Category Archives: Music

Isolation Loop Waltz

Finally found time to write some new music. For inspiration, I turned to the Isolation Loop packs kindly donated by Hainbach and Jamie Lidell and it’s been a really fun way to spend an evening.

I started by creating a sampler patch, based around one of Hainbach’s atmospheric piano tape loops and stumbled across a lovely chord sequence which sounded both melancholic and uplifting at the same time. Whilst I could easily have employed time-stretching to make the timing more uniform, much of the wonky charm came from the samples being sped up and down so I left it as it was.

Turning to Jamie Lidell’s pack, he provided some lovely vocal Ahh’s, which I manipulated to create a gentle lead sound which provides the melody line. It’s doubled up with a glassy, FM synth patch as well which just helps it cut through a little better.

I deliberately avoided using a metronome or any quantizing, just to see where it took me, and the result was a Lo-Fi, electronic waltz. (Or at least, my interpretation of one).

The drums are a combination of noises from the Hainbach Test Equipment loops, hi-hats extracted from one of Jamie’s drum loops, some electronic drum sounds courtesy of Daniel Miller’s ARP2600 and a few sounds created on my own Eurorack system.

The buzzy bass note is also from one of the Hainbach Test Equipment loops.

The last layer was a sustained violin chord from Spitfire Audio’s Albion Tundra, just to boost the higher frequency content. This was a trick that the Art of Noise always used to employ, layering clean, crisp synth parts on top of their crunchy, low-bit Fairlight samples.

Once I had the basic parts down, I did a quick ‘live’ launchpad arrangement in Ableton, before adding a bit of Valhalla’s Shimmer Reverb on the FX send to glue the parts together. And there you have it!

In these strange and somewhat scary times, it’s great to see Artists so generously sharing raw material like this.

Reference Tracks

I’ve long heard about the virtues of using reference tracks to compare your mixes against, but never actually got around to trying it myself. That might all be about to change though.

One of the creators I subscribe to on Patreon is Reverbmachine. If you haven’t heard of Dan aka Reverbmachine before, he’s definitely worth checking out as he does some excellent tutorials on how to recreate the synth sounds from a variety of songs, including 80’s classic such as Shout by Tears for Fears. Patreon subscribers also get to download his remakes as Ableton Live sets too, which are definitely worth the small monthly fee.

In his latest Patreon post he goes into detail of how he gets so close to the original sounds and yes, you’ve guessed it, reference tracks are a large part of it. He goes on to describe the Ableton Live template he uses, based on the instructions in this article.

https://patches.zone/reference-tracks-in-ableton-live

I’ve just followed them myself and now have a shiny new template to use and abuse. Of course, the real trick will be in finding the right reference tracks to compare against, and to that end, iZotope have some suggestions that are worth considering. Certainly agree with their first choice of Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ as it’s such a rich, well mixed track with lots of space for the different parts.

https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/4-popular-mixing-reference-tracks-and-why-they-work.html

Looking forward to seeing where this little excursion takes me!

Dubscapes

Dubscapes was a collaboration with Cosmo Valseca of Clear Air Turbulence and features a video from PixelPusher.

It started life as some 8-bit arcade machine drum patterns I sound designed, which I left for Cos to play with after our writing weekend some 10 years ago. (My how time flies!) Cosmo expertly fused them with a electro dub track he was working on and the result is Dubscapes.

Anyway, based on the low number of YouTube views, I guess not many of you will have heard this so I thought I’d share.

Korg DDD-1 LCD

So the good news is the Blue LCD I bought on ebay is fully compatible with the Korg DDD-1! The model I went with is the HD44780, although it has slightly different dimensions to the original, so I had to get a bit creative with attaching it to the case. I also had to extend some of the wires from the circuit board so they could reach the solder points.

Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as I managed to kill the backlight within a few minutes as the voltage was probably too high.

So, after ordering another replacement (Yellow backlight this time), I decided to put an inline resistor on pin 15 to reduce the voltage. A quick google suggested something around 47 ohm should do the trick, but the smallest resistor I had to hand was 100 ohm.

I’m happy to report it all works fine though, and with no annoying whining sound!

I’ve also replaced the main navigation / cursor buttons which are a lot more responsive now. The back-up battery replacement was a bit fiddly, but I’ve done that too ūüôā

Hello again!

Hello again, it’s been a while! The last 18 months have seen me buy a new house, move in, move out again, then pretty much rebuild it.

We are finally getting back to normality though, and I now have the luxury of a dedicated studio space in the house (no more shed at the end of the garden!).

Whilst unpacking my equipment, I decided it was time to give some TLC to some of my more aged items.

Korg DDD-1 Drum Machine

Korg launched the DDD-1 drum machine in 1986. Built like a tank, it’s sounds have arguably aged better than competitor drum machines of the day such as the Roland TR-505 and Yamaha RX series. You aren’t limited to the 18 onboard sounds either, as it has 4 rom card expansion slots and Korg released a large number of expansions which pop up from time to time on ebay.

It also has an optional sampling board but these are very difficult to find, not to mention cost prohibitive on those rare occasions when one comes up for sale. More usefully though, an enterprising individual has reverse-engineered the rom cards and built an adapter that lets you add your own sounds, stored on EPROM chips.

I have a couple of these adapters myself, and have started burning my own EPROM’s with sounds created on my modular system. Of course, as the DDD-1 is only 8-bit, the samples don’t sound exactly the same as the originals, but this only serves to make them more unique.

Time for surgery

I purchased my DDD-1 a couple of years ago, and it generally works fine, but does have a high-pitched whining noise which I suspect comes from the LCD backlight. This isn’t present on the audio outputs though so is something I’ve largely learned to live with.

More recently though, I’ve noticed that the selection slider is a bit temperamental and the plus and minus selection buttons need quite a hard push before they work, which makes it difficult to program. Being over 30 years old, there’s a high probability the back-up battery will soon fail too, so I’ve decided some surgery is in order.

The back-up battery is your usual CR2032 button affair, although in their wisdom, Korg elected to solder this on the board. So I’ll also be fitting a battery holder to make future maintenance easier.

Acidplanet remixes

Have posted a couple more older remixes to my Soundcloud page, both of which were originally for competitions on the Acidplanet website.

Bleed Electric – Birds as High as Planes (ScarKord Remix)

Starting with¬†Bleed Electric’s¬†Birds as High as Planes (ScarKord Remix), which is a pretty frenetic Drum and Bass version with some lovely bass sweeps and a crazy amount of edits on the vocals.

Lords of Acid – Drowning in Ecstasy (ScarKord Remix)

This is followed by a remix of Drowning in Ecstasy by Lords of Acid. My main recollection of this remix is that I really didn’t think much of the vocals, particularly in the verses, so I went full on Cylon with the help of a Vocoder to dirty them up and disguise the cheesy lyrics. Add some Aphex style percussion and an overdriven acid bassline and there you have it!

Clearing the Decks

Have posted a few more remixes to my Soundcloud account, two some of you may of heard before and one you definitely won’t have!

Firstly, I’ve uploaded my remix of Jesus Jones‘ ‘Idiot Stare’ from back in 2005. Not much to say about that one other than it was already a good track, and I (hopefully) improved it a little by beefing up the drums.

The second track is a lot more exciting though, and truly a lost remix! The story behind my remix of Gabriel Rios‘ track ‘Broad Daylight’ starts in 2007. I was working for the Digital Agency LBI and one lunchtime, demonstrated to a colleague Paul how I used Sonic Foundry’s Acid software to produce my remixes. He passed me the Gabriel Rios track to see what I could do with it and this is the result.

Ten years on, and it still sounds really fresh to my ears. I should probably have put it out long ago, but better late than never!

Rounding things off is¬†one of two remixes I did of the Amanda Blank track ‘Might Like You Better’ back in 2009.

The other remix was a quick drum and bass remix, but trust me, this was by far the better version. It even has one of my trademark fake endings with bonus acid synths.

I wonder what I’ll find next ūüėČ

Simple modular sequencing with Max For Live

Have been working on Max For Live patches to sequence my Drum Skiff.

As I mentioned previously, I’m using¬†an excellent Max For Live¬†Mutable Grids emulation¬†by Mots, along with a CVPal controller patch from Spektro Audio. (Check out their CV Toolkit too!).

This outputs three channels of drum triggers (or gates) through the CV Pal module, all perfectly synced to Ableton Live. So I wanted to do something creative with the unused fourth CV Pal output.

Max For Live Patch

I came up with a simple Max For Live patch which outputs a MIDI note at regular intervals ranging from half-notes through to 32nd notes. By using this in-line with the Grids emulation and CVPal controller, it acts as a clock source for the Pico Trigger module giving me lots of trigger options for my drum modules.