Foley me once

If you get this, you are awesome. And old.

If you get this, you are awesome. And old.

Really sorry for the awkward pun. Few weeks back I did the Kesä/Summer jamieoliver barbecue video performance. In case you haven’t seen it, check it now and give a little focus on the intro. In case you saw it already and didn’t notice that none of the sounds in it are actually “real”, I can pat myself in the back. All the sounds are created afterwards, partially as recoded ‘foley’ and partially edited from sounds on freesound.org. As you might know, the microphones in the consumer (prosumer, whatever) cameras are not really that good for more than holiday videos as the they capture all kinds of unwanted noises from the camera itself, wind etc and the quality of the sound is not too good, so it wasn’t really usable for the video. I could have used a separate mic to get better results but I was doing the whole thing by myself so it would have been a bit tricky and the main focus is not on the intro anyway.

Creating the sound on the intro kind of snowballed as first I was supposed to just put some kind of a soundtrack or ambience on it, and ended up adding birds chirping to fit the summery vibe. That seemed to lack depth and dimension as the camera angle keeps changing so I started to play with phase and filtering to alter the position of the ambience and mimic the placement of a microphone. I ended up with this (also few other sounds already in place): Read More…

BBQ and beats

In case you haven’t been following the facebook page lately, you might have missed the following:

Recue – Kesä from recue on Vimeo.

“I just did a reeaally relaxing summer getaway to the countryside and took a little studio setup with me. It ended up being quite a productive trip and I’m glad to tell that the next Recue release is starting to take its form. I also made a little performance viddy for you and a summery track that you can download freely from my soundcloud.”

The initial response to the video has been really overwhelming and as I’ve been getting some questions on the anatomy of the set, I’d like to open up the process behind the video and the track a bit. Dunno if it “spoils the magic” to break it down and get into the techy stuff, but I know I personally enjoy reading stuff like that so what the hell.

The video is shot in Salo-Miehikkälä in the South-Eastern part of Finland, not too far from the Russian border, where I’ve spent many of my Summers as a kid. It’s a place with lots of personal memories so just going there is something to look forward to, let alone making music. Plus a bonus is, there’s no neighbors nearby so you can really crank it up and dance around naked if you want. Oh, did I mention I went alone? Going to the countryside and having a barbecue with your friends and family is another thing, but if you’re going to get creative, being completely alone takes it to another level, at least for me that is. Collaborations are of course another story and you can get different kind of feedback and inspiration from the communication but getting away from everybody else lets you suck into the creative process on a whole new level. Once you get the flow going, there no one to interrupt it. It’s only until you start to feel you need to sit back, have a breather and listen what you’ve done, you can go and light up the sauna or cook some food and crack open a cold beer. Perfect!

Part of the temporary setup inside the 100+ yo main house. Ascetic but cozy.

Part of the temporary setup inside the 100+ yo main house. Ascetic but cozy.

As a temporary studio I took a fairly small setup with me. Emphasis on the word ‘fairly’ as it wasn’t exactly Do Not Disturb this time. I recently got myself a Korg MS-20 Mini so I just had to pack that one with me. Along I took an Access Virus as it’s small but an extremely versatile synth and a Novation X-Station though actually only as a midi controller as it has a good sneeze of knobs and sliders. Oh yeah, and of course a Maschine for drums. Then I have a little Zoom H2 for recording all kinds of stuff: field recordings, percussions and whatnot (plus I stole a vocal mic from Jolea’s studio as it’s sturdy and small). Oh, and of course I also needed a pair of speakers to crank up, so that starts to add up to a bit more than your standard back pack mobile setup, and quite enough to do pretty much everything I need.

As for the video, it’s.. well.. a video born exactly on the moment, shot with a basic DSLR and few lenses (50mm and an ultra wide 10-20mm). I did it solely from the gut basing on the idea I had in my head and improvised as I went on. I wanted to put in some cheesy elements like a postcard view of Finnish countryside accompanied with accordeon and birds chirping, and then have a noisy dumbass from the city coming and ruining the peace. But mostly I just wanted to translate the whole relaxed and still standing atmosphere of the place. I actually shot quite a lot more material but edited it out as you can’t really have a 10 minute intro on a 2 minute track can you.. I’m glad I did as it actually ended up reflecting the laid back reality quite a lot better without all the cheeky ideas I had.

A shirt on a mic stand matches my physique perfectly.

A shirt on a mic stand matches my physique perfectly.

Shooting a video like that all by yourself is actually a bit tricky task as you have to set up the camera static, focus it somewhere, do your stuff, run back to the camera and hope you did it in the right place. So I ended up running back and forth quite a lot. At some point I started doing all kinds of dummies for focusing and then replacing it with myself. Luckily I’m not a big fan of filming myself so it’s only the few shots changing the clothes.

As with the track itself, it’s really quite a spur of the moment. It’s just that simple synth line (that acts as the bass line on the track) that I start jamming stuff on top of. Performance-wise there’s nothing really tricky and demanding happening, but I guess it’s that with the laid back beat what keeps the easy going vibe on. With the X-Station I’m mostly controlling filters and effects lifting and drowning elements with the sliders and noodling little melodies and chord progressions on top of the main synth line. The Maschine is (besides providing the beats) acting in midi-mode triggering key elements and samples on Ableton. The samples used have actually more relevance than you first might think. They are sampled from a Finnish tango legend Reijo Taipale’s hit Satumaa. That is a classic that you might associate with Finnish countryside and Summer but Mr. Taipale is actually from the same village where the whole getaway place is. He still today, at the age of 73, rocks the stage every year at the local Midsummer festivities. I saw him few years back and he still did two full sets. So jungle kinda’ massiv’ swag BOH ressspect for him, innit.

Here he is in the swingin’ sixties rocking a striped sailor costume while an elderly, clearly seasick lady is having the feels for him. Or is about to throw up.

What can I say more. I’ve been trying to count how many inconsistencies can one edit in one short narrative. Quite many that is. The pants and the shoes are difficult I see.

Bulking up

DISCLAIMER – This is not a full unboxing review including comprehensive lab testing of the equipment making sure every clip is equally loud verified with detailed analysis of the waveforms. You can most likely spot lots of stuff that could have been done differently or just point out that this is pointless and/or  I am stupid and just ruined the audio. Well don’t. This is merely just initial thoughts based on the first tests I did by feeding musical material in and tweaking on the go. I did this as the unit seemed to raise interest on how it actually sounds, so the main point are the pre/post clips to give you some sort of general view on what can be achieved. You can most likely find a better fully featured review somewhere on the internet. That being said we can now move on to the good stuff.

TLA Fat Track

Boom. There you go. Beautiful piece of gear with those classic VU meters, two tube stages and a (really) nice EQ section. I don’t want to bore you by listing tech specs, you can read all about it HERE (and judging by the amount of people requesting pre/post clips, you already know all about it).

My main interest with tube gear is actually to harshly overdrive the tubes to get some nice fuzzy distortion out of it, but I was also interested how well some subtle warming up could be achieved on digital material. Instead of just running sine wave through it and comparing the output, I wanted to test the unit with some musical material so I made a quick clip which starts just with a beat to hear how the unit handles the transients, then a bassline is added to hear how the lows can be beefed up. After that pads are slowly brought in to make the high end distortion characteristics more audible, then the beats are dropped off so I could test how a constant sound can be cranked up and lastly everything is on to test the possibilities on a complete master.

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At first I routed the signal through one tube stage, line-in, EQ bypassed, not overdriving the signal. The tops of the transients are slightly chopped off as the drive light was occasionally slightly blinking but there’s nothing too audible so I stopped with just the drums, anxious to crank it..

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As I mentioned my main interest was the tube drive, but a very pleasant surprise was actually the EQ section, especially on the low end. You can really dial up lots of lows and beef up the sound up to it being overpowering but still without it getting rumbly. The lows are really smooth and rounded. The highs can bring up some some noise from the tubes (or the source) if cranked up but on decent levels it is not too audible (NOTE! This unit has matched Telefunkens instead of the original ones so the character is most likely slightly different) Here goes, same as above but EQ section enabled, dialed up lows and highs, really mild dip on the mids (can’t remember the exact frequency, who cares). Subtle warming, slightly excessive on the lows.

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Ok, time to push the tubes a bit. Same as above but now the tubes are slightly overdriven so you can hear the distortion characteristics. You can clearly start to hear the crunch here so might be smarter to use this on individual instruments/groups instead of master..

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Ok, well… Subtle sh*t aside. Let’s crank it up and tweak the EQ to attenuate different parts (I dropped off the beats for a longer time as I was focusing on the EQ sweeps). Goes slightly from side to side as I’m adjusting L and R gains at the same time.

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Good distortion or bad.. you be the judge. I personally enjoy what the overdriven tube combined with the EQ does to the pads and bass together. The sound of the overdriven tube doesn’t fit everywhere and as some people oddly seem to think, they are not magical devices that turn the sound into awesomeness just by adding them into your chain. The overdrive might sound a bit off on the previous examples as the material might not be suitable for it. But when put into the right context, it might be a different ball game. So I made this.

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In case you want to hear how that sounds dry, here goes:

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If that’s not enough tube for you, you can actually route the audio first through one stage of tubes and then from the balanced outs back in to the EQ section and another stage of tubes and then out from the direct outs. Both stages can be overdriven so you can get pretty extreme tones if you for example make the highs squeal with the EQ.. Warning, watch the volume with the following clip. Just a beat, basic sine bass, noise and a little synth to fill the whole spectrum. First dry, then cranked through two stages.

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Well.. umm.. not so subtle anymore.

Now I probably should write some kind of a summary, right? I think the TLA Fat Track is a really solid unit if you’re looking for not just subtle tube warmth (works well for that too) but also a really tight EQ section to beef up the lows and a unit that can really crank up your tubes when needed. My five cents. Now go read a real review.

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