never again (disquiet junto)

I’d been lurking (and listening) to the Disquiet Junto group over at SoundCloud for a few weeks, and finally grew the stones to post something:

This week’s assignment had us generating a core rhythm using an arbitrary phrase, put into Morse code, and then building on that. The bar’s pretty high over there, but I think I did… at least ok.

The entire project for the week is here.

new uploads: industry, comes pale horse.

Uploaded two more drafts to the soundcloud site, minor remixes from the 2002 material: industry and comes pale horse.

This one is built on some AM radio samples. Mostly random news/talk radio late one night in the Christmas season, whatever sounds I happened to slew by as I moved the radio dial back and forth essentially at random. Distorted beyond recognition by the time it gets here. Live guitar as the bass thrum. Guitar synth used to simultaneously make the ‘shadow/shimmer’ you can hear on the top.

Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be ludicrous to call this a guitar piece, though I’ve never thought of it as such.

The next piece is longer:

This piece drove me mad all throughout the summer of 2002. Or vice versa. The core was improvised one night using Ableton Live. I then spent months putting layer upon layer over it. Most of the samples are from the guitar synth rig I had back then, sounds I had sampled during practice sessions and had lying around. The iBook I had then didn’t have much horsepower, so I had to use the old four-track trick of bouncing multiple tracks into one new track and starting over, rinse, lather, repeat. (At one point you have about 60 different sounds and tones, all hovering in the general vicinity of B-flat). Before uploading this, I did some minor remixing, and added the barely-audible voices down in the deeps that I had always imagined for this one.

Neither of these are mastered, or even finished. Just work-in-progress mixes, uploaded because I promised myself that I would.

A Second Spin.

Pulled disc 2 of the Syd Barrett album, hardly any crackle. I must have only played it the one time, way back when.

Last week I pulled my copy of Hugo Largo’s Drum. Funny how an album that was so important to me 23 years ago barely exists in the public record now. Just a little footnote on wikipedia. And a long-outdated entry on the old trouserpress website. And some scattered, shattered artifacts of history on youtube.

Other than that, I’ve been working on remastering ‘2002’.

And listening to many, many new things.

Update: What I’ve been working on.

Haven’t been posting on this or the other blog much, but I’ve been busy.

The new home studio setup is working. I’ve been bouncing between working on new stuff, and reclaiming/repurposing pieces I did in the summer of 2002 but never got around to formally releasing. There’s 45+ minutes worth of it, so there’s no harm in remastering it and ‘releasing’ it on the bandcamp site. Playing with pieces that are essentially done will help me climb these learning curves (currently seeing what I can do with Audacity and the LE version of Cubase that came with my guitar processing stomp box).

Meanwhile I’m about 30-40% through a new set (some of it still in my head). That’s scattered across the computers, some in ACID Pro, some in Cubase, some in my old copy of Ableton Live (v5.1, which I got working again two weeks ago). I’m also thinking of getting a copy of Logic Pro, at $200 it seems to come with better effects and VSTi’s than anything else that cheap. Updating the Cubase LE to full would cost nearly twice as much.

Actually haven’t been turntabling or sampling much. Found my old Syd Barrett double album and pulled the first disc. Not in bad shape (even back then I used records as ‘masters’, pulling them onto cassette tapes to be played on my Walkman, so the few records I do have from the time aren’t too worn). Haven’t had time to clean that up and burn it to CD, but I will eventually.

More as it comes. I’m hoping to have the old 2002 remastered and online by the end of October (day job permitting). The newer stuff by the end of this year.

Then I’ll have to take a look back and decide what to do next.

Bandcamp release: Outside

I’ve set up a site on Bandcamp.

The first release is an album of two pieces based on work from 2003. I had been lurking on the old microsound mailing list, and a thread on capturing environmental sounds inspired me to try my own hand at making an altered/found-sound piece. There are a number of variants floating around, (at least seven), but these two mixes were always the best– yet different enough from each other to be presented side by side.

After all the musical work I had done back in 2002 (more on that in a future post), I was exhausted, felt stuck, and found myself wondering what to do next. Meanwhile, at my day job, the project I was working on had been abruptly cancelled. Disgusted, I figured I’d fuck off work, take a week’s vacation, and spend some time playing with sounds instead.

The core sound is a little under 23 minutes of ambient noise, as recorded outside my then-apartment window (as shown) on a slightly rainy day in late May 2003. Literally just set up two microphones and pointed them at angles outside of the window, slight compression, a mild notch filter to “condition” the AC-power drone of the building’s transformer, but otherwise just the raw sound. Typical sounds of a lazy rainy afternoon in that complex: cars (their wet tires skimmering on the pavement). People coming in and out of the building. Car doors, slamming. The aforementioned transformer, droning an almost B-flat off to the left hand side of the mix throughout. A little girl, skipping or hop-scotching her way past her mother. Some interior noises as I went about my business in the apartment.

I then spent the better part of a year playing with ambient mixes over that core sound. Each mix had its own secondary sample/instrumentation set, and (like I said) I ended up with 6-7 distinct variants of Outside. Moving to Salem, work schedule and other life-events postponed mastering these until 2006, when they were declared “finished”, then mostly forgotten or written off as eccentric exercises and curiosities. All I’ve done since then was to do a little rebalancing/eq to get them up to snuff for uploading.

And now… well, I have no idea.

Not sure if it’s the best of ideas to have my first album upload –my first official ‘release’, really– be this off the wall ambient/found-sound/experimental piece from nine years ago. But this was the easiest one to prep and upload, and it was ready.

Next up:  2002.

Lessons and Carols.

Bought a well-used (and, sadly, well-crackled) LP copy of the King’s College Choir from Christmas 1958. Finally got around to googling it today, and found out that the recording’s fairly well known. Well known enough that the BBC actually remastered the recording into 4:0 “Surround” just this past Christmas. (Not clear from the article what the format means. Is it just 5:1 without the center and subwoofer? Or is “4:0” just what we’re supposed to call old-style quadrophonic sound these days)?

My own copy, bought for $3 at a local second-hand bookstore’s used records bin, is not in the best of shape. As a Christmas album, it was quite likely played once a year, and it shows from the wear and tear. No major scratches (except for one brief dig towards the very beginning), but it sounds as though the disc was never properly cleaned by the original owner (lots of burned-in dust, pops and crackles). It’s also doubtful they had high-end equipment.

But as I played it (pulling it onto the laptop as I did so), I realized that patterns within the wear and tear allowed me to do some forensics. Whoever owned this album is almost certainly dead (as are many of the voices on it, by now), but you can tell from the degree of noise which parts of the disc had been listened to quite often, and which had been largely ignored. I could tell you which three songs he or she adored, playing and replaying them over the years. I can imagine the time someone must have slipped while cueing up the first track to make that scratch I mentioned. It also sounds like they skipped most or all of the vicar’s sermons. And, for whatever reason, they were NOT fond of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, which sounds almost pristine (I intend to recover that one outright for my own Christmas music mix).

With respect to the recording itself, I can understand why this one seems so beloved by experts on the subject. It’s the BBC’s first stereo recording of the King’s College Christmas Mass (or ‘Service’?– do Anglicans call it ‘Mass’?), and it sold well into the 1970s on both vinyl and reel-to-reel. Presumably recorded at the tech limits of late 1958 (at the very beginning you can even hear a truck/lorry driving by outside before the singing starts).

The cleaning software does an admirable job on this material, though some of the noise can’t be totally removed without doing injury to the original recording beneath. Other than Faithful, I have no idea what I will do with these sounds. The vicar’s voice is well recorded, and might have some future use to me. And I’ve always wondered what could be done with a voiced choir’s sounds, after breaking it up into grains.

Prep.

The turnable saga continues. The headshells came, they look pretty good. Slightly heavier than the one that came with the Stanton, but not by much. They’ll do. The new cartridge/needle assembly also came, as did the rubber mat, and the new USB audio interface. That all gets assembled tomorrow.

I did have some time to unbox the USB audio interface (Behringer UFO202) I’d ordered. It’s smaller than a deck of cards and has the USB cable permanently attached. Plugged it into the Win7 laptop, drivers auto-installed, etc. Didn’t get to do much more than fire up Audacity and verify that I could access the device from that. I also sampled a few seconds with no inputs attached to the little box, to get its nominal noise profile. I have the plot (strange noise profile for an audio device– peaks in weird places that don’t seem to correlate to freqs I’d expect to see coming from the power supply, sampling rate, etc). Max noise peaks at -63dB or so, most of the curve lies below that. (Note to self: Post a plot later once you figure out how to embed). I want to get a longer audio sample of this base noise anyway, so I can use it for reference noise later should that ever be needed.

Also played with some of the earlier ‘throwaway data’ I’d captured using the Stanton’s built-in USB preamp. (Audacity again). The original still sounded as horribly tinny as it did the other night, but was also not too difficult to clean up and EQ. Before long I had managed to make the sample much less horrible than it was. Not a great record here, some generic-looking album from the late 50s/early 60s full of ‘Spanish Orchestral Classics’. I might end up seeing if I can do something useful with the string sounds (this assumes that I manage to recover anything interesting).

Assembly tomorrow. Probably.