Monday, 30 April 2012

And for my latest eccentric episode......

I'm really getting into the avant-garde and the experimental where music is concerned. After piecing together the Vibrati Punk Container a couple of weeks ago, I've been looking for different electronic sound sources and the most obvious one is that of a radio. But I simply couldn't do it the easy way. No, I wanted a vintage radio. With valves.

So, I put an ad on our local Freegle (more about that in a sec) asking if anyone had a vintage radio, preferably pre-1960's and with valves would be great. After a few days, an e-mail appeared from a lovely retired couple about 12 miles outside of Norwich with not one, but two, vintage radios, with valves. I couldn't believe my good fortune!!!

I tottled off to the village where they lived out in the Norfolk countryside and enjoyed a half-hour in the company of a very interesting man who had been retired for the best part of 10 years, listening to his stories of radios and his years working as lorry driver. Genuinely fascinating and I could have spent longer chatting with him, but I had to get back to Norwich.

The two radios look the business. They're definitely used and both have knobs missing. The radio pictured below is working and it has a lovely hummingly warm sound to it. To be perfectly truthful, I'm not much interested in listening to radio stations - most of them are crap anyway (apart from One World Radio and a fantastic show called the "Man of 2 Worlds Radio Show"). No, I like the bits in between where you get the humming, the hissing and the crackling as well as the discordant voices that you can't quite tune into.

Well, one radio working and I shall be trying out the other one very soon - it's a lovely looking Bakelite one made by Bush - I was also well pleased at getting a Bush radio as a part of my vintage radio with valves wish list was for either a Bush or a Pye model.

I mentioned above a thing called Freegle. It's great and it's a website where they don't like the idea of throwing things away, because you can give it away on Freegle. it's a site where you can advertise that old sofa or wheelbarrow you don't need any more and it might just be that there could be someone just round the corner who does. Or if there’s something you’d like, such as old vintage radios with valves, someone nearby might have one.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The New GTK Studio Computer and stuff

Well the new studio computer arrived yesterday and I have to say that I'm well pleased with it.

The speed it runs at took my breath away and whilst to some the specs may be a little basic (Pentium dual core Sandybridge processor, 8GB RAM, 750GB HD etc), it's the mutt's nuts compared to the AMD Athlon XP 2.0ghz processor and 2GB RAM I've been using sonce 2004. The music progs are very happy and photo processing is now (for me), running at light-speed :-)

Windows 7 is taking some getting used to I have to say as not everything is as it was, but I'll get used to it. This new computer won't be seeing the Internet as I prefer to keep the creative stuff away from the risks of viruses etc, plus it means I can pare down W7 to only what I need from it. This morning will see me hooking it up to our home network, but shutting off it's Internet access.

The only downside was that my audio interface, a Behringer FCA202, doesn't have any form of 64 bit driver support. I contacted Behringer support through their website and got nowhere as it seems unusable and I eventually had to leave a message on their Facebook page (!!!!!!). Not too impressive I have to say. Anyway, they got back to me (via Facebook!!!) and told me the bad news. I suppose with a new firewire audio interface out this year, they don't want or feel motivated to support "old product". A shame really because the FCA202 has been great little interface and more than very reliable. I actually have two of them as I use them for live work. Yes, they have been THAT reliable. So, for the time being I shall have to compromise and use a 32 bit set up, slightly irking because I'll only be using 3.5GB of the 8GB RAM. And, yes, I will be saving the pennies for a new audio interface that has 64 bit support and without hesitation, I'll reformat and reinstall once again as I've had a taste of the difference 64 bit can make.

To some, the prosppect of reformatting and reinstalling might be a bit of a bind, but a good friend of mine once introduced me to the notion that a reformat/reinstall session should be treated as a day out - get in the beer and the snacks and away you go. Try it, it's fun!!!

So, network and Internet to sort out and then stacks of installation - where's my Pils glass :-)

Monday, 23 April 2012

"Modular Pic of the Week" on Matrixsynth :-)

Whilst checking my Twitter page this morning through bleary eyes and mid caffeine infusion, I discovered that one of my "Play Studio" photographs has been chosed as this week's "Modular Pic of the Week" over on the Matrixsynth website.

The competition is a 30 week relating to the upcoming documentary about modular synthesizers called "I Dream of Wires". You can find out more about it HERE

Matrixsynth is one of the best, if not THE best, website on the 'Net about everything synthesizer. It's jam-packed with articles, reviews and videos of all sorts of synthy stuff and for gear nerd such as I, it's a veritable paradise where I have lost many hours of my life, poring through it's many many pages.

And of course, it wouldn't be right if I didn't once again say thanks to Ben Edwards for letting me loose in his amazing studio.

Here's the link to my winning entry:

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Punk Console Update!!!

I found a suitable container - a plastic Chinese take-away carton that once had duck curry in it. I love duck curry :-)

Cool huh?

Another video below :-D

D.I.Y. Noisemaker (Vibrati Punk Console)

For my whole life, I've always wanted to be good at D.I.Y. and never have been - as previously mentioned elsewhere on this here blog thingy D.I.Y. in NeilSpeak tends to stand for Destroy It Yourself.

Anyway, I've had a hankering for a while to make an Atari Punk Console - it's basically an IC that can make noise and has knobs attached to it. And so I undertook the Vibrati Punk Console - exactly the same thing but with extra added features.

All the bits duly arrived and I looked at them on the desk with a sense of wonderment. No, actually, make that bewilderment. Could I do this? Of course I can. Will it work. Don't know.

So, I got a mug of coffee and sat and looked at it for a couple of days.

On the third day, I got bored with looking at it and went and made another mug of coffee in readiness for the task ahead.

I fired up the soldering iron (I thought "fired up" sounded a bit more sexy than "plugged in") and called up the instructions on the Internet. Easy-peasy. I put all the little resistors and capacitors in place, soldered in the IC plugs, attached the little switch and the battery connection, then the diddy speaker. It was then that I realised I had put one of the capacitors on the wrong way round. A quick clack of the keyboard and I ordered a replacement from a very useful and idiot-friendly site called Bitsbox which specialises in electrical components. At the same time, I also ordered a set of croc leads because I have circuit bending in mind - more on that soon.

A couple of days later and the replacement capacitor arrived and I set about putting on the board. I checked all the connections and resoldered a few bits before attaching the 9 volt battery and switching on.

It worked!!!

Watch the video below if you don't believe me.

So now, I am the proud owner of a little Vibrati Punk Console. I'm not too sure my other half, Anne, is as enthralled with it as I am. Now, I must find a little tin or something to put it in ;-)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

GTK Studio Update

After the sad departure of the JV-2080 on Monday, I turned my eye to the way my little studio was laid out. Essentially, it's how it can only be because of the size of the room, but I felt that it could be better arranged/organised. So I set about making a few changes.

I had been using a small trolley to hold the JV-2080, a Zoom 1201 multi-effects unit, a Mackie 1202 micro-mixer and junk, but it was using space I would have to have used for moving over to a little workdesk I put together last week. So, I raided our little shed and retrieved a pieces of wood from an old flat-pack something and set about extending my computer desk so that it would take the mixer and one of my microphones, as well as acting as an open storage area for my Internet computer - I use two computers, one for music and photography which has no Internet or network connection (which has recently died is in the process of being replaced) and the other for word-processing, website stuff, blogging and general Internet-related arsing about.

My little workdesk opposite the computer desk allows me to write and to faff around with silly little projects like the Atari Punk Console (APC) I'm in the process of making (more on that soon). It'll also be used for projects that involve using and recording various noise makers (such as the afore-mentioned APC) and the Zoom 1201 unit.

Not the most interesting of blogs I'm sure, but it's a little insight into where I do what I do :-)

Monday, 16 April 2012

GTK Studio Changes

Well, after 8 years of loyal and faithful service, the GTK Studio Computer has bid a sad farewell. And of course, this leaves something of a gap in the studio itself as it means no work can be done until a replacement is found. Which it has been.

A new modern computer will be taking over the duties of recording etc within the next week or so, but it comes at a cost - the Roland JV-2080 gave of itself so that GTK Studio could continue. I posted her off this morning to her new home with Radio Massacre International's Duncan Goddard - I know she will be happy there and live a very full and fruitful life. I will miss her.

But, life has to go and so, after two difficult goodbyes, I now await the new computer with much excitement. Having an Intel dual core processor, 8GB of memory and working in 64 bit will be a massive leap forward in terms of processing and ease of work flow for both music and photography.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

"Drift" project scrapped

As the title says, the "Drift" album has been scrapped. This is due to some on-going changes within the GTK Studio that won't allow me to continue with the project as I had planned. The best thing is to draw a line under it and move on to other things.

I'll have a look at the existing sound files and maybe see if they can used in other things.

That is all.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Another addition to the avant-garde series: "Edge 03"

Inspired by the response to the first 2 "Edge" tracks and fuelled by caffeine, I spent another sleepless night exploring the atonal corners of sound. Using an FM synthesizer called Crystal, I mercilessly fed it through delays, flangers, LFO driven filters, ring modulators, harmonic filters and granular processors before resting it in a bed of warm reverb. The result is "Edge 03".

I like breaking rules and I broke a rule with "Edge 03" in that it has an element of rhythmic structure not overly present in the previous installments. There's also some detuned sample and hold sounds, but ultimately there's a lot more dissonant, crackly and off-kilter stuff. The journey has now evolved to a point where that element of rhythm gives the track something of a direction, but again, I'm really don't know where. Maybe it's purpose is to give some sort of convoluted order to the chaos around it. Who knows. "Edge 03" is a little more sinister I think, it has an atmosphere that's full of tension and uncertainty. Perhaps it's the sonic storm before the calm?

The continued avant-garde nature of "Edge 03" means that it is released under my own name.

Three parts of the journey completed, one more to go. Can you hack it?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

New avant-garde track: "Edge 02"

Poor sleep patterns, late nights and early mornings can often lead you to do the most bizarre of things. And once more, a pattern such as this inspired me to create the second installment of what is turning out to the "Edge" series.

Yes, two nights filled with more exploration of the sonic outposts that reside within a deep reverb and mangled LFO driven filters fed through a ring modulator and a flanger fed back through itself then back into a ring modulator has produced another 20 minute epic of unashamed self-indulgence, that has the title of "Edge 02".

"Edge 02" is the continuation of a sonic adventure that is daring to travel beyond the frontiers of acceptability. Once more, the line is crossed into that world which lies just the other side of  the more traditional spheres of musical influence and structure. As with "Edge", it's younger sibling, "Edge 02" lacks any real structure, seeing itself as an atonal pulsing drone that could be the heartbeat of an unknown universe. "Edge 02" continues where "Edge" left off - a repetitious cacophony of unrelated sounds, blended together into an insistent pulsating, clicking growl, interspersed with sweeping filtered resonances. It's another road sign to a place that's somewhere, but a somewhere we don't know the precise location of.

Again, because of "Edge 02"'s avant-garde nature, it's been released under my own name

"Edge 02" is most certainly not easy listening and it's not meant to be, but I hope you'll stay with the journey.


My First D.I.Y. Electronic Drum Pad - Part 4

I took a trip to over the studio of my good friend David Wright yesterday to meet the new Code Indigo guitarist (there'll be another post about that later today), and whilst there we connected up the D.I.Y. electronic drum pad to David's Alesis DM5 drum module.

I was very excited about this, particularly after having to wait a further week because I hadpreviously taken the wrong trigger assembly. Then when all the leads were in place, it didn't work!!! After a small amount of discussion, owing to the fact that the unit had worked when I connected it to my mixer in the GTK Studio, we took the obvious step of trying another lead.

It worked!!!

And it worked like a dream. Code Indigo bassist Nigel Turner-Heffer spent a good deal of time playing around with the drum trigger and we discovered that the velocity response (the harder you hit it, the more the sound alters, be it volume or timbre) was there, but needed fine tuning. And that's just fine by me because the most important thing was it worked - you hit it, it sends it's signal to the module, the sound is produced - that's all I wanted it to do, everything else is now icing on the cake in terms of ironing out the details.

I took some video of this test and that will be in a separate post. I'll update this post accordingly as well with a link to the footage. I'll also add some photos to this and other related blogs.

Now that I know the trigger assembly actually works as I want it to, the next stage is build the 4 pad portable electronic percussion unit, so keep a watch out for further blogs on that :-)

Next project is going to be an Atari Punk Console, more details very soon ;-)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

New avant-garde style track - "Edge"

I spent an afternoon exploring the sonic regions of a very deep reverb using a monophonic synthesizer fed through a digital delay, a flanger, an auto-filter and a ring modulator and came up with a 20 minute piece of glorious self-indulgence, that I classify as "difficult listening", called "Edge".

"Edge" is about exploration and pushing things beyond the norm, much as I do in my own life. It's about daring to cross over the line into what some would see as a challenge to the more traditional spheres of musical influence and structure. To that end, "Edge" has no real structure, it is an atonal moment in time filled with dissonant pulses and dischordant drones, chaotic sounds that travel within a deeply reverberated space, walking along the backbone of a randomly generated blips and bleeps. To some, "Edge" may be a cacophony of noise, to others it may be a signpost to a new place, out there on the edge of nowhere.

Because of it's more avant-garde nature, I've put it out under my own name as I don't really feel that it falls into the Geigertek camp. I think it wise to keep different elements of my music separate so as not to confuse styles.

"Edge" is definitely not easy listening, but I do hope you enjoy the adventure.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Synth Studio Photo Project to visit KSR!!!

After a bit of a break, I'm getting on with the Synth Studio Photo Project that I started last year with my visit to the fabulous Play Studios owned by synth collector, producer and Maths man, Ben "Benge" Edwards, some of the photos are now being used on Ben's website :-)

So, my next visit will be to a company called KSR and a man who is the world renowned UK vintage instrument restorer and tech to the stars, Kent Spong. Kent operates a highly specialised business and is recognised as a world-class technician who takes care of instruments belonging to a veritable who's who of individuals residing in the A-lists and the worlds of film and theatre. Kent is also known as "Mr. CS80" because his speciality is the repair and restoration of the amazing Yamaha CS80 synthesizer. His talents for supporting this particular instrument have garnered him a well-deserved reputation of excellence.

I cannot hide the fact that I am very excited about this next part of the project and consider it something of an honour to be let loose in Kent's synth-filled domain.

Pic: Kent Spong

Monday, 2 April 2012

My First D.I.Y. Electronic Drum Pad - Part 3

So there I was, all excited at the prospect of testing out the prototype electronic drum pad on the drive over to David Wright's Suffolk studio.

We had a few things to deal with on the Code Indigo front and then it was time to start the test. Can you imagine how gutted I was when pulled out the trigger only to find I had picked up the one I had totally destroyed with my first attempt at using a soldering iron? I was seriously annoyed because there was no one else to blame but me!!! I can tell you that I thoroughly explored the more base elements of the English language for a good few minutes, my command of Anglo-Saxon was to the point of fluency.

So, the test has been rearranged for this coming Saturday 7th April 2012, once again at David Wright's Planet Recording Studio.