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

Tags: Analog Tape

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.

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!

September 18, 2016

Musical Stylings...

by Chris Randall

Although I don't actually make music to pay the rent any more (and thank all the various Gods and wildland færies and whatever for that!) it is still rather important to my personal well-being and understanding of the world to keep my feet wet. I find people that make gear but don't release records to be, well, you know.

To that end, I recorded a full EP, or more of an extended EP, or maybe a short stack LP... eh, fuck it... a pile of songs for Detroit Underground™, which will be released shortly, with remixes from Basek and Proem. I'll talk about that more when it's out.

In the meantime, I have merrily continued to make tracks, like I do. So these two tracks, while being "put out" before the DU™ release, were in fact recorded after it was done. In both cases, everything went through the Euro. If you have any specific questions about a part, I'll be happy to answer to the best of my abilities. But suffice to say both were done with my normal techniques, which I've talked about at length on the AI YouTube channel.

Listen to "windows - east berlin" by chris randall.

Listen to "piece_01" by chris randall.

If you click/tap the name of each track, you'll be taken to the Octave page, where you can download it if you so desire.

August 21, 2016

Tech Time No. 007: Voltage-Controlled Cassette Deck...

by Chris Randall

Like the subject line says... I was curious as to how the Onde Magnétique OM-1 worked. Originally, I thought that these super cheap little decks might be powered directly from the sequencer. I went out and hit a few thrift stores and bought several and gave that a try, with success rates that varied between "not at all" and "fuckin' nope." (I believe I briefly referenced this failure in one of the other Tech Time videos.) So I just set that aside with a shrug and moved on to other things.

However, last night I was looking at the OM-1 video again, and I was like "oh. Duh. He's just throwing 0-5V at the speed pot." So I busted out the video camera and soldered a jack right to the pot, and sure as shit, works like a charm, as the video above shows.

Something I didn't mention in the video: this isn't 1V/Oct. It's more like 5V/Oct. Sequencer 1 actually shows the voltage value you're shitting out the CV outputs in linear mode, so I was able to just put a tuner on the ass end, and scroll the voltage values until it was tuned to 12TET. I got 14 semitones total out of it, which is plenty for demonstration purposes. But if you're going to attempt this, you'll need a sequencer that can output linear values in addition to 1V/Oct. Sequencer 1 is, of course, perfect for this sort of foolishness. I'm sure there are others that will work fine, but I don't feel like talking about them.

When it comes to the cassette itself, take the lowest note you want to play, and record a note a semitone below that (so you have some wiggle room) on your cassette, and you'll end up with a full octave above that note.

You can clearly hear the portamento in the note programming later in the video. This is a result of the time it takes the motor to move to the new speed. This is an electromechanical process, so it's not instantaneous. Something with inertia needs to be accelerated or decelerated, and this takes time. Hence, fixed portamento.

July 18, 2016

Four Chords The Hard Way: Tech Talk No. 003...

by Chris Randall

Step 1: Plan out a cool video. Buy gear from eBay to shoot video about. Gear arrives broken.

Step 2: Plan out another cool video to replace it. Buy gear to shoot video about. Idea turns out to be stupid and not-working, and not in a cool way but in a stupid and not-working way.

Step 3: Look around office for _anything_ to shoot a video about. Shoot video about that.

Displaying 1 to 5 of 13 available blog entries.

Page 1 of 3