Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Atari Fever : Recording "Nowhere Near"

Lately I've been working on a new song called "Nowhere Near". Eighties-style, synthpop, bouncy thing. Lots of Moog.

I've been tracking female backing vocals yesterday, and the song is almost done.

Last thing I wanted to do is a 16bit computer outro. Now, let me state that I am NOT into chiptune music. BUT the song itself had a little retro vibe to it, with somewhat nostalgic lyrics, so it felt right to end it up with a little Atari ST tune.

Not being crazy enough to bring back my old Atari (if it would work anyway), I've used the next best thing, that is, the excellent ymVST emulation (HERE).

The following excerpt from "Nowhere Near" is the "Atari ST" arrangement submix.


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Hungarian Wave (II)

Prog Korg soloing, crazy saxophones and Eastern Europe pop craft.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Soundtrack Life : Recording “Voight Kampff” part1

So, I'm working on the soundtrack to a thriller/scifi short film by Thomas Lesourd.

Here's a little tutorial on the making of the main action cue, "Voight Kampff".

This particular track was actually recorded before I was able to see any footage of the short film. Hell, none had even been shot at the time! I was told by the filmmaker that the film would need some fast-paced, street chasing music.

I decided to go for a tight, urban sound, built around a fat and biting Moog groove.The tempo is relatively slow, because I was expecting to create a sort of musical momentum, beginning with an almost hiphop-styled groove, Mellotron strings, a quiet break, then full-on electric and industrial madness, with nasty guitars and crazy electronic bleeps.

Whether it’s a song or an instrumental, and unless I’m 100% sure that there won’t be any beat and that the track won’t need any fixed tempo, my first step is always to program one, at the very least to provide a tempo guide for recording.

Method-wise, there’s a big difference between recording a song and an instrumental. I will almost always start the former with a completed song. On the other hand, building up the latter is pure improvisation, in that I simply have no idea what the track will be until I push Record and improvise something that I’ll then expand upon.

So, I’ve started by programming a first beat, with the Drums Overkill plugin as main source. This is an excellent database, using the Kontakt engine. Not only does it feature almost every vintage drum machine ever built, but also a clever sample collection arranged in sections such as “hiphop”, “drum and bass”, “experimental”. All in all, a very useful source that provides a large variety of drum sounds that you can tweak within Kontakt.

This particular beat also features a couple of “natural” sounds, that is, a gunshot and a falling bullet shell, both from a huge database of movie sounds I have assembled over the years. Mixing-wise, I’ve juxtaposed two layers of the same beat. The first one has a 6dB boost at 64Hz.

The second one is squashed to death by a compressor, then radically EQd to cut most bass and high frequencies, and boost the mids (EQ deep cut below 150Hz and at 16Khz, boost between 1Khz and 10Khz). This is pretty much a variation on what it’s called parallel compression of New York compression : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_compression.
I then programmed a second beat, which comes midway to reinforce the rhythmic section. This one was treated in pretty much the same way.

Voight Beat (MP3) 

Now that a basic rhythmic foundation is in place, my second task is to lay down some instrumental part that will define what the chord progression (if any) will be, and what the overall tune will be. I would usually play piano or possibly some synth pad, but for this particular track, since it’s meant to be very rhythmic, I’ve chosen to sketch out a bass groove.

Gear-wise, bass to me means MOOG!

A little bit of experimentation here as well : the Moog Little Phatty is plugged to the UA 710 preamp, with a blend of 50-50 solid-state and tube signal, and a fair amount of gain to make it distort. That little trick provides a bit of additional grit to the bass sound. There are 3 Moog layers involved here.

I then proceeded to add some more harmonic parts around that beat/bass core.The Prophet 08 was to put to use there.

Voight Prophet (MP3) 

Now the track was coming together but it still needed a fuller sound. A couple of electric guitars, playing the fundamental note over and over, would fit it nicely.
It’s often a good idea to record the exact same guitar part twice, and pan one on the extreme left and the other on the extreme right. That’s what I did, and I should add that the slightly off-key, grungey guitar sound was obtained in two way : tuning the first string one step down and passing it through a Small Clone chorus.

Some EQ there too : light boost at 1Khz, cut at 10Khz and big cut 16Khz.

Voight Guitar (MP3) 

Finally, I knew at this point that there’d be a quieter, breathing space in the middle before the electric onslaught, so I thought about adding little pseudo-orchestral transition, to get a little harmonic build-up before the break.

There’s a lot of orchestral software out there, but I do prefer to create little weird, retro chamber orchestras using Gforce’s M-Tron, and now M-Tron Pro, plugins.

The Mellotron of course is very limited, which fits my idea totally. A little arrangement of Mellotron cellos, violas and violins gives a vintage, off-beat strings flavor which has far more character than any realistic emulation of orchestra would give.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Soundtrack Life

Lately I've been quite busy recording new songs and also working on the score for a new movie by film maker Thomas Lesourd.

I've already seen an impressive preliminary cut and did a couple of cues.

One of them, "Voight Kampff", is a fast-paced industrial track filled with analog synth drones and fuzz guitars.

I'll post a making-of this week, dissecting the track and explaining the methods involved.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Live Unplugged

Tonight's setlist:

1) End of Words
2) The Element of Blank
3) Fell the Dog
4) Nixonia
5) Empty the Boat
6) Endless summer
7) Helen of Troy
8) Walking on the Moon
9) Beat It
10) Your Bittersweet Fall
11) Nowhere Near
12) Huck's Tune
13) Broken Sails
14) Roadmaps for the Bugs
15) Can't Think of Words
16) Life on the Outside
17) Ghosts of my Enemies

Thursday, December 16, 2010

One Link to the Chain : UA 710 Twin-Finity

I was getting very frustrated this last couple of years with my Joemeek ThreeQ preamp and finally got to upgrade this crucial part of the audio chain.

Here comes the fantastic 710 Twin-Finity from Universal Audio.

When it comes to preamps, you can either get a solid-state or a tube unit.

Solid-state delivers a clean, crisp, accurate sound. Tube provides a warmer, fuzzier sound, with a "musical" distorsion (if you push it) 

The 710 is both a solid-state and a tube preamp : the two circuits are running simultaneously, so that the signal is continually variable between 100% tube and 100% solid-state.

It ain't no gimmick, I tells you.

On vocals, you might want to use pretty much the tube circuit alone, but on guitars, a 12 o'clock gives you solid-state clarity with a hint of tube warmth.

The flexibility is even more spectacular on synths. Plugging the Moog and toying around with the amount of gain and solide-state/tube mix produced a great variety of tones from a single source, all very musical.

All in all, I'd say the 710 is a great, versatile preamp.

It's great on vocals but also serves as an excellent guitar/bass DI. I'm playing acoustic gigs these days, and I'm not using any guitar amp. The electro-acoustic guitar is plugged directly to the 710, which is plugged to the soundboard. Nice, warm, open sound, actually better than with my old old Fender amp.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Hungarian Wave


Who were they?

Where did they go?

What the hell is going on here?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lo-Fi Rehearsal

The all-powerful Casiotone MT-11.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Looking Back : Machines are your Friends

Now that was a nice instrumental tune from may 2009.

I sort of tried from time to time to turn into a song, but I guess it works best as instrumental. 

Oh well, I might try again, it's  somewhat catchy.

Moog Little Phatty and Juno-1.
Drums : Electribe EMX passing through the Moog filter.

Download MP3

Friday, December 10, 2010

On the Horizon

Well, turns out the short film I was talking about yesterday won't be seen on the web until july 2011!

In the meantime, I've realised I had already posted the instrumental cue on september 15th! It's an epic, almost cheezy score based on the tune for "The Fortune Song", off the "Broken Sails" EP.

Hey, let's post it again, I say.

The Pursuit of Fortune by khoral

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Film Music

I wrote the score to a nice short film by Simon Dronet.

The film is on screens now, but as far as I know, not yet available online. I'll update that when it is, and I'll post the music as well these days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Looking Back : Funkotron

Here's a post from march 2009 that deserves to rise again.

I'm a lover of all things vintage synth, and these last years I've been collecting quite a lot of obscure, 70's to early 80's cheezy, Moog-ish, funny stuff, and well, thought I might just compile some of my favorite music for you to enjoy...

I've deliberately avoided the more well-known artists, like Moroder or Space. This is mostly not-so-well-known crazy retro funky-disco mumbojumbo, ending with more laidback ambient music.

Complete track list :

1. Harry Thumann - Sphinx (5:20)
2. Silicon Teens - State Of Shock (3:11)
3. Alex Cima - Eight Seven Seven (5:51)
4. Bernard Fèvre - Weekee Way (1:59)
5. Tony Carey - Radio Tokyo (3:21)
6. Doris Norton - Personal Computer (4:38)
7. James Saunders - Axial (2:17)
8. Piero Umiliani - Centrali Termiche (2:24)
9. Alex Cima - Rocket's Cat (4:16)
10. I Signori Della Galassia - Proxima Centauri (8:31)
11. Frédéric Mercier - Spirit (7:44)
12. Roger Roger & Nino Nardini - Eery Dream (2:14)
13. Automat - Ultraviolet (6:19)
14. Teddy Lasry - Quasar (7:09)

And the zip files, in two parts because Mediafire only allows 100Mb uploads at a time
My artwork and MP3 player icon included!

Part 1

Part 2