Massive Attack & DJ Shadow

September 23rd, 2006

I met up with the guys who helped me with the Power Tools for Reason 2.5 CD-rom project: Joe, Rich (and Begonia), and Carson; and we caught the Sept 22 show of Massive Attack at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. We couldn’t ask for a more perfect evening in the Bay Area. It was a clear and warm Indian Summer day which lead to a beautiful evening in the Hills above Berkeley.

DJ Shadow was fantastic, but even more impressive was his visual presentation of CG animation synchronized to his work. It looked amazing and added a produced element you rarely see in electronic music visuals.

Massive Attack certainly didn’t disappoint. Although Daddy G was not present (congrats on the new baby), the show was amazing. Considering the acoustics at the Greek Theater, my expectations were not very high, but I was pleasantly surprised. Carson and I headed over to check out the gear, and I saw a screen with some “Bitplant” gui on it. I then realized they were using a digi Venue board. I have to say that the sound was unbelievable - it was almost too perfect! There were some delicate drum parts and hi-hat work going on and they mixed perfectly even with a blaring electric guitar roaring.

Heading into the concert I kept wondering how would MA deal with the various vocal parts for their body of work. Sure enough they brought in quite a few guest singers who performed many of the classics. And I was (again) pleasantly surprised!

Don’t Eat The Spinach

September 16th, 2006

Whenever someone asks me where I live, they commonly mistake the name with San Juan Capistrano. No, it’s San Juan Bautista, known for it’s Mission and historical park. Other than tourism to this small city of history, the region is primarily rural and the main industry is agriculture. :-p

Hitchcock fans know San Juan Bautista from the famous tower scene in Vertigo. Believe it or not, the state park looks pretty much the same as it did when Hitch filmed here back in the 1950s. In fact, theres some exciting news about the Vertigo 50th anniversary coming up next year ;-)

Visitors familiar with the quaint little town, might think of the Chickens which roamed freely through the streets. Earlier this year most them were removed earlier because the population was growing unchecked.

Some people might know of San Juan Bautista as home to El Teatro Campesino, the theater company of Luis Valdez formed during the 1960s with Cesar Chavez, leader of the striking United Farmworkers of America.

Anyways I’m getting sidetracked…

Our little town is drawing some notoriety for the recent Virulent Strain of E.Coli linked to prepackaged Spinach produced by Earthbound Farm / Natural Selection Foods, here in San Juan Bautista. This is a bad public relations scenario for the salad packing company, and for all of the farmers in the area who have prospered from the “organic” food movement. [With the bit of farming knowledge i have- go figure eh? :-p ], I can speculate that the source of the problem is probably not the fault of the packaging company, or even the farmers. It’s probably due to a batch of organic fertilizer that wasn’t properly composted, and used on a spinach field.

There’s concern that this stigma might effect the small tourism industry here. There are quite a few restaurants in town, and the last thing they need is some kind of association with food poisoning. No cases have been reported locally, and everyone around here buys the Natural Selection Products. It’s still better to be safe than sorry, and toss out that packaged spinach.

Check the details in the Official Press Release

Reason Exchange Challenge

September 13th, 2006

ReasonExchange.com is a very cool concept where Reason Users contribute song files to a collective based on proposed criteria. From the pool of files, people can see how others have developed a solution that fits the guidelines. This will certainly be a cool way for others to learn a few tricks in producing music with Reason.

The site has been started by a fellow Reason User, Stuart aka defconx, and to get things started, he’s initiated a competition with iTunes Music Store and Amazon prizes for the first challenge:

Compose an original 30 second drum solo in Reason. Use any devices and effects that you like. Don’t brush this challenge off too quickly. As you know in Reason there are several devices you can use to create drum riffs. Will you trigger layered sounds on an NN-XT? Will you use a Matrix device? …. The only criteria are the following:

  • Must be your original work
  • Should be composed 100% in Reason
  • Must be submitted by 11:59PM EST - Friday Sept 29, 2006 (more details to come)
  • Should not exceed 30 seconds
  • Should submit a write-up with how you approach the problem and a bit about your solution.

Check out ReasonExchange.com for the details.

Boston Reason User Group

September 12th, 2006

Cool news for people in New England. Fellow Reasoner, Luke, is starting up a mail-list and organizing a Reason User Group in the Boston Area. He’s secured a nice domain name and launched the site where you can join the list:

ReasonUsers.com

Someone bring a camera to some of these events, and flickr up some shots :-)

RB-303 Refill Version 2

August 31st, 2006
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For those of you who downloaded the 50meg version of the RB-303 refill. Time to delete it! It’s being decomissioned for the new slimmed down 11meg version 2. All of the samples have been looped for unlimited sustain and thus shortened. It’s taken a year to finally get this far, and it’s still not finished…It’s very close, but my friend Hami has offered to create some cool combi skins which will be applied to the final version.

Because of the smaller samples, I’ve been able to create a new set of Combinator patches which have velocity switching layers for normal and accented notes to better simulate the dynamics of the 303 sound. Ideally you will be connecting a Matrix Pattern Sequencer to drive these combis, and the default gate level will trigger a “normal” note. Increasing the gate value to maximum will trigger an “Accent” note. There is an example song file called “Accent Demo.rns” which demonstrates this setup.

The Slide feature still does not work in the same manner as ReBirth or a 303, so as a workaround, there is an extra set of samples with moderate portamento settings. The combi simply switches between the legato set and the retrig set of samples. It’s overkill, but this was the only solution i could devise with the NN-XT.

Like the previous version, you will need the RB-338 Refill with some of the demo song files. This is still available from the Props Website.

RB-303 Combis

The RB-303 combis are based on the Bass Filter patches, released here several months ago which added filtering and specialized equalization that attempts to emulate the roland 18dB filters. Its a chains of effects that relies on the 6dB filter of the NN-XT in conjunction with an ECF-42 and a MClass Equalizer. It’s by far from a perfect copy, but it’s functional and provides a 303-ish experience.

There are now twelve different combinator patches provided in the ReFill. The original for are still there and will function with tracks you’ve created with the earlier version.

RB-303.cmb loads both the sawtooth and squarewave samples, and allows the user to switch between the two by toggling combi button 4.

RB-303 Sawtooth.cmb and RB-303 Square.cmb simply load one set of the samples.

RB-303 Sawtooth & Square.cmb loads both sets and plays both sets of samples simultaneously for a thick layered sound.

Dynamic patches have the accent feature described above. The four base patches are duplicated with this feature, and there’s an extra RB-303 Dynamic2.cmb with slight parameter tweaks.

Square Sub Dynamic.cmb was created for a 202-ish type of sub square wave oscillator sound.

RB-303 Stack Pad.cmb uses the RB-303 samples to create lush polysynth textures. Four sets of the samples are layered with some effect options.

RB-303 Sawtooth Velocity Lead.cmb is a basic monophonic sawtooth lead patch transposed for keyboard play rather than being driven from a Matrix Pattern Sequencer. It has the same parameter controls as the RB-303+Bf-318 patches, but the mod wheel controls a warbling LFO modulation like a typical lead patch. The velocity scaling is also better suited for keyboard play, and does not have the accent features.

RB-303 Combi Controls

FREQUENCY Knob controls the filter cutoff frequency and modulates the MClass EQ settings.

RESONANCE Knob controls the filter resonance on the NN-XT and the ECF-42. This control also modulates the EQ shape.

DECAY Rotary modulates the decay and release stages of the envelopes on the samplers as well as the secondary filter.

ENV.MOD Control increases the modulation intensity of the ECF-42 only.

DISTORTION Button, enables a preset distortion patch embedded in the combinator.

HYBRID FILTER Switch toggles between the 18dB Low Pass configuration and a hybrid of the NN-XT 6dB lowpass and the ECF-42 12db Band Pass filter.

SLIDE Enables the portamento feature on the NN-XT samplers nested in the combinator patch.

MUTE Button, mutes the output signal.

SQUARE-SAW Button, featured only on the RB-303 combinator, switches between the two sample sets.

RB-303 Stack Pad Combi Controls

This one came out surprisingly cool. The mysterious S+S combi in the previous version evolved into this patch. There are four NN-XT samplers that layer RB Sawtooth, RB Square, Square Sub (just the square transposed down), and a Sawtooth transposed up a 5th. It might be a bit overkill, but this patch is capable of creating some very cool polysynth textures as well as nice velvety pads.

FILTER FREQ Knob controls the filter cutoff frequency globally on the four NN-XT samplers.

SUB OSC LEVEL Rotary controls the mix level of a Sub Square sample set.

5TH SAW LEVEL Knob adjust the mix level of the Sawtooth samples transposed up a 5th.

RELEASE Control globally adjust the release time of the four sets of RB-303 samples.

EQ ENABLE Button inserts a MClass EQ which adds a touch of bass tilt to the patch.

UNISON ENABLE Button adds a UN-16 into the effect chain. Goes from a synthetic analog sound to really really synthetic.

COMP ENABLE Button engages a COMP-01 compressor. The output from four layers of NN-XT samples can get pretty loud when playing polyphonic parts. The compressor works to stablize the output levels.

REVERB ENABLE Button - duh?.

SQUARE-SAW Button, featured only on the RB-303 combinator, switches between the two sample sets.

MOD Wheel adjusts the filter resonance on the NN-XT samplers. There is a slight envelope modulation on the filters which is noticeable when the resonance is increased.

ReBirth - PCF Combi Controls

This combinator patch requires users to show devices and select a Matrix Pattern that triggers the ECF-42 envelope. Many of the Original ReBirth PCF Patterns are transcribed based on the pattern illustrations in the ReBirth manual. Other patterns, especially in Bank D, are original.

FREQUENCY Knob controls the filter cutoff frequency.

RESONANCE Knob controls the filter resonance.

AMOUNT Control adjusts the modulation intensity of the Env.AMT and Vel. parameters on the ECF-42.

DECAY Rotary modulates the decay and release envelope stages of the ECF-42

BAND - LOW PASS Switch toggles between the ECF-42 BP 12 and LP 12 modes.

Download

A year after the ReBirth Museum was launched, most of us are still pining for the ReBirth sound in Reason. I usually tell people to get the AudioRealism 303 plugin, but I’ve recently met a few people who are busy building x0xb0xes (which btw look really cool). Until an actual rebirth of rebirth, i guess this will have to do. Like i mentioned in the beginning - THIS IS NOT THE FINAL VERSION! but you can download it anyways:

Download Peff-030 RB-303.RFL 11Mb Zip File.

Summer RML Reason Workshops

August 22nd, 2006
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The Reason workshops in SF at Recombinant Media Labs were another great event; thanks to the support of the Reason User Community in the Bay Area. People came from all parts of Northern California, from SF and the East and North Bay, the Silicon Valley area, the Central Coast (like Me), and even from the Central Valley. Even though the workshops were scheduled for 6 hours, GW and I ended up extending the time on both days. We had a pretty ambitious plan to cover a lot material, and things went much smoother than the spring workshops.

I’m going to skip some of the redundant details, but the workshops had a similar schedule as the spring workshops: Spring RML Reason Workshop Report

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After seeing the Native Instruments demo at Recombinant Labs, I found out that GW and I would have access to two main projectors in the RML facility. Last week, I was scrambling to put together a visual presentation in Keynote. During the workshops, the presentation ran on one screen while we demonstrated various procedures on the the other screen. For each of our presentations, GW and I were able to switch back and forth between laptops. It was a busy week for me as I was learning a new application, tweaking the course outline, answering emails, arranging for food catering and other last minute details.

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At the end of the Advanced Workshop, GW and I demonstrated a little routine that was inspired from the recent Reason Laptop Jam Session. We used MIDI sync’d our laptops together, and I generated loops and played organ, bass and synth hooks in real time, while he recorded and processed them in Ableton Live. I had a rack of devices with patches and loops preloaded, and accessed each device by using the remote override track selection buttons on the Kontrol49. I would play a part and GW would record a loop clip in Ableton. While he edited the clip, i would mute myself out and start working on the next clip for him to record. It was f-ing cool!-especially in the fantastic sound system at the RML facility.

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After the workshops, Bryan Gibbs, the lead engineer of Recombinant Media Labs, pulled out a vintage Minimoog and a TR-808 and hooked them into the main sound system. This was a treat as we spent another hour or so tooling around with a massive analog sound cranked through the speakers. The room was shaking pretty severely. I was burning a DVD on my MacBook, and the burn failed since the vibrations caused the writer to skip. This photograph that Mark shot is fairly blurry; not because he isn’t a good photographer, but the pressure transducers in the floor caused the whole room to vibrate :-)

GW and I are already thinking about the next set of workshops at RML, but GW wants to take it on the road. He’s going to be looking into some places around his home town in Texas. The RML people have suggested the facility at UCSB. I’m going to talk to my Alma Mater, Columbia, and see if we could organize something in NY. We’re also thinking about slimming down the outline into topic specific workshops. There never seems to be enough time to go through all of the cool features in Reason. We really should make it a week of seminars, instead of a couple of days.

There are always an endless number of questions, and GW is going to offer his time directly to people interested in one-on-one training with Reason. He’s in the North Bay Area, and you can reach him via email: andeclipse@yahoo.com

Native Lab: KORE

August 15th, 2006
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Native Instruments has an intensive KORE demo on tour and last Saturday, they launched from Recombinant Media Labs in SF. Richard Devine along with NI Product Specialist, Josh Fielstra presented a fairly intensive 4 hour lecture about this new system. I figured I would drop in and say hello and see what KORE was all about.

KORE itself is simply an environment and uses virtually no CPU processing. The environment extends from the software realm to the real world through the KORE controller which is a USB audio and MIDI interface as well as custom hi resolution control surface that communicates with the software environment. The software itself hosts all of the NI products like Absynth, Reaktor Ensembles, Battery Drumsets, as well as almost any plug-in: AU, VST, RTAS, etc. Within the software, you can configure stacks of plug-ins to create instruments and effects chains and custom weird sound fx systems - as Richard so deftly demonstrated. Then save the KORE patch with Tags to describe the type of sound. You can then quickly browse or search out categories of sounds based on these tags.

I was impressed with the potential of KORE, and it only crashed twice during the four hours, so it’s pretty stable. If I were more of a plug-in user, I would probably be all over a KORE system. As it is, i’m more of a load, sequence and freeze type of user, but if you’re a KVR-addict, then you need KORE!

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At the end, there was a special guest appearance from Dan The Automator. Richard interviewed him about production techniques and the audience had the opportunity to ask both of them questions about tweaking, instruments, and the music biz. People were also treated to a tour of the facility by Naut, the RML director of operations.

Later that evening there was a Remix Mag/NI party down at #111 Minna Gallery where several local bands performed including Dan The Automator and later on Richard Devine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around that late.