Thursday, 5 December 2013

Okay, more stuff in the studio......

I know I know, I said in a previous post that I wasn't going to be getting any more stuff, but hey, any chaotically minded muso such as myself has the right to change their mind - often several times in an hour......!!!
 
Anyway. Some new and truly fabulous additions to the GTK Studio, both hardware and software, courtesy of eBay and the amazing Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that many companies now offer.
 
First up is an excellent hardware dual-channel compressor from Behringer called the Composer Pro-XL MDX2600. It's almost a complete vocal channel strip as it comprises not just a compressor, but also an expander/gate, a peak limiter, a de-esser, a dynamic enhancer and a tube simulator. Being dual-channel means that I can connect 2 separate microphones without the need for a second compressor unit. It sounds great and looks the business in the rack when in use with it's many little twinkling lights :-)

 
 
The next hardware acquisition is a Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL MIDI controller. You may recall that I once had a Novation ReMOTE 61 SL MIDI keyboard controller, well once I had sold it, I sort of regretted it and so looked to get back the level of control that single keyboard had given me. Space is at a premium in the GTK Studio, and coupled with financial limitations, another ReMOTE 61 SL was not really an option, particularly as I wanted the MKI model which has 2 LCD displays, as opposed to the single display on the MKII. A compromise was needed, so I had a re-shuffle of my synthesizers and set up the Alesis QS 6 as my keyboard controller, replacing the previously used Roland SH-201 because the QS6 has both a 5-octave keyboard and, most importantly, after-touch. The ReMOTE ZeRO fills in the control aspect of the ReMOTE 61 SL with it's multiple knobs, buttons and sliders, giving me almost total control of my software synthesizers and DAW's.

 
Moving on now to the new software.
 
Black Friday deals are just the best and many of the major companies will offer their products with the craziest of discounts. First of these, and perhaps the best in terms of bang for buck, is the Total Workstation XL bundle from Italian music equipment company, IK Multimedia. The Total Workstation XL is a collection of 5 “Powered by SampleTank” virtual instrument plug-ins, including all 15 of the Xpansion Tank 2 multi-sampled instrument collections. I have to say that it has pretty much everything you could need to write and arrange music in whatever style you want using the huge range of acoustic, electric and electronic instruments of SampleTank to the incredible synths, pads and leads in Sonik Synth 2. Also included is the masterpiece orchestral and choir collection of Miroslav Philharmonik and the distinctive analogue sounds of SampleMoog as well as the very cool vintage sound of SampleTron. So, everything is in there: drums, pianos, keyboards, synths, strings, pads, basses, guitars, leads, percussion, ethnic sounds, brass, woodwinds, sound-effects, loops and much more. The price was a total steal with it's 75% discount!!!

 
Another great deal was found with  Audio Damage. I now have another two of their amazing products: Eos reverb and Panstation auto-panner. I'd been looking for a high-quality, low-cost software reverb - a big ask if ever there was one - but with Eos, I found just that. It's a beautiful luscious reverb, capable of the most wonderfully warm and enveloping reverbs. It comprises three high-quality reverb algorithms: 2 plate simulators and Audio Damage's own Superhall algorithm. These allow for a broad palette of reverbs and it's interface makes adjusting Eos amazingly simple. Alongside being my current "go to" reverb, Eos really does set itself apart when you use the Superhall option. This setting gives incredibly long hall sounds that can provide you with those luscious Eno-style ambiences, something that is tricky with convolution reverbs. Second from Audio Damage is their excellent Panstation auto-panner. I was totally sold the Panstation by the demo mp3's on the Audio Damage website and when I had my first play with it, I was even more sold. I had a good look around the marketplace when considering my auto-panner purchase, as I do with anything I buy, but I have to say that Panstation certainly seemed to be the most sophisticated autopanner plug-in on sale. Audio Damage based Panstation on the highly desirable Drawmer M500's panning engine, adding the counting features from the Audio & Design PanScan, considered to be the "secret weapon of many well-known producers". Panstation sounds great and is a pleasure to use.

 
Next up is the purchase of the fantastic software emulation of the legendary Korg MS-20. The great thing about this little software synth is that it's not just a synth but can also be used as an effects unit, meaning you can feed an audio signal through the famous MS-20 filters. I have always yearned for a real MS-20, and even with the issue of the new MiniMS-20, funds won't quite reach that far just yet, so I am more than very happy with this software version. I hope to be able to acquire the MS-20i MIDI keyboard controller one day - this is shaped like the original MS-20, complete with knobs and patch cables, but is 84% of the size of the original.


So, for now, that really is it because I've just ordered a new lens for my camera and I now have no money left :-D

Thursday, 7 November 2013

More bits of software......

Whilst enjoying my daily saunter through the jolly old Internet, I came across a few software things that I thought would be great for the GTK Studio Computer.
 
First up three excellent drum machine sample libraries from U.K. software house, Forgotten Keys. The libraries are the Maestro Rhythm King and the Roland CR-78 and TR-77 drum machines - I have to tell you, they are simply marvellous. The two Roland libraries are rich and punchy, the sampling is of a very high quality and included are the factory preset patterns, so it's probably as close as I will get to having the real things. That said, I missed a Roland TR-77 the other day on eBay which I was a tad gutted about, even more so as it was in Norwich!!! However, I think I have the better deal as the software TR-77 can be synced easily to Reaper, so no need for modifications etc. The Maestro Rhythm King is a little beauty and a wonderfully warm analogue sound, perfect for drifty dreamy pieces of music. As with the Roland libraries, the Rhythm King also has factory preset patterns.
 

 
I've mentioned before a great little software house called Hideaway Studios. Well, Dan Wilson has come up with some rather lovely modules to add to his Blue Zone series of sound libraries. The idea is similar to Stephen Howell's (Hollow Sun) concept of different libraries under a kind of concept umbrella - in the case of  Hollow Sun, you have the fabulous "Music Laboratory Machines" and the equally fabulous "Alien Devices". Today I added a couple of modules called "Panoramic Tones" and "Radio_TBZ". They are gorgeous sounding and really compliment Hollow Sun's products perfectly. No surprise as Stephen and his co-hort Mario do the user interfaces and scripting for Dan's products.
 
 
Lastly, I needed an ambient reverb. When I say ambient reverb, I mean one that can be set to VERY long decay times, perfect for those Eno/Lanois moments or perhaps getting lost in a sea of audio washes. And I found what I was looking for: Valhalla DSP's "Shimmer". It's really quite lovely and sends pianos out into the cosmos and wraps synths pads up in gooey sticky reverberated loveliness. Yep, I'm a fan, can you tell?
 
 
 
This reverb is without doubt a marvellous piece of programming, and I cannot wait to get going with it. Just a listen to the following track. A piece of Erik Satie piano music is being played through four instances of "Shimmer" - the effect is mind-blowing:
 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Another SuperWave soft-synth added and stuff......

When SuperWave suddenly offers their products at half price, you can't ignore it!!!
 
So, this evening I raided the Paypal account and bought their rather excellent Tarkus synthesizer. It's a three oscillator beast, based upon the legendary Korg MS2000 synthesizer. Other features include an incredible four sixteen-step sequencers, an arpeggiator and a multi-fx section which includes chorus, phaser, delay, distortion and EQ, all of which can generate a convincing analogue sound.
 
It's laid out in the same fashion as a Korg MS2000 and apparently, if you own one, you can use it as a control surface for Tarkus. I like that it has one control per parameter, I find it far more intuitive than multi-function controls and once linked to my Evolution MK449C MIDI keyboard controller, gives me more real-time control.
 
Tomorrow will see me doing a significant amount of work on the "Structures of Paradise" album. Callum has done his parts so it's time to get everything edited and arranged. It's coming along very nicely and the different bits and pieces of effects software I have added to the GTK Studio Computer over the last few months are rea;y proving themselves to be the investment I had hoped them to be, particularly the Waves and Minimal System Instruments plugs.
 
I'm also of a mind to have another crack at using the sequencers on my hardware Korg 01/W FD and M1R EX synthesizers - pointless having them in the rack and not using them!!!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Some news and some new studio bits......

Still cracking on with "Structures of Paradise" and "Hollow Sun" - both of which are coming along nicely. But in the meantime, I've had some news and some new stuff that has appeared in the GTK Studio.
 
So, the new proper news just in is that I seem to have found myself become a part of a Norwich-based electronic music set up called Weathered Wall. WW is fronted, as it were, by my buddy Dean Burnett, formerly of the bands The Tower and Japanese Whispers (I hadn't heard of them either). I won't be doing much with WW until I've got "Structures" completed and "Hollow Sun" is at least half done. Should be a lot of fun, Dean and I have a great friendship that goes all the way back to last week and I hope that rapport will come through in the music. Talking of which, it'll be predominantly synthesizer based with vocals. I'll post some more details about Weathered Wall soon :-)
 
And so to the new GTK Studio additions.
 
First up are two excellent software synthesizers from Arturia, namely the Prophet V and the Jupiter-8V. These two synths are based on classic keyboards from the 1980's, the SCI Prophet 5 and Prophet VS and the Roland Jupiter 8 (bet you weren't able to work that out, eh?). The Arturia Prophet V is actually two synths in one, with a third "hybrid" synth that combines the Prophet 5 and Prophet VS elements together. I love the sounds that the hybrid is capable of and I think I'll be spending a fair bit of time messing about with it. The Arturia Jupiter-8V has a lovely 1980's synth sound that is quite close to the original, I've not spent much time with it as yet, but thus far, I'm really liking the things it's throwing at me. Please do expect to hear these synths on "Hollow Sun".
 

 
On the effects front, I've added a fabulous "through-zero" flanger called Liquid from a U.S. company called Audio Damage. Audio Damage do some pretty cool stuff and I will definitely be adding more of their products to the GTK Studio arsenal. Liquid is a genuinely useful tool as it adds life and sparkle as well as the familiar "jet flanging" effect. I spent an evening with Liquid and some synth string patches and I was mightily impressed. It's an unruly little beast as well, so it needs careful handling and a compressor or two ;-)
 
 
You may recall (if you've read anything else on this 'ere blog) that I installed the free Alchemy Player from Camel Audio. Well, one of the things that attracted me to the free player was that you could still buy the sound libraries Camel Audio have for sale and use them. So, I have managed to get my sticky virtual paws on a few of them and I have to tell you that they are awesome!!! Here's what's currently in the Alchemy Player library:
 
Atmospheric
BigTone
Cinematic
Cinematic Atmospheres
Darkspace
Lightspace
Taste of Camel
 

 
And lastly on the GTK Studio new equipment list is the Korg Monotron Duo. I have the original Monotron and the Monotron Delay, so as soon as I saw this latest little lovely going for a silly cheap price on evilBay, I had to get it. It's essentially a two-oscillator version of the Monotron, with cross-modulation. It also has a proper chromatic keyboard which makes playing melody lines a lot easier. Hooked up with the other 2 Monotrons, this little beauty screams like a banshee and I will tell you that I've started a track for "Hollow Sun" that will be nothing but the three Monotrons ;-)
 
 
So, that's it for now. Much going on here in GTK HQ at the moment and hardly a moments peace - but it's all good and positive stuff, which is basically how we roll.

A re-discovered passion

I spend most of my time playing around with cameras or synths, taking photos or creating new music. When I'm not out trespassing or holed up in my studio, I listen to a lot of music, usually John Foxx, Midge Ure, Ultravox or some other such like. But I have found myself to be guilty of neglecting a long time musical passion, namely choral music.
 
I'm not a religious man in any sense, but the only two good things religion has actually given to the world are churches and music. I had classical training in music and as such was exposed to a lot of different styles of composition, but one of the most wonderous and impacting was choral music.
 
Choirs are usually made up of four sections so that they may sing in four-part harmony, though this isn't a set up that is cast in stone, for example,  the Tudor composer (and one of my favourites) Thomas Tallis composed a 40 part choral piece for 8 choirs that had 5 sections each, but the more usual arrangements are parts of 3, 5, 6 and 8. One of the beauties of choral music is that it can be backed by a full orchestra, a single instrument or no accompany at all. The latter is known as "a cappella" and, interestingly, the American Choral Directors Association doesn't like this term because it infers religious connotations and prefer the term "unaccompanied". Very typical of the Americans to dumb down something that has been in place for centuries - I personally think it's because either they can't pronounce it or because it's not American English (read: bastardised English language). Anyway, there's nothing quite as stirring as a mass choir and full orchestra or as sublime as a single instrument and a women's choir.
 
It's difficult to say what sort of choral music is my favourite as I love them all equally, be it the Choir of King's College, Cambridge singing Christmas carols, or Paul Hillier, Theatre of Voices, The King's Noyse and David Douglass singing the work of Thomas Tallis or The Purcell Singers performing Holst's third group of the  Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, to me, there is no finer instrument than that of the human voice.
 
Take a listen to this piece below. It's by British composer Benjamin Britten and is called "There Is No Rose" and sung by the Elektra Women's Choir. This beautiful composition comes from his "A Celebration of Carols" which was written for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp, consisting of eleven movements, using texts from "The English Galaxy of Shorter Poem"s, and sung in Middle English. Britten wrote this whilst travelling by sea to England from the United States in 1942. It's tonal quality is quite sublime and very ethereal:
 

 
In a slightly different direction is this next piece by Thomas Tallis, an English composer revered within the history of English church music and favoured by many as one of England's greatest composers because of his originality. Tallis was believed to have been born around 1505 during the reign of Henry VII and died in December 1585 (according to the Gregorian calendar and November 1585 if you go by the Julian calendar) and very little is known of his early life. In fact there are no known portraits of Tallis during his lifetime and the only one that exists was painted some 150 years after his death. You have to put aside the unfortunate "50 Shades of Grey" context and open yourself to the music rather than the modern references - ultimately this piece will be around far longer and held with greater reverence than the book could ever hope. It is a religious lyric, possibly written around 1540, and comes from the gospel of John, where Jesus promises his disciples during the Last Supper that he will not leave them abandoned, but will be with them through the Holy Spirit whom he will send from the Father (John 14.15). As with "50 Shades of Grey", the biblical aspect for me is without any importance at all next to the simple quality and beauty of the piece, which is without question:
 

 
The above piece was performed by the Cambridge Singers under my favourite modern day composer, John Rutter. Rutter was born in September 1945 and is a British composer, conductor, editor, arranger and record producer, chiefly of choral music. His compositions are predominantly choral, comprising Christmas carols, anthems and longer pieces such as a Gloria, a Magnificat, and a Requiem. The following is the first part of Rutter's wonderful "Magnificat", as performed by the Cambridge Singers and superbly demonstrates Rutter's fabulously modernist choral style. The "Magnificat", which is Latin for "my soul magnifies", is also known as the "Song of Mary" or the "Canticle of Mary" and is a canticle that's often sung liturgically in Christian church services. The title is derived from the first word of the Latin version of the canticle's text. Once again, put aside the religious context and allow yourself to be swept away by the up-lifting and wonderful cadences and crescendos:
 

 
I have to show favour with John Rutter for this posting as I'm really enjoying my return to listening to this sort of music and Rutter's compositions are really hitting the mark for me at the moment. This next piece by Rutter is another blindingly beautiful piece called "Esurientes", the sixth part of his "Magnificat" and perfectly performed once again by the Cambridge Singers:
 

 
And finally, mostly because I can, a third Rutter piece and another favourite, this is the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol". Very Christmassy and quite lovely :-)
 

Friday, 6 September 2013

"Hollow Sun" and "Structures of Paradise" updates......

Work is properly underway now on the fourth Geigertek album, "Hollow Sun"
 
A few basic structures are now residing in the "Hollow Sun" folder ready for me to work on and I have some working track titles:
 
"Dark Skies" - (definite 150% opening track, darkly ambient with some nice Korg 01/W FD electric piano sounds)
"Hollow Sun" - (already has a spacey Berlin School feel and I think it will be quite a long track)
"Nexus" - (very sequency, blippy, drifty and swirly already)
"You Are Not Alone" - (ambient-ish cover version vocal track and definitely the closing track)
"Black Star" - (another sort of Berlin School feel, but with something of a beat)
"Weightless" - (ambient vocal track, very dreamy and drifty - lots of delay and reverb and anticipating a female vocal)
 
I am seriously looking at doing a cover of the "U.F.O." T.V. theme, still cogitating that one as whilst it's a great piece of music, it's not particularly long and quite repetitive. Possibly will write something that works around variations of the theme.
 
There's probably another two or three tracks to add to the list which will give me a nine track album, or, nine tracks to choose from to make up a single album, depending on track length of course.
 
I've started recording a studio version of the live set that my son, Callum Raeburn-Fellowes, and I did for the Awakenings Evening back in July 2013. Again, a basic framework has been prepared, and as soon as I can get Callum over for a weekend, I'll get his rhythm and synth parts recorded. It's already sounding quite epic, particularly the intro where I've used a rather splendid cathedral organ sample set created by my mad Welsh chum, Stephen Howell, head honcho of the Hollow Sun software house. And the ambient backing of the first part, using a delightful patch on my Roland Juno-D, sounds divine with some added reverb and subtle modulation.
 
"Structures of Paradise" will be released under my own name and not Geigertek.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tomorrow's World today......

I recently bought the Arturia emulation of the Moog Modular synthesizer called the Modular V. Whilst trawling the Internet (as you do), I happened upon this segment from an old B.B.C. television program called "Tomorrow's World". I used to avidly watch "Tomorrow's World" every week, scheduled as it was just before "Top of the Pops".
 
I love the old B.B.C. voices, but these old shows provide a wonderful insight to things that we take for granted today.

New synth - Roland SH-201

In a surprise move, taking into account that I said in a previous posting that I was done buying more hardware, I've added another synthesizer to the fold!!!
 
Yep, and so it is that I now have a Roland SH-201 synthesizer nestling nicely on the keyboard stands with the Roland Juno-D, Alesis QS6 and Korg 01/W FD.
 
What I like about this latest addition is that it has knobs and sliders, which ultimately means more real-time control. This is something I have been longing, though it was partly satisfied by the Juno-D, but it's controls were only really for envelope and filter settings. The SH-201 has the lot which will be great for live stuff as I like the idea of changing and shaping sounds on the fly.



 
Sound-wise, it's lovely, really lovely. Pads are lush and expressive (as one would expect from Roland), the basses are deep and dirty and the leads can really cut through a mix, thanks to the sync feature and the SuperSaw waveform (as seen on the Roland JP-8000). There's a cracking arppegiator which can be programmed via the supplied software and a useful phrase recorder.
 
As well as top-notch MIDI implementation, it also has excellent computer comms, all of which happen via the USB socket on the rear. This, along with the software, means that the SH-201 can be used as a VSTi instrument within any DAW and it's multi-timbral - for me this is just great. Everything from standard parameter control to arppegiator programming to MIDI settings can be accessed and the librarian software makes saving and loading patches and patch banks an absolute doddle.


 
As with the Juno-D, the SH-201 also has the D-Beam performance control, excellent for Theremin style playing or wacked-out-wavy-handed filter tweaking. I've not really explored the D-Beam much on the Juno-D, but after messing about with it on the SH-201, I think that may change.

I'm very happy with this latest acquisition and know that it is going to be an important part of the GTK Studio set up.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

New soft-synth......

Today saw the addition to the GTK Studio arsenal of a software synthesizer called Scanned Synth Pro (SSP), created by Scottish software house,  Humanoid Sound Systems.
 
The SSP doesn't sound like other synthesizers, and it was the aim of the developers for it not to. It uses a new sound engine that Humanoid Sound Systems call Scanned Synthesis engine, which appears to combine physical modelling and wavetable synthesis, apparently it's a technique that was developed in the late 90s by a pioneering team of scientists at Interval Research. The SSP has a unique sound and is packed full of personality and presence, which whilst endearing itself to lovers of chaos in it's purest form, retains an element of control that oozes sonic power. This synthesizer is very easy to use, and it doesn't take long to start coming up with some very complex sounds that kind of create an atmosphere of their own.
 
I have to tell you that if you're looking for a synthesizer that does warm, luscious pads and sparkling leads, Scanned Synth Pro is NOT for you. It's aggressive, it's dirty and you need a bath after using it. Naturally, I love it already. And when you have controls such as "Psycho" and "Danger" that give you some serious nastiness and unpredictability, what's not to love???!!!
 
It has a good range of features, an excellent effects section and is great to use within a DAW owing to it's comprehensive MIDI implementation.
 
Humanoid Sound Systems also offer a range of additional presets, one of which is both free and excellent.
 
 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Look what's happened to the GTK Studio!!!

Strange things have been happening in the GTK Studio - it's been changed AGAIN!!!
 
But......and I do mean this - this time it's not likely to change as I am going to get back to writing and recording and with this layout, I am finally happy.
 
Simple additions, such as two cabinets to hold the Peavey SRC2400 mixing console, have provided me with both proper storage space and a less cluttered environment within which to work. Let's just say that it's very Feng Shui darling......
 
I've made one or changes on the equipment front, not least the selling of the Novation ReMOTE 61 SL MIDI keyboard controller, the Kawai K4r, the Yamaha TG55 and the Novation Bass Station Rack. I also had a synthesizer expire beyond repair on me, that being the Kawai K5m, a bit of a blow, but I now have some rather cool bits and bobs in their place. I also sold the Emagic Unitor 8 MIDI interface as it became surplus to requirement after the purchase of the better spec'd AMT8 (USB makes all the difference!!!).
 
Added back to the collection is the Roland Juno-D synthesizer. This developed a series of faults, and I was right on the brink of selling it for "spares or repairs", but I really liked this synthesizer and couldn't actually bear to part with it, so through the wizardry of my very good chum Kent Spong, it's now back in the GTK Studio, as good as new and sounding simply marvellous.

 
Also joining the ranks is a rather splendid Korg M1R EX synthesizer module, the rack-mount version of the hugely successful Korg M1, but what really sets this synth apart is it's history. I bought it from none other than Tim Dorney of the group Republica and formerly Flowered Up (they had a massive hit with the excellent "Weekender", on which this synth was used). It's plumbed into the GTK Studio system now and I can tell you, it sounds simply fabulous.
 

Also on the hardware front is the addition of an Alesis NanoVerb, the mark 1 version. I have to tell you that this is a stunning little piece of kit, I was completely bowled over by the clarity and integrity of the reverbs on offer. My intention was to use this purely for vocals, but I didn't expect the quality of it's reverbs and so I've decided to add it as a send option on the Peavey. It sits very nicely with the Alesis NanoCompressor and between the two of them, I have a nice little mini-rack, which, as intended, is great for vocals, but it will also have other applications now.
And you know, that's not all.
 
No.
 
On the software front, I have managed bagged a few rather spiffing bargains.
 
First up is Dimension Pro from Cakewalk. A very fine additive synth that has filled the void left by the departure of the Kawai synths. It is both luscious and gloriously digital and provides me with the lovely spectral sounds that I loved on the Kawai's. It works beautifully with Cakewalk's Rapture synthesizer which I got last year.

 
 
Also added is The Oddity by U.K. software house, GForce. The Oddity is a software emulation of the classic ARP Odyssey and it is a little beast - I love it. Full of aggression and raw power, this little software hottie provides particularly ripping lead lines and quite dirty basses as well as nutritional fast-food for sequencers. I almost feel like I need to shower after using it.

 
 
Another synth addition is Element from the premium software house, WavesElement is their first software synthesizer and is the newest piece of programming in the GTK Studio software folder. It's great, as one would expect from a company such as Waves, and can be cutting, punchy, luscious, cold, warm and downright filthy. I've been amazed at how many features it has and as you might well imagine, I love it. I also purchased their Q10 paragraphic equaliser and C4 multi-band compressor. Both are gold-standard products in my book, with the Q10 providing wonderfully transparent frequency control and the C4 giving me an awful lot of control over errant frequencies and dynamics. Waves had the ingenious idea of doing a one day sale where they were offering certain goods with up to 80% off of the usual price - the C4 usually goes for $250, with a $50 voucher from Waves and the 80% discount, I got it for a measly $19 - that's roughly £12.50 in proper money. You can't turn up an offer like that!!!


 

Joining the synths ranks is the utterly brilliant Modular V from Arturia. It's an emulation of the Moog Modular Series III and whilst it is never going to sound like the original (so I've been repeatedly told), it's a great introduction to the world of modular synthesis. I love the beefy tones and cannot wait to get playing with the sequencer which can also be routed through to the filters as well as the oscillators. Sounds great alongside the Minimoog V - I have the free version offered by Arturia last year, it lacks the effects etc, but still sounds stonking. Arturia do a great range of vintage software emulations and I will be making every effort to get them all ;-)


A very interesting recent purchase was the Discovery synthesizer from discoDSP. It's based on the Nord Lead 2 synthesizer and I thought it would make an interesting addition to the GTK Studio software list because of it's bold sound and expressive capabilities. It has a really good arpeggiator and a good collection of filters and on-board effects. I feel that it'll be very useful for leads and sequenced/arpeggiated backings.

 
U.K. based music software house Superwave have also tempted me with some of their products. They offer a bundle called the D-7x7 which includes two drum modules based on the Roland TR-707 and Roland TR-727 (the latter being a latin percussion based instrument). The D-707 and D-727 don't have on-board sequencers or anything, but they do have a raft of controls which include pitch, filter, decay resonance and frequency to name but a few - all of the controls can be assigned to MIDI CC's which allow you to automate them when using a sequencer such as the Reaper 4 that I use. And the sound? Well, I used a Roland TR-707 a lot during the mid-late 1980's and consider I know the unit quite well, both in use and sonically. I can tell you that these two units just sound superb and will provide me with some seriously cool and punchy drum sounds, and with the little experiments I've already done, it sounds excellent alongside the awesome Battery 3 from Native Instruments. Also from Superwave, I got their Superwave Professional Synthesizer. It's a full on super-saw powerhouse going from rich trance-driven gated chords and sequences to delicate pads and arpeggios at a price I cannot get my head around - £19.99. It's very flexible, easy to use, stacked with highly useful options and effects and sonically out there. It's obviously based on the Roland JP8080 and to my ears, sounding just as good.



I've recently discovered a small software company called Hideaway Studios run by sound designer Dan Wilson. They're akin to Stephen Howell's Hollow Sun, no surprise because Stephen and Mario help out with the Kontakt sampler programming. I availed myself of Dan's ever increasing Blue Zone collection. As with Hollow Sun, Dan uses vintage gear to create new and interesting instruments that sound fantastic. Looking forward to getting some of them into the next Geigertek album.

And talking of Hollow Sun, the mad Welshman has been sending me more of his wares such as the excellent YouKnow 6 (no prizes for guessing which synth he sampled), Sounds Of The Universe (SOTU), Newtron Bomb III (Mellotron based and sounding awesome), Optomotron (a truly sensuous mating of the Optigan and the Vako Orchestron) and a couple of smaller bits Stephen has called MLM Lites, which are like the baby siblings of his stonkingly bonkers brilliant Music Lab Machines, these being the Cronk-O-Tron and the Stringodyne. They have mental names, they are mental to use and sound mental. But they're great and yes, I love them.



And finally, for now, I got hold of Ohm Force's supremely excellent OhmBoyz multi-delay. It's an incredible bit of software that does the craziest delays, armed as it is with 4 pre-delays, complex resonant filters, distortion high shelf and a total of 39 LFOs!!! This thing is an absolute animal of the wildest kind, but wow, does it sound cool.

 
 
So, with all this added goodness, I have a wonderful palette of sonic goodness with which to paint the audio colours of the next Geigertek album, "Hollow Sun".

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Random musings from the GTK Studio

Once again, I've torn the GTK Studio apart. I'm beginning to think that Anne's theory about my having some sort of OCD disorder that requires to constantly re-arrange the studio may be right. Apparently, there is a special term for it in the medical world.

Anyway, I digress. The latest re-organisation has come about as a result of the demise of my Roland Juno-D synthesizer and the pending arrival of a rack mounted Korg M1R EX synth, thus leaving a space free on one of my keyboard stands. Of note is that I am watching a much-wanted specialist MIDI controller on eBay at the moment and will try the best I can to get it. If I'm successful, then it will sit alongside my trusty old laptop above the Korg 01/W FD.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Another GTK Studio addition......maybe more a replacement......

Done a deal today with bona fide pop star for a Korg M1R EX rack-mounted synthesizer!!!
 
This will replace the Roland Juno-D that I damaged yesterday, for which I still feel bad about.
 
More details along with pics when it gets here.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Today I murdered a synth......

Not the best of days as whilst trying to repair the keyboard on my Roland Juno-D synthesizer, I broke the connectors between the keyboard and the main circuit board. Had I not got the Awakenings gig coming up in 6 weeks, I might have been inclined to try and sort it out. But, that is not meant to be, so I have sold it on as a "spares or repair" and I am on the look out for a new synth to replace it,

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Awakenings Live Set: 13th July 2013

And here we go!!!
 
The promotion has now started on-line for the next Awakenings Evening of Ambient and Electronic Music.
 
You can get tickets using the link below.
 
It's always a great evening of music, and I am quite thrilled to be billed alongside two leading UK exponents of the genre in Nick Robinson and AirSculpture. So, for £10, you get three acts performing live and a recording of the concert a few days later inclusive. That's called value that is.

We've already started preparing a one hour set that will be completely live with no backing tracks or computers, relying on hardware sequencers and synthesizers. Also thrown into the mix will be test signal generators, an Atari Punk Console unit, iPhones, iPods and even a Nintendo DS for good measure. Anything could happen!!! We're also working on a graphics backdrop to accompany the music, mixing up moving images and still images from my own photographic collection, those of my partner, Anne Mancini-Smith and maybe one or two others (if we get permission!!!).
 
If you've got a spare evening on that date, your support would be more than very welcome and it would be great to see you there.

AWAKENINGS

Friday, 10 May 2013

Another new look......

I was thinking that the white layout wasn't that good, so I changed it :-)
 
The excellent picture was taken a lovely Polish lady by the name of Aleksandra Przybylska whilst I was performing with Code Indigo when we head-lined last month's E-Day EM Festival in Holland.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Delayed Monotron Flange

A few of my Facebook chums have been suggesting that I post up videos of when I'm messing about in my wee studio and as I received the Behringer EM600 Echo Machine pedal today, I thought it would an ideal opportunity to do just that.
 
The EM600 is basically a delay effect that is made of 11 delays all packed into one single pedal. You have Ping Pong, Reverse, two different multi-delays, Tracking, Sweep, Swirl, Slap and three different tap modes, all of which are exciting ways to mangle your audio signal. The EM600 has the capability to emulate the acoustics of various real-world environments from cathedral-like echoes to cave-like echoes, and everything else in between. I've only had a quick play with it today and I have to say that for what I paid for it, I'm mighty impressed.
 
So, the video below shows me sending a signal from my Korg Monotron in an effects chain, and then using the effects to alter timbre and pitch. It's raw and unpolished, but quite effective (if you'll excuse the pun) and certainly gives rise for development of the idea.
 
The effects chain is as follows:
 
Korg Monotron - Behringer EM600 Echo Machine - Behringer UF300 Ultra Flanger -
Behringer DD600 Digital Delay - Peavey SRC2400 console. I then used a Boss RV-1000 digital reverb on an auxillery send channel. No compression or computer-based effects were used.
 
There is a Behringer VP1 Vintage Phaser also in the chain, but I didn't use it.
 
The Monotron was emitting an LFO driven pulse with the resonance to the max and the filter cut-off quite low so as to create the almost kick drum like sound.
 
I used the camera's own microphone hence the poor sound quality. I'm looking into recording audio properly.
 
Hope you enjoy my little cacophony of sound :-)
 
 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

OMD with John Foxx and the Maths

Through a bizarre series of events, I unexpectedly found myself on the train with author Stephen Roper travelling from my home city of Norwich to the Suffolk town of Ipswich to see Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark supported by my current favourites, John Foxx and the Maths in concert at the Regent Theatre.

Of note is that Stephen wrote a highly interesting book called "Backstage" which cover the career of Gary Numan from 1979 to 1981, it's well worth a read and contains interviews with various people who were connected with Numan at that time including John Foxx and Andy McCluskey. I was fortunate enough to get my copy signed by John, Andy and the other half of OMD, Paul Humphries. I 'm considering making it something of a mission to get the book signed by all the people that were interviewed in it.
 
Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Stephen and I arrived in Ipswich after a very enjoyable train journey, augmented by a bottle of a rather pleasant Pino Grigio wine, and made our way via taxi (the friendly driver was playing Kenny Ball on his CD player and that's NEVER a bad thing) to the Regent Theatre. During the taxi ride, we reminisced about the days when it was called the Ipswich Gaumont and all the bands we had seen there. Upon our arrival, we immediately made our way around the back of the venue because Stephen had arranged with OMD's Andy McCluskey to sign some copies of his book prior to the show, which involved two tickets for the show as well as access all areas passes. Okay, between the two of us, Stephen and I managed to turn this into a minor fiasco as we went to the wrong part of the building, leaving a very poorly Andy McCluskey waiting for us. After a couple of texts and a quick phone call, we got our bearings and found the entrance we should have gone to in the first place. There we were greeted by a security man who I would not want to argue with and we were taken through to see Andy. Despite being quite obviously unwell, he willingly signed the books (I took total advantage of the situation and got my copy signed as well - well why not?) and we talked briefly. Then, he went and brought through none other than John Foxx!!! Followers of my blog will know that Mr. Foxx is perhaps my favourite artist and to meet him again was quite a thrill. He was very charming, warm and friendly and we spoke for a few minutes about this and that, not least would he ever perform in Norwich again. Naturally, I got him to sign my copy of "Back Stage". I now look forward to the John Foxx and the Maths gig in Brighton on the 7th June 2013, where they will be supported by Vile Electrodes (who are supporting OMD in Germany this month!!!) and I will have a photo pass ;-)
 
We then made our way to the front of house to meet up with people I had previously met at a Gary Numan gig and also with the legendary Finnish man-about-Europe, Tapio Normall, before heading into the regent for the John Foxx and the Maths set. It was as good as expected. Powerful, current and an excellent performance. For me and my personal biases, I was wondering how OMD could be any better than this. When I first saw Foxxy and the Maths back in 2011, they were a four-piece, but now they comprise John Foxx (obviously), Ben "Benge" Edwards on electronic percussion and the rather gorgeous Hannah Peel on keyboards and violin. Every song was just right and a good balance between old and new material. Like I said, I'm biased, so for me it was always going to be good.
 
 
 
And then after a short break, it was time for OMD.
 
Now, I like OMD's music, but I would never describe myself as a big fan. Also, I'd never seen them live before this night. They were amazing. They were brilliant. I am now a fan. I was concerned for Andy McCluskey because when we met with him before the evening started, he was not well and he did not look well at all. You'd never know it was the same man. He's 6 years older than me and I tell you now, I wish I had a tenth of his energy!!! The set looked great, the band were well turned out and sound was pristine. the lighting was awesome and the performances were amongst the best I have ever seen from any band, new or old. OMD like to play their old stuff as well as their new and those songs felt as fresh that night as the first time I heard back in my dim and distant youth. Andy McCluskey is a proper showman, his "dancing" was entertaining (he often described it as "beautiful"), his connecting with the audience was spot on and his overall performance was outstanding. Paul Humphreys was the same, he doesn't have the "moves" and has something of a quieter manner in contrast to Andy's outgoing persona, but when he took centre stage for tracks like "Souvenir" and "(Forever) Live and Die", he mesmerised the audience and the roof nearly took off at the end of each song. They played the favourites such as "Messages", "Enola Gay", "Joan of Arc", "Maid of Orleans" and "Talking Loud and Clear", finishing up with the song that started it all for them, "Electricity". It was over all too quickly. From start to finish, it was pure, class performance and I can't rate them highly enough.
 

 
But it didn't end there. No. After a few minutes, we were taken back stage whereupon we met up again with Andy (who was looking much better) and also Paul Humphreys, with whom I enjoyed an interesting chat about music gear, which Paul seemed very enthusiastic about. After a short while, we said our goodbyes and Stephen and I were back on the train returning to Norwich.
 
It was a great evening all round. John Foxx and the Maths were simply excellent and it was a real pleasure to meet and chat with John Foxx. OMD were simply stunning, genuinely pleasant people to talk to and I am a convert. The two acts out-performed, in one evening, everyone I've ever seen live, before, during and after the main events, and that isn't something I say lightly. When you consider their statuses as pioneers of modern electronic music, and their respective achievements, it was so cool that they had time for Stephen and I, were interested in what we had to say and had no aloofness about them at all. The people impressed as much as the music and the performance. I wish I could say that about many others.
 
The morning after, I can tell you that I hit Amazon and downloaded some of the OMD albums that I didn't have.