Leaving behind slowburn and leaving behind San Francisco

I’ve been working on the slowburn project for almost two years, even more than that if you count the original work of creating the Burning Man ambient sets. It’s always hard to let go of a piece of music, and have it be frozen forever as an inevitably imperfect realization of everything you wanted it to be, but it gets even harder to let go the longer you work at it. When you’ve spent so much time and energy and ego on something, your expectations for it just grow bigger and bigger, and the end product seemingly needs to be better and better to justify all that time and work. But, at some point you just need to recognize that your forward progress came to a stop a while ago, and give up, and move on.

I finally got to that point with the slowburn album, and I’ve also gotten to that point with living in San Francisco. Currently I’m driving across the country to the east coast, and leaving SF behind. I’m not entirely happy with the decision to move, just like I’m not entirely happy with having to give up on the slowburn project, but hey, so it goes. I do know that I will always connect this project and San Francisco together in my mind, and it will always remind me of the time I spent in a cool and weird and fun and contradictory place.

But anyway, we’re not quite done with this slowburn blog yet… there are still a lot of things left to do after all the music has been recorded and mixed: send the audio files in for mastering, get the album artwork, send the mastered audio and artwork to the CD pressing plant for duplication, and arrange physical and digital distribution. Also various promotional things such as CD mailings to radio stations and blogs, create some stems so the songs can be remixed, polish up the Nord Modular patches for a song or two, and possibly make a Youtube video. And some general wrapup/recap type posts.

So once I get to my new home and get settled in I’ll start up again with some of those things, as well as working on some new music projects (finally!).

Recap

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Get your free Dr. Pepper

Axl finally finished “Chinese Democracy”, it actually went on sale today. And last night, I finished up the final mix of “Slowburn”, which clocked in at sixty minutes on the nose.

Let’s all celebrate with a free Dr. Pepper.

(The drpepper.com site is getting hammered, so it might take a while to get through).

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Songs are finally done. Really!

I just need to stitch the individual songs together into the final sixty minute mix, which I will do tonight, and then it will be ready to be sent off and mastered. More later tonight once that has been finished.

Recap

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Korg DS-10

More music/videogame convergence with the arrival of the Korg DS-10 “game” for the Nintendo DS handheld game system. This program emulates a couple of vintage Korg MS monosynths, plus four more stripped down drum synths, plus some effects, plus a basic step sequencer and pattern chainer. Basically you get a little electronic music sketchpad that can run on your DS, which is pretty cool. I have no idea who had the idea to develop this, and no idea why their company gave them the go ahead to do so, but this is a real music tool that was obviously created by real musicians, and is really not a game at all.

Here’s a little demo song I made when playing around with it a little bit.

The softsynths included in the program actually sound pretty good, certainly at least as good as the synths that come with most “real” music sequencers. You can even move around some virtual patchcables to make some more complicated sounds or modulate things. The drum parts remind me of the Electribe ER-1, in that they are all synthesized blips bloops and splats. The program in general reminds me of the Electribe EA-1/ER-1 pair I used to use to come up with ideas, but it actually sounds a bit better and the synthesis is more powerful. It is a little bit more difficult to “play” than the Electribes, as it has several levels of menus that need to be navigated, and you can’t beat the immediacy of just grabbing a dedicated knob or pushing an actual button when you need to, but along with being more powerful than the Electribes the DS-10 is also much more portable and convenient.

The DS-10 doesn’t have any way of syncing with MIDI, which is too bad, but it does allow you to sync up with up to three other DS’s via WiFi that are also running the program, so you can get more synths going simultaneously. You could easily do an entire live set with a few of them hooked together if you were so inclined. And maybe someone can hack a MiDI->WiFi->DS-10 program to allow you to sync it up with a laptop…

All in all, I was really impressed with this program. Good use of the DS touchpad and interface, and it is a steal at under $40. Besides the Electribes, it reminds me of the program Rebirth, the first really cool softsynth that emulated a couple 303s and 808/909s, and stormed on the scene in the late 90’s and changed everything. This is like Rebirth, but better and cheaper and super portable. Back in the day, I would have killed for something like this to learn how to write electronic music with. These days, there are tons of cool and powerful and cheap tools out there for aspiring electronic musicians. So, where’s all the music, kids?

On that note, I need to finish up slowburn this week. I’ve been telling myself to just take as long as it takes, but obviously that hasn’t been working lately. So the official deadline is now Friday.

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Generative music from Eno


I forgot to mention earlier that Will Wright’s (SimCity, the Sims) newest game Spore is out. Spore simulates the creation and evolution of life from amoebas to galactic civilizations, and uses generative ambient music written/programmed by Brian Eno. I previously mentioned a lecture that Wright and Eno gave about the nature of play and music, which is worth watching if you haven’t already.

Spore is fun, but if all you want is Eno’s music, and you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, check out the app Bloom which gives you more control over the music and is cheaper. For $4 you get infinite amounts of Eno style sonic wallpaper music, which is pretty cool. It has me thinking about trying to write a program to remix slowburn, since the album consists of many melodic loops that (mostly) fit together and could be mixed and matched automatically… maybe.

Also in videogame/music synergy news, Harmonix (makers of Rock Band) announced they will be doing an interactive Beatles game that will use Rock Band instruments to play Beatles songs, as well as have additional Beatles related images and audio for some sort of as-yet-undisclosed Beatles multimedia experience. As a fan of both the Beatles and Harmonix, I’m very excited to see what they come up with.

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You caught me smilin’… again

“You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning… And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…”

–Hunter S. Thompson

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Fujiya & Miyagi

Tonight I ventured out to see Krautrock-pop-indie band Fujiya & Miyagi at the Independent. Despite their Japanese band name and German musical stylings, they are neither 1) Japanese or 2) German or 3) a duo. It was a great show nonetheless, I seem to have been hitting a really nice streak of good live shows lately. F&M say their influences are Krautrock and early 90’s IDM, which is of course right up my alley, although I hear more Can and Neu than I do Aphex Twin and Autechre. Anyway, if you are looking for a really fun, catchy, goofy, groovy album check out their previous album Transparent Things. It’s the sort of music you put on in the background at a party and everyone asks you what it is… I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think you’d really like it! Live they were a lot of fun and are definitely worth seeing, they will be in LA at the Troubadour on Thursday if you are so inclined. Why am I pushing them on you so hard? I’m not sure exactly, except that sometimes certain random things just make me very happy, and Fujiya & Miyagi is currently one of those.

On an unrelated note, Apple made it easier to link to iTunes Store music, which is nice if you are a musician and want a non-ugly link to put in your signature file or whatever. To see all the albums by a given artist, you just link to http://itunes.com/artistname, for instance, there’s this really cool band called submodern you can check out at http://itunes.com/submodern. To see a specific album you just link to http://itunes.com/artistname/albumname, again for instance, you can go directly to our first album by clicking http://itunes.com/submodern/objectorientedmoodmanagement . If there are spaces in either of the names, just leave them out. Note that Apple now has all our music up there in iTunes Plus format, with better quality encoding and no DRM for the same price, very cool. Also note however, that I was unable to figure out how to make an easy link to Fujiya & Miyagi (I suspect the ampersand is the culprit), thus the reason this paragraph was unrelated to the last one. Finally, note that I’ve noted way too many things here, I’ll have to make a note not to do that as much in the future.

Slowburn is almost done. I have a lot of distractions going on in my life at the moment, and some big changes coming up soon. Nevertheless, the second-to-last-mix has been created and is being listened to repeatedly. I’ll be going through each song one last time to make final tweaks to volume, eq, pan, and effects level parameters and then it will be done. And I’m still pretty happy with it, so that’s good. Almost there, still…

Recap

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Okay, it’s ON…

Guns’N'Roses long awaited “Chinese Democracy” album is finally coming out on November 23rd. So it looks like America gets that free Dr. Pepper after all, and it looks like I need to get my rear in gear or be humiliated by having them finish their album first.

No more excuses, it’s just me versus Axl now.

Let’s do this thing.

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Almost done…

…but not quite.

Recap

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A couple new plugins…

New Moog filter plugin from UAD. It sounds great, particularly the distortion stage which mimics the Moogerfooger input stage, and has 2-pole and 4-pole lowpass, bandpass and highpass filters. It’s very DSP hungry though, it uses up a lot of the UAD cards processor power and the UAD-1 doesn’t handle plugins like that very well. Still, it sounds great, has LFOs and some nice stereo-izing features, and won’t hum and tune in local radio like the hardware Moogerfooger filter pedal that I had to return.

I will probably get this, and may use it for last minute tweaks on a song or two as I finish up slowburn. I hope they do more effect plugins, I still use the Roland plugins on every single song I mix.

And a new compressor plugin from Audio Damage called Rough Rider. It’s not modelled after any particular piece of real hardware (as far as I know), it has all the usual compressor parameters but is fairly straightforward. I’ve mostly tried mangling drum loops with it, and it does that well. It doesn’t give you numeric values for the various knobs, you’ve got to just play it by ear, which is cool. It seems to have some distortion/limiter stage in there, everything comes out limited to 0dB with some nice added harmonics (the “rough” part of the name, presumably), which is nice.

Oh, and it’s completely free, so there’s no excuse not to grab it.

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