Keep it out of the fucking red

Pioneer_cr
(Image borrowed and cropped from the m8 do you even compress fb page, which BTW I strongly recommend for music production/DJing related humor)

No please, seriously; if the DJ playing before you is playing in the red, don’t just do the same mistake yourself, grab a long rubber hose and beat him unconscious, if there is a microphone, grab it, and have the joyful  crowd hear him screaming for your mercy, of which of course you should give none in this case.

Being there such a majority of redliners among djs, and being people today somehow used to that squared/distorted sound, some of your crowd, especially the ones closer to the speakers might ask for more volume, but if you give those people what they want, you’ll do no good to your set. What you’ll do is screw up the things for anyone with some hearing left and/or a bit of taste.

Seriously, why would you take gain structure advice from someone who stands at a meter or less from a cranked up 20Kw soundsystem without a pair of earplugs? Maybe they’ll be pissed, but the rest of your crowd will be thankful, and, if wherever you’re playing there is a sound engineer or someone doing that job, you’ll probably earn his respect; they usually expect DJs to be apes with no understanding at all, they actually tell horror stories about Djs to each other; someone who can manage his/her levels will probably be a very welcome surprise.

On a sidenote, if you, like some DJs can’t tell the difference, and are actually happy with the mixer all cranked up, and ALL the red leds steadily on,  please, look for work elsewhere; not saying you couldn’t tell if the levels are ok or not by just looking on the mixer in a decently set system, unless you’re also blind, but in an time when everyone or so is DJing, probably many shouldn’t, and if your ears can’t tell the difference, you’re probably one of those.
Luckily enough some guy from DjCity already managed to make a decent video explaining the basics of level management on most DJ mixers, so I don’t have to get into the technical details

 

I doubt I could add much to what Mojaxx said in that video

mannerism in a box and the curse of genres.

There is almost no questioning the idea that music is, or should be art; somehow beyond its simpler entertainment value; and unfortunately, just like visual art, performing art and other forms, it does at time get beyond the understanding of the spectator, or listener in this case.

Just like with other forms of art, critics, journalists, or even more questionable know-it-alls have spent a huge amount of time and words trying to classify EVERYTHING, so that people can do without listening and thinking for themselves, taking a liking to the box rather than to whatever’s in it.
You can’t make a track, an album or anything else without it falling into one box or another, or well, you can, but hoping that will reach a significant number of ears if you’re not already a big name with a big crowd of followers get even slimmer if you don’t put it into a box.
People with a liking for that box will listen to it, and probably like it even if it is a boring compilation of ultra-compressed genre oriented samples with really no energy of its own.

More interestingly, or worriyngly, music has had an important cultural role in the last decades; people culturally identify with music, the various human sub cultures have their music of choice, and often also a strong hatred of anything different from it, especially if it is different but not-so-different.
In the ’90s I used to play keyboards in a symphonic power metal band, and in those years it seemed the rift between power metal and black metal was incredibly deep; wouldn’t say they hated each other, but they were usually talking shit one about the other, considering the other genre dull, boring, repetitive or worse, while to the ears of any non-metalhead, the difference was at times barely noticeable.
In the modern electronic scene, you see the same thing or worse; the various sub-genres of EDM are so similar, yet so distant. It seems like it is a fashionable statement  to say “I fucking hate dubstep”, with no understanding that the definition of the genre itself doesn’t have such sharp borders; yes, there are of course the dreaded subgenres, and someone would even claim there is something like a post-dubstep, and some other people with a similar love for beatslicers, lasers and dinosaurs would call their own music glitch, probably just to feel cool enough to say “yeah, I fucking hate dubstep, I only make glitch”.

Some people listen, for some people music is art, energy, emotion, but they’re unfortunately a small minority, for so many people music is a piece of their cultural identity; less than a year ago, I met a darkpsy fan, who claimed he had an open mentality, and could really listen to anything; I had him listen to some of my music, which I introduced as some sort of techno; he didn’t like it, he had lots of complaints about my superficial sound design, obvious transitions, lack of emotion and he went to quite some lengths to make his harsh critique. Just a couple of days later, I had him listen to the very same track, which, for purely experimental purposes I introduced as “Zenonesque”… guess what, he liked it, he thought it was original and interesting, much better than the one I had him listen 2 days before.
The problem is that somehow, when some new sounds reach the ears of a listener today, he or she isn’t usually that focused on listening, if they don’t know it, the big question bouncing around their head is “should I like it?” “is it culturally acceptable for me to like it?”

The acronym EDM, which I believe was born originally to be a sort of a macro container “electronic dance music” embracing every sort of danceable beats made with electronic means, from Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder to big names of today, passing through Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, Goa, Milan, Melbourne and countless other countries and styles, ended up horribly failing; just doing some internet research you’ll find different and conflicting definitions, and in some EDM groups you might find people, or even DJs say things such as “fuck EDM. Some might say they don’t like the macro container, because they like the idea of segregated boxes with their own trademark characteristics, but I believe many more really don’t understand what they’re writing.

It seems history keeps repeating itself; what was originated as progressive rock,  an attempt to blend the instruments and sounds of rock with other ideas and things, ended up becoming a container for music made by people wanting to show off their technique in furious fast scales, unexpected changes, odd tempo signatures and the like, becoming a series of boring copies of itself; and the word “progressive” went so overused that today means absolutely nothing.


Even worse was the downfall of fusion, looking at the same artists; Chick Corea for example made wonderful and colorful things in the 70s with Return to Forever, and at the end of the decade an album which I consider his masterpiece, “my spanish heart”, just to gift us in the 80s with a picture of himself in a tracksuit with red trainers and a keytar… oh, and albums which were basically collections of technical exercises.

 


chick

(no, I won’t make any music example of “chick corea elektric band, I felt guilty enough of buying a CD at full price almost 2 decades ago, I’m not giving that crap a youtube hit more…. besides, have you seen the fucking picture?)

The same happened to the word “crossover” being born as a non-container for contaminated music, and quickly becoming a genre with a well defined set of allowed contaminations, becoming sort of a genre of its own, or splitting into rap-metal, Nu-metal, post rock and more fantasy names.

There is something good about classifying music in genres; if you, and reasonably so have your own preferences, and want to look for something not so much unlike something you like, these labels really help you out; art directors and labels have an easier time making sense of what they do, but somehow, it terribly shrinks the creative space for musicians, who apparently seem stuck between being session men, playing in cover bands or begging attention from labels,  producers, who struggle to make tracks that make sense in a box, and dismiss good ideas just because they sound a bit different, and DJs too as some interesting transitions end up being sort of forbidden for fear of upsetting the crowd.

How should it be then?
Well, I have no idea, genres are a desperate attempt to describe with words things meant to be listened directly, which is sort of calling for a Babel of misunderstandings and inappropriate definitions; but I think there is something every single person, listener, musician, dj, art director or producer can do: LISTENING TO THE FUCKING MUSIC.

we can’t change the way others perceive music, but we can enrich our own experience by keeping our mind open; some might say nothing new ever happens, but it does; contamination, new technologies, or just simple good ideas happen from time to time; the only way you’re going to find your new favourite thing is being a music omnivore.

A taste of the deep waters

Well, it seems I’ve been making a few tracks with an oceanlike theme, and I hope to put them all together in an Album sometime soon. This is the first of those tracks, the others will be exploring different aspects of the theme from dark deep grooves to fresh bouncy chords and colorful drones.

The Virus TI. I had it, I loved it. I sold it.

But why so?

 

IoVirus

(here in this self celebrative pic, you can admire me playing the Virus on stage)

The Virus TI2 has been for a while, and still is, the latest installment in the now classic series of synthesizers from Access. It comes with an incredible pedigree; appeared on countless stages, tracks unnumbered, and some of the most incredible artists from the most diverse genres have been singing it praises. It has always had its detractors; hordes of people have been calling it cold, blunt, digital, or overly complicated; but in my humble opinion, these people are idiots.

 

No self respected synth geek would dare denying the Virus is a masterpiece, and unquestionably a piece of the history of the synthesizer.

The one I had, and recently sold, was a TI2 polar, Darkstar edition.
It is a magnificent piece of hardware to behold and to touch, the knobs are grippy and nice, feels and smells of quality, its LEDs on the panel made the night in the studio less dark, its sound greeted me every morning with grit, lushness, warmth, whatever flavour of synthetic sound I could desire, right there at my fingertips,

so, why did I sell it?

Short answer:
is I think its time is gone:

 

Longer and overexplanatory answer:

There are some people who still are software racists, but really, as far as digital synthesis is concerned, when you play a synthetizer, the sound is computed in the digital domain; a series of mathematical operations determine the value of the bits of the audio sample which will be sent to its converters, there are good synths and bad synths, but the fact that is runs on a consumer processor isn’t a factor in that.

When the first Virus came out… 18 years ago or so, computer processors sucked; on the dedicated signal processing front, we had barely started to have decently sounding resonant filters on dedicated DSPs; the idea of running in realtime a proper synth on a late 90s or early 2000 computer processor was either unfeasible or just not ripe yet, it was the “golden age” of Virtual Analogs :D.

The first Nords, the Korg MS2000, and its very succesful little sibling, the Microkorg, The Alesis Ion, the Novation Supernovas, the Roland JP8000, the Yamaha AN1x, the mighty WaldorfQ, even Oberheim was sort of resurrected by Viscount to make a digital OB. That was the time when the firs Virus appeared, and notwithstanding the dire competition it was an instant success; and the same was for the subsequent revisions, the virus B and the C, the last Virus not to have a dedicated plugin from Access

in 2005, the possibility of really running a synth on a PC was there or so, though computing power was the issue. Most plugins had to trade some quality for usability; a hardware DSP synth that could at the same time be controlled as a plugin as the Virus TI, was pure genius; It allowed almost unmatched synthesis power in a DAW, giving at the same time a dedicated hardware to control it and some amazing effects, there was really nothing like it…  and still nothing better was there in 2009, when all Access had to update was the processing power and the exterior design, staying the machines mutually compatible. yes, it has always been a bit buggy, terribly picky as far as USB ports go, but it was still totally worth it, and every piece of it sounds just as beautiful today.

In 2015 a machine which was born for USB1.1 has compatibility issues with an endless series of USB controllers, There are high quality microscopically modelled analog synths in VST format, and processors that can run them poliphonically in realtime at 192Khz sample rate with a 64 samples buffer for a few hundred euros each, and soundcards which converters put the ones on any Virus to shame. Unfortunately the Virus was clearly designed more for the studio than for the stage, as walnut and Panzer tiger II derived steel plate, aren’t the kind of material you like on your live gear, and the lack of an onboard step sequencer kinda keeps it out of the current “live electronic renaissance” that is happening with AIRAS, Elektrons, Volcas, the new Electribes and the like, so….
If it had done worse on the market, I’d have probably kept it, but considering I could sell it for the money I had bought it 3 years ago well…. Farewell Polar, welcome Elektron Analog Keys… and quite some spare cash

Before sending it to its new owner though, I had to make a last little jam on it…

One off track

This track came by itself, I was sort of experimenting with rythm, dotted LFOs, triplets and my usual Zebra wavetables and some 808 samples. It doesn’t really fit any genre, and I doubt I’ll ever even try to convince a label to publish it, but I really think it is a good track, so for …