Sunday, November 29, 2009

Music In Our Homes

Active on a lot of online forums, I come across a wide variety of music. Occasionally a real gem will reveal itself. Music In Our Homes by Scenic Square is one such "diamond in the rough".

Both lush and minimal, this album hosts an eclectic mix of electoacoustic and electronic instruments, fronted by a unique voice. Woven from intricate melodies, broad drones and percussive bits the fabric of this music is both rough and velvet-soft. I'm really loving this.

On the exceptional strength of these songs, I'm looking forward to more excellent music in the future from these folks.

Check the album out: Music In Our Homes

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dreams, Microphones and Financial Reality

The Dream: the Telefunken ELA M 250. $14,495.00 list and a mere $11,500.00 street!

...At the asking price, I'll never be able to own one.

Fortunately for me, the B.L.U.E. Blueberry has a rather similar signature sound:

...and is less than a tenth of the cost! It's currently my favorite mic. My voice, while passable, needs all the help it can get. ;)


My second favorite high-value/low-budget mic is an oddball combo that sounds surprisingly like a Neumann U87. Namely, the RTT M1 (LOMO) head paired with an Oktava MK012 body.

Purchased through a place like The Sound Room, the total cost is around $500 for the pair. Considering the sound and the quality you get for the price, it's a no-brainer in my opinion:



It's amazing what you can do on a budget these days. Low-cost Chinese manufacturing paired with American assembly and quality control has even paved the way for a really good-quality ribbon mic for around $250 courtesy of Shinybox Ribbon Microphones:

If you don't mind shelling out $150 more, you can have the same mic but with your choice of Cinemag or Lundahl output transformer.


There are some similar low-cost "deals" from some mainstream manufacturers that show up in the big-store catalogs, but the quality just isn't there in my opinion.

As the above examples show, there are some amazing deals are out there if you dig around a little...and if you're willing to shell out a little extra than the bare minimum.

Next up, I show the viewers at home how to buy caviar and champagne for pennies on the dollar... ^_^

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye Edward...

I just heard about Edward Woodward's passing. A fantastic actor with a long and varied career. Sad that, more and more, all my "old friends and heroes" seem to be leaving. :(

When I think of Edward Woodward, the first thing that comes to my mind is his role as the naive yet well-meaning police officer Neil Howie from the movie "The Wicker Man". A stunning piece of acting there Ed! You'll be sorely missed.

No Time

No time  by  Carbon111

As mentioned before, "Stealing The Sun" is coming along nicely - I just finished remixing a short song called "No Time", featuring my voice and a number of synths from the Korg Oasys.

Craft a song of Death and Sunshine
Tell a story: Love and Moonshine

Time So Long
There's No Time

Admiration for all my foes
Abject love for your crooked smile

Time So Long
There's No Time

Every breath is Hello/Goodbye
Every word just blurs Day to Night

Time So Long
There's No Time

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Secret Weapon

The Allen & Heath VF-1 1U rackmount filter has turned out to be an indispensable studio tool for me. In many ways its the best "vintage warmer" I've ever used. However, it's quite capable of a wide variety of tasks and shouldn't be pigeonholed as "just a processor for cold digital sources" - though it does that in spades!

The VF-1 can be an extremely subtle effect, maybe used just to add some phase movement, or it can be totally in-your-face with squelchy lowpass sweeps and scorching tube distortion. That said, I still wouldn't generally classify it as an "extreme" processor like say a Sherman filterbank, but more as a surgical sound-sculpting tool that is also capable of imparting a lot of warmth.

Multiple resonant filter responses are available simultaneously, including lowpass, highpass, bandpass and a really lovely all-pass for the aforementioned phase effects. Simultaneous combinations of multiple filter types are available via lighted enables on the front panel. Besides the filters, the VF-1 sports an LFO, a tube-based drive section and an Envelope Follower with flexible routing. This allows for a huge variety of sound-manipulation just using the VF-1 by itself!

Though it is very warm-sounding, it's not what I would call a "fat" or "beefy" filter, more like an extremely resonant multiband EQ with a really low-noise tube circuit built in - there is somehow a very pristine quality to the second-order tube harmonics and not a lot of "fuzz" if you get my drift - more like a high-end mic pre or DI box rather than a distortion pedal. You can get some very bold distortion if you push it but it's more often useful as a less blatent effect.

In many configurations the VF-1 can be almost "transparent" though it's hugely obvious by its absence if you go into bypass mode.

All-in-all an extremely useful tool and a very handy "secret weapon" for any electronic musician's arsenal! ;)

More info at Allen &

Monday, November 9, 2009

Breathing Machinery

Here's my newest song, called "Breathing Machinery":

Breathing machinery  by  Carbon111

Korg Oasys does Piano and Wave Sequencing, Weird Pads are NI's Absynth and, except for some clickety bits from Digidesign's "Boom", all the Drum Sounds and Rhythm Beds were done in NI's Absynth as well. Vox is me thru a BLUE Blueberry.

Looking at you
She's not seeing anyone
Moving so strangely from the plastic and glass and rum
Sugar and spice and everything nice
- is not what you came here for
Sugar and spice and everything nice
- is that what she came here for?

She's Breathing Machinery
Feeling Machinery
She's Making Memories
Feeding Machinery

Nothing's been said
But she's the one for you
Her serial number is an impossible dream-come-true
With parts off the shelf you could have built her yourself
But where is the fun in that?
Selling bits of yourself, she'd be rolling in wealth
- and there is the fun in that

She's Breathing Machinery
Feeling Machinery
She's Making Memories
Feeding Machinery...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spark a Reaktion...

I'm generally not a huge fan of softsynths, probably because I think most of them come across as "strident", "brittle" or "glassy-sounding" in terms of their overall timbre. Fortunately there are a few exceptions, one of which is Native Instrument's Reaktor which, depending on the instrument loaded, can sound absolutely lovely!

NI recently released a new Reaktor instrument, or "ensemble" in NI-speak, called Spark. This little gem passed completely under my radar as they marketed it more as a "sound library" for their Kore product line rather than on its own merits. Let me just say at the outset that, if you own Reaktor 5, Spark is well worth the fifty nine dollars they charge for a download.

Born from the Mind of NI's founder Stephan Schmitt, Spark is a fantastic-sounding synthesizer with a ton of character! The signal chain is eclectic even for a softsynth as the oscillator section is relatively simple in structure with much of the timbre shaping being done downstream. The tools available include a gutsy filter, a frequency shifter, an eight pole filter and multiple modulation and feedback paths.

The sounds I've gotten with this beast are both subtle and evocative. It's easy to create anything from an evolving/etheric pad to a gritty broken-guitar lead or a rubbery bass. Many of the timbres have an unusual organic feel, very unlike many other Reaktor Ensembles or stand-alone softsynths I've played.

Spark is well worth a look if you have Reaktor, maybe less so if you only have Kore or the free Kore Player as there's no direct access to the GUI, but it still may be attractive for some due to its great overall sound character.

Spark is a very welcome and unique tool amongst a vast ocean of mediocre, mostly-VA softsynths.