What can I do with these loops?

In my weekends (and the occasional evening) I like to jam with plugins and MIDI, edit up samples, and make little loops. This is a low-pressure outlet for my creativity. In the last few years this has meant I've had a lot more fun, accumulated lots of rendered audio, and almost stopped releasing music. I'd been looking for a way to combine all these loops into some kind of generative audio wallpaper.

Landscapes are nice

A wee while ago I came across @SoftLandscapes (see also web twitter). I like experimenting with primitive (minimalist?) animation, and I wondered if I could implement something similar in canvas or SVG, so I did some prototyping on codepen.

Press play to hear it! Leave it going for an hour or so to hear everything, or leave it going for a week! Full site here, so you can full screen it in a dark room.

Let's learn about new web tech

I was also looking to get more experience with the Web Audio API, Redux, and React. So I combined all these things into a project that I can focus on and then ship (because real artists ship).

What is it? How does it work?

There are a handful of songs, each split into four layers. The algorithm cycles through all the songs, and gradually adds in, and then removes layers. Each of the layers corresponds to one of the scrolling parallax mountain ranges, so they fade in and out too.

When switching to the next song, as layers are removed, the code decides how soon to bring in the next song - how much the parts overlap. The code also randomly chooses different ways for parts to enter and exit – simple start stop, low and high-pass filter sweeps, or volume sweeps.

There's also a selection of texture/field recording samples which are played over each transition – a random section of the sample is selected and then looped, and filtered in and out as the song changes.

Sometimes, to mark changes, there's a little bit of punctuation – a randomly-selected "hit" sample, such as an air horn or cymbal. These are sent to a dub delay using a Web Audio DelayNode and BiquadFilterNode (hat tip Chris Lowis). Gotta have an air horn. No cowbell though (not this time).

The colours of the mountains are randomised – a front and a back colour are chosen, and then these are interpolated for the middle two mountain ranges.

There's a range of styles in there, things that you might call instrumental east-coast hip hop, dubstep, dark ambient electronica, subdued moody piano, break beat.

Look out!

If I make nice sounds when noodling or jamming, I'll add new songs periodically, so check back in :)

Haszari Live at the Library

As part of NZ Music Month I was invited to play in the Dunedin Public Library. Because I love libraries, and this one (a marvellous concrete construction) in particular, I jumped at the chance! And of course I'm generally obsessed with the idea of playing electronic music live.

Cue a month or so of fervent anxious work getting a set together. Because this was a 20 minute slot, I felt that I could pull out all the stops and make this as complicated as I wanted. Over the last wee while I've been making lots of little loops so I had a bunch of material to play with.

The first time through (I had two slots booked - a Sunday morning and a Thursday after work), I had a technical problem, and had to play a (boring old, not even live mate) DJ set instead. In the intervening time I dusted off a custom nodejs websockets OSC UI thing to replace the bits that didn't work (studiomux providing OSC-over-lightning cable). This worked great, turning the iPad into a wireless pattern-trigger controller.

On the laptop I used SuperCollider as a MIDI pattern sequencer and also to play back texture samples. This all fed into Logic Pro X where the synthesis, effects and mix happened (with lots of params assigned to hardware knobs).

Here's the recording - great background music for reading perhaps? Hope it's as much fun to listen to as it was to put together :)

Tracklist:

  1. Like So (live dub)
  2. Maenyb (live dub)
  3. Nevozo (live dub)
  4. Janura Crossing (live dub)

A colleague of mine had a dream where, as best as he could remember, three lines rotated and smoothly transitioned between a triangle and a 3-spoked thing. At least, that's what he could get across, and implement as an animation, when he woke up.

Right now I'm looking for animated works to put on the big screen at this year's Vogel Street Party. And in general, I'm trying to throw down audiovisual jams in the weekends for fun. So this stickity animation got me inspired.

I tweaked the animation so the sticks slow down and speed up, added dingy urban background images (of Vogel Street of course!). Then I put it through @felixturners's badTV shader effect, which I've been wanting to use on something for ages.

The soundtrack is a combo of my old textbook "light, textured dubstep" demo Peaches From NZ with layered sci-fi Alchemy presets.

This year I signed up for another 48 Hour film with my workmates (team Arrested Developers). I've been involved a few times now and this year I'm really proud of what we achieved - the film really hangs together well, and is a good match for the genre we were assigned - romantic comedy.

Every year going into the 48 hour weekend I secretly dread it. I'm keen to use the process to try and get quicker at writing & producing, and get a bit of practice scoring films, but I'm usually concerned that I'll end up on Sunday tired with nothing amazing to show for it.

How It Went

This year it worked out wonderfully! The team was really well organised, and produced a simple, filmable script with lots of scope for an interesting score. In fact, there's very little dialogue in middle section of the film.

I spent a little time on Friday night with the script writers, and awoke on Saturday to a charming (and coherent!) script. I procrastinated over the course of the day, playing around with chords I thought might help me write themes for each character.

In the evening, I headed up to HQ (work) and got straight into scoring. There was a near-final rough cut for me to score to (again, fantastic organisation this year!). I wrote scene cues until about 3am, then headed home. On Sunday I spent all afternoon writing & polishing.

Here's the final product:

Sadly, we didn't make the final!

However, we did win Best Costumes and Best Art Direction - well deserved in my opinion. (Not sure what to make of the other "win" Best 70s Porn Score ...)

About the Score

I wrote two chord progressions, one for each character. The male lead's was a dubby, cheerful loop while the female lead's was more wistful.

I used these chords throughout, using a reggae arrangement for the male theme, and strings for the female. For the "action" sections I made a little moogy arpeggio section.

It was a lot of fun hitting cue points in the SMS section, and scoring the denouement.

Previous Teams

Last year I was involved, to a lesser extent, with Arrested Developers. Aidan wrote an incredible, suspenseful score (I contributed a little loop and some drum recordings).

In 2012 I joined team Radial Head. I had a lot of fun, but the score is pretty thrown together, as is the script. The movie looks and sounds pretty fantastic though. Still really like way it starts off with the helicopter shot + darkstep soundtrack. I guess "found footage" is a tough genre!

Threw down this mix of recent and not-so-recent tracks the other day. It gets a bit progressive and also sci-fi spacey, so the title is a nod to the classic and/or cliched "disk jockey taking you on a journey" trope. Of course the galaxy destination name came from wurd.

Journey to Zyhaca by Haszari on Mixcloud

Tracklist

  1. DFRNT - Turning Back
  2. Qvarz - Bodywork
  3. Agoria - Scala
  4. Audiojack - Blackout
  5. Bowski - Balloon Brain
  6. Lindstrom - I Feel Space
  7. Goldie - Kemistry (Justin Martin remake)
  8. Third Son - Recondite
  9. Solee - Ice
  10. Groove Armada - Stevie Latenight
  11. Chaim - Summer Rains
  12. Johannes Brecht - HOLLA
  13. Maribou State - Bricks
  14. Haszari - Maenyb (ruff dub)

A little while ago I posted about randomly generating psuedowords.

wurd icon

I've made a little website/home screen app for this - if you need a word now you're sorted!

http://wurd.cartoonbeats.com

The idea is that I'll use this when I'm jerking around with music and need a name for a little tune or loop, or a section of the arrangement. If you're writing science fiction stories you could use this to name characters or tools from far-off planets.

After showing this around a few friends, the feature requests are coming in thick and fast (as usual...):

  • check domain (.com etc) name availability
  • incorporate arbitrary text (e.g. prefix/suffix)
  • share button

Anyway - bookmark it, or chuck it on your homescreen, and wait for your life to change!

Today I got an email inviting me to Beatport's new streaming service. Sign me up! I love to stream electronic music!

(By the way, the 'old' Beatport - the mp3 shop - is now known as Beatport Pro.)

Overall, it's pretty great. I'll be using this a lot when I want to listen to curated lists of current, popular dance music. Beatport has a pretty enviable catalogue. Sadly, Cartoon Beats is not on there - yet! - in the meantime here's some stuff involving Haszari and check out our buddies at Newclear Music and Muzikozi.

This experience is a huge improvement on crate-digging via short mp3 snippets!

Beatport Screenshot

Good Things

There are lots of curated playlists for genres, big sellers, new releases, etc. I listened to Deep House Essentials and then Sounds of the Underground which both were great as working background music, and had the occasional gem too. Genre-wise they were actually pretty similar (broadly deep & somewhat techy house), which I found curious.

I like the look and design of the site - it's clean and uncluttered. There's reasonably deep info there too: for example, heart/play counts, and metadata such as key and BPM. When you're looking at a track or release, you get recommendations for other tunes.

As a streaming music player it's pretty good and flexible - you can skip around in songs (by visiting the page for the track), as well as hit next when something horrible comes on. The sound quality seemed pretty fine too (note I am not any kind of audiophile!).

Wish List

While it's a good simple service, there are some things that would make it amazing (in my opinion).

  1. A radio / discover mode. This is the biggest gap for me. I'd like to tell it to keep playing, and have it play stuff based on its related/recommendations data. I don't care if the algorithm's dumb, I just want it to keep playing. (Of course they can improve the algorithm over time!)
  2. Play queue management e.g. "add to up next". It's really basic right now - when you hit play on a list or a track, it wipes out whatever is queued. I'd like to add lots of things from lots of places to my playlist, and then play that on shuffle (and then play related stuff when it runs out).
  3. Shuffle/random playback. Surely this is essential!
  4. Play history.

It'll be interesting to see how the service develops, and how it impacts on the other players in the market (e.g. Spotify, iTunes Radio, Red Bull Music Academy Radio, etc). Nice pivot, Beatport.

I love simple-sounding electronic music: it sounds like it has only three parts & someone's elegantly noodling around the groove.

As you might know from other posts, I find most music-making software annoyingly complicated. I want a user interface that facilitates sketching out little patterns and noodling around with them, yet still allows you to stand up, walk around, dance, and generally not get lost in the software (or in the details of your track).

Auxy is just that. It's a simple grid of patterns, with some really nice instruments & drum kits. The sounds are just what I like to play with - light, expressive, and very electronic.

You can trigger/stop the patterns in the grid like you might in Seq24 (or Ableton Live !). You get two parameters to tweak on each instrument - e.g. a filter cutoff and a delay. Enough to have fun.

The app looks really great too - cute and tidy but really minimalist, so it fades into the background and lets you focus on the music.

I made a little techy jam in about half an hour and this really convinced me how great Auxy is. This is how electronic music should work.

And it's free!

Now .. someone make a desktop version, with automation loops, MIDI out, MIDI sync, and nudge ... :)

UPDATE! Pro Midi ($US10) covers a lot of my wishlist above.

I first heard about Baobinga when hunting around Sydney for records in about 2004. Everywhere I went there was this record emblazoned with a clearly Metallica-inspired logo. Eventually I must have picked it up and loved it.

What's not to like? Superb breakbeat sample, lots of sharp filter motion, a horrible dirty reggae/jungle bassline, and prominent sirens - I still get chills listening to the initial drop. Baobinga put out lots of other good stuff, but this is the highlight for me.

This is one of those tracks where I immediately want to hunt down more like this, and 10 years later it's still unique. Let me know if you find something approaching the sound of this!

Also let me know if you know what bashment is.

Update: he's now going by the alias Sam Binga.

Deotoise by Haszari on Mixcloud

Tracklist

  1. Saytek - 20 Years
  2. The Writer's Block - Don't Look Any Further
  3. LO'99 & Marshall F - Take Me Back (LO'99 VIP)
  4. Disclosure - Fool For You (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs remix)
  5. Audiojack - Indigo
  6. Djuma Soundsystem & Shades of Gray - Madness (Hallo Halo remix)
  7. Double Agent - Bounce & Shake
  8. Caldera - Morning Traveller
  9. Hannah Wants - I Refuse
  10. Siles & Aboga - Second Assault
  11. Nikolozi - Counter (Juan Tellez remix)
  12. Helena Hauff - Severe Slash
  13. Toddla T & Danny Weed & Jammer - I Don't Wanna Hear That (Mella Dee remix)

Recently the first Vogel Street Party happened in the warehouse precinct (on the street where I work). The reason for the party was to celebrate the local community making things happen & the general rejuvenation of the area.

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It was incredible!

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From 3pm to 10pm on Saturday the 18th of Oct (2014):

  • the street was closed to traffic
  • street food vendors sold delicious wares
  • a huge range of activities for young and old were held
  • a HUGE LED wall screen showed animation, video and digital art
  • musicians performed over the afternoon
  • there was an upcycled street-fashion show
  • DJs played into the evening

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Also the party coincided with the Dunedin Street Art Festival. Local and international artists transformed walls around the area into vibrant pieces of art.

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A strong group of volunteers made this happen. I got myself involved from day one and put a lot of energy into the website, booking the DJs, as well as curating & producing the digital screen content.

I also had the privilege of performing - DJing while triggering my animations on the big screen.

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A huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the event, and the sponsors who backed us! I can't wait for the next one.