Saturday, 23 March 2019

It's out! Plus the Minilogue xd arrived.

The novel I mean.

I spotted a rogue comma reading it - one of those last minute tweaks that I always cock up. Later I spotted some layout errors, more superfluous commas and a floating speech mark.  ;)
I should send one to the Guardian, although I doubt they'd want to review it. Updated to 1.03 and resubmitted. The 1.02 versions will be so valuable, won't they? Think I finally got all the pages laid out properly, although I've thought that before.

Today I replaced the bulb in the tail light for a second time. Either the first bulb was duff or I did something wrong. I spent 5 mins being perplexed at the 'second, inaccessible' bulb until I realised it was a reflection.

In other news, the Minilogue xd arrived, on Friday afternoon. The Virus Polar was supposed to return too but still waiting for that.

Minilogue initially had a fault on oscillator 2 where a nasty noise occurred as it went beyond zero pulse width on square. On Saturday this was better, although both oscillators make a weird buzzy noise as the PW nears zero. May be able to live with that by simply avoiding it. Envelopes seem linear but this is for solos and pads not sequencing so, again, can probably live with it.
Some good FX, still learning each one. BPM Delay missing dotted values but hopefully they'll come. There's a mono and stereo delay but the mono isn't double the time of the stereo, which I'd expect.
General impressions - it has a sorta MS20 filter vibe to it, quite gnarly and sizzly. I don't much like the overdrive, especially as it clicks noticeably if you kick it in while playing. The switches generally feel cheap and untrustworthy but the knobs are nice. The digital oscillator is where the fun kicks in, lots of potential there. The supplied examples are all fine as far as they go, still need to explore every menu item with every type. Spent a while just making the kind of patches I want from it - organs, solo noodly things, pads and so on. Have barely touched sequencer. Arpeggiator latch is odd - seems to latch just last note. Hopefully will be updated. Haven't got far into factory sounds but have tweaked most of those I have played.
What else? Apart from the linear envelope, really missed ADSR for filter. They should have swapped them round, for my tastes anyway. Oscillator sync sounds horrible. Made me wonder if it was really a DCO. Must try an analogue mod source as it's rather short of them and there are holes waiting :)
I quite like the little joystick. Keyboard bearable, just. Sweet when played from the Prophecy though. I miss some of the voice mode buttons of the first Minilogue, they really pepped up sequences. Will explore sequencing soon. I did spot a quite nice acidy pattern in the factories, showing off that spitty filter.

It's small, which is what I wanted. Not sure it sounds as good as the Roland System 1 though but couldn't live with System 1 keyboard.

Monday, 18 March 2019


Sometimes I dig out my USB stick containing random MP3s and find either the folder that says 'current_amb' or 'current_seq'. I set it going and wander off doing something. Increasingly there are tracks that pop out and cause me to take interest, almost make me take some notes to find the damn thing or whatever. Almost. The tracks I have named sensibly by date are easy but how many things have I called 'work3' or 'pootle' or 'FridayNoodle'? Oh well.

Names matter, hence I can, at least, find all the Headshock stuff cos we have a sensible naming strategy. Because of the amount of stuff I record, my Logic songs are always named by date_workn so in theory all I need do is remember that. But they can be quite long and when names occur, I often only note them as a marker in Logic, or I'll name the MP3 but not which bar it occurs at.

Organisation, that's what I'm saying is a good thing! Hence gonna keep with the named arrangements and themes for the OT projects.

Going on from that, I've taken steps to recover my Virus Polar - it's exactly what I need instead of that borrowed Prophecy for banging notes in with the added advantage of lush pads when I want them. Ideal for the space thing actually although probably too heavy to take (will, of course, sample).
On the space thing theme, I have just saved the projects of my 'daylight' trio (Octatrack, Digitone and Analog Four) which will form the basis of future projects in terms of track usage and so on. Have started a new one for the space stuff, which won't have the Tanzbar attached - I'll replace that with the Blofeld. That way I get mellotron stuff instead of drums. Will be using the Blo only in single mode, so just one sound at once with maybe a couple of pad/drone type things from the A4 as needed. That leaves the Digitone for tinkly sequences and FX - good exercise for programming it some more. Doing Schulzian space music on a sequencer as stunted as the OT has to be a good challenge - would be a doddle on Cirklon, of course. But I realise I can make 8 bar patterns using the Arranger and its loop function, since you can nest them.

This whole standing up thing is making me feel more dynamic again, who knew?

The slimline 'Mutable' modules have arrived and I fit them into the Roland case. Firing up and trying tomorrow as today has escaped me. Didn't fit the tail light as Pat has had the car all day doing horse dentist type things. I worry that she is out too much in the cold and wet but I guess she's fitter than I am. Catching up though.

Novel was available today but I forgot I'd left the old, wordy blurb which would appear as description. And it seems to need html too, so I had to go add some breaks. Updated novel text slightly too, having spotted a couple of chapters that ended with the same lame joke. Kindle version is formatted badly again but seems to be a product of using epub - may try html next time but would rather people got paperback (even though I make only a few pence on that compared to a couple of quid on the kindle one). I wish Amazon would allow you to use the same source for both, or at least accept Acrobat format for its Kindle, since it insists on it for paperback version. Daft.

I think I like my Kindle cover more than the paperback one, but ain't gonna change at this stage.

Tally ho!!!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Another Friday, but no complaints from me

No word from Signal about the Minlogue xd, which was supposed to be available on the 12th. Not that I expected it to be totally on time, but an update would be good. Must check if the cash went out yet.

Yesterday I had my first project which is completely mapped to A4/DT sounds, with half a dozen arrangements created, all of which can be worked on more as all banks have lots of empty patterns and scope for development. Will look at having bridge sections with long ambient static pieces and try linking everything together into one mega set. Would be so cool if it had a tempo slope, but I think I could do something similar with maybe 4-8 rows of shortened patterns, each with a tempo increase or decrease. Could sound cool, the effect it has on delays etc.

Spent Saturday finishing off my Project, doing a purely percussive song, having ambient endings or beginnings. Sometimes a few choices. Arranger was the missing link, no doubt. Should have dug deeper sooner. Need some new drum loops though. I may record a complete performance of all 8 songs, just to see if my hard disk can record all 8 tracks for, like, an hour or whatever.

Book arrived. Will go through tomorrow, probably not read every word again but look at layout and glance at every page for format errors. Text is OK. Cover could be better.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Latest proof arrived, and I finally mastered the Octatrack Arranger!

Should take me a few days to go through the proof with my red pen, not looking to make substantial changes this time (unless it cries out for them). Once I've done that, I'll submit a final proof so I can see the cover (this one still has earlier text layout). Interestingly, I dipped into 'Bogus Realities' yesterday and already I could see how my more ruthless editing style would have pruned it back much harder. As an exercise for the next one, I may try writing out the whole thing in narrative form first, as short as possible, no dialogue. That way I could have a much better idea of the structure and the weight of various parts. Just need to decide if the next one will finish off the tales of Herbal Jeff and Gilbert Wright or will be the time travelling old ladies one. Ho hum.

It's Monday and a good day. Doc says Pat had undiagnosed viral pneumonia which made us sigh with relief. I pretty much worked on proofing and editing the whole day, completing the task late afternoon. I think the proof I just request should be the last - I doubt I'll have the strength to read it again though. I mostly want to verify all the layout, the text spacing and cover before hitting the publish button and consigning the whole thing to the abyss of indifference. I'm strangely happy about the whole thing, even if I do keep thinking of plot points I might strengthen.

Been asked to look at some old Mutable modules, some of which I have, as a sort of belated review. Could it be good to turn the modular on again? Dunno. The idea isn't setting my pulse racing. Ah turns out they're 3rd party slimline things.

Carl is almost at the end of novel and got all the Brexit references, well I dunno if all of them - whether he got the 'two supposedly opposing leaders of the debate who want the same thing' angle but generally he did well.

Today my Elektron stuff wasn't delighting me. Trying to do ambient stuff with the Digitone and lots of annoying clicks plaguing me. Octatrack's '1st' conditional event also not working properly unless I set Master track length to INF. Something I'm missing there perhaps but it made me miss my regular sequencers and sound modules - has anyone ever done better knobby multitimbral synths with FX than Novation and Korg (I'm thinking KS-series and Radias)?? Played piano instead and was happy. Must nag Colin to make a new desktop slimline P3 with tons of storage. That's what the world needs.

I spent today (Wednesday) going through the Octatrack Arranger. Found it pretty straightforward, which makes me wonder why I struggled in the past. Apart from the slightly awkward way you slip in and out of it, and the need to make paper notes of the tracks, scenes, patterns you want to sequence, it's all quite do-able. I avoided all the complicated stuff about looping and changing the pattern start point and length because it wasn't necessary. I even started giving thought to song start and ends, plus making more sure about all the events that only happen on the first pass or that mustn't happen on the first pass. Would sure love to replace the Analog Four with a simple, good-souding multitimbral analogue module with path memories. That feels like the weakest link now.

OK, it's Thursday and I spent the morning mastering the last bits of the Arranger. I now present some observations that I've made:

There is only one tempo maintained. The sentence that says 'if there is no setting, the tempo is the main BPM' really means nothing. Any BPM that is set takes over and remains the main BPM even when you leave Arrange mode, regardless of what it was before. So it's sensible for me to keep using the Part name as a manual reminder of the correct tempo if you're switching between arrangements.

Remember to move the cursor away from a field that opens a menu in order to hit enter and play from that point. If you're doing lots of mutes, you can't simply move one step to the right but have to move left past mute, transpose and tempo. A simple UI fix would have made that sweeter.

Make sure tracks unmuted before you start or you'll be well confused.

Make good notes of your patterns before you start laying them out in an arrangement.

Within Arrange Edit, the changes you make to mutes don't take effect until the next time the row is engaged.

The manual's description of looping could be improved if it simply told you that when a loop row is reached, it branches back to the specified row (default 000) and does so as many times as you specify (default infinity).

Finally, in play mode, you can make temporary overrides to the currently selected scene but as it scrolls by, each new row begins as it should so you can start again. Cool feature.

Right, I'm going to have a chilled afternoon anyway. Bon Voyage campers!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Busy doing stuff

Have completed first proof of novel, enough to declare this one version 1.0 anyway. I could flesh out more parts but let's see how it hangs together. I've consolidated a couple of chapters, added two fairly substantial sections for background and general plot reasons. I'll do another print and if all looks OK, that's it!
Just saw a brilliant cover done by a friend of mine for his own novel. I guess I already know the cover won't sell mine as my artwork isn't top notch. Pleased to be getting feedback from a new reader who not only likes it but gets it. A relief actually as I'd started to wonder if I was being too, you know, cryptic and difficult. Hiding stuff in banality and glibness can be too challenging for most folks.

Didn't work in the Studio of Light today. Took frogspawn in the morning (a lot actually when you dig in) and then took Pat for x-ray this afternoon.

Ho ho, Ricky Gervais has a new series on Netflix called, wait for it, After Life.

Mine is the colourful one. Great huh?

Yesterday, it being Friday, I completed version 1.0 of my OT/A4/DT project which can be used as a template for any future work on that setup. It includes a number of patterns in each bank, each organised by key (Bank A is in A, Bank B in B etc.) and also features a totally percussive bank (H). I'll continue filling patterns, probably keeping the 16th in each bank as some ambient or transition type. I name each part by the ideal tempo and name some of the DT patterns to indicate their function. All in all, it ain't like working with Colin's sequencers but that's making me work harder to make each track count. Next I want to do a project of gentle/sweet patterns with lots of pads and slow attack stuff which can be useful for the sleep project or any general purpose hippy dippy healing feeling malarkey. You never know.

I took a load of spawn to local pond, still have a lot, probably too much but Pat does like seeing the little frogs. Today, being Saturday, I may try and do more of the Pipe review. Trouble is it keeps stopping working, so I'll have to go see Tony and get that fix done. Unless I dare try it myself...

I really should get my Virus Polar back from Andy. It could sit where the Prophecy does and it's been a while since I played one... wonder how many years he's had it now. Probably doesn't want to part.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

New week, February almost gone, ordered Minilogue XD

Yeah, decided 'what the hell'. I held off buying the Digitone and that turned out to be daft, so let's jump the gun on this one. Half tempted to sell or swap my OP-1. It's great but I'm not really using it and I think the Digitone fills the 'small but engrossing' brief pretty well. The whole idea of batteries and needing to do stuff on buses, planes and trains doesn't really apply to a guy who stays home as much as possible. May swap for a GR-1 if I can.

It's a beautiful Monday morning. I should go to the gym but maybe after another coffee and more basking and red pen action.

Ladybirds on balls. Just saying. 

Tuesday. Spawn (maybe 7-8 chunks) and got to end of second proof of novel. Will write changes in next few days. Like summer today. I actually look forward to going into the Light Studio each day. I spend an hour or two and make progress with stuff. Less really is more. Tried out new grass. Works.

Some issues either with Digitone stopping playing certain channels or Octatrack suddenly stopping passing some tracks through. Only been an issue with Digitone so suspect its voice allocation wonky. There's that other envelope issue too. Still fab anyway and I'm forcing myself to stick with the same gear, at least for now. I do miss the P3. Swapping to the Elektron sequencer from a P3 reminds me of swapping to Logic from Cubase, realising how much harder it was because there was no clever tool and toys. 
Thursday now. Continuing to edit proof, added a few sections where necessary, looking good.
Back in Studio of Light. Nice hippy drape came. Worked on Bank C, everything sounding peachy. Think the voice reserve parm might have been my prob after all, seem to have got things working nicely today. Introducing a few 'crash at start' type effects in OT patterns. Keeping the same Part copied to each bank as a starting point is great for consistency. As usual, reducing the options the OT offers is better than actually using them. For an old man anyway :)

The ANT tracks continue to roll in, almost done I think. Very impressed by the more relaxed and spacious, confident mixes I'm hearing. These guys are fecking gods and I'm a dwarf. Yeah, had a pleasant afternoon of vague beery smokedom. Some guy spent £75 buying my entire catalogue, so I'll be ordering lots of stuff off bandcamp. Friday coming up, Matt might be here. Either way, an afternoon of chilled music-making. 


Saturday, 23 February 2019

Phew, a knackering few days..

Grandparenting, that is. Which involves waking up at 05:20, letting Pat do the bulk of the work I admit. It's exhausting and relentless but the wee lad is very charming and soon calms down to our pace. Means I couldn't do anything though and I feel so sleep-deprived I told Tony not to come today as I was practically hallucinating.
This year's frog orgy is much smaller, perhaps due to the strange weather, perhaps to the lack of insects and general wildlife. At this rate, in a few more years we'll hardly need a pond at all.

Yeah, that lot of random pix kinda describes my week.
I went over to Manchester to see Dean in action - fab gig. Made me think I should probably have a smart phone though as he was expecting to talk to me on Messenger, as was Keith who I was meeting. I never think of stuff like that. Anyway, I think they're number 9 in the album charts or something, and very well deserved. Nice hanging with Keith's pals, good bunch.
Went to a good gig at Harris, a couple of guys doing music to a German Space film from the 1920s. Sweet. Talked over John's project and will start preparing some space music of my own soon.

Oh yes, went to a Korg thing. Played the Prologue and rather liked it. The Minilogue XD was there but I only heard it demoed - then we had to go to the pub. It sounded great and made me think of getting one - excuse, it'll be useful as a very small thing with effects to do live space music. Hehe.

Continuing going through the novel, on second pass now and making larger plot tweaks - adding stuff mostly (red herrings and extra detail to flesh out some of the thinner chapters). Will be a lot better than earlier drafts.

It's all go. Still haven't started Pipe review, feeling guilty about that!