Andrulian's blog

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

Review of Litote Granular Exploration Box VST by Inear Display — March 23, 2017

Review of Litote Granular Exploration Box VST by Inear Display

  

 
Litote is a stereo granular audio effects plugin (note it doesn’t work on mono tracks) available as VST and Audio Unit for OS X and Windows in both 32 and 64 bit versions from Inear Display. It costs 39 euros + VAT and a demo version is available to try.

Litote comprises of a combination of granulizers, resonators and diffusion delays. Rather than giving the user control over the settings of these effects, Litote takes a different approach using ‘smart’ randomisation – which means that the likelihood of annoying results is minimised. This means that you can get on and use it straight away. As with many similar effects, the result will vary depending upon the input signal.

The interface has a very clean design comprising of 3 sections. The top section is the config menu which gives reseed options, user guide, access to the presets directory and a crash log; The middle part contains the XY pad, sound trajectory on/off switch, randomisation buttons; The bottom section contains the trajectory controls (when this mode is enabled) and level controls for input, output and mix.

litote-trajectory

The pad acts as a control and a visualiser. You can click or drag the target circle to a different part of the pad. Each corner corresponds to a different sound engine so the position of the target circle will determine the type of effect produced. The trajectory offers an additional control option and furthermore the X and Y positions of the target circle are available for automation within your host.

At the sides of the pad are buttons to randomise various aspects of the overall sound. The top left button regenerates the whole sound and the atom button below randomises the X and Y speed / range settings for trajectory mode with the on/off button for this feature underneath.

litote_automation - left buttons

The four buttons on the right side randomise the sound of the four individual engines, each of which is symbolised by an icon representing the corner to which it is attached.

litote_automation - right buttons

Trajectory mode provides automation with a smaller target travelling inside a defined area coloured green within the pad as shown on the interface image above.

litote_automation - traj levels

The bottom section enables you to manually set the trajectory controls and the levels section gives control over the input level, output level and mix which is the dry:wet ratio.

In use, it is a very easy effect to start using. As much as I like tweaking effect settings to my requirements, there is something appealing and refreshing about using random settings for effects. I’ve tended to launch Litote, generate a random seed, regenerate the whole sound and then go from there.

Litote produces an interesting and wide range of effects from grain / granular textures, ring modulation type effects, a kind of tremelo, chorus, harmonics/overtones to glitchy delayed artifacts. You can get some very interesting results with drum loops, for example an added percussive layer with rattles and bass drones.

The trajectory mode can give a subtle or more pronounced movement in the sound and the availability of the X and Y positions of the target is a brilliant touch because in the DAW I use – Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II – you can set up an XY pad with physics to control the speed of the ball bouncing around inside the box which then automates movement of the target.

litote_automation

I’ve really enjoyed using Litote, especially with the automation options. As a result I got a bit carried away and created an entire album titled ‘chronikos’ and a longer set of one of the songs which were recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II and subsequently mastered using Neutron by iZotope in Mulab 7.2 and are both embedded at the top of the post.

The opening track of the album, Anatoli Iliou, has quite a simple arrangement as shown below with manual triggering of playback of the field recording and settings for the grain sampler adjusted during the recording.  I’ve used automation of the target within Litote to create subtle movement within the sounds, on other tracks I’ve adjusted the position manually for more dramatic changes in sound. I’ve often used Litote in combination with Incipit, a delay effect also by Inear Display and the two effects work really well together. You can read my review of Incipit here.

screenshot_rec10

 

Review of ‘We Stand: An International Compilation in Support of Planned Parenthood’ on Verses Records — March 21, 2017

Review of ‘We Stand: An International Compilation in Support of Planned Parenthood’ on Verses Records

 
We Stand: An International Compilation In Support of Planned Parenthood features 44 Artists representing 10 countries with all profits donated to Planned Parenthood.

It is the second similar release by Verses Records of Washington, DC, hot on the heels of their previous compilation Code Red which supports the ACLU.

Planned Parenthood is a United States organization, which is under siege like never before. The goal is to help raise funds and awareness for one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality healthcare for women, men, and young people. We stand together for solidarity, equality, safe (and reliable) health care, as well as freedom of choice.

Verses Records is a collective comprised of: Monica Stroik, Dave Harris, Doug Kallmeyer, Dempsey Hamilton and Dennis Kane. It was created to release and promote approaches to music that are not represented in popular, mainstream culture.

‘We Stand’ is an excellent compilation and I’m very proud to have one of my songs featured. For $8 you get over 3 hours of music with a bit of everything from hynoptic ambiences, jazz grooves, glitchy soundscapes, dub-techno to harsher industrial sounds and dark edged songs in the knowledge that all profits from your purchase are going to a very worthy cause.

Hrim – Huldufolk
A kind of jazz meets folk meets glitch sound, it’s downtempo and cinematic with haunting and beautiful vocals. Superb arrangement and layering.

Blankets – A Lifetime of Happiness
Superb layered percussive rhythms with edgy synth sounds, vocals are a bit unnerving. Great tension to the song.

Stephanie Merchak – Dark Times
Excellent use of delay on layered percussion and drums creates a dynamic groove which contrasts really well against the sweeping synth / pad sounds.

Night Glitter – Raised for the War
There’s a brilliant vibe to this track, it has a laid back groove with shimmery guitar chords, well layered organ and synth riffs and dreamy vocals. There’s just a hint of distortion in the guitar at times which adds a great tension.

Julia Kent – sycorax
A great evolving ambience to the song which develops a great tension with the increasingly frustrated sounding strings.

Yoko K – Lou
Another beautiful opening, a really dreamy quality with the soft vocals, synths and background water sounds. It’s a hypnotic track, superbly layered sounds create a subtle ebb and flow feel.

Mellow Diamond – American God
A great arrangement of bass riff and deep strings which act like a drone. The vocals are excellent, they sit slightly back in the mix which gives them a kind of ethereal feel. Nice change of feel when the distorted guitar enters.

Fold – Something Gives
A laid back jazz groove with well written and excellently spoken vocals.

Huda Asfour – Sama’i
A very organic and natural sound to this song, lovely vocals, natural percussion and beautiful sounding instruments.

Divine Circles – Flower Song (demo)
A percussive instrument provides a great blurring between a melody and layered percussive rhythm providing a great backdrop for the violin part.

Dennis Kane – Loss and Confusion
An arp creates a great tension with layered piano chords and reversed chords, there’s a haunting beauty to the strings. Excellently atmospheric track.

Ghost Airplane – Nose Dive
A great choppy riff to open, the vocals have a dreamy quality. Great layering of synth sounds and nice change of feel with vocal harmonies and synth arp. A great riff towards the end of the song too.

Humanfobia – Olanzapine Moss Ethereal Temple
A sound like a dialling modem to open, it’s a bit glitchy, a bit drone with excellently processed vocals which sit low in the mix.

Blind Idiot God – Subterranean Flight (live at Roadburn)
An instrumental rock / metal sound propelled by solid drumming and bass playing, the lead guitar has great tone and the song is an excellent jam.

The Orchid – A Gentle Way of Getting Even
The opening guitar riff has a great pensive quality leading into a mellow rock sound with a nice change.

James Wolf- Refuge
This has the feeling of a live improvisation, layered strings and synths create really interesting harmonies and movement in the sound, it’s captivating with an edge of tension.

Sally Sparks – The Darkest Night Passes
A call and response feel between great vocal harmonies and strings leading into sombre sounding piano with brass, it’s a contemplative sound with a great ambience.

Addie – Lilia’s Butterfly
Beautiful vocals and a smooth jazz feel, this song has natural sounding percussion and excellently layered piano and strings.

Margaret Noble – The Beginnings
I really like the arrangement of the drone bass, arp and percussive rhythm, there’s an excellent evolution of the song with some very well crafted sounds.

YTAMO – Pool
Excellently layered sounds create an atmospheric opening, I really like the placement and panning of sounds. There’s great changes of feel through the song which has a great experimental quality whilst retaining coherence and continuity of sound.

Owlbinos of Northfield – These Grief Tourists
Complex layered glitchy rhythm, epic distorted sounds and ominous drone create an edgy soundscape with a great build and release.

Ivy Meadows – New Energy
Great contrast between the more urgent bass and laid back layered melody which has more of a floaty feel.

Guivulle – Fire on the water (Ft. Mercy Weiss)
Sparse synth melody compliments the picked acoustic guitar really well. The song has lovely vocals and interesting chord changes which grab your attention.

ensemble, et al. – Four
An excellent natural sound to this song with layered percussion, bass drone and xylophones. It has an urgency to the rhythm which contrasts with the more laid back melody. Great use of distortion towards the end of the song.

Dead Neanderthals : Mass Hypnosis
The drumming provides a great momentum for the really gnarly lead guitar sound. Great change in feel with the rhythm picking up pace before returning to the original tempo.

Housefire – incubatorawakeningsequence
There’s a great pulsing to this song, like a heartbeat, with synth and swirling vocals which can be heard without hearing what is being said.

Belly Full of Star – Jupiter
Lovely synth sounds with reversed elements, it’s a great ambience which also creates a rhythmic element. Some really subtle background sounds and effects which fade in and out seamlessly.

Silk Drop – Broken Mind
Lovely swirling synth and deep bass sounds, percussive rhythm is complex with some great delayed elements. The vocals are lovely. There’s just an edge of tension to the sound which works really well.

Roofhare – Come on Let’s Do It!
Excellent percussive rhythm with subtle bass and synth parts, there’s some very well crafted sounds which create a song which is quite hard to describe which is arranged and layered to great effect. The quotes add a great element.

Clara Engel – Uneasy Spirit
A beautiful and haunting song with a very natural sound. Captivating vocals are complimented by acoustic guitar, natural percussion and strings. Some lovely harmonies too.

Xambuca – OPTION+COMMAND+ESC
A great evolution in this song from a sonar type of sound to drone to an industrial rhythm.

DmIII – Ve
Plucked string to open, the violin provides a contrast. The bass is quite subtle but has a great presence.

Shane Parish – there is no reason to panic, there is no death
A guitar solo piece, it sounds like the guitar has an unusual tuning with the bass string resonating against the fret and some nice harmonies.

Andrulian – Beyond the lies and noise
This is my entry, feel free to add your own comments!

Tristan Welch – Taking Western Avenue
I love how the evolving, warm ambience of the synth is contrasted against a harsher distorted sound.

Glitchfield Plaines – Ambient Greats volume 1
Subtle distortion on the guitar works really well leading into an excellent riff which sounds like it builds from footsteps. Layered synth arp and bass give a great momentum.

Red Spells Red – Many Happy Returns
A wonderfully atmospheric ambient track with really well layered background sounds, pads and keys. There’s a subtle movement in the sounds which creates some excellent textures.

Lizzy Kindred – Neon
There’s a dark edge and a brooding quality to this song, the opening bass riff leads into excellently processed sparse percussion with an ominous sounding background drone and synth lead and effects. The vocals are beautiful and sit quite low in the mix which gives them a kind of ethereal feel and presence.

Soft Ledges – La Nina
This song has a slow indie / rock groove with a foreboding feeling. It has excellent piano, passionate vocals and distorted / feedback guitar which tells the sad story of abuse really well.

Sarah Schonert – Because I am Stronger
This is a superb piano solo with a really positive upbeat feel.

Chrissie Caulfield – Kick Start
This track has soulful violin which contrasts against a background sound which is a really well processed bass sound which is a bit distorted, slightly bitcrushed and has great movement. There’s a change to a more uptempo feel in the violin playing with some really interesting background sounds.

Oe – Keep the Light On
This song has a great ambience with a subtle movement in sound and some excellent textures. There’s great use of found sounds and impact sounds and some intricate percussive rhythms too. I really like the contrast between the ambience and the glitchy elements.

behr – Thoughts Swallowed Dub
A wonderfully atmospheric track with layered background sounds, synths and drum patterns. It’s quite difficult to describe, it has a kind of dub techno feel at times, more minimal at others whilst retaining an expansive sound. The bass has great presence.

Elisa Faires – Amaryllis
Comprised of vocal sounds such as ‘ooh’ and ‘ahs’, this song has excellent layering which gives some great harmonies and a great soundscape. It has meditative and hymn like qualities, a very calming sound.

 
Verses Records:
website | bandcamp | twitter | facebook | soundcloud

Review of ‘Bingo Halls’ album by Annie & The Station Orchestra on Bearsuit Records — March 8, 2017

Review of ‘Bingo Halls’ album by Annie & The Station Orchestra on Bearsuit Records

 
There’s a brilliant sound to this album, it’s very atmospheric and difficult to describe in terms of a genre but is somewhere between indie, synthpop and shoegaze.

The songs are excellently arranged with great layering and use of contrasting elements. There’s some excellent distorted guitar and synth sounds and great use of effects too.

Time
This has quite an uptempo, edgy opening with distorted guitar. There’s a great variety in drumming and synth lead sounds with excellent layering. There’s a great vibe to this song, it has a kind of improvised call and response feel. This whistling section adds an excellent change in feel.

King of the Idiots
There’s an atmospheric opening with synth and delayed effects and bagpipes in the background leading into a kind of indie synth wave sound which builds through the song to a final release.

The Arms of Morphine
This song has an ominous sounding opening with drone and processed vocals. The kick pattern has a distorted, industrial feel. The upbeat feel of the synth lead contrasts with this really well. Excellent layering again with vocals and background sounds.

Here Come the Bears
A sparse opening with accordion, vocals and sparse percussion, the drumming pattern and synth enter to give a great dub feel. I really like the laid back groove and vocals.

The Return of Banjo Williamson
This song has a string type of sound to open leading into an indie vibe with excellent distorted guitar riff. There’s great layering with a synth riff which gives just a hint of dissonance.

Song for the Invalid Drivers
A classical guitar to open with synth and subtle distorted guitar, the sound develops through the song which has a Celtic feel at times.

Bicycle Jane
The opening reminds me of a Hawaiian type of sound, maybe it’s the portamento on the synth. The song has a kind of pensive feel. Propelled by drumming there’s an excellent build and release of tension with really nice changes in feel.

Blithering Idiot
Great piano, tremelo guitar and bass to open, the song has a slow pensive feel with a great change when the drumming and distorted guitar enter.

The Alsatian, Satan
An arp and kick pattern create an excellent tension, the layered vocals work really well. There’s an edgy feel from distortion / vinyl sounds and an emerging distorted riff increases the tension with looping vocals and percussive sounds.

To Bingo Halls
Electric piano and bass open the song with a delayed synth riff creating an excellent atmosphere with a really nice change to a more uptempo feel when the drums and distorted guitar riff enter.

Out of Time
Opens with excellently processed percussive sounds giving an industrial feel which contrasts really well with the synth sound. Great layering of distorted guitar which sits subtly in the mix and the song rounds out the album really well.

 

Bearsuit Records: website | twitter | faccebook | bandcamp

The making of an album using Algo Incantations, a project by Shardcore — March 5, 2017

The making of an album using Algo Incantations, a project by Shardcore

 
I’m a big fan of the work of Shardcore and I’m very grateful to him for allowing me to use his work in this way. I first heard about him through Radio Eris, an algorithmic radio station based on the excellent book ‘KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by John Higgs. Which by the way is a highly recommended book and at the time of writing is available from Amazon UK for Kindle for £1.99.

I’d seen Shardcore’s Algo Incantations and what caught my eye was the principle of using an algorithm to produce an incantation. Equally fascinating was the use of the Necronomicon by Simon. I’m a big fan of H P Lovecraft and his writing is a big influence on many of my releases so I found this intriguing.

That’s because the Necronomicon isn’t a real document as such, rather it exists in tantalising glimpses through Lovecraft stories and is a mythos that dates back to pre-human history.

What’s really intriguing is how this has become ‘real’ over time through the belief and practices of those who support and read his work and how much momentum it has gained in popular culture almost a hundred years after he wrote his stories. So on the one hand it ‘exists’ but only in the ether and there isn’t an actual official version.

So for a book that does not exist in the traditional sense, there have been a number of hoaxes and fakes and an awful lot written about it over time. The most widely known version is indeed the one by Simon, purportedly a pseudonym of Peter Levenda. However, it quickly gets very confusing because he remains somewhat enigmatic about this and maintains that he did not know anything about H P Lovecraft in the 1970s.

The Simon Necronomicon isn’t really the Necronomicon that Lovecraft wrote about. It’s actually a heady mix of a bit of Lovecraft, a bit of Crowley and a lot of Sumerian mythology / demonology. If Peter Levenda is the author ‘Simon’ then he clearly knew about Lovecraft because the Simon version links Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley – a number of sources suggest that Lovecraft would likely have been aware of Crowley but there’s not much evidence to suggest a stronger link than this. Equally it would seem that the link between Lovecraft and Sumerian mythology is also tenuous as far as I can tell, for instance Cthulhu does not seem to appear in Sumerian mythology.

When it was published in the 1970s there’s a suggestion it tapped into popular occult themes of the time and so is not complete nor accurate. There’s also suggestions that the sigils are somewhat arbitrary and on this basis some advise that it is not wise to use it for practical purposes because some people have apparently had very bad experiences for doing so.

That said, chaos magic isn’t particularly concerned with the subject matter, more about the processes and outcomes.

So we have a machine randomly generating incantations from a book that appears to be inherently chaotic, seemingly tapping into the popular culture of the time and making links that don’t really exist rather than being a complete system. I consider that the book itself is definitely real and not a hoax although the content is somewhat questionable. Maybe it is a trickster in our cosmology. So I thought it would be a good idea to immortalise some of these algo incantations in music.  And create my own sigils.

I’ve tried to make sure the pronunciation is as accurate as possible but as synthesised voices are used there may be some inaccuracies.

I’ve also avoided some of the more apocalyptic incantations where the dead rise and eat the living. Just in case.

In Gordon White’s book ‘Pieces of Eight: Chaos Magic Essays and Enchantments’ he describes a clay tablet in the British Museum upon which is inscribed in large script a Babylonian spell for banishing domestic ghosts:
Zu-zu-la-ah
nu-mi-la-ah
hu-du-la-ah
hu-šu-bu-la-ah

I thought I’d mention that here, again, just in case.

In keeping with the idea of the true will of the machine, I’ve used random presets for the synths and effects as much as possible and also used a number of random midi pattern generators and/or arbitrary midi patterns too. The incantations are voiced by either the Ivona Android voice or various voices from Alter/Ego, a singing synth by Plogue.

alterego

I’ve used a variety of synths and effects to produce the songs:
Dust (Soundmorph)
Polygon; Convex (Glitchmachines)
Deelay (Hornet)
Teulfelsberg reverb (Balance Mastering)
Carbon Electra (Plugin Boutique)
Alter/Ego (Plogue)
DDLY Dynamic Delay (iZotope)
Ambience (Smartelectronik)
Homing Pad; Groove Steps (Hollyhock II)
Incipit (Inear Display)
Vortex Soundwaves (Sample Science)
Frostbite; Space Strip (Audiothing)
Tremolator (Sound Toys)
Enzyme CM (Humanoid Soundsystem)
Noisetar (Nusofting)

receive-the-sun

This is the workspace for ‘receive the sun’.  I’ve used Dust and Polygon which are triggered by somewhat arbitrarily created midi patterns.  These are both excellent sample based instruments which I’ve previously reviewed on my blog.

dust

polygon

For rhythmic parts, I’ve used Groove Steps and Homing Pad which are both part of Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II.  Groove steps has lots of options and randomisation settings so you can quickly create some interesting rhythms, especially when feeding it to a dub-style delay in Incipit.

groovesteps

Similarly Homing Pad allows you to draw a pattern which is traced to trigger drum or percussion sounds and the picture below shows the random pattern which I drew.  With a bit of practice you get a feel for different rhythms whether you draw lines, circles, squares etc.

homingpad

The songs were recorded as one take live recordings in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II and subsequently mastered in MuLab 7.2 using Neutron by iZotope. The songs were recorded and mastered by Andrulian.

Review of MuLab 7.2 DAW by MuTools — March 3, 2017

Review of MuLab 7.2 DAW by MuTools

It’s been nearly two years since I reviewed MuLab 6 which you can read about here. So a review for MuLab 7 which was released in May 2016 is somewhat overdue. The latest version is 7.2.23 and is available for Windows (32 & 64 bit) and Mac (64 bit). System requirements are not too demanding – Windows XP and above, MacOS 10.6.8 and above; a decent soundcard / driver. A minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 and powerful multi-core are recommended but not necessary although it is an important point when considering how you will use MuLab. As you’d expect it will run more efficiently and with a lower CPU load with a higher spec machine but many modern synths and effects have complex architecture using a lot of maths and calculations and so require multi-core processors and their performance will be limited by your system rather than MuLab.

There have been a myriad of updates and improvements since the original review. To try and summarise these, version 7 brought improved sound; easier audio recording; improved audio marking; improved support for streaming files with different sample rates; a step sequencer; new modules including audio rate modulation, sample and hold, parameter randomisation (also works on VSTs), pitch bend; enhanced racks; user definable grids; swing parameter; improved piano roll.

Version 7.1 was essentially a re-write of the MacOS code along with a number of improvements and fixes. Version 7.2 included a grain player along with a number of improvements and bug fixes which have continued up to the latest version.

These are all listed on the change log page should you require any further information.

There are a number of different purchase options, a new MuLab licence costs 69 Euros which includes an integrated MUX modular system. You can purchase the MUX modular system separately as a plugin for 59 Euros and this allows you to use MuLab in other DAWs. You can also purchase both together for 99 Euros. Essentially you would only need to purchase a separate MUX licence if you are likely to run MuLab in other DAWs. Upgrades are also available at a discounted price. One point to note is that when you purchase the full version, you will be granted an initial user key so that you can use MuLab straight away. The permanent key is then emailed once the order has been manually processed which is normally within 1 – 2 working days.

The good news is that a free version is also available and it is recommended that you try this first to ensure that MuLab meets your needs. The free version is limited to 4 tracks and 8 VSTs. However, if you can create a great demo song (conditions apply, for instance no VSTs allowed) you could win a MuLab and MUX Modular plugin licence. Full details and terms and conditions can be found here.

What’s impressive is that with all of the updates that have occurred, users of MuLab 6 will still feel at home with the latest version. The GUI is familiar but the updated fonts and design give a more modern look and feel. It is still intuitive to use and setting up the audio and scanning VSTs is the same straightforward process. If you have a lot of VSTs like me it can take some time to scan them all but then any subsequent additions can be done very easily by scanning a single file or folder. Another useful feature when you upgrade versions is that you can copy your user folder to retain your user settings and files.

The factory content is also very impressive. There are a number of devices – MuDrum, MuSynth, MuPad, MuSampla and MultiSampla as well as MuEcho and MuVerb which are very good echo and reverb effects. The instruments cover a very wide range including bass, leads, pads, sequences, organs, soundscapes. Similarly effects include chorus, distortion, filters, delay, reverb, flangers and experimental units. There are also a number of audio generators, audio processors, event generators and event processors.

mulab7_layout

This is what the GUI looks like using one of the demo songs. The ‘Mulab’ and ‘project’ buttons in the top left provide the main menu / settings options. Next to these are the ‘compose’, ‘edit’ and ‘modular’ buttons which give you different views. Next to this is the transport panel and completing the top row is a focussed module keyboard.

To the right of the screen is the file manager where you can browse and load samples, midi files, instruments etc. The main part of the screen is determined by the selected view button. ‘Compose’ shows the whole of your composition, ‘Edit’ allows you to edit an individual sample or pattern and ‘Modular’ allows you to add different effects and modules and route the signal between them accordingly.

The left hand side shows the tracks within your composition and the bottom of the screen shows the racks. The racks hold modules, VSTs, effects, event processors etc and are very flexible. They can be linked to specific tracks, used as part of an elaborate effects chain or used for event processing to control external hardware for instance.

To see MuLab 7 in use, the basic intro video is really good. It introduces the workflow and demonstrates a number of the instruments and effects:

The devices are worth a further look because they offer lots of creative potential.

musynth

MuSynth is a versatile and flexible synth. It has 2 oscillators with pitch LFO and/or envelope; a multi-sample player with pitch LFO and/or envelope and a noise generator. These 4 sources can be processed by a ring mod and up to 3 filters which have very flexible routing options and there are also 4 plugin slots to insert global effects.

mudrum

MuDrum is one of my favourite drum modules. It allows you to create virtual analog sounds, use samples or a hybrid of the two. As well as volume, panning, tuning and envelope controls you can also layer 2 samples which is a really useful sound shaping tool in itself. There are 4 racks so you can apply specific effects to individual drum sounds and well as 3 plugin slots to insert global effects. There are 12 pads which correspond to each note of an octave so you can trigger the sounds by pads or a midi sequence and save created drum kits as presets for future use. If you want to get really creative you also have access to a complete MUX which offers virtually unlimited modular options with envelopes, filters, LFOs etc.

musampla

MuSampla on the one hand is a ‘basic’ sample player but this is not the best description because it is very capable and flexible with parameters for amplitude envelope, pitch with envelope and LFO, filter with envelope and LFO which can be switched on and off as required. There are also 4 plugin slots to insert global effects.

grain-player

The grain player is an excellent addition. You can get some very interesting effects by changing the start and end points of a sample and then adjusting the start, length and attack settings for the grains and then altering the global pitch settings.

I like the change to audio recording, it’s now much simpler. You create an audio track, select the input whether this is direct such as a microphone or from a rack. Decide how to monitor i.e. always or just whilst recording and then click record to record the desired vocals or vst output etc.

Snap markers are also a great addition. They can be very useful for precisely aligning vocals with a drum beat for instance. They are easy to use, simply put a marker at the desired point on the vocals and set as a snap marker so that the file snaps to the marker rather than the start of the recording.

The MUX modular deserves a special mention. This is essentially the engine behind MuLab and is a modular synth and effect. It allows you to create pretty much anything you like from synths to sample players to unusual effects. You can combine the three different types of signals – audio, event and modulation in the modular area and create a front panel to control the different parameters. There are a number of modules and presets that you can use to get started.

 

 
I’ve created a demo track which is embedded above using a number of VSTs and effects including Enkl (Klevgrand) processed with Incipit (Inear Display); Carbon Electra synth; Noisetar (NuSofting) processed with Spaceship Delay (Musical Entropy); sound effects processed by Convex (Glitchmachines) and Incipit (Inear Display) and also loaded a NASA sample of the final journey of shuttle STS135 into the grain player processed with Deelay and Spaces (both by Hornet). I also mastered the finished track separately in MuLab using Neutron (iZotope).

I find MuLab easy and intuitive to use. The workflow has a logical feel with tracks on the left, racks at the bottom and the composition components such as midi files, audio files etc in the main window which are arranged linearly. It’s easy to create racks by adding devices, effects or processing modules as required and select the appropriate routing for the audio signal. Completed racks can be saved as presets and you can also colour code them and arrange them in an order as you see fit. You can drag a rack to create a track or alternatively you can add a track and then assign it to a rack.

Once you’ve created a track, it’s easy to add an audio file or sample loop, load a midi file, create a new sequence and record this with a midi keyboard or enter it manually using a mouse. You can then copy and paste sections, edit to give variations, record automation of VST parameters or volume, adjust fade in / fade out, set sequence loop points for poly-rhythms and so on.

blog-demo-track

A screenshot of the project is shown above. I’m sure there are ways to do this more efficiently, for instance using loops on the individual sequences, using common effect racks instead of multiple instances of insert effects but like many DAWs you tend to find ways that work for you.

drum-pattern

This is an example of a drum pattern using the midi sequencer. One tip is to give the pads meaningful names and then when you create a sequence these will be displayed as notes in the octave making it easier to enter your drum pattern as shown above. Incidentally there are some excellent examples of drum patterns and how to process drum samples in the ‘Beat Dissected’ section of Attack Magazine website.

For the demo song I recorded the grain player output to audio so that I could switch it on and off and edit settings live as I recorded. This is because I am used to live editing and live recording in Usine Hollyhock II whereas I could instead use automation and edit this to give a more precise recording. I’ve also started using MuLab for mastering as with the demo track and these are great examples of the flexibility that MuLab offers.

Overall MuLab 7 is a very capable DAW for a very reasonable price. There are a host of improvements that have been implemented since version 6 which make it an even more attractive option. It has excellent sound quality and despite the complexities is intuitive, flexible and easy to use. It also has good support in terms of documentation, an active user forum and regular updates and improvements.

MuLab and further information is available from Mutools

Review of Saline Celestial album by Sevenism on Naviar Records — February 27, 2017

Review of Saline Celestial album by Sevenism on Naviar Records

 
At its heart Saline Celestial is an ambient / soundscape album with cinematic qualities and a captivating sound. The production is excellent, each sound has room to grow and evolve but there are also subtle hints of tension and dissonance and great movement in the sounds.

Deserted
A wonderfully ambient, cinematic soundscape with excellent drone qualities and subtle movement. I really like the emerging string sound and its contrast with the subtle bass.

Blurred Clouds
A slightly distorted arp to open with a subtle delayed percussive rhythm, there’s subtle movement creating a rich bass contrasting against an airy pad type sound.

Halocline
An emerging string sound to open with subtle bass undertones, the sound ebbs and flows with a touch of dissonance.

Humid Afternoon
An atmospheric opening with excellent layering, there’s subtle movement in the background sounds which have a floaty feel complimented by a lead and delayed bird tweeting sounds. It’s a really hypnotic sound with a haunting quality.

Coriolis
An emerging synth sound to open which swells with subtle bass and vocal qualities, this is another really captivating track. There’s a subtle build and release of tension through the track.

 
Naviar Records facebook | twitter | website

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Review of ‘A Room with A Zoo’ single by The Winachi Tribe — February 21, 2017

Review of ‘A Room with A Zoo’ single by The Winachi Tribe

I was very impressed by ‘A Time for Love’ by The Winachi Tribe which I’ve previously reviewed here. It’s therefore great to see another release from them. ‘A Room With a Zoo’ was released last November on iTunes and amazon. It’s a release which sees a development of The Winachi Tribe’s excellent soulful funky sound.

A Room With a Zoo (Radio edit)
This song opens with an excellent percussive rhythm. It’s really well layered with an atmospheric pad and excellent riff, there’s a cool synth lead and great background effects too. The song has an excellent vibe, a soulful and funky feel with just a hint of blues in the riff. The children singing is an excellent touch and a great element to the song.

A Room With a Zoo (Sorrel and Nolano mix part 1)
An excellent funky bass to open, the song has a great groove with excellent use of animal noises. I really like how the mix blends elements of the original with a funky vibe focusing on the bass and also creates an edge of tension. There’s an excellent synth riff with great use of delay.

A Room With a Zoo (Sorrel and Nolano mix part 2)
This mix has more of a tech / tribal feel to the drumbeat and a minimal vibe at times. The string part works really well too.

 

 
The release is accompanied by a ten minute short film embedded above, a collaboration between the band and California-based Mancunian filmmaker Trevor Miller. The film depicts an epic and mystical journey, where a young singer imbibes the hallucinogen ‘Ayahuasca’ and is transported into the desert to battle his personal demons, only to be rescued by a white-suited Angel portrayed by international Tommy Flanagan, star of Sons Of Anarchy and Peaky Blinders.

 
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Review of Hornet Deelay VST by Hornet Plugins —

Review of Hornet Deelay VST by Hornet Plugins

 
Hornet Deelay is a digital dub delay with the option of a vintage button which gives the early 90s sound when digital was imperfect and had its own character. It’s available as 32 and 64 bit win / mac; VST 2.4, VST3, RTAS & AAX formats.

It’s basically a dual delay effect with a delay time up to 5000ms or alternatively a sync mode from 1/16th to 1 bar. Feedback can be panned per channel and there’s also output panning per channel. There are options to link feedback and/or delay time settings. There’s also an option to apply an LFO from 0.1Hz to 10Hz with a modulation setting to create those ‘wobble’ sounds.

In use it’s a very capable delay effect. It has a well designed interface which is clear and well laid out although it isn’t scalable. The sound quality is excellent, a very clean sound with a great presence and can create anything from metallic modulation to dub delays.

It comes with 15 presets and these are great starting points to explore and experiment with. As with any good delay effect you don’t tend to rely on presets, you’ll definitely get the most out of it by tweaking these to your own requirements which won’t take long because it’s very easy to use. What I really like is how it can be a workhorse delay for basic delay effects or you can create more extreme effects, especially when parameters are changed in real time.

The track embedded above is a good example of its versatility. It is a simple track comprised of a bass and chord loop with a percussive rhythm which Deelay is used on. The track was recorded live with parameters changed in real time, hopefully you can hear the movement between the ‘sweet spot’ and out of sync sound as the delay time is changed. The track shows the sort of range of effects that it can produce.

One comment I would make for a possible update would be changes to the LFO. It would be useful to have negative values so the sound can go also go down in pitch but this is quite a minor point and certainly doesn’t detract from the usability of the delay.

It is also very reasonably priced and offers more flexibility and control than very capable free options such as ValhallaFreqEcho, TAL Dub Delay III or Sanford Delay. For instance ValhallaFreqEcho is a mono delay with maximum delay time of 1000ms; Tal Dub Delay III is also mono with maximum delay time of 4000ms and Sanford Delay is a dual delay but has a maximum delay time of 1000ms.

Hornet Deelay is available from Hornet Plugins typically priced at 7.99 euros

Keep up to date with Hornet Plugins on twitter | website | facebook

Cities and Memory Sacred Sounds project launch — February 13, 2017

Cities and Memory Sacred Sounds project launch

Today sees the launch of Cities and Memory latest – and largest – project, Sacred Sounds. It’s been a huge effort over the past three months with submissions from 123 artists featuring sounds from 34 countries.

You can explore field recordings from churches, temples, prayers, songs, bells and more on an interactive map on the Cities and Memory website which also features a playlist of submissions.

The sounds in the project include some of the world’s most iconic sacred spaces, including Notre-Dame de Paris, Seville Cathedral, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Milan’s Duomo and Wat Pho in Bangkok.

Recordings of English churches in remote locations was provided through a partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust, who provided Cities and Memory with exclusive access to their properties, including church organs and bells.The project features:

  • Churches from all over the UK;
  • Temples: sounds from China, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand and more;
  • Prayers: from mass and remembrance services to prayer wheels and Quranic recitations;
  • Bells: how bells ring out, from Mandalay to Mexico City;
  • Organs: church organs, from the humble to the mighty in sound and scale;
  • Calls to prayer from Jerusalem, New Delhi, Tirana, Dhaka and more;
  • Songs: icaro songs, Hare Krishna processions, vespers and choirs;
  • Cathedrals: the sounds of cavernous spiritual constructions;
  • Sacred ambiences: Mausoleums, funeral homes and other sacred spaces.

There’s also an interview on the BBC’s today programme which you can listen to here.

 
I’m delighted to take part in this latest project and have submitted two reimagined sounds to the project.

 
I chose the Lincoln Cathedral recording because it is a landmark which dominates the local skyline. Building started in 1072 and was somewhat eventful – by 1232 it had been ravaged by fire, destroyed by an earthquake and the central tower collapsed.

When the central tower was replaced with a tower and a spire it was the tallest building in the world for 238 years until a raging storm blew the spire down in 1548.It has seen the plague, the renaissance, countless wars, the turmoil of the 20th Century and now faces the absurdity of our current position and the same bleak outlook we all do.

I’ve reimagined the recording, a snapshot of 3 minutes, as a representation of the history and turbulent times using some of my favourite sound design tools :

Dust by Soundmorph – a new discovery which is a sample based granulising synthesiser which uses real time particle simulation. It’s an excellent tool for creating anything from cinematic soundscapes to glitchy textures.

Noisetar by NuSofting – An entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016 it’s a synthesiser that produces noise based sounds.

Spaceship Delay by Musical Entropy – An entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016 it’s an excellent and fully featured delay effect

Incipit by Inear Display – This is a creative delay effect which produces glitchy or dub type delays

Hornet Deelay – Another recent discovery, its a dub delay with vintage character

Cataract by Glitchmachines – a sample scanner with modulation and morphing which can produce intricate percussive rhythms to glitcjy chaos

Fracture XT by Glitchmachines – a glitch effect with very cool patchable effects section

Cryogen by Glitchmachines – a modular buffer effects processor designed to generate robotic artifacts and abstract musical mutations

Subvert by Glitchmachines – a 3 channel distortion effect

Metric Halo Dirty Delay – Another excellent delay effect with a very clean and spacious sound

Nave by Waldorf – A wavetable synth that produces some excellent sounds

Lagrange – Another entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016, a delay effect using granular techniques which has a unique sound.

 
There were a few spare sounds available for submission so I created a second piece:

 
I really liked the variety of sounds from voices to impacts and the ambience of the space. There’s a kind of anticipation waiting for the trumpets. I’ve tried to capture this using a cut up method with subsequent processing. I’ve used two instances of Polygon by Glitchmachines with Tal Dub 3 delay; Dust by Soundmorph; Glitch microloop tool in Hollyhock II processed with Valhalla FreqEcho, Svep by Klevgrand and Sanford Reverb. I’ve also manually triggered some of the cut up sounds during the recording which were processed with Spaceship delay and edited other settings during the recording. I’ve ended the piece using the final practice at the end of the recording processed with Frostbite and Incipit.

 
As well as the two submissions to the project, I’ve also created a long form piece which is about an hour long. I set up a workspace in Hollyhock II but unfortunately one of the VSTs caused a crash half way through so I recorded the whole piece as three separate live pieces and mixed them together. I’ve mainly used the Lincoln Cathedral sound, the Dom Zu Luebeck sound was used in the middle.

Review of ‘Sun’ album by Dreamtime on Cardinal Fuzz / Captcha Records — February 9, 2017

Review of ‘Sun’ album by Dreamtime on Cardinal Fuzz / Captcha Records

 

Simply put, this is stunning. It’s an awesome album which has such a cool vibe with a really hypnotic sound. Each song is arranged and played brilliantly with a result that the song is much greater than the sum of its parts. The songs have an excellent jam quality, a spontaneous feel to them often with a great intensity, floaty vocals, swirling background sounds and Eastern, classical and blues influences.

It was released by Cardinal Fuzz as a limited yellow/purple swirl vinyl in March 2016 so there’s no surprises that it has sold out.

For customers in the USA it is available from Captcha Records on purple swirl vinyl and handmade CD.

The good news for everyone is that a digital download is available from the Captcha Records link above.

 
Centre of Mind
A sweeping drone type of sound to open, the bass gives a great momentum. The vocals are great with an excellent contrasting female choral sound swirling with a floaty quality and the guitar riff gives a looping feel.

Baphomet
The opening is quite difficult to define, it sounds like delayed percussive sounds with feedback, maybe even a mangled recording of water too, there’s a Japanese feel and some overtone singing for good measure followed by the growl of distorted guitar which creates a great tension. The vocals are great, like a prayer or incantation and there’s a real ominous feel which bursts into a jam session with excellent bass / drumming and great distorted solo with increasing momentum to a release.

The Road
A really cool vibe to this song which opens with an organ sound as a drone with great movement, the bassline creates an excellent groove complimented by the guitar riff. The vocals are superb, a dreamy, floaty feel which contrasts really well against the rhythm. The solo is spot on, it has a bluesy feel at times.

Equivalence
Quite a laid back vibe to this song with natural percussion, synth riff and slightly distorted guitar riff.

Sun
A slow purposeful bass riff to open with shimmery guitar chords and riff with a surf guitar kind of feel. The female vocals have a great presence and slightly haunting beauty, there are excellent harmonies with the male vocals at times. The song builds momentum slowly increasing tempo with increasing intensity in the vocals to a release. The distorted riff and drumming pick up the pace into a solo section with great intensity with a brief respite before picking up the pace again before a final release.

Brujeria
A great riff with reversed sounds to open, there’s a classical kind of feel to the guitar accompanied by sparse percussion leading into a more uptempo riff with a middle eastern feel at times and a lonesome feel to end.

Art of Invisibility
A great evolving opening with swirling background sounds and shimmering guitar riffs, percussion is sparse and there’s an Eastern feel at times. There’s a real hypnotic quality leading to a great jam. The vocals are excellent and have a unearthly feel to them. A great build of tension is released to the squelchy riff which fades, replaced by evolving, swirling and some reversed sounds to provide a great contrast and a hypnotic end to the track.

 
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