Well Musikmesse 2015 is virtually upon us and I like many, start getting strangely excited to discover what new and unexpected treats lie just around the corner. Sonic State will be there of course giving us the first and best exclusive glances. Make sure if you’re interested to follow their news feed as it will be coming thick and fast especially tomorrow (Wednesday) when most of the major stuff will be revealed. Nick Batt, editor of Sonic State will of course be asking the most pertinent questions (occasionally to the dismay of the ill informed demonstrator!).
The (let’s not make bones about this) immense NickBatt
What I am really hopeful to see is a further industry awakening to the undeniable attraction of USB hosting built into hardware products. USB class compliant devices are simply things you can just plug into iPads and computers without the need to install drivers. This standardisation of class compliancy is open and thus can be built into new devices. We have seen a few devices doing this before namely the excellent iconnectMIDI4+ and Kenton’s simple model. Those units have been able to act as USB hosts without being connected to a computer. This is an exciting development because it starts to open up a world which has hitherto now been exclusive to the world of computers. Hardware becomes infinitely more fun the less connected to the computer it is. Computers are ace there is no denying that but the omnipresence of the dang internet is always looking for a way in to distract and to procrastinate.
The new Roland MX-1 with USB hosting
We have started to see USB hosting built into some other products this year namely Roland’s cool MX-1 mixer which addresses a particular need for a performance almost instrument like approach to mixing. It has crucially four USB ports that can receive with midi and audio data simultaneously facilitating their range of Aira units. It’s a lovely idea isn’t it? We take out our drum machine, I plug the single USB lead into the mixer and that’s it! It is still unclear if these ports will allow the connection of other devices, we shall have to wait and see.
The Futuresonus Parva also features USB hosting
Leading the way in small synthesizers is the brand new Parva analog polysynth currently in a Kickstarter setup. Many things look excellent in this well specified eight voice polysynth such as four envelopes and four LFOs but the gobsmacker is the fact that it has a USB host port! Yippee! I could connect my little CME Xkey and have an eight voice poly with POLYPHONIC AFTERTOUCH!!!! This is a big deal I reckon as this small and compact setup would appear to step up to the big Polys from Yamaha, Roland and Oberheim. Essentially enormously expensive and rare synths!
USB hosting can promise much if the developers seize this idea. It really gives us a valid update to the new form of midi (as MIDI is fully included in the class compliancy rules) but with bidirectional audio and control data on an open platform.
I’m pleased to announce the availability of my brand new EP – Ban Hammers. It is the result of a collaboration between myself and various electronic producers based in the United States. The producers who collaborated on this project are Leo Rapture, Nekkron99, Ken Flux Pierce and Mr. 25 Keyz.
The premise was quite simple, the various featured producers were asked to submit a finished instrumental backing track just lacking bass lines. I then attempted to record first take improvisations reacting to the music on first listen. I added a few overdubs here and there and a bit of editing but essentially what you hear are those first ideas as close as possible. The whole project from start to finish was in less than a week.
I suppose what we have here are the first instrumental bass led tracks that i have ever released. I have played bass on hundreds of releases prior to this but mostly either in band or session roles. This however is a unashamedly a bass driven project. I used my Bristol made custom Waghorn Gecko bass through a Sonuus Wahoo filter pedal for most of the sounds adding some MXR bass chorus to sweeten things a touch.
I played a gig on saturday with the live dance band The Egg. Well, it was more of a scrambled Egg as Maff Scott, the awesome drummer and twin brother of frontman/synth guy Ned was on holiday in Turkey plus bass maestro, the unbelievably funky Paul Marshall was similarly unavailable hence my inclusion along with stand in drummer Tony.
The Egg are genuine legends of the underground music scene not just here in the UK but due to numerous global jaunts, worldwide too. The band formed in Oxford in the 1990’s and were one of the first bands I’d ever seen play electronic techno but as a typical four piece bass/drums/guitar/keys affair. I remember thinking when rave music was taking over in the early 90’s that bands would have to learn to play this thumping dance style in order to compete with the rash of DJs popping up everywhere. The Egg not only mastered this but also developed their own highly funky take on the genre that proved irresistible with the countless audiences they performed to. The Egg had a hit record in 2006 with the David Guetta mashup Love Don’t Let Me Go (Walking Away) which reached number 3 in the UK and charted all across Europe.
I was fortunate enough to first play with The Egg in a backstage jam at the 1998 Glastonbury Festival playing to a packed marquee called The Green Room. This venue was exclusively for the crew and performers of the circus and cabaret fields and is one of many backstage areas that are real hidden gems of the festival as the parties stretch out way until dawn. I sang improvised vocals with them at that particular performance which also included sometime Egg member Jerry on guitar. Jerry was coincidentally the guitarist I played with on Saturday too.
I saw The Egg play the following year at Glastonbury and this was during their number phase where all the band members dressed in pure white other than the humorous individual numbers ablaze on each members top!
Over the past few years I have performed a few times with the band when Paul has been unavailable and it is a thrill partly because Maff is an amazing drummer and Ned is constantly pulling surprises out of his deep bag of party tricks such as vocoding, stylophone and the most bizarre samples. One of the coolest aspects of the band is the lack of sequenced clock. Maff essentially controls the timecode to which Ned’s various arpeggios and loops are synchronised to. This means that if Maff wants to speed up or slow down, everything else essentially follows him. This gives an organic and free flowing quality to their live performances which avoids the staticness of being slaved to a computer clock and allows the band to create arrangements on the fly reacting much like a DJ to the audiences moods and whims.
Hello readers old and new! I am going to make a pledge to any of you who enjoy this site or are interested in my musical exploits that I will make much more regular updates. I have so many articles on the back burner waiting for a spot of time to finish that there soon should be a steady flow of new posts and that is a promise!
I am looking more towards the internet and my site as a focus for my activities as in recent times I have crawled out from under the stone of anonymity and through mostly Sonicstate.com I have started to enjoy a more public persona. In the past, I was so preoccupied with my perception that as an artist I should remain somewhat aloof and mysterious but now I realise that just leaves you with a whole heap of nothingness!
So what can we expect in the future? Well I have started writing up little featurettes on some of the notable people I have worked with some of whom are well known and some may be new to you. I have been incredibly lucky in my career so far to have worked with some truly inspirational musicians and artists that I feel I should share some of those experiences. The fairly recent features about Karl Hyde and David Rhodes should give an indication of the type of thing I have planned.
Other features will be around my continuing exploration of music technology and it’s applications. I am first and foremost a live musician who thrives on playing and collaborating with others so it may seem strange that I am so enthusiastic about this subject as it appears to thrive on electronic music and solitary working (both of which I also enjoy). I am, however, constantly interested in developments which encourage collaborations (both physical and virtual) and of bridging the gap between acoustic and electronic. These are the themes I plan to explore in future posts.
Here is a performance I recorded last August of my Jean Guillou influenced piece, The White Flame. I am using my trusty Roland GR55 which is the same unit I have used extensively with Karl Hyde and the rock opera, Pop’pea.
Jean Guillou’s magnificent flames of hair and the inspiration for the title of my piece!
I was interested to see how writing a piece of music within a particular large room would affect my note choices and phrasing. The hall I used in this example is the Upper Room at Cairns Road Baptist Church and I’d like to thank them for the opportunity. The room has a long decay, around the 2.5 second range so therefore lots of long legato notes would work best in that setting. I also wanted to try and use tones that would resonate well within that space so I created a trombone woodwind hybrid using the dual PCM layers of the GR55. I mapped the trombone sounds to the expression pedal which let me create swells over the woodwind base. The GR55 has an incredibly deep programability which I think people aren’t aware of. I have to say though that editing on the unit is no fun and I highly recommend Gumtown’s astonishingly excellent free editor for it available here.
Korg created a real surprise today when they launched their new iOS music app Gadget at the Namm 2014 winter show. It is a music production suite of 15 “gadgets’ within a sequencing environment. I had just returned from a late night rehearsal when I read about the new launch. I immediately downloaded it and thought it would be great fun to film a first impression of it without any preparation. Below is the first part of my first look:
And here is the second part:
In order to make this little film, I downloaded a piece of software for my Mac called Reflector. It allows you to use your Mac as an Airplay client for your iPad, therefore able to record the screen. I hadn’t used it before so I apologise for the audio glitching which I think was due to that.
I had written a full review following my first impression but sadly due to incompetence on my part, I lost it all 😦 If I can be bothered I’ll get around to writing it again.
*Update* I decided to do a follow up video after I’d had a further investigation of the app. Here it is:
Back in early 2012 I was asked to play bass in a modern reworking of the Monteverdi opera masterpiece L’incoronazione de Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) to be held in early summer that year in Paris’s beautiful and prestigious Théâtre du Châtelet on the banks of the Seine. It was a star studded affair featuring Carl Barât in the lead role as Nero, Marc Almond as Seneca and French lothario, Benjamin Biolay. The whole rock opera is currently available to view online at the moment in 2D here and in 3D here.
The principals from left (back) Valérie Gabail, Carl Barât, (front) Pete Howard, Marc Almond and Benjamin Biolay
This production was the brainchild of the director general of the Châtelet, Jean Luc Choplin and follows the long tradition of taking the original top lines and bass lines of the opera and orchestrating it using current methods. Back in 1643 when this opera was written, that is all that essentially existed of it and various productions would sound quite different due to differing approaches of the orchestrator. The opera had largely been forgotten until it was revived in the 19th century and since then has become a staple for Opera productions worldwide. What made this particular production of Poppea unusual was the bringing together of the classical world and the rock’n’roll world of which I inhabit!
The director of the Chatelet, Jean Luc Choplin
The well known American composer Michael Torke was commissioned to carry out the musical adaptation which although a skilled arranger, his original interpretation lacked rock music’s contemporary edge. To counter this, at the suggestion of the English librettist, Ian Burton, a much more credible source in ex Clash/Queen Adreena drummer Pete Howard was brought in to act as musical director. Pete duly brought on board Max La Villa, former bandmate from their time in early 90’s alternative rock band Eat to co orchestrate. Together they set about deconstructing Michael Torke’s adaptation and using a very contemporary approach mixing all sorts of musical genres and instrumental sounds to give it a timelessness. There is a good video here which has Max explain the approach. This did prove to be a fairly controversial idea as the much hyped “Rock” element of the production was partially subsumed within this esoteric and peerless arrangement which featured a never heard before blend of unusual sound sources. The advertising for the opera featured a flaming Les Paul (as shown at the top of the page) but this kind of balls out rock was very much in the minority in Pete and Max’s treatment.
The Hammond Novachord – a major part of the sound of Pop’pea
Samples of the rare and groundbreaking 1940’s Hammond synthesizer, The Novachord rubbed shoulders with the 80’s sampler The Fairlight mixed with liberal splashes of analog classics the Mellotron and Korg’s Monopoly along with a whole host of other well chosen sounds. These synth parts were played by two exceptional musicians, Angie Pollock (who I would have a musical future with playing together in the Karl Hyde band in 2013) and former Cardiacs keyboardist and solo star William D Drake (Bill).
(From left) Marcus “Matic Mouth” Smith, Carl Barât, Angie Pollock, Max La Villa, Me, Bill Drake, Chris McComish, Pete Howard plus some of Carl’s fans!
The band was rounded out with the astonishingly talented drummer and percussionist Chris McComish and myself on bass. Max was the sole guitarist and Pete was the primary drummer with Chris bringing a more electronic percussive element along. Pete Howard is a phenomenally powerful drummer and his über rock dynamics brought a genuine edge to the show. Max’s elegant and spare approach to guitar playing interwove beautifully amongst the complex and dense keyboard lines. Although initially brought in just to play bass, I ended up working intensively with Max preparing the music technology to be used within the show. Below is a video tour I made for Sonic State giving a tour of the theatre, a rig rundown of the equipment and interviews with the band:
To try and stay faithful to this new orchestration, I needed to play a midi bass as many of the bass lines were in fact synth parts. I used the Roland GR55 (as shown in the above video) and attempted to program parts to be as close as possible to Max’s carefully chosen timbres. This was mostly successful but on a few numbers the bass parts were performed in unison along with Angie on the keyboard. Using this approach did make what was already extremely complex baroque bass lines even more difficult as I had to seek ways to minimise the inherent latencies to trigger the sounds cleanly. I discovered using a capo increased the tautness of the strings and prevented false triggering. Since then, I have used capo on bass significantly for many purposes and found it helpful on a couple of numbers on the Karl Hyde tour. I must strive for a signature bass capo at some point!
Rehearsals for the band began at the end of March in Stoke Newington, North London before moving to The Châtelet itself in April. We laboured under extremely stressful time pressure once at the Châtelet as we were expected to perform in front of the Theatres top brass much earlier than expected. Here lay an obstacle, The Châtelet were not used to rock musicians and certainly not what the technical requirements were. Ideally we should have had a technician with us at all times due to the ferociously complex sound mix plus getting the scores to be playable and all the instruments to behave as they should took much tweakery and adjustments. Our original brief was that there was to be no sheet music on stage which especially for the keyboard players would have been impossible so thankfully that restriction was lifted. There were so many unexpected developments that all seemed to heap on the pressure; reports that the French Prime Minister was coming to the opening night, Kanye West and Jay Z would be attending, that it was going to filmed for national French TV, that it was going to filmed in 3D! And so on. Tensions were running high as we worked for 21 days straight without a day off often working from 10 in the morning to midnight.
The trailer for the show
By the middle of April the rehearsals moved from the Châtelet to a fairly dilapidated studio on the outskirts of Paris in the district of Montreuil. This was a huge contrast to working in the confines of the beautiful Chatelet but the workload didn’t let up though it just mean that we had to travel daily to this location. The studio it transpired has an incredible history as being setup by Georges Méliés, the famous early film director who created A Trip To The Moon, there. This isthe famous 1902 short film where a space rocket gets fired into the eye of the moon. Ben Kingsley starred as Méliés in the recent Martin Scorsese film Hugo.
That famous scene!
The first run throughs with the principals was interesting though. Marc Almond astonished everyone with his precise and convincing performances each time playing it as if it was the real thing. His professionalism was outstanding and his stage presence, mesmerising. Marc was playing the philosophic tutor Seneca and he brought a real depth and sincerity to this rather melodramatic role. Carl too was impressive. Being a punk rocker, it was a huge challenge for him to take such a large role on and manage to pull it off. He had to sing some extremely challenging vocals but managed to achieve it with some aplomb. His Nero was maniacal, unstable and vicious which was just what the role required. For me, and many others, one of the big star turns was that of Swedish singer Fredrika Stahl. She was playing the role of Nero’s rejected wife Ottavia and although she only had a few songs to sing, she sang with such chilling precision and with an utterly convincing intensity that was genuinely moving. It was interesting to see these performances at this stage of the rehearsals as it gave us a much clearer idea of how it was going to turn out.
Around this time, we met this wonderful character called Julien Lambert who was the most prolific character to appear in Pop’pea starring in virtually every scene as a mime and acrobat providing much comedic relief. Julien had just starred in Les Fraises Des Bois , a critically acclaimed film which at the time had not long been released. Julien once told me how he used to have a party trick whereby he would surprise guests by unexpectedly leap out of a nearby window to the gasps of the horrified onlookers only to have utilised his considerable acrobatic skills to have discreetly grabbed the balcony and would be safe hanging just outside of view. After he told me this he surprised me by doing exactly that and leapt off my fifth floor hotel room balcony, I panicked and rushed out to see him dangling with this enormous grin!
The unmistakeable Jean Guillou
Towards the end of the rehearsal period (and back at the Châtelet), things relaxed slightly for us musicians as the focus became more about the staging and technical matters. We found ourselves having moments of spare time where we could start enjoying being in the dead centre of Paris. Acting on a tip from a friend, most of the band went to see an organist by the name of Jean Guillou perform at the nearby Saint Eustache cathedral. Jean has been the resident organist at this magnificent building since the early 60’s and had studied under the genius Olivier Messiaen. Jean performs most Sundays there around 5pm and it is truly a magnificent experience that I highly recommend. Having had the organ rebuilt to his specifications some years back, we realised that he not only played the instrument but in his use of sub bass and echoes, he played the whole building! Myself and Bill Drake became obsessed with him and attempted to see him perform as often as our busy schedule would allow. His compositions rank as some of the most spiritual and psychedelic music I have ever heard. During one break Bill and Angie were invited to play on this extraordinary piano in the Chatelet. Below is a film I made of Bill playing his wonderful composition The Moth Surrenders To The Flame
The remarkable William D Drake
Two English rappers had been brought in to play the roles of Nero’s guards, Achilles “AC” Charrington and Marcus “Matic Mouth” Smith. Both extremely talented, they provided an almost comedic element to the show and were both lots of fun to hang out with over the two months or so of production. Marcus would dazzle during impromtu jam sessions back at the hotel whereas AC blitzed my mind with his amazing grasp of history and philosophy! Myself and AC went together to witness the amazing scenes at the Bastille the day that the narcissist and bigot Sarkozy was deposed at the French general election. the scenes that greeted us were astonishing as we could hardly move amongst the thousands and thousands of revellers who had gathered to celebrate.
Crazy scene of the madness and joy following Sarkozy’s defeat
Marcus and AC discuss their involvement
As show time approached we started to understand the odd staging that Pierrick Sorin and Giorgio Barberio had planned. Essentially what this involved was the actors would perform in front of a green screen whilst various cast members would manipulate minature models or props around the stage edge. All of this would be projected on to a huge screen overhead whereby the audience would see the amalgamation of all these images as a cohesive whole.
Fredrika as Ottavia being projected against a stormy sea scape
This was an ambitious idea that the directors had used in other projects prior to Pop’pea. Its idea being that the audience are as interested in the process as they are the finished item. In the most, the ideas worked really well but in my opinion were let down by the lip synching delay caused by all the computer processing. During dress rehearsals we all thought this was a glitch that would be solved in the main shows but sadly not.
The costumes for the production were made by the world famous Nicola Formichetti, most famous for designing Lady Gaga’s far out costumes. Nicola being have Italian and have Japanese had the rather enviable life of growing up in both Rome and Tokyo. He is now the artistic director for the Italian (and my favourite) fashion label Diesel. His involvement with the show ensured that the fashionistas were fascinated with the production and it featured in the pages of Elle, Paris Match, Timeout and many, many more. In fact when the show was over we were presented with dossiers over an inch thick of the various international press the show had garnered. Sadly us musicians were not clothed by Nicola had had to just look smart instead of ridiculous. Probably a good move!
Valérie Gabail as Pop’pea wearing one of Nicola’s fantastic outfits.
Here I am modelling the shiny suits the male band members wore.
A news article about Pop’pea
The publicity around the show was huge. Everywhere we went in paris we saw huge billboards advertising the show, it was splashed across all the major publications and the principals were interviewed on many of France’s leading cultural programmes. There was a large amount of healthy scepticism too as this was a very daring production. Rock opera to most conjures images of musical theatre a lá We Will Rock You and true like but here was a genuine baroque opera conforming in many ways to a traditional opera but yet casting one of France’s leading female opera stars (Valérie Gabail) against a notorious punk in Carl whilst messing with post modern ideas of presentation with the most surreal approach to orchestration and there is a recipe for disaster or triumph!
A poster for Pop’pea outside Paris’s famous Hotel de Ville
Well what happened? I think in many ways it was a triumph. We received generally very positive reviews with some naysayers but I think most were in agreement that this was an audacious and enjoyable show. Opening night was thrilling too say the least as Paris’s great and good turned out in huge numbers including some very prestigious actors, musicians and politicians. For me the opening night was the best performance too as is often the case as the months of hard work all come together. If I was to sum up what I thought of the show it was remarkably brave, noisy, exciting, sometimes silly, sometimes sad, innovative and ultimately slightly flawed. The video below was taken at the party on the Châtelet roof top after the opening night performance. I am interviewed early on and can hardly contain my excitement!
As I mentioned at the top of this piece, the whole show is currently available online to view in 2D here and in 3D here. I’d love to hear comments about what you think. If you are just interested in a taste of the show I’d recommend watching the powerful opening but then skipping on to Marc Almond’s appearances or Fredrika’s as I think they are the show highlights. Be warned though if there are youngsters around though, Marcus’s and AC’s turn as the rapping soldiers is loaded with expletives and some of the scenes are quite saucy!
The band about to take their bows (from left) Bill, Max, Pete, Chris, me, Angie
Being involved in this production was something I’ll never forget: The generosity of the Châtelet, the friendly and charming crew, the bizarre collection of actors and musicians, the beautiful Châtelet Theatre, the incredibly difficult baroque bass lines, being personally thanked by the mayor of Paris, the challenges and resolutions amongst the musicians, the list goes on. I’d like to thank Jean Luc Choplin, Sylviane Borie, both Stefans, the crew at the Châtelet, Pete Howard, Max La Villa, Angie Pollock, Chis McComish and especially a huge thank you to Bill Drake for bringing me in to this life changing production!
Cubase has received a new update today so I thought I’d write up some notes whilst waiting for it to download. I think Steinberg’s servers are under heavy demand!
This update takes Cubase up to v7.5 but beware it is a paid upgrade (49€/49$). If you happened to have upgraded to version 7 since October 15th then you can get this update for free but for other users of v7 there is that fee. Although I always look forward to a Cubase .5 release, some people complain bitterly about these halfway house paid upgrades – i.e It is expected that you’d pay for a major v6 to v7 type upgrade but to pay for an intermediate step? I think this is Steinberg’s business model now as evinced by the same strategy when v6. came out with a similar fee. It could be argued that this is a way to ensure that Steinberg manages to get a yearly revenue from it’s customers with a major version dropping every two to three years and a half version in between. Well, what does this update offer and is it worth paying for or should users just simply hold out for the next big update which will include all these intermediate features anyway?
Well I guess the headline features are:
TrackVersions: Playlists for creating, renaming and managing parallel variations of tracks
This looks highly interesting to me for a bunch of reasons. I think sometimes its nice to come back to a song and have a fresh crack at say the vocals but rather than creating a new track, you can simply create a new track version which flows through all the same processing and automation. You can then simply toggle between your two versions. Both versions of which could contain lots of comping. The great thing with track versions is that it applies to most of the track types and this is especially interesting with the chord track. If you have your midi tracks (and monophonic audio tracks) set to follow the chord track, changing a chord will mean that all the tracks will change their note contents to follow suit. This could mean that if you wrote a song within a minor key you could create a track version in a major key and then toggle the version and have the whole song change. This has huge repercussions for composers who want to try out different keys for singers, different moods for film makers etc
Track visibility: Shows only the tracks you want to see in the Project window
This is another very nice and a “why didn’t they think of that before?” feature. This lets you select any tracks on the arrangement page and make them the only visible ones. You have been able to do this with the mixer as of v7 so it’s nice to see it be part of the arrangement page. You can also link the arrangement page and the mixer now so they both look the same. Examples of this could be just showing the drums tracks. You can conveniently save track view presets so viewing and editing large and complex projects will become significantly easier.
Instrument (t)rack 2.0: Supports multi-outputs and multi-inputs, and merges instrument tracks with the Instrument Rack
Again a sensible streamlining of workflow. Prior to the invention of instrument tracks, to host a VST plugin, one had to put the plugin in the rack, and then create a midi track and assign it to that. Instrument tracks sped up the process by just creating an instrument track and midi track combined but lost the ability to have a single VST instrument output multiple audio outputs, this new combining of both approaches is definitely welcome. Put an instrument in the rack and it instantly creates a midi track routed to it or create an instrument track like before and the instrument appears in the rack automatically.
HALion Sonic SE 2: Giving you tons of fresh new sounds plus a totally new synth
Since Steinberg was bought by Yamaha some years ago, the Halion synths have benefitted from Yamaha’s considerable experience and feature sounds from some of their synths (Motif range I believe). It will be interesting to see what these sounds are like (a separate download from 7.5)
Groove Agent SE 4: With over 120 drum kits and smart user interface for creating beats and hits in no time
This looks like a radical overhaul of the rather simplistic version of Groove Agent in v7. They have obviously taken a good look at Native Instruments Maschine (see my feature here) and also Akai’s long running MPC range and have tried to incorporate some of those workflow ideas. It has a huge slew of new features on board including pattern editor and a suite of dedicated effects. There are also new drum kits to play with.
New construction kits: Adding flavor to your productions and giving you new song ideas
Could be interesting to some. They are essentially 30 complete songs made up of midi files that are assigned to the various synths and drum machines within Cubase. The idea is that they give you starting blocks to inspire. I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing I’d use but maybe good to build tracks in a hurry and then fiddle with the content later.
LoopMash FX: For real-time modern-style breaks, tape-stops, stutters and more
Ah this looks fun. Fans of Izotope’s innovative stutter edit will like this as you can apply those peculiar twists and turns and beat repeats on any material now not just the loops within the previous Loop Mash plug in. Assign a midi tracks output to the track with Loop Mash FX inserted on and then have some serious fun making your audio jump through hoops!
REVelation: Super-smooth and silky-sounding algorithmic reverb that brings back the memories of those old fancy hardware units
We are getting a bit spoilt now with this sumptuous collection of new stuff. A good quality algorithmic reverb would have cost at least double the update price so this alone makes the €49 cost seem a bit like a bargain. This reverb is a bit overdue mind as the previous algorithmic reverb Roomworks (and Roomworks SE) have been sounding (!) a bit long in the tooth and compared to the shinier, newer convolution based reverb, Reverence, it has seemed a bit lacking. I am looking forward to pitting this against my current favourite algorithmic reverb Aether
Magneto 2: Adding warmth to your tracks
Aha Magneto returns! Long time Cubase users will remember the original Magneto, a tape emulation plugin, from way back. It’s nice to see it return in hopefully an even better sounding incarnation. Interestingly it appears in two formats within Cubase 7.5, as a vst plugin or as a component within the channel strip which makes a lot of sense for those who want to run it on every track to emulate a tape based project.
VST Connect SE 2 (available in Cubase 7.5 only): Unique remote recording plug-in now with MIDI data transmission
I am still yet to try this which came out with v7 and allows musicians all over the world to essentially become plugins within an input track ! The new version allows not just audio but midi to be recorded from your connected contributors.
Transient navigation: Tab to transients on audio events in the Project window thanks to the new instant hitpoint navigation
This has been in Cubase for a long time but now takes place automatically without you having to go into the audio editor and set it manually. Also being able to do this within the arrange page will speed up editing significantly.
If you are a user of the score editor, you may be pleased to learn that you now have a whole wealth of midi editing facilities within the score editor now rather than having to tediously swap to the key editor every time you want to say quantize or other such midi edit operation.
I will return to this post once I have completed this download.
Another new episode of our iPad/touch devices show Sonic Touch has just been released, episode 27 no less. In this show we look at Positive Grid‘s new amp modeller Bias which I think is rather nifty. I enjoyed making this show as I got to twang away on a guitar for a change!
We also looked into a new feature of iOS7 called inter-app audio which allows for the routing of the sound of one app into another. This is similar to the third party Audio Bus which has been with us for a year or so but is built in at an OS level and thus is more practical. Currently there are not too many apps which support this but I think that will change drastically over the next few months.
More music tech goodness to chew on folks! I decided to make a short film showing the integration of a bunch of new things, Logic Pro X, the iPad Air plus the Native Instruments Maschine Studio running the V2.0 software. They play really well together!
Logic Pro X
I have made no attempt to hide my distaste of the music software Logic in the past, perhaps because I am a long time Cubase user it is ingrained in me but also I just think that for years it has really lagged behind other DAW’s too. Well, I have changed my mind, slightly! I had to buy Logic due to a collaboration with an artist I am working with. It just made sense to do this rathe than both of us lose time with trying to convert the projects back and forth between our systems. Besides this artist, there is another that I will be working with soon who is also on Logic X too. I had previously bought (against my wishes!) Logic 9 which I hated with a passion so I wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of spending more time in Logic land. We’ll I need not of worried too much as Logic X is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The much needed facelift has finally banished those tiny menus and the relocation of things like the transport bar to the top has made the workflow more intuitive. Track stacks bring a Reaper like function when you group a bunch of tracks into a folder, that folder gains a dedicated fader – are you listening Cubase? There is now a bass amp emulation called Bass Amp Designer and low and behold when I first instantiated (correct term!) the plug in I was faced with a graphical reproduction of my classic old bass amp a Mesa boogie 400+ and my old cab too, the quirky 1516. I have never seen these emulated before and I was really impressed with how it sounded. There is the much talked about Drummer plug in which lets you choose drummer by personality (?) and also you now have a basic Melodyne like functionality called Flex pitch which I have yet to try amongst countless other improvements.
My old bass amp amp now in Logic Pro X – Mesa Boogie 400+
Logic Remote showing mixer
The show stopper for me though is the clever Logic Remote app for iPad. Borrowing heavily from the iPad version of GarageBand, this controller allows you to mix, edit and perform using a very intuitive control surface. Interestingly they have taken the Smart instruments idea and made them in to controllers for the Logic instruments. I marvelled at the design of these a few years back when they debuted on the iPad GarageBand so they are welcome here. These essentially let you turn the iPad into various types of midi controller, a guitar simulator, drum pads and chord strips on top of a regular piano keyboard that can also have notes stripped away to display only in key notes. Cleverly these follow whatever the region’s key is which is set in the main info panel at the top of Logic X. I have been banging on for nearly a year now about the wonderful chord track in Cubase, well Logic gets a halfway house now with the arrangement track combined with being able to set keys for regions. In practice I have found the Logic Remote to be the most robust and reliable of all the different iPad based control surfaces I have tried. Probably to do with some secret voodoo that Apple have going on that is closed to all and sundry however it works very well and maintains connection quickly after bringing the iPad out of sleep. This was the killer in the past for other controllers as it would often mean that you would have to jump through a few hoops to get things synchronised again. One feature I particularly like (which the Cubase Equivalent, IC also has) is the ability to create shortcuts and macros and give them dedicated buttons.
Logic Remote showing shortcuts page
Maschine Studio Intergration
You may have read my Maschine Studio and software review or saw my Sonic State review. If not you can find them here so I won’t go over old ground as to what it is needless to say though that you can run Maschine software as an Audio Unit (AU) within Logic X. The cool thing with doing this is that the Smart Instrument controllers operate on the Maschine too via Logic’s own routing. I didn’t have to set anything up, they just worked. This is very cool as it allows for Ableton Live Push like functionality which was left out of Maschine v2.0. This means you can use the aforementioned preset scales on the sounds within Maschine. I try and demonstrate this in my video so I recommend watching that to see it in practice although the tune I make is quite meh!