Monday, December 21, 2009

Are web series changing the mainstream?

I admit I'm a bit of a slow pony when it comes to keeping up with bleeding-edge entertainment phenomena, but a new trend of fun web-based media has piqued my interest.

I think it may have started with web-based comix like Jon Rosenberg's wonderful "Goats" which burgeoned until collected volumes were showing up in bookstores everywhere. Then the phenomena moved on to animated shorts like "Happy Tree Friends" or Dave Lovelace's unabashed "Retarded Animal Babies" both now available on DVD. Things that once only had life on the web, now are beginning to have a commercial life in the "real" world.

With recent Web-to-TV transitions like the SF extravaganza "Sanctuary" or Joss Whedon's Web-to-DVD comedy "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog", things seem to be in full bloom.

The most recent manifestation to hit my radar is "Riese, The Series".

Riese is an exciting and engaging action-driven story about a mysterious femme fatale wanderer and her faithful wolf companion. The Riese phenomenon was helped along with a fierce viral web campaign featuring a virtual scavenger hunt of sorts across the internet. The better-than-average production values are evident though it's still obviously a lower budget affair. Relatively inexpensive HD video cameras like the breakthrough "Red One" and cheaper computer-based visual effects are beginning to blur the line between "budget" and "quality". This can only be a healthy thing, putting the means of professional production in new, adventersome hands.

The thing I'm finding most interesting with this new web-spawned media is that a small creative team, usually only two or three people, have complete control over story and character - a far cry from the watered-down-by-committee/dumbed-down-to-the-lowest-common-denominator dross that comprises the majority of the network shows these days. When the creative control is in fewer hands, I think the end product really shines as a unique beacon with tons of character.

Riese is a good example of this. While still falling easily into the dystopian fantasy/action mold, there are creative touches that make this quirky enough to stay engaging and give it a touch of class that is usually "polished away" in the mainstream media. If the lack of budget shows through occasionally, well that just adds to the charm I say.

The media "Goliaths" would do well to take note of the doings of these independent "Davids" now practicing their craft on the World Wide Web.

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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Clifford D. Simak's "CITY"

Back in 1981, when I was 18, I got to meet Clifford D. Simak in Denver, Colorado at the 39th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. He was an effervescent old man with an absolutely infectious smile. I didn't really know who he was or what he had written as my tastes were narrower and a little less refined in those days.

It's a shame, because at this point it's a little late in the day to thank him.

One of the first books of his I read, a few years after meeting him, was City - a novel composed of linked short stories written between 1944 and 1951. It had a very profound effect on me with its folksy robots tending the gardens of an Earth wholly deserted by Mankind, left to the by-then-sentient Dogs and of course the industrious Ants.

The richness of his characters and depth of his stories has stayed with me through the years and the palpable warmth and humanity of his words still speak to me across time and space.

Thanks Clifford, wherever you are, I drew this for you:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The New Album...

Here is the preliminary artwork for my forthcoming album of songs:

For a while the new CD was going to be called "Screaming At The Sun" but it has since evolved into "Stealing The Sun"...twisting the Northwest Indian story of Raven stealing the Moon slightly askew. ;)

I'm about three quarters of the way through production and hope to have all the music completed amd edited by the new year. Luna and Subterranean Bathers will both be present in all their uncompressed CD-quality glory as well as a Serge Modular version of "Wichita Lineman", an a-capella version of "Mother Nature's Son" and some other secret-for-now goodies.

In addition to various and sundry synthesizers, voice will feature prominantly on this release.

Further updates will be forthcoming...


Natural manifestations of things like electricity and magnetism must have seemed pretty supernatural to ancient peoples.

"Supernatural" is a word with a lot of baggage. So much depends on how we define these "loaded" concepts. Take "God" for example. That could mean anything dependant on how you define it. Maybe the universe itself is in some way sentient - does that qualify as "God"? Could it affect our lives in any direct way? And if it couldn't, would it still be God? Would it matter?

Or how about "Magic"? If you define it as "causing change to occur in the physical world by the power of one's will", then the creation of a webpage could be seen as magic...I use my wand (keyboard) to create incantations (blogs) and I conjure arcane spirits (HTML) to spread them, etc.

Though I am for the most part a confirmed sceptic, I have seen and experienced some pretty weird things. I think it's healthy to reserve a shadow of a doubt for phenomena that are recurring but not currently explicable with known science. However, all observations of these phenomena should be conducted using the scientific method to keep ones "wishes and daydreams" well out of it.

Ritual, Epiphany and Mythos are extremely healthy things that, if properly directed, can help us be more completely human. Being a realist doesn't automatically mean you can't partake in the Transcendent. I know I certainly do.

For me, "supernatural phenomena" is just natural phenomena that we don't understand yet.

That doesn't mean, however, that I'll ignore scientifically demonstrable proof in lieu of "faith" - that can lead down the path of zealotry or, even worse, you could find yourself amongst a bunch of people standing in long robes in the Arizona desert...waiting for the Mothership to land. But, hey, you never know. ;)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brewing an Ale - Easier than you may think...

Brewday begins with me finding my "helper" a spot where she won't be underfoot. As long as she can see what I'm up to and has a comfortable place to sit, she's happy:

Next, I lay out the ingredients I'm going to need for my recipe. Five pounds of dry malt extract, a pound of medium-kilned Crystal grain, a few ounces of hop pellets for the different timed additions and, in this particular case, some honey:

The grains are put in a muslin sack and steeped. They get removed when the temp hits 160:

Once things come to a boil, the malt extract and honey are added along with the first dose of hop pellets. The "wort" as it is called will now boil for an hour with further hop additions at 30 minutes and 45 minutes:

Ten minutes before the end of the boil, the wort chiller is added to the boil to sterilize it. The chiller is a big coil of copper tubing that I will run cold tap water through to cool the wort down to a temperature cool enough for the yeast to do their thing:

Once cooled, the wort is poured into the fermenter, live yeast is added, the fermenter is sealed and an airlock is added to allow C02 to escape without letting bacteria in:

In a few weeks, fermentation will be complete and this will be ready to bottle. Stay tuned. ^_^

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pen & Ink Drawings...

Over the past few days I've begun to scan some of my Pen-and-Ink drawings from my vast collection in preparation for a book I want to publish.

These are all Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens on acid-free paper.

Because they're now in digital form, its easy to share these so I thought I'd put a handful up here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Studio Revamp Halfway There...

Stuck at home with what feels like a bad cold, I thought I'd take a moment to post... (no, I don't have the Swine Flu!) ;)

I had a busy (back-breaking) Sunday morning in the studio and have installed new 3-tier keyboard stands on one side of the studio, replacing the awful 2-tier "X" stands.

These are "Standtastic" stands that I only discovered a couple of weeks ago. A nice bit of industrial design! There's lots of legroom underneath, space for pedals, etc...

Kitty approves as well.

Now I need to break down the Ikea desk (on the left) and haul it down to the garage where it will become my workbench. Don't despair, as nice as it looks, it's not real wood. It will make a nice, solid surface for construction and a place to permanently set up my soldering iron.

Once that's done there'll be enough room to assemble the Quik Lok Z555 "workstation" furniture again and its pendant racks and other doo-dads. The Oasys will go here as main studio controller - where it really belongs:

Then I can move the big red Papasan chair back into the corner. I miss having a "comfy chair" in the studio...and so does kitty...obvious from this old photo:

A bunch of my brightly-colored synths ended up in this stand. Not sure if this is their "final spot" but for now, this is the "artificial fruit flavors" stand:

...and there turned out to be enough room between the stands for a rack containing the Spectral Audio Syntrack, Waldorf Microwave XT and the Yamaha VL-1m:

To the left of the rack you can just make out the 1U 8x2 line mixer that sends the output from all these synths over to the other side of the studio via a single pair of cables, obviating the need for a snake this time.

Over the next couple of weekends I'm hoping to finish up and get back to recording. Once the Oasys is in place and my main DAW and interfaces hooked up again, I've already got some ideas pushing to get out!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Subterranean Bathers

Fast on the heels of Luna, my new song Subterranean Bathers is about how Lovecraftian fishpeople have secretly moved into the suburbs...or something like that. ;)

Subterranean bathers  by  Carbon111

"Chewing gum and twist-ties
Are binding me together
It's just a kind of glue
To help me past the weather

You're so bright and August
I'm so Spring and undivided though the Universe provided just the merest glimpse of you

We are
Subterranean Bathers
We are
The best of all neighbors
We never come up for air
You won't even know we're there
Keepers of light in the dark - I've lost my mind
...But found this spark"

The Nozzle

Please do not be alarmed.

We are about to engage...the nozzle.

Please do not move while the nozzle is engaging.

Moving will disrupt calibration of...the nozzle.

Please wait while we calibrate...the nozzle.

Please do not look away from...the nozzle.

The nozzle is now calibrating.

The nozzle is still calibrating.

The nozzle has completed calibration.

Thank you.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Texture is a 108-page fine art photography book I just published through the online publisher Blurb. This portfolio is a large assemblage of photos of both natural and man-made objects and environs, each with an inherent and pronounced visual texture. From the eyelash of a deer to sulphur-encrusted stones, this collection really runs the gamut. :)

The book is available for purchase online and the first fifteen pages can be browsed through at
their site.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Luna  by  Carbon111

Well, it's been a little while since I was in the studio actually making music...getting Shadow out took a lot of time and effort even after all the recording was done.

I was able to steal a few hours from Time himself the last couple of days and create a little tune called Luna.

The Nord Stage is on "distorted lead", Nord Wave on "grungy Santur" and Oasys on drums and "ambiance". The vox is all me and, hopefully, I'm not too rusty.

I'm heels over head for you
My days are wine and bread for you
I've turned my end-beginning round again
Cycle circle Dervish you
What will you do with what has you?
The message you are sending sounds again

All I can see is the stars in your eyes
All I can see is the moon

A Winter road for Summer souls
And every seed a part, a whole
I've turned my end-beginning round again
Plants lie waiting under snow
All the seeds prepare to grow
The message you are sending sounds again

All I can see is the stars in your eyes
All I can see is the moon

Spiral fox my forest you
The secret secret no one knew
From here the light is shining once again
Red and white your color true
Blue and black and bruised like you
From here the colors blending found again

All I can see is the stars in your eyes
All I can see is the moon...

Monday, February 16, 2009


Well it's finally done - mixed, mastered, duplicated, barcoded and shrinkwrapped!

After a couple of namechanges, a new logo and a complete rework of the front cover graphics, my electonic-instrumental-"chill" album Shadow is finally ready!

I have it available here on CD Baby. ^_^

It's been a long six years in the making and I'm really proud of this release as I've taken my time and tried to address every little detail. Many songs had to be remixed numerous times so as to fit better within the "character" of the CD and some had to be saved for another release entirely as they didn't mesh well with the other pieces, most notable amongst these were my weird Serge Modular pieces - they'll be getting their own CD later this year, probably this Fall.

Mastering Shadow turned out to be a fairly hairy business that I eventually accepted was beyond a mere "mix engineer" like myself. After many days spent mastering, re-mastering and starting from scratch again, again and again, I decided to have a professional do it. I've discovered that mastering is very different than the kind of engineering I'm used to on the "frontend" of a piece of music. I called in George Mattson for the task and he has exceeded my highest expectations.

The cover was originally a black and white image designed specifically to be well-suited for silkscreening, a technique that turned out to be too expensive this time around, so I decided to create a brand new cover image to take advantage of the full-color standard CD cover:

Here's a few of the pieces featured on Shadow:

Arrival 5:27
A contemplative tune grounded by Nord Stage E-piano. Lead synth is by Nord Wave, "rhythm" by Juno 60 and weird ambiences by NI Reaktor & NI Absynth 4.

Bicycle 7:42
The SCI Six-Track takes up rhythmic bass duties while two pianos courtesy of the Nord Stage and NI's Massive weave complimentary lines. Oasys provides the FM pad and Absynth provides some ambiance.

Crows for Marie 5:25
A "piano-ambient-thing". The piano is "Marie", my old Baldwin spinet, the background is Nord Modular percussion, Nord Modular insects, Nord Modular FM pad and a Prophet'08 triangle pad.

The Solaris at N.A.M.M.

Every year in January, the National Association of Music Manufacturers has a big bash down in Anaheim. For someone like me whose joie de vivre is heavily entwined with making electronic music as well as the tools of the trade, this tradeshow is like the ultimate "Disneyland for geeks".

My friend and neighbor, John Bowen, is putting the finishing touches on what to me is the ultimate music synthesizer, The Solaris. Last year I helped demo this amazing device to all and sundry while simultaneously falling in love with its beautiful sound and deep programability. My experiences at N.A.M.M. were enhanced by the fact that I was finally able to meet some long-standing online friends in person and share some laughter and swap stories.

The Solaris has a richness of tone I'm not used to hearing from a digital instrument and the design is beautifull as well as relatively easy-to-use despite the fact that there are over 800 programmable parameters.

While working on my soon-to-be-released album, Shadow, I was graciously allowed the use of a Solaris prototype. What a wondeerful experience!

For the curious, more information is available at

This year, I returned to N.A.M.M. as a spectator and shot a few pics of this beautiful instrument:

Here's what John Bowen himself has to say:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Circle Cat...

My cat Tali is a Colorpoint Shorthair who loves to sleep curled up in a ball. Some friends and I were making mock "motivational posters" and I came up with these three. My cat is so full of personality, she always makes me laugh...and can be often found lurking in my music studio. ^_^

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ingmar Bergman

I finally started watching the box set of Ingmar Bergman films my wife got me for the holiday. It's easy to see how Bergman's films inform so much of modern cinema. Also, the cinematography is excellent in all of these - beautifull stark black-and-white with vivid contrasts that somehow avoids becoming "film noir".

Wild Strawberries was excellent! This was one of Bergman's films I never bothered to watch because the plot always sounded terribly boring - an old man travelling to recieve an award reminisces about his life. I'm really glad I finally saw this! It was anything but boring and delved into things that were, for me, surprisingly poingant investigations into what constitutes a "good life" or even a "good person" and how in some ways you can never fully escape your upbrining.

The Seventh Seal has always been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it as a teen. It's wonderful to finally own a beautiful print of it...I've already watched this one twice since I recieved it! The joys of Life and a solid game of chess with Death in plague-ravaged Europe...I really love this movie! Back from the crusades, Max Von Sydow and a company of minstrals tread lightly through oblivion.

The Virgin Spring was another one I had never seen. Powerful, harrowing and interesting immersive take on revenge, medieval culture, the pagan/christian dichotomy and Faith in the face of mankind's inherent visciousness. Such a terribly "quiet" film too, you can hear every rustling leaf and drip of water. The level of tension in this one is unrelenting. Max Von Sydow is an amazing actor of many facets both subtle and powerful!

The other film in the boxed set is another one I haven't seen, a comedy called "Smiles of a Summer Night". I'm really looking forward to it.

Bergman is definately one of my favorite directors of all time, in good company with Peter Weir, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the giallo master, Mario Bava.

As a side note, I'm not solely into "Art Flicks", I've got some lighter fare in store too as our stack of recent purchases contains some fun flicks: No Such Thing, Kung Fu Hustle, Konga, Hero, House of Flying Daggars and the MST3K Anniversary Boxed Set.


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