nektartemplate

Nektar Announce Panorama P4 Competition

We’ve been keeping our eye on Nektar‘s forthcoming Panorama Controller, because not only is it gorgeous but since we got our review copy of Reason 6 we’ve been absolutely in love (prepare for our review soon!).

Nektar have announced that they’ll be giving away the very first Panorama P4 to one lucky winner

Presumably feeling the Christmas spirit, Nektar have announced that they’ll be giving away the very first Panorama P4 off the production lines to one lucky winner; you can enter for your chance to scoop up the controller here. This isn’t an endorsement of course, as we’re yet to use one – but we hope that’ll change soon, right Nektar?!

numberlinefeat

Number Line Records – Sampler Vol. 2

When it comes to recommending new music – and that’s what our music posts are all about here on Oh Drat, we only post things we think will give you inspiration – there’s little better than a label sampler in our book.
[pullquote]Instead of one new artist, a label sampler is like a seed that branches out into a veritable harvest of new artists to get to know and love[/pullquote]
Instead of one new artist, a label sampler is like a seed that branches out into a veritable harvest of new artists to get to know and love, but a seed that continues to give after all the fruit from the current crop’s been plucked. Number Line Records is new to us, but we’ll certainly be keeping up with them from now on as their second sampler features a superb blend of electronic and acoustic artists, from the feedback swamped, reverb drenched guitar licks of Pious Kiss by Manuel Nicolas Alvero are perfectly underpinned by some electronic toms and cowbells, before drifting out into the ether. The change of pace with Tarsius’s housey Deathless Gods came at just the right time to assure me that the release would span both pace and genre, and following the grungey, garage band stylings of PNP’s Plant a Tree is another change of pace into a more acoustic themed, noisily mic’d, somehow tactile final third.

Phaeleh

Phaeleh

Phaeleh (pronounced Fella, for those of you not in the know) is a Bristol, UK based artist whose cinematic, orchestral sound goes against the grain of the increasingly homogenous dubstep schema and has earned him worldwide acclaim in the process. It’s perhaps not a surprise to hear that he has years of musical experience behind him, so we had an interesting chat about musical theory tips, as well as getting a worldwide fan base, his equipment, and more…

“I’ve got quite a global following which I feel quite lucky to have”

Oh Drat: Hi Phaeleh – so you’re off on tour?

Phaeleh: Yeah off tomorrow actually, a couple of weeks in New Zealand, couple of weeks in Australia…

OD: Wow… so I guess that’s just about as far from home as you can go; would you say you have a truly international following?

P: Yeah definitely; I think it’s only in the past year that my popularity in the UK’s matched some other places, I mean I was playing gigs in Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, places like that before I was getting London bookings, for example. I’d definitely say I’ve got quite a global following which I feel quite lucky to have.

OD: It’s interesting, with dubstep being a bought and paid for ‘UK sound’ that things were happening for you outside the UK before they were on home turf… what do you think?

P: Yeah, I think it’s all been done a bit backwards, I’ve had help with things along the way but certainly initially it’s all been off my own back, there were no magazines or blogs or anything, it wasn’t until I’d had a few releases out that UK people like Electronic Explorations hosting a couple of mixes, a mix for Skream, and Chemical Records did a big promo with a big mix CD as well, which has pushed it at a faster rate. Initially though it was done off my own back and that’s what led to people around the globe picking up the tunes and I think they had that thing where they took ownership of finding the musician, you know when you’re a teenager and you find a band that no-one else likes? I think a lot of people got into it because they found the music themselves rather than a hypey blog telling them they should listen to it.

OD: I see, so because you were self managing did you look at the whole world because of the internet?

P: Erm… I never set out with a plan, I think initially my thing was just to get a few digital releases out myself and do as many gigs as possible. To start with I was paying to get to gigs, you know, there were rarely fees involved, and it’s because I knew the only way to get get anywhere was to get the name out there. I never made the plan ‘let’s go global’, you know, but I just started getting emails in 2007, 2008 sort of time from promoters in France and Lithuania saying “I’ve come across your tunes on Juno” – or something – “would you be up for playing a show?”. I think especially further afield, more east, the fans really appreciate me going to play there and so I’ve earned a bit of respect from them and they spread the word whilst it was kicking off in the UK at the same time.

OD: That’s great. So your musical background is formally classically trained, is that right?

P: Yeah it is, I mean I don’t like that term ‘classically trained’ because it makes me sound like I’ve spent my classroom years locked up in a conservatoire whilst my parents tried to make up for their own failings..! I played classical guitar, that was always my thing, but I’d play Nirvana and Metallica at home and stuff like that, I wasn’t necessarily the most devoted student! But yeah, I do have quite a musical background compared to a lot of producers who are coming up from a DJing background, I’ve come up playing funk bands, jazz bands, metal bands, you name it I’ve generally done it..!

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Heavyocity Damage

Heavyocity Damage

Damage is a triple A rompler that uses Native Instrument’s Kontakt player to house a massive soundbank of devastating percussion sounds that smash their way through your productions. The Kontakt player concept has been gaining traction for a while, and revolves around a self contained, non-editable version of the Kontakt sampler; Kontakt has a very clever scripting engine built into it that allows ambitious mechanics to get distilled into simple to use top level controls, and when combined with custom user interfaces the Kontakt Player can be made to feel like an instrument in its own right. NI are obviously very happy with Heavyocity as shown by the advertising co-branding, so let’s take a look at the ins and outs to see if it’s worth the pretty large price tag…


SPECS:

Requires: Win/Mac, standalone or VST/AU/RTAS, 30GB for install

 

PROS:
  • Fantastic sounds
  • Great effects
  • Loads of live playability
CONS:
  • Huge install
  • Entirely self contained
Price at Review: £239 Damage is packed with unique, dirty sounds. It’s not going to be your go-to plugin for main drums, but it’s great for cinematic sounds and garnish. Just make sure you have plenty of free space for the install.

 

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Like any good rompler, the included sounds are very unique. Heavyocity have gone fire and brimstone on everything from burning pianos to smashing cars with wrecking balls, but they’ve dialled things in a little and recorded some classic snares, cymbals, and other percussion staples with world class equipment to make sure that the resultant collection still resembles drums. The quality of the sounds is pristine, and ensembles were recorded with unbelievable precision, but don’t expect to load up Damage and smash out your main drum section if you’re producing any dance or beats music. The sounds in Damage are huge and intense, and there’s little if anything in the way of clean, snappy hits that you might typically use to drive a track. Damage comes into its own when using it as the bells and whistles (not that there are many bells and whistles included) of the percussion of your track.

there’s an array of amp envelope sequencers that can be set to note on messages to allow you to switch between them

The loops are split into a few different general feels, ranging from ‘mangled pop’ to ‘epic organic’. In the broader categories, there are patches that load in loops on every key over two octaves, allowing you to layer up and create big parts. It’s impressive how well the timing and general sound of all the loops sync up, even if it does feel a tiny bit lazy to use them, and to really get busy with tweaking individuality there’s an array of amp envelope sequencers that can be set to note on messages to allow you to switch between them. There’s also the option to load individual loops into the player, which brings up a different interface page.

 

In the individual loop mode, loops are sliced and individual slices can be panned, pitched and level adjusted, and there are four controls each for randomness, freeze, and ‘slice drop’ (which skips slices rhythmically). The four controls for each make the effect incrementally stronger, quicker, or larger, and everything keeps time no matter what happens. There’s a reverse loop button too, but weirdly it doesn’t follow the behaviour of the rest of the controls and actually shifts the playhead back; rather than playing from slice five after hitting reverse on slice three to get a 1, 2, 3, 2, 1 effect (as you would get if you froze slice three for two slices using the freezer), it plays from slice two again. Each slice in the loop can also be individually triggered, and all the effects are also triggered from keyboard keys. You can also drag the loops, with timing data in tact, into your sequencer – great for putting your own spin on things after using a loop for inspiration.

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Himal - Makin' Moves

Himal – Makin’ Moves

Just a single track today, but we hope that Himal’s Makin’ Moves is indicative of his forthcoming EP. The track is rich with tonality, a fact that’s likely attributable to the combination of artists involved in the composition.

Himal’s soulful, modern sound is given impressive width and depth

Kensaye the producer, Andrew Yeates on keys, Jack Stevens on bass, previously featured artist Cherri Prince on backing vocals, and Mr Dex providing scratches allows not only each instrument but the character of the player to bring the track to life, and each element – along, of course, with Himal’s soulful, modern sound and simple laid back lyricism – is given impressive width and depth in the recording by Kensaye. Enjoy the free download!

Cappo

Interview: Cappo

Cappo is a prolific emcee and producer hailing from the UK whose last album, Genghis, was entirely self produced and his latest work introduces a new style and an entire new persona: Gusto Grizwold. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on working as both an emcee and producer, how he feels about diversifying, and some invaluable tips both for emcees and producers working with other artists…

 

Oh Drat: Hi Cappo, so how’s things – how’re things going with the new release?

Cappo: It’s good; we had a couple of problems with the CD manufacturing, because the ink on the CDs themselves was changed from the original plan and someone made a mistake at the manufacturers so they’ve gone back… but everyone who’s preordered up to now will be sent one of these CDs that’s not the ‘right’ colours, so although they don’t know it those CDs are super rare – there’s only about 30 of them in existence.

“Before Genghis I was a different artist”

OD: It’s funny how things work out to create these little special limited things.

C: It is yeah, the quirky ways that make things rare; sometimes it’s the tracklistings that change, or slight differences on vinyl or something… hopefully if Gusto goes the way I want it to it’ll be something that’s worth its weight in gold [I’m already treasuring mine – Chris] so to speak.

We did the launch in Notts the other day and had lots of people come out to support and that was a good feeling, because the new music is a new type of sound for me – stories about my life and such – but people seem to have received it well, although it’s not the same as a Learn to be Strong or a Fire With Fire type track, but people who purchased one then will be amongst the 30 or 40 with one of the rare originals, so that’s good.

OD: So as you say, the Gusto Grizwold persona is a little different to what you’ve done previously, and I’ve seen you say the Genghis LP was your ‘opus’… would you say that working on a project like that for so long [2010’s Genghis was the first official solo Cappo LP since his 2003 debut Spaz the World] helped you to turn over a new leaf?

C: Yeah it did, you’ve hit the nail on the head there exactly. Before Genghis I was a different artist. In a lot of ways I was frustrated about how music was going and how things were working out, and I think people who are frustrated haven’t reached that certain point where they’re at ease with themselves because they’re working as hard as they can or they’ve achieved what they want to achieve. Genghis took a long time to make and there was a lot of meaning and a lot of enigmatic flows; it was a lot of my life at the time. When it was finished I saw the matrix of my own music and I achieved something that I didn’t think I was going to achieve, and it was a point in time when I needed to do it for myself, really, nobody else, just to prove I could do it on my own. I learned so much from the album, not just performing it live but the promotion around the release and stuff that gave me a lot of insight into how I wanted to do my music from there.

“I want to see where I can take things with the same formula and the same ethics as hip hop, but changing up the beats entirely”

At the same time Styly Cee and I were doing the Fallout album, so had that as a ‘backup’ after all the detailed, intricate production and lyrics for Genghis I had The Fallout lyrics to let things go and work out a bit of difference in my music. More and more I’ve been working on being as prolific as I can, and for the new stuff, pattern wise I want to change things up drastically. I’ve done a lot of tracks in a 4/4 signature type of beat, and whenever I hear something like that in that 4/4 style, that’s my heart, where I grew up and what I know – so it’ll always be my homeland in music, that’s me. But what I’m trying to do is expand myself. I’m 32 now and I’m trying to expand on my production and my rhyme flows; my rhyme flows are more important than anything and I need to keep rejeuvenating them and to keep things moving on. It’s like what Styly said when we did The Fallout, he’s ticked all the boxes of things he wants to do with hip hop so now he’s making different decisions about what he wants to make, and I’ll say the same thing. From Spaz the World to Genghis I feel like I’ve achieved a lot, and I want to see where I can take things with the same formula and the same ethics as hip hop, but changing up the beats entirely and working on different soundscapes that will inspire me to bring something different out of myself.

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Oranges... good for an analogy

Quick Tips: Sound Consistent

Have you ever worried that your music just doesn’t have that sparkling sheen that the biggest and best seem to make so effortlessly in their productions? Today’s return to quick tips is a hint at an almost philosophical (don’t worry, we won’t forget that we’re here to help you make music!) tutorial that we’re planning, and we’ve got an important concept:

Our brains order everything relative to everything else vying for attention in a particular context.

When you’re given time to settle into a particular sonic quality, you appreciate the consistency

Take orange juice. If all you ever drink is concentrate juice, you’ll really notice a glass of freshly squeezed. Similarly, if you’re a connoisseur and never drink anything you’ve not seen pulverised with your own eyes, you’ll find the long life stuff pretty hard to swallow. However, keep drinking and soon enough you’ll stop noticing so much. It’s the initial change that’s the eye opener, and whilst your experience may be subconsciously better or worse, when you’re not being constantly given different types of orange juice… okay, it’s time to stop with the orange juice analogy. When you’re given time to settle into a particular sonic quality, you appreciate the consistency.

The best way to apply this concept is to accept your limitations – be they your own lack of experience and confidence with objectively ‘better’ sound quality or just your equipment’s weaknesses – and use them to set the bar. There are some great examples of this; Madlib’s Beat Konducta series has a sketchbook quality underpinned by the grainy, lo-fi sound of the Boss SP-303 and a portable turntable, and ‘giving in’ to the pumping compression and aliased samples rewards you with a raw, deep listening experience.

Here are three pointers (we’re working on more, as we said – but this is Quick Tips, after all) for achieving a sound that will help to provide a consistency that glues an EP, album, or even your entire sound, together:

  • Work from a pool of drums. Rather than picking fresh drums from multi-gigabyte libraries every time you start a project, try and resolve a go-to personal drum library. Listen to your favourite producers; most producers have – certainly for kicks and snares, if not more – a handful of drum sounds that they base the rest of their percussion around. Doing this will help to ground your drums in the same acoustic space in your productions, providing consistency in your tracks.
  • Bit crunch is your friend. Although it can be overused, a little bit of bit crunch can go a long way to smoothing out sounds and making things fit that little bit better. A quick A/B comparison with the bit crunching off will help you to establish whether you’re going too far; bit crunching is best utilised to soften the edges of sounds, making them less obviously from wildly different sources.
  • Choose your character with master EQ. When you make tracks, don’t worry too much about EQing an individual track to tick as many characteristics (‘deep bass’, ‘snappy snares’, crisp ‘hats’, and so on)  as you can, instead try to keep things fairly flat. Different dynamics, instruments, moods and so on will make the ‘perfect’ EQ for each track different, so it’s much better to EQ with an entire EP/LP on the table to see where you can join the dots, and to a certain extent let the material choose how it wants to sound.

Let us know what you think to this concept, and any of your own tips! Compression, both precision and creative uses, can also play a big part in creating your own coherent sound, but that’s another tip for another day…

Au Palais - Tender Mercy EP

Au Palais – Tender Mercy EP

By Andrew McHarg

Rumbling low end and arpeggiated synths collide to create a sharp yet pleasing contrast in the new Au Palais EP ‘Tender Mercy’. A snapshot of the sound achieved here would be Depeche Mode crossed with The XX and a lot of reverb.

Au Palais record their music at night and it is reflected in the tone of the EP

Au Palais record their music at night and it is reflected in the tone of the EP. The title track ‘Tender Mercy’ makes excellent use of the low end to provide a ‘dark’ sound, yet its neon vocals transform the atmosphere into a more optimistic feeling. It’s night time, but it’s not neccesarily dark.
The sound of ‘Pathos’ reflects its title and moves into darker territory with brooding vocals and eerie synths.
‘Because The Night’ is the standout track for me – an evolving dream like sequence with a driving beat and a lot of tension.
The final track, ‘H.o.l.l.a.n.d’ is an instrumental number with bright, swirling chords and a unique squawking synth melody and departs from the darker tone heard previously.

There is a set sound throughout the EP, yet the Canadian duo inject enough creativity to keep it interesting. This, along with the attention to detail and high production value make it a treat to listen to.

The full EP is available on December 5th.

Four Sites to Give Your Music a Beautiful, Permanent Home

When it comes to your home on the web, what do you think of? SoundCloud? Facebook? Twitter? MySpace… okay, not MySpace. But that’s part of the point of this article: in these slip-slidey times of new technologies, emerging networks and transient user bases, tying your home on the web to a single site could be a recipe for disaster. You could create a static website or even a dynamic one based on CMS like WordPress, and that’s probably the most flexible way – but we’ll be the first to tell you how much hassle it is to make changes to the design and top level content of a ‘proper’ website. We’ve noticed a few new sites emerging recently, ones that boast they can take your various online presences and present them in a single, easy to manage, and beautiful hub. Let’s take a look at four we’ve found that each approach the principle from slightly different angles…


One Sheet

One Sheet’s big selling point is its massive catalogue of services relevant to musicians. If you’ve got music uploaded to somewhere online, One Sheet can probably put it on your page inside a click. Being social’s a strong point of One Sheet too; users can comment on your page and One Sheet will automatically syndicate the comment with Facebook to potentially pull friends of your commenter over to your site. Like many of One Sheet’s best features, though, control over this behaviour is limited to Pro accounts – and without a Pro account there’s no way to see your page’s viewer stats… in fact even with a Pro account there’s no stats, just the option to tie in to Google Analytics. The price of a Pro account? $9.99/month, which we think is a little steep.

Pros:
• Huge amount of music based services
• Unlimited services in free account
• Lots of social and user retention options in Pro account

Cons:
• High price for pro account
• Customisation limited in free account
• No internal stats


Flavors.me

Of the sites mentioned in this article, Flavors is definitely the most customisable. That’s going to mean one of two things to you: the artistically inclined amongst you will have a field day creating a pretty, unique looking site, and those of you whose creativity molecules were entirely spent on the musical part of your brain will just be worried about something else to mess up. Fear not, though, because a basic site is still extremely easy to conjure up in Flavors, and if a basic site is all you need then it’s completely free. Like One Sheet, most of the best features – such as de-branding the site and getting the most customisation options – are only available to Pro accounts, but Flavors has a very fair $20 per year fee for its Pro accounts. A Pro account will even unlock a ‘custom’ page type in a Flavors page, allowing you to import HTML and build traditional web pages in the service.

Pros:
• Supremely customisable
• Lots of relevant services
• Cheap yearly pro account

Cons:
• Limited to five services/pages in free account
• No stats in free account


About.me

About.me is definitely designed to be your hub on the web, but it’s not music specific and thus you might find it somewhat lacking when it comes to adding in services. No SoundCloud and no BandCamp might be a dealbreaker, but if it’s not, and you’re happy to link to those sites externally whilst enjoying YouTube and Vimeo videos embedded in the page, you can take advantage of a great looking stats page, something that none of the other sites in this roundup offer for free.

Pros:
• Pretty statistics page
• Free
• Drag and drop homepage design

Cons:
• No real music-centric services
• No way to de-brand the page


Viinyl (beta)

Viinyl perhaps doesn’t quite fit in with the theme as it’s not designed to let you add all your services for viewing on the one site. It is a hub, though, and it lets you add artist information, bio, links and so on, and then create a number of ‘singles’ that each have unique URLs and allow a single track to play, along with (if you like) video and lyrics, share and purchase links. It’s in beta at the moment, and whilst it’s a bit light on features we do like the minimalism of it all. It’s a bit like receiving one of those business cards that manages to mean so much by saying so little.

Pros:
• Idiot proof design
• Free
• Novel concept

Cons:
• Limited scope
• Limited customisation
• No way to debrand


Our Winner: Flavors.me

We really like Flavors, and it seems to tow the line between simplicity and customisation the best out of all the ‘auto site’ websites we’ve tested (and we tested way more than the four we’ve shown you today!). About.me is, for the majority of you musos, not quite fit for purpose, Viinyl gets a special mention for its fresh approach but it’s ultimately just a bit too limited, and despite the audience retention features built in to One Sheet we think the Pro account is just too over priced.

Have we missed your favourite off? Please let us know which your favourites are and your experiences with the sites we’ve mentioned!

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