Sleepover

Interview: Sleepover

Sleepover is a collaboration between the artists Charlie Astro and Miranda Rae, coming out of a small independent label called Circuitree Records. Their first EP The Sun was released at the end of last year and I was a fan as soon as I heard it. Harnessing the magic of conference calling I chatted transglobally to Astro, Miranda, and label boss and fellow musician Paul Gaeta, aka Panther God about perfect imperfections, transferring their record to the stage, their remix competition and a heap more…

Oh Drat: Hi everyone – so, who have we got and where?!

Charlie Astro: I’m Charlie Astro, I’m from Miami and I’m currently in London….

Miranda Rae: I’m Miranda Rae, I’m from Minnesota originally but right now I’m in Chicago…

Panther God: I’m Paul, I go by Panther God musically and I also run Circuitree Records out of Ashville North Carolina.

OD: How about you guys start off by telling me how you came to become Sleepover?

CA: Okay, well… I met Miranda a few years ago when she came on a road trip with some friends of mine from Chicago to Miami

MR: Yeah, Spring break!

CA: Yeah, and I dunno, we just met and were like ‘we should collaborate one day’ and I guess it never really happened, and then in 2010 I moved to Chigago in the Summer and went to one of her solo gigs there, and we just met up and said ‘hey let’s make music!’… the next day I went over with my recording equipment and we set up a little makeshift studio in her basement and got to it.

MR: Yeah, it all happened in the basement of this apartment in Chicago!

CA: The entire album was recorded in that basement…

OD: Ah, so did you do it all in one trip, or…

CA: No no no, it was made over the course of perhaps a month and a half, two months.

“we both have classical musical backgrounds actually, we were both trained”

OD: And is it your different tastes coming together that make Sleepover what it is, or is it your similarities that gel?

CA: Um, we’d say both, I mean we definitely come from different backgrounds, musically, and we both have different interpretations, but we also have a lot of similar interpretations and the beauty is how we can sync all that together into this beautiful mixture of sound, and… magic!

MR: Yeah, I think it was really strong in the fact that we both came from different backgrounds in terms of music tastes, I know over the summer Charlie was showing me a lot of artists that I’m now obsessed with, I never listened to anyone like Four Tet or Flying Lotus, until we went to a concert in the park last summer which was so cool.

CA: We both have classical musical backgrounds actually, we were both trained – I took piano lessons for years, I’m actually a composition student, I was studying composition at the New World School of the Arts Miami, and Miranda has her degree from Columbia College in Chicago in Musical Theatre, right?

MR: Yep, I just graduated there, so we both definitely have… serious training, I suppose if you wanna call it!

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Rewd Adams - Rewd Awakening

Rewd Adams – Rewd Awakening

Rewd Adams is getting to the stage where the ‘formerly known as Skandal’ tag is no longer required when describing him, and in order to bang the final nails into that coffin he’s just about to drop a free LP. The generous 13 track’s major themes revolve around Rewd’s determination in spite of obstacles laid in his path, whether in the form of of circumstances or other people standing in his way.

major themes revolve around Rewd’s determination in spite of obstacles laid in his path

‘Onwards and upwards’ is the overarching philosophy to the collection, perhaps best illustrated by tracks like I Know, and it’s a refreshing change of tack in the face of so many rappers who seem to be constantly at loggerheads with someone or something.

Stylistically there’s a mix of soul samples, spacey synth beats and crunchy orchestral sections courtesy of Jon Phonics, M-Phazes, Beat Butcha, Sivey, Ed Strong, Loudmouth Melvin and Jetsun. There’s a fairly homogenous middling tempo to the LP, which is a shame considering 2009′s Hunger Pains mixtape showed off Adams’ range and capabilities with double time and half time flows, but nevertheless Rewd keeps things interesting throughout, assisted by guest appearances from Klashnekoff, P Money, Black the Ripper, and the vocal talents of Graziella and Neenah.

Production values to all the tracks are high, with crisp, well balanced mix downs providing clear vocals, thundering bass and smooth highs.

Rewd Awakening will be available to download for free from Rewd Adams’ site on the 5th of February… Keep an out out for an interview with Rewd on Oh Drat, published soon.

Graciela Maria - Nothing Safe

Graciela Maria – Nothing Safe

Nothing Safe is the lead single from Graciela Maria’s freshly released Many Places LP. As soon as the full album has been digested by my discerning thought centres, I shall be back with a review; this lead single is strong enough to excite me into over eagerness to crow about it before then.

Nigh on sub zero sample rate and bit depth commands the sound of the record

Nigh on sub zero sample rate and bit depth commands the sound of the record, juxtaposed by a melancholic string accompaniment and set to a trip hoppy drum loop that lurches the track incessantly on. Graciela Maria is superb in the forefront of this Robot Koch produced track, after featuring on the producer’s previous works as a vocalist.

A frankly stunning video, directed by Pol Ponsamau, more or less necessitates an instant rewind of the track,  and doing so uncovers new nuances in both the production and Maria’s performance.

Many places is available on vinyl, CD, and digital, with a list of distributors on the Project Mooncircle site.

Native Instruments Maschine

Maschine 1.6 Beta

Native Instruments have today released a public beta of version 1.6 of Maschine, their integrated hardware/software groove box. Maschine’s been rising in popularity over the past two years, as NI have consistently improved the workflow and featureset; the 1.6 update is the most radical update yet, as we finally see VST/AU plugin integration.

the 1.6 update is the most radical update yet, as we finally see VST/AU plugin integration

One of the most attractive things about Maschine is its ability to immerse you totally in the controller. Thankfully, NI have continued this with 1.6, as plugin browsing is as simple as sample loading. This is facilitated by a new way of approaching sound loading, as now there are four ‘modules’ per pad, which can be populated with either a sampler or plugin and up to three internal or plugin effects.

Other workflow improvements such as pad link, swing per sound, and further improvements to drag and drop between the application and the desktop/other applications are bolstered by doubling the outputs to 16 stereo outs. Maschine is starting to look seriously powerful, and touch wood, the beta hasn’t crashed on me yet so it shouldn’t be too long before we see it go gold. When it does, look forward to a new review…

Bilal - Levels

Bilal – Levels

His debut LP, First Born Second, was released during ‘neo soul’s rallying period,  amongst his contemporaries the likes of Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo and so on. Bilal’s more avant-garde approach to his sound, though, had the LP stand out with a few curveballs – a facet of his music that was echoed in last year’s follow up Airtight’s Revenge.

superb production seems to reference a melting pot of psych and prog rock, house, and jazz

Levels is one of those tracks, as Shafiq Husayn (with co-production from Bilal)’s superb production seems to reference a melting pot of psych and prog rock, house, and jazz, the unrelenting four on the floor drum beat an escaped voltage signal in a faulty machine, overdriven guitars imposing themselves as soft strings, pianos and synth tones dance around. Bilal’s vocal is the personification of delicate beauty.

Psychadelic, astral themed video direction by none other than Flying Lotus is totally mesmerising, and dare I say, made me think ‘Street Fighter’ in parts… watch and see if you agree.

Levels is available as an EP, which features the original, the instrumental, a Flying Lotus re-edit, and the SonnyMoon Remix. You can get it from iTunes

FULL SCREEN
The Sounds of VTech / Bilal Levels   

Let's Buy Happiness - Fast Fast

Let’s Buy Happiness – Fast Fast

Inspiration can come in many forms, and a rounded palate is as important as a specialism. It’s with that mentality that I juggle something of a dilemma from time to time in my tireless quest to provide a publication of merit… actually, that’s a lie. I’m often tired. Digressions aside, I know my strengths; if I don’t feel qualified to speak on something, I tend avoid it so as not to do it an injustice (or avoid embarrassing myself by overstating its value). But, with the sentiment of my first point in mind, there’s definitely value in reaching out of one’s comfort zone, and if yours is similar to mine then Let’s Buy Happiness is definitely reaching.

Fast Fast feels in a near perpetual state of buildup, tension expertly peaking, and then peaking further

The female led group, held in high regard in circles that actually know what they’re talking about, is set to release this single and B side on the 28th of February. Fast Fast feels in a near perpetual state of buildup, tension expertly peaking, and then peaking further, making the eventual payoff akin to the steam lid blowing off a kettle. Ending without any concession to a cool down, it’s perfectly accompanied by the soft, pensive acoustic turn in Devil Show.

Where do you feel your strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to genre – and do you feel a synoptic influence to all art, regardless of its genre or medium? I’d love to know.

Do Re Mi - Thought Crimes/Rossington Code

Do Re Mi – Thought Crimes/Rossington Code

The notion of A side/B side is destined to one day become a mythical throwback to yesteryear, the romantic days when physical media dictated such things. The freedom that the B side afforded artists, the idea of the double A side… eventually, it will all be a memory. Perhaps, at least.

Rossington Code’s sultry electric pianos are the main focus of its half timed escapade from humid rhythm to humid rhythm

Preamble notwithstanding, this digital release from Do Re Mi is a double barrelled offering.

In Thought Crimes, Joey Prolapse’s lament of big brother’s (Orwell, not McAll… or whoever your figurehead for the vacuous voyeur show may be) empty promises and fallacious methods of control is given fleeting control over the score, sharing with a sampled monologue and the track’s melodies as they wash in and out of the track; the rap is treated much more a part in the song than the main focus.

Rossington Code’s sultry electric pianos are the main focus of its half timed escapade from humid rhythm to humid rhythm, morphing between funky, garage, and dub. All in all, a worthwhile listen.

Cubase 6

Cubase 6 Announced – Available Now

Cubase 6 was not only premiered at NAMM last week, but it’s already available for purchase. It’s easy to forget that Steinberg invented both ASIO and VST technologies – especially for a Mac user, for whom CoreAudio is the driver of choice and AudioUnits the plugin du jour.

Now, instead of having to split MIDI notes into different tracks to make controller changes to different notes, CC information is connected to each note

VST is not only still going strong, though, but a constantly developing standard; Steinberg are introducing some genuinely innovative features to Cubase 6, and increasing integration with VST 3.5. Top of the list is Note Expression, which ties CC and note information together in the editor. Now, instead of having to split MIDI notes into different tracks to make controller changes to different notes, CC information is connected to each note. You’re free to move notes and have the automation follow them, change the attack on some notes, and so on. It does require an instrument that supports the new format, though…

There are a range of other catch ups to the latest in other DAW features, notably included instruments

Other than that, Cubase’s audio slicing features have been improved, with fluid bpm detection allowing you to score to (for instance) a drum track without ‘warping’ it to a static host tempo and Vari Audio allowing the treatment of audio like MIDI; one thing that looks interesting is enhanced drum detection allowing the separation of drum tracks. There are a range of other catch ups to the latest in other DAW features, notably included instruments – perhaps the most conspicuous the aping of the amp and stomp box studio Apple introduced to Logic 9. Simple comping ala Record, automation scaling, group editing and more have all been introduced…

At over £500 RRP, Cubase 6 might be the most expensive of the DAWs. Look out for a review investigating all the ins and outs soon to see whether it’s worth it… Until then, you can take a look at some of the new features on the Steinberg site

© www.alexwinn.com 2007

Interview: Miss Baby Sol

Miss Baby Sol is a well known character in London music circles, having written with, collaborated with, been in the choirs or backing section for a host of artists including J’nay, Paloma Faith, Amy Winehouse and more. Her EP Before I Begin (The Journey) was released this month, and I gave it a great review here. After enjoying the jazz, soul, and reggae tinged CD it was a treat to have a chat with Baby Sol on her writing process, emotional release, and a special man in her life named Winston…

OD: So, how’re things? How’s the post-release buzz?!

BS: Oh I’m really pleased, this whole thing has been a sort of ‘put to bed’ project for me; a lot of the songs on the EP are songs that have existed for a long time now and I’ve sort of moved on emotionally -and physically. It’s sort of a different life and I wanted to get rid of it – not in a bad way, but sort of like… purge it from myself, it was a form of therapy. And share it, too, sort of… group therapy. And now people are telling me it’s really good I’m just like “…really? Thanks!”

I guess I can call them my fanbase, which is weird, because I never really thought of myself as having ‘fans’! Basically I just thought it was a bunch of people who liked what I did… I’d call them my friends, really – I’d know them all by name, we’d have conversations over the internet… I still do that now but it’s getting harder as there are more people getting interested in what I’m doing. …sorry, I rambled there! I do that.

“we live life through time, we learn through time; if you put material together through that way of thinking then it does take time”

OD: Ha! No, not at all – it does bring me to my next point, which is that you’ve a huge list of credits as a backing singer or a guest or a supporting artist, a lot of well known names and a lot of time spent… so how does it feel to really well and truly step into the limelight with your own EP?

BS: I feel… accomplished. I know it’s just a small EP with 500 limited copies and not some massive campaign for the masses, but I really do because the people that have stuck around and actually followed what I’ve been doing wanted to hear what I’ve got to say, and I’m just so pleased that I’ve been able to give back to them as well. As much as the EP was for me and my mum, it was for them as well as a thank you for hanging in for so long. So it just feels like I’ve done it now, I’ve finally done something with my life!

OD: You’re not retiring already are you?!

BS: No! I’m not going to retire! Music is part of my life, part of me, so I keep creating, keep writing. The songs that I write are just expressions of my emotions, they just come out – and I love that, because that means they’re real. But it also means they take time, because we live life through time, we learn through time; if you put material together through that way of thinking then it does take time. So on a personal level, I’ll never stop. On a professional level, I want to be a songwriter, I want to write for other people. I’ve always been a bit of an empath, I love to sit down with people and help them express what they’re feeling – I’m really looking forward to progressing with that. When it comes to performing, I don’t really mind what capacity it’s in – on the stage, in the choir… in the bathroom! (laughs) Basically, no, I’m not going to retire! That’s the actual answer to the actual question you asked! Okay, ask me more questions!

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M-Audio Venom

M-Audio Venom Announced

M-Audio has a long history of controller keyboards – harking right back to their days as MidiMan. The recently-consolidated-into-Avid brand is now shooting in a new direction: a hardware synthesiser.

Venom implements a DSP based oscillator drift to emulate those unstable old voltage controlled circuits

Venom is a 49 key synth, audio interface, and MIDI controller, and M-Audio state its versatility – citing it as great for everything from pads, basslines, and drums, to leads and textures. Its analogue emulation goes as far as to sample the waveforms from a host of classic synths as well as implement a DSP based oscillator drift to emulate those unstable old voltage controlled circuits.

An impressive synthesis engine featuring masses of modulation, per voice and master effects coupled with eight voices, four part multi-timbral operation, and twelve voice polyphony is taken advantage of by the onboard USB2 audio interface, which allows the Venom to act something like a DSP system and send synth outputs directly to a DAW. This certainly mitigates the £390 price tag, as having four complex and rock solid synths and drum machines added to your rig with no extra toll on your system is a big bonus. Editing looks to benefit from the close relationship with a computer too, as the multilayered editing controls on the unit’s fascia are complemented by a full soft synth resembling software editor for realtime changes.

Available immediately, I am looking forward to getting my hands on the Venom to give you the full lowdown… full spec is available at M-Audio’s site.

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