Author Archives: Eddy

‘The Parting Glass’ collaboration

Earlier this year, Mark Bennett posted an a capella vocal on SoundCloud and invited anyone and everyone to make a backing track for it, and post the results. And many results came in – some of them a bit iffy but a lot of them were absolutely stunning renditions of the traditional folk song (called ‘The Parting Glass’).

I discovered this a little late, but got to it and here’s my version. As might be expected, I went for the synthesizer angle bigtime 🙂

Other versions abound, for example by Matham WilsonedFolderol, Drew, and MLucas. This one by Alexia Fredsteres I found particularly inventive.

All great stuff!

 

VNV Nation live at Kesselhaus in Munich

A few weeks ago, Ju and I got a rush of blood to the head and impulse-booked tickets for the VNV Nation compendium gig (celebrating 20 years of the band) in Munich at a converted warehouse – Kesselhaus, along with flights and a couple of days in a hotel so we could have a bit of an explore of the area while we were there.

The gig was brilliant, as expected, and we had a great time. They played for over 3 hours and we found ourselves in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere wondering how we were going to make the 7 or 8 miles back to the hotel, but then we found a nice taxi driver who got us back with aplomb.

We then went and found a late night place to eat, and my rather rusty German turned out to be good enough to negotiate the sale of a bottle of red wine from the owner of the establishment in addition (even though he didn’t sell wine as part of the shop offerings) 🙂

The pictures in this gallery were taken with my phone, as I didn’t feel like taking a proper camera along (in cast it got damaged or lost) but I think they came out pretty well considering. There is some video in addition, which I’ll convert and upload after we get back (I’m writing this in the hotel in Munich).


A note about programming

Programming is a strange activity in some ways. For starters, the majority of people don’t really understand what it entails, although there is probably some vague awareness in many that it involves ‘creating programs’. For those people who have dabbled in it, programming is a clearer concept but unless you’ve immersed yourself in the activity for a considerable amount of time it is unlikely that a real grasp of the complexity and depth involved in creating software is apparent.

I think programming is an activity that means different things to different people. All I know is what it means to me. Programming is a lot like any other creative endeavour, whether that be painting, writing, composing, sculpting, building, modelling or any number of similar activities besides. Anybody who engages in such creative arts, whether they realise it or not, becomes the ultimate controller of the little world in which they operate.

An author has free and complete reign over the destinies of their characters, imbibing life, death, adventure or misfortune upon these subjects at the whim of a few words. A sculptor or painter has a similar power, at least within the constraints of the material with which they are working. The same can be applied to artists, musicians and so forth.

In a similar vein, a programmer has many choices: which language to use, the nature of the computer for which they are creating the program and the algorithms they employ to produce the desired outputs when their program is run. In my opinion, programming differs from some other creative activities in that it is as much a science as it is an art, being a heady mix of well-trodden known best practices intermingled with the creative freedom to innovate and influence the behaviour of the program in order to make it do things that other programs don’t do, or perhaps to find a better way of doing something that’s been done a certain way for ages.

Much as I suspect is the case with other crafts, some programmers consider their activities coldly, merely churning out code to adhere to a set of specifications created by other people. Others engage with passion in what they are doing, as they have complete freedom over the design and implementation of the task at hand.

Having spent a significant amount of time implementing my vision of a system that does something interesting, and in the back of my head, working towards a goal that would mean I could make a living working on exactly this, it’s interesting to me how I fluctuate between intense concentration and flow, and fragmented, piecemeal sessions where nothing of importance seems to get done.

The former involves working hours at a time through a myriad of challenges and ideas in order to push the product further forward, and not even realising that the time has passed. The latter is frustrating but at least it’s time that can be spent doing little tweaks and tidy-ups in order to smooth out rough edges or oversights in previously written code. Either way it is mentally exhausting, if immensely enjoyable.

Later this year it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this process. There are some interesting developments afoot and the code is taking shape in ways that excite and encourage me. It’s sort of alive, in it’s own way even. Watch this space 🙂

 

Finally a decent studio again…

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I tidied up my studio … partly because the new Prophet 6 and Moog Mother-32 synths were deserving of better surroundings and partly because, as I said before in a recent post, I want to get some music done. To that end, I’m currently working on a nice groove which lends itself to a bit of synth demo-ing and a youtube video.

Stay tuned…

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New Year’s Eve 2015

Well, we’re all a bit zombiefied today, but it was certainly worth it. We christened Ju’s Studio with a party with good friends, drinks and lots of pizza. Turns out the studio is a great place to party! There are a few bits and pieces to finish off inside, as can be seen in the pics (Ju is in the process of varnishing woodwork, and there are a couple of decorative wood structs and ceiling insulation bits to add in), but we’re down to the details now, finally.

Shortly after midnight we blasted out The Ace of Spaces at maximum volume on the PA just to give a nod to Lemmy as well… hehe.

Happy New Year to all 🙂


 

2016 – Time for some MUSIC!

For the last couple of years, I’ve not been very productive on the music front, and I think it’s a bit of a shame. There are a number of reasons why this might be, I’m not entirely sure which apply to be honest, but in recent months the pressure has been building within me and I’m about to kick it all off again.

Certainly, I have been busy with work, and for the last year especially, I’ve put a phenomenal amount of time and effort into the landscaping and construction projects in our gardens. If I’m honest, I’ve also let my studio get very messy and cluttered and this is not a good environment within to get creative.

A big spring clean int he studio is about to commence, and as part of that I have also mixed things up a bit by ordering a couple of new devices which I think will inspire me greatly. The first of these is an analogue synthesizer in the form of a Prophet 6 …

.. and the second is a Moog Mother-32, which is also analogue and I am intending for it to be the start of a semi-modular system…

I’ve also decided to sell some of my digital synths. Certainly I’ll sell the Kurzweil K2500 as I never use it, and I’m pondering selling my Yamaha ES7, as although I do like it a great deal, I think it’s redundant as I have it’s bigger cousin, the XS8, which can do everything the ES does and more. Finally, I think I’ll sell my Korg Triton, as I have the Trinity, and I prefer the sound of the Trinity (even though the Triton is a later model).

Anyway, here’s to a musical 2016, a revamped studio and some thumping good output in the short term!

Keyboard of doom

Recently I spilled a little coffee on my Mac Pro keyboard and it developed a fault whereby some of the keys on the bottom rows would not only trigger the character I wanted, but also it spits out some kind of control-code which causes all kinds of randomness. I researched it a little and discovered that you cannot disassemble an Apple keyboard because it’s glued together.

This is annoying and also quite at odds with the accepted modern wisdom of encouraging recycling and reducing waste. In the old days, with my 16-bit micro I used to disassemble the keyboard and give it a good spring clean and wash every now and again, but with Apple (and they are not alone in this) making their keyboard non-serviceable, the chances are that a little coffee will end up requiring the unit to be discarded and a replacement obtained.

As a last resort, I’ve run it under the hot tap for a couple of minutes in an effort to rinse out whatever caffeine-powered clogginess there is in there. It’s drying face down on a towel at the moment. I’ll leave it there for a few hours then put it on a radiator to dry out a bit more, then test to see if it works.

I’ll be happy if it does – the concept of throwing away a keyboard is ridiculous when it’s only got a little coffee in it.

What with all the Paris global warming conference and the incessant talking by politicians the world over, it also seems ridiculous to me that so many technical things these days are non-serviceable, sealed units. Also that there are so many things (not just technical ones) that are shipped in plastic packaging which way exceeds the amount required for the item in question.

As for individually wrapped sachets of sugar, don’t even get me started…

Review: “EP III” by Carpenter Brut

As a massive fan of the 80’s in most of its forms, especially musically, I was motivated to write this review of EP III by Carpenter Brut. In writing that very sentence I suspect I have already given away more than is usual in the first sentence of a review.

The first thing that struck me about this album was the analogue-style synthesizer sounds emanating from my speakers. The 80’s were replete with such sounds, and pretty much any band from that era used analogue synthesizers to a greater or lesser extent. Carpenter uses synthesizers extensively, a trait that I approve of massively. So big plus point from the off there.

However, I am not so much a fan of the more modern technique of ‘compression pumping’. Although this technique has been around for decades now, it’s always been something I find a little tiring on the ears. For the uninitiated, compression pumping, or simply ‘pumping’ is the process of making the loudness of the music dip markedly on the beat, so it’s as if someone is turning the volume knob on a stereo up and down in military time with the bass drum hits.

That said, on this album it is not applied at levels which particularly bother me, which is mildly surprising, and I would go so far as to say it actually works in this context.

EP III kicks off with a track called ‘Division Ruine‘ which instantly introduces an arpeggiator, plus reminds you of the days you listened to Van Halen. In the subsequent breaks within the track there are elements of computer game music, hints of Depeche Mode and possibly even a little Duran Duran in places. Combined with the heavy grinding more modern feel of the massive synth textures in between these delicate parts, it’s all rather engaging.

The next track, ‘Paradise Warfare‘ delights with a fretless bass poking through a ballad-like mix (replete with Sax-sounding solo parts that are almost worth of Tim Capello) which is reminiscent of  Shriekback’s This Big Hush from the Manhunter soundtrack. It still pounds the ears with frantic synthetic madness in between the calmer moments however and to good effect.

What is certainly evident is the retro feel of the compositions, being somewhere in between the synth-pop soundtracks of 80s movies (such as ‘Fletch‘) and computer ‘soundtracker’ compositions such as the epic (I repeat, EPIC) ‘Space Debris‘ by Markus Kaarlonen, aka ‘Captain’ (these days the keyboardist in Poets of the Fall). The material flows well, does not linger on a single theme long enough to get boring and has a wonderful vibe to it that will remind the listener of any number of other things, while at the same time standing out as an extremely good interpretation of the genre.

It also takes cues from modern progressive/synth material, in places being reminiscent of the excellent work by Frost, although Frost have a greater guitar presence in their material.

In short, EP III is great stuff, I really dig it, and it’s highly recommended on my part. If this had been released in the 80’s it would have blown everyone’s minds sideways and would have stood above much of the great audio to emerge from that decade.

If you like the 80’s (especially the soundtracker files from that time), synthesizers and an energetic electro-mix, you should certainly check out this album.

A film I will be watching no matter what

For some years, I played a Massively Multi-player Online Role-playing Game called World of Warcraft. This was not the first MMORPG I ever played – previously I spent as long playing a game called Asheron’s Call which I still consider to be vastly superior in almost every way, and the like of which I have not seen since. That said, I racked up countless (well, over a thousand) hours in WoW over several years, made many friends and had many adventures in the virtual world it provided.

Sadly, they are not making a film about Asheron’s Call, much as I wish they would. The game ‘World of Warcraft’ was originally deep, rich and challenging, set in a huge world with a bigger backstory. In later expansions to the game they dumbed it down to the point I felt it was no longer worth my time, plus to be fair I had been playing it for some years. It was still an amazing experience.

Anyway, there is a film coming out based on World of Warcraft, and I will be very keen to see it. To see the areas, cities, flora and fauna, villages and scenery on the big screen will be epic for me, regardless of how the film pans out. It looks to be more geared towards the conflict between the Alliance (Humans, mainly) and the Horde (Orcs, if the trailer is anything to go by) but there is much more to the game which I hope will get a look-in. The goblins in Ratchet, the Horde settlement at Crossroads, and hopefully some dungeon action as well, such as the Wailing Caverns in the Barrens, which was a bit of a ‘rite of passage’ for all new players back in the day though I think this relatively unlikely.

I also wonder if there will be any little ‘in jokes or references to game lore that appear on screen. I hope so 🙂

I am so going to watch this!

Front garden

Just a note to the effect that I’ve gathered the pics of the front garden into their own permanent album. There will be more to add as I add cut sandstone to the build in order to cover the block walls, but I suspect this may not happen for a while as my priority is not shifted back to finishing Ju’s studio.

The album can be found here: Front garden.