Download the new Coldplay album FREE!

Thats right, just follow the link below, read the whole article & a free download of the new leaked Coldplay album will magically appear, maybe…. either that or you won’t feel like downloading it anymore…

why i hate coldplay

I once turned down a semi-paid gig reviewing local electronic music releases because the conclusion I came to was this; its far harder to eloquently & constructively explain why you dont like (& in some cases dislike/hate with a passion) an album, than it does to boot up a thesaurus, recycle the press release & just feed the marketing machine… Maybe it is easier if you are simply a fan who doesnt know what the word discerning means, but this guy makes it seem like poetry:

“Coldplay have conquered the charts with the sonic equivalent of wilted spinach….. But Eno’s presence begs its own question, of course. I recall an occasion back in the Eighties, when the young Eddie Murphy, his career then in the ascendant, was drafted in to salvage an appalling Dudley Moore comedy called Best Defense, through the insertion of about 10 minutes of extraneous footage of him pootling about in an army tank. The film was still terrible, and when asked why on earth he had accepted the part, Murphy shrugged and said: “There was a knock at my door, and when I opened it four men came in bearing an enormous cheque.”

heh heh

“….the album is almost exactly as I expected, if a tad shorter on Big Anthems than the previous three. The rhythms are a bit busier, and a bit more ethnic, and Chris Martin’s little falsetto catch – one of modern music’s most irritating tropes – has been rationed out more parsimoniously. (Thanks, Eno!) Pop’s favourite Brianiac has ensured the sonic prerequisites are all in good order. And in a few cases, the songs do seem to be about things, rather than just anaemic expressions of emotional indulgence and limp consolation….”

Be thankful for small mercies!

“…but for me, it’s the band’s anguished professions of supposed political concern, while simultaneously indulging the rampant self-pity of the most cosseted, comfortable constituency of music fans the world has ever known – that’s the most irritating aspect of Coldplay. Rock’n’roll used to be a rallying cry, a clarion call; now, in their hands, it’s just a palliative.”

(btw, the title of this post was solely for the searchbots – welcome oh semi-sentient software)

New(ish) dubs…

I was first introduced to dub music by the mixer we used to use for the rock band I played in back in my youth. He would always EQ the front of house using Black Uhuru or similar & while we were busy trying to be the Velvet Underground-lite or something, my psyche & low end aesthetics were rapidly evolving… Since then I became an obsessive collector of everything by such geniuses as Scientist, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo etc…
Accordingly a decade or so later its fantastic to see the rise of dubstep, a genre related but not subservient to its origins… But as with any genre, to borrow a phrase, “many are called but few are chosen’ so heres half a dozen tunes that have been making the red warning light on my subwoofer flash…

The Bug – Poison Dart

Burial – Broken Home

Toasty – Angel

Kode 9 – 9 samurai

Boxcutter – Rusty Break mp3

Elemental – Deep Under
ElementalDeep Under

Please comment me any recomendations! I tune into Mary Anne Hobbes BBC One show regularly (via newmixes) on the hunt for new tunes.. ditto for scoping out bare files and dubstepforum and blackdownsoundboy

Selling Music Online (how not to)

I have to respect Radiohead for their approach selling their last album online. Allowing people to pay what they feel they should is pure genius & in the capitalist world most of us live in it could well be considered revolutionary. As I typed in what I figured it was worth to me (ie there will be 3 songs I love, 3 that grow on me & the rest I don’t care for) I imagined some suit in some old school music company board room sweating as their role in the circus was made redundant. And it was, sorry, we really don’t need you anymore… but if its any help job hunting, I hear Britney needs help…

Anyway its been intriguing to see how Sigur Ros traverse similar ground. They undoubtedly have a loyal following who do not need to be spoon fed by the man. And their albums are eagerly awaited upon. I happily downloaded a free song, watched the video & emailed a bunch of friends & suggested they check it out… and a week later auditioned the whole album via streaming. The stream sounds mono & audio bandwidth limited, but any fan of Sigur Ros knows their record production is excellent so disbelief was immediately suspended… And so time to pre-order…. More so than Radiohead, this is where Sigur Ros get it even more right – check the options for the album release, in reverse order of cheapest/most immediate:

1. ALBUM DOWNLOAD US$16 – DRM free 320kbps mp3’s available week of 23rd June
2. CD ALBUM US$23 – CD will arrive the week of 23rd June
3. CD ALBUM + ALBUM DOWNLOAD US$26 – download album + bonus videos a week early on 16th June, CD will arrive the week of 23rd June
4. DELUXE EDITION US$100 – Deluxe Edition will arrive mid-September 192-pages. 300 mm x 240 mm. Includes CD and exclusive DVD. Pre-release album download + bonus videos available on 16th June CD will arrive the week of 23rd June

Ok so I get it, 4 levels of fandom
Now if there is one thing I know of having dealt with a few dozen online sales agents over the years is that once decided it MUST BE EASY to pay for stuff. I joined paypal a decade or more ago & it is EASY & very secure. So give me the option of using it. Sigur Ros dont. Ok. Now I really dont want to open an account with you just to buy a one off album, but what? you require me to…. well ok… if you insist…. Ok so now you require me to choose a password that I will NEVER remember… Turns out this is my second time buying via this agent & I still have no idea what my password is, then or now, because you & only you require a level of abstraction of password characters that no one else has in a decade of shopping online… sure ok, email me my old password… my dissatisfaction with your process is quickly growing…. you had it so right, instant gratification to the ipod kids right thru to collectables for the true OCD fans, but i’m starting to lose interest… ten maybe fifteen minutes later the email arrives with my new temporary password; put it in, next step… oh WTF!?! error? No clues as to whether its my credit card limit, a postal/territory issue, typo or what…. & I check, my card has clear funds…. Click & Buy? As if… I think i’ll wait until the CD turns up instore, and even then my immediate feeling will be one of FCK that stupid checkout sh+t! And to think I was trying to buy the Deluxe US$100 version… Now I dont even care….

The main reason I buy music online is because I get it now (or close to it). A few years ago I used to read of a new/imminent release online & then go down to the local record store & ask them about it. Usually they hadn’t heard of it & had no record of it, or it seemed interest in it. Accordingly the standard response was ‘we can get it in for you in six weeks”. Thanks I would reply, but please don’t bother…

The moral of this rant is: DONT MAKE IT HARD TO BUY YOUR MUSIC ONLINE… please, I cant be bothered.. I will go listen to something else, cos god knows there is plenty else out there to listen to…. Radiohead 1, Sigur Ros Nil

Perfect Bird


why?

because thats how Astroboy is supposed to sound!

because I was sentient when it was first released!
(& it still sounds as fresh, altho i’d love to hear a dubstep mix of it)

because maybe you may not have heard it?

because I watched a film last night that used half that piano line
(i filled in the rest, in my head & it was the better for it!)

because I was convinced it was by Coldcut (its actually by Hexstatic)
then I remembered my favourite Coldcut video – it was this one:

And that video reminded me of watching the film Microcomos at the NZ Film Festival a few years ago & the audience literally cheering after a dung beetle finally made it to the top of a small mound of dirt with a small ball of dung – YEAH!!!!!!! & I also have to say FULL CREDIT where due, to the foley team on both Microcomos & Winged Migration, both fantastic films, but equally both films that rightfully credited foley alongside composer…. if you havent seen them both, then time you should:

Microcosmos (foley artist – Jérôme Lévy)

Winged Migration (foley artist – Laurent Lévy)

Awe inspiring work!

A list of lists…

I like lists! But this isn’t my work, its the work of The List Universe which among other things includes lists of Top 10 Best Uses of Opera in Movies, Top 10 Incredible Sound Illusions, Top 10 Uncommon Orchestral Instruments, Top 10 Most Depressing Rock Songs, Top 10 Composers You Don’t Know, Top 10 Bizarre Musical Instruments (but I don’t consider any of them ‘bizarre!’) and Top 10 Musician Plane Crash Deaths
And re that last one, did you know it is statistically safer to sit near the back of a plane than up front? Have a read of this before you next get on a plane & complain about flying cattle class; “Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.” Hah! Take that bourgeois!!

The latest List Universe list is a Top 10 easy piano pieces that sound great & my favourite would have to be the Satie piece Gymnopedie No. 1 – PDF of manuscript here or a MIDI file is here if you’d rather get your software to play it for you… just please don’t let Quicktimes built in piano play it! And more info on Satie here and here

Oh & number 4 on the list is from a NZ movie – you’d never guess which one!

[edit] And ignore those previous Satie background links, THIS is the only link you need to read.

Forget that Moog guitar…

Infinite sustain? You can add that to any guitar, its called delay (with the feedback set to 11) whereas this is truly innovative & offers a real advance in the sound of guitars…

Back in reality this is the work of Japanese artist Yoshiko Satoh who, amongst other things, makes wry stomp boxes for your first life;

Bowed Cymbal

I have a bunch of bowed cymbal sounds in my library and they have always intrigued me as I understood how they were created but had never bothered to actually try myself, despite having a drum kit (the ultimate stress reliever!) with some quite nice cymbals….. and years ago when I bought my double bass it of course came with a bow… So the parts were within mere yards of each other… But as always, once I decided to investigate I prepared for the worst & a bought a cheap violin bow & prepared to sacrifice it in the name of some new sounds and, if it was safe, try my lovely double bass bow. And the results? Well my ride & crash cymbal provided some predictably nice results, if a little bland – theres nothing more frustrating than having a sound generating object in your hands and after five minutes realising you have already exhausted most of its possibilities.. Jack De Jonnette might care to disagree, but I’m no drummer – I’m a bass player, so I tend to appreciate drummers rather than pretend to be one… But then I remembered the munted old cymbal a friend had loaned me/abandoned after a jam session many moons ago… I have no idea how it happened but it seems someone took their frustrations out on this old cymbal & a sizeable chunk of it sticks out at an odd angle, in a very un-cymbal-like way… but you should hear it! In fact you CAN hear it, below is a little video compile of some bits of my session. I did a split channel recording; one channel of my Sound Devices 722 recorder was being fed with a Neuman KMR81 mic while the other side was recording my Trance Audio contact mic & of course recording at 96k 24 bit so I can half speed it later without generating too much unwanted grain.. The audio on the video is just the contact mic & the more observant among you might notice the video plays forwards then backwards… why? Because I love sound backwards! I uploaded the video to both vimeo and youtube, just to see/hear the difference for myself…



Bowed Cymbal recording from tim prebble on Vimeo.

Non-linear Film

I found this image in my archives & have no record of its source (shame on me – if you happen to know please email me so I can credit it) but its an interesting list of films that use non-linear and/or abstract elements in their narrative/story line…. Click the image to see a readable version, or CNTRL click here to download it… Its kind of handy to have stashed next time you’re having an argument with some Johnny-come-lately film fan who thinks cinema history started with Tarantino…

Another zen error message

Thanks to Final Cut Pro for providing this moment of quiet solitude amongst the chaos of a busy day… It took no effort to comply (why quit?) but it left me with an uneasy feeling that maybe ‘it’ knew more than it was letting on; is it a metaphor? It seems to infer I need to preserve the integrity of the data by insuring the existence of absent paths? or is it a double negative and I don’t need to not ensure their existence? Hmmmm…. time to sleep….

(How to) Chirp like a cricket

I love recording & editing ambiences and if its a sunny day (in reality or onscreen) then theres nothing better than the chirp of crickets, in fact I prefer listening to crickets than to some of the more austere electronic music… I have a basic understanding of how such a small creature makes such a loud high frequency sound, but a quick search turned up more than I could ever want to know about the subject…. Depending on the particular insect it seems there are four methods but almost all are temperature dependent, which isn’t a surprise, certainly in NZ during summer you get used to cicadas starting to chirp when the sun comes out. Which is great if you want to record cicadas but is a royal pain in the butt for dialogue recording as each camera angle/take can end up with a different level of shrill cicadas.. One local production sound recordist is infamous for his unique technique of dealing with them (it involves one of those high pressure water pistols & a lot of frenzied action between takes!)
Turns out you can actually calculate (roughly) the current temperature by counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds & applying a formula, but it is dependent on the species eg Katydid: T = 60 + (N – 19 / 3) – handy huh?
Anyway these two guys can teach you how to chirp like an insect; according to the first guy it seems to involve simultaneous whistling & lip vibrating whereas the second guy describes it more as whistling on the inbreath & snoring… Frankly I’m impressed they can do it with a straight face, but maybe thats an essential part of the process – you must become the cricket, assume a cricket-like mind…. ah grasshopper, your first lesson awaits:

SUB SUB WOOFER

Eminent Technology are a company who speacialise in sub woofers capable of reproducing sound down to 1Hz. Thats right just 1Hz!! The speaker requires installation into a purpose built attic or basement space which works as an infinite baffle/resonant chamber so you don’t actually get to see the cone of the speaker oscillating at 1Hz, but you’ll feel it. And their sub driver looks like no other, its rotary:

According to their website: “Subwoofer electronics usually contain a cutoff filter which sharply rolls off content to the subwoofer below 20Hz to protect the speaker. On the other hand, the rotary woofer has enough acoustic output to move an open door back and forth .5” between 1 and 5Hz! It has enough output to find resonance frequencies of walls and ceilings in a room….”
And based on the warning that comes with the downloadable demo dvd (here) the sounds it can reproduce might well cause a “normal” subwoofer to self destruct…

The warning includes, one presumes, messes created by playing the legendary brown note

So just how low can a sound be & still be perceived by human ears/body organs? According to Eminent Technology that depends on the power feeding the subwoofer, as their research indicates below, extending the Fletcher Munson curves (ie equal loudness contours for the human ear) to much lower frequencies.

There is also a very interesting description of a series of listening tests the company held with a group of 11 ‘audiophiles’ – have a read here as the results are interesting: “There was no difficulty in distinguishing between the tracks that included 4, 8 or 16Hz. The order of file playback did not appear to have any affect on the outcome. Because of room wall/door vibration this test might have validity to 8Hz, certainly to the frequencies above that. The room could not take a clean 4Hz sine wave at 104dB so the perception at this frequency was likely the result of room motion.”

‘Room motion’ – ayekarumba!
Just prey your neighbours don’t get one for their home theatre!!

More springs & contact mics!

Following on from a previous post, heres another great example of springs & contact mics making intriguing sounds… thanks for the tip Kevin! via deviant synth

More info on the “tomoring’ here including a great little quicktime movie

I’m still hunting for a few big old springs, someone wisely suggested looking inside old armchairs…. but I came across this box set of smaller springs which arrived yesterday…200 springs for $18 from here

Hardware Remix

With Radiohead releasing the song Nude off their latest album as split stems you would imagine there will be a lot of good, bad & terrible remixes floating around the interwebs, but I never expected anything as fantastic as this:

The artist repsonsible on vimeo

Pick 2

Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: Jim Jarmusch once told me “Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two.
If it’s fast and cheap it wont be good. If it’s cheap and good it won’t be fast.
If it’s fast and good it wont be cheap.” Fast, cheap and good…
pick (2) words to live by

via tom waits interviews tom waits

Music/Sound Studio Design

Firstly I’ll describe what this rant isn’t. Its not about acoustics, equipment layout, facility design or ergonomics. There are plenty of experts with plenty of opinions available elsewhere. What I’m interested in having a think about is the aesthetics of music/sound studios and the impact short term & long term those aesthetics have on people like you and I who create, work & lets face it, live an important part of our lives within.
Architecture encompasses this territory of aesthetics, as does Interior Design, but for me it is the former that has had the deepest impact on an appreciation for our surroundings. And once that awareness has been acknowledged it grows & develops similarly to an appreciation for music. Initially it is driven by naivete & instant gratification but as experience becomes broader an appreciation based on comparison & personal history occurs; in a sense you are what you are exposed to.
The first myth with regards to studio design I’d like to dispel is one of budget. While many of the studios you see featured in trade magazines may or may not appeal to your sense of taste, they are undeniably ‘flash’. They reek of having had money invested, far beyond the requirements of equipment & acoustics. But the budget aspect rapidly becomes undone when you consider that money does not buy taste. To fully appreciate this concept you only have to drive through a new residential subdivision in an affluent area & seriously consider the houses that ‘rich’ people build. To me most of them are ugly beyond belief and while taste is by definition personal, what has to be acknowledged is that the means by which those people acquired their wealth in most cases has nothing to do with developing a sophisticated or even experienced sense of aesthetics. Considering what is built in this country it seems the reverse is almost true but thats just my opinion & as that old saying goes; “opinions are like arses, everyone has one.”
But to further consider my point it is worth having a look at what the industry consider ‘beautiful’ studios. Mix Magazine, an ostensibly american magazine, publishes an annual ‘best of’ for studio design, best of 2008 is here and best of 2007 is here
I’m not sure why but it feels as though most of the studios displayed in those collections were created by the same half dozen designers, and that isn’t because good acoustics require a certain unified aesthetic approach. There is a shared conservative blandness between a lot of these rooms and maybe that stems from the fact that large scale studios and facilities are, generally speaking, created not to serve the people who work in them but to create an impression on the ‘clients’.
But the thing with clients is that they only tend to be at a facility for a short time period eg even a big budget feature film mix tends to last no longer than two months. Accordingly the longer term impact on the people who work there is of less concern to facility owners than the short term. In some facilities there is also almost a disregard for natural human requirements eg windows/natural light. Back in the day when everyone worked on Steenbeck film editors I appreciate you could not have a room flooded with natural light, but that doesnt apply any more with sound editors working on LCD screens and it totally ignores the impact of such simple things as knowing whether its night or day! Same goes for fresh air, personally I hate air conditioning! If the rooms too hot I’d rather open a window but admittedly I don’t live in a humid environment with temperature extremes…
Relatedly, I recently bought a book from amazon because the title intrigued the hell out of me: “Making Tracks: Unique Recording Studio Environments” – wow! My mind boggled at the thought of seeing inside unique artists studios! A week later the book arrived & my feeling of potential inspiration exited. While I would definitely describe many of the rooms as unique please don’t presume thats a compliment. The book features 18 studios and while many of them exist in unique & beautiful natural settings there was only one that had any aesthetic appeal to me, where I felt instantly inspired & began dreaming about the kind of feeling one would have working & creating there. Now I totally appreciate that critique is my opinion and rather than dwell on the negative I am going to ignore what I don’t like & talk about what does appeal & why, in this case; Peter Gabriels Real World Studios and in particular The Big Room.

 


I can hear you laughing already – “but he said in the last paragraph that budget doesn’t matter and then he chooses Real World as an example! WTF!?!!” – I appreciate the irony, but the reality is this: that room is kitted out with some hell expensive equipment, but that isnt what I makes it unique. There is an equipment list for The Big Room here and although I suspect the list hasn’t been updated a in a year or two, it isn’t the gear that interests me, its the feel of that room! I appreciate a lot of money has been invested designing and building that room structurally – it takes a genius to create a contemporary addition to a traditional building and make it seem like a natural progression & they have certainly achieved it with this studio. But the two factors that immediately appeal to me are natural light and the sense of space.
The desire for natural light in a sound studio creates two issues: acoustics & sound leakage. The first is solved by being careful where the windows are relative to speaker placement, obviously aiming to avoid any direct reflections in that crucial zone between sound leaving the speakers & reaching your ears. Acoustically glass obviously reflects sound and therefore one must be careful with slap or flutter echoes, particularly if there is any chance of two glass surfaces interacting. But hey, if Real World can manage to have that much glass in a crucial mixing environment, then its going on my MUST HAVE list of an ideal studio/creative work space.
So the other aspect is space. Unless you are building from scratch (I wish…) then the options on available space may be dictated to you. But if you have never spent time working/creating in a large room/studio space then you may be totally unaware of the effect it has on you. In my youth, I was lucky enough to rent & live in a church in central Christchurch for a year or so and my studio/band practice room/lounge was a room 1000 sq ft in size which had 3m ceiling. And wow, the jams, parties & fun we had in that room! But even when I was there alone I appreciated how having that amount of space around you allowed you to think & work differently. Many people spend a lot of time & money on their studio speakers, but forget that a 20Hz sound wave has a wavelength of 6.86 metres… so they buy their expensive speakers with subwoofer, put it in their little room & grin at how much bottom end there is! But what exactly are they hearing? All I know from experience is that the bigger the room the better, accordingly I would (& did) rent a larger, cheaper industrial space in which to build my studio, rather than a smaller, tidy office space. Accordingly my main room is 11metres long, 6 metres wide and has a 4m high ceiling… and the air molecules in here have a lot of fun!

Ok, so lets look at a few other studios; one unique example that immediately springs to mind is the studio of Vince Clarke which has apparently now been split up & sold – interesting use of space & light!

 

Orgon are a german company that make some unusual looking high end speakers and accordingly make a unique contribution to the aesthetics of a few studios including that of Thomas Brinkman

 

The Wire magazine published an interview with musician & producer Vladislav Delay and in the background you can see the unique studio that he works in – I love the minimalist approach to furniture….. check out the height of his desk!

Lastly, someone who has spent a lot of time in studios: Brian Eno. Funnily enough when I went searching for photos of his studio space what I discovered was what might well be the most pragmatic & efficient means of insuring your studio exists in an interesting & creative space – make it portable! Have a read of this interview

So theres just a few ideas that may be food for thought… it seems crazy considering the creative work that is done in some studios that if you hid the MIDI keyboards & synths that you could easily mistake it for accountants office! Or at the other extreme a swiss massage room/sauna with excessive amounts of highly polished wood… surely there are other options? Paste any links of inspiring spaces you have seen in the comments – one day I plan to build from scratch my own minimalist/zen acoustic space; a Temple of Sound if you like, so I am always stashing ideas & links away…. No doubt I will become some architects nightmare job!

Photo credits: Real World first and second, Vince Clarke first and second, Thomas Brinkman first and second, Vladislav Delay photo and Brian Eno photo…. Arigatou gozimasu!