cracking some covenant sounds

When I’m listening to music these days I often think about how the sounds in it are produced, especially electronic sounds, but one had me totally baffled — the cold distorted chime-kinda-thing at the start of Covenant’s Winter Comes. I’ve been trying to reproduce it for a while now, but I think I cracked it tonight. Because it’s almost a clang-like sound I was thought it would be a job for FM or the ring modulator, but as it turns out, it’s carefully filtered noise. Noise has no real pitch, but by cranking the filter resonance to self-oscillation and then having the filter track the keyboard, you can use sculpt noise in to distorted, but pitched, sounds.

20090422: 9 seconds

even more boards of canada

Yet another crack at my Sixtyniner cover tonight. I tweaked a few things, but the big change is the drums — they’re still not quite right (the kick in particular isn’t quite right), but they’re a lot better than they were, and I used the “Decimator” plug-in to give them bit of an old-school sampler feel by dropping the sample rate to 32Khz/12-bit.

20090411: 1 minute 54 seconds

braid is out for the PC

Everyone (well, most people) that missed out on Braid due to its initial release on the Xbox 360 can now rejoice, because the PC version has just been released! As you’d expect, it’s a digital download from the usual places, including Greenhouse, Impulse, and Steam, priced at $US15. Braid is a wonderfully clever, beautiful, and moving game, and — dare I say it — an important game, since it pushes gameplay and storytelling in ways that only a small, independent title can. For those reasons and more, Braid was, in my opinion, 2008’s finest game.

It’s also worth mentioning that the PC version works fine under Wine on Linux — it didn’t go full-screen for me, but apart from that it seemed flawless. There’s a Mac port on the way, too.

more boards of canada

Good Friday is such an odd, quiet day, so I spent some time expanding on yesterday’s sketch — now it’s basically a cover of the first two minutes of Sixtyniner. A few of the background details are missing, and the drums aren’t quite right, but the rest of it sounds pretty close to the original to me.

I haven’t done many covers in the past, but they’re an interesting exercise — reverse-engineering a track like this is a great way to practice my synth skills, and by learning how other people make music, I can discover tricks and techniques that might help my own music in the future.

20090410: 1 minute 54 seconds

that whole gaming thing (or: woo, zelda!)

I haven’t been gaming much lately, beyond my Saturday Gears of War matches, which are basically social events, but I’ve been back in to it this week, and on the Wii of all things. I have both Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge sitting there, ready to play (and have had for a few months now), but the game that’s taken my fancy is the only 3D Zelda game I haven’t played — Majora’s Mask — which finally arrived on the Virtual Console last week.

Majora’s Mask is definitely the strangest Zelda game I’ve played, with the game’s core mechanic — a series of masks that transform Link, giving him unique abilities — almost paling in comparison with it’s secondary mechanic, a fixed 72-hour clock (about an hour in game time) that controls the game world and it inhabitants. You have to save the world within those 72 hours, but by using the Ocarina or Time, you can warp yourself through time and relive those hours as many times as you need to.

Beyond the fact that, like most PSX/N64-era games, its graphics haven’t aged well (though I’m not too fussed about that), my only issue with Majora’s Mask is with its save system. You don’t get any opportunity to save your game until about an hour and a half in, and after that, you save primarily by resetting the clock to 0, which saves any major achievements, but drops you back at the hub world and reduces your bank balance to 0. There’s an alternate system of savepoints, but I’ve only found one so far, so I’m not sure how widespread they are. Saving has never been ideal in Zelda games, though — most drop you back at the start of the current dungeon when you load, which isn’t conductive to short play sessions — so I’m sure I can deal with it.

the sketchbook returns!

My March daily sketchbook may be complete, but I plan to keep noodling around in my little studio when the mood strikes me, and if I come up with anything neat, I’ll post it here. This time it’s a copy of a synth sound from the Boards of Canada track Sixtyniner, and I think I got pretty close to it; not bad for a digital synth making a very analogue-style sound.

20090409: 23 seconds

musical sketchbook: looking back

Well, I made it to the end of the month, and I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out — I came up with some neat sounds, and some ideas that could probably be expanded in to proper pieces with some time. I also learned a lot:

  • Ardour used to be a total mystery, but I now have a pretty good grip on it, and on a bunch of LADSPA effects plug-ins
  • The Blofeld is super-deep, but I know my way around it much better now, especially when it comes to creating (or re-creating) specific sounds
  • My keyboard skills are a bit rusty, but they’ve definitely improved with practice, and they’ll improve more if I stick with it
  • My singing could be better, but if it was buried in a track I’m sure it’d be okay
  • I don’t need anything more than what I have to make interesting music

That last one’s an important one — it’s very easy to put up artificial barriers, saying “I can’t do X without Y”, but I have heaps of stuff to work. All I need are ideas, and the time to put them in to practice, and with any luck I’ll be able to find both.