This last year I’ve done the things I was never going to do. I’ve abandoned Independence, I’ve abandoned quality, I’ve joined the cold grey mush that passes for online society. I’ve rolled over, four legs in the air and said fine, you win. Have a sniff.

Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter a rat’s. It’s not even as if I’ll get abused for it – no one cares that much.


You can find my last two albums up on YouTube, put there by me. Which is kind of like taking your painting and leaning it against a dumpster. Partly because I kept finding it there anyway, and partly because a lot of people seem to eat out of dumpsters these days. It’s the banquet room of culture for the people who get their McDonalds delivered by Uber Eats.

There’s two ways you could run this thing. You could be completely uncompromising, willing to hang on to the final drop of blood. People like that get remembered long after they’re dead in somebody’s PhD thesis that no-one reads. I was raised on that stuff – the lone artist, the visionary blah blah – truly inspiring to 20th century me, but not that relevant in the 21st century. Horse and buggy heroics.


And who am I to claim any special virtue? I make some pop music and some cute videos. This is the same disposable media that filled dumpsters since the beginning of sound recording. Am I trying to enthrone my bubble gum?

The other way is to say, OK, you can’t prejudge progress. Progress may be something you don’t expect, can’t anticipate. If you are progressive, then you ride with the changes, no matter where they might wander. Maybe shitty low quality audio on a video server is akin to the shitty low quality audio of a 7″ vinyl record. You go there, bravery rather than cowardice.

I have no idea which one. Which is why Aversion is a limited edition object, while Publicist is a throw-it-at-the-wall download.

I think this conversation is being held by an ever dwindling number of people, who think that the wider audience give a toss. They are under the illusion that e.g. vinyl sales mean a resurgence of interest in albums. I think it means a surge of interest in antique toys. It will give way to hula hoops. Music will not go back in the sleeve, it will wander wherever it finds a listener.

Meanwhile, abyss and staring.

A completely biased guide to DAWs

Your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is a matter of taste. As you have appalling taste, you are lucky that I have found time to instruct you in the matter.

Ableton Live.

Notably not called Ableton Compose, because trying to write actual music with this tool is like keyhole surgery, one little box at a time. Live was first developed for deejays to string together bits of other people’s music to a click track. Since that time, it has been encrusted with a tower of technical jiggery pokery that makes Live the premiere tool of ‘barbeque boys’ the world over. If you want to synchronise two machines, or write code that burps every third bar, or run a bassoon through a duct simulation you are well served. But the vast forehead of this thing remains built on the reptile brain underneath, and it fails at facilitating any attempt at flowing empathic music.

If you have live performances where you need six of this followed by seven of that and the whole thing must be panned just so – you will use Live. If you want to surprise yourself with a tantalising melody you will not.


See Ableton Live.

Pro Tools.

If you have an uncle with a large recording studio; custom furnishings, several thousand dollars on each microphone, grand piano in room C – you may be a candidate for Pro Tools. It will slot nicely into this high-end milieu, easing your work up to the top shelf. But buying Pro Tools, in itself, does not manifest this uncle, any more than red Ferrari brings forth a trophy wife. There are many tools that will do exactly same thing for much less.

True, Pro Tools is well made. Most of their stupid bullshit such as real-time mix downs and forced hardware is gone, but there are still AAX plugins –  an industry standard unused by anyone else in the industry. They cost an insulting amount, which can be paid off every month. Or you know, you could just go elsewhere.


The curious thing is that Reason’s illustrations of hardware racks appeared just when real hardware racks were going in the garbage. Such that many Reason users are convinced that actual hardware is a clever manifestation of the GUI (and if you don’t believe that you’ve never met a child amazed that ‘wow you have a collectable of the save icon!’).

I grew up with racks and damn, I like them in Reason. They are cheerful. I like scrolling up and down and hitting the tab key to plug wobbling cables in the back, and hitting the tab and scrolling up and down and actually… that cable thing gets tedious. You need a really big screen to see what you’re doing, and then a magnifying glass to read the controls on all those boxes you’re trying to navigate. Reason completely fails at scale, being too small and too large simultaneously.

Now I must admit I’ve never bothered to use Reason as a DAW. It’s my modular synthesiser which I plug into real DAWs and in that respect, it’s a damn fine thing, better than any eurorack.


Platform limited is bullshit. Same goes for Sonar.


Like if your grandad got a hold of monkey glands or something and kept living way beyond a natural span of existence. I had CARD32 on a Commodore 64 way back in dinosaur times. Then it was on the Atari and it still gets out of the coffin every night. I guess I am Grandma, and got used to Cubase and throw my hands in the air and go “Whelp! That’s Grandad For Ya!”. (Actually, at one time I tried using Logic back when it was on PC. That was foul, like ‘locked in some taxation consultancy for weeks on end’ foul. The Environment – what the fuck.)

You are not ever going to get super excited about Cubase, but like Microsoft Excel it is going to do the job well enough, and in software that’s probably all you can hope for.



They changed the name to Waveform and added a mixer and MIDI editor. In version 8. Yeah.


No, typing hexadecimal into a grid is not cool, it’s the antithesis of music.


There’s a lot to like about Reaper as a sound editor. In an age where ambisonics is taking on increasing importance, restricting waveforms to 5.1 or stereo is shooting yourself in the foot, and the only competition are the overpriced Nuendo and Pro Tools HD. It makes serious attempts at reducing bloat, embracing formats, and providing a range of useful tools in the box. And it’s CHEAP.

But you’re not out of the woods. Once past the basics it’s got a lot of idiosyncrasies, not cute ones, but mind numbingly painful ones, the sort that drives you to scream WTF and to curse the manual which is (a) a fan written wiki and (b) always out of date with the five new versions a week. Reaper is not open source, but it sure smells like open source.

And MIDI handling is not handled well at all. It’s an audio editor with some MIDI tacked on, and you’ll need to buy a real MIDI tool alongside Reaper.

FL Studio.

I used FL Studio for ages. Then I stopped for a while, to try change my working methods. When I tried to go back to it, I found myself outside a mental wall. All the things that seemed normal before seemed weird and twisted. I could still get old projects up and running, but the thought of doing anything new with it was perverse.

Then I realised I’d been in a cult. I’d since become deprogrammed.

FL is like if you put a drum machine on steroids, lots of steroids, INSANE levels. It’s a drum machine levelled up a billionity-billion times. I mean, I scored a motion picture on FL once upon a time. It can do it, hell – it can probably do anything, but it will do it in a way that makes no sense anywhere outside the cult headquarters, because it’s built on layer upon layer of feature additions. Things rarely get designed in a holistic manner in FL, they get layered on top. Like if you want to freeze the audio on a track, there was some convoluted procedure with placing an Edison plug in on a mixer track… these days I just freeze the track.

I can’t hate on it, and hell, you might even be enthralled by it. See you when you get out.

Vinyl is for couches.


Vinyl is a great format. Except more than a third of people buying it don’t own a record player. And it pollutes the planet. And it’s really really expensive to make and post across the planet. When I ask, most people say they still want vinyl, but my guess it that’s all hat and no cattle. It looks good, damn what it sounds like.

A small pressing plant is open in Australia, and I can get stuff made that way, but it’ll be the most expensive 40 minutes you ever had and I am not mad keen on it. I am instead back to USB drives, but prepared to sink some serious money into it. (Just as an aside – yes a CD is still cheaper but triples the airmail postage from about $4 to $12. Plus it’s getting hard to find a computer that will load a CD. Plus a USB holds about 10x the data.)

The Rhine USB cost about $12 Australian to make and send. So at any time I had about $1200 out in the world, at a time when the USD and AUS were close. Now that the AUS has collapsed again I figure I can probably spend a bit more and go for a more professional look.

The credit card style has good and bad. Good – it can be more decorated. Bad – it is a pain to insert one into the side of a laptop, but you’re going to do that once only.


I figure I can get 500 units up front with a universal design then overprint as needed. So every one of them will have the logo etc. but the album title goes in a white box. I could sell 1000 over time but that’ll eat more than $5000 before postage. Still cheaper than cassettes and don’t sound like arse.

But it’s the sleeves which are troublesome. For Rhine I have been using lanyard pouches at $2 each which are actually pretty good quality (good clear plastic) compared to most solutions. Today I found some clear plastic sleeves for business cards. They’re too fat, and they don’t look as nice as they should. Placing album covers inside them is not nice. Now these:


I can get from China from about $1 a unit. I’ve seen these, there’s no way to decorate them with the album cover. Some duplicators will throw in a case with a clear window but these are 2cm tall. That makes the mailed item a package and – bang – 3x the postage.

Jewel cases for data cards would be ideal. But credit card sized. Maybe they exist.


Maybe I can get slightly larger lanyard holders? If I get 500 then maybe a discount?

The idea is to provide a good feeling quality object that doesn’t cost the earth. Some people will pay a healthy amount for their collectibles but that’s not my game. I understand that people want something to hold in their hand, but unless you’re a DJ, the USB is the best deal for both of us.

Aristotle and Newton on Colour.

As I crawl my way through writing my thesis paper it’s a relief to talk about some of the ideas I cover, using words that are not quite as carefully chosen. There’s time when I’m sitting at my desk for quarter of an hour or more agonising over a single word; that one is too loose, this one implies I am claiming something that I can’t prove. Here I can write like Humpty Dumpty.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

At first glance you wonder what the hell Aristotle’s on about when he says all colours are made from black and white. That seems unlikely to survive the first experiment, silly old Ancient.

For a start there’s a language issue here, black and white are better described as bright and dark, and these are better described as daylight which is yellow and bright, versus night which is blue and dark. That makes more sense, we can see how colours range over the course of a day, and Aristotle was always one for starting with the bleeding obvious, or with ideas he called endoxon, things you have to accept –  like black holes – because somebody smarter than you worked it out.

One of my sources wonders if he ever saw colours created by close proximity of black and white. Like this;


That’s Bridget Riley BTW who is too cool for school.


I actually think the ancients experienced the blinking of light and dark when sunlight spills through trees etc. Black and white blinking makes colours.



In this theory colours like red are made of lots of bright while greens are loaded with dark. But how do they look so different to their sources? How is it that they mix to make other colours? This is where I am most invested because I want to show that music serves as an endoxon. Aristotle says (being careful not to credit Pythagoras because that guy was a complete myth) well think of musical notes. You get a string and you twang it and you get a distinct pitch. You divide that string into exact ratios and you get other pitches. Musical notes are divisions of other musical notes, and it’s pretty damn likely that red is a certain ratio between blue and yellow. Of course if you can’t get red from mixing these two then you’re not doing it right.

Seemed like no one could get it right for 2000 years.

At least he tries to explain a plausible solution. Newton couldn’t be arsed. He does two things that would make Aristotle hit the bottle. He shines white light (Goethe starts screaming here It’s not bloody white you moron!) through a prism and gets a spectrum. Which he then draws as a circle. Divided into seven colours because hey, you can write a music scale around that and la la la la European philosophical tradition. It’s not mathematically valid he says, but it’ll do.


Breaking it wasn’t the hard bit. Putting it back together was the real experiment.

Do you see a circle? I don’t see a circle. I sure don’t see that the colour at one end of the spectrum joins up with the one on the right using some bogus violet bullshit. OK, so he’s describing why mixing red and green makes yellow, which you can see in the rainbow, but also why blue and red make purple which seems hard as they’re either side of the seating arrangement. He really means that once you have multiple sources of coloured light then they intersect to create other colours, but that diagram just caused no end of trouble because it implied that the circle was a description of a physical structure related to music. And that confusion is the first step in the journey that I’m studying.

Newtons colour wheel

This is how hippies were invented. And why D is a truly bogus note.

Pottering comes to an end.

1st of January. Sounds pretty sweet. Except it’s the day before 2nd of January and – bugger it, I am then back at work. The last trumpet of holiday cheer is here.


So then, back to waveforms. Our Birmingham Correspondent has chided me for not paying attention when he explained Zebra, which does indeed create transwaves. Fortunately I didn’t have to buy the whole caboodle to get the oscillator section as it’s included the free Zebralette. I’ll let this guy explain Zebra, even though he’s pretending to be Andrew Kramer. No one can be Andrew Kramer, it’s just not possible. This bit don’t matter too much, you can use any means by which to create interesting single pitched sounds.

The important part is – to get the sound into the Blofeld as a wavetable you have to generate exactly 128 waves at the right frequency to fit one second at 44.1KHz. That’s not any particular pitch and I spent a stupid amount of time doing the maths to try make a MIDI note event on F2 last for the exact duration to get 128 cycles. I failed, endlessly and tediously – if the pitch is even slightly wrong the wave drifts out of frame and sounds horrible. Seemed like the vacation was going to end with a whimper, and without much hope I tried one more search for wavetables and convert and nerd desperation. And I found blacktomcat666.

In case that makes no sense to you, he’s taking a sampled word ‘ensoniq’ and through his own Windows software called Audio Term, translating it into a PPG style wavetable which he’s showing ready to be sent to the Blofeld. And I’m screaming like a little girl.

The guy is a genius but he needs a publicist; the software was hard to find, I had to go bouncing around discussion boards looking for him. Yes, it looks a lot like the PPG Wave Term interface which is kind of cool once you get the hang of it. It does more than convert samples to PPG but that’s what I needed.


So I made some samples of various bits – Zebralette, some analogue gear, odd noises. The Zebralette samples work almost perfectly because they are using the same principle and stick to a single pitch. Anything pitched or based on noise will be washed away in a vocoder effect, and you’d need to use the Blofeld’s sample playback instead. Even so, some hard synch sounds made on a Jupiter 8 came out nicely with a bit of pitch bend.

As with most free software there’s no manual. If only it was the start of the break and not the end I’d make one, but things turned out right after all. Still, the career train waits for no man, and next stop is MS Excel CIty,

Thing 04 : jumped the queue with sheer brilliance.

I’m so proud one of my colleagues heard I was collecting bad synthesisers, and offered one I might like – it shows my reputation for quality is growing. From that day I mercilessly hounded him for the transaction which he seemed to then mysteriously avoid. Perhaps he worried that a man of my standing knew something about the box that made it worth more. Perhaps it was pity for such a fool as would take this thing that he’d been using upside down as a stand for something else. But I was not to be turned and exchanged some trifling DOEPFER box that was just well made and useful.


A photo doesn’t do the D2 justice. It’s bright orange, made of metal and reminds me of something that would have steered a model boat in 1973. When you turn it on it spends the first few minutes doing a light show. Every time you turn it on. (It then dies, or at least until I got the right 9v adaptor.) When you push the play button it emits the most enticingly flabby, tired and hackneyed ‘dance music’ that the mind of Roland could devise. Ladies and Gentlemen, if a synthesiser could be compared to a font – this is Comic Sans.

Why would I want this thing? Well let me tell you about the time I spent 400 bucks on a new Roland box which was uglier, less versatile, harder to use, and in every way a miserable excuse for pathetic shit, so much so that I gave it away. Of course I mean the TB303 Bassline in 1982. I was one of (if not the) the first people in the world to make ‘dance music’ with it (referring to Eighties Cheesecake) so I am pulling rank and saying – if the Bassline is a classic, then this is a super duper classic.

Don’t just take my word for it – listen to this Internet guy:

I LOVE MY GIRL D2! I use a Krog microKONTROL midi usb keybord on her and let me tell you its the best! Im on my 2nd D2 groovebox! The 1st one i had I lost it at the pawn shop!(im still mad)Now this one i have now i got off Ebay and i LOVE HER! the 1st gear i had was the Roland mc-303 groovebox! The year was like 1999 i was poor! then i saw the Roland mc-505 and i fell in love with her! i never got one but i all ways played with

Actually, don’t listen to that guy. He’s nuts.

OK so how do we tame this shrew? Some reading tells me it’s the same as a MC505 Groovebox, but with all the controls reduced to a simple XY touchpad. That’s like ‘the same as a championship wrestler but with no arms.’ The noise is the same but the controls have had a pre-frontal lobotomy. The big issue for me is that Roland has left no way to change the damn waveforms. Seeing as the D2 is sample based that’s really bitter and twisted. Roland! Spend the 5 bucks!

Some more reading tells me that the MC505 uses the same voice structure as the JV series, although I’d have to quibble that ‘same as’ means ‘selected’. The sounds are half samples of Roland drum machines, and much of what’s left are saw waves of some sort particularly those from the wretched TB303. There are however a range of inharmonic clanks, bangs and noise loops which sound like they could work nicely once I load them up into the right patch. There’s four tones per patch, each being an oscillator with associated filter and LFOs so a bit of stacking should get somewhere.

The touch pad is much the same deal as a Kaos pad. The only fun thing is a DJ mode where you ‘spin’ the sequence backwards. That never gets old, ever. The XY mode is more useful in live tweaking the filters and LFOs, but not to any level of precision. Probably there will be a time where I will risk using the sequencing and arpeggio for some kind of improvisation but I need some decent noises first.

So I thought to myself – if I found a way to control a MC505 then maybe I could control the D2. Again and again I would read about a particular piece of home brew software that did this, but when I’d follow the link the Geocities or Angelfire host was long gone. I almost despaired, but after a titanic struggle of mouse clicks I found it. And it works!


It is in fact identical to the MC505, and rather shocking to see how much is hidden in the engine that’s ignored in the manual. For example there’s some kind of FM modulation as well as a delay mode that I’ll have to read about in a JV1080 manual I guess. You can at least change the waveform and sweep the filter and do pretty much everything you could hope from a bright orange tugboat. Once you have this ability the box becomes a decent sound module that can e.g. play four pianos through a ring modulator. By nature it wants to have the keyboard mapped to include all 8 parts, switching it over a multi mode fixes that by moving each to a different MIDI channel. It’s not yet victory, but I think there’s a distant chance that one day I will carry this thing on stage, push the button and produce that which will define 21st century music.

Wednesday Night is Garbage Night – Autodidact Edition

Fantasy 70’s Music school.

Never went to music school. Like many people I played the same records over and over and picked up hints about how to do stuff. Maybe I didn’t know what it was called but I knew it sounded good.

Here’s a bunch of records I cribbed when I was learning how to make music, and present here so you may too. That also satisfies the elderly listening audience, while presenting ideas for the younger. If you want newer music, please go here: Phantom Circuit.

They are not particularly rare or high art but each has much to teach. Occasionally they overlap because that’s kind of how I used to listen to them back then. Just playing all these old things explains much more about where I come from than a wall of text. Google it. (Actually DuckDuckGo it).

  • John Cale Heartbreak Hotel the barest sketch/analysis of the original, discord
  • Daniel Miller and Boyd Rice Cleanliness and Order found sound source. pop music deadness
  • This Heat Health and Efficiency deconstruction of recording process at end, manual looping with errors changing the loop, symphonic structure
  •      +John Cage Suite For Toy Piano 1 (excerpt)
  •      +Beatles Revolution Number 9 (excerpt)
  • Cluster Hollywood very pretty and sounds coherent although unstructured
  •      +Leslie Hutchinson Broken Hearted Clown
  • The Monkees Valeri 60s stereo production is very interesting, a great slab of sound, vocal harmonies, reverb
  • Wire The 15th guitars layered like classical instruments, EMI reverb HARVEST BAND tiny little keyboard melody almost unheard
  •      +Konstantin Raudive Breakthrough voices of the dead almost unheard
  • Pink Floyd See Emily Play psychedelia, intricacy, EMI echo HARVEST BAND
  • Orchid Spangiafora Hold Everything sound music, cut up, tape loops, spoken word
  •      +The Barrons Theme From Forbidden Planet
  • The Monochrome Set Eine Symphonie Des Grauens interesting quasi 60s production, lyrics
  • Brian Eno The Great Pretender production, especially the prepared piano & EMS-AKS crickets, 8 track recording
  • The Flying Lizards Hands 2 Take bassoon punk! dub technique, anti-guitar solos
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra Pure Jam tightness, neo psychedelia, analogue sequencer + real drums, seriously that guy is a drum machine
  • Suicide Dream Baby Dream minimal synth! lo fi, warmth, drones
  •      + The Lost Jockey Rise & Fall because these two fight each other nicely
  • Kraftwerk Pocket Calculator funkiness completely lost when remade later because they did not leave holes, electronic dub, less is more, HOLES
  •      +Subbulakshmi sitar drones FILLS HOLES
  • Dangerous Liaisons Los Ninos Del Porque grinding + holes, electronic punk, voices
  •      +Vincent Price The Broomstick Railroad widdershins
  • Holger Hiller Chemical & Physical Discoveries early sampling, was intriguing at the time
  • Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows tape loops, tape everything
  • Smegma Can’t Look Straight sound music, cut up
  • DEVO Satisfaction the barest sketch/analysis of the original, HOLES
  • Mark Stewart Blessed Are Those Who Struggle intense destructive dub
  • Chrome Half Machine Lip Moves heavy distortion as a musical device
  • Popol Vuh Aguirre Wrath Of God air
  •      +Throbbing Gristle IBM air
  • Wirlywhirld Window To The World 70’s keyboard rock, Australian post punk, pretty
  • Sparks Angus Desire it’s a song about screwing cows and sounds oddly buttery?
  • Snatch & Eno RAF looping found sounds funk
  • Status Quo Pictures of Matchstick Men psychedelia, tinnitus
  • Telex A.B. electropop
  • The Reels 3. electropop, early 80’s snare used like a kick
  • Simple Minds In Trance As Mission the negative of a bass riff, playing guitars like a cuckoo clock
  •      +Steve Reich It’s Gonna Rain strangely have a lot in common
  • General Strike Parts Of My Body tuba punk! dub

listen (This is a m3u file which can be associated with QuickTime PLayer, Windows Media Player or iTunes to stream the file.)

They all share some kind of internal principle, a process stated or unknown, a feature that can be recognized and practised. They are also attractive, there is no ‘difficult listening’ here. To make something that is both pretty and deep is far more interesting than noise.

There’s reasons why we don’t use tape recorders any more.

About a month ago I bought a ZOOM multi track as a portable loop machine for live performance; if you care you can read more about that in an earlier post. It’s a compromise between old techniques and current technology and it works very nicely once you defeat the machine’s desire for grids. By any measure the ZOOM is going to be a great success.

But I don’t measure things. I am driven by birds and they were not satisfied.

I ended up back on eBay looking at tape machines. Open reel tape machines were used as high end sound recorders up to early 1990’s when digital recorders started to become affordable, and they have lived difficult lives since. If you’re lucky, a fan might have collected the machine and kept it in occasional use. More likely it was dumped in a mouldy closet for spare parts, like the ones at my work, some of which now leak a green slime. In any case they are 30 years old or more and the circuitry may have rotted. Even so they can be very expensive.


The ideal tape recorder pop group.

Tape is well known for having a different loudness contour to digital, in that overly loud recordings tend to compress rather than distort. That’s not difficult to emulate, so not my main interest. Instead I intend to resume work I did with editing and looping where the physical tape acts like the clay of a sculpture. Tape has weight, and momentum. Edits are messy in a good way. I did a lot of this from ’77 to ’84 and eventually wanted to do something else. It was necessary to sell the machines. Now I can use my day job to finance another look.

I saw a TEAC A6300 machine for a reasonable price, recently serviced and I thought – look, this probably is the point at which you just do or just don’t. Because the repair men are dying out, and if it’s serviced it’s probably the last time. People that are paying $5 for my old albums are probably in favour of my using their money on this. So I pushed the button.


40 kilometres on the train. What I didn’t expect was to find a front room teeming with tape recorders of every size, shape and description. I complemented the vendor on his clutch of Revox A77s. He said he once owned twelve of them. His hobby is buying tape recorders, fixing them and selling them to buy even more tape recorders. Some are easily fixed, others are too badly damaged and are cannibalised. In every case he has all the capacitors replaced because they are weak spot in this era of electronics.


I explained how Eno used two A77s to make loop music. This didn’t seem to connect with him at all, but when I explained I too made music just with tape recorders he must have thought I was a kindred weirdo.


The A77 racked up, with my 8 track cart machine and DVD recorder.

The conversation turned to the A77 on the floor, which could be had for a reasonable price considering it has been shipped from Germany and completely serviced. The Revox A77 is an older machine sold in a few different configurations; this particular one is the professional version on which the tape runs at 15 inches per second. It’s the kind that we would hire each time we finished an album and unlike the TEAC I’d ordered it can be used to transfer old master tapes. It’s the servicing that made me think do this now, it will not come again.

Getting two tape recorders back home on the train wasn’t an option.
Biggest taxi fare of my life.

One thing that you forget when you have used laptops for a while is that older studio gear takes up a lot of space, runs hot and is heavy. Then there’s a bunch of cables that have to go back and forward which are tangled and buzzy. Fortunately I still have a fair amount of infrastructure – racks, cables, a patch bay. If you don’t have this structure, you’ll be flummoxed.


You will need a patch bay, unless you really like crawling around the back of racks.

Here I have the DVD TV sound ‘normalled’ to the TEAC then to the Revox feeding out a main output to the ZOOM. That follows the idea of making tape loops from TV and feeding that out to mastering. Let’s make a loop!


So the tape goes through the heads and up around a bust of Napoleon. I don’t know whether that’s mandatory but I’ve used this same bust for 30 odd years so it may as well be. If you don’t have a bust you will need something else slippery to hold the tape up the top. Note at the right of the machine is a stack of fresh 8 track carts. The felt pads that hold the tape against the heads has rotted, and so they’re not usable as carts, but are filled with rare unused Ampex Grand Master tape.


The main out is patched into the ZOOM, although I can patch every machine at once. Very likely I’ll take the ZOOM recording over to a computer to fix up the results. This isn’t about analogue purism.

The 6300 turns out to be a good looper. Didn’t know how to punch in and out until I saw the little levers bottom right that turn off the channels – so it’s easy enough to turn off either or both channels while the loop is being made. It makes a click, as if I care.

Here’s what it sounds like. Not a good piece of music, just a test.

So then, what’s the point? For most people, not much. Tape doesn’t sound better than well produced digital, there’s hum, hiss and everything takes ages to set up. A laptop is faster, more convenient and precise – and that’s the tipping point – the lack of precision is a way to stir up accidents and ideas. The loop cannot be triggered or aligned, it will follow its own orbit. It will slip across the heads, slurring the sound, and making bad overdubs. This is the point.

Further to my live performance idea, I’m getting the bits together for a sequel to HH, called H3H. HH featured Revox tape recorders but the sound was actually 8 track cart. For H3H I want the sound without the icon, you will hear tape but you will see something far less obvious. In general I want H3H is to be much less predictable – following the principles of inscrutability.

The birds are pleased with this.



There was a time slightly after the dinosaurs that I owned a small wall of KORG. There was two MS20’s, an MS50, a SQ10 and a billion of those short patch cables. And you know, it was pretty grand for 1980 something. For 2013, it’s… well… gee what a nice watch, does it tell the time?

BLOODY patch cables

BLOODY patch cables and GARFIELD is the producer – “needs more obesity”.

But here we go again with a reissue of Old and Safe for the New Conservatives. Already been asked if I am going to buy a new midget MS20. I bought a MiniNova instead – maybe I made the wrong choice. Let’s be scientific about this:

Patch Management
MiniNova: there’s four banks of 256 patches which can be sorted into categories and saved back to a patch librarian over a USB connection.
KORG MS20: photocopy pages from the manual and draw the approximate positions of the knobs with a pencil.
Advantage: KORG for being legendary and analogue.

MiniNova: three oscillators per voice with a variety of traditional, digital and wave table forms. Each oscillator can detune with itself for ‘supersaw’ effects and has a self-sync to create harmonics. 18 voices available.
KORG MS20: two oscillators, mono.
Advantage: KORG for being even more legendary and analogue.

MiniNova: two filters 12/24 hi/low/peak which can be combined with control of peak and resonance width.
KORG MS20: hi/low.
Advantage: KORG for being surrounded by candles and photographed in the dark.

MiniNova: five effect units patchable in a variety of configurations.
KORG MS20: falls out of tune as it warms up.
Advantage: KORG because – man, the late seventies are funky know what I mean.

No candles supplied.

No candles supplied.

Signal Processing
MiniNova: Balanced microphone and line inputs with vocoding, pitch effects and flow through the synthesis and effect chain.
KORG MS20: line input that feeds into a pitch detection thing that kind of sounds like an alien mouth organ.
Advantage: do you have to ask?

Arp and Sequencing
MiniNova: Arp and rhythmic ‘gator’ with selection buttons on the front panel.
KORG MS20: nothing. Buy the mini SQ-10 someday.
Advantage: simplicity at its finest.

MiniNova: 20 internal modulation paths each with two sources. Six ADSR generators, three LFOs with multiple waveforms including tempo locked patterns.
KORG MS20: three (*@&$(*$&@ patch cables.
Advantage: haptic physical interface with gravity assisted orientation DIY logistics.

Well the science is in but I don’t know. I keep reading the articles and hearing the talk and wondering if people use this stuff for making music. Or does it go next to the “Christmas Tree”? You know, that elaborate, expensive modular system that people build to look fantastic but sounds like a Roland preset that goes bwooooouuuw?

By any reasonable measure, this is a stupid way to make a bloooop noise.

By any reasonable measure, this is a stupid way to make a bloooop noise.

No, I am not buying an MS20.





20X CS3 Professional

Marketing have announced a rebadge for 2013. They’re going to launch the year as 20X CS3 Professional. The problem is the whole ‘6 month in advance’ planning cycle has made next year part of this year, and no one is inspired to pay for the upgrade. It’s at the point where the end of the world is one of the few things that gets us to look at the calendar and even that is tiring out. Compare the hysteria for the Mayan Apocalypse to the Y2K bug – no contest.


This is dangerous. Remember the 2000 Election in the USA? No one gave a shit between the candidates, where in fact one of them rose to great challenges in less than a year with all the sense and dignity of Bubbles The Chimp. By 2008 the good news was that the White House had not yet burned to the ground. The bad news was that few people still had a house to burn down apart from the directors of Halliburton. Oh and there were lots of dead people.

So I’ve got a slogan for the coming year that will hopefully get you thinking hard about the possibilities: 20X CS3 Professional: Giant Demons Are Tearing My Face Off which I think is kind of catchy, if a tiny bit hyperbolic. I can’t promise giant demons but if there was the slightest chance of them coming and doing you know what, would you be prepared?

Here’s a nightmare scenario: by the end of 20X CS3, Psy has 6 billion views on YouTube and now more than half of Google’s income comes from advertising on that one page. But an automated copyright claim blocks the video, leading to Google not paying rent on 200 of its data centres. Searching for cat macros becomes catastrophically cut back leading to a collapse of the world economy. And then demons tear your face off.

Or on a more personal level, image if my Ferrari neighbour plays that same Bruce Springsteen DVD 3 times every weekend for the next 52 weekends and I finally crack and go around with the ICS-190 GLM grenade launcher (that I rightfully have only for self defence in case a gunman attacks my teaching labs) and shove it up his Born In The USA? That could impact on my employment. And then demons etc.


Order one now for the festive season. The kids will love it.
The ones that survive.

Neither of these things may happen – but that’s the point. You don’t know what might happen but that sense of dread will keep you up and sprightly all the coming year.

So how was your Christmas break? I had a (what remains of) family get together for the first time in years which ended up with too many tequila shots and a massive headache. I even got a gift!


Apparently you can use it as a remote control for the TV. I intend to use it as a remote control for the Ferrari neighbour’s sound system. Either that or make it control some piece of sound gear which will get a breathless write up in Create Digital Music.

But like everyone I have to buy my special own gift, and seeing as I haven’t bought a synthesiser in over 20 years I thought I maybe could have one.


It’s a MiniNova and it’s top-tastic. I’m amazed at what you get for less than 500 bucks these days. I’m not going to do the specs you can do that anywhere. But I must say it is loads of fun to actually use a physical piece of equipment after so many years – even if you do tend to use the computer to edit patches. More on this later!