Time to get out

It’s that time of the year again when the flowers start pushing their leaves right aside the dog poo that’s uncovered from under the snow. I’ve said it before in different videos: leave your studio, it’s healthy. One way to still continue the studio-geekery outside is the good ol’ pretentious ‘field recording’. I have for long recorded all my stuff with Zoom H2 and it has served me well but there are certain issues. Yes it’s lightweight and small but the plastic casing is prone to all sorts of handling noises and rumble. Zoom’s latest model H6 seems extremely sturdy and I really love the idea of interchangeable mics so I just had to give it a go. With a little help of the friendly people at Studiotec I got my hands on a unit and decided to throw in a little challenge. I wanted to go out and record all sorts of random stuff and build a track completely made out of those sounds, which I did. I recorded all sorts of stuff ranging from ambiences to drumming and kicking various items in- and outdoors such as construction equipment, monuments, buildings, people and animals (no not really). My intention was not to record any kinds of instruments whatsoever but the end bit needed something so I just had to add a little Otamatone solo in there. Then again it’s freakin’ Otamatone of all instruments so I can live with that. I’m also challenging you to play that lil’ bugger with a fractured wrist and a cast. It adds a little pain and agony in the delicate emotional interpretation of the solo. At least by keeping it painfully out of tune.

Sibelius Monument

Anyway, the final result ended up using quite a hefty bass drone recorded from inside of Sibelius Monument, which is.. well.. a monument (duh) in Helsinki built from large welded steel pipes. When a wind blows past the monument, the pipes make these weird droney sounds which have pretty impressive bass content. I definitely recommend sticking your head in there if you happen to walk past. You look really smart and you’re up for an interesting sonic experience. A satellite dish and an empty cargo container provided a nice bit of oomph and boom to the beats and the rest is various small and big stuff you can spot from the video. Yes, effects are used on the sounds (I think it’s pretty obvious listening to it) as I didn’t want to do a boring engineery test but to have fun and try out what I can do with the sounds I get. You can get the specs and the unboxing videos elsewhere, this is not for it.

Verdict on the recorder itself? It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece of gear. Compared to the H2 it completely removes the issue of handling noise as it’s built like a tank. A very small tank that is. The noise level is considerably lower and the details and dynamics are on a completely new level to what I’m used to with the H2. The interchangeable mics extend the use quite a bit as you have an M/S mic to capture spaces and ambience, good X/Y with width control and a shotgun to get quite surgical with if needed so the palette to work with is really versatile. The downside compared to for example H2 is that the unit is larger so it’s not the kind of recorder you slip in your pocket. I rarely do carry a recorder randomly with me so it’s not a big issue but for example a unit without the additional four inputs would be a killer. I’m not sure if I’m to use those too often. But what I do use is the option to plug the unit on a USB and record directly into DAW. Saves a lot of hassle.

All in all, I’m quite excited to head outside and keep recording with the H6. Listen to the track and judge for yourself.

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.

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