Doing something a little different here and posting some realtime patterns I’ve been playing with, mainly centered around the Elektron Syntakt but also supported by the Digitakt/Digitone and a bit of the Analog 4. These are fairly rough and unfinished, and most of them will likely stay that way. There’s quite a bit of text and explanation of the whole thing and thoughts about each pattern in the video, so I won’t reiterate all of that here. But I thought it’d be a fun change of pace to share some explorations of in-progress stuff and do a synth fingers video.
It’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been busy with music and second-guessing myself (more on that later,) but I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of a new album, “Internal Reflection.”
In some ways I feel like it’s an iteration or refinement of many of the themes I began on “Metamorph,” trying to keep things fresh, unique and loose by intentionally choosing different techniques in the ideation process. Overall, it’s been an effective method for me. But I also found it leads to new decisions about where to draw the line in letting the natural strengths of the tools guide the music itself; at what point does my voice get lost in the endeavor to keep things creatively fresh? When it comes to creativity, I’m generally of the opinion that the artist should guide the tools, not the other way around. So in that regard I did try to find a balance, and I hope it comes across for my long-time listeners.
Despite my confidence in technique, I ran into a lot of hesitation and second-guessing myself with this album. Listening to tracks over and over, looking for improvements to make or trying with futility to reevaluate them with an objective ear, which ultimately only serves to entrench them further into my mind as immutable blocks.
For some time, I considered releasing two separate albums to deal with the disparity between the frustration-fueled high energy noise of tracks like “Crystallovore” and “Disinformation Filter,” and the calmer, equanimous tracks like “Decoherence” or “Chromatic Dispersion,” inspired both by the geometric and physical interactions of light and my explorations in mindfulness meditation. In between those extremes are tracks like “Five Constellations” or “Faceted Multidimensional,” which I feel ride the line between the two and are clear candidates for inclusion, but perhaps not enough on their own, or would come off as tiresome and homogenous with a similar energy level for an hour+ listening experience.
When I finished “Metamorph” I had a loose goal of forming a tighter sound for my next release – something more conceptual and unified, centered around a predefined theme. While “Internal Reflection” eventually coalesced into something vaguely representing that, it still feels more like a collage of thoughts, ideas, dreams and emotions I’ve made attempts to express musically over the last couple of years. While in a sense my personal metric for evaluating my own work is centered upon my enjoyment of it, I sincerely hope there are aspects that are effectively communicated through such an ephemeral medium and resonate with you as well.
“Internal Reflection” will release on Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud and other streaming services on 6/7/22.
In the meantime, I’ll also share some other iterations of the album art I put together before arriving at the final. These were created using 3ds max, Arnold Render, TyFlow, Photoshop and Processing. I tried to find a balance between busy detailed chaos and negative space, emphasizing colorful reflections in synthetic structures, while also being mindful of the overall composition and the fact that most listeners will only see it as a tiny, compressed thumbnail.
After finishing “Observer,” I found myself in a bit of a creative rut; following my typical process resulted in work that I felt was boring, unsatisfying, and too similar to previous efforts. I think the ease of the creation process, thoroughly lubricated and streamlined by the Maschine/Komplete Kontrol workflow, ended up ironically being a creative hindrance in some respects. By removing friction (and thereby necessary mental energy) from the creative thought process, I ended up falling into a routine, subconsciously utilizing the same techniques and sounds as always. At some point I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and dissatisfaction and frustration led me to seek new methods for creative expression.
I finally found inspiration in experimenting with Reaktor: diving into the factory library, utilizing less conventional sequencers like NOD-E and TRK01, as well as creating my own “modular” patches with Blocks, and focusing a lot more on modulation in general. There are some really cool synths and sequencers in there, much of which is reminiscent of the early days of “IDM,” which itself was also a major influence on this album. The K10K-era micro-GUI of many of the ensembles haven’t aged well, but I think the sounds themselves are still quite fresh and would probably be widely regarded if they were hardware.
Along that line, I ended up purchasing some Elektron gear as I felt their sequencing paradigm and modulation capabilities were very much in line with what I was trying to accomplish. Many of the tracks here heavily feature the Analog 4 and Analog Rytm.
History, Influences and Quality
Process aside, one of the goals of this album was to look back and incorporate historical influences – 90s Jungle and pre-commercialized Drum & Bass, as well as early IDM and the amalgamation of all of these in the tracking scene. For myself it was a formative era and I wanted to evoke the same spirit but executed with the power and tools of contemporary production.
That said, one of the issues I struggled with (as always) is mixing and mastering. To me it’s boring and tedious and it’s possible that I just don’t quite have the ear (nevermind the six-figure equipment and acoustically treated space) for it, much less the cash or patience to send it off to a studio and have it done professionally. On the other hand, part of me says maybe it doesn’t matter – it never really reduced my enjoyment listening to S3M/XM/IT modules that had absolutely no ability to apply EQ, compression or limiting. To a certain extent mixing in electronic music is an essential part of the production process, but beyond what I can do with a pair of decent headphones I don’t have a particular interest in polishing it to perfection. And maybe in some sense there’s a degree of rawness and authenticity to that. After all, I have the luxury of doing this at my own pace and setting my own goals – it’s a side hobby, not the source of my livelihood, and I’m not trying to sell this to masses or aim for DJ play in festivals or giant venues.
Hades / Life Updates
Speaking of my livelihood; it’s been a couple of years, perhaps I should include some life updates here. Work-wise I’ve been plugging away at Hades since my last update. As per usual the vast majority of my work on the game is in visual effects animation, motion graphics and UI design. These days I find that my professional work utilizes just about all of my visual creative energy; I haven’t really done much in the way of personal digital art since I started working at Supergiant six years ago, but I’m totally okay with that, and I think the reason is that it’s very creatively fulfilling. I’m constantly learning and my work reaches a much larger audience than if I were to just do my thing solo. And it’s not only satisfying to work with a passionate and exceptionally talented team that really cares about the end product, but also to see the reactions of fans and new players alike who appreciate it.
In my late teens, faced with imminent choices about choosing a path toward adulthood, I decided to pursue game development as it was one of the few things that felt real and important to me. I remember the magic of watching Final Fantasy cinematics or using summons for the first time and imagining how awesome it would be to be involved in creating something like that; to touch other players in a way that they can viscerally, even spiritually connect with and be further inspired by. And I often think, reading the reactions and feedback from our players, that we have accomplished just that. And making that connection, knowing that I’ve contributed some small part to their experience, has been profoundly fulfilling to me.
Thanks for listening, or even just reading my ramblings.
20+ years ago I put together my first website to showcase my primitive 3D artwork and host my 16-channel mods. At the time it was a source of pride and identity for me. These days it seems pretty dusty around here, as I only update every couple of years. Certainly part of that is due to the explosive expansion of the internet from a niche culture with tightly knit communities into a massively commercialized essential utility with nearly universal participation. But also very much to do with life and work, growing up, having a family of my own and more responsibilities to fulfill than an unemployed community college student.
Nevertheless, I’m going to keep doing my thing here, and I hope you can get some enjoyment out of it.
“Metamorph” releases on Bandcamp 06.23.20, and streaming services shortly thereafter.
Cobbled together a preview of my upcoming album “Observer” and put it on Soundcloud tonight, with a release date of 4/20/18 set.
This album ended up being more influenced by personal life than my previous efforts. Previously I was much more focused on atmosphere and evocation, though I think with “The Dream Edge” there were a few tracks transitioning away from that to more intimate influences. The past couple of years have been good to me, but also introduced new and unexpected challenges that, looking back, profoundly influenced my mood and creative output in both conscious and subconscious ways.
Another shift in inspiration I took was a more respectful look at the past instead of a relentless focus on the future, innovation and progression. I attempted a balance this time – I don’t care for the idea of executing pure nostalgia, but hinting at it with things like more jungle-influenced breaks, lo-fi bit reductions and fuzz, simple adlib-inspired FM sounds, samples from my favorite ambient albums of the past couple decades. Much of that came from re-listening to old favorite albums as well, from the early 90s’ evolution of techno and breakbeat to jungle and drum & bass, the late 90s and early 00s forays into IDM, even old .mod/.s3m/.xm/.it favorites from my tracking days.
On the other hand, I tried some new things with hardware this time as well – about half of the tracks were done primarily with an Elektron Digitakt and Korg minilogue, in an attempt to better focus my sound in a world of practically unlimited sound sources. A pursuit of simplicity and balance of negative space also played a role in a few tracks here – again, influenced by humble daily life instead of trying to evoke a sense of fantastic empyrean scale and energy.
The resulting whole might seem a little disjointed, but probably no more so than any of my previous albums or EPs. My primary goals in producing music are to maintain integrity of personal expression, channeling my favorite influences and memories into combinations that I enjoy, and in that respect I’m content with the result here, and hope you find some enjoyment in it too.
Wow, my last update was almost two years ago. I’m not actually dead, just busier than usual. I had another kid so I can finally check off the ✓family complete milestone.
I’m in the process of finishing up a new album, as well as a cheeky synthwave-R&B fusion mix/mashup. I’m aiming to have the former up within the week and the latter as soon as I can cobble together some appropriate artwork for it.
Finished a new album! This one is less of a unified concept than my previous LP, in fact it took some consideration (and a little time pressure) just to articulate the loosely unifying threads tying the individual tracks together into a concise title. In a sense it feels more a compilation of things I’ve worked on over the past year and a half or so. With varying levels of focus I’ve been exploring themes of hazy memories, nostalgia, dreams or dreamlike states or the blurry veil between conscious thought and dreaming. I think that ended up being manifested in more than one track by my process of starting with an initial theme or set of sounds and then filtering it halfway through, like looking at reality through the lens of a dream, or comparing the ideal of a concept to its reality.
As usual the energy level fluctuates from soporific ambient to frenetic 170bpm layered breaks. In the process of gathering material for the album I found myself questioning whether or not it’s a good approach to compile such a stylistically wide range of material – not that there isn’t any precedent for it, but generally the artists I listen to and am inspired by seem to release with much more consistency of theme. But ultimately it does feel like the right decision. As music production remains a hobby for me I have the luxury of working on it whenever inspiration strikes, crafting sounds to my own taste without external restrictions; so hopefully the end result has some purity of expression, hindered mostly by my own lack of technical ability to directly translate my ideas. And as a creative professional it’s liberating to have a method of expression that doesn’t need to answer to anyone else’s requirements, so I’m putting it together as I see fit. As such, I hope there is something on it for you to enjoy.
Listen on SoundCloud.
Purchase via BandCamp.
I was listening to my first “Bleemix” megamix/mashup today and decided that in the spirit of getting archived material back online and up to current standards I’d upload them to Mixcloud, so the first three are over on my new mixes page now.
Properly tagging the tracklists is rather time consuming, made moreso by the Mixcloud UI which was clearly designed towards mixes with 15-20 tracks as opposed to 110+ overlapping in my Bleemix series. Also, I somehow lost the continuous mix for Bleemix 3 and had to patch it back together from the individual MP3s. Fun fact, I tried four different solutions to this, all of which failed to provide a smooth and gapless continuous file, until I remembered Winamp’s “single file” Disk Output mode. Winamp is still good for something!
Anyway I’ll have to save the final Bleemix 4 for tomorrow.
Happy to announce that my new LP, “Allure” is now available for download and streaming. I finally got around to setting up a bandcamp account and uploading my last four releases (excluding “Shroud”, which was signed) so if you missed any they can all be downloaded in high quality there for the price of your choosing.
Anyway, about the LP. One of my primary inspirations for these tracks was found in a cross-section I kept noticing between my wife‘s taste in music and mine – particularly the half-tempo overlap between R&B and drum&bass (much more 170/autonomic drum&bass than poppy chart drivel). Ultimately that led to the uniting theme: viewing R&B’s predominating themes of love, sex, and relationships through a futuristic, electronic eye.
Exploring that intersection struck a chord with me as well, as in it I found overlap with some of my favorite concepts from cyberpunk fiction. The idea of humanoid robot companions, for example, is fascinating to me, and I find it especially interesting to consider the point at which the human feelings of desire and loneliness would surpass the strangeness of companionship with an artificial, constructed “person”. It is essentially a common use for technology, I think – overcoming the limitations of our biology and evolutionary legacy to our own selfish ends, sometimes with long-term detrimental effects. So, to that end, I appropriated and distorted some R&B acapellas with the intent of extracting some of the essence of their emotion – removing them from lyrical context and incorporating them with an intentional, produced artificiality.
Cyberpunk’s heyday lies squarely in the 80s, so I also wanted to explore a more contemporary approach to using 80s-style synths. It’s certainly seems to be been en vogue in the 2010s – incorporating or even prominently featuring classic, analog synths in almost all genres, but I feel the approach is too often relegated to the realm of intentionally lo-fi nostalgia. Although I enjoy and appreciate the retro-future style, I feel that at this point it’s a road well-traveled, and not something I’m interested in doing myself. Instead, I tried to bring the most out of those sounds, making heavy use of the more neglected FM and wavetable synths and piping them through contemporary DSPs.
So I wanted to encapsulate those ideas (and many more) into the album art. Initially I considered 3D modeling and sculpting a head, but felt that it would have been too much of a time investment to arrive at something with the quality I wanted. Instead, I opted for a photo shoot with Sporkii. I explained (as best I could) my concepts behind the album and she not only modeled, but came up with hair, makeup and lighting looks that matched just about exactly what I was going for. We worked on the photo manipulation together and eventually came up with a cover I’m very satisfied with.
New EP with some deep drum&bass and, dare I say, post-dubstep? This time around I wanted to focus on subtlety and understatement a little more, push a little further towards minimalism while still keeping things interesting. I think I’m still in a similar phase as my previous EP; there are definitely some similarities, but I wanted to explore a deeper sound this time, focusing more on bass and ambience than percussion to emphasize the undercover/stealth/hidden motif.
Downloads coming soon but full tracks are available on soundcloud for now anyway.
A couple of drum&bass tracks and a couple ambient this time. In “Sirène Noir” and “Zephyr” I did some more experimentation with sampling, which was a lot of fun as I usually just sequence my own stuff with softsynths. “Solace” is somewhat of a sequel or evolution to “Lily” on my 2009 album Phase Shift. Though it was started in late 2011, “Starfall” eventually took some general inspiration from Diablo 3 (despite its mostly lackluster soundtrack, disappointing story and comparatively friendly visual style).