Category Archives: Uncategorized

Crazy-Ass Exotica — “Soul Of The East” by Buddy Sarkissian & His Mecca Four With Fred Elias

I just recorded this album — Lucas found it at an antique store — and was going to put it up for download but I found out that someone else already did it.
UPDATE: I downloaded this file and put it on my site here.
Why should you care? It’s one of the very few early 60s Exotica records that’s really good. Let’s leave aside for now how offensive to some Muslims calling your night club combo “His Mecca Four.” These guys play the living shit out of this music, which sounds very much like Egyptian or Turkish popular music of the early 60s, except it’s all instrumental. And for all its ‘authenticity’ — I’m no musicologist after all — it’s mostly original compositions.

And for the samplers amongst you there are some smoking Durbeck breaks.

Top it off with the cover (mind you NONE of the people in this group are Arab) of a guy on a camel. This came out right after Lawrence of Arabia, and no doubt sought to capitalize on that movie’s popularity.

No relationship whatsoever to the music on the album
No relationship whatsoever to the music on the album

DJing in Live — Limiters are not the answer!

This is a common ‘helpful tip’ about playing live or DJ’ing with Ableton Live — ‘put a limiter on the main output bus.’

After recording a set last night (which you’ll hear about when I get approval from one artist to use a track) I have spent some time rendering, tweaking, and then re-rendering a mix, because of leveling moves I made in the heat of the moment.  It’s really hard unless you have some sort of giant external meter to watch to keep things properly leveled.

Several times during the mix I brought tracks up to the point they were pegging the limiter giving you that dreaded ‘solid ingot’ waveform.  I’m going to take the limiter out of my standard setup and resolve to watch the meters better, and use my ears. If you clip the main output in Live a little bit it does a fairly good job of soft-limiting to keep from going into digital clipping.  But it’s better that you LISTEN to what you’re doing and be conservative than to use the limiter as a crutch.

The problem isn’t that it sounds ‘bad’ — it sounds OK.  But it doesn’t sound great, because you lose all dynamics. If you’re DJing, everything you play has already been mastered and limited within an inch of it’s life, to limit it more is to second guess the mastering engineers, using much less sophisticated tools.

As for the general philosophical idea of DJing in Live — I love playing vinyl, but especially when it comes to making a studio mix, I like the flexibility that Live gives you, and freedom from cuing and beatmatching as primary concerns.  When I do one of my studio mixes, my concern is to showcase the stuff I’ve recently acquired in a way that is meaningful musically to me, not show off my skills.

I go through a lot of tracks to find the ones that speak to the mood I’m going for, and pre-sequence them, usually in order of tempo.  I actually do record the actual mix in real time — I’m triggering and fading and EQing live.  But I’m not above going back and correcting levels.  Or in the mix I just did, loop the end of one track to make the transition to the next more graceful.

My goal is to get to where I don’t have to tweak after the fact, and every time I record a set I get closer.  When I listen to the first mixes I did with Live a couple years ago they make me cringe.  I want to be able to get in front of a crowd and use the flexibility of Live to make it sound great and move a crowd.  Getting away from using the mouse and staring at the screen can make a big difference.  The APC40 is nice in that way, but actually the mappings I have for the XSession Pro are a more complete mouse-eliminator.

Je suis un DJ !?! All Vinyl, The Deadwood 9PM ICare Benefit

Cant fucking read it when its spinning
Can't fucking read it when it's spinning

I spent a bit of time this morning trying to whip my laptop into shape for a Ableton DJ set, and then I figured ‘fuck it.’ I’m not the best DJ in the world but I have good records. Plus it’s a benefit for the local AIDS hospice, so it’s not a hardcore dance music audience.

So I started going through my record box, and my shelves and I realized that I had absolutely fantastic records, and a lot of fun disco in the original pressings, so screw the computer, this time.

I do feel like I also enjoy the Ableton Live route — I can be more creative with effects and it frees me from the mechanics of beatmatching and cuing. But any time I get to play actual records any more is special!

DEMF Movement Festival

I’m still a little overwhelmed and exhausted, and I need to write it up for Little Village so I won’t go long-winded here… but

I hadn’t been to the festival since 2006 and it was great to be back. I saw a ton of people I only see in Detroit, and got to have some quality chat time with Sean Deason, Otto Koppius, Ian Malbon, LInda Gee, Fred Huette, Todd Sines, Andy Stone, Shawn Rudiman, Mike Huckaby, Boo Williams, etc. Met some nice people from Berlin and Tokyo. Had stellar barbacue at Slows.

Musical high points — well, I was pretty choosy about where I went, and made sure to get away from the constant din. But I loved Omar S playing on the rooftop Sunday Afternoon, Osunlade on main stage, Carl Craig, Derrick May, Los Hermanos, Flying Lotus, Wignomie Brothers. In one weekend I was able to see Derrick, Juan, Kevin, and Carl, which is a sort of techno hat trick. Of course Juan Atkins is as always kind of weak as a DJ but it’s nice to see the originators still at it. Derrick May’s festival closing set was top drawer IMO. Very dynamic, with a lot of new tracks, and he avoided the whole ‘gotta play “Strings Of Life”‘ thing, but did play one insanely great track with teasing string stabs that NO ONE I talked to could ID.

Low point — the sound at the made in detroit stage. I’ve heard good sound down there, when they set up on the floor at the west end of the bowl. It’s kind of a cliche now to complain about it, but seriously, the fact that it sounded great in 2001 and 2002, and like rancid ass ever since, is inexcusable.

I think their best move would be to stop using the underground area for a stage entirely because at the best of times it’s kind of an armpit, and a scary crowd control nightmare when someone popular is playing down there. They could set up two stages on either side of the pyramid and it would be great. Of course rain can be an issue, but it’s an outdoor festival — people can deal, or they can use those huge tents.

My nose is peeling and my knees hurt, but it was a pretty brilliant weekend. Pictures and video to follow.

My ‘If only I had a camera’ moment of the day…

I drove in to work today, because I was moving slow and it was pissing down rain. If you know Iowa City (and maybe 2 of you do), Kimball Road was a river, and where it met Dubuque Street there was a lake. Luckily I was following a car down the hill so I watched him negotiate the water on the road before I drove into it. I wrecked an engine doing that once, and don’t want to do so again ever.

Anyway, the most bizarre site ever, on Park Road there was a guy in a Safety Orange rain suit, with an electric lawn edger, edging his front walk, in pouring rain. WTF?

most unoriginal topic line: airlines suck

Lucas is going to Buenos Aires tomorrow. American cancelled his flight for tomorrow, and rescheduled him such that he’d have a 35 minute layover in DFW for an international flight.

Here’s the thing — how fucking hard is it to program a computer to not book an impractical layover? This has happened to me multiple times and it is always a 45 minute ordeal in an automated answering system to fix the problem. And Orbitz will fix it, sure but they will give you NO sympathy if they have you fly into Kennedy and then have 3 hours to make a connecting flight in fucking NEWARK. That’s an OK connection in their book, and if you don’t like it you can eat it.

And the airlines feel no remorse about stranding you in New York City overnight, where you have a choice between spending $200 on a hotel and taxis or sleeping on the floor in the terminal. And note well — there are NO couches in airports — only chairs precisely engineered so that no one can lay down on them.

I know that there are economic forces conspiring to make Airlines hard to run profitably. But maybe they’d sell more tickets if they didn’t do everything in their power to make air travel stressful and miserable. And I don’t blame the pilots, mechanics, terminal workers and cabin staff. The problem comes right from the fucking top — the MBAs and accountants who think they’re masters of the universe.

The Superficial’s commenters from some dank racist/sexist swamp

I read The Superficial because it’s scurrilous and nasty and occasionally really fucking funny. The anonymous person or persons who writes the entries can transcend the merely sarcastic and snarky.

This post is about Jon from the television show “Jon and Kate Plus 8” who was photographed getting knee-walking drunk and then getting into a car with a woman not the eponymous Kate. The post itself is neither here nor there But oy! The commenters! There’s a line over which one should not cross, in terms of decency. My perception of the line admits a lot of things many people would find offensive, but I’m a crude old fucker. These guys have had to stop for gas twice since they crossed the line.
Continue reading The Superficial’s commenters from some dank racist/sexist swamp

HOWTO: Build PaulStretch on OS/X (or elsewhere)

GO HERE FOR LATEST AND GREATEST

A commenter asked for help building Paul Stretch for his G4 Powerbook. I didn’t bother with a PowerPC build for OS X; but if you’re familiar enough with programming to build stuff from source it’s not too difficult. Instructions after the jump — I know most of you would rather eat broken glass than read them.

EDIT: I should mention that these build scripts will work on any OS (Linux, SunOS, FreeBSD) that supports Unix style scripting. For all I know, you can use them with Cygwin and X11 on Windows.

On Windows, you can look at the scripts (they’re dirt simple) and use them as a guide to building — you can probably get binary distributions of the libraries, and then use CMake to build the application. Really! Continue reading HOWTO: Build PaulStretch on OS/X (or elsewhere)

Paul Stretch (extreme audio time stretching) for OS X to download!

GO HERE FOR LATEST AND GREATEST

It has links to a more recent build, the PPC build, etc.


Yesterday I couldn’t spell OS X Developer and now, I are one!

With some help from my friends on the CMake mailing list I finally got a running standalone OS X application built out of the Paul Stretch source. As I wrote yesterday, it’s free, it’s easy, and it makes hours of freaky soundscapes out of any audio file.

Except for mp3 files. If you try and load an MP3 file it locks up. Oh, and it wants WAV or OGG files — as far as I know it can’t load AIF files. But it’s free, right?

http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/PaulStretch-OSX.dmg

Quicky Track: Dirty Effing Techno

Every so often you just gotta let loose. This track took me about 45 minutes to make from a standing start. Inspired by buying Scanned Synth which seems really good at making harsh, dirty sounds. Add some drums, some effects, and I jammed it out live in one pass. I undid a couple of loser fx moves in Live, and rendered it out.

So this is some Dirty, Monkey Fighting, Monday To Friday Techno.

http://www.cornwarning.com/chaircrusher/Chaircrusher-DirtyEffing.mp3

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Repost: Free Program for Extreme Time Stretch

Sorry for repost, but apparently, this post got trashed in my Blog SQL database. Eff me silly, computers suck. Apparently the post showed up long enough for MKB to comment on it, but then went to the great bit bucket in the sky.

The quaintly named Paul Stretch is a program that does extreme time stretching of digital audio. It’s free and open source, so anyone can try it. I even was able to build it on OS X, but not yet in a way that permits redistribution — you can do a lot of Unix-style programming on OS X and never build up the knowledge that building a native application requires.

Anyhow it turns any audio into pleasant ambient textures. Exampla gratia:

Bitone Troupe “All Is Full Of Love”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The first 30 seconds or so, timestretched to several minutes

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If it isn’t hardware, don’t fake it up in 3D Studio

I’m linking to this product without any particular enthusiasm Black Magic Loop Creator.

What irks me is this image:

How many times have I seen a pic like this and thought ‘ooh cool!’ only to find out it’s imaginary? Just fucking stop it!

What’s even worse, when I first see certain pieces of actual hardware, (e.g. NI Maschine) they look like 3D Studio renderings, or actually, the pictures they release of the REAL objects are FAKE 3D Studio renderings! It makes my brain hurt.

What’s Wrong With iTunes & iPod & How To Fix It.

I’m not even going to get into what’s wrong with the iTunes, or dignify it with a link. What I’m more concerned with is the iTunes application and the iPod player. Now I have to say I mostly love both — I haven’t tried every portable media player, but the iPods are better than any of the ones I’ve tried. I love Smart Playlists. I love being able to search media any way I can imagine. BUT…
Continue reading What’s Wrong With iTunes & iPod & How To Fix It.

Vermont Passes Gay Marriage: Look Forward to Gayple Syrup!

The dominos are falling. We’re up to 4 states with legal gay marriage, and I think there’s a good chance Prop 8 will be thrown out eventually by the courts in California. I expect even more states to go this way over the next few years.

A big factor will become evident after several months of legal gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont. Once it stops being a headline, people will see what a non-event it really is.

And while State Constitutions vary wildly in how they deal with Equal Protection, the Iowa ruling is a pretty powerful precedent for any other state with Equal Protection clauses in their constitutions. I’m sure the Lambda people are all over this already.

But the fact that the sky isn’t falling is a hard argument to refute. The real obstacle to this change taking place everywhere in the US is that older Americans just can’t get their head around Gay marriage. An overwhelming majority of people under 40 have digested the fact that being Gay isn’t a crime or a sin or a perversion. They’re over the Gay thing — it’s just something people are. The older folks who aren’t swayed by facts or logic on this issue are going to have to die off. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Iowa Strike Down Gay Marriage Ban, Pegs FABULOUS METER

Iowa Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

Iowa used to be synonymous with rural backwater, something that has always irked Iowans. To the extent that was ever true, the Internet and Satellite TV made Iowans no less globally connected than the skinniest black-t-shirt rocking chainsmoking Manhattanite. Except they don’t have to lock their doors at night, and can leave the keys in their cars on Main Street all day long.

Now, in addition to world class pork and sweet corn, Iowa has a new claim to fame, as Midwest Capitol of The Gay. Iowa City has always prided itself as the Queerest City in Iowa, now gay people all over the state, even in What Cheer, Grundy Center, Mechanicsville and Altoona can join in civilly sanctioned matrimony.

Still up in the air. Can gay couples get married at Little Brown Church In The Vale? Because that would be sooo awesome. At any rate I expect a big economic boon from gay couples visiting to get married. Any of y’all gay brothers and sisters out there who are looking for a more rustic spot to tie the knot, Iowa is home to many insufferably cute Bed & Breakfasts, Antique Stores full of bargains, beautiful State Parks, and miles and miles of natural beauty. I’m sure we have our fair share of homophobic rednecks, but the vast majority of them are too polite to spoil your visit.

Loudness Wars? How About Stupid Recurring Internet Meme Wars? (Part 1)

I started commenting on this post about the loudness wars, and decided fuck commenting I’M GOING TO USE MY MR. MICROPHONE HERE TO SAY MY PIECE!

I do mastering for CDs and digital delivery, so I pay a lot of attention to real and apparent loudness, and that post throwsaround dB values without explaining what you’re comparing them to.  Is he talking about RMS level relative to 0dB full digital scale? Is he using a single RMS calculation for the entire track?  I don’t know, but I do know that it’s absurd to say that Venetian Snares averages -1.25dB RMS.  That would mean that his music is nothing but a pulse-width-modulated square wave just below 0dBFS! I’m not a big Venetian Snares fan, but I know his music well enough to say that whatever methodology the guy on MusicMachinery.com is using isn’t producing meaningful numbers.

When I started mastering my own and other people’s music, I picked out 5 or 6 commercial CDS from the modern era, and did some analysis on their average RMS value, and the RMS level for their loudest passages, to come up with a general rule of thumb to use.

What I decided is that there’s a sweet spot in whole-track RMS average between -13 and -11 dB RMS below digital full scale.  That’s for rock and dance music; for classical music, which demands a larger dynamic range, you have to allow for larger dynamic range or it sounds like shit.

At any rate, that -13 to -11 range has served me well over the years. It leaves some dynamics intact, but it pumps the music up to where listeners don’t have to tweak volumes to match levels with other commercially mastered CDs.  You occasionally run into CDs that are well above that range, but their shitty mastering usually complements their shitty music, so I don’t listen to them. Problem solved!

After a while I got more sophisticated in how I did my mastering, or rather, I started using RME’s nifty Digicheck Utility to monitor the real time RMS level of the tracks I’m mastering. Instead of judging the RMS level of a whole track, I’d set the gain such that on the loudest sections of the track, the RMS level was bouncing between about -12 and -6 dB RMS. This means the loudest bits are loud enough, but the quiet bits are still quiet, maybe -18dB or even -24dB RMS.

I’m no Bob Clearmountain but I do get repeat business, so I can’t be all bad. Furthermore I hear music all the time mastered by guys who charge 10 times what I do and I think they sound like shit, so I feel good about the results I’m getting. Part of the reason I’m so cheap is that I change the music i receive as little as I can and still make the music sound finished. That’s the dirty little secret of mastering — if a mastering engineer is doing his job right, 95% of the time, he’s just using a brickwall limiter and monitoring the RMS level of the output. $5K for an full length CD? I’d love to get that kind of money, but I would probably still only take a few hours to do the job.

But to get back to the original topic — i.e. people talking out their asses about ‘Loudness Wars’ — I’m just saying read with skepticism. Sure, Metallica Nickleback and the Red Hot Chili Peppers released some albums with no fucking dynamic range. But really, who the fuck cares? Any music actually made for people who actually enjoy music does not get the ‘brick waveform’ treatment. You can rip CDs and look at them in an audio editor all day long and only the shittiest and most transparently commercial CDs are over-compressed.