Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
February 9, 2017

Sync 02...

by Chris Randall

Sync02 is the second in what is apparently going to be a yearly 1st-Saturday-Of-March affair. Last year's event went off well enough that we decided to do it again, despite the torential rain. As you may remember if you attended, Sync01 took place at JWZ's excellent CodeWord venue in San Francisco. Saturday, March 4th at Holocene. It is over twice as big as last year's, so we got a partner. Audio Damage is doing it in partnership with Control Voltage. The manufacturers that will be exhibiting include:

Audio Damage
Industrial Music Electronics
S1 Synth Library
Noise Engineering
Make Noise
1010 Music
Blue Lantern
Møffenzeef Mødular
AI Synthesis
Roger Linn Design
(more TBA)

Control Voltage will have a pop-up store at the venue, so warm up your debit card. The exhibition runs from 10:30A to 4:30P, and then we close the venue for a bit to remove the tables, and reopen at 5:30P for the show. The performers include:

Bana Hafar

The exhibition is free to attend, and all-ages. The performance is 21+ and $10. So, if you're in Portland, and you don't come to this, well... I am given to understand that Modular On The Spot will be doing a separate event the night before. The Facebook event page is here. Please hit the little button to let us know you're coming. That number is helpful.

It may be a little early to bring this up, but I'm also open to ideas for where Sync03 should be. It takes a while to put these together, so the city needs to have a good confluence of both manufacturers and customers. My initial first choice for Sync03 was Washington, DC, but I'm also open to European cities, or something I haven't thought of.

February 3, 2017

Decks & FX: Sound Experiments 002

by Chris Randall

The second in my Sound Experiments series for the Analog Industries YouTube channel. In this one, I'm using various tape sources in lieu of my normal tools. (Although, it's worth noting, all these decks are part of my normal toolset.)

The speech, running on the small Marantz deck, is from an interview with John Cage where he is talking about a Glenn Branca performance he'd seen the night before. He calls Branca a fascist. I guess if you're John Cage it's fine to bag on Glenn Branca. I don't think I could personally get away with it.

Otherwise, I just made loops from various sources and dumped them to the decks, and perform with the decks' various controls for doing so. Of special note is the pad. I recorded two channels on the 4-track with two different chords of the same sound. I'm running the tape cue out of the 4-track to the Eventide H9 Max, set to an edited Black Hole preset, and I'm "playing" the chord by cross-fading the two send controls. This gives the nice big stereo effect.

I made the drum loop on my Eurorack, and then dumped it to Frasier, my MTR-12. I cut the one-measure loop directly on Frasier, and I'm playing it back in Edit/Dump mode (you can see me hit the dump button every time I stop the deck). The reason for this is that if the deck isn't in Edit/Dump mode, the right hand capstan, which is supposed to keep tension on the reel, spins at a ludicrous speed. In Dump, that capstan stops.

This brings up an interesting point, though: when working with tape decks in a musical context (as instruments, rather than as playback/recording vehicles) each deck has its own personality. The dump button on Frasier is a good example. On the Marantz deck that has the Cage interview, it has a pitch knob (it is a dictation deck IRL) so I was able to pitch Cage's voice, which is whiney at the best of times, down to a more reasonable listening experience. That sort of thing. Every deck has its own little tricks and features that you need to explore and exploit. This is mildly fun. "What can I do with this?" That sort of thing.

January 18, 2017

Various Things...

by Chris Randall

It is no doubt apparent to long-time readers that I coasted this site for most of 2016, preferring to experiment with other outlets. Having now done my research, it's time to get back in the saddle with a new plan for 2017. So here's some things that are coming up:

1. Videos. Due to spending two months with someone else's teeth in my mouth (which isn't near as interesting as it sounds) I was uncomfortable making videos for the AI YouTube channel. However, that process was completed yesterday, and now we can return to our regularly-scheduled vitriol. Having tried some various things, I've discovered what works and what doesn't in that format, at least as far as my personality and skills go, and have a better idea of how to take the YouTube channel further. Essentially, I will concentrate more on tech and less on talk. The tech and technique videos get way more views and engagement than the ranting videos. So I'll stick to that.

2. Pedagogy. I am once again teaching Entrepreneurship In The Music Industry for a local college this semester. However, in a mild change of things, I will be putting my lectures on the YouTube channel. There are six in all. I'd like to think that these are a bit more basic than most of you will care about, but I think highly of you guys. Maybe they'll be interesting to you; my hope is that they'll help the younglings coming up.

3. Travels. During the next three months I will be visiting Portland, Los Angeles, Prague, and Berlin. If you're in any of those places and want to organize a small (like 3-5 person) meetup, get at me. I've never met many of you, and I would very much like to. Of special note is Sync02 in Portland on March 4th, which we are organizing in league with Control Voltage. There is a Facebook event page here.

4. Audio Damage. Lots happening on that front. As you no doubt know, we had a Web Site Disaster late last year (dealing with this is another reason for silence on the YouTube channel) and I have spent the last while building a new Shopify site. As a result, approximately 10,000 people have written me asking where their old account is. I love this. It's my new favorite thing. In related news, you motherfuckers can't keep a computer running for 20 minutes without doing a full bare metal re-install, if my inbox is any indicator. That aside, we have like 8 new products in the queue, some of which are happening quite soon. 2017 is going to be a very exciting year!

5. Music. I'm working on a new project that is combo audio/visual, and which I will perform live. More on that as it is birthed, but I'm pretty excited about it.

So, tl;dr: more videos, some homework, new shit! Yay!

December 27, 2016

Groove Experiments...

by Chris Randall

During the course of testing products, I often end up with more-or-less full patches. It is important to test everything in context; you can't just listen to something by itself and expect to just know how it sits in a mix. This is especially important for effects, as they generally end up far too thick for normal production if you don't test them in a song while you're developing.

Our next product is a Eurorack hardware version of our Eos plugin, and during the course of development, I built up a patch with several different sound sources; this morning, I was like "oh, that's almost music right there" and popped out a quick video. This, like most of my modular improvs, doesn't have much of an arrangement, but I kind of liked the feel of it. These sorts of pieces of music are not created with the intent of having a finished song, but rather to test something, and thus they tend to not have much Song to them. But if you know that going in, I think they turn out okay.

As is usual for me, everything is sequenced from Sequencer 1 and White Whale. The bass is coming from the WMD/SSF voice; the melody line is Noise Engineering LI -> our own analog filter prototype. The drums are Boomtschak x 2 and Neuron x 2, and the effects are the usual gaggle. The chord drone and found-sound voice are coming off the 4-track cassette, like normal. In short, nothing in this video you haven't seen a dozen times already in my stuff, but I think it's probably a fun insight in to my workday.

October 26, 2016

Oscillator Breach...

by Chris Randall

As some of you may know, I dropped a new album on Detroit Underground™ two weeks ago. It is unusual for me not to self-release, as has been my habit for the last 15 years or so, but I really like what Detund is doing; they first popped on my radar when they put out Richard Devine's excellent RISP project, and their releases comprise a major percentage (maybe 80%?) of the music I've been listening to since then. Kero has an amazing visual sense, along with his great taste in IDM stylings, and I wanted to be part of that family.

The album consists of six tracks and four remixes (from Baseck, Proem, Qebo, and Corbin Davis.) The six tracks are, as is my way for the last couple years, all Euro and tape loops of found sounds. The Tech Time videos in my Analog Industries YouTube channel accurately describe my methodology for making these tracks, so in lieu of an extended process explanation, you can go watch those. The tracks all start with a stand-alone Euro patch and tape loops, and once I have something that I like, I part them out in to Live, and do the arrangement and post-production there. Once each track was done, I pre-mastered it to my Otari MTR-12 two-track deck, and then dumped it back in to the computer and sent it to Wade Alin at Standard Mastering for the final squish. (The remixes were mastered and level-matched by Detund. Not sure who they used.) These are mastered to what Wade calls "Old Guy Levels," which is to say that they retain most of their dynamics, and are not square waves at 0dBfs. The artwork was done by the amazing Layer-Based Human Activities™ from Athens, Greece.

If you guys have any technical questions or comments about the album, now is the time and this is the place!

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