Acid Machine Beta

Quick today, in between Valiance vocal takes, check out this fun web-based synth, Acid Machine Beta.  Click here for a pattern I made; just press “Play” near the top of the screen to hear it.

acidmachinebetaAcid Machine Beta combines two pattern-sequenced oscillators with a drum machine and an optional song sequencer, and it runs in your browser.  It’s fun to experiment with, just to get a basic sense of what some of the main elements of synthesis are and what they can do.

Click “New” when you’re ready to make your own pattern (or just mess with mine), make use of the “Randomize” button, and goof around.  You can get a permalink to your pattern with the “Save” button, or even record a .WAV file of your pattern (I haven’t tested this myself).  Maybe I’ll use it to make an actual song for the Synth Project That Was Not Expected at some point.

Put links to your patterns in the comments!

Such Projects, Very Musical, Wow

Shewwwwwwwws
Shewwwwwwwws

The blog’s been full of show announcements (11 so far in the first half of 2015, with two more booked!) but I’ve been doing other things as well:

  • Finishing the melodies and lyrics to Valiance, the next Sally Ride record.  I aim to start recording guitars next weekend and still get it out before the end of the year
  • Sorting some of the remaining 55+ “shaker demos” into a new howie&scott record (!!) and Fight Songs, the SR album after Valiance.  Fight Songs was originally intended as an EP, but I have more than enough material for a full-length. Early acoustic versions of “Cooky” and “Lost” are available on Furious Instance
  • Making new music with a new tool, Poly, a polyrhythmic sampler for iPad/iPhone.  A big chunk of making this useful has been learning to make my own samples
  • Completing a review of all of my unfinished songwriting notes (15 years’ worth), looking for lost gems.  This was a multi-day project, and I pulled 10-12 things out to demo and get into the pipeline.  Getting through this was good not only to find some cool material I’d forgotten about, but to not have to wonder any more if there were good songs hiding in the file.  For reference, there are probably 200 song ideas, riffs, chord progressions, and other bits I’m setting aside, probably not to look at again.  Three hundred or more if you count scraps of lyrics.  (I’ll keep them but, having been though once, there’s probably nothing to glean from another review.)

    Don't hold me to any of this; just wanted to show that one of these ideas has been in the file since 2005!
    Don’t hold me to any of this; just wanted to show that one of these ideas has been in the file since 2005!
  • Building a workbench and starting to learn to solder.  I have a long list of soldering projects starting with a BYOC Large Beaver (intended to eventually replace my Bass Big Muff Pi), fixing my turntable, re-wiring the vintage Sunn 2×12 I scooped a few months ago for 16 ohm impedance (my AD30’s primary output) and, eventually, semi-original pedal designs starting with a no-volume-loss feedback looper for Cory’s delay.

    It's collapsable; the bottom brace and leg sets come off so it can be stored in a closet
    It’s collapsable; the bottom brace and leg sets come off so it can be stored in a closet
  • Re-working my pedal board, courtesy of a Boss LS-2 off of craigslist.  I’m using it in A+B / Bypass mode to essentially add a clean blend to some of my more outrageous fuzzes, but without a drop in clean volume (both loops set at unity gain).  Really great into a semi-dirty amp.

    In transition; the Apocalypse and partly broken Arion SMM-1 are in a loop of the LS-2's (that Arion is a re-house project)
    In transition; the Apocalypse and partly broken Arion SMM-1 are in a loop of the LS-2’s (that Arion is a re-house project)

Moving to Lawrence seems to have sparked some fresh creative energy through some combination of the (usually easy) commute, the local vibe, the sense of retreat each day and weekend, and our physical space.

Fixing Mic’s Dream Band From Nebraska

The Nebraska entry in Mic’s What the Dream Band Would Look Like if Every Musician Were From Your State is a lazy punt.  Where Arkansas gets a supergroup of Al Green, Johnny Cash, and Levon Helm, and Oregon has a cool cross-genre mash-up of Esperanza Spalding, Corin Tucker, and Joe Plummer, the Cornhusker State has Conor Oberst, by himself?

As in real life, Conor Oberst is the Nebraska musician Nebraska needs. But is he the musician Nebraska deserves?

No.

I like “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” as much as the next person, but no.  Here’s the real Nebraska dream band.

Paul Revere, vocals/organ (Paul Revere and the Raiders)

Lori Allison, vocals/guitar (The Millions)

Tim Kasher, guitar/keys/vocals (Slowdown Virginia, Cursive, The Good Life)

Matthew Sweet, guitar/vocals (solo)

Chip Davis, keys (Mannheim Steamroller)

Randy Meisner, bass (The Eagles)

Buddy Miles, drums (The Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, solo)

This is a big group, but I think it could work and I’m getting a little excited about what the album could have sounded like!

First; killer rhythm section.  Buddy Miles is just nuts.

Next, guy/gal vocals from Paul and Lori!  Very cool, plus plenty of opportunity for Matthew and Tim to come in for three- and four-part harmonies.

Chip is obligatory, in a sense, but I still want him in.  I think there’s space for some weird MIDI tones and faux-classical flourishes in this group.

I’m noticing for the first time that there aren’t many famous pure country musicians from Nebraska.  Huh.

I’d really love to hear this!

Notable omissions:

  • I won’t claim Elliott Smith, though he was born in Omaha
  • Prolific and bizarre singer/songwriter Simon Joyner casts a long, underrated shadow over the Nebraska scene of the past 25 years, especially the Saddle Creek stuff.  I’m not sure he’d function well in a supergroup, though
  • We’ll leave 311 out of of this; they’re on their own trip, which is funky and positive and I respect
  • James Valentine (Square, Maroon 5) would be a worthy addition, but I have to draw a line somewhere.

CRUSHED | Sent From Empire

“Baby Star” – Music by Danny Lange, Joel Hines, and Five Star Crush, lyrics by Joel Hines and Howie Howard. Matt Pluff (drums), Howie (the rest).

“Six Car (Demo)” – Music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush, lyrics by Joel Hines and Howie Howard. Joel Hines (guitar), Eric Cornwell (guitar), Danny Lange (bass), Matt Pluff (drums), Howie Howard (keys).

“2009 Ghosts” – Music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush, lyrics by Joel Hines. Matt Pluff (drums), Howie Howard (the rest).

“Bitterness” – Music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush, lyrics by Joel Hines and Howie Howard. Howie (all the sounds).

“Waste (of You)” – Music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush, lyrics by Joel Hines and Howie Howard. Matt Pluff (drums), Howie (the rest).

MFR members can log in to download Crushed below. Become a MFR member with just your email address!

LAST NIGHTS | Five Star Crush

Lyrics by Joel Hines, music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush.

Joel Hines (vocals, guitar), Mychael Scott (bass), Howie Howard (keys, backing vocals), Matt Pluff (drums), Eric Cornwell (lead guitar on “Collaborate,” “Black Machine,” and “Waste (of You)”).

Recorded live at The Replay Lounge, Lawrence, KS, 2007 October 11 (1-6) and The Riot Room, Kansas City, MO, 2010 March 8 (7-9). Mastered by Howie.

MFR members can log in to download Five Star Crush below. Become a MFR member with just your email address!

Eyes To The Horizon

In a class on African-American images in TV and film at UMKC I learned what I’ll call a three-party model of social change.

Last week on Twitter a few people aimed harsh words, including bodily threats and insults, at Joss Whedon for what they felt were the inadequacies of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Implicitly, they were using what I’ll call a two-party model of change.  Writing as someone who supports gender equality – the change in question here – I hope to convince you that the three-party model is the most effective path toward realizing the change we agree we want.

The two-party model is all about us vs. them.  It’s a black-or-white mental framework. We – whoever we are – are the good ones: the feminists, the advocates, the truth-tellers, the heroes.  Many of the tweets communicate that, to the Twitter-user (Tweeter?), Joss is not one of us.  He’s called misogynist (not a feminist), pig (same), racist (not a supporter of equality), ugly/can’t write/asshole/disgusting (general other-ing of Joss).

This is a comfortable frame, allowing the speaker a sweet, addictive hit of self-righteous indignation. Unfortunately, within this frame, not much happens with respect to actual social change; lots of shouting, very little changing-of-minds. Worse, while the defenders of traditional authority find it easy to ignore this type of criticism, and maintain a unified message when they must respond, we pro-change critics often fracture into pissing matches over who is most right.  We argue over who is really “us,” and who is secretly “them.”  As pro-equality forces we divide ourselves and are more easily conquered than we could be, even though in the big picture we’re on the same side.

In a three-party model we have the same traditional, anti-change authorities (in this case big business, Hollywood, maybe Marvel Studios), but on the pro-change side we have two camps: I’ll call us activists (Tweeters) and pragmatists (Joss).  These two camps play complimentary, reinforcing roles in making social change happen.

Activists push the horizons of social opinion, in a good way.  They explore the frontiers of personhood, relationships, and empathy, living in new ways, writing and creating art that reflects their experiences, and (yes!) critiquing society’s traditional authorities.

Pragmatists stand in the middle of the activists’ ideals and the traditional authorities’ power, supporting the ideals while compromising with the powers that be.  If activists are pushing on the forward horizon of social opinion, pragmatists are pulling on middle and rear of society and helping move the average opinion in the direction the activists want!  It’s easy to label pragmatists “sellouts,” or worse, usually from a safe distance.  In reality they are pioneers of their own stripe, normalizing and mainstreaming previously radical social ideas.

(Get familiar with the Overton window, if you’re not!)

Joss has written multiple three-dimensional female heroes into the Marvel cinematic universe.  Is it enough, or do we want gender equality to stop there?  Of course not!  Has he done more than 99% of other directors whom Marvel reasonably could have hired would have done?  Yes!  Do we want a Black Widow movie (or movies!), preferably written and directed by a woman, and is Marvel incredibly lame for not doing this yet?  Yes, and yes.

Long story short, Tweeters; Joss is sympathetic, and he is helping bring about the thing you say you want!

By all means, offer constructive criticism, but don’t needlessly divide our pro-equality forces!  (See pieces here, here, here, and here for fine examples of good criticism of Joss and Age of Ultron.  You have something to say, and we want to hear it, so write and post it without descending to threats.)  An us-vs.-them attitude rapidly descends into a power struggle, and that is a playing field on which we are at a disadvantage relative to the traditional authorities of our time.  Push as hard as you can on the leading edge of our social horizon, be, create, and report back, but stop short of catching your allies in your fire!

That is, if you’re serious about change.

If it’s a hit of self-righteousness you’re after, well, you’ve got that on lockdown.  Your choice.

Check Out Quest For Cuba

I’m pushing the release of Five Star Crush’s “Last Nights” for a week so that I can comment on the whole Age of Ultron / Joss quits Twitter thing. That will be Tuesday after I see the film.

For now, travel to Cuba with Questlove:

FIVE STAR CRUSH | Five Star Crush

Lyrics by Joel Hines, music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush.

Joel Hines (vocals, guitar), Eric Cornwell (lead guitar), Danny Lange (bass, programming and guitar on “Fate of Choice”), Howie Howard (keys, backing vocals), Matt Pluff (drums).

Recorded and mixed by Duane Trower at West End Studios except “Fate of Choice and “Bang Bang” recorded and mixed at home. Mastered by Howie.

MFR members can log in to download Five Star Crush below. Become a MFR member with just your email address!

Mars Lights on KKFI

DJ Sunshine’s been spinning us on her Retro Red-Eye Express show. It was “All Tied Up” the other week, and I just sent her the Bang EP, so we hope she enjoys “Radio Edit (Radio Edit)” (or the long one!) and “Ghost You Out.”