Friday, 14 December 2018

End of year blog-thing......

You know, I really have no idea where this last twelve months have gone. I feel that I have just blinked and WHOOOSH, it's mid-December!!!

So much has happened in 2018 and it has certainly been a year of unexpected change and altered directions in many of the different parts of my life.

The "day job" has been quite eventful, all in a good way. I've moved to a different aspect of the work and  I have to say that I genuinely love it. I am fortunate as I wake each morning with no feeling of dread for the day ahead, my colleagues are generally decent people and the work is both fascinating and fulfilling. The shift to a different aspect of the job will, hopefully, lead me to a professional qualification and a skill set that is quite unique and definitely unusual, but the level of satisfaction will, I already know, be high. This change to the work side of life has had a pronounced effect on other areas of my existence on this blue marble, mainly the photography and music sides - in January of this year, I had a pathway set out that would have seen me upping my game on both these things, particularly photography. However, both the scale of my work and the new directions that were put my way enabled me to review everything long-term, and it was very clear that the opportunity to study for a work-related qualification was too good opportunity to pass by, plus it is something that I have been wanting to do foe quite some time.

Okay, so basically, work has really dominated my plans this year, but that doesn't mean I haven't been able or willing to do some of the photo/music things. No. Back in June I released a collection of left-field electronic pieces in n album called "Loom of Light". It's not done badly considering it's rather limited appeal and I'm more than happy with the responses to it. I've also had one or two trips out with the cameras, but I do feel that maybe my concert photography is now pretty much dormant. I'm okay with that.

My little GTK2 Studio has seen some pretty significant change as well. I've got hardware again. Actually, I've got quite a bit of hardware. And that's meant changes to the studio in terms of audio interfaces, organisation of the studio and actual set up. Here's a list of the new gear now sitting in my little room:

Arturia Microbrute analogue synthesizer
Behringer Model D analogue synthesizer
Behringer Neutron semi-modular analogue synthesizer
Behringer UMC1820 multi-channel audio interface
IK Multimedia UNO analogue synthesizer
Korg Monologue analogue synthesizer
Korg MS-20 Mini analogue synthesizer
Korg Volca Bass analogue synthesizer
Korg Volca Keys analogue synthesizer
M-Audio MIDISPORT 4x4 MIDI interface
Roland System-1m synthesizer

Yeah, nine synths, a MIDI interface and a new audio interface.

I'll do a post that goes into a little more detail about the new gear soon, along with some photos. Now, I've always been a big advocate of "in the box" recording and production, and that hasn't changed. I bought the hardware as an electronic music system that I can go to when I'm having down time from work - my job is very intense both physically and psychologically, therefore, when neither studying or working, I wanted something that I could just go to and make a lot of different noises with to help me relax and shift my focus away from what I do. And make different noises this lot certainly can - it's been quite fun twiddling knobs and shifting sliders.

Alongside this I've been working on a new version of my first album "The Garden", which was released under the name Geigertek through U.K. instrumental music label AD Music. The publishing contract reached it's ten year point back in August and I took the option to take back the rights to the album as I wanted to several things with the music. The biggest thing has been to completely re-record it. Using data files and audio stems that I still had (and didn't lose when a hard drive died on me a year or two ago!!!) , I reconstructed the tracks in Reaper 5 and set about applying new synths and effects to bring the album up to date and give it a little more weight and depth. I'm hoping to release the album, which has been renamed as "The Garden Revisited" (I'm nothing if not original huh?), very soon as a download on my Bandcamp microsite.

Along with "The Garden", I have also been given back the rights to two other releases, "The Timeless Mind" and "Endless Night E.P." as well. "The Timeless Mind" is also going to have the "redux" treatment (might even use some of the new hardware!!!) and tracks from "Endless Night E.P." will see new life on "The Splendour Cascade" project (four out of the six tracks were originally written during the same time period as the other proposed tracks for this album).

Hopefully, it won't be another five months before my next bloggy-posty-thingy :-)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

New studio toy......

After a fair bit of deliberation, picture gazing and review reading, today I finally bit the bullet and bought a rather cool little gizmo at my local PMT called Faderport, made by U.S. music gear manufacturer PreSonus.

Did I say it was a rather cool little gizmo - I lied - it's a seriously cool piece of kit. I've had it for nigh on 4 hours and I completely love it already!!!

Okay, I'll stop the gushing.

It's a MIDI control surface whose principle function is to control your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), plain and simple. And I think that's why it is so good, it's plain and simple. Apart from 5 buttons out of 24, it's pretty much one function per button, with the added luxury of a motorised fader, which you will soon realise is one of life's necessities and wonder how the fuck you did without one!!!

Installation was simply plug and play - Windows 10 picked up and set up the Faderport before my log-on was complete, I use an SSD for my system drive and it's QUICK. As I use Reaper 5, I have access to the innumeral scripts that users concoct and share with the Reaper community, and I very quickly found a marvellous little hack that allows a little extra functionality from the fader pot and "shift" function.

All the standard transport controls are present - stop, play, record, rewind, fast-forward and loop, as well as basic channel controls such as mute, solo and record-arm. There are the usual controls for the fader being read, write and touch. You can also switch window views if you so desire with buttons for your mixer (very useful - I have a two monitor set up with the mixer full-screen on the second monitor), project and transport. Faderport also has a nice little undo/redo button (used with the shift button) and the ability add markers and move between them, again using the shift button. A "user" button is also provided, I haven't assigned it to anything yet, but I will!!! And you have a pan pot, another basic, but useful control. Channel select button allow you move through your tracks and used with the "bank" button, you can move 8 tracks forward or back - a small function, but again, one that I really like. With the Reaper hack, the pan  pot can also do other things - I won't bother listing those here just yet as I've only just got the thing and I'm still cruising through the cool features.

It has coloured back-lit buttons and something I like that's really simple but so good - a solid click when you press the buttons. Not everyone's cup of tea, but personally, I really like that.

The afore-mentioned motorised fader (swoon!!!) is very smooth and very responsive, I messed about moving the fader on some random tracks and found the movement to be top notch, and so important when automating volume levels.

PreSonus also do 8-channel and 16-channel versions - much as I would love either, they would be too big for my desktop, and that's the point I'm making, the Faderport is small but not in anyway does that affect it's operation or ease of use.

As I said earlier, I'm 4 hours in with the PreSonus Faderport and I'm a big fan already.

Best buy this year so far - I love it.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

"The Splendour Cascade" Update No. 1

Finally found some time for myself, and as such, I've started the serious ground work for this new album. The chosen tracks that are viable for the project have now been digitised from the original cassette tapes, recorded into Reaper 5 from the Fostex X-15 multi-track tape recorder and I'm in the process of re-learning how to play them as well as transcribing lyrics.

In addition to this, save folders have been set up on the GTK2 Studio computer and various instrument tracks have been created for things like drums and bass guitars.

"The Splendour Cascade" is going to have quite a few songs, as well as instrumentals, so I'm of the mind that a certain continuity should prevail throughout. Where possible/appropriate/applicable, I'm creating a sort of "virtual band", comprising of the basic essentials of drums, bass, guitar, piano, vocals, orchestral stuff and on some tracks, a brass section (yes, a brass section). To that end, I've set up a "band template" within my DAW of choice, Reaper 5, to reflect that train of thought

With regards to drums, once I made the decision that I was going to approach "The Splendour Cascade" as if I was recording a band, I set about choosing a drum kit to use within Toontrack's terrific EZDrummer 2 that I felt would be good for the project and reflect the sound I was after. And the kit of choice is to be the "Rock Solid" expansion, it's bold, brassy and packs the right kind of punch for the backing band this album needs.

Bass and guitar are yet to be decided as the choices are very wide and I need to see what fits the workflow, but the piano software of choice will be, without any hesitation, Arturia's Piano V 2 - it's hugely flexible, highly responsive and sounds amazing.

Earlier today, I was working on the brass section (yes, a brass section) and was really torn between the numerous brass options that are available in Native Instruments Komplete 11 Ultimate, the Roland Cloud Orchestra SRX and the Roland Cloud JV-1080 - at this moment in time, I'm favouring the JV-1080, but I'm going to need to set up a few songs first and see how each sounds.

It's now quite late on a Saturday night and considerable head way has been made on the first track, being the title piece, "The Splendour Cascade". I am really so very very pleased with how it is already sounding, and it's hugely encouraging because the piece sounds so much bigger, brighter and tighter than the original recording. It's nowhere near finished, but it is most certainly a truly wonderful start.

Time to sleep :-)

Thursday, 7 June 2018

What's next......

Musically speaking, now that "Loom of Light" has been released, I can focus on two projects that have been on the back-burner for a few months.

The first is a collaboration, of which I'm not really going to go into detail at this stage, but suffice to say it might prove to be quite interesting.

The second project is my next album under my own name, and it has the working title of "The Splendour Cascade".

"The Splendour Cascade" will be made up of songs and pieces of music I wrote in the mid-late 1980's, during what was a very interesting, but inspirational time in my life - more of that another time as it will provide something of a backdrop story to the album. I started work on this project quite a few years ago and some of the material collected at that time found their way onto other releases of mine under the Geigertek moniker - for reference, the "Endless Night" E.P. released through AD Music in 2010.

This album is gong to take some time to do as there are quite a few tracks and I have a day job, so I really don't anticipate anything seeing the light of day until at least this time next year. But, now that my little GTK2 Studio is now fully up and running, the making of "The Splendour Cascade" will, from a production point of view, probably be the easiest of my albums to do thus far.

One of the first things I have had to do with "The Splendour Cascade" has been to collate the original recordings I did between 1986 and 1989, that were done on a Fostex X-15 multi-track cassette tape recorder. Not so long back, I sourced myself another X-15 from evilBay as my old one went to the way of the "sold it when I got married" scenario. Listening to these old recordings brought back a lot of memories of a time that was something of a turning point in my life, I was also cringing at the awfulness of the recordings and my singing was quite dreadful!!! Thankfully, the utterly brilliant Ozone 8 mastering plugin from iZotope Inc. proved very useful in sorting out many of the out of control frequencies that littered the tracks. Might be fun to include some of these old recordings as bonus tracks when the album is eventually released. We'll see.

And of course, I now need to learn how to play everything all over again, thirty-odd years on!!! Love a challenge.

As well as the nostalgia element of listening through the cassette tapes, I was surprised by the amount of stuff I had done that I had completely forgotten about, and I have to tell you that there is at least one piece of music that has really captured my imagination and I am looking forward very much to doing it with everything that I have at my disposal now.

The journey starts here.

"Loom of Light"

And so it's out there, making it's own way in the world.

Sales have been interestingly more than expected as this little album is a little left-field in places, but hey, no complaints. And no complaints from the people who have both bought and listened to it via the Bandcamp streaming service.


So, here is the link to it:

And here's the album cover again 😀

Monday, 28 May 2018

New album on the horizon - "Loom of Light"

The two main things in my life, aside from my loved ones, are music and photography, and it's the former of these that is of interest for this posting.

On the 1st June 2018, I will be releasing my third "solo" album, called "Loom of Light", as a download on my Bandcamp page.

Here's the cover:

Over the past couple of years, I have been putting together a small computer-based studio in my home, month by month filling the hard drive with the very best software I could get my hands on - hardware is not an option for me as I literally have no room in my little room (it's 6'x9'!!!). And in with that comes the fact that you need to learn how to use the things you buy. In time, my "ideas and learning" folder accrued quite a large number of musical sketches and phrases that came about as a result of my trying out new software and new techniques that I have picked up along the way.

And weirdly, that's how "Loom of Light" came into being.

Several of the pieces had a similar feel to them, largely because of my getting to grips with software-based modular synthesis, thanks to Softube's Modular and VCV Rack. I've also enjoyed learning about additive synthesis courtesy of Air Music Technology's Loom II and Arturia's Synclavier V synthesizers, hugely digital but very capable of providing some wonderful spectral washes of sound. 

So I layered, I arranged and I mixed numerous passages of music and sounds to create a highly experimental ambient album of electronic music. It won't be easy listening, apart from one or two tracks that have some element of melody to them, structure and form do not really play a part, it's random, it's sometimes noisy and in places, it can be quite jarring to the ear. Deliberate distortions and repetition are the order of the day, "Loom of Light" is about atmosphere, mood, ambience and a sense of, well, I'm actually really pleased with it.

Release will be download/streaming only through my Bandcamp page - a physical product simply isn't going to happen as it's too much of a financial hit.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

All change, out with the old and in with the new......

If you've been here before, you may be wondering where everything has gone.

No need to wonder any more.

Everything has gone.

I took a long hard look at this bloggy thing of mine, along with my actual presence and participation in social media as a whole, and I came to realise that it wasn't working for me. It wasn't doing what I wanted it to do. It wasn't helping me to make music. It wasn't helping me to take photographs. It wasn't helping me to "see what's out there" in the wider world.

In this modern world, I've taken a huge step by moving myself away from the detritus-filled pit of Facebook and Twitter. I've moved away from LinkedIn and deleted everything that was on this blog page from the last ten years.

I found that life, and more importantly, my head was filled with unnecessary clutter and chatter and fragments of people's lives that really had no meaning or importance in the greater scheme of things on my journey through life. I found the negativity of Facebook and Twitter had become utterly draining on so many levels, and to the point whereupon a half hour wading through a muddied landscape of zombie fodder, desperately trying to find the good stuff that was both interesting and relevant, was leaving me feeling a tad despondent, angry, annoyed irritated and sometimes unhappy. The stupidity of people and their endless tirades about things that really aren't that important, over which they have some measure of control, but choose instead to take to the keyboard instead of taking action. The tiresome complaints and miserable bleatings of souls, unhappy and out of sorts with their lot, seeking solace in the darkest void where nothing but empty pity and false empathy dwells. And the basic nastiness of those sad, spiteful and pitiful two-faced individuals who choose to use people's social media postings as a weapon to further their own standing, when in actual fact they only serve to deepen the distrust and dislike from those around them.

Negative things (people and situations alike) are like a cancer that eat away at your soul and they need to be cut out. Act, not react. Do, not don't And this is the approach/moves I've been making over these last couple of weeks, and already, it's like a weight that's lifted, a grey cloud that's dissipated in the sunshine, the warmth of summer chasing away the coldness of Winter.

Heavy stuff.

And that's kind of it for the heavy stuff.

The world, and life itself, are simply full of possibilities, so this is what the pathway ahead of me will be all about, doing the Captain Kirk thing and seeking out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no ma......oh hang on, a bit carried away there. But, you get the drift.

Music, photography, adventures and nonsense.

I make music, I take photos and I enjoy little adventures, both in my little GTK2 Studio and out in the wider world. I love movies, I love science fiction, I love spy stuff. I love food (though these days the food doesn't love me quite as much!!!) and I love meeting up with people from all walks of life. And talking of life, I don't lead an ordinary life, I don't fit into the worlds of routine and normality. Never have, still don't and never will. I live life one day at a time. Planning isn't something I do, it isn't something I'm particularly good at and it's certainly something I don't like. Planning and routine are for other people, they are welcome to it. In short, at the time of writing this, I'm 52 and a half years old and I haven't grown up. And you know what? I never will.

That's more like it ;-)

Life and studio update :-)

Oooops, I did it again - several months since the last bloggy posty thing. Seriously though, where does the time go? Blink and six mont...