Howwwlllllorrible Lyrics

While Drew’s over this afternoon, checking out my work mastering his new Dark Satellites record “Be Still,” please enjoy the track below.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar enough with late-period J.V. All*stars to appreciate this jokey butt-rock take on “Straighten Your Hair” (go listen!) but it is. spot. on. and just gets better as it goes on. It even includes a grunty metal “Ooohhhh!”

The Best Music We Heard In 2015

Here is the best music we heard in the past year. Most, but not all, was also released in 2015.

Top 12 (in random order) (it would have been 13; Cory tried to list “1989” again!)

Honorable mention
Best Coast, “California Nights” (2015)

Waves x Cloud Nothings, “No Life For Me” (2015)

Selena Gomez, “Revival” (2015)

Beach House, “Depression Cherry” (2015)

A Is Jump, “Weird Nostalgia” (2015)

Blackalicious, “Imani vol. 1” (2015)

Brandon Flowers, “The Desired Effect” (2015)

Carla Morrison, “Amor Supremo” (2015)

Elder, “Lore” (2015)

Failure, “The Heart Is A Monster” (2015)

Halfwit, “II” and “III” (2015)

High on Fire, “Luminiferous” (2015)

Kowloon Walled City, “Grievances” (2015)

Monolord, “Vænir” (2015)

No Cave, “Eyes Brighter Than The Sun” (2015)

Sheer Mag, “II 7″” (2015)

Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities To Love” (2015)

Tame Impala, “Currents” (2015)

Torche, “Restarter” (2015)

Viol, “Deeper Than Sky” (2015)

Descendents, “Milo Goes To College” (1982), “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” (1985), “Enjoy!” (1986)

Joy, “Under The Spell Of” (2014)

Run-D.M.C., “Run-D.M.C.” (1984), “King of Rock” (1985), “Raising Hell” (1986), “Tougher Than Leather” (1988)

Sturgill Simpson, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” (2014)

Excited to check out:

Leon Bridges

Fuzz

Joanna Newsom

Introducing the Kingman Anti-Drive

I breadboarded my first partly-original pedal design this afternoon, and it worked!

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The Kingman Anti-Drive is a passive volume cut circuit based on the Kinman treble bleed. It’s designed to give guitarists a clean/clean-ish/cleaner sound when placed in front of a saturated amplifier or overdrive/distortion/fuzz pedal. Unlike turning down the guitar’s volume knob (which results in a dark, bass-heavy sound) or the Kinman circuit (which is optimized for only one particular point on the volume knob) the Kingman Anti-Drive offers a customizable frequency response with controls for volume, treble level, and treble cutoff frequency.

It’s simple (three pots, two capacitors, and wiring) but really, really useful. My basic live pedal setup for Mars Lights is an always-on treble boost and a Bass Big Muff Pi for choruses and big riffs, but I’m planning to replace that with an always-on Catalinbread Karma Suture (Happy Winter Non-Denominational Snow Time to me) and the Kingman in front of it for verses and quieter parts. (See how it works kind of backwards? You kick it *on* for “less”/quiet parts/cleaner sounds.)

It was really fun to play around with the volume turned pretty far down, the treble level about mid-way, and the cutoff anywhere at all. (Adjusting the cutoff is effectively a mids control, varying from a cool mid-scooped sound to a fairly flat frequency response.) Once I got the circuit in place I played Stones-y riffs for a solid 20 minutes just for kicks.

I’m also breadboarding on a new rig. The briefcase* and mounts for power, input and output jacks, and potentiometers, lets me store and transport breadboarded circuits safely. This first draft of the Kingman will be making its way to Mars Lights practice next week for a bit of testing.

A first test run on Kingmen will be completed in the next month or two I hope. Once everything is worked out I intend to open a store on Reverb.com with the first products being my “Jack of All” DS-1 mod and the Kingman.

Nice to have something work on the first attempt after some months of experimentation, frustrated Googling, and spending money on parts I wasn’t sure I’d need.

If you’re interested in the Kingman and have my email address, please reach out; I’ll be ordering parts this coming week. If you don’t have my email, I’ll be sure to announce the opening of the Reverb store here.

* My old pedalboard, back to howie&scott days

Original Studio Gear

The list below was in a folder of stuff from Mom on my last visit home.  It’s all the stuff Scott and I bought for our first home studio, and the core of which (the Digi 001 and a generic PC, which isn’t listed) I’ve used up to now.

h-and-s-gear-buy-list

I think I wrote it for my tax preparer in 2003 or 04.

It’s coincidental for it to show up now, as I’m halfway through buying a new core system (Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, new Mac, Reaper DAW) to replace ProTools and the Digi.  A lot of music has passed through the old rig over the years, and I’ll do an appreciation post once everything is unplugged.

DS-1 Lab Update

It lives, with thanks again to Jack Orman and Brett Miller.  I’ve mixed their ideas with my own and as you can see, if you look carefully, I have six new component values working in the DS-1 lab.  (They’re the ones on the tall, spindly legs.)

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It’s sounding great; clearer, more responsive, gain range brought under control.  At minimum gain it’s a barely-there overdrive, just a dirty edge to the string attack, and if less drive is needed you’d need to not start with a DS-1!  At maximum gain I played Sabbath riffs for ten minutes.  The distortion is amp-like without trying to be anything it’s not.  That’s in keeping with my goal; to bring out the best in a cheap, widely available platform with the minimum effective number of changes.

I haven’t messed with the tone stack yet, but I have some ideas and it’s up next.

DS-1 Lab

I spent the afternoon installing sockets for some components in a DS-1 pedal so that I can easily experiment with some mods, turning it into a DS-1 laboratory of sorts.
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You can see the sockets well in the photo below.  They’re the little black legs on the PCB that components can just pop into, instead of soldering components directly to the board.  There’s a transistor labeled “Q2” close to the center of the frame; look to the right of that for two socketed resistors.IMG_0340

No component values have changed, yet; I don’t have a real amp at home to test things on, just a tiny practice amp that’s enough to let me know I’m passing signal :-) Video to follow once I figure out some sounds I like.

I socketed:

  • R6 and R9 (input transistor bias and gain, respectively)
  • R7 (opamp gain)
  • Edit 2015 Nov 14 – C5 and C7 (different values than the MIJ DS-1s, as described by Brett Miller.  I left C8 alone, though he includes it in his MIJ mod, because I like the cutoff frequency created by the stock MIT DS-1 value for C8)
  • D4, D5 (the hard-clipping diodes), and C10 (low-pass filter)
  • R16, C12 (the low pass filter side of the tone stack), C11, R17 (the high pass filter side of the tone stack), and R15 (in series with the high pass filter side of the tone stack, reducing its output)
  • R18 (a resistor in series on the output; just cuts output, from what I can tell, though now that I type this I realize it may be part of biasing the Q7 transistor)

That amounts to two gain stages, the hard-clipping stage, three post-gain filter sections, and possibly the output level.  I plan to jumper all of the socketed components from the output back to the first gain stage to hear what that sounds like, see what improvements can be made (likely the Jack Orman phat mod), and build back toward the output from there stage by stage.

I’ll be experimenting with various hard-clipping options as well, with the goal of finding a few good ones to put on a switch.

Good times, and no soldering iron burns today!

Adventure Capitalists (Rob Spectre) EP Out Now

Stream and/or snag the debut EP from Adventure Capitalists (featuring Rob of Arturo Got The Shaft infamy) at https://www.adcap.biz/ and https://soundcloud.com/adventurecapitalists/sets/mvp !

Rob, James, and Business Cat have planted the flag of the geek rock revolution farther inside the neoliberal front lines than ever before, celebrating and skewering the dot com economy with equal nerve and verve. Check it.

Check Out Headphone Surround

Bobby O called Headphone Surround the next big thing in audio the other week, so I had to check it out. Samples are up at http://www.robertmargouleff.com/. I’m unclear how the technology works, but it simulates something like a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound system on standard stereo headphones.

A quick listen to the headphone surround mix of “Thank You” on earbuds didn’t jump out at me… until I listened back to the original stereo mix. Then, the original mix seemed two-dimensional and flat compared to the headphone surround mix.

The Eleanor Rigby sample is cool because it A/Bs the standard and surround mixes back and forth for you, allowing you to compare the two. You also hear the different points in the surround mix solo’d (left-surround, left-front, center-front, right-front, right-surround). I notice that the surround mix does sound spacier, not necessarily in a pleasant way. Maybe it’s achieved using some type of convolution processing on the “-front” sounds, placing them “farther away” perceptually in the mix.

The standard mix sounds dry in comparison (again, not necessarily a bad thing; it is, after all, how the artist originally presented the material). One slightly weird thing about the standard mix, in comparison to the surround mix, is that I notice how the standard mix seems to place the sound directly inside my brain, instead of spread out in front of me like the surround mix.

Drew checked it out, too, saying “I listened to Eleanor Rigby and strongly prefer the standard version.”

I don’t disagree. Remixing existing studio works into headphone surround doesn’t do anything for me. I can see it working for live material, though, and it seems like a cool tool for artists to create sound specifically intended for headphone surround in the future.