For our new album I for some reason recently got obsessed with the idea of having sounds of snow and ice as part of the musical tapestry. This idea, and the promise of some great snowboarding conditions prompted a recent trip to Niseko in Hokkaido, the northernmost part of Japan.
Because of the recent earthquake in Japan, the Niseko area, which I'm told usually has a lot of visitors from Australia during the winter season, was more or less void of people.
A bit sad really, but it did make for perfect recording conditions, as my fumbling attempts at capturing the noises of creaking snow, melting ice, and northern winds were only interrupted by the odd croaking of a crow.
For the task I used my newly purchased M-Audio Microtrack II which worked out great, thanks to its small size and robust build which meant I could easily fit it in my jacket pocket and not worry too much about it - even while snowboarding!
We are now working on the final tracks to complete the new album and hopefully it won't be long before it can be released! For now, here's a tiny taster (which may or may not end up on the final version of the album) featuring the sounds of melting icicles:
As usual the track is free to download in 192kps but should anyone want to purchase the higher quality versions I will donate all proceeds (however small or great) to Japan Red Cross .
Please also consider donating directly either by contacting your national Red Cross society or through Amazon .
Image credit: Poster by Zac Neulieb
Got my first ever analog synth!
Yes, the tiny (12cm x 7cm) Korg Monotron is a very humble introduction to the world of analog synths, but it is a lot of fun and I'm loving it so far.
Running on batteries with a built-in speaker it is great for annoying people with sound effects when bored, but even with it's single oscillator the little box is also capable of producing some incredibly warm sounds (with the right processing applied) as illustrated in this part taken from a new track we are working on:
...where we once again managed to squeeze in a bit of music time into what always turns into a rather tight schedule whenever I visit home.
While working on a new track we were messing around with whatever noise making objects we could find (including some of Anders' son's toys) and I managed to capture the results on video:
It has been a while since MapDiary saw any updates but since Twitter recently announced that they would be stopping support for basic authentication (logging in via username/password which MapDiary was using) and switching entirely to oauth, I took the opportunity to release a new, redesigned version of the iPhone app.
The way oauth works is that before logging in you are taken to your Twitter page and asked to grant access to MapDiary. This means that you never have to type your password into MapDiary again - as long as you are logged into your Twitter account you will be able to access MapDiary and only have to worry about keeping your credentials in one place!
Other new features include:
- New redesigned interface
- Updated super-crisp high resolution graphics for iPhone 4
- Support for multi-tasking (iOS4+)
- New native map shows and updates your position in realtime
PS: Once Twitter stops supporting basic authentication you will no longer be able to post using the old version of MapDiary, so existing users should upgrade to the new one as soon as possible (it's free!)
Summer is here!
...Which can make it hard to stay productive at times, as the warm weather and blue skies seem to command you to go outside, as if it were your God-given duty and obligation to nature to go and get a nice red sunburn as soon as temperatures rise above 30°C.
I have however (more or less) been keeping up my strict "make at least 1 track a week"-policy, which is something I started doing recently in an effort to stay in (musical) shape. It also allows me to spam Anders with MP3s every week, and he in turns sends back his ideas - a process that will hopefully speed up the completion of a new album!
Here is a sampling of 3 work-in-progress tracks that have come out of it so far:
Old Dusty Morn
Waaaaay back so long ago I'm not really sure when this recording is actually from we played a small 3-song set at a place called "ABC Teatret" in Copenhagen. A glance at Google Maps suggests that the place has since been converted to a fitness center so I guess we should count ourselves lucky for having had a chance to perform at what used to be an old theatre hosting some of Denmark's greatest entertainers.
Although the timeframe is a bit unclear, what I do remember is that we had just begun working on the Subsidence album, and even though we hadn't actually finished a chorus for it yet, we decided to play Derelict as part of the set, instructing our vocalist (Karoline Porsby at the time) to just do some humming during the parts that weren't done. :D
Karoline, by the way, was extremely angry at Anders and I that day for having asked her drummer ex-boyfriend to perform with us but neglecting to tell her until minutes before going on stage...erm. :roll: Karoline, if you're reading this, we hope you have forgiven us by now!
All in all, as you can probably tell, great conditions for a fantastic performance. And the result was...well better than expected perhaps...? Anyway you can judge for yourself as a recent dig through my minidisc archive produced this recording from the show:
Not sure exactly why the ENTIRE MIX gets swamped in reverb near the end. Maybe the sound guy simply decided it was sounding terrible and tried to help us out by drowning everything in a cheesy room reverb? ;)
As Anders and I live in opposite ends of the world at the moment, we don't actually share the same studio and basically work on all songs by sending files back and forth over the internet. The end result is a mix of not only our different ideas but also of the different musical equipment we use in our separate locations. Today I thought I'd give you a little tour of my (rather unimpressive) home studio here in Tokyo and show you some of the gear I use on my side of the Earth!
MacBook, LED Cinema Display, Ableton Live
Thought I'd mention this first, as the fact of the matter is that over the years we have gone increasingly "virtual", substituting music hardware for their software-based counterparts on the computer. It makes things a lot easier when you're living in a tiny apartment in Tokyo!
Although our first productions were done on Logic, we switched to using Ableton Live when Emagic was bought by Apple and stopped supporting the Windows platform. (I have since converted to the Mac platform but that is a different story!)
Novation Remote 25SL
While having everything you need within the computer is incredibly convenient, moving dials and pulling faders using a mouse soon becomes tiresome, which is why I use the Remote 25SL to assign actual physical knobs and faders to control the software.
The 2-axis "joystick" on the left also comes in handy and was used to great effect on Inlet to create the swirling delay effects (heard throughout the track but easiest to pick out at around 1:00) by assigning one axis to an EQ and the other to control delay feedback.
Oh, and of course it also comes with a keyboard, which is useful when you are actually trying to play something. ;)
Although I don't use it as much as I used to, I still dust the Nova off and hook it up from time to time, mainly because it's so much fun to play with!
Most recently featured providing the bassline on New Skies (comes in at 1:41, with an additional saw wave added at 2:48), I often use the Nova for creating effects and pad sounds too.
Worst feature: Produces an annoying "beep" whenever you push a button, and you can't even turn it off!
Nord Micro Modular
I brought this little red devil back with me from Denmark on a recent trip home, but haven't actually been able to make it work in Japan yet because of the difference in voltage over here...(will need to find a voltage converter or something).
The software for generating new sounds that comes with the Micro Modular is beginning to look a bit dated, but sonically it is still an excellent instrument for creating powerful sounds that really cut through the mix, such as the grungy lead on Sphoudeiko Part 1 (comes in at 0:35).
We also used it for the vocoder melody part in Derelict (at 0:30), the recording of which involved Anders holding a microphone and going "wuuuuuauaaababbbzzzzzzuuuuuueeeaaaaaaaa" for several minutes while I tried out different melodies.
I hardly ever use the BCR2000 for production but it is great for live performance and DJing (see it in action in Sub Delay Sessions 6). With all those lights and knobs it looks great in the dark and sometimes I switch it on just to look at it. :P
Sony MZ-R50 Minidisc Recorder
Okay, so this old gadget doesn't really produce any sound on its own as such, but it is what I used to capture most of the ambient sounds you can hear between tracks on Subsidence. Basically I would walk around Tokyo, Kyoto and Nikko with a crappy stereo microphone sticking out of my pocket and capture whatever came by.
I also have a ton of old Minidiscs containing recordings of old unfinished songs that can serve as inspiration when I get stuck. In fact, Beware was more or less entirely based on audio samples of an old version of Sentient.
...As you can see, not a whole lot of gear lying around, but I suspect it is only a matter of time before we become superstars and can afford to surround ourselves with tons of musical equipment. Hope to do another "studio tour" then! :P
When we're not busy working on our own stuff, we do spend a lot of time listening to other people's music, which also serves as a constant source of inspiration for what we do in Sub Delay. Below I have collected what I (that would be me, Jens) find to be the best electronic full-length albums released in the past 5 years. These are basically 100% my picks so maybe Anders will tell you about his some day!
2006: Trentemøller - The Last Resort
Strangely enough, even though I bought this years ago, I only realized just how good fellow Dane Anders Trentemøller's debut album is, when I started listening to it again recently! But there is certainly no question about it, The Last Resort is a production tour de force, with every song oozing sound quality and attention to detail.
2007: Dubfire - Global Underground Taipei
Despite releases from old favorites like Underworld and The Chemical Brothers, 2007 didn't really contain a lot of musical highlights for me personally (unless I'm forgetting something!), but this quality DJ mix album from Dubfire of Deep Dish certainly had me dancing on trains and sidewalks (mentally) for a while and has maintained a permanent spot in the limited 16 gigabytes of memory on my iPhone for some time now.
2008: Helios - Eingya
Ok, so this is cheating a bit. Eingya was actually released in 2006, but as far as I know didn't see the light of day in Japan until the Tokyo-based Zankyo Records picked it up and released it over here. This album, as well as Helios' other productions, is ridiculously beautiful and the organic sounding songs are great for chilling out to in a noisy metropolis like Tokyo.
2009: Moderat - Moderat
Although I more or less randomly picked this up after only casually listening to it at a Tower Records store, every subsequent play through has just made me love this incredible album more and more. In fact, Moderat are one of the first bands to get me really excited about electronic music in a long time, and although 2009 saw other great releases from the likes of Röyksopp and Deadmau5, this album will remain my pick for the best electronic album of 2009 as well as being one of my favorite albums of all time!
2010: The Chemical Brothers - Further
It is only June and I just bought this about a week ago, but I am pretty sure that this will end up as one of the best electronic releases of this year. Although I honestly was a little bit disappointed by their previous effort, Further has 100% restored my faith in The Chemical Brothers, who surely are the The Beatles of electronic music, both in terms of sound and the amount of consistently awesome productions they do! I love hearing the warm, retro synth sounds on their albums and listening to their music always makes me wish I had more analogue gear than I do (...which is NONE by the way!)
- "Further" on Amazon.com</p?
That's it for now! Also of course, if you're into electronic music make sure to check out our albums below. Not sure if they qualify as "best albums" but still, you might hear something you like!
For every track that makes it onto an album, there are about a dozen half-finished, work-in-progress, abandoned creations that never see the light of day. Among these are even a few more or less completely finished songs, that for various reasons just didn't cut it when it came to compiling an album.
Although it had been featured in a couple of live performances and we even had a mastered version of it done ready for CD production, we decided to leave it off the album for various reasons:
- Busy vocalist We wanted to redo the vocals done by Marie Jørgensen, since they had originally been recorded only as a draft to work from. Sadly, we had a hard time finding a day to match Marie's busy schedule and before we knew, it months had passed and all the other songs had already been finished... Bonus fact: Eventually we ended up using some of the additional lyrics we had written for the song on the track New Skies.
- Never thought of a chorus Only the verses in Progpop contain vocals (partly related to the issue mentioned above!) so the chorus ended up being entirely instrumental, based around a lead made from the sound of a...reversed flute was it??
- Too long The track is almost 8 minutes long!
- Just didn't fit in As we were figuring out the track order for the album, we would every time end up having nowhere to put Progpop, and I guess we eventually just decided that it didn't fit in with the other songs.
Depending on the track it might take you no more than a couple of hours to produce something that sounds decent, or it might take weeks and weeks (sometimes months, years!) of going through countless permutations of the same song, deleting complete arrangements and starting over again and again before you come up with a satisfactory result.
The track we are currently working on unfortunately falls in the latter category...Under the working title "Gentle" the song first came to life in Anders' home studio, where Anders produced a couple of initial drafts:
Version 1 First draft was based on a simple bouncy drum groove:
Version 2 Second version was more ambient with huge strings making up the bulk of the arrangement:
Version 3 Third version Anders returned to a more rhythmical groove:
...and this was the point where Anders felt he'd...had enough and decided to pass the track on to me. I personally really liked the first two versions and wanted to combine them somehow, but sadly a lot of the original elements where lost due to computer trouble, so I went to work with whatever was left and began adding some new elements.
Version 4 My first draft was a breakbeat driven affair which worked fairly well in the verse but sounded terrible once it got to the chorus:
Version 5 My second draft, the current version which...I am still not quite sure how I feel about! :/ It does have a "Sub Delay"-sound to it I guess (to the point of being "samey"??):
...Meh. Back to work!
Without further ado then, feast your eyes (and ears) on my pink-shirted self below, as I work through the 6th installment of Sub Delay Sessions recorded earlier today. I'm particular proud of the part where I manage to stop the track that is mixed in, or the other part where the camera changes and you can't hear any sound for a while! :roll:
As always, we went through a couple of versions before settling on the final cover for the Low Ground album. Thought it might be fun to share them so you can see what the album could have looked like! Version 1 - Airplane
The first version we experimented with was a picture taken by a colleague who is an avid amateur photographer in her spare time. The picture had a dark mood to it that I liked, but in the end we couldn't find a version of the picture in high enough resolution to be printed, and also we weren't entirely sure it suited the concept of the album so eventually we starting looking elsewhere.
Version 2 - People in the night
Anders mentioned that when listening to the album he got the mental image of a city with blurred silhouettes of people. Don't ask. I didn't. Instead I went on a hunt across Flickr and came up with the picture above, which I believe is taken somewhere in Germany? (I am sorry, I seem to have lost the username of the photographer...If any knows, write a comment!)
However, we didn't feel completely comfortable using something that wasn't more...."ours", and so another couple of days passed as I began rummaging through my old photo archives.
Version 3 - Final
We finally settled on using a photograph taken by me on a trip to Kyoto in Japan, showing a view of the city, famously surrounded by mountains, right after sunset. The photo was taken from "Kiyomizudera", a more than 1000-year old buddhist temple which itself is set on top of a mountain.
The temple is well known for having a large stage protruding out from the mountainside. It was traditionally believed that if you could survive the 13 meter jump from here, you would be granted a wish. The practice is now (obviously) prohibited, but in the Edo period more than 230 jumps where registered, of which about 85% actually survived the fall!
Anyway, we thought the atmosphere of the picture suited the music well, and were happy with the fact that it was something entirely of our own making, thus it ended up being the one we stuck with. Listen to the album here and judge for yourself whether we made the right choice! :)
Everything was basically improvised live on two computers running in sync (set up in Anders' living room). Although we started out having lots and lots of parts playing together all at once, after a bit of weeding out we came up with this rather sparsely instrumentated version.
Since this was done on two separate computers, we ended up each taking home "half" of the track (like one of those spy movies where two people hold a master key in order to prevent the accidental launching of a ballistic missile), but recently I finally got a chance to merge everything back together (missiles away!).
Whether this will ever be developed into a full length track is yet uncertain...comments are welcome! :)