Thursday, 18 December 2014

GTK Studio Update and general update......it's been a while!!!

Back in August, I spoke about the changes made to my GTK Studio, basically after three years of collecting a rather cool gamut of music hardware, I sold the lot within a fortnight and replaced it with software. Well, nearly four months down the line and not one micron of regret at all, simply because I came to realise that hardware is not the way forward for me personally and that I could achieve far more with software. The added space has been wonderful, allowing the body and the soul to properly breathe and as for the electricity bill......

Anyway, as I said, not one regret.

In addition to the hardware being sold off, I also changed the furniture, removing the 2 metre worktop that served as my desk and replacing it with a small £25 computer workstation that takes nothing more then my monitor, mouse and keyboard. My Alesis M1 Active 520 monitor speakers are now on purpose built stands and I replaced my Evolution MK-261 MIDI keyboard with an Evolution MK-461C MIDI keyboard, I wanted the extra pots and sliders on offer and it compliments the 4 octave version, the MK-441C, perfectly. With an added Akai LPD8 MIDI controller, I have a lot of control over my set up. Not all the hardware went. I've retained the little Korg Monotron synths, the signal generators and the effects pedals, actually adding a Behringer US600 Ultra Shifter/Harmonist to the collection. Alongside the new furniture, I've added some pretty cool new software synths and processors to the GTK Studio computer, all because the bargains have been flowing like a good wine - if you know where to look and are a little patient, you really can snaffle some truly awesome deals.

So here's a little run-down on what's new in the studio and what's now residing on the GTK Studio hard drive:

Akai LPD8 MIDI control pad:

Whilst I didn't feel the need to continue using hardware, I have still needed some form of external control for the software. The Novation series of ReMOTE controllers are too large and cumbersome for my minimalist requirements, so I was quite delighted to get this little controller from Akai. It has 8 pads which can be linked to things such as Native Instruments' Battery 3 drum sampler or the various sample players from Superwave that I use. It also has 8 pots that are very handy for controller different parameters on both software-based synths and effects/processing units. The biggest plus for me is it's size as I can comfortably use it on my smaller computer desk without it taking a lot of space.

Evolution MK-461C MIDI keyboard controller:

I've never made any secret of the fact that i am a big fan of the Evolution MIDI keyboard controller. I have four of them now and the latest addition was the 5 octave MK-461C keyboard. You mat be wondering why I would go for this, considering I already have the 4 octave MK-449C, which is essentially the same unit, Well, it is to do with the extra octave on the keyboard and there are extra controllers, which makes a difference. Being a piano player, I like to have as long a keyboard as possible - if Evolution had made a full size 88 note version, I would have it. And as I said at the beginning, the Evolutions are simply great keyboards. Straight-forward, no fuss, easy to use and will talk to anything you connect it to.


Behringer US600 Ultra Shifter/Harmonist:

I know I said that I wouldn't be getting anymore hardware, but I gave myself something of a get-out clause when I added that I would still be looking at effects pedals. And here we are with the latest addition to my little collection. The Behringer US600 is basically a pitch-shifter with added harmoniser, and whilst it is primarily designed for use with guitars, it works great with vocals. I got this as part of an multi-media art project I am working on with my partner, Anne Mancini-Smith.


GForce The Oddity 2 synthesizer:

I got the the first incarnation of The Oddity, a very highly regarded emulation of the classic ARP Odyssey synthesizer, a while back and it's been a workhorse synth. When I heard about this update, I was more than  little excited and had my money there ready as soon as I could for the pre-order. My enthusiasm was further fed after talking with one o it's creators, Dave Spiers, at the I Speak Machine performance held at the Southbank Centre in London at the end of September 2014, and also by conversations with Tim Dorney of the group Republica who used a beta version when republica played as guests on the Autumn 2014 Boomtown rats tour. When my download arrived and was duly installed, I was not disappointed in the slightest, and now consider it to be one of my main "go to" synths. In fact, it's made some of my other synths redundant, it's THAT versatile. I love GForce software and over the course of the coming year, I will be adding another couple of pieces to the collection


ReFX Vanguard:

I've always had a high regard for ReFX products, notably their Nexus 2 rompler and this little beauty, Vanguard. It's full on, it's brash and it's in your face. Interestingly, many people WRONGLY consider that it's main use is for dance/club/trance etc music, but it is in fact perfect for less "banging music" style genres, as very capably demonstrated by ne of my favourite sound designers, BigTone (I purchased the 3 available BigTone soundsets when I got Vanguard). The on-board arpeggiator and gate are highly useful and with a little attention to programming, can create some wonderfully cosmic sequency rhythmic tones, atmospheres and effects. I ran a couple of basic sequences using Vanguard alongside the Oddity 2, ImpOSCar 2 and Omnisphere - you'll hear it on the "Hollow Sun" ;-)


Waves Abbey Road EMI TG12345 channel strip:

I like Waves products, they look great. And when you get something that sounds as great as it looks, it's a real bonus. And this is one of those bonus things. The Abbey Road EMI TG12345 is a channel strip based on the legendary mixing console used at the Abbey Road Studios during the late 60's and the 70's. Notable albums recorded on these consoles were by the Beatles ("Abbey Road") and Pink Floyd ("The Dark Side of the Moon", "Wish You Were Here"). Comprising a wonderful EQ section and compressors that are simply amazing, the TG12345 channel strip provides a certain warmth, richness and character to your recordings, whilst retaining a lovely bright crisp sound.


Audio Damage RatShack Reverb:

Sometimes, you need something really shit in your arsenal and nothing comes much shitter than the RatShack reverb from the bonkersly brilliant Audio Damage. Now you may be asking yourself "what the hell?" and it is as you must, but when I use the term "shit" in this context, it's a good thing. The RatShack Reverb is based on the truly awful Realistic Electronic Reverb from U.S. electronics company Radio Shack, and is a very true emulation, right down to hum and distortion as well as feedback capabilities. The beauty of this plugin is that when pushed to extremes, the sonic possibilities are quite something. Even Audio damage themselves state that RatShack "accurately recreates the suck of the original" and even going as far as saying that "never before has a vintage effect of such low quality been as painstakingly modeled as Ratshack Reverb v2.0". That's just about the coolest sales pitch I have ever seen. And yeah, I love the Ratshack reverb.


GSi GS-201 tape echo:

Keeping the theme of vintage gear emulations, we now have the GS-201 from Italian software house GSi. The more musically inclined aong you will immediately see that it's a recreation of the fanous and huighly sought after Roland RE-201 Space Echo unit. Let me tell you that having used RE-201's in my past, this little plugin really does an amazing job and I cannot recommend it enough. Lots of nice little detail and one feature that really sold the GS-201 to me as the lack of tempo-synching to your DAW - just like using a real echo machine. The analog quality is there as are the little foibles associated with vintage echo units such as shifting pitch when increasing echo rate, self-oscillation , wow and flutter and signal degradation on higher feedback levels. For the price, this little plugin delivers the kind of results you would expect on more high end products. 


Eventide UltraChannel:

Eventide. A wonderful name. And a company that makes wonderful products. Wonderful products that aren't in the lower end of the budget by any stretch of the imagination. That said, there is a certain truth in that you get what you pay for and quality is almost guaranteed with an Eventide product. I nearly fell over when I saw that Eventide were, for a brief period of time, giving this channel strip away, and what's more is that it is a fantastic product. With the Abbey Road EMI TG12345 channel strip you have warmth and character, with the Eventide UltraChannel you have clarity, crispness and an amazing level of control over your tracking/mix in one unit.


XILS-lab XILS 3.2 LE synthesizer:

Another emulation of vintage gear, this time a terrific software version of the classic and revered EMS VCS 3 XILS-Lab. This is a cut-down version of a fuller product, but what's missing doesn;t take away from the sound at all, as it's more akin to the priginlal this way. When you eventually get a sound out o it, it's fantastic - yes it's a bastard to patch up, particularly if you're a newcomer to the madness that is the VCS 3. And I think that's a part of the sheer enjoyment of this product because when you start to get something out of it after hours of head scratching, it's an achievement. The built-in sequencer is a delight, particularly when used in conjunction with the on-board delay. For those Jean Michel-Jarre bubbley moments, this is the biscuit.


Steinberg Cubase Elements 7:

I am a confirmed Reaper user, but I have a lot of old files that were created using an older version of Cubase and now as my system is 64-bit I was having some difficulty in accessing them. So, I bit the bullet and rather than buy the full Cubase program, I got this cut down version. I can now access old music files and that makes me happy. Don;t get me wrong, Cubase is a good program, as is this Elements version, but i do prefer the less bloated and equally feature laden Reaper.


Acoustica Pianissimo:

I both wanted and needed a good strong piano plugin that didn't break the bank and wasn't sample-based. Now whilst Pianissimo is sample-based, it ticks the boxes in everything else and then some. It uses a very effective combination of samples and physical modeling that provides for an amazing acoustic grand piano sound. The samples were done using a Steinway Model D grand piano, and this coupled with some rather complex signal processing and programming, effectively recreates the warmth, response, and playability of a real grand piano. You get alot of control over many differnt parameters, 256 voices of polyphony, and CPU usage is surprisingly very low. I've tried out quite a few piano plugins and I have to say that Pianissimo is one of the very best.
 

Minimal Systems Group Pro Gate:

A very simple piece of software but one that does exactly what it says n the tin, and does it so incredibly well. I've enjoyed using the Pro Gate on everything from drums to vocals to synth sequences and just about everything in between and each time, the pro gate comes but with the goods. Don't be put off by the low price, it's a premium quality product.


Minimal Systems Group Pro Channel:

I'm a massive fan of the Minimal System Group's products - I have quite a few of them on my system and use them all the time. Another channel strip and this one is as good as the Waves and Eventide. A big statement, but that's what I think based upon what I have experienced with this budget plugin that gives so much more than it promises. A high level of control over your sound, warmth, character and a certain sound quality that sets this aside from many of the other similar products on the market. The price is jaw-dropping and I have had nothing but great service and communications with MSG.


Minimal Systems Group Mastering Limiter:

Another excellent MSG product that sits on the master output channel and takes care of proceedings nicely. Coupled with the Waves C4 multi-band compressor and the MSG Pro EQ, the Mastering Limiter is a valuable piece of kit in my mastering chain.


Illformed Glitch 2:

Now here's a serious bit of sound-mangling kit, Clitch 2. The name is a massive clue as what this wee plugin is about and boy does it deliver. I used the first freeware version and loved it's chaos, it's lunacy and it's unashamedly destructive capabilities. This second commercial affair takes the originakl to new heights without falling down when you get there. Sharp, aggressive and satanically brilliant. get it. End of story.


IK Multimedia Vintage Compressors Bundle:

Completing my collection of processing plugins is this utterly excellent bundle from IK Multimedia. Comprising three emulations of classic compressors along with a compressor that has what one would consider to the best features of the ideal opto-compressor. On the emulation front are what are considered to be amongst the best software versions of the classic Urei 1176 Limiting Amplifier and Tectronix LA-2A Levelling Amplifier and the absolute holy grail of compressors, the legendary Fairchild 670. My initial fiddlings with these plugins have been a sheer pleasure and I fully get everything the reviews say about them. Used in conjunction with other products such as the Waves Abbey Road EMI TG12345, the MSG Pro Channel and the Eventide UltraChannel, theses compressors provide a wicked pallette of opportunities to create some very sweet sounding mixes. And yes, IK Multimedia are another company that I really like.


Tara Busch of I Speak Machine
And of course I have been majorly busy with photography, in particular, concert photography. Over the last year, I have had some amazing opportunities to photograph some fabulous performers including Midge Ure, Depeche Mode, Hazel O'Connor, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and The Meteors to name but a few. And in all of this I have got to meet some truly amazing people - the afore-mentioned Hazel O'Connor, the eternally fab Radiophonic Workshop and a leading light in modern electronic music, Tara Busch, along with her husband, film-maker Maf Lewis, who collectively perform as I Speak Machine. You can see my collection of concert photographs om my Flickr page by clicking HERE. I have a few concert dates lined up in 2015, the most exciting of which wil be to spend the day with electronic music supergroup, Node, at the Royal College of Music in London on the 27th February as they prepare for their concert that evening.

Radiophonic Workshop


Hazel O'Connor 
Bruce Watson - Big Country
John Cooper Clarke 
Grandmaster Flash
Bob Geldof - Boomtown Rats
I am still working away at the Review Elektro website, and I have to tell you that it is coming along nicely. The planned January 1st 2015 launch date is still on course ;-)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

New project: REVIEW ELEKTRO

Those of you who know me know that I’m a man with a passion for music and photography. And for those of you who don't know me, you need to know that I’m a man with a passion for music and photography.
 
And it's that symbiosis of passions that spurred me to move forward with something I've been wanting to do, on a personal level, for some time - a review-based website.
 
I've been wanting to do a review website that has a bias towards electronic music (something I know a little bit about) and also a bias towards arts, performance and music in East Anglia (something I'm very interested in). We have a lot going on in this part of the country, what with music/arts festivals of all shapes and sizes, dance troupes of all kinds, music venues large and small, street theatre etc etc etc. And I see very little of it getting the attention the big wide world outside of the region. And that's where my ambition for my review website lies, to report to the world as much of the fab things we have going on.
 
To kind of give you something of my background (this involves me being serious for a moment - and you need to know it hurts!!!), I’m a freelance music photographer with a growing reputation (take that as you will) and I’ve been told I am a “recognised” musician in my own right, (I’ve released my own music through a leading independent label and performed gigs myself in both the U.K and Europe). My name is also “known” within the U.K./European electronic music scene, not just the synth-pop stuff, but also the broader scene that encompasses the experimental and ambient electronic. I have a very wide-range of musical tastes and can listen to and appreciate pretty much anything thrown at me, despite my advancing years (49 years old at the time of writing in October 2014 – may not have been a good move to mention that).
 
In terms of what my writing abilities and style are, well, in all truthfulness, bugger all at the moment, other than this here crazy personal blog that contains a couple of album/gig reviews alongside my inane ramblings, however, I have been told I have a good writing style that is clear and to the point. If you're not a follower of this blog, you will soon realise that I have an opinion and whilst that isn't always a good thing, if channelled in a positive way, drawing on personal skills and experience, I believe that voicing an opinion can be a good thing. As always, within anything I do, there will always be a bit of candour, a good few facts and a large injection humour – and photographs. I like to think reasonably good photographs as well (does that sound too big-headed?). When I’m at an event, I really do like to get in amongst it all, soak up the atmosphere and take in as much of the occasion as I can and to add a little extra to a review, I try to get talking with the people attending to get, and to give, a broader view of the proceedings.
 
The review website had to incorporate some of my photography, as well as the written word, to broaden the scope of the content and add a little more interest. As stated above, one of my main aims with a review website is to focus on the East Anglian region as much as possible because, quite simply, it gets very little exposure from what I have seen, so I’m looking at the lesser known groups/musos as well as/as much as the bigger names – to me the latter would be padding and I suppose, something of a “draw” to the site to gain interest.
 
Why am I doing it? As I said at the beginning of this piece, very simply because I love music, arts and performance. I want to be as much a part of a local scene as I can and hopefully, make a small idea a big success that will maybe help a few people, as well as myself, on the way. And by doing this as an independent, and even though I will have something of a leaning towards electronic music, I can’t see any real restraints as to what or who gets reviewed, apart from my own availability.
 
I’ve been given the most fabulous springboard courtesy of Epic Studios in the Norfolk city of Norwich. Having done a fair bit of photographist things there,  I know the venue and the people there quite well. They provide a fantastic launch pad to local musicians, young and old, as well supporting the local Access To Music centre (of which my son is studying for a music performance diploma) that's is situated in a part of their premises. They offer a range of services and facilities, including live video streaming, that are quite frankly unrivalled in the area. And it has to be said that they have one of the best sounding auditoriums in the region. The ethos of Epic Studios really chimes with one of my aims for the review website, because as I said above, I’m as interested in the lesser-known as much as the well-known, with a genuine desire to help provide/add a new and more local voice to the overall U.K. music/performance scene for the region (as a whole eventually), and Epic Studios will be going a long way to give me my launch pad alongside those up-and-coming performers.
 
Within the next week or so, the website will be live and it will be called REVIEW ELEKTRO. A simple name for a very simple looking site that's very easy to navigate and very easy on the eye. No gimmicks, no ads, no distractions, just easily searchable reviews and pictures, and who knows, maybe a video clip or two. I hope you will enjoy the site and the content. In advance of Review Elektro going live, I've prepared Facebook and Twitter pages. Please do pop over to the Facebook page and say hello, link up with us on Twitter and we love to get the occasional e-mail, particularly if you have something nice to say. Here are the links:
 
 
 
With regard to the focus and content of the review website, it'll be mainly about electronic music, gigs and electronic music album reviews. But, there will also be reviews and photographs of different aspects of performance art from belly dancing and street theatre, to recitals and exhibitions. If it's East Anglia, if it's art and if I can get there, it'll be on the website. And please don't forget, a review website will always be what it is, one person's opinion and nothing more, and it will have what I choose to put on it. But, I like to think that maybe, just maybe, I might be a little help to others in their arts performance journey.
 
If music is indeed the food of love, then Review Elektro could possibly be your local takeaway ;-)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Oh, what have I done............???!!!

I am a creature of change, I love change and I don't fear change in the slightest. 2014 has already seen a few changes in my life and surrounding parameters, there's still more change to come and there has been something of a drastic change occurring over the last couple of weeks. That drastic, and I have to admit, completely unforeseen change has been to the GTK Studio. And I really do mean drastic.
 
Those of you who follow this wee bloggy thing of mine will know that I've spent three years buying and selling, wheeling and dealing and ducking and diving to get together a synthesizer-based hardware set up that would serve me for live use. As things changed around me, such as my departure from Code Indigo (Code Indigo was the main reason for getting the hardware), moving away from AD Music and the prospect of moving house in the next year or so, the need for that hardware became significantly diminished. I've had howls of despair and anguish from those around me who found great joy and pleasure sitting in my little studio, surrounded by synths, mixers and other musical gadgetry, but as I had to remind them, the GTK Studio was put together for me, for my use, for my enjoyment and for my needs. And now, seemingly over-night some would say, I simply don't have the need for hardware as I did not so long ago, and yes, three years of collecting has been travelling to various parts of the U.K. - I'm not overly precious about things and when I have need for something new or different, I use what I have to get what fits my need.
 
Not all of it is going. The Monotrons, the signal generators, the effects pedals and some of the rack gear remains. But the synths are no more. I've decided that I was happier and felt more creative when I was software only, and that is pretty much how it's gone. The sale of the synthesizers, the Peavey console and the Korg Electribes are funding a new look studio and new pieces of software, one of which is definitely a modern classic.
 
So, it's safe to say that I've pretty much gone back to where I started in terms of being software-based, with little in the way of hardware. I've retrieved my old Evolution MK-261 MIDI keyboard controller from the garage, an older model, but I have always liked the Evolution series, they are more then very capable of doing what I need from them and they are available at a good price now. As a companion to the MK-261, I've re-introduced my trusty old Evolution MK-449C MIDI keyboard controller into the set up - the MK-449C has four octaves with multiple assignable buttons, sliders and pots. The MK-449C was my very first MIDI keyboard when I re-entered the music world back in 2006 and has been in use the whole time - nice to see it take a permanent position back on the keyboard stand with it's larger sibling.

On the software front, I've got some new soft-synth additions, one of which is a major investment in an utterly amazing product from U.S. software house Spectrasonics: the mighty and the unspeakably incredible Omnisphere. I've hankered after Omnisphere for a long time. I now have it. Next up is the jaw-droppingly awesome ImpOSCar 2 from UK software house, GForce. It has a powerful sound and is considered to be one fo the best software emulations of a classic synthesizer going - I've only had a couple of hours with the ImpOSCar 2 and I get the hype. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it works alongside the massive sounds of Omnisphere, to my mind, this scenario shows the ImpOSCar 2 and Omnisphere to be very much a sort of David and Goliath of the soft-synth world and the ImpOSCar 2 shines through a mix beautifully. With these two synths, I'm hoping that they will help to take my music to a new level, particularly when used alongside the Alchemy player and related sound libraries. I have also added the rather excellent CS80V from Arturia - a very full sounding and expressive VSTi and I think a brilliant facsimilie of the original. Naturally, there will be those who disagree, but you know what, I don't care!!! Also joining the GTK Studio software mob are three Reaktor ensembles from UK based Everything Turns. These three gizmos are MoGi, TRanz8ight4 and ScatterVerb. MoGi is a weirded out modelling synthesis sound generator - very strange, lots of modulation and no oscillators!!! TRanz8ight4 is an analog percussive sequencer/loop generator that makes all manner of clicky clacky and seriously boomtastic rhythms and loops. And last, but not least from ET, ScatterVerb, which is a modulated filtered reverb and loop generator - this little beastie can do some amazing things and I'm looking forward to getting jiggy with it very soon. I'm a big fan of a German developer called Wolfgang Krumme - he releases his gizmos under the name of WOK VST - and so I splunged a few Earth pounds on three of his products. D-Arp is a two-channel MIDI arpeggiator, capable of triggering both software and hardware synths, could be highly useful. Next up from WOK VST I have X-Phaser which is a dual phaser plugin which is highly tweakable and the demos sounds rather luscious. And finally, a surprisingly bad-ass soft-synth called SAM (Sequencer Addon Module) which is an emulation of the classic Oberheim SEM synth module, first produced in 1974 - I've had a couple of hours with ti this evening and it is a serious piece of programming. So, plenty of new toys to be getting on with!!! :-D

 

 

 
And all of a sudden, I have space - room to move and breathe!!!

For the studio, I bought some new speaker stands for my Alesis M1 Active 520 monitors and foam isolation pads to put them on - this has really made the sound so much clearer and gives a little more idea of what's going on frequency wise. Ideally, it would have been nice to have got some proper acoustic tiles and bass traps, but that isn't possible at this time. So, when I does change, I does change. I wanted and needed openness, space and light, the ability to walk into the studio, immediately feel at ease and be able to breathe both physically and spiritually. I also wanted a contemporary feel to my surroundings - a studio that doesn't come across immediately as a studio, but a place to create music and work on photographs in an environment that reflects my moods and states of mind.
 
I really enjoyed having the hardware, it was fun to have and to look at, but what's the point when it's not really being used to it's full potential. The gear was bought for a reason, that reason stopped being what it was and so the natural thing, as with all things in life, is to move on and evolve, and that's exactly what I've done, so welcome to the new GTK Studio :-)

Sunday, 13 July 2014

F/R-F: "Structures of Paradise" album released

One year ago today, I had the privilege to perform alongside my (then 14 years old) son, Callum Raeburn -Fellowes, at a quarterly event called Awakenings Evening of Ambient and Electronic Music. This event is held in the Staffordshire town of Branston (yes, where the pickle comes from) and gives electronic music artists of all levels the chance to perform their material. It's a very well organised event and I have been to several of them, each as enjoyable as the other. Callum and I were very pleasantly surprised by the highly positive reaction to our one hour set, and during our 5 hour drive home we decided that we would together a studio version of our performance.
 
And that album has been released today, via download site, Bandcamp.
 
We're very pleased and proud of "Structures of Paradise", released under the name of F/R-F.
 
 
 
It's available as a digital download with an accompanying .pdf document for £7 and you can purchase it by clicking on the link below:
 
 
 
The album is comprised of recordings that Callum and I made during our two week rehearsals leading up to the performance, stereo recordings made on the night of the event through the venue's mixing desk and some studio elements added over the last year in my studio. The album was produced and mixed in my GTK Studio and I would say that we've achieved roughly a 50/50 balance between the live and studio elements.
 
The premise of the album is about the evolution of the Earth, from birth through to death, split into three parts:
 
1. Creation of Paradise - the birth of our home world and the beginnings of life
 
2. Paradise Consumed - the growth of humanity and its' plundering of the all that the Earth gives us, not just in industrial terms, but also sociologically, represented by the sound bytes of David Cameron telling us to spend more, consume more and reminding that only the rich get what they want, layered with the voice of George Osborne (made to sound like a Dalek), telling the Children of Wealth to "divide, denounce and demonise". The devouring of the world on every level by the locust-like homo sapians
 
3. Paradise Lost - when the "great and good" have all but destroyed our societies turning man against man, when the world has been plundered of its' resources to the brink of collapse and when there's nothing left but to wage war leading, ultimately, to the destruction of the our wonderous home world, the last shards of the planet dissolving into space

Friday, 11 July 2014

EDGE......a new (old) album

Today sees a rather low-key release of a new album of avant-garde experimental electronic music from me called "Edge", my first full album using Bandcamp.
 
If you read this blog, you'll know that back in 2012, I did three tracks with the same title. Well, I thought to have a bit of a clean up on my Bandcamp page and decided to repackage the three tracks as a single album.
 
As I said in the opening paragraph, "Edge" is a one hour album of avant-garde electronic music, set out over three tracks. This means it's not what you could really describe as "easy listening". "Edge" is a sonic exploration that teeters on the edge of tonality, and ventures beyond that point in to a dissonant atonal realm. As well as the three tracks, there's also a little .pdf document.
 
"Edge" was inspired by the experimentalists of old such as Edgard Varèse, Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as their modern contemporaries such as Matthias Schuster and Rod Mitchell (Atomic Shadow).
 
Challenge your mind and your listening capabilities and take a walk on the weird side of electronic music, you might just like it ;-)
 
You can get "Edge" HERE

Neil Fellowes: Edge (2014)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

AD Music and Geigertek

Just a quick post to say that AD Music and I have today parted company.
 
I'm afraid I can't report any great scandalous story, salacious gossip or epic rock 'n' roll out-fallings, it's just a very simple case of new directions. I will be eternally grateful to David and Elaine Wright for giving me such a massive start in this music biz thing and for some of the best memories and laughs ever. It's been a blast.
 
And, as another aspect of the gentle ending of this particular chapter, it's also now the right time to draw a close to the Geigertek project, which I started back in 2006 with my old friend from Germany, Conrad Schmidt, so there'll be no further releases under this name
 
The writing and recording of the "Hollow Sun" album will continue, and in due time, there will be new material with my son Callum Raeburn-Fellowes under the F/R-F monicker, and with Dean Burnett as Weathered Wall.
 
All Geigertek releases through AD Music remain as they are, and are readily available from the AD Music website and pretty much every on-line retailer :-)
 
Time to say goodbye, horizons are never far......

Monday, 7 July 2014

A new release for Friday 11th July 2014......

I was having a trawl through the music folders on my computer drives and also my Bandcamp page, when I noticed that a trio of pieces I did back in 2012, actually constituted enough material for an album.
 
So, on Friday 11th July 2014, I will be releasing an album called "Edge", which is made up of three 20 minute pieces of a very abstract/avant-garde electronic dronescapes. I created the three pieces using a combination of hardware and software sound sources, mixed together through my Peavey console for a nice warm sound into the continually excellent Reaper 4 digital audio workstation.
 
I'll be releasing "Edge" through Bandcamp as a download only, but I've included a small .pdf document, and I'll post the URL for it on Friday :-)

Here's the cover:

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Structures of Paradise......

Just a quick reminder that the first release by my son, Callum Raeburn-Fellowes, and myself under the name F/R-F will available a week from today, and that release date is Sunday 13th July 2014 :-)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Structures of Paradise update

Work continues on the "Structures of Paradise" album, which is a collaboration with my son, Callum Raeburn-Fellowes, based upon a live set we performed last year at a regular event known as the Awakenings Evening of Electronic and Ambient Music.

We had hoped to have released this album before now, but a series of family matters had to take priority. That said, we are aiming to release it on Sunday 13th July 2014. We have chosen this date as it will then be exactly one year since our Awakenings performance.

I am currently rendering the individual tracks of the third part of the album audio, ready for final mixing and mastering.

We are preparing artwork and my good friend Simon Watson, will taking the photos we'll need for the album, as well as a website we are preparing and a Facebook page.

Our first artwork draft showed us that having our individual names together on the front cover was a bit long-winded, so on the suggestion of another pal and fellow muso, Duncan Goddard, we will be releasing the album under the name F/R-F.

After much deliberation and a look at our finances, we are opting for a digital download only release. This is because the cost of producing CDs is simply too expensive for us and we want this music out there sooner rather than later. A few people have commented on this to us, but at the end of the day, this is how it has to be, unless someone out there wants to sponsor the money for CD production. Even though we cannot guarantee a return.

There'll be a few more updates in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Last bit of gear……

It seems that the expression “this will be the last bit of gear” has turned into something of a running joke in my family and between my friends. However, this time, I really do mean it and simply because there is nothing else I now need. The GTK Studio is fully stocked Smile
 
So, the new addition.
 
It’s a Steinberg Midex8 USB MIDI interface and it's the bottom unit in the pic below:
 
 
 
“But you’ve already got a MIDI interface!!!” I hear you cry. And yes, you are quite right as I have been using an Emagic AMT-8 USB MIDI interface, but the on-going problem I’ve had with it is that it’s not Windows 7 64-bit compatible and I have had to make use of an old Windows XP PC purely to run the MIDI.
 
The issue has been that when Apple bought out Emagic, they stopped supporting these amazing products and that of course is what Apple does – forces you into buying new stuff that you don’t necessarily want/need/can afford by either not supporting or changing stuff on newer products thereby making older stuff totally redundant. I really don’t like that type of practice and it's one of the reasons why I will forever resist buying Apple products. Over-priced and shamefully lacking in customer focus. Plus, I have found that equivalent products within the worlds of the PC and Android are just as good and at a significantly lower cost. I certainly won’t be parting with more cash than I need to just to be a part of the flock. Steinberg on the other hand, unofficially released the 64-bit drivers for their discontinued Midex8 some 3 years ago. That’s smart thinking, allows people to continue using products they are familiar with and is a good way to keep the customers happy, thereby possibly shoring up their customer base.
 
Anyway, enough of the ranting. The bottom line is that an opportunity arose to acquire the Midex8 at a VERY good price (you know me and my bargains) and I took it. It arrived yesterday morning, I plumbed it in to the system yesterday afternoon and last night, going into the VERY early hours of this morning, I had it doing the job it was built to do. I like that it doesn't need a power supply, my system is powerful enough to support it power-wise and whilst it's mainly plastic and therefore quite light in weight, it does seem to be quite sturdy. It looks great, was a doddle to install and everything seems to be happily running with Reaper 4 handling the data side of things and the Midex8 dishing out the data to the gear.
 
The GTK Studio is finally complete Smile
 
And there you have it, the last bit of kit. Now perhaps, I can get on with some music!!!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Stephen Howell

In the early hours of this morning, my friend Stephen Howell passed away. A wife and daughter lost a husband and a father and for the rest of us, we've lost a fabulous, inspirational and influential gentleman.
 
Stephen was an amazingly kind-hearted, generous and talented man whose ideas and concepts for modern products for modern musicians have been without equal in my view. He’s a real un-sung hero of modern music technology and leaves behind a wonderous and lengthy legacy within the music industry through his work with Akai and Alesis. He was highly instrumental in creating and shaping the factory sample libraries and user interface designs of many of the Akai S-series hardware samplers in a time where there didn’t exist any software equivalents and was responsible for the incredible soundsets made for the Alesis Fusion synthesizer. He was highly regarded and well respected within the industry, working with people such as Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Holly Johnson, to name but a few. If that wasn’t enough, he also taught at the Kingston School of Music Recording Technology.
 
Stephen was also a good friend, an inspiration and a mentor to a great many people, always happy to share his insights, experience and knowledge, but never with an ounce of ego. Under his Hollow Sun hat (a tan Fedora, you need to know that), the Kontakt-based sample libraries he created are a totally amazing collection of highly innovative, unusual and original instruments that far surpass many of the highly-priced packages you see on the market these days in terms of quality and cost. He really gave us musos an awful lot for very little in return. Stephen wasn’t motivated by money, he was more interested in getting his ideas out to the people that wanted them than he was making a fast/big buck.
 
Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have been working on the next Geigertek album, which will be called “Hollow Sun”. This will continue and the album will be dedicated to Stephen. The inspiration for the title came from this quirky little software house called Hollow Sun. I loved the name and I love the products it created. I was lucky enough to get to know the man behind the name.
I visited him at his HQ in the gorgeous South Wales town of Cowbridge back in November of 2012. where we talked all through the night, messed about with a couple of pending products (“Pulstar” and “Sounds of the Universe”) and took a series of photographs that Stephen used on the HS website and his various Internet haunts, based upon images created by the artist Rene Magritte, of whom Stephen was a massive fan. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs whilst taking the pics and he enjoyed all the posing and generally being Stephen throughout. I’ve been reading the e-mails he wrote to me after I sent him the finished images, and those words help to dampen the sadness I feel today, as he was so happy with them and used them extensively on the Hollow Sun website and his various internet haunts. You can see the full set HERE.
One of the many enduring memories I have of this man is his love for his daughter Alice. Alice is an accomplished musician in her own right and every single communication I had with Stephen always, I mean always, had a paragraph or three about Alice. You often had the feeling that if he were to get any prouder of her, he would spontaneously combust. He would also tell you that Alice was his greatest musical achievement.
So, it’s a heavy-hearted farewell to a friend who for me was the finest, warmest, generous, kind-hearted, intelligent, bonkers-mad, sweary, loud, funny, insightful, clever, musical and courteous example of a Welsh gentleman living in a 400 year old abode with his synthesizers, computer, pipe and Fedora hat that any man, woman or alien lifeform could ever wish to meet.
 
Wherever he is now, I hope to f*ck that they’re ready for him!!!




Thursday, 22 May 2014

GTK Studio Telephone Exchange Project Part Two

A very busy morning in other parts of my life came to happy and successful conclusion when I finally got home to find that the 20 jack leads I ordered yesterday had arrived – great service from Armstrong Guitars!!!
 
So, after a spot of lunch and a bit of a chin wag with my good lady, I went into the GTK Studio to start the daunting process of a complete studio re-wire, as outlined in the previous post HERE.
 
The main thrust of today’s activities was to disconnect all the hardware synths and effects audio connections, then pile up the leads so that I could sort them out into their respective lengths etc. Let me tell you here and now, it made a mess and at times, I felt as though the leads were going to come to life and consume me!!!


 

This was done a lot quicker than I had anticipated, so once I had the all leads sorted, I set about connecting the line-in leads from the Peavey mixing console to the first patchbay. I have to say that it looks quite neat, and I’m quite taken with the line of silver connections.


More tomorrow Winking smile

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

GTK Studio Telephone Exchange Project Part One

So here’s the thing. I’ve got a good few synths and effects units, as well as a couple of really nice mixers now and I really want to get the best possible use out of all of them. But I don’t want to be wasting time and trying my short-lined patience levels having to reach round the backs of things hooking up a synth to a flanger or a signal generator to a digital delay. Yes, my Peavey mixing console has 6 auxillary sends, but I have more then 6 effects units. My answer, and probably  a very obvious one to recording folk the world over, is to put together a patching system that incorporates everything so that I can route everything, using, as the title of this post suggests, a telephone exchange type set up.
 
My thinking and, hopefully, execution of this latest ingenious plan of mine has been inspired by the patch bay set up that I saw in the studio of Ben “Benge” Edwards back in 2011 (see HERE). In an interview he did with the rather splendid Metamatic website, he explained that the equipment in his studio is “connected up to a big patch bay, the idea being that you can then use short patch cords to make connections between things, and you can combine them together in interesting ways. For example, if you want to play a Minimoog synth through an MXR flanger and then put that sound through a tape delay and then send the result to a compressor and distortion box, then you don't need to scrabble about round the back of the equipment and change all the leads around, they are all ready connected to the patch bay, so you can just use four short cables and you have a brand new set of sounds. Everything is labelled up on the patch bay using a number code and then there is a sheet with all the relevant instruments and effects units.
 
This is exactly the type of thing I want and, I suppose, need for my little studio to work to it’s maximum capacity.
 
I have to tell you that this project is daunting stuff as I don’t have a brain that sees logical pathways, and the thought of all that cabling!!! However, the means will certainly justify the ends and the creative potential really is just too powerful to resist.
 
Thanks to my good pal Ross Lamond I now have a couple of extra patch bays to add to my existing Behringer one, so I now have the means to create this little behemoth of a set up. The idea is to route everything, including auxillary sends, using the patch bays in the afore-mentioned telephone exchange manner – think of it as East Cheam (Roland Juno-D) being connected to Piccadilly (Alesis NanoVerb) via Stepney (Behringer Ultra Flanger) on something of a party line.
 
As it stands at the moment, the 3 patch bays currently reside in my main rack under the Peavey console. I’m contemplating taking them and the AMT8 MIDI interface out of the rack and putting them into a 4U metal case and placing that ABOVE the Peavey on a stand or wall brackets. That’ll give me better access to the telephone exchange rather than having to bend down or get on my knees when I want to [lay around with routing (I’m not old but I’m getting any younger!!!).
 
Here’s a picture of the current set up:
 
 
Next installment coming soon!!!