The answer to life, the universe and everything.

Apologies this is from the (not dreadful but less hip) movie rather than the TV show.  Stephen Fry gives good monologue however.

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That’s how long i’ve been alive (though are we ever “truly” alive?)  I won’t pretend to have discovered the answer to life, the universe and everything however I do know that my life heavily relies on the ability to synthesise sonic environments.

Joe Musgrove has been a co-pilot on this journey for over 15 years and as it is my birthday I feel it is my prerogative to draw your attention towards two collaborative releases that are at this time the most vital fruits of our voyage.

Originally intended for release on vinyl in 2015 the rapidly deflating Australian dollar made it financially inadvisable.  Culled from a set of electroacoustic improvisations in 2014 this is, in my opinion, our most effective ambient work emphasising spatial depth and subtle modulations.  We’re using Concréte techniques with a mix of microphonic manipulation, turntables, analogue and digital hardware.  Perhaps the soundtrack to an imaginary Bela Tarr film set in a dystopian future.

Some of the most accessible work we’ve done, these pieces were constructed via a layered system of improvisation.  Recording to the Zoom R8 we improvised a foundation track and then filled each additional track out with subtle colour and divergences.  For all but two of the tracks I’m using Ableton Push 2 as a semi-live sampler reworking Joe’s turntable manipulations into structural components.  The resultant separate tracks were taken into Tracktion where EQ and spatialisation was applied.  In some cases I used Melodyne 4 to remove irritating noises and embellish certain elements.  It really is a magical tool – especially in a DAW that supports ARA which allows for direct interaction with the audio material.   Compared to the previous release you can see a similar emphasis on tactility, texture and spatialisation being applied to a more populist framework with references to break-core and ambient house.

 

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How to be a sound artist?

It seems to me that nothing encourages me to work on my sound art less than having an arbitrary motivator.  I said I would make some Weekly Beats and gave up after 2 weeks.  I said I’d rise to the RPM challenge and so far i’ve got a lot of short weird sketches with no clear connection to each other.  I’ve promised a “Black Mercury” by the end of Feb and it’s really not looking promising.  Still… I’ve been busy.

Push 2 screen

I’ve always been into sampling, from messing with varispeed tape dubbing through Aureal Vortex and Audigy soundcards with replaceable sample memory to Korg Microsampler & Roland SP404 arrangements.  From my childhood listening to stuff like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and later… Coil, I’ve always been interested in the Fairlight.  A monolith sampler workstation and the closest thing to what the Push 2 has become in my workflow.  This is great for opening my creativity and enthusiasm but getting used to the new paradigm has slowed my ability to produce work that I want to share.  I feel like the end results are in many ways less overtly experimental as I actually feel like I have more control.

A basic track might start by me recording something from YouTube, a record or a synth.  From the Push I can then convert this to a sample that can be edited, pitched, filtered, warped and effected.  If I choose to slice it into short clips I can convert it further into a drum-rack where each slice is its own discrete sample with completely different setting and a different FX path.  The possibilities seem endless but there is a clear workflow where sonic tangents are discovered and actioned immediately.

Melodyne in Tracktion 6

Lately I’ve been editing some multitracks culled from live jams where I have utilised this approach alongside Joe Musgrove’s electronics and turntablisms.  Below is an example.  The original session ended up with three mono-tracks which i’ve extracted to Tracktion 6 as I find it easier to use than Ableton’s arrangement view.  From there I used Melodyne 4 (which expertly slots into Tracktion – see above image) to polyphonically edit some of the more annoying sounds out, shaping the overall frequency and stereo fields with Melda Linear EQ and Stereo Generator and a touch of Sparkverb.  There is also an instance of Kaleidoscope processing one track into a metallic drone.  I think it works pretty nicely.