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Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions for Kontakt (Full or Player Version) by Spitfire Audio — March 20, 2018

Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions for Kontakt (Full or Player Version) by Spitfire Audio

Introduction

Spitfire Audio is proud to announce availability of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS, effectively exploring what was possible with a chamber ensemble when working with BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award-winning Icelandic composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer par excellence Ólafur Arnalds — famed for his original score to Broadchurch, the top-rating television series from ITV (operators of the largest commercial family of channels in the UK), as well as several standout studio albums, including Island Songs (seeing him travel to seven very different locations in Iceland over the course of seven weeks to record several new compositions) — as an all-star ensemble performed his latest set of evolutions, executed with time-tested Spitfire sampling savoir faire as its musical must-have, notable namesake library latest.

ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS can be purchased and digitally downloaded (as 30.5 GB of uncompressed .WAV files, featuring 15,156 samples) typically priced at £249.00 GBP (inc. VAT) / $299.00 USD / €299 EUR (inc. VAT) — from Spitfire Audio

ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS needs Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT PLAYER (5.6.8) — included in the purchase — to run as a fully NKSTM (NATIVE KONTROL STANDARD) supporting plug-in instrument for Mac (OS X 10.10, 10.11, or macOS 10.12 — latest update) or Windows (7, 8, or 10 — latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), while Spitfire Audio’s free Download Manager application allows anyone to buy now and download anytime.

For more in-depth information, including a superb-sounding audio demo from Ólafur Arnalds himself, please visit the dedicated ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS webpage

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Christian Henson and Ólafur Arnalds talk through the thrilling story of ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Paul Thomson’s ‘traditional’ video walkthrough of ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Watch Spitfire Audio ‘composer in residence’ Oliver Patrice Weder’s ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS ‘In Action’ video

Watch Spitfire Audio’s tantalising teaser videos for ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Background

By way of brief background, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, Ólafur Arnalds’ approach to sound and composition has incontestably inspired a new generation to enjoy and create orchestral music. Following in the successful sampling footsteps of his own OLAFUR ARNALDS EVOLUTIONS and OLAFUR ARNALDS COMPOSER TOOLKIT libraries, Ólafur Arnalds became the clear choice with whom to create …CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS. After all, Spitfire Audio was collectively keen to explore what was possible with a chamber ensemble ensuing the well-received release of SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS EVOLUTIONS (where pristine symphonic sampling meets Spitfire Audio’s alternatively progressive Producer Portfolio range to create an evolutionary experience by applying the company’s cutting-edge Evo Grid technology to the same no-expense-spared session recordings responsible for its sought- after 60-star-string-player-performing, blockbuster-sounding SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS library like no other); obviously this translated to the driving musical motivation factor behind bringing on-board Ólafur Arnalds again as an accomplished creative collaborator.

Clearly capturing the delightful detail of individual players — performing as a 4, 3, 3, 3, 3 (Violin I + II, Viola, Cello, Double Bass) ensemble of best British players led by fellow Icelandic multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor, and longterm Ólafur Arnalds associate Viktor Orri Árnason, OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS exudes greater intimacy than its above-stated symphonic sibling, but beautifully balances that with enough excitement to still hold its own in scores and compositions alike.

As has been the case with so many precedent-setting Spitfire Audio libraries that preceded it, the top-tier OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS production saw ‘Spitfire & Co.’ returning to the much-lauded Lyndhurst Hall within London’s legendary AIR Studios founded by Beatles-producing genius George Martin. There the ensemble in question was creatively captured with only the best classic high-end microphones and pres — piped through the world’s largest Neve 88R large-format console, no less — to Pro Tools and quarter-inch tape with several user-selectable mic mixes making their way to the finished article as C (Close), St (Stereo), T (Tree), and A (Ambient) to great effect. “You can feel the history; there’s something special, and the players can hear it and feel it,” observes Ólafur Arnalds himself.

However, being best described by Ólafur Arnalds as “…a sample you can play for three minutes that’ll never sound the same,” and readily reflected in the titling of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS, even, those thrilling evolutions themselves have become widely adopted amongst the composer community as the most effective means of easily writing music that is able to subtly change over time without variation in melodic content. Creativity continues still further in the case of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS (and also the likes of SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS EVOLUTIONS), thanks to an ability to generate randomised evolutions, enabling unexpected results that are truly inspirational in their own right. Recording a number of very long notes that change or mutate over time across the entire range of the keyboard cleverly results in different evolutions. End users can create profound end results in hitherto unheard ways. What’s more, those note lengths are different across each Evo — ‘Spitfire-speak’ for evolution — to increase the randomness of what the user creates.

Assigning an evolution to a note range is straightforward: simply place a (virtual) peg in the relevant hole on the Evo Grid itself — inspired by the breakthrough British EMS VCS3, which made musical history upon its introduction in 1969 by being the first commercially portable synthesiser available anywhere in the world, thanks to its innovative modular matrix-based patchboard dispensing with the telephone exchange-like cabling of other (much larger) modular systems in favour of making space-saving connections with (removable) coloured pegs.

Pushing the concept onwards, OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS includes innovative evolutions, courtesy of Ólafur Arnalds: Feathering, so that only half of the players are performing at any given time — this allows users to play different chords and still hear the detail of the players, while Waves represents one of Ólafur Arnalds’ signature sounds — crescendo-diminuendos, so a range of prerecorded Waves have been included for instant satisfaction, saving the user from having to manually draw in or perform with a fader. “I’ve been using them on every single thing that I’ve done for film since we recorded this with the ‘alpha’ version of the library,” reveals its instigator, before concluding, truthfully: “They’re just magical and so inspiring; it’s a good writing tool.”

There it is… Ólafur Arnalds’ closing comment clearly sums up OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS. This latest library makes it easy to create sophisticated chamber strings music from the most simplistic of arrangements — just a few sustained notes is all that’s needed to write inspiring dynamic textures!

Download and installation

The download file is fairly large at 30Gb and you need to use Spitfire Audio’s download manager which has a small file size and is easy to install and use. It took a few hours to download and install the library. I downloaded to an external hard drive using USB2 which I’m sure slowed the process considerably. Registering the library in Kontakt Player was a quick and easy process.

Getting Started

Chamber Evolutions has chamber grid, chamber waves, basses grid and basses waves. The chamber section is 4 – 3 – 3 – 3 – 3 comprising violin I, violin II, viola, cello and double bass recorded separately. One of Olafur’s innovation is feathering, this means that only half the players play at any one time, they feather in and out of each other and that enables you to hear players coming in and out and the sound is not too dense.

The GUI has a very clean look and feels intuitive to use with extensive in-line help. A very innovative feature is the Evo grid which can be customised in just a couple of clicks. There are 16 evolutions, covering sul tasto (bow kept over fingerboard to produce a soft thin tone) techniques such as long, ord, point, episodic trems as well as sudden trems, episodic effect and many more. These are split into 4 categories – subtle, thrills, episodic and dissonant, colour coded on the grid. You can select these yourself individually, mix them together or randomise one or all of them to create a huge variety of sounds.

You can further define your sound with controls for dynamics and expression, an ADSR envelope as well as effects of reverb, delay and tape saturation.

You can also configure the number and positions of microphones used – Close, Stereo Mix, Tree and Ambient. This really alters the intensity and closeness of the sound.

Chamber Waves is the second innovation. One of Ólafur’s signature sounds are crescendo-diminuendos, and in order to save having to manual draw-in or perform with a fader, a range of pre-recorded “Waves” have been recorded. These are recorded as normal, trem and vibrato waves with multiple articulations.

The Basses grid and basses waves work in an identical way, the grid options are fewer because there are seven bass sounds and no randomisation option.

There is also an advanced folder containing the individual waves and evolutions and also ‘time machine’ patches for waves articulations that allow you to sync to your host DAW tempo.

Using Chamber Evolutions

I’ve been very impressed using Chamber Evolutions. It can produce beautiful sounds from subtle to haunting to upfront orchestration and everything in-between. The basses and chamber sections compliment each other very well and articulations are excellent with superb dynamics and variety to the sound. It would be especially useful for scoring to pictures.

I’m not classically trained and typically don’t compose my songs in the traditional sense. A lot of my work is experimental and although has a framework it is invariably recorded live with the triggering of samples, synths, changing and editing effects and so on.

I’ve used a different approach using Chamber Evolutions, I’ve put music theory into practice and created songs using RapidComposer, exported the midi and created audio with Chamber Evolutions. The first song I created, ‘crisp winter mornings’ is embedded below. This was mixed using Blackhole, Tverb, 2016 Stereo Room, H3000 Factory and Ultrachannel (Eventide) and mastered using EQ45 (Eventide), Type A (AudioThing), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

I’ve also used it on a submission for the upcoming Cities and Memory Sound Photography project which launches later in March 2018, in this entry I’ve used Chamber Evolutions with the Bernard Herrmann composer toolkit and used a variety of effects including Blackhole, Octavox, Ultratap (Eventide) and SpecOps (Newfangled Audio).

I’ve also used it on a submission for the upcoming ‘Exhibition’ compilation album on Submarine Broadcasting Co. I’ve used the Seslatero add-on and U-drone sampler in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 with Synthmaster Two to compliment Chamber Evolutions. Again I’ve processed sounds with a variety of effects including Blackhole, Octavox, H949 Dual (Eventide).

I’ve also paired it with the Urban and Suburban sample pack from Boom Library. This has resulted in the album ‘modernity’ embedded below.

It’s a soundtrack to modern life. Some of the urban and suburban samples are lightly processed, on others I’ve used delays to create subtle but unusual effects. The Audio for songs 3, 4 & 5 was recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 using a variety of samplers processed with Type A (AudioThing) and Litote (Inear Display) and shows more extreme processing of the sample with song 5 being live recorded in this way, I didn’t use Chamber Evolutions for this song.

The Chamber Evolutions parts were again arranged using RapidComposer and all songs produced and mastered in MuLab 7. I’ve used a variety of effects – H3000, Blackhole, Tverb, Octavox, Fission, H949 Dual (Eventide) and mastered the album using Ultrachannel (Eventide); VHL-3C, Magnetite (Black Rooster Audio); Type A (AudioThing); Elevate (Newfangled Audio) & Stage (Fiedler Audio).

Conclusions

The amount of effort and attention to detail in producing this toolkit are staggering and clearly evident in both the sound quality and flexibility of use.

The range of controls and automation / midi control options give a huge range of sounds and it seems very likely that composers will use it in different ways.

It has superb sound quality and it’s very easy to produce this quality sound. You can use it as simply or complex as you like, the examples above are only using Chamber Evolutions to highlight its versatility and superb sound quality but you could easily pair this with other instruments or sounds. I found RapidComposer very helpful to get great sounds out of Chamber Evolutions. It is an all encompassing compositional tool, in addition to chord and bass parts it can also produce a variety of other phrases such as string parts, arpeggios, melodies and piano runs.

The main limitations that I found appear to be related to Kontakt and memory availability rather than CPU usage. My system spec is a dual core 2Ghz with 4Gb ram and it can run about 6 instances of Kontakt before it starts to crash so you need to ensure you have as much memory available as possible to prevent Kontakt from crashing when loading multiple instances or some of the more complex patches.

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Review of ‘Meowgeddaboudit!’ album by The Trigger Happy Kittens — March 13, 2018

Review of ‘Meowgeddaboudit!’ album by The Trigger Happy Kittens

MEOWGEDDABOUDIT! is the 2nd Album of Electronica by The Trigger-Happy Kittens. @TrggrHppyKttns is a Music Project Produced & Engineered by Michael O’Morah, an AIDS Survivor and Pollock-Krasner Award-Winning Artist & Original Electronic Music Producer (NOT a DJ) & Keyboardist.

This is a review that’s taken far too long to publish and consequently there have been a couple of releases since this one which you can find linked through the embedded album above.

This album has the feel of a jam at times, there’s some excellent synth sounds, bass lines and percussive rhythms. At times the grooves are a bit wonky and that goes for the overall sound at times too, but that’s a good thing, it gives the album a great character with an occasional chaotic feel which often resolves with syncopation of percussive rhythms and riffs.

The album has a great vibe, it tends to carry you along. So much so that even some of the synths start will start to sound like cats…

The Birds and the Bees
An acid infused song, a great layered groove from drums, percussion and bass / synth riffs.

Cats in the Keys
Great opening from synth riffs and syncopated kick drum leading into a wonky groove with a steel drum type of sound that weaves around the steady kick pattern.

In the Footsteps of Time
Uptempo opening from percussive rhythm and synth riff, the groove evolves over time with a filter type of effect.

Kittens Lament
An emerging synth sound to open, the song is built on layered synth riffs with great use of delay.

Outta the Dawn House
A delayed riff to open, the song is built around this riff with layered background sounds and synth riffs.

Paw Prints Prince
A percussive rhythm with pulsing, swirling noise there’s an evolving riff which has a great interplay with the bassline.

Pussyfooting into OZ
Percussive opening with a bassline groove, the emerging synth lead takes prominence into an evolving groove.

Taking a Pause to Rake our Claws
An arp to open with synth lead creates a groove, subtle percussive rhythm gives a great momentum. An evolving groove to the song.

A Right Vile While
A distorted riff to open with great bass and pulsing background sound. The song has an evolving groove with an excellent acid type synth riff towards the end.

The Habanero Kitty
A kind of looping riff and percussive sound, propelled by a percussive rhythm. The song evolves a groove with a looping type of feel.

Trigger-Happy Sunshine
Percussive rhythm and squelchy type sounds to open, it’s an evolving groove with great panning of sounds.

A Swish of the Tail
Layered percussive rhythms and acid sounding riff propel the song into a groove and there’s definitely a cat meowing type sound to the riff.

It’s Those Damned Trash Pandas Again
An upbeat groove from squelchy bassline and drumming rhythm, the vocals add a great element. A great acid vibe at times.

The Canyons of the Kings
An atmospheric opening, a superb synth sound that evolves and swirls against a background drone.

A Cat’s Dog Year
The opening riff has a hint of sax about it, the drumming rhythm gives a solid momentum. Great changes in feel with the different sounds,

Kittens of the Caribbean
A great groove to the song from bassline, percussive rhythms and percussive synth sound. There’s a kind of Latin feel to the song,

It’s the Trigger Happy Kittens and Small Town Drug Dawg
Great synth riff to open with percussive rhythm, the song develops an uptempo groove with subtly layered spoken vocals. Great movement in the synth sound.

Pondering
An arp to open and arp type synth riff, there’s a great edge to the song at times.

Purr Contentment
A delayed synth to open, there’s an edge of tension and an ambience at times, whilst the synth has an edgy sound at times too.

A Day With No Religion
A synthpop feel to the opening with riff, chimes and percussive rhythm. There’s a kind of chaotic feel at times.

Review of ‘Takeover Me’ album by Akranes on Ramber Records — March 12, 2018

Review of ‘Takeover Me’ album by Akranes on Ramber Records


 
There’s an awesome sound to this album, it’s dreamy vocals and chilled vibes give a mesmerising and captivating sound. The arrangements are often minimal but expertly done to allow each element the space to grow and evolve.

Falling (feat. Oonie Stark)
A beautifully dreamy song with excellent vocals, a superb ambience from minimal synth and sparse drums, it’s somewhere between trip hop and future garage.

Takeover Me (feat. Sabira Jade)
Atmospheric opening from background synth / vocal effect, the vocals are spoken and beautiful again. The bass and percussive rhythms give a subtle momentum. An excellent chilled vibe.

Over (All Broken)
An emerging synth with 4:4 kick give an atmospheric opening, the riff gives a great contrast. The bass is deep and rolling and the song is propelled by an excellent percussive rhythm.

Lost Inside (feat. Oonie Staerck)
Another atmospheric opening from synth and arp, the song evolves with excellent percussive rhythms, deep bass and lovely vocals again.

Sleep Tonight (feat. Sabira Jade and Bryson)
There’s a jazz vibe to the opening chords, percussive rhythm builds slowly and the vocals are beautiful and processed superbly.

Ramber Records website | facebook

Akranes facebook | twitter

 

Review of ‘Ljudkamrater’ a split LP by Centralstodet & The Myrrors on Cardinal Fuzz and Sky Lantern Records — March 8, 2018

Review of ‘Ljudkamrater’ a split LP by Centralstodet & The Myrrors on Cardinal Fuzz and Sky Lantern Records

Sky Lantern Records and Cardinal Fuzz are excited to announce Ljudkamrater, a new split LP from the beloved Swedish prog rock heads Centralstödet and Tucson, Arizona’s own kommune psych rock ensemble The Myrrors. Long rumored and now finally seeing the light of day, the album is being released on black vinyl with the sleeve designed by Nik Rayne (The Myrrors) and with The Myrrors track ending in a Locked Groove.

This one slipped through the net somewhat, being released at the end of January last year. The vinyls have sold out but it’s still available on cassette and digital download on the Bandcamp page of Sky Lantern Records (North America) embedded above.

It’s a superb release with classic psych blues, jazz, distorted lines and fuzzy grooves with brilliant jam qualities. It has a timeless feel, encompassing many a nod to classic styles and artists such as Hendrix yet still sounding up to date.

Centralstodet – IE
A slowly evolving jam propelled by solid drumming and bass there’s an excellent interplay between the guitars playing lead lines and solos with great use of feedback and a building tension with a final release.

Centralstodet – Yttre Hybriderna
A solid groove from bass propelled by drumming, shimmery guitar chords and distorted lead line add a great tension. There’s a brooding quality to the song, an edgy solo building tension to a final release.

Centralstodet – Vegas Bodega
An almost jazz feel to the strummed, slightly distorted chords propelled by bass and drumming. An excellent groove with superb solo and great edge of tension.

The Myrrors – Rayuela / Night Flower Codex
An evolving opening with guitar, bass, drumming (and I think I heard strings and flute too) it’s got excellent jam qualities. There’s a slow release into Night Flower Codex, a superbly meditative and captivating 13 minutes of a slow jam with reverberating drone type bass, brooding drumming and strings / guitar and slowly building tension to a final release.
 
Cardinal Fuzz twitter | facebook | website

Sky Lantern Records twitter | facebook | bandcamp

Review of ‘2017 Summer Jam Samper’ album by Various Artists on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records — March 7, 2018

Review of ‘2017 Summer Jam Samper’ album by Various Artists on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records

It may feel a long time since it was Summer, but Spring is just around the corner and to be honest, why limit yourself to Summer? Anytime is an ideal time to listen to this album. It has an excellent vibe with a superb range of song styles from mellow psych, ambiences, smooth jazz to more uptempo grooves.

It’s an excellent introduction to artists from Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records, the album has a great range of guitar riffs, leads and solos; floaty, ethereal vocals and some more unusual instruments. There’s often a natural, organic feel to the songs.

Heaters – Séance
An uptempo opening from drumming, bass and guitar riff and lead, vocals have a great floaty / ethereal feel. The edge of distortion is a great contrast with the cleaner sounding riff. Nice change of feel too.

Joel Gion – Divide
Acoustic riff to open leads into a smooth jazz vibe with natural percussion and mellow vocals with great harmonies. The woodwind instrument (clarinet I think?) adds a great element.

Ancient Ocean – Titan’s Island
Evolving string type sound to open a bit like a harmonium which is layered really well. Lap steel guitar adds a great element. There’s an ambience with just an edge of tension.

The Myrrors – Somos La Resistancia
There’s an edgy feel to the opening from bass and a staccato riff added to further by the vocals. There’s an eastern vibe to the song.

Prince Rupert’s Drops – Rosy Red
Uptempo riff and drumming to open, a great momentum from solid drumming and bass. Excellent guitar riffing and solos.

Sam Kogon – Chunga and the Mookah’s
An uptempo feel to the song with great vocal harmonies which have a kind of call and response feel against the riff.

Chocolat – Golden Age
An excellent uptempo opening from riffing and drumming, there’s a drone which sounds like it keeps getting higher in pitch. This tension releases to sax and vocals with a great floaty feel.

Kikagaku Moyo – Streets of Calcutta
Distorted bass to open leads into drumming, bass and riff. The song has a fantastic vibe, subtle changes in pace and feel.

Elkhorn – Seed
Acoustic picked chords and riff opening with an uptempo feel. Slightly distorted guitar lead adds a great element, there’s an edge of tension, a lonesome feel at times.

Sundays and Cybele – What’s the Name of That Flower
Strummed guitar, guitar riff and piano creates a very mellow opening propelled by bass and drumming. Quite a chilled vibe, vocals have a floaty feel. Nice change of feel with the more distorted guitar solo.

New Electric Ride – Submarine Song
Excellent vibe to this song, superb vocals with great harmonies and a great interplay between piano and synth riffs. The drums and bass give a solid groove.

Dire Wolves – Fogged Out 1
Great ambience to the opening from drone and strings, a kind of celtic feel. I really like the wah effect on the guitar which adds a great element, drumming enters to give a more defined momentum whilst retaining the ambience which is really enhanced by the vocals. There’s a great edge of tension at times too.

The Entrance Band – Fine Flow
Drumming and distorted riff to open, the distorted guitar lead has great delay and wah. Vocals are laid back feel and there’s an excellent jam quality at times Nice changes of feel through the song too.

Drakkar Nowhere – Salutation to the Sun
A chaotic, jam like quality to the opening of this song leading into an uptempo psych sound with great vocal harmonies and quite intense drumming. This leads into more of a synthpop sound with a great change of feel slowly building to a final release.

Review of Anodyne Techno sample pack by Zenhiser — March 1, 2018

Review of Anodyne Techno sample pack by Zenhiser

Anodyne Techno is a 2.2Gb collection of royalty free techno sounds and loops. It is available as a 24 bit wav download from Zenhiser (AU$50 regular price).

The pack contains a total of 551 files including 50 full mix loops, 108 mind bending synth lines, 50 hypnotic basslines, 150 outer world beats, 150 versatile drum sounds, 28 simplistic synth one shots and a bonus percussive loop section ranging from 123 – 126 BPM in a number of different folders as shown below:

The basslines are numbered by BPM and key. These are solid bass sounds with a subtle movement, they’re really deep often with subtle movement, filter sweeps or gating type effects. There are sub bass sounds with some arps too.

The drumbeats folder has 150 loops in total. There are 50 individual loops, each with 3 variations that are labelled by number, (a), (b) or (c) variation and bpm. The (a) and (c) are two versions of the beat with the (b) variation acting like a break. These loops have a great range of sounds from stripped back to more detailed with effects. They have a driving rhythm and solid groove.

The drums 01 – 05 folders contain 70 kicks, 15 hi hats, 15 claps, 25 percussion and 15 drum fx one shots for you to create your own drum loops. These contain a wide range of great sounding drums and percussion sounds which can be layered to give a range of sounds.

The drums 06 folder contains 15 bonus loops which are percussive loops to add extra interest to the one shot sounds or a great element to other loops.

The full mix loops folder contains 50 loops labelled by key and bpm. These are ideal for reprocessing with modulation / glitch effects, slicing, resampling and/or layering the results together.

The one shots – synths folder contains 28 one shots labelled by key. These are ideal for further processing with samplers and effects.

The synth lines folder contains 50 synth loops in (a) and (b) variations labelled by key and bpm. These are excellent sounds with interesting arps, movement in the sound and a subtle saturation and reverb.

Verdict

One meaning of Anodyne is ‘not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull’ but this sample pack is far removed from bland. It is an excellent sample pack containing a variety of sample loops and drum hits with a solid and distinctive sound. They provide inspiration for creating a wide range of more melodic / ambient techno sounds. The loops layer really well together and give options for a stripped back sound or a fuller sound and everything in between. They are also well suited to further processing in samplers or by other effects.

I’ve used various loops from the pack to create the album ‘entanglement’ which is embedded above. I’ve used two different DAWs and two completely different processes. The first three tracks were created in MuLab 7 as more conventional tracks and the last three created in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 as experimental techno. The loops layered together really well and to make each sound fit within the mix I’ve used EQ to remove some of the low end from the bass drums and add a sizzle; gentle compression to boost certain frequencies and a tape emulation to add character.

I’ve used a number of effects, in MuLab I used DW Drum Enhancer (Audified) on the drums; Blueface SC5 (Black Rooster Audio) and Fission (Eventide) on the bass; SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio), Subvert (Cryogen) and H3000 Factory, Tverb and Blackhole (Eventide). They were mixed using VHL3C and VEQ5 (Black Rooster Audio).

In Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 I’ve used a number of the sampling / granular tools – groove slicer, groove mangler, sample grain player, joggle player and also the Seslatero add-on. I’ve used a number of effects – VLA2A, VPRE-73 and VEQ5 (Black Rooster Audio); Cryogen (Glitchmachines), VHL3C, Cypress TT-15 (Black Rooster Audio); H3000 Factory (Eventide). I also used Litote (Inear Display) and Type A (AudioThing) on the master.

All tracks were mastered in MuLab using Magnetite, Blueface SC5 and VEQ5 (Black Rooster Audio).

After creating the album, I also experimented some more with different ways of using the synth one shots. I picked notes from a chord and loaded them into the Polygon sampler by Glitchmachines. This is a four slot sampler with granulators, filters, metalizer, stutter and ring mod effect that has extensive modulation options using LFOs and envelopes. It gave some very interesting and atmospheric sounds, especially when processed with delay and/or reverb. These one shots also worked very well in the udrone sampler in Usine Sensomusic Hollyhock 3, this created a kind of layered percussive effect as this sampler can play the sample back at different pitches which can be layered. I then loaded a full mix loop into Polygon, changing the granulator and range settings for each instance, this created an excellent dark ambient, very atmospheric sound.

Creative use of effects and samplers can therefore greatly extend the range of sounds and styles that this pack can be used for.

Black Rooster Audio – plugins for recording, mixing and mastering (EQ, compressors, tape emulation) — February 28, 2018

Black Rooster Audio – plugins for recording, mixing and mastering (EQ, compressors, tape emulation)

Black Rooster Audio are an audio software company from Germany that produce a range of premium quality mixing and mastering tools in AAX, VST and AU formats. The plugins cover areas such as harmonics, dynamics processing, EQ, amp emulation and special effects. They have a proprietary licensing system which simply requires your email and serial number to be activated online. 14 day trial licences are also available.

Whilst typical prices for individual plugins are outlined below (bundles are available), Black Rooster Audio are having a 7 week spring sale at the time of writing where one plugin will be 50% off for 7 days, discount codes are listed below.

For more information and product videos, visit the Black Rooster Audio website

Overview

I’ve created the above embedded album using a number of different plugins from Black Rooster Audio. I’ve created the album in two different DAWs using 2 very different processes. The first three tracks are melodic techno whereas the last three tracks are experimental techno. I’m very impressed with the ease of use and resulting sound quality in both DAWs. The effects work together very well and their flexibility means that they can be used in effects chains, mixing and mastering.

I found the combination of Magnetite, Blueface SC5 and VEQ-5 worked extremely well for mastering, especially in combination with VHL-3C during mixing. The VHL-3C was very effective at removing low end / high and and the combination of Magnetite, Blueface SC5 and VEQ-5 added depth, presence and warmth.

To summarise the processes and effects used, the album was created using Zenhiser’s Anodyne Techno sample pack. The first three tracks were created in MuLab 7 and the last three created in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3.

I’ve used a number of effects, in MuLab I used DW Drum Enhancer (Audified) on the drums; Blueface SC5 and Fission (Eventide) on the bass; SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio), Subvert (Cryogen) and H3000 Factory, Tverb and Blackhole (Eventide). They were mixed using VHL3C and VEQ-5.

In Hollyhock 3 I’ve used a number of the sampling / granular tools – groove slicer, groove mangler, sample grain player, joggle player and the Seslatero add-on. I’ve used a number of effects – VLA2A, VPRE-73 and VEQ-5; Cryogen (Glitchmachines), VHL3C, Cypress TT-15; H3000 Factory (Eventide). I also used Litote (Inear Display) and Type A (AudioThing) on the master.

All tracks were mastered in MuLab using Magnetite, Blueface SC5 and VEQ-5.

The plugins

I’ve used a lot of Black Rooster Audio plugins on the album but haven’t used all of them, namely VLA-3A and Blackface but will definitely be using them on future projects as they provide a great alternative to their VLA-2A and Blueface counterparts. That’s testament to how good these effects are, I created a sound that I really liked for the production of the album but there is still a lot of scope to create a diffferent sound with the plugins I used, make greater use of other effects on other projects or use different combinations of effects.

Magnetite

Black Rooster Audio’s homage to magnetic tape recorders emulates all the sonic aspects associated with analog tape: Class A recording and playback amplifiers, tape response and saturation, NAB pre- and de-emphasis EQs, the sonic effect of different tape speeds and bias levels, hiss and hum, adjustable wow and flutter feature that emulates frequency modulation (FM) due to motor speed fluctuations.

The GUI has a clean and classic look and feel. The power button is located on the left hand side and allows you to carry out a quick a/b comparison. Next to this are the tape selection options. There are 3 different types – black has the biggest low frequency emphasis, blue has a little more emphasis on high notes and red has the flattest response. Next to this is the noise button which enables or disables 60Hz hum.

The main part of the display is the input recording level and playback level controls and associated VU meters.

On the right hand side of the display are 3 bias settings and two tape speed options. The wow/flutter control adjusts the emulated motor speed fluctuations.

You can also click on the recording head to select the playback mode of the animation.

I love this effect, by not emulating a specific piece of equipment you get all the classic features of tape units which gives great flexibility. It has a superb warmth and solid presence. The different tape types and bias settings are subtle but distinctive and allow you to emphasise bass or high frequencies, for instance. I’ve used this for mastering in combination with Blueface SC5 and VEQ-5.

Typically priced at $89 (50% off from 31/03/18 – 06/04/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW14)

VHL-3C

This effect has 3 controls and an on/off switch. Built around a cascade of two constant-K filters the VHL-3C‘s analog counterpart – a sought-after processor from the early 1950s – comprises an entirely passive design with very musical and interactive pass filters. The VHL-3C allows you to effectively remove rumble, hum or harsh frequencies from your signals. Set both filter knobs to their extreme positions and you‘ll end up with a narrow telephone-line bandpass.

I’ve used this extensively during mixing to tame the low end of drums and basslines and some high end too. I really like how simple it is to use yet produces great quality results. I also used it on an effects chain for tracks 4, 5 and 6. I used the joggle player sampler in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 on a bassline and processed with Cryogen (Glitchmachines). A combination of VHL-3C and Cypress TT produced a very interesting filtering effect that also sat much better in the mix.

Not only is this a very great sounding filter, it’s also free!

VEQ-5

The VEQ-5 is inspired by one of the most famous and renowned equalizers in studio history – focussing on the power range frequencies from 200Hz to 7kHz it is aimed at cleaning up and sweetening vocals.

I didn’t use this on vocals but found that it added presence and depth to synth sounds. I also used it for mastering to add sizzle – that’s the name of a preset that is very aptly named.

Typically priced at $69 (50% off from 03/03/18 – 09/03/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW10)

VPRE-73

The VPRE-73 is a faithful emulation of a classic studio preamp. A component based circuit simulation approach authentically captures the sound and feel of the analog counterpart in all nuances. Every crucial part of the circuit, including the input and output audio transformers, the discrete preamp circuit, as well as the HF shelving filter band have been faithfully modeled.

I used this as part of an effects chain for a granulated bassline. I used VLA-2A which shaped the bass sound, this effect removed low end rumble and the VEQ-5 added sizzle. Each was quite subtle but overall they removed the bass ‘thump’, added clarity and enabled this sound to sit better in the mix.

Typically priced at $29 (50% off from 24/03/18 – 30/03/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW13)

Blueface SC5

This is a fixed threshold compressor accurately modeled after the original 70s Blueface version of a classic and sought-after VCA compressor. It’s a very capable effect, it can tighten sounds very well or equally do the opposite – separating and boosting component frequencies. It’s very versatile, it can be quite subtle or much more pronounced.

I’ve used this as an insert effect on ‘encapsulation’ to add presence to a bass sound which I then processed with Fission (Eventide). I’ve also used on the master to add presence and depth.

Typically priced at $89 (50% off from 10/03/18 – 16/03/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW11)

Blackface SC5

This is the brother to the Blueface SC5, it uses a slightly different compression behaviour, a different harmonic structure paired with a darker sounding audio-path and the option to feed in external sidechain signals.

Typically priced at $99 (50% off from 07/04/18 – 13/04/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW15)

VLA-2A

This is the world‘s finest emulation of THE opto electronic compressor of the late 1960s. Black Rooster Audio have put in many hours of hard work, calculus, engineering skill and heart into designing the most authentic native emulation of this unit to this date. Black Rooster Audio love to use the VLA-2A on drums, but it also performs outstandingly well on bass or vocals and carefully adjusting the compression really helps to make your signals shine and just sit in the mix.

I’ve used this in an effects chain on granulated basslines in tracks 4, 5 and 6. In combination with VPRE-73 and VEQ-5 it shaped the bass allowing the other two effects to remove ‘thump’, add clarity making the sound fit into the mix better.

Typically priced at $129 (50% off from 23/02/18 – 02/03/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW09)

VLA-3A

The VLA-3A is one of the most authentic native emulations of its analog brother from the 70s. Black Rooster Audio say this is their goto-compressor for vocals, but it also works incredibly well for bringing out the ambience on percussive material and helping to put some glue into your mixes.

Typically priced at $129 (50% off from 17/03/18 – 23/03/18 with the discount code SPRINGSALE_CW12)

Cypress TT-15

This is a guitar amp head emulation meticulously modeled after a very versatile, yet uniquely sounding low wattage amplifier. It has six intuitive controls that can produce clean through crunchy to biting, distorted sounds. It also has a simple 2×12 cabinet simulation that can be bypassed if you prefer other solutions or if you‘re feeding into an external power amp/cabinet stage.

I used the joggle player sampler in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 on a bassline and processed this with Cryogen (Glitchmachines). In combination with VHL-3C this produced a very interesting filtered effect that also sat much better in the mix.

This is a free effect.

The Canary

The Canary was designed to support you in creating the most powerful and convincing drums you have ever recorded or mixed. This plug-in let’s you expand and recover some fundamental aspects of the drum signal that may have been lost during the recording process or which haven‘t been there in the first place. These include tone, attack, sustain and some very basic filtering, which define the natural sound of the shell. You lost attack and impact through your recording? Your drum signals sound dull or not particularly powerful? The Canary is here to help you, synthetically adding those missing features, allowing you to refine and redefine your drums in the mix.

This is a free effect.

Review of DW Drum Enhancer plugin by Audified — February 27, 2018

Review of DW Drum Enhancer plugin by Audified

DW_promo_02

Introduction

Audified have introduced DW Drum Enhancer, an all-in-one drum processing plug-in evolved in close collaboration with DWe (DW Electronics), an acclaimed brand belonging to family-owned American professional drums, pedals, and hardware manufacturer Drum Workshop, Inc. (DW®). It is designed to enable users to significantly speed up their work with wonderful results workable within seconds, thanks to carefully-crafted combinations of parameters provided by a true doyen of DW® content, Chris Denogean.

DW Drum Enhancer is available to purchase as a multi-format plugin – AAX, AU, VST2 and VST3 in both 32 & 64 bit versions. It is available directly from Audified’s online shop typically priced at $199.00 USD. A fully functional 30 day demo is also available.

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated DW Drum Enhancer webpage or watch the introductory video

Overview

Arising as a result of a creative combination of Audified’s tried-and-tested technology and acknowledged DW® know-how, DW Drum Enhancer is billed as being the only drum processing tool that anyone would ever need to get the drum sound of their dreams, designed to process the basic drum sound spectrum.

DW Drum Enhancer is not simply one effect, it includes several EQs and compressors. The 12 position selector allows you to choose desired drum settings – snare, kick or toms each with three variations – modern, heavy and vintage. The other positions are for overheads (OH), Bus for mixing and room for processing whole drum kits recorded with 2 microphones.

Each selection automatically applies appropriate settings, such as EQ type, slope, and frequency; Compressor type, attack, release, and knee shape; noise Gate attack and release, and sidechain filter. This makes for a speedy, straightforward workflow while also allowing for further fine-tuning through the use of easily accessible additional controls courtesy of a stunningly-photorealistic GUI (Graphical User Interface) that’s as easy on the eye as it is easy to use.

Verdict

This is a superb effect. I love how results are instant using the presets which you can then fine-tune as required. It can add presence, depth, saturation as well as clean up sounds. It’s also very versatile, you can use it on individual kick / snare / tom tracks or it will just as happily work in a mix or on a master track.

I’ve used it on the first three tracks on the album entanglement embedded above. I used drum loops from Zenhiser’s Anodyne Techno sample pack. The tape crunch and vintage presets were selected and sounded great, adding depth and presence. Initially I didn’t tweak these but as I progressed adding effects and mixing with Black Rooster Audio plugins I removed some of the low end so that the drums sat better in the mix.

It is designed to be preset driven and has intelligent controls adjusting effects for each setting. This means that the available controls are more limited and you usually will need to tweak them so that you don’t overuse or over process.

It’s an ideal effect for very quickly applying drum effects and tweaking them with minimal controls. If you’re looking for highly customisable settings then this isn’t really the effect you’re looking for, you’d be better off with an effects chain with a number of separate units that you can adjust as required. And that’s really the point with this effect, it streamlines the process for when you don’t want or need that level of control but rather want great sounding drums quickly.

One point I would make is the pricing puts this in the realms of those other mixing / mastering tools that give more flexibility and customisation options such as the Elevate / EQuivocate bundle by Newfangled Audio / Eventide ($199); Neutron 2 standard by iZotope (£249); Ultrachannel by Eventide ($249); a combination of EQs, Compressors and vintage levelling amplifiers by Black Rooster Audio or the bx console_E, bx console_N or bx console_G by PluginAlliance (£299). I’ve reviewed most of these on my blog and each of them offers something different and as with any of these plugins, it’s a case of choosing the one which suits your requirements best.

In-Depth Review

The GUI has a very clean minimal feel and is laid out to enable a very quick workflow.

On the left hand side of the display is the level input, gate mode which has hard and soft modes, phase inversion and a threshold control, the 12 position selector switch and compressor with 3 parameters of threshold, mix and make-up gain. The display at the bottom shows which parameter is being changed. The effects are turned on/off by clicking the oval button labelled gate or comp and when selected, the button and associated controls glow red.

The central part of the display is an excellent design feature, it’s the power on/off and has a cool valve look with authentic fade in / out.

The right hand side of the display has a 3 band EQ, filters, 5 tube settings and a saturation control. The VU meters and output control are in the top right and the presets can be accessed at the bottom of this section.

There are a range of presets for each of the different settings – bus, kick, overheads, snare, toms and room. These give really good results in themselves and of course can be fine tuned to your requirements.

Review of SQ4 Sequence Processor plugin by Dialog Audio — February 20, 2018

Review of SQ4 Sequence Processor plugin by Dialog Audio

Introduction

Dialog Audio have introduced SQ4, a software plugin designed for synchronizing and modulating hardware synthesiser parameters within a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). It is available direct from Dialog Audio’s website typically priced at $49 in VST, AU and AAX formats (32/64 bit).

Overview

The SQ4 sequencer offers a number of connection possibilities:

The important point to bear in mind is that this plugin outputs midi or CV rather than audio and so you will need to route the connections appropriately. A basic setup involves adding a track for the SQ4 sequencer, a second track for the target device of external synthesiser or software instrument and creating a virtual midi connection between them. For CV signals additional audio tracks to receive the CV signal and send to a specific DC-coupled audio interface output are required.

Conclusions

This is an excellent sequencer, it can add functionality to hardware and software synthesisers alike. The main advantages I see for controlling software synths is that the SQ4 is fully customisable, you can control any parameter of a software synth or effect once you’ve set up the midi connections which offers lots of creative potential.

Whilst many modern synths contain arpeggiators, step sequencers etc there are a lot that don’t and SQ4 can enhance their functionality considerably. This is especially true for many hardware synths.

I had great fun using SQ4 to control various parameters of the monophonic synth Enkl (Klevgrand) and noise synth Noisetar (NuSofting). I also tried it with Cataract (Glitchmachines) and got great results. I really like how you can use the steps to create a bassline and then add subtle or more extreme movement to filters. Similarly for effects it’s a great way of adding a rhythmic element with a sequence and subtle or more extreme modulation. The resulting album is embedded at the top of this section, it’s a minimal tech house album arranged and recorded in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 as one-take live recordings.

An arrangement was created with SQ4 controlling Enkl and processed with Ultrachannel (Eventide); A drumloop processed with Ultrachannel (Eventide); SQ4 controlling Noisetar (Nusofting); Synthmaster 2 (KV331 Audio) processed with Convex (Glitchmachines) and Octavox (Eventide); Vocals processed with MangledVerb, Ultratap and Ultrachannel (all Eventide) with Type A (AudioThing) used on the master track. Settings and patterns were altered and four variations were recorded, a fifth version swapped the instance of Noisetar with Cataract (Glitchmachines).

The songs were subsequently mastered in MuLab 7 using EQ45 (Eventide), Type A (AudioThing), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

In-Depth Review

There are detailed setup guides for several host applications on the Dialog Audio website. I use a different DAW from those listed, Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3, and I did have some trouble setting up SQ4 but with help from x.iso on the forums and some further experimentation it turns out that it’s extremely straightforward. It’s simply a case of configuring a midi out or a midi bus and assigning a multi midi filter. When you set the filter to control change, you set the filter number to the same cc channel as the sequences in SQ4 and the value out is then the converted midi messages you can use to control VST parameters. This is a ‘nuclear’ option, it covers VSTs that don’t have midi learn but as it’s so straightforward it’s an easy method to implement for any VST, regardless of whether they have midi learn or not.

The SQ4 interface is divided into 3 sections – output settings, sequence controller and the sequence editor.

Output settings allow you to choose midi cc, sysex or audio cv; you can select the external midi device or output to host to control a software synthesiser; select the midi channel and select the rate at which messages are sent to the device.

The control panel has two parts to it, the main controls which are all of the controls for each sequence and the output controls which determine the output options for the sequence.

There are three different types of sequences – curves, steps and slopes. The rate can be set as free, sync to host or ratio. The number of steps can be anything between 1 and 128. The drop down list has options of 1, 8, 16, 32 & 64 but you can manually enter any number. There are play options of forward, backwards, alternating and random. There are also offset, slew and swing controls.

The output settings determine the midi, sysex or CV parameters for each sequence.

The sequence editor is where you create your sequences. The steps are drawn by dragging up and down, the slopes can edited by click and drag on the points. Curves have a number of additional options including presets, copy/paste, load/save and combine steps.

Review of RapidComposer music prototyping software by MusicDevelopments — February 9, 2018

Review of RapidComposer music prototyping software by MusicDevelopments

RapidComposer is a unique, non-destructive, phrase-based music prototyping software designed for composers, song-writers and musicians of all musical styles for both Windows and macOS.

It is available in two versions

  1. Light edition typically priced at $79 +VAT has Core functionality, VSTi and soundfont support, standalone and VST versions (Windows and macOS), all updates until v3.99, more than 200 reusable phrases and product support.
  2. Full version typically priced at $199 +VAT includes all of the light edition features plus 2 Melody Generators, Idea Tool, articulations, phrase morphing, unlimited tempo and signature changes.

Both versions are available direct from the MusicDevelopment website: http://www.musicdevelopments.com/shop.html

This review is for the full license of RapidComposer, version 3.4, the update was released in January 2018.

Overview

The basic idea is that you create your composition style and length, add chords, add basses, add melodies and harmonies on as many tracks as you need. You can load soundfonts or VSTs to hear your composition and then export as audio or drag and drop as midi files to a DAW for further processing. The VST that runs inside a DAW is a smaller version that communicates with the standalone version. You can use RapidComposer to control separate VSTs or a multichannel VST such as Kontakt.

In practice, it has so much more depth and is a very powerful composing tool for any style of music. It’s very flexible because it allows you to create your composition to any length and any format. Although it comes with a number of chord progressions built-in, you are not limited to these and can add your own chords and furthermore there are many phrasing options too as well as options for piano and guitar chords.

There are a large number of scales and modes and a number of generators to create musical phrases which can be used as is or you can edit them to suit your needs.

I found there was a learning curve to get to grips with the workflow but once I mastered this, the process of scoping out a song was pretty quick. I’ve been happy using the standalone version and exporting to midi to import into MuLab 7 DAW to use with a number of VSTs to create audio and then mix and master to create the composition. Although I’ve got to grips with basic use, I feel there’s so much more functionality to learn and experiment with that will really enhance RapidComposer’s usability, for example using the VST version to control virtual instruments would speed up the creative process.

In Use

It took me a while to get the hang of the interface and functionality, it’s worth spending a little time to do this because actually, it’s very straightforward once you get the hang of the terminology and icons.

Starting a new composition creates a 4 bar song with a default I IV V I progression. At this point, you have the basics of your song which you need to customise to your requirements.

The important points to note are the terminology. RapidComposer has a hierarchical structure as shown below.

You can set scale, chord, tempo and signature at the global level and lower levels inherit these by default but you can override them on any level. This is presented as a collapsible list accessed by the structure icon where you can set global properties as well as settings for each separate section, name the composition and composer. You can also choose whether to use absolute chords or chords with scale degrees.

In practice, this terminology is actually quite helpful because you can arrange your song as simple or complex as you like from a simple single section with alternating chords to something more elaborate such as introduction, verse, bridge, chorus, verse, chorus structure.

You can also add new parts or lines or delete them using the icons that appear when you click on a part or a line. This brings up a x2 which duplicates the part / line, a plus above which adds a part or line above and the lower plus adds a line below whilst the ‘no entry’ deletes it. It appears when you add a line or a part it replicates that particular line or part so you may need to edit this to your requirements. The default length also seems to be 4 bars and you cannot change this within this section.

Once created you can return to the main screen and zoom in / out to change the view settings and this is where you can change the length of each line to a different number of bars if required.

You now need to start adding notes to the composition and you do this using phrases which are basically a group of notes. This covers chords, basslines, melodies and many more which you add to your track. A lot of the power of RapidComposer comes in its ability to generate phrases which you can then edit, resize and add variations to.

You start with a chord progression, there are a large number of inbuilt progressions which you can drag and drop to the master track. However, you are certainly not limited by these and I tend to use my own progressions – standard ones may be useful for creating backing tracks for example but sometimes they can sound formulaic or contrived in some circumstances.

There are a couple of ways to do this, I added the IIIm chord and then used the circle of fifths to change it to a minor 11th chord. I then used the phrases icon and chord generator to add the chord to the line. You can drop this on whichever starting note you want. At this point I remembered I wanted this line to be 8 bars long and it’s a simple case of dragging the line length to 8 bars and extending the chord by dragging to also increase this to 8 bars length. I then edited the chord so that it’s 8 bars long. This is a simple case of right click to display the menu, select all notes, join all notes and then click ‘apply changes to phrase in composition’ which helpfully changes all chords. You can also click and drag to select notes which is useful to extend or decrease the length of the chord to allow a reverb tail to finish, for instance.

Returning to the structure inspector, when you click on a line, pressing x2 duplicates the line with any chords and phrases you’ve created. This means that you can very quickly start to create your composition by copying, editing and pasting lines and sections.

I’ve kept the lines deliberately short, they seem easier to manage as shorter separate lines rather than longer sections.

At this point I’d also say that RapidComposer saves your composition on exit but I’d recommend clicking the file menu and ‘save composition as’ to ensure you save the most up to date version. You can then use the keyboard shortcut of ctrl+s to save the composition as you go along. It’s also useful to name the different parts and lines into parts of your composition for easy reference.

Duplicating a section creates an exact copy so a very useful aspect of using relative chords is that if you change a chord type, the phrase automatically updates. This is an excellent way to very quickly scope out your composition. If you create sections of your song with different chord phrasings, you can copy these to give variety.

Once you’ve entered the chords, you add other tracks by right clicking on a track, clicking on settings and then add midi track. You can then change colour, instrument and preset as required. You can then add phrases as required and edit them to suit your requirements. For example, clicking on the phrases icon you can change the length at the top of the menu to the desired number of bars and then drag say bass generator to your bass track. The rules mean that the bass will snap to the appropriate root note of your chord.

It would probably be quicker to create one section and duplicate rather than drag and drop for each section but it’s quite a quick process anyway. I’ve then added extra tracks with piccato strings and a melody generator. You can drag and drop into a DAW but I found the best way is to export to midi, you can export as a file which includes all of the tracks or separate tracks. If you find the composition is too long or too short, it’s easy enough to edit the composition and re-export it. I wasn’t keen on the bass that was generated and you’d definitely benefit from playing around with the generators to add variety and variations to the phrases.

The icon for the file menu is which brings up a list of options for saving, exporting etc.

From the composition I made, I kept all of the original parts and used Xpand!2 for sounds, adding a drum loop and extra background sounds using Polygon. As I didn’t like the bassline I processed this with Cryogen (Glitchmachines) to produce a bit crushed / glitchy sound. I also added a quote from William S Burroughs about the cut-up method. I mixed with H3000 Factory, H949 Dual Harmoniser, Octavox, MangledVerb, Blackhole, Ultratap and Ultrachannel all by Eventide. I’ve also a drum loop and also Polygon (Glitchmachines) and Incipit (Inear Display) for percussive elements. The spoken part is taken from ‘William S Burroughs Lecture on Public Discourse’ which was recorded on 11th August 1980 by the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and is contained within the Naropa Poetics Audio Archive

I also created a second song from scratch rather than editing the first one. The process was much quicker second time around, I followed a similar process and exported the midi to MuLab. I used Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions (Spitfire Audio) and then mixed with Blackhole, Tverb, 2016 Stereo Room, H3000 Factory and Ultrachannel by Eventide.

Both tracks were mastered in MuLab using EQ45 (Eventide), Type A (AudioThing), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

The bandcamp link is embedded at the start of this section, the songs appear in reverse order to how they were created.

Conclusions

RapidComposer is a very impressive and inspirational tool. If you’ve ever struggled producing melodies or harmonised parts for chords then this can really help your creativity – in minutes. From scoping out whole songs to providing melodies or piano lines, it’s an amazing powerful and flexible composition tool. The structure is flexible enough to allow you to create a composition for any style, and any length. There are a huge number of chords and scales and although there are a large number of phrases, I like how you are not limited by these with the phrase generators and the random nature of these generators is a great way to see what happens. Understanding the basics of music theory does help to get more out of it.

I also like how you can grow with its functionality, there’s a learning curve to understanding how it works but I soon got to grips with the basics and created the compositions above. You can add variety with chord phrasings, variations to phrases such as humanising, adding swing and velocity. You can be as minimal or in depth as you like.

The flexibility allows you to create and export a composition within the standalone version, use the VST version directly within a DAW to control a number of virtual instruments or create a composition that you can export to midi files to import into a DAW separately for fine tuning instrument and effect settings.

Chord generation is very quick, using relative rather than absolute allows you to change key and still keep the same chords / progressions. Whilst you could use RapidComposer to solely create master chord tracks, you’d be missing a lot of the benefits to help produce your composition. I especially like the melody, ostinato and strings staccato generators because I normally struggle to produce melodies like these from scratch.

The ideas tool is also a superb addition to the full version of RapidComposer, this allows you to create a master track from scratch, use an existing melody track or generate a melody and harmonise with this. You can add chords to the master track by using a scale and specifying rules, absolute chords,progressions or random chords.

You generate the master track chords and then add tracks as required, it’s a simple case of dragging phrases, rhythm patterns adding any required variation and then generating the tracks as required.

I’ve created a song using the ideas tool with an E Neapolitan minor scale. I’ve edited the chords and deleted some of the piano parts and added variation into the bassline. It’s taken just a few minutes to complete the whole song. I’ve done it whilst finishing off this review so haven’t even listened to it yet, will export it to my DAW and see what it sounds like with further processing and effects added.