Monday, November 9, 2009

Industrial drums

I was at the Absolute body Control concert the other day, there were other bands as well, some good, and one agonizingly bad. But this is not a concert review, what did influence me to write this is the awesomeness of the drum and other percussion sounds ABC used. Now, of course, anything with Dirk Ivens wreaks of 808's and distortions, but there were several other noises which were sampled and mangled, and it sounded very nice. This made me think about my own drum programming, my ever expanding library of samled drum machines, battery, BFD, and recently acquired waldorf attack. I must tell is all shit. Having gigabytes upon gigabytes of drum sounds which are all nice and everything, but it all sounds pre-packed and ready made, just sequence it. I don't even talk about drum loops, i have never used them, and i hate them with all my heart.
Usually when you think of industrial (well, when i think of industrial), it seems to me as a sound laboratory in which you concoct your own recipes for handling noise, sound, imagery...well anything. i really don't like the nowadays and the aggro, hellektro, or even the plinky-plinky EBM. you know the type: get an access virus, find a nice preset, put arpeggio on and go with it for an entire career (don't get me wrong, i had a chance to play with a friend's virus, it sounded awesome, all the knobs, and beautiful effects and all...i secretly cried when he sold it...the bastard). it all sounds like viva dance, it all looks like viva dance with vampire teeth bought at the hot topic, and it all stinks of middle class prepubescent twilight angst for not getting a pony a few years back. it may try to sound and look evil, but it really is far from being so (on the other hand...why 3v1l?), and let's not even get into the creativeness of it all...
so, to cut the long and ever divergent rant short, i made something that is a tool, a basic thingy, used by many experimental artists to make deep, thought provoking, sometimes hipster sounds. it is essentially a contact mic, something you can make very cheaply, but it has a great potential. Here, have a tutorial how to make it.
Now you have a very sensitive piece of gear which can pick up all kinds of vibrations, and turn them into sound. What i wanted was to make one shots of drums so i taped it to a can which used to hold danish butter cookies many years ago.
You need to tape it securely, so that vibrations are properly transfered from the can to the piezo disc.
The next thing i did was filling the can with screws, nuts, some metal hardware, anything will do, but as a friend said when i mentioned what i wanted to make:"can filled with screws, it doesn't get more industrial than that" :) indeed it doesn't.
To process the sound, i used my trusty KP3 (it really is an experimentalists swiss army knife).
When i recorded some interesting moments, i processed them again in ableton live, but you can do anything, load it in a sampler, mangle, stretch, compress, delay, phase, you name it, and you made it yourselves, and did not use any pre-rolled library.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I watched an interesting promotional video today from electro-harmonix, manufacturer of guitar pedals.

What interested me the most in the video is when they used something silly looking as an input for the expression pedal, they soldered a LDR (light-dependent resistor) to a stereo guitar jack, and it created interesting theremin-ish sliding of sound.

So, of course i wanted in on that action, and after scavenging needed parts from the boxes i have laying around, i created thereminizer (it is popular now to call your instruments something-izer and something-ism, just look at throbbing gristle recently :), oh and i used a mono jack.

Ok, so i made this in a few minutes, it is rather cheap and easy to build, and it would be a shame if you didn't build it yourself.

Does it work? Well yes and no, it worked erratically on my distortion, there was a constant hum, so you couldn't control anything with it. On my delay it was a bit better, since you could control the amount of hum by opening and closing the LDR with the palm of the hand. Yet the most fun thing about this little shit was when i connected it to my kaoss pad. it made swirling noises on filters and lfos, chippy geiger counter like crackles on granularizer (-izer? :) it sounded dubby on delay, and sampling on the kaoss pad enabled me to make layers of sound.

I haven't tried it as an expression pedal. Might do that tomorrow, if i find time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Digital lomography

How many of you have heard of lomography?
Seeing that this is (although scarcely populated and visited) arty-farty themed blog, there is a high possibility that you have.
To tell you the truth, i have a love-hate relationship with it. I don't talk about the usual criticisms of you can find on-line. Yes they are after the money (as any other company), and yes they are overpricing the cameras you can find on the eastern european flea markets for pennies, but ok, it's their business model, and no one makes you buy from them (on the other hand, they are the ONLY distributors for LOMO cameras).
My main problem with them is the "lifestyle" part of their marketing. You know, the feel-nice, life-is-good, oh-look-at-the-cutesy-brightly-colored-plastic hipster bullshit. That and the fact that 99% lomographers keep shooting the same few motives over and over again.
mhhh...ok, enough of this rant, let's do something useful.
A year ago i got an korg's electribe sampler, for which korg decided to use a deprecated technology called smart-media (precursors to today's SSD and similar memory cards), and because of that, i could not find any new cards locally and reckoned that the easiest and cheapest way to obtain those is by purchasing them second hand from some photographer, as these cards were extensively used in early digital cameras. And i did find a photographer, but he only wanted to sell me his cards (32 and 64MB) if i bought them with his old camera...for 40 euros (new ones were around 50euros for a 128MB, and i could not find 64MB which is the maximum allowed capacity for the electribe).
So i bought the bloody camera, and until today it was left in some box.
I had in the back of my head that it would be kewl if i could hack it into something that might be useful to wifey and her experimental photo escapades.As it turns out, after gruesome opening and disassembly process, it is fairly easy to make the camera make glitched photos. I show you only the end result as i was intoxicated with solder fumes when it was open.

The hack is this: open your old camera, and locate the CMOS chip. It should be behind the lens. So what you should do is find the chip's pins on the other side of the PCB and carefully solder several thin wires to the top row of pins, then drill the case of the camera to pass the wires. What these wires now do is enable you to mix and mash colors which come to the optical chip, and this is rather fun. Now comes the fun part, assemble the camera, and play around with wires, you can touch them to one another, or you could make gradual changes if you solder some pots to the end of the wires, or, if you are feeling spontaneous, you can solder some light dependent resistors. What i am planning is a modular system, where you can exchange different parts, so stay tuned.

How is this digital lomography? Well, the faultiness of this old camera prevents you from having a screen for imaging, so you rely solely on heuristics for achieving the result, and this in turn leads to many happy accidents!

Until then, look at some quick pictures i made using this thing

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My first Reaktor distorted sequenced bass synth

'ere it is
pics are awful, you can see it better on my flickr account. it makes a decent buzzing sound, but i do need to make it at least 16 step sequenced to make it useful. It does, however, have assloads of different distortions. Hmmm, i think ill make something similar to the audio damages kombinat with filters feeding into the different choppers and clippers...