Video

Uschi-No-Michi – Blue Lights (Production Unit Deep Breath Mix) HD

You can d/load this video in HQ from https://vimeo.com/56642169

Blue Lights EP

The Blue Lights EP is finally live! The super special flac pack is downloadable for free from Pathmusick. It includes 5 tracks in FLAC & MP3 formats, 2 videos & artwork. Blue Lights remixes come courtesy of Production Unit, Adrian Carter & Decadnids. All the tracks were mastered by Gregg at Hermetech.

Video

Slow Hunting

Slow Hunting – Uschi-No-Michi from Uschi-No-Michi on Vimeo.

New track ahead of the Blue Lights EP release on Pathmusick…

Inner Workings 2 – Time For Your Close-Up

Remember this post where I’d photographed the innards of my flatmate’s Analogue Solutions Borg modded Roland TB-303? Well he’s had to open it up again, so I thought I’d go in for some close-ups!

 

My 10 Favourite Albums Of 2011

This is my (rather late) list of some the music that made an otherwise (mostly) bad year more bearable…in no particular order… 

Kangding Ray – OR

Emika – Emika

Demdike Stare – Tryptych

The Haxan Cloak – The Haxan Cloak

Cliff Martinez – Drive OST

Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

Roly Porter – Aftertimehttps://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F14953283 Roly Porter – Aftertime PREVIEW SUBCD002 by Multiverse

Pinch & Shackleton – Pinch & Shackleton

Plaid – Scintilli

A big shout out also for  the Throbbing Gristle re-issues.

Some of the albums I was most looking forward to this year turned out to be quite disappointing, so didn’t make it onto my list. Among these: Radiohead’s King Of Limbs & TKOL rmxs, Bjork’s Biophilia & Alva Noto’s Univrs & Summvs (with Ryuichi Sakamoto). Also, although I think that musically it’s one of her weaker albums I was pleased that PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake won the Mercury because it’s actually about something. For too long musicians in the mainstream(ish) have been seemingly afraid to have an opinion. I’m hoping that this decision will herald a sea change. 2011, after all was strong on protest. Wouldn’t musicians of the past normally have been leading the charge?

To anyone who’s been reading/listening to my ramblings over the last year…I thank you very much, you have also helped me to turn this year around :-)

 

Spark Video

After doing a couple of movie cut-up videos for previous songs I wanted to come up with something a little different for this one. I liked the vector art I’d made for the free EP and wanted to attempt some kind of animation in a similar style.

Now,  I’m no artist or animator but I love learning new softs and tinkering about so I got to work with After Effects and Blender…and I learnt a lot! This is the result (if you’re a real artist or animator please don’t judge me harshly!).  Change the YouTube player’s 360p default to 720p for best results.

Spark EP

SparK EP is now available to download for free over at Pathmusick

The zipped folder includes exclusive artwork and lyrics. MP3’s are at 320k.

The tracklist: 1. SparK 2. Blue Lights 3. SparK (Embers Mix)

Inner Workings

I’m fascinated by circuit boards and inner workings of machines and such. I took these photos of the inside of my flatmate’s Analogue Solutions ‘The Borg’ modded TB-303.

Bonkers Wiring

He bravely opened it up to fix a crackly pot and broken switch…

He managed to fix it! Pretty impressive considering he’d never done anything like that before. I’m going to try and persuade him to have a go at circuit bending my kitsch toys now ;-)

 

 

 

The Cost Of A Mercury Nomination

It’s that time of year again. The net is abuzz with predictions about who should/would/could make it onto the coveted Mercury Music Prize shortlist. According to the official website, the “Mercury Prize exists solely to champion music in the UK” and that “The music on the album is the only thing taken into account”.

I’ve followed the prize since it’s inception because it seemed like the only remotely credible (televised) awards ceremony, and it’s traditionally championed some of the music that I like. Or at least music I can understand other people liking. Over the last few years, however, it’s all got a bit stale and boringly predictable.

Is that the fault of the organisers/judges? Perhaps. The prize used to have music related sponsorship (Technics, Panasonic) but since 2004 has been sponsored by banks (Nationwide, Barclaycard). It also seemed a bizarre move to drop the word music! It’s not the Mercury Music Prize anymore, it’s the Barclaycard Mercury Prize. What kind of message does that give?!

Or is there a current inherent lack of variety and quality in UK music? Maybe. I must admit that most of my favourite albums of the last year have been produced outside the UK, but the omission of Hidden by These New Puritans last year, for example, seemed like a gross oversight to me.

There may be another reason! Now, I was naïve enough to think that the judging panel had a big list of all the releases during the year and that they listened to them, discussed them, then picked the ones they like the best (or whatever the criteria is) and invited them to perform on the night. Most of the panel write about music for a living anyway so most releases will have crossed their paths. At the very most, I thought a label or manager might have to put an album forward to the panel for consideration. However, while listening to the Guardian Music Weekly Podcast predictions I began to discover the true cost of a Mercury nom…

They referenced this annoyingly well titled blog post by Steve Lamacq. In it he reveals that (in 2008) it cost £125 to enter plus 25 CDs to the organisers. Ok, fair enough, whatever. But the trouble comes if you make it to the shortlist! According to Lamacq’s (2008) ‘Industry Source’ Mercury would need a further 125 free CDs and a cheque for £3,900 as a contribution to marketing costs! And to attend the awards themselves the going rate was “around £2,500 for a table of ten.” The ‘marketing costs’ must be you paying for the privilege of having all your product graffiti’d with Barclaycard Mercury advertising. Great, thanks.

So, it would seem that a lot of the acts who’d most benefit from the exposure and ubiquitous ‘sales boost’ that a Mercury nomination bestows, are elbowed (no pun intended) out of way by artists who’ve already had enough exposure and success that they can afford the high price of entry.  And the cycle goes on. Just look at the list of acts who benefited from the yearly Glastonbury-BBC-coverage-sales-boost! Don’t get me started on that one…that’s for another post, likely called TV Ruined Festivals.

This is by no way an endorsement, just a prediction: James Blake will win this year. And anyone who thinks he’s innovative should listen to Laurie Anderson’s O Superman! I’ll leave you with last year’s glaring omission These New Puritans. Maybe they weren’t overlooked after all?  

The Perrenial Patchbay Problem?

With a growing ragtag collection of (mostly ‘pre-loved’) studio outboard, and the mess of cables that results, I realised that I could no longer put off getting a patchbay. I say put off because I’d previously somehow come to the conclusion that I needed one because I thought I knew what they did, but whenever I did a little research about them I came away confused between the normals, half-normals, parallels, opens, bantams and jacks (well, I knew what a jack was at least). It seemed that I was not alone in my confusion – type ‘patchbay’ into any of the music tech forums and you’ll see hundreds of posts by desperate musicians, basically asking the same questions, but for connecting different bits of kit. This, I think, is why it’s hard to find a definitive “how to” for patchbay design – there’s no definitive setup – everyone’s studio, and therefore use for a patchbay, is personal and will need wiring differently. Perhaps people also expect too much in this age of insta-info, YouTube tutorials-for-everything and tiny-learn-curve software that can take much of the effort out of musical creativity (that’s a whole can of worms for another post). There are some things we just need to work out for ourselves.

My primary need for a patchbay was that I have more audio processors than auxes to send to them. Bearing this in mind (as well as budget) I decided that a Behringer Ultrapatch Pro PX2000 would be ideal as it had a parallel option as well as the regular normal, half and open switches (you can also normal aux sends, but parallel is good for sending a signal to multiple effects simultaneously). Once I had it in front of me I spent a long time thinking about how I wanted everything to communicate and experimented with patching just 2 or 3 things together to check whether each function behaved as I thought it would. I began to see the potential for an amazingly flexible, almost modular setup, and immediately bid on a second patchbay so that I could have all my main ins and outs patched.

Once I had the concept in my head, I started sketching out on paper what should go where. After having to draw 48 little circles and labels a couple of times when making changes, I decided to knock up a basic blank template in Fireworks which I could print off and scribble over to my heart’s content. I found this quite helpful so am sharing it here in printable pdf format for free download. It has two blank 48 point patchbay templates per A4 sheet.

One thing I underestimated was the amount of extra audio cables I’d need! In the past I’ve normally only had to pick up a few cables here and there from the local music shop for the latest bit of kit. Obviously out of the question for this particular bit of kit! I ordered two separate big lots of cables from AudioSpareshere in the UK. They were great, arrived next day each time and were considerably cheaper than competitors for cables equal to name brands. The only problem was with their cheapest looms: I ordered two and both had one ‘short’ jack that was moulded into the plastic too far, so wouldn’t snap into the connector snugly. I’m sure they would have replaced them if I’d complained but I couldn’t be arsed, so just cut the sleeves back a bit!

So, now I’ve got everything set up and I love it. If you have enough equipment to warrant one, the patchbay is a true studio essential. Certain bits of kit have a new lease of life from being able to have audio routed so easily into them. My studio almost feels like a big modular synth. The cabling to my mixing desk is the neatest it’s ever been. 

My fears were basically unfounded, it’s easy when you know how! Seriously though, it’s one of those things that is much easier in practice than in theory, that is just go for it, when it’s in front of you and you can test a few boxes through it, it will make sense with trial and error.

p.s. If you do need a bit more theory, I found these articles to be the most helpful/least confusing: Sound On Sound  &  EQ Magazine