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    Album Art Feature: Cali Fever


    2012 - 04.30

    Here is one of my favorite LPs in my collection, still in the original plastic wrap, Cali Fever by the band Orgone, from LA.  If it weren’t for the New Mastersounds, I think these guys would probably hold the title of the hottest thing happening today, in my taste.  Vintage production styles, superbly written funk tunes, and a killer instrumentation (namely a super-tight trumpeter & trombonist) round out the reasons to love this band.  Cali Fever’s got a number of gems on it, including the title track.  Get onto Spotify (where you can listen instantly and free) to check out the album Bacano if you’ve never heard these guys.  Also a stellar offering.  Seriously, love, love, love this band.

    Of course, it’s featured here because the album cover is a neat piece of artwork unto itself.

    Album Art Feature: BLAM


    2012 - 04.20

    The music on this LP is, for the most part, cheesegasmic.  However, I will say that the Brothers Johnson DO have their moments.  And if you can stomach the initial groans, there are some genuinely cool bits in here.  I actually bought the record purely based on this cover, which is, as you can obviously see, amazing:

    Album Art Feature: Cosmic Turnaround


    2012 - 04.14

    I saw this album in the used bins at Cactus and I thought, holy %*^# that looks increeedible.  Unfortunately, it sounds more like a high school band practicing in their garage than some obscure Jimi gem.  I guess this album goes to show, no matter how legendary of a badass you become, you have to start somewhere unassuming.

    Album Art Feature: Crawl Space


    2012 - 04.07

    Man, they don’t make em like this anymore.  Below is Art Farmer’s “Crawl Space” LP, which is a fantastic, relaxing jazz record.  Don’t confuse this with ‘smooth jazz’–it is not.  It’s a legit combo jazz album that knows how to chill, with plenty of top shelf flugelhorn playing.  DIG IT.

    Also, I really, deeply love that there is a note on the inside addressing the album “To John, Enjoy.  Love, Barb   X”  Clearly, this particular LP was destined for no one other than I.

    Impulse 61, earning its tour of duty stripes


    2012 - 04.01

    A little painter’s tape, a silver paint pen, and some imagination…

    Had my buddy DJ Don Solo visiting from Chicago for a little under a week, and we spent a lot of quality time on the Impulse 61 jamming out ideas and creating new electronic compositions.  Also, a round of light-up frisbee at 3:30am around the neighborhood.  Hopefully we didn’t wake too many neighbors!  With the impending move, it may not have been the ‘practical’ decision to devote a whole week to music, but hey, chances for collaboration with familiar allies are few and far between.  An EP should be coming out of these sessions, if not a full album.  Release date is still far off though; I’ve got boxes to transport and he won’t return to his Chicago workstation for a few months yet.  To be continued…

    In related news, I learned that labeling knobs on your keyboard makes you feel really cool.  Also, the Novation Automap settings are really annoying!  For the sake of anyone with a similar issue: we had this problem where the knobs and sliders would somehow be occupying the exact same midi channels.  ie when you move a knob, it also moves the slider, altering whatever that slider happened to be assigned to.  We defeated this issue by leaving the  “Reason” template and creating our own custom one, where we reassigned all sliders and knobs to “cc” with their own individual midi channels.  This cleared up every knob and slider for use!  I also got my feet wet with Ableton Live (Lite) 8, which is a killer piece of software that came with these keys.  Fun, fun stuff.

    Updated Jams in the Microcosmic Reel to Reel


    2012 - 03.17

    It pleases me greatly to violently rip the tablecloth off of two steaming hot electronic compositions which are now available for your aural enjoyment. They’re sort of polar opposites; one is very long, deeply complex, and took maybe a year to complete, and the other is under 4 minutes, and took maybe 4-5 evenings tops. Still, I’m proud of them both for different reasons.

    Sorry mobile viewers or RSS readers, you’ll actually have to view the site in a desktop browser in order to listen. Hit the play button between the spinning reels on the menu above and skip to tracks 2 and 4. If you don’t see it, navigate here and you should get it.

    Track 2 in the player is called “To Feel Good” and it’s a composition created over the course of many months of collaboration with my awesome friend Vincent. We used Reason and some Carl Sagan quotes from Cosmos to make this epic, meandering jam that refuses to quit. Out of everything I’ve ever done with Reason, this one may just take the award for longest and most complex composition.

    I’m seriously, really delighted with the outcome and proud of “To Feel Good”. Vince made excellent, large contributions here, and together I think we made something colossal! Definitely check it out. Obviously it’s the apple of my eye, so I’ll just stop hyping it up and let you listen.

    Track 4 is entitled “Bullshit Prickly Pear Soda” and it’s the first morsel of sounds worth sharing from the new Impulse 61! As much for my own sake as anything else, here is some reflection on the compositional process for BPPS, which reveals my typical production workflow as well as some new benefits from having the Impulse around:

    It started as a jam between myself and my buddy Luke who had come to visit. We used the drum pads to tagteam this beat, taking several passes to add elements one by one. That’s actually a pretty nice way to create a beat, since it gives you time to listen and you can be thoughtful about how what you’re adding fits into the existing rhythms. Second, Luke added the bassline. He was like “I don’t know what to play!” and I told him “just play anything man, it’ll sound cool!” Aaaaaand success.

    The third element was the synth which is introduced over the bassline, countering the space it fills. I ended up varying the last part of it just to keep things mixed up, much later in production. The fourth element was the nintendo-sounding square wave synth, which only interjects at the end of each loop. This element filled the remainer of empty space left by the main synth and the bassline. The more I listen, the more electronic compositions I find employ such framework: use sparse elements and have each one fill its own individual space, with no overlap. It’s a good formula.

    The very last thing that got added was the thick, constant 16ths rave-sounding synth that comes in last. Up to this point, everything was composed while just looping the same 4 bars over and over. The vast majority of my Reason compositions follow that formula; looping a phrase and adding elements on top, then arranging it all later. Arranging pretty much just consists of copying and pasting in various combinations until you’ve got a buildup, a plateau, a breakdown, maybe a B-section (this jam’s got one, which I added later), then a return to the A and a wind-down. Add some cymbol crashes and maybe some buildup sounds and bam, done.

    Having the impulse handy, I then did a few extra passes through the entire tune, automating various knobs and sliders as it played back. I was fairly shocked by just how much that adds. And sure, you can do that with the mouse, or “draw it” in reason, but the human element of twisting knobs adds something that mouse sort of… filters out. I definitely plan to do more of that going forward. This is only trial # 001!

    File these under “yesss”.

    Transitions Between Epochs ~ The Novation Impulse 61


    2012 - 02.29

    As of about a week ago, I have an awe-inspiring new arrow in my artistic quiver, and one that I really should have acquired ages ago: a USB keyboard with knobs, drum pads, and sliders. Specifically, the Novation Impulse 61. I’ve had a full-size 88-key digital piano for many years and it was a superb instrument for learning keyboards, and to a limited extent, producing with Reason. The problem was that no matter what I tried, I could never seem to overcome the problem of MIDI latency (ie lag between a keypress and the actual sound). Over 3 or 4 different computer builds and windows installs, there was always some kind of latency. Which was a real bummer, because it meant I could play chords and figure out notes for a melody, but I could never input any rhythmic passage into Reason; be it a drumbeat, a synth line, a bassline, a chord stab, anything.

    At this stage in my musical life, I don’t see myself sitting at a piano and leaning to master it purely with no accompaniment. However, I do have a whole ton of fun making tracks in Propellerheads Reason, and this is definitely a way that I see myself growing more comfortable with the keyboard and maybe even learning a pinch of music theory as well. Having a USB keyboard with no latency is a huge, huge advancement toward that end. Plus, having those assignable buttons, knobs, and sliders to tweak Reason in realtime is über-schweet.I may even call this the beginning of a new epoch in the compositions I make for fun, and by extension, my overall musicianship.

    Going forward, my goals here are to use this thing pretty much as often as I can, and also to try to post more music online with it. Historically, I always seem to obsess too much over having a track be ‘perfect’. This also leads to the tendency to start things but never finish them. There’s literally hundreds and hundreds of Reason tracks on my hard drive that started out real cool but then fizzled, as I couldn’t figure out what direction to take. I want this new epoch to be the end of the ‘beat graveyard’ so to speak. I’m really hoping this keyboard will be an impetus to break me out of the same ways of thinking, to get me more in the habit of following through, and just finishing compositions a whole lot more. This will need to be a change in mindset as well.

    All that said, I intend to start posting a lot more musical “sketches” on here–Reason compositions that aren’t “polished” but can be called “good enough”. I have this mental resistance to the phrase “good enough”… like it’s giving up on how good things could be. But you know what? “Good enough” is a whole lot cooler than “nothing”!! Here’s to turning the page, people!

    Soulive: Let’s cut right to a supa funkay keybode so low.


    2012 - 02.23

    More Soulive from Bear Creek 2011!  Break out your pens and papers kids, and take notes; this is what you call a groovin’ keyboard solo.  Fer serious.

    Note, this video has been configured to start playing at 5:34 when Neal’s solo begins.  Jog back to the beginning if you wanna watch the whole glorious endeavour.

    Soulive in Star Filtery Glory


    2012 - 01.23

    Ok, I lied, there are more awesome videos from Bear Creek.  In the clip below, I set the player to start at 7 minutes in (you can do this by adding &start= and then the number of seconds to the embed code), so it jumps straight to the awesome part with the wicked star filter action. Feel free to rewind if you dig these styles! Man! Just look at that guitar! It’s magically delicious!

     

    The Microcosm of Bear Creek 2011, Captured via Photography


    2012 - 01.13

    Okay, at long, long last, here it is. All of my favorite shots from Bear Creek. Grab something to drink, put on some tunes, and get comfortable before you dig in! And don’t forget that fullscreen button! There’s too much hotness here to even describe, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Turn on the titls (click “show info”) if you want some IDs on who you’re lookin at. Enjoy!