new track: texel

After a few last-minute tweaks, I’m finally ready to release my new track. The plan is for this to be the first track of an EP that will be available for download from Bandcamp, but I’m sure that won’t happen for several months, so I wanted to post the track here early to give everyone a chance to hear it. It’s a downbeat, ambient techno-kinda thing I call “Texel”:


mp3 | ogg | flac | 3 minutes 16 seconds

I talked a little about the production in an earlier post, but I have included some further details after the jump.
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new music update

A few months ago I posted that I was working on new music using Ardour 3, and I’m glad to say that my new track is now all but finished. Working with Ardour 3 was a bit nervewracking at times, as you’d expect when testing alpha software — there were several times, in fact, when I couldn’t even open the project’s session due to one bug or another. It all held together somehow, though, and after many bug reports and fixes, I definitely feel like it’s helped

The new track is a bit of a downbeat, ambient-ish thing, with some lo-fi sounds mixed in with some glitchy elements. I definitely put Ardour’s MIDI features to the test: there are MIDI tracks running out to my Blofeld and to Hydrogen, along with LV2 synths (Calf Monosynth and Linuxsampler), along with automation of CC parameters on the Blofeld and automation of plugin paramaters on Calf Monosynth. I’ve done quite a bit of effects automation as well, particularly with the bitcrushing Decimator plugin.

There’s even a VST plugin in there now; I had been beta-testing Loomer Cumulus, using it as a standalone synth, but with Ardour’s new VST support I now have it running within Ardour directly. Cumulus is somewhere between a synth and an effect: it lets you load a sample, and then trigger its playback using granular synthesis with varying paramaters, altering the starting point, pitch, and playback rate, among other things. You can define up to eight sets of those parameters, and then trigger those via MIDI keys. It can turn all sorts of sounds in to eerie textures, but it can just as easily take a drum loop and turn it in to a wonderfully glitchy mess, which is exactly what I used it for.

I’m pretty sure the track is done, but I don’t want to release it just yet. I plan to sit on it for a few days at least, while I read more of my copy of Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio, but I like the idea of putting together at least an EP with a couple of other tracks and releasing them all at once. That might not be practical if it takes me four months to finish each track, though, so I may post the individual tracks here when they’re ready, and then do an official Bandcamp release once they’re all done.

sketchbook: bouncy game music

Here’s another quick piece done quickly for a purpose: my friend Switchbreak spent the weekend developing a short Flash game for the So Many Rooms game jam, where each developer had 36 hours to produce a game that challenges the player to get from a starting door to an ending door, using whatever obstacles or gameplay mechanics they like. Switchbreak’s game is full of bouncing balls, so when he asked me to produce a quick tune for him, I made sure that it was appropriately bouncy.

This was whipped up on Sunday night mostly in Qtractor, with Hydrogen for the drums, and my Blofeld for all the other sounds. I’d normally record everything in to Ardour and mix it there, but I stayed in Qtractor for this one, and it did a fine job; I had no trouble replicating my usual trick of running the drums on to separate tracks so that I can apply individual effects to each, for instance. The result is a bit trite, but it’s fun, it loops pretty smoothly, and I think it suits the game well.


mp3 | vorbis | flac | 1:18

cheap bleeps: meeblip, shruthi-1, and monotron

Not that long ago people were predicting the death of hardware synths, and with good reason — software synths promised far greater convenience and flexibility at a lower price. There’s something uniquely compelling and immediate¬†about working with hardware, though, so I’m glad to see that hardware synths live on. In fact, I’d say they’re thriving, if the new breed of cheap, quirky synths is any indication. These devices deliver unique sounds, hands-on control, and highly hackable designs, all for less than the cost of many soft-synths.
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a demo of live sequencing with seq24

Despite a whole bunch of idiosyncrasies, I love seq24, and even though I tend to think of Qtractor as my MIDI sequencer of choice under Linux, it’s actually seq24 that I’ve used the most in producing my tracks. I’m planning on making some video tutorials for it, since it’s such a strange beast to deal with at first, but before doing that, I want to demonstrate the kind of things you can do with it.

Here, then, is a “performance” of my track tiny droplets — the various MIDI loops used are all pre-sequenced, but I’m triggering them all in realtime using my QWERTY keyboard. In this case, seq24 is driving Hydrogen and my Blofeld, and I’m using Ardour as a live mixer to process and mix the audio from those synths in to a stereo stream.

UPDATE: If you’d prefer to download the video rather than streaming it on YouTube, I’ve uploaded a WebM version of it. WebM is still quite new, but current versions of VLC and MPlayer support it.

On a brief side note, I have to give a shout-out to my good friend AutoStatic for describing his new video capture process using Xephyr and FFmpeg — I used it here, and the results look great. The audio was captured with JACK TimeMachine, and in another first for me, I edited it all together using the brilliant Kdenlive.

new track: phase transition

It’s been about six weeks since I posted my little SooperLooper jam, and here it is in its final form, or at least what became of it. This was a difficult one to pull together — I initially just polished my sketch version of it, but that didn’t give me the results I was after, so I ended up ditching that effort and re-arranging it from scratch, finally getting an inspiration for the central progression and ending last week. Once I had that idea, it didn’t take long on the weekend to flesh it out.

This is another Seq24/Hydrogen/Ardour recording, with Blofeld synths, though I also created my own drum sounds (mostly on the Blofeld again) for this one. I also used PHASEX as the synth for the lead arpeggio — it’s a simple patch, but I really liked how it sounded, so it stayed in the final version.

EDIT: Turns out that the download links were broken! I’ve fixed them now, so if you had trouble downloading, please try again now.


mp3 | ogg | flac | 5 minutes 4 seconds

thinking inside the box

The computer has revolutionised the way we make music, but it also begs a question: how much work do you do “in the box”, using software sequencers, effects, and instruments, and how much do you do with hardware and traditional instruments? When I started making music again last year, having a powerful hardware synth was a huge enabler for me — I really do believe that it, as much as anything, is the reason I’m still making music with Linux now after so many abortive attempts over the years. Now that I have a few tracks under my belt, though, I’m as surprised as anyone to realise that I seem to be working “in the box” more and more.

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new track: tiny droplets

Two tracks in as many months? Madness! This is another ambient track, but without the drone — it has more of an early Aphex Twin vibe, but with some glitchy drums. I sequenced this in seq24, a pattern-based sequencer designed for live use, and in fact this was originally a “live” take, which I’ve edited and added to. Apart from that, it’s the usual suspects — Blofeld on the synth sounds and some drums, Hydrogen on the rest of the drums, recorded/mixed in Ardour.


mp3 / vorbis / flac: 4 minutes 26 seconds

sketchbook: enjoy the silence

Here’s one for the Depeche Mode fans — a cover of Enjoy the Silence, which is fairly faithful to the original. Since buying my fancy-pants mic last year I hadn’t actually sung anything (even though I have done a crapload of podcast recording), so this is me correcting that, and also having some fun with synths and sequencing. I did a lot of this on the laptop, so there are more Linux soft synths in there, but I still pulled out the Blofeld for the bass and the “beeeeow” sound in the chorus. Let me know what you think of the results!

mp3 | vorbis | 4:10

new track: clipper

Here’s that new track I was working on — it’s another synthy thing which turned out, not-entirely-deliberately, like something from an old-school arcade game soundtrack. Lots of Blofeld, and a bit of distortion. It came together more quickly than my last track, and I’m pretty happy with the results, especially since I didn’t feel the need to spend hours and hours tweaking EQs and compressor curves to get it to sound alright to my ears. Enjoy!


mp3 / vorbis / flac: 3 minutes 8 seconds