remain calm

simple creatures EP released

March 17th, 2013

and so, years later, i finally decided to put out this solo thing:

http://danielarena.bandcamp.com/

most of this is hacked together from tracker experiments – the oldest elements date back to probably 2002.

really proud of this, i’m not sure why i didn’t release it earlier.

ETI 3600 post #3

December 23rd, 2012

Ok. Finally had a chance to pop the lid off this thing and get some probes on it.

1: The keyboard circuit works.
2: The oscillators appear to not work.
3: This could be because I think something flaked out on the power supply while I was trying to get at the oscillator boards. Some of the voltages are wrong now.

I’ve decided to pull the whole thing apart, clean it up and plug-ify each module – it’s way too hard to get at anything, and there’s cruft everywhere.

Grrr.

ETI3600 post #2

December 16th, 2012

I’ve been a bit too busy to open the ETI up and keep working on it, but I’ve already started on some plans for the front-end.

The keyboard controller in this thing is primitive digital: shaky, slow (~20ms delay), complicated and probably totally broken. I’m planning on replacing it with a little Arduino rig – I found one in stock at gorillabuilderz.

Arduino Due board

It runs a 32-bit ARM chip, which is ridiculous overkill for what I want – mainly went with this one because it has lots of digital inputs (enough to just wire up every key on the keyboard) and a couple of 12-bit analog outputs (will use one for CV, maybe the other for an extra LFO?). The nice thing about this is it means I can do other fun stuff later, like build in a chip-tune style arpeggiator, or maybe a MIDI input. It also means I can remove the most complicated board on there – the keyboard controller takes up a lot of space and it’s covered in scary unavailable chips.

The actual keyboard mechanism is really basic: each key activates a switch. At the moment, it’s hooked up to a resistor network: 12 lines for note, 4 lines for octave, which means it can get into a really weird state if you hit multiple keys at once.

ETI3600 keyboard unit

After a bit of reading, sorting this out looks dead simple: I need to rewire it so that when a key is down, it pulls a line to ground. That’ll let me rip out a huge amount of horrible wiring, and I doubt the Arduino will be any more delicate than the original digital circuit.

The other problem is that the voltages I need to generate are a bit weird. Trigger is -7V low, +7V high (!?), CV is 0-5V. The outputs I have will probably max out about 3.3V. So there’s probably going to be a little bit of buffer and amp circuitry in there as well.

More weird vintage synth oddities

December 9th, 2012

So, I haven’t written anything here in a couple of years.

I was going to write about how the new go/no-go album is finally finished and will be coming out in early 2013, but I’m way too distracted by this bizarre thing:

ETI 3600 Synth

It’s an ETI 3600 – a 3 oscillator kit synth released in Australia in the mid 1970’s. Maplin released a synth based on the same circuits in the UK in the late 1970’s (e.g Maplin 3800 – when they’re working, they sound amazing).

This particular one isn’t in working order at the moment – but there’s a ton of resources around (including high-quality schematics), particularly at www.eti4600synthesiser.org.uk, so I’m hopeful I can get this one nursed back to health.

It doesn’t really make any proper noise yet. I’ve verified that the power supply works, and the reverb unit and the last stage of the amp works (I can get signal out of it when I thump the reverb tank) but I can’t really narrow down the fault any further without an oscilloscope… which I’m in the process of tracking down. I have a few hunches as to what it might be, though.

This one is also kinda weird in that it looks like there’s a bunch of stuff has been added by a previous owner. Also, it needs a scrub. I’m going to try and get some real sound out of it first, and then probably restore it back to stock.

various things

June 3rd, 2010

just a couple of things

a couple of us got together to do a totally improvised live electronic set at a gallery opening a few weeks back – three keyboards, two iphones and some effects. it came out pretty good, i edited it down to an hour or so and uploaded it to soundcloud here: http://soundcloud.com/remaincalm/live-at-culture-jam-15-04-2010

coincidentally, one of the iphones was running drumtrack8 from simpleisbeautiful – great little app, very “live” programmable and some decent built-in sounds.

some awesome blog posts on DSP theory (er… and sound design in mayan temples) appearing on valhalladsp, thought i’d give it a bump: http://valhalladsp.wordpress.com/. this guy did the excellent eos reverb and valhalla freq echo plugins, and there’s some excellent info in there.

also, autechre were awesome live, new version of reaper is good, and i’ve been slack finishing off the new go/no-go EP because i’ve been very very busy. oh well.

another little effect…

April 6th, 2010

i’ve put together another little JS audio processor for reaper. this one is called ‘paranoia’, and it’s a harsh digital mangler (with bonus bugs!) and a bunch of soft clippers and filters bolted onto it. it started off being modeled on a little hardware digital fx unit going around at the moment but the signal chain ended up evolving into something quite a bit different.

here’s an audio example (updated link, works now! updated 2012: oops, broken again)… crunchiness everywhere.

doesn’t work great on all sources, but does the trick on percussion tracks. the multimode filter in there is pretty nasty as well.

more info (including instructions and presets) and a download link up at the reaper site here: http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=55205

this effect can be used in other DAWs, you just need to get the cockos effect pack and there’s a JS interpreter VST in there. apparently. that’s what i heard, anyway. comment if you get stuck.

go/no-go recording blog #2

March 3rd, 2010

now that ‘autofocus’ is up on iTunes, i figure this is probably a good time to compare the recording process for that with what we’re doing now.

first of all – we recorded an absolute stack of stuff for ‘autofocus’, giant chunks of which ended up getting cut. there were multiple, wildly different versions of some songs, and we left off (or outright abandoned half-way) at least four tracks. that was kinda the only way it could have been done, though. the album was recorded the way it was written – a bit random and cut-up and berzerk.

‘lost in berlin’ (check the iTunes link) is a good example of that. it started as a riff on a microkorg, and was emailed to steve with some blippy drums. steve repitched and mutilated the riff into an actual song in ableton live, but playing it live like that didn’t work. we shelved the song. i think we had another shot at a vocal somewhere in there. months later, we tried playing it rock-style and it sorta worked. we tracked a new rhythm part, and i dug up the original keyboard parts, added a new recording of steve’s vocals, and mixed the whole thing in reaper.

months. that took months. nearly a year. the song goes for about three minutes.

the same process played out for the other eight songs. i tried to get all “brian eno” on taz at one point and recorded him playing bass for a song he’d never heard before, just kinda shouting instructions at him as we went. that ended up as the main groove in ‘catching up with you‘, which is fun, but was a nightmare to work out a live arrangement for. the version of ‘things’ that ended up on there is completely different to how we play it live, but there are lots of elements in there that were pulled from an early demo of it, just processed until it sounded like it had been stuffed full of tiny robots. every song has some synthetic element to it, and hopefully that comes across as a cool sound. it’s a bit hard to judge everything objectively when you’ve heard everything thousands of times.

the new recording – which is almost certainly just going to be an EP – is coming together a bit differently.

we’ve added some new personnel (steve from great apes + others), and we’ve been rehearsing the hell out of the band. new songs are being written more in the rehearsal room than over the internet, and it’s coming out in the arrangements – we’re concentrating a lot more on just getting the groove right. which is probably why we bashed through all five basic tracks in a day, and some of that stuff was first- or second-takes. the extra percussion is actually adding some space, probably because steve and i are taking more breaks. it’s coming together alright.

we’ve now got all of the drums, all of the bass, and half of the keys and guitar comped and tracked. steve c’s recording his parts at his place, and steve a and i will be tracking percussion and extra keys at some point this month. probably at his place. hopefully his neighbours don’t totally freak out. there’s likely to be a lot of cowbell action. all of the keys and electronic percussion is being tracked live – none of the songs for this session were recorded to a click-track, so i can’t sync up drum machines to anything.

also, i put down this completely stupid solo and it’s awesome.

go/no-go recording blog #1

February 13th, 2010

it took about a billion years, but we finally managed to get the go/no-go “autofocus” release shipped off to the duplicators (and flying over the internet in the general direction of itunes, which feels a bit weird).

we got a few clips done as well, thanks to stu willis for making the “catching up with you” clip possible.

This video was embedded using the YouTuber plugin by Roy Tanck. Adobe Flash Player is required to view the video.

This video was embedded using the YouTuber plugin by Roy Tanck. Adobe Flash Player is required to view the video.

anyway, we did it all DIY, and it worked out okay, so we’re gonna have a shot at a follow up EP the same way. but hopefully a bit quicker this time. i’ve had the urge to write about the recording process for a while, and this seems like a good place to start. also, i’m waiting for a plumber to show up and can’t really do anything else in the meantime.

it took a few years, but i’ve finally got myself a mobile recording rig that works pretty good and fits in the back of a daihatsu charade. the main problem is getting enough equipment to get a nice drum recording – once you get past two channels, everything gets a bit spendier and more complicated. and you end up with mic cables everywhere, and i’m really bad at winding them up neatly.

anyway. last sunday, we dragged our gear down to zen rehearsals to track drums and bass. we record there mainly because they run free bbqs on weekends, and they have a well maintained cappuccino machine. also, because some of their rooms are really well sound-proofed and have excellent room treatment, which is important – if the room sounds boxy (or if sydney’s loudest metal band are bleeding through the air conditioning system), the recording will sound bad.

cue: five hours of recording, five tracks of drums and bass done, despite 50% of the personnel suffering from crippling hangovers.

check out all the mess!

once i get everything home, i usually mix up a nice sturdy martini and transfer the tracks over from the portable recorder to the PC. the ancient vs1680 recorder i use is cheap, solid and sounds good, but getting the raw audio out of it onto the computer requires screwdrivers and lots of time and weird software and usually i have to shout at it a bit as well. but eventually i end up with the session loaded up in reaper, ready for edits.

there’s usually a bunch of takes of each song. sometimes one is just perfect the whole way through, but usually each one will have bits of inspiration hit at different times. this is where that martini comes in handy. i usually just map out the song on paper, then mark each take with ticks or crosses depending on how awesome or hideous each part is:

once i’ve mapped it out, i hack the best bits together, get a rough mix up, and start thinking about another martini. and overdubs.

with a quickie mix and some keys, it’s sounding a little like this:

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in other news… where the hell is that plumber?

next up: percussion. in a week or two. with any luck.

so,

January 25th, 2010

i just got this stupid website working again (the admin pages were broken). now i have 2,246 comments waiting for approval (of which 2,216 are probably spam).

so, yeah. i might get onto that now.

stuff and things

March 30th, 2009

the blog’s been a bit quiet…

but:

  • go/no-go¬†have a new website up: http://gonogo.remaincalm.org¬†- and there’s some new music on there. let me know what you reckon.
  • i gave up on the whole pedal dsp idea. it’s just going to be too much work and i don’t have the cash for a devkit at the moment anyway.
  • but… i’ve been working on some more JS effects and these ones might actually work
  • i was also doing a little bit of dev work on the DS stuff but the development environment is a total pain in the ass (in that the core platform keeps getting updates that break compatibility with all the other 3rd party tools). i still have my old dev environment in a virtual machine somewhere so i can get back to that one day but really, it’s just so much damn effort. and bliptracker already does everything i need. so that’s all a bit ugh. i really need to put out that updated beta of dsmcu one day though, i just need to package it up…
  • i’ve been mucking about with the XNA XB360 dev environment. it looks very interesting. i have two separate ideas – one for a 2d puzzle/action game that doesn’t have gems or tiles and one for an experimental art game.

also i want to get a JLM preamp kit and get some soldering happening.

anyway.

‘avocado’, ‘floaty’ js effects demo

September 20th, 2008

i’ve uploaded a quick demo of some of the free js effects i’ve built for reaper (linked here, click for more info)

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this is just a quick guitar improvisation, played into two instances of floaty and one of avocado, streamed live to disk – no offline edits or effects except for a limiter were added to this.

update: i’ve just updated all of the effects, here’s a demo of avocado tempo sync’ed to some drums:

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more js effects for reaper – ‘avocado’ and ‘floaty’

September 16th, 2008

i’ve been mucking about making some effects using reaper’s js effect engine, and i’m happy enough with the results now to release them.

there are three effects in here:

  • floaty – modulated delay inspired by mda’s dubdelay, but with lots of extra craziness
  • avocado – powerful glitch engine, with a ducker built in so it won’t stomp all over your tracks
  • tonegate (previously released) – triggered tone generator

click here to download all three effects:
http://remaincalm.org/jsfx/remaincalm_org_jsfx.zip

and yeah, i’ll get back onto the dsmcu/bliptracker ds stuff soon. as soon as i can find where both of my ds’s have gone…

edit: audio demo of these here

review: korg ds-10

September 1st, 2008

i put together a review of korg’s ds-10 for the internode games network, and it’s gone live.

click here for the full text.

want: line6 tcddk!

August 15th, 2008

line6 tcddk

line6 are releasing a dsp guitar stomp box devkit! i can’t wait til this thing launches, i’m already getting crazy ideas.

(also: i move into a new flat in about two weeks, regular development work is going to start up again pretty soon after that, sorry about the delay on everything…)

update: apparently there’s this thing as well that looks interesting: openstomp

update2: more awesome stuff i want to play with: machinecollective.org

update3: some more info on the tonecore ddk, scrounged from the freescale website: (giant pdf thing) – short version, there’s 4Mb+ of onboard RAM (8 banks of 512kb plus whatever’s onboard the DSP), and it’s rated at about 100Mips. 24 bit. doesn’t look like there’s any FPU onboard, bah.

another dsmcu progress report

July 4th, 2008

these screenshots are both from the same .nds file, just with different skins (everything you see is functional except the knobs on the 303).

dsmcu preview dsmcu preview

at the moment it’s running at 30fps – i’ll set it up so that it’ll run at 60fps in single-screen mode soon.

dsmcu – quick update for end of june

June 29th, 2008

work is continuing on dsmcu. here’s what is in the new version so far:

  • now requires dldi patching.
  • the entire application is fully skinnable using text files (maybe xml) csv text files and png graphics. *DONE*
  • skinning extends to the midi commands (midi data sent or monitored for feedback) supported – this should allow the device to be used as a generic midi controller. there will be a number of basic control types available.
  • support for multiple layouts, selectable from L/R triggers. *DONE* (memory limits on how many backgrounds can be loaded, though)
  • layouts supported will include: standard mcu control, simplified/expanded mcu control (e.g. big transport), generic MIDI kaoss style touch pad or multi-kaoss (any number of pad zones on the same page), MIDI keyboard interface, MIDI drum pad interface, generic vsti synth control (faders for cutoff, resonance, etc), and combination of those elements…(MIDI and mcu controls possibly won’t be usable at the same time due to host limitations)

no estimate on when it’ll be ready – i’m going to be moving house soon so that might slow me down a bit. but what’s there is working really well so far.

if anyone has gotten the beta working under leopard, can they let me know? cheers.

solo music package #2 – start waiting

June 28th, 2008

i think this is #2, anyway. should start getting pretty interesting by #5 or so.

these date back to 2005-2006.

1: please wait

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2: keep starting (a collaboration w/ rachel holmshaw, cheers!)

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3: scissors

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(i’ve given up on picking a catchy name to release this stuff under, i figure my actual one will do for the time being)

list of ds music apps

June 24th, 2008

i’ve put together a list of homebrew ds music apps. pretty sure i’ve gotten most of the main ones but if i’ve left anything off let me know via the comments and i’ll update it.

edit: added heaps more, thanks for the submissions!

dsmcu (ds wireless mix controller) video clip

June 15th, 2008

here is a short video of dsmcu in use

dsmcu is a wireless mix controller for reaper (and possibly other applications if they tolerate my abuse of the particular midi control spec i’m using).

click here for more info

(song download link HERE)

note: i haven’t had much of a chance to work on this lately and my ds is a bit sad, i’m only really posting this in the hope someone will donate a pink ds with a properly working touchscreen (black is also fine)

dsmcu – nds mix controller [preview!]

May 23rd, 2008

dsmcu is a nintendo-ds based emulator of the MCU control surface protocol. it talks to your audio workstation over wifi via dsmi.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD (beta software, please exercise care, no warranties expressed or implied, and you’ll need the readme file to get it working)

dsmcu

requirements: a homebrew-capable ds (which can connect to your computer over wifi), compatible audio workstation software (like ‘reaper‘) and dsmi correctly set up on your computer. more details in the download link.

dsmcu

tested on: reaper; (primary testing platform, works great), samplitude V8 SE (works but no VU display).

does not work with pro tools or logic yet, but support is planned

the following subset of the mcu protocol is supported:

  • fader send, receive
  • vu display
  • track select, mute, arm and solo (w/ feedback)
  • bank up/down
  • scrub
  • more coming soon…

possible applications include: a wireless rec/arm remote or end-user monitor mix interface for tracking, touch-sensitive automation recorder during mixdown, multi-user mixing, ‘left-hand’ level control while tweaking VSTs…

lots more planned, more info soon.

some user interface elements have been taken from Reaper – BIG THANKS to White Tie and the Reaper posse for granting permission for use of this and helping out with design/layout. cheers again to tobw for the dsmi library. also uses palib and devkitpro/libnds, yay.