acoustic sound to open, a kind of lonesome feel. It’s a slow groove with reflective qualities and subtly increasing distortion that adds an excellent edge. 

C. O. P

An uptempo groove with superb hook, it has a brooding quality with nice build and release of tension. Great change of feel towards the end. 

Little Death Balloon

Excellent vibe to this track, it’s a sound that’s really hard to describe, somewhere between 2-tone, ska and indie. Vocal processing gives a floaty, dreamy quality. 

Demonstration Garden

A jangly opening riff propelled by strumming, there’s a dream like quality to this track. A superb laid back vibe with singalong qualities, excellent vocal processing again. 

Infinity Rope

Uptempo garage rock vibe with hints of ska and 2-tone, vocals provide a contrasting laid back element. 

Sea of Love (Ocean of Hate)

Another uptempo groove, vocals have the characteristic dreamy quality providing a great contrast. Excellent singalong qualities. 

Downfall

A pulsing opening leading into strummed chords, bass and drumming, it’s a laid back groove with just an edge of tension. Solo adds a great element. 

Captain Ron

Strummed chords lead into a high energy uptempo groove with a great release to a more laid back vibe. 

No More Christmas Blues

Drone, strummed chords, walking bassline and tambourine give a laid back groove with a nice change to a more uptempo feel. I really like the acoustic, stripped back feel with a Christmas vibe. The vocals have a natural, unprocessed quality.