Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
August 26, 2014


by Chris Randall

The video above is outstanding. There's no other way to describe it. I'm not a big Goldie fan, being more on the Roni Size side of the fence when it comes to rollers, but the Heritage Orchestra performing Goldie, with that level of musicianship, and the joy the proceedings bring to the table, is a prime example of the Perfect Storm, where everything comes together, and the energy that it gives off is greater than the energy that went in to making it. (And that, in my opinion, is the definition of art, overall.)

I don't really have anything to say about the performance, because it is both objectively and subjectively outstanding. I do have something to say about this, though:

Here's the thing: it is perfectly acceptable to not like something. It's even acceptable to voice that opinion. Music, like anything creative, is a subjective endeavor. But that comment is a prime example of the form of Internet Fuckwittery we've come to learn is a byproduct of making cool shit. The Dunning-Kruger Effect in full force. (The tl;dr version: the Dunning-Kruger effect is a scientific study that proves the old saw that a fool is certain, while a wise man is full of doubt.)

In my various careers, I've run in to this a lot. There's the pedigreed version, in the form of the guy that writes reviews of records and live shows. There's the semi-pro version, where someone has enough knowledge to make music, but not enough to do it well, and becomes a self-taught expert on gear, but not its use. There's the fan version, wherein lyrics that were generally chosen for their ability to fit in to a rhyming scheme become the subject of debate and broad declaratives about an artist's state of mind. There's the Agile version, where stakeholders and user stories substitute for actually having a vision. It goes on and on.

Chris Killer is phrasing his comment in this form: "I am an expert on the live orchestration and performance of 90s drum 'n' bass, and this fellow needs to work at things a little while in order to properly meet my exacting specifications of what, exactly, constitutes same." Chris isn't, however, an expert on anything having to do with this performance. He isn't even a semi-expert. As far as I can tell, the only relationship he might have to this performance is that he bought a Goldie record once.

And there's the rub: it's okay to just say "I don't like this." Leave it at that. "In my opinion, this isn't done the way I like to see Goldie's music done." That's totally fine. Everyone's okay with that. But when you're all "I KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS THING AND YOU DID THIS THING WRONG EVEN THOUGH IT'S YOUR THING AND NOT MY THING" you're running a serious risk of coming off like a fuckwit.

August 19, 2014

Notes In A Row...

by Chris Randall

The next big hardware product from Audio Damage, Sequencer 1, is about to go in to production (one could argue it has actually already entered that state, as the front panels were ordered and the 1st Article is being made). I've posted about Sequencer 1 previously here, and there is a lengthy thread (at the time of this writing 19 pages of discussion) on the Muff Wiggler forum here. There's no product page in the AD store yet, but that will be coming in the not-too-distant future, as soon as we have panels to do a proper product glamour shot.

Anyhow, the video above is the first of what will no doubt be many missives issuing from my office, now that the software is nearing completion. I wouldn't say we're at RC1 yet, but we're getting close; mostly just little esoteric things left. It is highly usable, and other than one major feature (the ability to update the OS from the SD card), it is actually shippable at this point. In the video, I'm demonstrating four key features: the ability to control Hz/V gear (to wit: the Yamaha CS-5), the live looping feature (functionally identical to the MIDI input feature in Replicant), the live ratcheting feature, and external sync (via Silent Way Sync and an Expert Sleepers ES-4, from Live.)

We wanted to do two things with this sequencer:

1. Take the normal concept of x0x note sequencing in the modular context and make it highly live-playable/tweekable.

2. Make a sequencer that could do the traditional Tangerine Dream/JMJ kinds of things one would expect, yet also be pertinent to modern-day electronic music styles.

That second one was inevitable, as Adam likes more traditional e-music, while I vastly prefer, as is apparent from what I make, modern house, minimal, and IDM. Making a sequencer that would please both of us was a difficult prospect, but we've managed it.

Here's a an ambient piece I did last week. Most of it is live tape manipulation, but the bassline is a four-measure pattern from Sequencer 1, and the percussion sounds are also triggered from the sequencer.

Anyhow, that's where we're at. Sequencer 1 will be US$599.00, and will be available starting in early October, direct from AD or via our many retail partners. This is the most ambitious product we've ever undertaken, and we're very proud of the result.

August 8, 2014


by Chris Randall

Well, that only took us a year, but it's finally out. We're pleased to announce Basic is now available in the AD store for immediate purchase.

You'll recall we've had two discussions on AI about mono synths, here and here.It's no secret that we have a hardware agenda, and that agenda includes eventual non-Euro releases. However, subtractive synths haven't been in our purview, and it's something we needed to learn how to do. While that was going on, I've been teaching at a local college, and via my own observation and discussion with the department head, it became obvious that beginning students have a hard time wrapping their head around Massive (which has every feature ever in the history of ever) or Monark (which requires an instanced host), and most of the synths that remake classics are so idiosyncratic their usage doesn't translate.

So, two goals: learn about how to do subtractive synthesis and performance-oriented MIDI handling in software, and make a synth for college-level sound design and synthesis classes that is easy-to-understand. Hence, Basic.

I also took the opportunity to try out a new UI style; it generally seems to be well-received, but we'll see how that goes. I borrowed heavily from the styles of FUI designers Ash Thorp and G-Munk for the look, and all deference is due to those two, men amongst men.

Basic is US$39.00 until Sept. 4th, when it goes up to US$49.00.

August 3, 2014

News Of The World...

by Chris Randall

Pew Pew Pew

That's the next Audio Damage VST/AU plug-in, right there. You'll meet it on Thursday.

In other news, as many of you know, our friend Jeremy Highhouse (man-about-town in PDX, the other half of RT60, and one of the nicest people you'll meet in this business,) lost his rather large video/audio modular due to theft a few weeks back, and as this modular was actually part of his livelihood, he's pretty much fucked.

After much hang-wringing and arm-waving, we decided to do this. Long story short, a $10 ticket gets you a swing at the Audio Damage Omnibus: everything we make, including hardware (a $2600 retail value.) The proceeds will go towards replacing Jeremy's modular so he can get back to work, and the remainder will go to the Children's Music Fund.

And finally, Sequencer 1, our next hardware product, is basically mostly working at this point, and we're about to pull the trigger on the production run. So this will be a busy week for us; expect a couple updates here, the release of Basic, and a whole mess of Sequencer 1 mediablitzen.

June 23, 2014

floats on air...

by Chris Randall

Well, it's finally done. floats on air, my new album of electronic meanderings, is now available on Bandcamp. It will be exclusive to that site until July 7th, where it will go live on all the other services.

This is my first "produced" album in some years; my last five-odd releases are EP-sized collections of various experiments and research, but floats on air is a cohesive whole, planned that way from the start. Since this is Analog Industries, a few process notes for those interested in that sort of thing (which is, I assume, most everyone that reads this site.)

1. Shoeboxen. For most (but not all) of the tracks on this album, the root rhythm comes from a rather strange source. I initially purchased a small shoebox tapedeck with the intent of finding something interesting to do with it, but not having an idea exactly what. What I ended up doing was using its little included mic to just record random semi-rhythmic sounds around my neighborhood, then taking the recordings, physically cutting out small lengths, and looping them in a different cassette body. I'd then record these short loops in to Live, and have my way with them with the various DSP tools that came to hand. The tracks sunderverl and fader in have the most obvious pieces of this sort of thing, but almost every track has at least two of these little loops in it. Once you know what you're listening for, they're easy to pick out.

2. Nagra. I used the Nagra a lot on some of the tracks. fader in has the best example. I asked Don Gunn to send me a few minutes of jazzy drumming; once I'd received his mixed stem, I summed it to mono, then recorded it to the Nagra. I then spent an hour or so slicing out half-measure chunks. (And I mean with a razor blade.) I then took these chunks, mixed them up, and spliced them all back together. I then made a continuous loop of the result. There are 4 other tracks in all in that song, and each one is a looped cassette. I fed them all in to Live on individual tracks simultaneously, and recorded the level automation on the way in with a Korg nanoKontrol. So fader in is named what it is: a live recording of tape loops that I "performed" on a nanoKontrol. I obviously added enough insert effects to stun an ox, for the final result. Most of the cassette loops are recordings (again, with the little mic that came with the shoebox deck) of the speakers in my living room system as I played Daphne Oram vinyl. Those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen my synth -> tape -> vinyl -> tape -> synth palindrome tweet. This track is what I was referring to.

3. Modules. I don't have a hugely high opinion of the modular synth in my own particular writing process, but I figured "fuck it, the damn thing is sitting here." One of the little leitmotifs I use throughout the album to tie all the songs together is a little acid line breakdown, and I used the modular for this in all cases. It appears here and there elsewhere, but that was its main task in this project.

4. Other Gear. I used the Analog Four quite a bit. Notably in porch_field, where it creates most of the sounds. I also used [redacted] quite a bit, for about half the basslines. The other main synth I used was Monark, which got a lot of mileage on this album. For effects, VallhallaVintageVerb is the two-buss verb throughout the album, with occasional appearances by Eos as an insert "effect" verb; delay is about equal parts Dubstation and the H3000 Factory from Eventide. I used several other Eventide products for insert and compressor duties; most of the sidechain pumping (and fuck it, but there's quite a bit. There's no zealot like a convert!) is done with Glue. Obviously, heavy use of AD products throughout. I mixed 8 of the 9 tracks in Live 9 Suite; the exception is dawn, which was mixed in Bitwig Studio.

Anyhow, I'll field any specific production questions you might have in this thread, but the above is the general gist of things.

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