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Review of Wave Box waveshaping effect by AudioThing — October 15, 2017

Review of Wave Box waveshaping effect by AudioThing

Introduction

AudioThing have introduced Wave Box, a dynamic dual waveshaping plugin in VST / AU / AAX formats in both 32 and 64 bit versions typically priced at 49 Euros although at the time of writing is currently on sale at 35 Euros. A demo version is also available.

I’m a big fan of AudioThing, they produce a range of different and interesting effects with a great sound quality and they are very reasonably priced too. I’ve previously reviewed Fog Convolver (Convolution Reverb); Outer Space (Vintage Tape Echo); Space Strip (Multi-Effect plugin); The Orb (Formant filter effect) and Frostbite (Ring mod / feedback / freeze effect).

Wave Box continues this line of development as a dynamic waveshaper plugin that can be used for symmetrical and asymmetrical distortion. In essence you have two separate waveshapers that can be mixed together whilst being modulated by 2 LFOs and an envelope follower.

Verdict

It’s very easy to use, it sounds great and produces a much wider range of effects than expected. It can produce a wide range of distortion sounds from subtle tube style overdrive to really harsh digital distortion. It can also produce other effects such as tremolo, vinyl crackles and compression type effects. The automation elements really enhance the usability of the effect. These can be used to create a range of movement from subtle to extreme and the LFOs at low rate settings can also be used to produce a very slow ‘step change’ or random type of effect. There’s also a very handy randomise option which can provide some inspiration for some unusual effects.

I’ve had great fun using Wave Box, I’ve created a 3 track EP embedded above using a series of loops from Function Loops / Sharp Label each of which are processed with Wave Box and some also use RP Verb 2 (Rob Papen). It also includes a remix was created using stems from burz II processed with SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio), Ultratap (Eventide), RP Verb 2 and RP Delay (Rob Papen).

In-Depth Review

As with other AudioThing plugins, the GUI is well designed and clearly laid out.

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The shaping section is the heart of the effect. By default the plugin starts in symmetrical mode and you can switch to asymmetrical mode by clicking the ‘+-’ button in the top left corner.

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There are 6 different shaping options for each of the waveshaping functions – tanh, sinh, sin, linear, floor and round. The adjacent control determines the amount of curve for the selected waveshaping function.

The ceiling controls the dynamic range of functions and the effect of the bias control is determined by what mode you are using. Symmetrical mode applies the waveshaping equally to positive and negative parts of the signal and the bias controls the mix between the two functions.

Asymmetrical mode applies the first waveshaping function to the positive part of the signal whilst the second waveshaping function is applied to the negative part of the signal and the bias control adds an offset between the positive and negative parts of the signal.

Next to the shaping controls is a very handy oscilloscope which allows you to visualise the resulting waveshape.

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At the bottom of the display are the LFOs and envelope follower. These add automation to the waveshaping which can produce subtle or extreme movement in the sound.

The two LFOs each have a sync control, rate and amount settings. There are four destinations – bias, curve 1, curve 2 and ceiling. There are six different waveform options – sine, triangle, square, ramp up, ramp down, random and you can adjust the phase by clicking on the wave display and dragging to the right to increase and to the left to decrease phase setting.

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The envelope follower has attack, release and amount settings and also has the four destinations of bias, curve 1, curve 2 and ceiling.

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The master section in the top right has input, dry/wet mix and output controls. There is also a switch to enable a hard clip limiter and the option to choose one of four oversampling settings which avoids aliasing but increases CPU usage.

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Review of SpecOps spectral effects plugin by Unfiltered Audio — October 6, 2017

Review of SpecOps spectral effects plugin by Unfiltered Audio

Unfiltered Audio have announced the release of SpecOps, a complex, powerful, easy-and-fun-to-use plugin possessing 36 diverse and flexible spectral effects, ranging from subtle to extreme, so sound designers and electronic music producers can easily access a multiverse playground of special effects and sweeteners that can deconstruct sounds at the spectral level and reconstruct them in new and exciting ways.

SpecOps is available for purchase — as AAX AudioSuite-, AAX Native-, AU-, VST2-, and VST3-supporting plugin formats for Mac OS X (10.8 through 10.12), Windows (7 through 10), and Pro Tools 10.3.10 (or higher) — exclusively from Plugin Alliance at an introductory promo price of $89.00 USD until October 20, 2017, rising to an MSRP of $129.00 USD thereafter.

Fully-functional, 14-day trials are available to anyone registering for a free Plugin Alliance account here

Note that the proprietary Plugin Alliance Installation Manager means users can select, download, and install only the products and formats needed for their system.

For more in-depth information, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated SpecOps webpage here

Watch Plugin Alliance’s tantalizing trailer for SpecOps here

Watch Urban Sound Studio’s Todd Urban’s SpecOpstutorial here

Verdict

This is an awesome and very cool effect. It’s one of those that is quite difficult to explain how it works but in some ways that doesn’t matter because it’s so much fun experimenting to see what happens. It comes with a lot of presets which are ready to use and highlight the enormous potential of SpecOps or if you take the fully experimental approach and start from scratch it won’t be long before you see results because it’s very easy to start using. You can spend countless hours playing around with SpecOps, it’s incredibly flexible and versatile and can be used as an insert effect, for mixing, mastering or sound design. It can do subtle things like add warmth to thin guitar tracks, fatten up weak frequencies in the bottom end or add subtle movement to pad or synth sounds. It’s equally at home destroying basslines with a bitcrusher / distortion type of effect, adding glitchy polyrhythms to drum tracks or mangling them completely. You can also use the ‘freeze’ function to create a spectral synthesizer and it also has very powerful modulation options.

I’ve created an album using SpecOps which is embedded above. I’ve used Polygon (Glitchmachines); Predator 2, Punch, RP Verb 2, RP Delay (Rob Papen); Synthmaster 2.8 (KV331 Audio) and have used SpecOps as an insert effect on every track. The album was recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 and some of the live edits did produce a few unexpected glitches for instance when I used the freeze function of the drums the timing wasn’t always spot on when unfreezing but I’m really pleased with the overall result. I subsequently mastered the tracks in MuLab 7 using bx_console E (Brainworx) or Neutron (iZotope) and Stage (Fiedler Audio)

In-depth review

The GUI has a very modern, clean and minimal look to it. There is the option of a black or white background and a number of different zoom settings. It’s important to remember that this is a frequency based effect rather than a time based effect and the best way to explain this is to use the signal flow which is shown below:

signal flow.jpg

The effect is rather complex but essentially uses FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) which basically uses maths to split a complex signal into its component frequencies which in SpecOps are called ‘bins’. These bins can then have their speed adjusted and ‘geometry’ edited which allows for pitch shifting, stretch and slide. You can select 3 effects from 36 in total which are processed in series. These are followed by the spectral compressor / expander which is the heart of the plugin. Following processing you can adjust the output gain, use a low pass filter to attenuate harsh frequencies and set the amount of wet / dry mix.

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The analysis section is the starting point. The FFT size determines how many bins the signal is split into. Low FFT settings such as 128 give a grainy, lo-fi sound whereas high FFT settings such as 32,768 give a higher fidelity sound but introduce latency. Note that high FFT settings are also likely to result in CPU spikes because the interval between applying effects at a higher setting is longer but more effects are applied. At lower settings there is less of an interval between applying effects but SpecOps is using less processor power so CPU usage is more constant. Overall the average usage is about the same but the range will vary considerably based on the FFT size.

The window setting determines how the sound is analysed. There are 7 settings each of which provide different results.

This section also has the input gain control.

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The speed control acts differently to how you might expect, it creates feedback between analysis frames decreasing the rate at which new frames are acquired.

Freeze locks the current frame and prevents further analysis. It’s the same as turning the speed control to zero which effectively creates an oscillator using the last group of samples. You can then adjust the pitch shift control to create a spectral synthesizer.

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The geometry section has a big impact on the sound. The controls in this section comprise of pitch shift that is quantized from -12 to +12 semitones; slide which is an inharmonic frequency shift and stretch which applies compression or expansion to the bins. It’s like pitch shift but isn’t quantized or phase aware.

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The effects section comprises of 3 selectable effects from a total of 36 processed in series from top to bottom. ‘Start’ is the starting frequency the effect is applied at, width controls how many frequency bins are affected and there’s an amount setting for each effect.

The 36 effects comprise a number of filters (low pass, high pass, noise filters); mixing (affect the amplitude); geometry (similar to geometry section but can be applied to specific frequencies); Freezers (similar to the freeze control in the speed section with a number of variants); Effects (contains reverser, glitchers, clippers, smearing); Glitchers (a number of glitchy effects)

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The spectral compander applies to every single bin so with an FFT size of 1,024 there are 1,024 separate companders running simultaneously and at the maximum FFT setting of 32,768 there are 32,768 separate companders running simultaneously. The threshold sets the decibel level at which each compander becomes active; Ratio sets whether bins are expanded or compressed when the bin’s amplitude exceeds the threshold; Knee changes the gain curve transitions from linear to non-linear; Attack determines how quickly the compander reaches its target gain level; Decay determines how quickly the compander returns to a neutral gain level; Mask sets the amount of bleed which can introduce artifacts or produce a less severe sound.

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The out section has a gain, low pass filter to remove some of the harsh spectral content in the upper frequencies and a mix control.

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The modulation options are flexible and powerful. It’s a modular system and the connectors are arranged so that outputs are at the top of the modulators and everything else is an input, shown by a white circle which have scaling settings. You simply drag from an output to an input and the cable will snap into place. It’s so flexible that the modulators can be used to modulate their own parameters which can create some interesting and unusual results. At present a maximum of 6 modulators can be used at once.

There are six different types of modulators – LFOs (sine/saw/tri/square); input follower; macro control; sample and hold; step sequencer and ROLI lightpad.

The modulation system provides 16 automation slots that can be assigned to one or more modulators and every knob and button on a modulator can be assigned to a slot.

Review of RP Verb 2 reverb effect by Rob Papen — October 1, 2017

Review of RP Verb 2 reverb effect by Rob Papen

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Introduction

ECHT, THE NETHERLANDS: virtual instrument and effect plug-in developer Rob Papen Soundware is proud to announce availability of RP-VERB 2 —updating its original RP-VERB effect plug-in, a firm favourite amongst many famous producers globally and a go-to reverb for many not-so-famous users, to boldly go where no reverb has gone before.

RP-VERB 2 can be purchased in a boxed edition — as an AAX (32-/64-bit), AU (32-/64-bit), VST (32-/64-bit) compatible audio software plug-in for Mac OS X (10.6 or higher) and Windows (Vista, 7, 8, and 10) — from authorised Rob Papen dealers worldwide or as a download directly from Rob Papen for €149.00 EUR/$149.00 USD from here (Owners of RP-VERB are eligible to upgrade to RP-VERB 2 for €39.00 EUR/$39.00 USD, while RP-VERB 2 is included in eXplorer4, the latest incarnation of Rob Papen’s all-encompassing software bundle, so owners of eXplorer4 can download the RP-VERB 2 installer for free.)

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated RP-VERB 2 product webpage here

RP-VERB 2 can be seen and heard in this informative introductory video here

Verdict

In summary, RP Verb 2 is a superb reverb effect. It comes with a number of banks and presets which you can use as is or as a solid basis to create your own sounds. The sound quality of the reverb itself is superb, whether you want small, medium or large spaces or the infiniteness of the space orbits. However, there is so much more to RP Verb 2, it’s a creative reverb or even reverb on steroids. The additional modules allow great creativity – distortion can add a great edge to your sound; EQ allows further shaping of the sound; Ensemble adds a great quality for some sounds; the superb reverser easily adds a brilliant element; there are superb modulation possibilities too.

Demo songs

I’ve created a demo album which is embedded above. I’ve used multiple instances of RP Verb 2 to demonstrate many of the different modules and sounds that it can produce. The album was created virtually exclusively using Rob Papen synths with RP Verb 2 and RP Delay, ‘lured away’ also uses glitch samples and groove steps in Hollyhock 3; vocals are from Function Loops. The songs were created and arranged in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 and mastered in MuLab 7 using bx_console E (Brainworx) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

Detailed review

The GUI is clean, well laid out and easy to navigate. The first thing you notice is that this isn’t a typical reverb. It has a number of additional features and controls.

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The top section contains the presets list. There are global parameters including orig and edit which lets you switch between the stored preset and edits you’ve made; access to the user the manual; ECS (External Controller Setup) to use a midi controller to control RP Verb 2 parameters; effect bypass; a handy option to reset all audio buffers. There are also VU meters and dry/wet controls in this section.

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The next row contains the ensemble, early reflections, reverb and late reflections.

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The next row contains distortion, EQ and the reverse section.

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The bottom row is a multi-page section with envelope follower, envelope and LFO/mod/trigger.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the default signal routing is not linear as shown on the modules of the GUI but rather as shown below.

A number of these modules can affect the signal flow and these are described in more detail below.

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The EQ is 3 band with the low band fixed to 80Hz and the high band fixed to 12kHz. The mid band is parametric and has frequency, bandwidth and level controls. The EQ can be placed either pre- or post reverb effect.

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The ensemble effect uses multiple chorus units with slight variations in their parameters to give the impression of several copies of the sound playing simultaneously. There is a volume control and speed control which sets the frequency of LFO modulation. The ensemble can be placed before the source signal reaches the reverb or fed to the output directly as well as the reverb.

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The reverb is the heart of the plugin. There are 10 different reverb models:

Hall Clean: A clean hall sound based on a rectangular space with hard surface walls of traditionally built halls.

Hall Cave: this type of reverb displays more movement, since caves are more irregularly shaped

Hall Warm: warm sounding hall

Room Cold: clean room sound with hard surface square walls

Room Edge: represents an irregularly shaped room

Room Storm: inspired by the overhead recorded room sound

Vintage 1: classic reverb sound with limited reverb length (like a reverb plate)

Vintage 2: classic reverb sound with an irregular space and limited reverb length (close to a reverb plate)

Space Orbit 1: ‘Orbit’ is an unlimited space

Space Orbit 2: a few more galaxies are reflected in this one…

These reverb models have length and size which is determined by the chosen reverb model. There are also volume, damping, high pass filter, low pass filter and pre-delay controls. An additional unique feature is the pre-delay disorder which gives a different build up of reflections at the start of the reverb.

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Early Reflections are a set of complex delays caused by hard surface reflections in certain room types and spaces. They are audible before the full dense reverb part sets in. The volume, pattern and positioning of the Early Reflections depends on listener position,

room geometry and surface material of the reflecting walls and ceilings in the simulated room.

Early reflections are normally output direct but there is an option to send them into the reverb. There are controls for volume, length, damping and feedback. The side control determines the amount of sideways reflections between the two earliest delays and the cross control determines the amount of cross-over reflections between the left and right delays.

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Late Reflection adds a longer delay reflection which can be heard in certain spaces or room types. It depends on the listener’s position whether the Late Reflection is audible.

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Reverse is a very cool feature. It records the reverb signal and plays it back in reverse to easily create reversed reverbs. The display shows the reversed or input signal and allows you to monitor the appropriate settings for its parameters.

The Display Length sets the time that is visualised in the Reverser display. The default is Dynamic Mode which automatically reflects the length of the reverb.

Sync synchronises the length of the reversed signal to the DAW tempo and by default is on. This makes it very easy to fit the reverse sound in your music piece but can be switched off to allow you to experiment with manual time settings.

Reverb only is on by default which means the reverser uses the Reverb signal only. You can switch it off to include other modules such as Ensemble, Early Reflections and Late Reflections. When this control is off, the reverse effect is applied as the last component in the audio chain and everything will be reversed, not just the Reverb.

Trigger level sets the volume when the reverb signal starts the reverser. The reverse then records the reverb for the set

reverse time, and replays the recorded reverb backwards. It is shown in the display by the line with the T. The type of signal will determine the optimal setting so the Trigger Level may need reducing until the Reverser catches.

Offset can be used as a pre-delay before recording starts. It is shown in the display by the line marked by O.

Hold Time creates a pause between triggering of the reverser to prevent repeated retriggering. The hold time must exceed the Reverse time. When the reverser is retriggered, the audio buffer is cleared and starts recording. It is shown in the display by a

line marked with a H. You need to consider the hold time along with the reverse time. For instance, if you use a 1 bar Reverse Time it takes 1 bar to record the reverse time. So this whole process will take 2 bars. Therefore, if you want a repeating reverse at 1 bar you need to set the Hold Time to 2 bars.

Reverse Time sets the length of the reversed audio. It is displayed by a line marked with an R. In the graphic display, you see the arrow move until it hits the point R. This is the recorded part. Once it hits this R marker, the reverse playback starts.

The Attack control creates an Attack Envelope at the start of the reversed output to fade-in the reversed sound.

The Decay control creates a Decay Envelope at the end of the reversed output to fade-out the reversed sound.

Mix sets the balance between the reversed and normal output. A fully counter-clockwise position gives you the normal reverb sound. Fully clockwise gives you the Reversed sound. The Mix parameter adds a lot of dynamic and creative options to the reverb effect. Control it directly from your host DAW, by recording this parameter, or use the Envelope follower, Envelope or LFO.

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Distortion has four different modes, each of which have two controls. Amount 1 always sets the amount of distortion whilst amount 2 varies depending on the distortion setting: foldover – it sets the balance between the clipping of the negative and

positive peaks of the waveform signal; fuzz – it controls the frequency of the fuzz distortion; power – it sets the balance between the distortion of the negative and positive peaks of the waveform signal; saturation – it sets the balance between the saturation of the negative and positive peaks of the waveform signal.

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The Envelope Follower tracks the input volume and generates a modulation signal, which can be used to drive RP-VERB 2’s controls.

With Sync On, the Envelope Follower Attack, Hold and Release times are synchronised to the DAW tempo.

The envelope follower input is controlled by a mono signal. Use the Mono switch when the input signal is panned in a stereo field, but you would like an equal response of the envelope for both sides the input signal.

When the envelope follower is latched, it reaches its maximum level and stays there until the input volume returns to zero.

Envelope Follower Attack Time determines how quickly the Envelope Follower reaches its maximum value when triggered.

Hold determines how long the Envelope Follower stays at its maximum level. (Ignored in Latch Mode)

In Latch Mode, Release controls how quickly the Envelope Follower decays to zero when the input volume reaches zero. In Normal Mode it controls the release time after the Hold time has expired.

The Audio Control sets to which extent the Envelope Follower controls the volume of the reverb.

Amount / Destination 1 & 2 are two assignable modulation slots for the Envelope Follower. These let you directly control any of RP-VERB 2’s parameters via the Envelope Follower. Destination is the modulation target, and Amount sets the strength of the modulation path.

envelope.jpg

The Envelope generates a modulation signal, which can be used to drive RP-VERB 2’s controls.

With Sync On, the Envelope Attack, Hold and Release times are synchronised to the DAW tempo.

When MIDI Trigger is enabled, incoming Midi messages trigger the Envelope.

The Loop function repeats the Envelope cycle. The Envelope runs through its stages – Attack, Hold and Release – and starts again when the Release stage is completed.

Envelope Trigger sets the volume level that is required to trigger the Envelope. When the input volume exceeds the Trigger level, the Envelope starts

lfo mod trig.jpg

The LFO / MOD / Trigger tab has an LFO which can be used as a modulation source for any of RP-VERB 2’s parameters.

There are three modulation slots and trigger settings for the Envelope and the LFO.

With Sync On, the LFO Speed is synchronised to the DAW tempo.

The LFO is triggered by the LFO MIDI Trigger when Midi Trigger is On. The LFO is freerunning otherwise.

LFO Wave is a drop-down menu to select the LFO’s waveform for its modulation signal.

LFO Speed sets the frequency of the LFO.

The three modulation slots each have their own Source, Destination and Amount settings.

Source selects which modulation source is used to change the RP-VERB 2 controls. Options for sources include MIDI CC controls (Modulation Wheel etc.), MIDI Note values (Note and Velocity), a constant Offset, plus the Envelope Follower, the Envelope and the LFO.

The destination is the target parameter for the modulation slot. Amount sets the strength of the modulation path.

The Trigger menus select the type of Midi Message that is used to trigger the LFO and Envelope. You may choose from MIDI CC, MIDI Notes or the host status to trigger either the Envelope or LFO.

Brainworx announces bx_console_e – a flagship plugin based on the classic E series mixing consoles — September 20, 2017

Brainworx announces bx_console_e – a flagship plugin based on the classic E series mixing consoles

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LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY: industry-leading pro audio plugins developer Brainworx is proud to announce availability of bx_console E — their trailblazing flagship plugin that pairs a 72-channel emulation of the high-end, hit-making British E Series console complete with comprehensive COMPRESS (compressor/limiter), full-featured EXPAND(expander/ gate), powerful four-band parametric EQ, and wide-ranging (high pass and low pass) FILTERS, together with incredibly flexible signal routing (just like the original console), and much more besides — exclusively from Plugin Alliance.

bx_console E is available for purchase — as an AAX Native & DSP-, AU-, VST2-, and VST3-supporting plugin for Mac OS X (10.8 through 10.12), Windows (7 through 10), and Pro Tools 10.3.10 (or higher) — exclusively from Plugin Alliance typically priced at $299.00 USD. (A fully-functional, 14-day trial is available to anyone registering for a free Plugin Alliance account here )

Note that the proprietary Plugin Alliance Installation Manager means users can select, download, and install only the products and formats needed for their system.

For more in-depth information, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated bx_console E webpage

Watch Plugin Alliance’s tantalizing trailer for bx_console E here

Watch Plugin Alliance’s teaser trailer for bx_console E here

The bx_console E is based on classic British mixing desks such as the SSL 4000 E. However, it is not a direct emulation as such because Brainworx have added further modifications based on consideration of different EQ revisions, adding additional software functionality and used their patent pending TMT – tolerance modelling technology. This effectively considers the inherent tolerance in electronic components such as capacitors and resistors. If you’ve ever built electronic circuits or used an analogue synth, you’ll probably know that tolerance of components can vary widely from 0.1% up to about 20% which can affect timing circuits such as oscillators and produces differences in sound between two exact same models of the same analogue synth. This means that on analogue mixing equipment no two channels sound exactly the same and it is these variances that TMT simulates. bx_console E has 72 channels – each of which sound slightly different and collectively they (re)produce all the complexity, depth, nuance, and width which high-end analog consoles are held in such high regard for. It is also possible to randomise one channel or all channels for increased variations.

The additional functionality makes bx_console E stand out from being just another SSL strip plug. These include 2 modelled VCAs for the compressor – the original E series and one from the later G series; 2 different EQ modes – the original ‘brown’ and later ‘black’ revision which can be used pre- or post the dynamics section or routed to the dynamics sidechain; an adjustable noise floor to add vintage character along with THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) for extra presence and texture; parallel compression, high pass filtering and a second release time on the compressor; the filter section has x3 and /3 settings which expands the frequency range considerably.

The bx_console E has a great GUI which is clean and easy to use. The top section has presets, copy/paste undo options etc.

The main part of the display is effectively split into three sections. The left hand side has filters at the top with compress / expand beneath.

bx_console E filters.jpg

The middle section is the EQ section

bx_console E EQ.jpg

The right hand side has the VU meter, input / output gain, stereo mode and randomise channel options.

bx_console E VU.jpg

For someone like me who is learning new and different mixing techniques, considering the complexities of the plugin it’s very easy to use and get to grips with. There are a number of presets for different instruments – bass, drums, vocals, guitars etc. and whilst very good in their own right, they also provide an excellent starting point for you to further sculpt and fine tune your sound.

My main experience with mixing is using Neutron by iZotope. This has intelligent features and a degree of automation where it can ‘listen’ to a track and suggests settings. The main drawback with this approach is that you can sometimes rely too much on the suggested settings and less on your ear. Conversely, you do sometimes need a reference to ensure that your ears are working along the right lines.

Comparing the two on a drum bus, there was very little if any difference in sound quality, both bx_console E and Neutron are excellent. The track assistant settings in Neutron produced a sound with more top end but this was easily replicated by adjusting the EQ slightly in bx_console E.

Using the two on a bassline, the bx_console E ‘bass synth a’ preset produced a much warmer and more vibrant sounding bass than the track assistant in Neutron. On a synth, the same preset also produced a warmer, more vibrant sound. Clearly you’re not limited to only using the track assistant in Neutron, the suggested settings can be adjusted.

It feels like bx_console E produces a more vibrant analogue sound whilst Neutron produces an ultra modern, tighter more compressed sound. There’s no right or wrong between these two, sometimes one will be more suited to the style of music that you are producing.

In summary, this is a powerful and flexible plugin that can be used as a channel strip or as a mastering tool. It does an excellent job replicating the sounds you’d get from an analogue mixing desk whilst offering additional, useful and essential functionality. It produces more of a classic sound than a modern compressed sound and that’s exactly what Brainworx set out to do. How they’ve packed all of the functionality into an interface that is clean, easy to navigate and simple to use and which produces such an excellent sound is a fantastic achievement. It may also encourage you to dig a bit deeper into techniques to improve your mixes which is never a bad thing.

Schmidt-Synthesizer announces availability of Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer (25 units) — September 18, 2017

Schmidt-Synthesizer announces availability of Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer (25 units)

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LANGENAU, GERMANY: Schmidt-Synthesizer, makers of the no-expense-spared namesake Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer thoroughbred, is proud to announce that it is taking orders on a third batch of 25 units — with upcoming availability in both black and white colour finishes.

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That no-expense-spared Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer was, without doubt, a showstopper when namesake hardware and software designer Stefan Schmidt’s hand-crafted first prototype unit debuted at Musikmesse 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany. Subsequently supported by e:m:c (electronic music components) — German distributor of several key electronic musical instrument brands (including Mellotron, Moog, and Vintage Vibe), Stefan Schmidt’s ‘one-off’ dream machine made it into production as a sound designer’s dream — albeit bravely built as a limited 25-unit batch of what was quite possibly the most expensive analogue eight-voice polyphonic synthesizer the world had yet seen and heard! However, a cursory glance at its complex four-oscillator structure clearly convinced even the most skilled synthesists that the Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer was capable of creating complex timbres that go way beyond the capabilities of conventional analogue synthesizers, so Schmidt-Synthesizer’s first batch (slowly) sold out… onwards and upwards, ultimately, a second 25-unit batch was billed as being the last.

Who better to put this third batch of 25 (unplanned) units into its rightful perspective, then, than Schmidt-Synthesizer Product Manager Axel Fischer: “Last year we assumed that the second batch would also be the last. The Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer’s sound engine electronics are mainly of ‘old school’ stock, with through-hole mounting technology, and pricing for those components have been rising steadily for years. Yet since the second batch of 25 units — ultimately, we ordered some extra components, so there were actually 27 — sold out within 14 months, those component prices are acceptable. So since the Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer still enjoys serious support, we’re happy to announce that additional units of this wonderful instrument will be available in 2018. At the moment, we’re still finishing fulfilling orders for the second batch, but orders for the third batch can be placed as of now.”

No need to necessarily order one (or more) in black, though. This time the Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer is back in black, but also available to order in white, which looks stunning — sounds stunning, too, with the same seriously well-specified feature set as the original. Oscillator 4 is worth highlighting, however; thanks to its chain of five ring modulators fed by six pulse-waves, each with different pulse-widths, it can create colder, wavetable-like sounds — despite being fully analogue! These truly unique features are unavailable in any alternative analogue synthesizer out there, let alone any alternative analogue polysynth! Subtractive synthesis clearly knows no bounds here, helping to make the Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer a shining example of no-expense-spared synthesizer design, deploying discrete sound generation circuitry throughout — no integrated oscillator/filter circuits on a single chip, for instance, in keeping with the highest possible production standards. Still better, each and every parameter is directly accessible via dedicated controls on a seriously spacious front panel with adjustable angle and user-adjustable coloured LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes).

Back in black and white, the Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer sounds and looks like the sum of its pricey parts. Put it this way: this is synthesizer history in the making. Making one is a tall order. Making 25 more is subtractive synthesis manna from heaven!

Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer pricing remains stable at €19,900.00 EUR (including German VAT) for a black unit, with white weighing in at €20,900.00 EUR (including German VAT). Either way, e:m:c (electronic music components) are accepting orders here: info@emc-de.com

For more detailed information, please visit the dedicated Schmidt Eightvoice Analog Synthesizer website here: http://www.schmidt-synthesizer.com

Review of Stage stereo toolkit effect by Fiedler Audio — September 11, 2017

Review of Stage stereo toolkit effect by Fiedler Audio

stage is available for purchase — as an AU-, VST2-, and VST3-supporting plugin for Mac OS X (10.8 through 10.12), Windows (7 through 10), and Pro Tools 10.3.10 (or higher) — exclusively from Plugin Alliance typically priced at $179.00 USD. (A fully-functional, 14-day trial is available to anyone registering for a free Plugin Alliance account: http://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/registration.html)

Note that the proprietary Plugin Alliance Installation Manager means users can select, download, and install only the products and formats needed for their system.

SANTA CRUZ, CA, USA: Plugin Alliance, a new ‘Über-standard’ supporting all major plugin formats and uniting some of the best-known international audio companies under one virtual roof, is proud to announce availability of stage — seriously enhancing the inherent ambience in any source signal by applying advanced spatial and stereo panning algorithms, adding valuable texture, depth, and nuance to stems, mixes, or masters as the plugin premiere from Plugin Alliance partner fiedler audio.

In essence stage gives control over width, panning and m/s balance; provides modulation options with LFOs and has a ‘colour’ module with 4 intelligent filters. The technical explanation is that stage utilizes sophisticated spatial processing techniques to take a good mix or master and make it better. By using sophisticated stereo panning, delay lines, and phase modulation, stage smoothly serves up what would otherwise require routing schemes of a confusingly complex nature and multiple plugins to achieve. As such, stage waves goodbye to copying tracks and setting up the Haas effect delay — when a sound is followed by another sound separated by a sufficiently short time delay (below the listener’s echo threshold), the listener perceives a single fused auditory image with a perceived spatial location dominated by the location of the first-arriving sound while the lagging sound also affects the perceived location (though its effect is suppressed by the first-arriving sound) — or panning stereo tracks within a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) while using another plugin to control stereo width. By bringing these tried and tested techniques under one virtual roof, stage enables efficient stereo workflow with maximum flexibility and accuracy… all of which yield greater perceived width with new levels of musical clarity.

With stage, stereo imaging is fatter without sacrificing dynamic range, and individual tracks can be positioned with extreme precision — perfect for instantly intensifying substance and adding tactility to the user’s sound. Stylish, thanks to its gorgeous GUI (Graphical User Interface) implementation, and benefitting from low CPU (Central Processing Unit) consumption, stage seeks to take centre stage as a go-to plugin for satisfying spatial augmentation and manipulation needs. Needless to say, stage is needed by anyone and everyone involved in music and audio production… professional or otherwise!

It’s very easy to use, the GUI is clean and well designed using 5 separate sections with a flow of left to right.

Input section

stage_in.jpg

This has a gain input slider, tilt control which corrects the difference between left and right channels and an MS control which determines whether the mid, side or blend between the two is sent to the output.

Panorama section

stage_panorama.jpg

Pan control to adjust the stereo position and width to adjust the distance between 2 channels all the way down to mono. Pan delay determines whether amplitude is used to delay the signal or internal delays are added. Pan wet invert reverses the direction of panning and the pan dry bypass routes the dry signal from the input direct to the output so pan section only affects the wet signal.

Ambience Section

stage_ambience.jpg

Allows you to adjust the 3d properties of the sound.

Size changes the internal delay time.

Feedback controls the internal delay circuit increasing the subtle reverb / delay effect.

There are 2 coupled LFOs (left and right) which modulate the size of the ambience delay circuit. Frequency controls the speed, amount controls the modulation depth and phase adjusts the offset between left and right LFOs.

The colour section has 4 adaptive filters designed to adjust the spectrum. Brilliance adjusts the top end, presence adds more grit / warmth, body adds fullness and bass adjusts the low end.

The output section contains a wet gain control, a wet on/off for A/B comparison and a similar dry on/off.

I have been using a couple of Soundspot plugins to adjust stereo width and m/s panning. These gave ok results but I found that Stage gives a much better sound, you can definitely hear the 3d properties and spatial separation. I’ve used it whilst mastering my last 3 albums and I was delighted with the results.

 

 

 

I have to also say this is definitely a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whilst I was delighted with the stereo enhancement properties, this is the polite, cultured side of Stage. Exploration of the LFOs reveals that it can also be somewhat of a beast, producing more extreme modulations and effects which were completely unexpected. It can produce offset delays, rotary type effects, flangers, ‘dark room’ and slap types of reverb, resonance, vocoder and a dub type delay with a speed up / slow down effect.

Initially I was using it on the master strip but it is light on CPU usage and is versatile enough to be used as a channel strip or send/return effect.

 

Because there isn’t a direct comparison or before and after with the above albums as examples, I’ve created a couple of demo tracks above which use as Stage as the only VST to give an idea of its potential. I’ve used a clean intro and then processed sounds with stage as an insert effect and also used it on the master strip for these processed effects. I’ve used sample loops from Terry Grant Dark Dub Odyssey, Mode Audio’s Lost Archive and the Ghosthack free female vocals pack.

Review of Vortex sample pack by Mode Audio — September 5, 2017

Review of Vortex sample pack by Mode Audio

vortex.jpg

 

Mode Audio has introduced Vortex, a 426Mb collection of royalty free ambient loops and stab samples ideal for a wide range of ambient, downtempo and minimal styles available in Wav, Rex2, Reason (also contains 4 NN-XT presets and 5 combinator effects patches) and Ableton Live pack (also contains 1 Ableton Live 9 set and 5 audio effect racks) available from Mode Audio’s Website (£18 regular price).

This review is for the Wav sample pack which features 150 loops ranging from 80 – 124 bpm and 60 stab samples arranged in 3 folders.

‘Vortex kits’ contains 4 sub folders comprising ‘Ambiences’, ‘Noise’, ‘Rhythm’ and ‘Subs’ each of which contains 20 samples which are tempo labelled;

‘Vortex Loops’ contains 2 sub folders comprising ‘Ambiences’ and ‘Atonal ambiences’ each of which contains 35 loops which are tempo labelled;

‘Vortex stab samples’ contains 60 samples in total.

Vortex kits

ambiences have a great warmth and saturation. There’s a variety of cinematic, string, synth and piano type sounds with a subtle movement and a great tension..

Noise

A variety of crackles, hums, hisses, rain type sounds, percussive and glitchy type sounds

Rhythms

These are excellent rhythmic loops, some of them are drum sounds but not your typical drum loops, these are excellently processed with saturation to give a unique sound. There are also found sound or percussive impact sounds which give further variety.

Subs

Again these have excellent processing, a subtle movement in the sound and a great bass presence.

All of these layer together really well to give a great sound with interesting variety and movement.

The Vortex loops have a variety of cinematic sounding string, synth and piano type sounds with a really good selection of tonal qualities. The atonal loops have a great edge of tension and dissonance to them.

The Vortex stab samples are very similar sounds to those in the loops – string, synth, piano, sub and percussive sounds with a short decay which add an excellent element to the loops.

Verdict

This is an excellent value sample pack which contains a variety of sample loops and stab sounds with a warm, saturated sound which have a kind of nostalgic quality. The sound quality is excellent and by focussing on ambient sounds the samples layer and mix together really well giving inspiration for a huge range of sounds.

These loops lend themselves to being used in samplers or as a starting point to create something new and original through further processing, manipulating and mangling. They can be used as is although I found that I needed a reverb or delay to provide a natural sounding decay which is to be expected. I really enjoyed using these loops and experimented with further processing to produce an EP titled ‘the white ship’ which was created using only sounds from the pack and is embedded above.

This album was inspired and is named after the short story ‘The White Ship’ by H P Lovecraft. I’ve recorded the album in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock III using a number of the inbuilt samplers including U-drone, x-fade looper, grain voyager, groove mangle and processed these with various VSTs –

Ultratap (Eventide)

Outer Space (Audio Thing)

Incipit, Litote, Amalgame (Inear Display)

Teufelsberg Reverb (Balance Mastering)

Hornet Spaces (Hornet)

Dreamscape (Minimal System Group)

I’ve also used a couple of third party samplers – Polygon (Glitchmachines) and Dust (Soundmorph)

The songs were mastered in MuLab 7 using Overtone (Soundspot), Stage (Fiedler Audio) and Neutron (iZotope).

Review of Ultratap delay effect by Eventide — August 28, 2017

Review of Ultratap delay effect by Eventide

 
Eventide have introduced Ultratap, a versatile multi-tap delay effect capable of a huge range of effects from rhythmic and glitchy delays, volume swells, tremelos and many more. It is available from Eventide’s website in VST, AAX and AU formats in 32/64 bit versions typically priced at $79 although is currently available at the discounted price of $49 for a limited time. A demo is also available. Ultratap uses iLok activation.

Ultratap started life way back in 1982 with the world’s first rack mount programmable audio processor, the Eventide SP2016, where a flexible 64 tap delay debuted as part of its Factory Program suite. By the late 80’s UltraTap had migrated to the legendary H3000 Harmonizer effects processor and then to the DSP4000 and H8000. Thanks to advances in technology, Eventide were able to include UltraTap in a portable compact form factor, the H9 Harmonizer stompbox. And now UltraTap has come back to the studio via your DAW and FOH environment, where it all began 35 years ago!

In summary, Ultratap is an excellent plugin which is very easy to start using and get to grips with. It comes with a very generous selection of presets which are excellent in their own right but also help you to learn how to shape and create your own effects. As well as the standard reverb / delay effects I especially like some of the more unusual glitchy and swell type effects that it can produce. I’ve really enjoyed using Ultratap and have created an album, unseen consequences which is embedded at the top of this post. I’ve used Cataract (Glitchmachines), Cassette 909 (BPB), Grain Voyager, U-Drone, Groove Matrix (Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3), Synthmaster 2 (KV331 Audio), Noisetar (Nusofting) and Subvert (Glitchmachines). It was recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 and mastered in MuLab 7 using Overtone (Soundspot), Stage (Fiedler Audio) and Neutron (iZotope).

ultratap2

Ultratap has a clear, well defined interface although it isn’t resizable. The control knobs are large and allow easy adjustment of the controls to shape your sound as desired. There are 2 additional controls which give you further control over your sound. The ribbon allows you to program 2 settings for any controls and morph to any sound between the two. Hotswitch is programmable to instantly change to an alternate sound. The controls are designed to emulate manipulating hardware and I’d say they achieve this.

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

The signal flow is essentially input -> pre-delay -> tone -> slurm -> chop -> tap delay -> out.

The controls are pretty self explanatory.

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

Length is the total time of the tap spacing with sync settings of your host or timing up to a maximum of 4 seconds.

Taps is the number of delay taps from 1 – 64.

Pre-delay is the amount of time before the taps start up to 1 second.

Spread is the rhythmic spacing. This can be a constant interval or a speed up or slow down setting.

Taper controls the fade of the taps. You can have equal gain, fade up or fade down.

Width – for stereo instantiations, this can be from centre panned to alternate hard left / right panning.

Tone is a simple control adjusting from darker to brighter sounding taps.

Slurm is a setting which adds slurring and modulation. Essentially as you increase the setting you lose attack and definition to get an increasingly ‘smeared’ sound.

Chop is a pre-tap chopping tremelo or auto-volume. The tremelo has several waveform options; auto-volume can produce swells or a gated effect.

Chop speed, ride or release is determined by the setting chosen on the chop dial. It’s a multi-functional control which sets the LFO speed for chop waveforms, the swell rise time or release for the trigger setting.

Tempo sync has 3 settings. When off, the tap button adjusts values for length and/or chop LFO waveform speed. You can also choose sync to sync to your host DAW tempo or manual to set times as required.

ultratap

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

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

Active turns the effect on and off.

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

Tap controls are determined by sync mode. If tempo sync is off, tapping this button will update length and/or chop LFO waveform speed value to match a quarter note at the tempo being tapped. If tempo sync is manual, pressing this button updates the tempo value. It has no effect in sync mode.

The top part of the display has presets. There are about 150 arranged by effect type – delay, modulation, pad and ambient, glitch and stutter, artist name. These are excellent quality sounds and give some great starting points to experiment with, tweak or use as they are.

You can load/save from this menu bar and there are handy options to ‘compare’ whioh toggles between current settings and the last saved or loaded preset. Mixlock enables all presets to be loaded at a specific mix setting.

Review of Amalgame multi-fx (filter/delay/glitch) VST by Inear Display — August 24, 2017

Review of Amalgame multi-fx (filter/delay/glitch) VST by Inear Display

Amalgame is a multi-effect plugin aimed to streamline the creation of complex signal processing chains.

It is available as VST and AU formats for Windows and OS X in 32/64 bit versions from Inear Display’s website typically priced at 59 Euros plus VAT. A demo version is also available.

It features a library of 23 effects from filters and delays to more esoteric and glitchy processors. You can select upto 6 effects which can be dropped onto an X Y pad where the X and Y parameters of each pad can be sequenced with independent rate and length for each sequence.

Starting the review with the conclusions, Amalgame is very easy to use, has a great sound and really encourages you to dive in and start experimenting. It can produce a massive range of sounds from reverbs and delays, harmonic type effects to glitchy metallic sounds, filter sweeps to distorted saturated sounds.

It works really well on a whole range of sounds – synths, drum loops, pads in fact pretty much any sound can be processed in interesting ways, for instance drum loops can have a subtle glitch, metallic or distorted effects to filter sweeps and more unusual effects.

I’ve created an album embedded above which was recorded in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock III using a number of the in-built samplers – u-drone; grain sampler; x-fade looper along with Synthmaster 2.8, Noisetar and random triggered samples all processed with instances of Amalgame. The album was mastered in MuLab 7 using Overtone, Stage and Neutron.

As with other Inear Display plugins, the user interface is clearly laid out and easy to use and navigate.

The top section contains the preset controls – load, save, settings etc.

fx library

The section below is the effects library. These are sorted by coloured thematic groups and are simply dragged into a slot below. Each slot has 3 tabs. The PAD tab enables the XY view where moving the pad will alter the parameters of the current effect; X SEQ and Y SEQ tabs allow you to sequence XY pad movement. These tabs have a dot on the right hand side which toggles the sequence on and off. Sequence data can be edited by clicking and dragging over the steps. You can also adjust the rate and length of each sequence using the dedicated controls below.

The bottom section has very handy randomise controls as well as global controls for input / output and mix controls.

Amalgame comes with 34 presets which give a good idea of the sort of effects that can be produced although it really encourages you to jump in, start experimenting and see what sounds result.

It’s very easy to start using Amalgame, the effects are colour coded into categories of utility, filter, delay, modulation / timbre alteration, distortion and special processors (there’s also a THRU which acts like a bypass) which gives you some idea of the range and possibilities of Amalgame.

Once an effect is dragged into a slot, the little bar changes colour to that of the effect group and displays its name. Clicking on the title turns the effect on and off. Above the title bar are the three buttons to select the PAD, X SEQ or Y SEQ tabs with the PAD the default view.

pad

The coloured circle represents the XY parameters which are automatable in your DAW or can be assigned to a MIDI controller. The XY parameters can also be controlled using a dedicated sequencer.

Sequences are inactive by default, you need to enable them by clicking on the dot on the right side of the tab. There are controls for rate which adjusts the duration of one step according to host tempo and length which sets the number of steps in a sequence from 2 to 16. There’s also a play mode button which has left to right, right to left and random settings. There’s also a RND button which sets all steps to random values.

Sequences offer many possibilities from simple automation, LFO type effects, arpeggiator effects to evolving sounds with sequences that play at different rates with different numbers of steps.

The randomiser is a very handy feature. There are 4 randomisation options – XY to randomise X and Y positions; FX to randomise effect types; SEQ to randomise sequence settings and steps; ALL to randomise all 3 of these.

Review of ‘Ghost in the Polaroids’ album by Jubilee Club on Ramber Records — August 17, 2017

Review of ‘Ghost in the Polaroids’ album by Jubilee Club on Ramber Records

 
It’s really difficult to pin down the sound of this EP, it’s got future garage, dubstep, electronic and indie influences blended into Jubilee Club’s own unique sound. The EP is really well arranged and produced with excellent synth and guitar sounds and superb vocals.

Ghost in the Polaroids
Delayed panned percussive sounds, strings and bell / chime riff to open create an atmospheric opening. The vocals enter to set the scene and the bass gives a good momentum. The processed vocal snippets add an excellent element. The drumming / percussive pattern is processed with distortion / bit crush which adds a great edge.

Reasons
Atmospheric opening from pad, background conversation and electric piano chords. The vocals have a great presence and add an edge of tension. The drumming pattern enters with a bell / chime riff and give a solid momentum. Nice change of feel when the kick and bass enter. There’s a great ambience to the synth riff.

Actions
Another atmospheric opening with background sounds, shaker type sound, electric piano and guitar riff. Superb vocals again, a great angst to them. The opening has a pensive quality given a defined momentum when the drumming pattern enters. Great contrast between the laid back and more uptempo elements.

Move Over
Distorted, delayed percussion with emerging strings to open, the vocals aren’t as upfront as other songs, sitting quieter in the mix and having a more ethereal feel. A great contrast between the drive of the kick and more laid back atmospheric elements. The vocals take a more spoken style and are more upfront with a great presence.

 
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