Remember those Chipmunks songs a guy slowed down? I re-created that with mid-side processing on The Romantics “What I Like About You.” Low quality (source file; mp3) but you get the point and it’s weirdly addictive to listen to. For me, anyway.
The mids and bass are glitchy and don’t resonate like they would with an analog source, I assume because of the mp3 data compression.
In a related story, I have not worked out as I planned to this morning. The working theory is that I’m metaphorically hung over from yesterday’s political victory for health care and the weeks and months of tension that preceded it.
I’ve set up and torn down my synth stuff enough lately, with more to come, that I built a synth board this weekend.
Neither the board or the rig is very fancy but they’re fun to make sounds with. Three sound sources (Alesis Micron, Korg Volca Bass, iPad mostly running the Poly app) route to a mixer. The mixer has an effects loop (pedals are in that loop) and sends dual mono out (not stereo; one output is the dry signal, one is the wet from the effects).
Now that things are laid out I’ll buy some shorter cables to reduce all of that mess.
When I plugged in to test everything out and set levels I ended up writing and recording the backbone of a new Night Mode piece. That’s always a good sign, when new gear or new arrangements of gear inspire music right away.
We hit three really significant milestones on projects this week: Mars Lights finished basic tracking (drums & 2 guitars) for our double LP, I finished recording drums for the howie&scott record, and I ordered parts for a fun of five Falcon Heavy Drive pedals.
I don’t know exactly when to say we started the Mars Lights project. We started setting up mics in 2015 on July 1, were checking placement and phase and did some recording (maybe just testing, maybe truly aiming for real takes) on August 18, and were in full swing by September 11. Call it a year and a half, done amidst a two-year-old (Charlie) and a new arrival (Caroline); in my mind that’s making good time.
We’re going to start booking shows again, and Drew and I will work on overdubs when we’re not practicing. It’s possible we could have something out in 2017, though 2018 seems more likely.
I’ve collected potential h&s songs and riffs for as long as we’ve written them. Some that will be on this record date back to 2003, possibly 2002. I started to see the outlines of the tracklist in 2013-14, and broached the subject with Scott in July 2015 (probably the 9th or 10th). Since then I’ve been working on the demos, wrote a new thing or two, had my first drum recording session in September 2016 and now have finished the drums.
My goal now is to get the songs to a point where Scott can do his parts by the time his students are off for the summer. I haven’t decided to what extent that means just throwing down scratch guitars and vocals for him to react to, or actually working on my real parts. The latter is better in theory, but I may not have time; we’re envisioning layers of various guitars, bass, and keys entering and exiting throughout the songs and those parts take time to write, dial in sound for, and record. Maybe a hybrid approach will work, trying to get the two most important parts down or something.
The Falcon Heavy Drive has grown out of my experience using the first Falcon I built (which now I think of as a prototype) and some electronics things I’ve learned since I first did the design. It sounds similar to the prototype but everything about it has been implemented better and it’s more flexible with an added bass control and more ways to route the mid notch. I’m pretty psyched to have it on my board myself, get it into others’ hands, and to clear off the board for new designs.
Dad listened to the Night Mode “Vikram Ray” single (below) and shared his thoughts. As part of my response I wrote what’s below (in lightly edited form), which seemed to capture something I’ve struggled to express about how I hear and listen to repetition- and drone-based music.
“At its heart I’d call Dirac Spike psychedelic music, even though sonically it’s not what would typically be associated with that.
“One of the main responses the music hopefully elicits is a sort of meditative feeling, a sense of the self going on a bit of an inner journey, or relaxing its grip on second-to-second physical reality for a little while.
“The music does this through repetition and variation, so it was a very different experience to compose than other things I’ve done. Think of it in contrast to a pop or rock song, which in some ways is a constant stream of new ideas; new lyrics, new chords, new riffs, new sounds, even as verses and choruses might repeat.
“A function of a pop song is entertainment, engaging the mind and its inner monologue. Psychedelic music can function to free or relax the mind, slowing down our inner monologue or separating us from it for a while, which is a good feeling I think.
“There are ways to mix the two (pop / psychedelic) of course, and people might have either type of response (entertainment and engagement, or relaxation and egoless-ness) to either type of music. I think about creating in each style very differently, and I think that on the whole people’s responses in aggregate correlate generally with what I’m saying.”
It’s taken almost six months to get my chops up (Caroline Pluff was born and, y’know, holidays) but I’m returning to Sound+Vision studios at the Lawrence Public Library on March 6 to continue tracking drums for h&s’ fifth record.
Seven more songs (four for the record, three for b-sides) are on the docket, after I did five in the first session. I hope that the combination of having gone through the process once and the tunes being easier will let me get through them all.
Matt’s going to loan me a couple extra snare drums that may circumvent the nasty snare-tom sympathetic resonance on the library’s otherwise outstanding-sounding C&C kit.
The goal is for me to have the drum tracks edited and a main guitar track and scratch vocal recorded by the time Scott’s students are out for the summer, so we can do his parts during his break.
Progress seems agonizingly slow in the midst of life. But it’s not nothing.
I finished testing and finally boxed up the Larsen Expressive Feedback Loop this morning. It’s good to have it done.
It’s more of a prototype than a finished product; while the circuit itself is really solid and I’m proud of its design, learning to work with wah enclosures was a giant pain and I had to jerry-rig several things with the hardware to get it to work.
Bit of a mess inside, but it’s loud and weird and fun.
The feedback potentiometer (what the foot treadle controls) is pretty sensitive; most of the play is toward the heel-down position of the treadle. If I were doing it again, I’d experiment with making a super-anti-log taper pot out of a linear pot and a resistor. Or, maybe I’ll upgrade this one with that in the future.
If I ever get around to making one of the doom records I’ve been writing, this thing will be all. over. it!
This week I ran across an email from July 30, telling Drew and Cory I’d started messing with a feedback loop circuit on my breadboard. It’s taken until this weekend to get it soldered up.
Feedback loops can be simple and fun, but simple ones have a lot of limitations. Two big ones are that many pedals do nothing in them (because the pedals flip the signal’s polarity, so feeding them back just results in a quieter sound due to phase cancellation), and that they can get excruciatingly loud, fast, if the rest of your signal chain has enough headroom for it (like if your amp is running pretty clean).
I fixed those issues with a polarity inverter and limiting/hard clipping in the feedback loop. I also added expression via treadle control of the feedback amount, and two modes for the loop: always-on (regardless of feedback on or off) and only-on-when-the-feedback-is-also-on. (Mode names need work.)
Most pedals have one input, one output, and the circuit itself in a sort of loop within the pedal. A feedback loop effectively has three inputs (main input, loop return, feedback circuit output) and three outputs (main output, loop send, feedback circuit input). I hadn’t thought about all of that when I jumped into designing one, and all those signals crashing into each other results in a lot of parallel impedances and switching headaches I didn’t anticipate. Given the challenges, I’m pretty happy with the performance of the design.
It’s not quite finished yet because I seem to have burned one of the footswitch connections, so I’m waiting for a replacement part to arrive. I’ll do a video once it’s done.
That’s a lot of tech talk, but it’s pretty intuitive once it’s plugged in, I think; when you roll your heel back, you get more feedback. It’s super-fun to play and useful for anything from freak-out noise to gentle washes of added delay or reverb.