The idea of I Hear IC is to gather people from Iowa City to present brief performances in a local coffee house. Peformances were in the range of 10-20 minutes. Other performers on this night included Jazz singers, an improvisation from two Iranian musicians and a small ensemble improvising a new soundtrack for old cartoons.
In that context I knew that it wasn’t like playing an hour-long techno set; no one would be dancing so the kick drum didn’t need to be in the mix the whole time. As it happened I finally brought it in at around 6 minutes; this goes back to early 90s origins of ambient techno, when producers would do long beatless intros to tracks. The rise of ‘popular’ ambient — with the KLF and the Orb being the most famous proponents — grew out of never actually bringing in the beat. Sonically I think this piece has a bit of the Orb about it.
It’s also an instance of not holding anything back. I went back over projects on my studio machine and plundered them for interesting sounds and loaded them all together in one set where I could mix and match stuff that originally went with much different music. I recorded a lot of sounds from my outboard synthesizers, playing loop clips and tweaking knobs to get some movement. The main repeated pad changes chords but it was accidental — I discovered that the JP6 would change the pitch of sounds when I jacked up cross mod. Which is fun because I was playing a slider; the chords were not exactly in tune.
The basic framework was dictated by a tonal center of C Minor. The bassline is straight 16th notes playing C C Eb Eb. That kind of simplistic sequencing reminds me a bit of early Tangerine Dream.
Sometimes you try something and it’s accidentally kinda compelling. The setup was
- Volca Beats
- Volca Keys
- Jupiter 6
- Meeblip Anode
- Eventide UltraVerb on one send
- Audiodamage Dubstation16 on the second send.
This is straight up tracky. It’s live mixing/tweaking. I actually added effects and the anode while recording. There’s minimal EQ-ing on the Volca Keys and Volca Beats. I did some limiting and EQ on the mix-down and edited out the 16 or so measures where the anode was doing this unpitched farting noise.
Syncing the Volcas to Ableton Live is kind of wonky. It seems to work marginally better if you set the sync mode to pattern. The only way I found to get it tight was to hit the ‘play’ button a few times quickly. If you just hit play once, it always starts out of sync. Somehow resetting the counter to 1:1:0 a few times while Live is playing gets things lined up properly.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who got their new Korg Volca thing home only to discover that the power jack doesn’t fit any of the AC adapters you have laying around. This is annoying. I for one have a box with about 30 different power adapters to check through. But I have found a good, cheap solution.
First off, what you need is this:
- DC 9V
- Center Positive
- 1.7mm connector
According to this guy, Matthew Zipkin A Volca device never consums more than 80mA, so pretty much any 9V AC adapter has enough juice to power multiple Volcas.
The problem is the plug is an uncommon size, 1.7mm. If you want to try splicing something together look for the yellow-tipped plugs. If I recall correctly, old Sony CD Walkmans used the 1.7mm plug. But another solution is this: Adafruit sells 2.1mm to 1.7mm DC jack adapters for $2.50. They also sell a 9VDC Center-positive 1000MA supply for 6.95.
The Adafruit solution is actually cheaper than the AC adapters I just bought on Amazon.com, with higher power output.
You can also power multiple Volcas from a single supply with guitar effect daisy chain cable, if you buy enough 2.1mm to 1.7mm adapters.