Simiah - Purple Dreams

Simiah – Purple Dreams

Time for some instrumental hip hop. Full of dusty breaks, tape noise, head nodding beats and occasional, yet expert, cuts, Purple Dreams is a superb free album. Get it.

Full of dusty breaks, tape noise, head nodding beats

Excuse the brevity in this Friday’s music post, but the Oh Drat studio is on the move this weekend and there’s a lot of work to do! Have a good weekend all!

 

Lostribe

Interview: Lostribe

Lostribe is the collaboration between Agustus ThElefant and JusLuv, and we liked their recent LP Sophie (reviewed here) – so we thought we’d have a chat.

Oh Drat: We found there was a nice breadth of styles on the LP, but the album as a whole still felt contingent. Tell me a little about where you get your style from and what ‘places’ you go to to bring it all together.

JustLuv: Yeah, obviously we’re super heavily influenced by the evolution of conscious hip hop over the last 10-15 years, but we’ve also been somewhat immersed – I guess this is more myself – in the electronic music scene so we try to incorporate some of those influences and work on melding ‘modern music’, you know? If it has a break beat and it makes people wanna dance, then that’s where we wanna go, as much as possible from all different genres.

OD: And when it comes to equipment do you have a variety of different equipment you bring together to make that happen too, or…?

JL: Yeah – I produce mostly on software I’m not willing to disclose, it’s one of my secret weapons, but we use a bunch of different plugins, VSTs I use like Omnisphere, the Effectrix plugin, Izotope Stutter Edit -

“I produce mostly on software I’m not willing to disclose, it’s one of my secret weapons” – JustLuv

Augustus ThElefant: MIDI keyboards

JL:  - MIDI keyboards, everything was pretty much produced on software, there was very little actual analogue work done, it was all recorded at Nate Da Gr8’s studio, he engineered and mixed everything down and it was recorded on Cubase, but there’s definitely some secrets we’ve gotta keep under wraps a little bit about how we actually got that sound.

OD: Okay, so do you think that as production gets increasingly into the digital age, and increasingly computers are powerful enough to power software that sounds as good as a hardware synth, that it gets more and more important to have those secrets and keep things under wraps?

JL: Yeah, it seems like the software that’s being created now is creating avenues and the ability for producers to explore sound in ways that was never possible before, and the music in many ways is a product of the technology, in many ways, it seems. There’s a lot of software and DAWs coming out that anybody with no talent can jump on and sound good on, because the technology adds so much to the creative process at this point.

OD: So when it comes to writing tracks, as you say talent plays a big part in creating something that’s memorable, but getting that initial ‘bang’ is something that’s getting increasingly easy to do from a beginning stage, how do you guys combine when it comes to lyric writing and music writing process to make sure you get these ‘tight’ songs?

ATE: Well, you know with this project JustLuv was creating enough music for us to create an entire album, and I basically look at the beat and emotionally how I respond to it entails the direction of the writing, where it’s going to go.

OD: Do you feel your emotional response to the beat is an important factor in the fact that you two are a group?

JL: Yeah, I mean the thing about the music we make is that we hope to, whatever it may be, touch on some emotional theme. Whether it be a breakup, reminiscing about old times, getting over bad times.

ATE: There’s always a conceptual thought to the music, you know, but for me particularly as a writer – and I know this is different for different writers – it’s important to get inspiration and influence out of the emotion I get from the track. There are plenty of tracks on this album that had a concept, and I knew when I heard the track what needed to be covered.

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batteryfull

Review: Native Instruments Battery 3.2

Battery has been around for a long, long time, and has survived more than one rationalisation of Native Instruments’ product line. Battery 3’s been hanging on in there with point releases for a couple of years now, and the recently landed 3.2 update adds in a few more features. We decided to take a look, and get a little refresher course on v3 as a whole while we were at it…


SPECS:

Windows (XP/Vista 7), P4 2.4GHz or Core Duo/Athlon64 min / OSX (10.5+) Core Duo. 2GB RAM.

 

PROS:
  • The best software, cell based sample player available
  • Huge library
  • Very nice onboard effects
CONS:
  • No synthesis
  • Sample pack support appears to be winding down
Price at Review: £149. Battery is the best at what it does, it’s mainly a shame that it doesn’t have a drum synth engine built in.

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As far as drum samplers go, Battery’s had the pleasure of sitting at the top of the pile more or less since its inception. Battery 2 didn’t mess with the original’s winning formula, and Battery 3 has also wisely stuck to the foundations of the software. That foundation is essentially a matrix of sample cells up to 16×8 in size (increased since version 2), which can load a wide variety of audio file formats into them ready for velocity layering, application of effects, and eventually triggering either in standalone mode or by your favourite sequencer. The interface itself is separated into said matrix, at the top, and an edit pane below. Selecting a sample cell brings up its editing options in the multi tabbed pane, and it’s these editing options that have been bolstered most in the 3, 3.1, and 3.2 updates.

velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery

Whilst Battery doesn’t support direct sampling, its sample editor is very powerful and if you’re used to a hardware drum sampler you won’t be disappointed, as sample level editing on a high resolution screen facilitates new levels of precision.Similarly, velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery, with visual cues and a mouse led design, and loop points (four per sample, no less) are very quick to define and set rules for.

Those of you who are still stuck to your hardware samplers for their ease of use and immediacy will find the improved MIDI learn and autoload two of the most useful additions to 3.1 and 3.2 respectively, opening up a much more modern workflow whereby a basic controller pairing is memorised by the software, trumping previous versions’ slightly awkward initial patch setup. Battery’s 16 outputs also come in handy for bussing out individual sounds to effects chains and groups, and with colour coding of cells a simple process, having Battery on a large monitor as opposed to a miniature (and often monochrome) display is a real boon.

Battery has a big library: 12GB of big. Within, you’ll find a huge variety of acoustic and electronic drum kits, and best of all a huge amount of acoustically recorded velocity layers for maximum realism. It’s not the only library you’ll ever need for drums, but it definitely covers most bases.

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Floex - Zorya

Floex – Zorya

We really like this one. A combination of poignant, noisy recordings of acoustic instruments meshed with eloquent, mood driving electronica, Zorya has a sophisticated air granted by the quality of both the recording and the compositional finesse it possesses.

Zorya has a sophisticated air

The percussion-less tracks, like Mecholup, are truly enthralling, whilst the rhythm led pieces generate energy between the the sways. Following the link through to Floex’s Bandcamp also reveals a CD and LP version available for pre-order – something we’re always impressed by.

lfofeatured

Smart Tips: Understand LFOs

From wobbling basslines to subtle, organic sounding sound morphing, the amount of uses an LFO has make it one of the most powerful oscillators on a synthesiser without it even making a sound. Let’s take a deeper look at how they work and how to use them…


First things first, LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillator
. Unlike the other oscillators in a synth, which operate at frequencies conducive to generating sound, an LFO typically oscillates in single digit hertz. The goal of the LFO is to create a rhythm and shape by which other parameters on a synth or sampler are modulated; most LFOs have four main functions:

Destination. An obvious one, this: you need to create a link between the LFO and whatever parameter you want it to modulate. Some of the most common are pitch and filter cutoff, but different synths have varying parameters that the LFOs can control – from envelopes to oscillator mix and phase – that will fulfill your sound design cravings.

Shape. The shape of the waveform on the LFO defines how the target parameter will move; you can imagine the shape’s up and down movements as your hand adjusting the parameter, and the rhythm with which you do it is defined by the horizontal axis, representing time. Select a sine wave and the parameter will smoothly increase and decrease through its values, select a square and it will switch between them sharply. Many LFOs have crazy, arhythmic waveforms that can be used to create natural sounding changes in a sound.

Rate. Most LFOs allow you to switch between synced and non synced rates, and each is handy for different reasons. Rhythmical effects like wobbing synths are obviously better off synced to tempo, whereas when using an LFO to create surprising and naturalistic changes to a sound, the less of a distinguishable rhythm there is the better. Changing the rate of the LFO on the fly will give you that dubstep rhythmic wobble, and sweeping the rate of an unsynced LFO that’s also set to a weird and wonderful waveform will create a totally unpredictable sound.

Amount. The amount of movement of the parameter, from minimum to maximum, will depend on this dial. Typically, the point at which the parameter you are connecting to the LFO is set is the central point, and so a sine wave will make the parameter travel the whole peak upwards and whole trough downwards from where it is physically set. Some LFO amounts will allow you to set the minimum and maximum separately for even more control. For subtle effects, like for instance simulating unstable oscillator pitch, set the amount to very low. The higher you set the amount the wilder the effect will be.

Example: Wobble Bass

The infamous wobble bass sound is created by making a synth patch that has a low pass filter in its signal. When the low pass filter is static, there is a constant ceiling above which frequencies are deadened out.

Here’s our synth with the filter sitting still:

move it, though, and a sweeping effect occurs as we become aware of that ceiling moving and the tonality of the sound changes.

Rather than sit manually twisting the cutoff knob throughout an entire song, we can ‘attach’ the cutoff to the LFO, which will modulate it for us. Using a sine wave LFO will smoothly raise and lower the cutoff by an amount we specify, so all we have to do is dial the cutoff of the low pass filter to the ‘middle’ of the sound, and adjust the LFO amount to control how wild the sweeping effect is.

Low amount:

High amount:

Next we just set the rate of the LFO, and in this case we want to sync it to the track tempo so that we get a rhythmic wobbling sound. If we change the rate of the LFO as our bassline plays (making sure to get a healthy mix of straight timing and triplet timing to really emphasise the groove) we will be able to change our rhythm as we go!

There you have it; now you don’t just know how to get those wobbling sounds, you also know how an LFO actually works. Now you too can attract the ire of purists everywhere for using wobbling synth sounds in your productions – until they come back into fashion in six months, that is.

Remember to click here to Like the Oh Drat Facebook page for more tips, tutorials and more!

Steinberg CMC

Steinberg Announce CMC Modular Cubase Controllers

All too often we’re forced to choose between either something that’s slightly under specced for our needs or something that’s got everything but the kitchen sink but is way too grand for what what we need it to do.

Steinberg have broken down their control concepts into modular offerings to allow us to mix and match our perfect control surface

Steinberg seem to have cottoned onto this, and rather than come out with a family of differently sized controllers as seems to be the trend, they’ve broken down their concepts into modular offerings to allow us to mix and match our perfect control surface.

Each controller is designed with a specific Cubase function in mind for extra tight integration with Steinberg’s flagship, but also doubles as a standard MIDI controller for maximum flexibility. The products, and their main features, are:

  • CMC-CH Channel controller: A hands on mirror of a Cubase channel strip
  • CMC-FD Fader box: Four touch strips with LED feedback
  • CMC-QC Quick Controller: Eight rotary encoders and a selection of buttons for quickly switching functions
  • CMC-PD Drum Pads: 16 velocity sensitive, tri colour LED drum pads
  • CMC-TP Transport controller: A mirror of the Cubase transport section with a touch strip for scrubbing
  • CMC-AI Cubase Advanced Integration Controller: A ‘smart knob’ large sized rotary encoder that can be set to various functions by the accompanying buttons

There are some neat and novel design choices on the CMC series; we like the look of the use of touch strips to sidestep the issue of fader position when switching between functions, but we’re not 100% sure about the dynamic illumination on the rotary encoders instead of a traditional LED ring. Tight integration with Cubase is great for Cubase users, and hopefully users of other software will be able to enjoy the controllers in standard MIDI mode.

The CMC series is due for release in October. No word on prices yet, but take a look at the below video for a good look at the controllers in turn – Steinberg have also set up a CMC minisite for your browsing pleasure.

Charlie Fracture

The Questions: Fracture

The Questions is back, and this week’s answeree (that may not be a word, but we’re going with it) is the UK’s Fracture, a drum and bass producer who also records and performs as one half of Fracture and Neptune; the duo are currently (16th of September – 31st of October 2011) touring their Retrospective: A Decade of Fracture and Neptune set. We’re starting to notice a pattern when it comes to working with dads – former The Questions respondent Santos named his as his most fun person to work with too – maybe you should give it a go! Anyway, without further ado let’s get to it!

Name: Fracture (Charlie Fieber)

The name of the first song I was really proud of was called:  Oh wow, what a question! Um, I wrote a few that no one has heard, right back at the beginning that I’m still proud of. Very naive, but I love that in music. In terms of the released stuff it’s probably a Fracture & Neptune track called Deadlands

Most fun person I’ve ever worked with: I think I would have to say my Dad, Martin Fieber. He is a slide guitarist and we (Fracture & Neptune) have worked with him on two tracks, Customtone and Ventura. The experience of translating our ideas for a drum and bass track onto an instrument famous for 1950s/60s blues music was quite testing. The result was totally worth it.

“I think ‘to work quickly’ is definitely the best advice”

Best musical advice I’ve ever been given: Wow, another great question. I think ‘to work quickly’ is definitely the best advice. Try not to drag projects out longer than a couple of days.

A piece of gear I couldn’t live without: Sadly, my computer. As it is the hub and brain of the studio.

A piece of gear I wish I could live without:  My computer! I would love to go back to using just an MPC or sampler with sequencer built in.

My studio environment in three words: Bass, Tea and Vibes.

A song I wish I’d written: UFO by Photek.

If I could do it all again, I’d: Have written UFO

Fracture: Site / Twitter / Facebook

Fracture’s latest Loopmasters pack, a selection of Drum and Bass presets for Rob Papen’s Albino synth, is out now! Check out this iTunes only bonus track from Fracture and Neptune’s Retrospect LP too, taken from their SoundCloud:

 
Fracture – Detached – Retrospect LP iTunes only bonus track by Fracture And Neptune

Parappa

Music Production and Gaming: When Two Worlds Collide

Gaming and music are two almost universally liked forms of art and entertainment. Throw them together, and the two worlds collide in various inventive ways. The roots of computer based electronic music production were laid down by eager experimenters with Commodore 64s, Amigas and Ataris, excited by the prospects their beige wonder machines promised beyond Centipede and Manic Miner – but how they did that is a piece for another time. Today we’re going to look at how music production and composition has been approached in the context of gaming in three different ways – and nominate our favourites in the categories!

1: Rhythm Games

Our Favourite: Parappa The Rapper

 

Rhythm games represent actual musicianship to varying degrees; some games require nothing more than mechanical duplication whilst other more interesting fare rewards ‘freestyle’ – and our all time favourite of these more appealing (at least to our sensibilities) versions is Parappa The Rapper. In your quest to impress your beau as the venerable rapping dog, the only way you could get the best ratings was to ride the beats with some style and initiative. The sequel Um Jammer Lammy traded in bars for guitars and the style and wackiness, in our humble opinion, knocks the scripted drudgery of Guitar/DJ Hero into a cocked hat.

Interesting Mention: Numark Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

 

Numark’s Scratch the Ultimate DJ was announced way before DJ Hero, but the release of DJ Hero (along with some seedy legal battles involving Activision’s purchase of the developer of Scratch which publisher Numark asserts was specifically to delay release so that DJ Hero would hit shores first) means it’s entirely possible that it’ll never see the light of day, despite having by far the most interesting hardware… shame.

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Infinite Livez - I Will Die Broke, You Will Just Die

Infinite Livez – I Will Die Broke, You Will Just Die

Has it all been a bit smooth round these parts for a while? Let’s rectify that. I Will Die Broke, You Will Just Die is a dissonant, surreal, bold, and overall successful EP from London native Infinite Livez.

I Will Die Broke, You Will Just Die is a dissonant, surreal, bold, and overall successful EP

Sometimes music is easy to listen to because of the warmth and tonality of instruments tweaked for centuries into our mainstays. Sometimes music is fun to listen to because the tones and melodies are so far from the schemas that we immediately try to pigeonhole music into that we’re forced to listen consciously to what it is that grabs us about the music in the first place. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I Will Die… fits into the latter. Happy weekend!

 

Boonie Mayfield

Interview: Boonie Mayfield

Boonie Mayfield, aka Boon Doc, came to prominence through his YouTube videos; considering most beatmaking clips are lucky to break a four figure view count, the fact that one of Boonie’s is approaching a million views is indicative of something special. Despite years of putting in work (and putting out videos) he’s only  just released his debut LP, but as you’ll see from our review we were relieved to find it was worth it. We caught up with Boonie for a chat on production style, advice, perseverence, and a whole lot more…

 

Oh Drat: Was creating something that more than ‘just’ a beat tape something that was important to you?

Boonie Mayfield: Yeah, it was really important. Basically, I’ve been on the YouTube scene and everything like that for the past four years, and people have been waiting forever for an album.

“a lot of the stuff I was hearing I thought I could recreate and it would sound like something I would sample”

I’d started using Ableton to do live sets and originally Black Koolaid was gonna be an instrumental album but it was gonna be ‘normal’, you know, and what ended up happening was I was practicing one of my sets I was gonna do for a show, and I burned it on CD just to ride to and see how it sounded, and I was like “you know what? This is gonna be Black Koolaid. A listening experience where everything flows”… I was more excited about the album once I decided that.

OD: Gotcha – so when it comes to the way everything flows, what are you using? Did we hear Stutter Edit in there, or is it custom stuff in Live?

BM: Ahaaa! (laughs) A lot of people have been asking that, and I’ve been kinda keeping it a secret! I use a lot of the effects that are in Ableton, but there are a couple of programs… I’ll give one of ‘em away, The Finger from Native Instruments. I set up the automation to the faders and pads and do all that stuff live.

OD: I gather you had a bit of bad luck about 18 months ago when your studio got turned over – it must’ve felt like the end of the world at the time, but what did having to build your set up from the ground up again do for your sound and approach?

BM: I’d just started to dabble in Logic around that time, and at the time I was rebuilding the studio there were just so many VSTs and AUs that were coming out that I was just researching, you know, “what VST has really good sounding horns?” and all that stuff, and I built a pretty good arsenal of a lot of instruments that sound to me really authentic. Although I love sampling I kinda got a little bored for a while, and at the same time learning all this music theory and getting better with keys and all that, so a lot of the stuff I was hearing I thought I could recreate and it would sound like something I would sample – that’s what started happening after I got robbed. After it happened I think a lot of people thought I was was gonna lose my mind, and to tell you the truth I did… for like an hour. Something in me just kept on telling me “this is not over”. Truth be told it was kind of a struggle for a bit, but I wouldn’t take it back at all.

OD: It’s good to hear that it kind of turned into a positive experience, I guess.

BM: Yeah, it definitely did! (laughs)

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