A haunting ambient sci-fi album about a message from Neptune

Latlaus Sky’s Pythian Drift is a gorgeous ambient concept album, the kind that’s easy to get lost in. The set-up: a probe discovered on Neptune in the 26th Century will communicate with just one woman back on Earth.

The Portland, Oregon-based artists write CDM to share the project, which is accompanied by this ghostly video (still at top). It’s the work of Ukrainian-born filmmaker Viktoria Haiboniuk (now also based in Portland), who composed it from three years’ worth of 120mm film images.

Taking in the album even before checking the artists’ perspective, I was struck by the sense of post-rocket age music about the cosmos. In this week when images of Mars’ surface spread as soon as they were received, a generation that grew up as the first native space-faring humans, space is no longer alien and unreachable, but present.

In slow-motion harmonies and long, aching textures, this seems to be cosmic music that sings of longing. It calls out past the Earth in hope of some answer.

The music is the work of duo Brett and Abby Larson. Brett explains his thinking behind this album:

This album has roots in my early years of visiting the observatory in Sunriver, Oregon with my Dad. Seeing the moons of Jupiter with my own eyes had a profound effect on my understanding of who and where I was. It slowly came to me that it would actually be possible to stand on those moons. The ice is real, it would hold you up. And looking out your black sky would be filled with the swirling storms of Jupiter’s upper clouds. From the ice of Europa, the red planet would be 24 times the size of the full moon.

Though these thoughts inspire awe, they begin to chill your bones as you move farther away from the sun. Temperatures plunge. There is no air to breathe. Radiation is immense. Standing upon Neptune’s moon Triton, the sun would begin to resemble the rest of the stars as you faded into the nothing.

Voyager two took one of the only clear images we have of Neptune. I don’t believe we were meant to see that kind of image. Unaided our eyes are only prepared to see the sun, the moon, and the stars. Looking into the blue clouds of the last planet you cannot help but think of the black halo of space that surrounds the planet and extends forever.

I cannot un-see those images. They have become a part of human consciousness. They are the dawn of an unnamed religion. They are more powerful and more fearsome than the old God. In a sense, they are the very face of God. And perhaps we were not meant to see such things.

This album was my feeble attempt to make peace with the blackness. The immense cold that surrounds and beckons us all. Our past and our future.

The album closes with an image of standing amidst Pluto’s Norgay mountains. Peaks of 20,000 feet of solid ice. Evening comes early in the mountains. On this final planet we face the decision of looking back toward Earth or moving onward into the darkness.

Abby with pedals. BOSS RC-50 LoopStation (predecessor to today’s RC-300), Strymon BlueSky, Electro Harmonix Soul Food stand out.

Plus more on the story:

Pythia was the actual name of the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece. She was a real person who, reportedly, could see the future. This album, “Pythian Drift” is only the first of three parts. In this part, the craft is discovered and Dr. Amala Chandra begins a dialogue with the craft. Dr Chandra then begins publishing papers that rock the scientific world and reformulate our understanding of mathematics and physics. There is also a phenomenon called Pythian Drift that begins to spread from the craft. People begin to see images and hear voices, prophecies. Some prepare for an interstellar pilgrimage to the craft’s home galaxy in Andromeda.

Part two will be called Black Sea. Part three will be Andromeda.

And some personal images connected to that back story:

Brett as a kid, with ski.

Abby aside a faux fire.

More on the duo and their music at the Látlaus Ský site:

http://www.latlaussky.com/

Check out Viktoria’s work, too:

https://www.jmiid.com/

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Roland’s little VT-4 vocal wonder box just got new reverbs

Roland’s VT-4 is more than a vocal processor. It’s best thought of as a multi-effects box that happens to be vocal friendly. And it’s getting deeper, with new reverb models, downloadable now.

Roland tried this once before with an AIRA vocoder/vocal processor, the VT-1. But that model proved a bit shallow: limited presets and pitch control only through the vocal input meant that it works great in some situations, but doesn’t fit others.

The VT-4 is really about retaining a simple interface, but adding a lot more versatility (and better sound).

As some of you noted in comments when I wrote it up last time, it’s not a looper. (Roland or someone else will gladly sell you one of those.) But what you do get are dead simple controls, including intuitive access to pitch, formant, balance, and reverb on faders. And you can control pitch through either a dial on the front panel or MIDI input. I’ll have a full hands-on review soon, as I’m particularly interested in this as a live processor for vocalists and other live situations.

If your use case is sometimes you want a vocoder, and sometimes you want some extra effects, and sometimes you’re playing with gear or sometimes with a laptop, the VT-4 is all those things. It’s got USB audio support, so you can pack this as your only interface if you just need mic in and stereo output.

And it has a bunch of effects now: re-pitch, harmonize, feedback, chorus, vocoder, echo, tempo-synced delay, dub delay … and some oddities like robot and megaphone and radio. More on that next time.

This update brings new reverb effects. They’re thick, lush, digital-style reverbs:

DEEP REVERB
LARGE REVERB
DARK REVERB
… and the VT-1’s rather nice retro-ish reverb is back as VT-1 REVERB

Deep dark say what? So the VT-1 reverb already was deeper (more reflections) and had a longer tail than the new VT-4 default; that preset restores those possibilities. “Deep” is deeper (more reflections). “Large” has longer duration reflections or simulates a larger room. And “DARK” is like the default, but with more high frequency filtering. You’ll flash the new settings via USB.

Roland is pushing more toward adding features to their gear over time, now via the AIRA minisite, so you can grab this pack there:
https://aira.roland.com/soundlibrary/reverb-pack-1/

And this being Japan, they introduce the pack by saying “It will set you in a magnificent space.” Yes, indeed, it will. That’s lovely.

The VT-4 got a firmware update, too.

1. PITCH AND FORMANT can be active now irrespective of input signal level and length, via a new settings. (Basically, this lets you disable a tracking threshold, I think. I have to play with this a bit.)
2. ROBOT VOICE now won’t hang notes; it disables with note off events.
3. There’s a new MUTE function setting.

VT-4 page:
http://www.roland.co.in/products/vt-4/

I mean, a really easy-to-use pitch + vocoder + delay + reverb for just over $200, and sometimes you can swap it for an audio interface? Seems a no brainer to me. So if you have some questions or things you’d like me to try with this unit I just got in, let me know.

http://www.roland.co.in/products/vt-4/

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Eventide worked on the Moog One, combining two US legends

Just as recent electronic music trends have brought back taste in classic synths, they’ve resurrected classic effects brands, too. So it’s worth taking note of how Eventide is part of the new flagship Moog One.

It seems this has been brewing some time. When it comes to music manufacturers who began in New York and New Jersey, there’s Moog and there’s Eventide. (Well, and Electro-Harmonix, or Steinway if you want to get creative.) Founder Richard Factor: “I knew Moog before he was Moog.” That story, in Richard’s booming voice:

Eventide Engineer Tony Agnello also had a running friendship with Bob, say the manufacturers. This project brought the current Eventide team together with Cyril Lance, chief engineer at Moog, and his development group.

So, what do you get in the Moog One package?

There are five effects:

Room
Hall
Plate
Shimmer
Blackhole

Those are the latest algorithms, as you’d find in the Space and H9 pedals, as well as the H8000 and H9000 hardware. You also get this nice display with tons of parameter controls.

These effects are available on the master bus. (The Moog One also has in-line effects for each synth.) So the reverbs can sit on those sends – the Moog One’s dual mono sends with stereo return, or single stereo send with stereo return.

If you spend a lot of time with Eventide effects, you’ll hear a lot of Eventide effects in productions. So integrating them with a synth – meaning signal path and routing are available via integrated controls (plus you need fewer cables) – that makes sense. And Moog need to sell users on the Moog One’s higher price point – it’s really a kind of studio in a keyboard. It’s just that unlike digital workstations of recent decades, which buried a lot of the actual synthesis, this one puts the synthesis at the front.

More on the Moog One:

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/moog-one

Eventide:

https://www.eventideaudio.com/

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Roland VT-4 adds MIDI, control for performer-friendly vocal FX

Roland’s revised VT-4 – the replacement for the first AIRA VT-3 – makes it look like someone finally gets what vocalists want in effects. More effects options, actual control over harmony, and MIDI could make all the difference.

The original VT-3 is a little too simple to recommend. A big dial locks you into some stock effects, without any parameter controls beyond pitch and formant. But at the same time, it is unusually direct and accessible, and it doubles as a USB interface, meaning for singers it’s carry-on luggage friendly. So as a cheap, fun effect, it does have potential. It’s cheap on the used market, but then so are a number of pedals.

Roland have apparently been listening, though. Just as the fun but simplistic TR-8 was replaced with the sample-loading, all-around improved TR-8S, so to the VT-3 has gotten a revamp. The Slimer-green trim is gone, but more importantly, you now can control the way it sounds, via expanded effects options and controls. And it does MIDI input.

Here’s the thing: there are lots of great sounding vocal effects out there, but none of them seems designed with singers in mind. They fit into two categories: pedals that seem to have been created by guitarists, or “studio” boxes that have way too much menu diving. (If you can think of an exception, shout in comments.) The VT-3 was already significant in that it was live friendly. Now the VT-4 fills in the gaps the VT-3 left open.

From the VT-3, and still a good idea:

  • USB audio interface functionality (so you can use this with a computer)
  • XLR mic in with phantom power, plus minijack in
  • Four faders: pitch, formant, balance (for controlling wet/dry of the effect), reverb
  • Push-button preset recall
  • Dedicated bypass switch

But new on the VT-4:

  • A friendly “key” dial at the top right
  • Direct access to “vocoder” and “harmonizer” modes
  • Multiple effects at once
  • MIDI input – so play in the notes/harmonies you want for the vocoder, harmonizer, and pitch engines
  • Variations for all the effects

It’s finally what you want to sing with, whether you’re a great singer or can barely sing at all – direct access to effects, performance-friendly controls. Singers don’t necessarily want to have to do everything with their feet or in pages of menus. This hardware’s designers seems to understand that.

It’s the effects that appear to be totally overhauled. The only variations on the VT-3 are printed directly around the dial – as in, you get two alternatives for the auto pitch, and that’s it.

On the VT-4, there’s a whole slew of effects hidden behind the variation buttons. (Those buttons still double as preset storage and recall, so what you’ll likely do is explore to find the ones you like, then lock them in at the top.)

There are still some toy-like presets as on the VT-3 – though some of those are interesting for processing drums and the like. In addition, though, you also get a bunch of new, musical effects, and enough variations that you can dial in what you need.

There’s a chorus effect (categorized inexplicably as “megaphone.”) There’s a model of the classic Roland VP in the vocoder, along with talk box, advanced, and Speak & Spell (sorry, trademark – “spell toy”) variations. The Harmony option lets you choose intervals (fifth, third, forth below, and combinations, though you can also use MIDI for more). Even robot has octave options and a new feedback variation.

Also, that fixed “reverb” is now really a multi effects unit – reverb, echo, synced tempo delay, and dub echo are now available.

I’d likely buy it for those upgrades alone, but then you can also use a MIDI keyboard as input to control pitch.

I need to research more how multiple effects work and exactly how these models relate to those available on the VT-3 and other Roland AIRA and Boutique series models. But generally these days Roland are constantly improving their modeling and sounds, thanks to architectures that are more flexible than those of the past.

More at Roland’s site:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/vt-4/

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This granular convolver hardware is the latest creation from Tatsuya Takahashi

There’s a nice gift for Red Bull Music Academy attendees: a hardware convolver effect from the man who led the team at KORG that gave us volcas and minilogues. Here’s a sneak preview.

The Granular Convolver is a collaboration between Tatsuya, now working as an independent designer and relocated to Germany from Japan (while still in an advisory position with KORG), and Berlin’s own E-RM Erfindungsbüro, maker of obsessive-quality clock devices. (Founder Maximilian Rest is the design mind there.)

I’ve got one in-hand, and will detail its operation with some sound samples shortly, but here’s a quick teaser.

First, a Jony Ives (sorry)-style video from Tats:

The important thing: this Raspberry Pi-powered device feels amazing, like a heavyweight metal luxury item, and makes wonderful sounds.

The basic operation:

1. Record a sound snippet.
2. Play back that sound snippet via a granular engine.
3. Convolve that playback with a live input, combining the two sounds – the timbre of your original sound, the envelope of what you’re playing now.

There are also some features for storing and recalling presets, which make this performance friendly.

Why this matters: it gives you an expressive way of “playing” an effect, like an instrument.

And it’s a unique boutique hardware making project, for the particular context of an event – very different than the mass-manufactured designs of something like the volca series. The units were all hand-assembled (by Tats himself) here in Berlin, and even the boards and cases were made here, as well, so it really is a Berlin manufacturing product in a way most things aren’t.

More on this soon – and you can bet if you follow any RBMA attendees, you’ll see some of their experiments with this hardware show up in social channels!

The last time Tats worked with Red Bull:

There’s a synth symphony for 100 cars coming, based on tuning

And – while it’s important to note he was part of a team – some commentary on the Tats Era at KORG (and still very curious what that team will do next!):

Visionary Tatsuya Takahashi leaves a huge legacy as he departs KORG

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Bastl TV: Patching and looping and Nikol teaches complex envelopes

Czech builder Bastl Instruments are working simultaneously in modular and desktop instruments. But it’s not about choosing one or the other – it’s getting inspired to play musically, either way.

So Patchení s Nikol is back, with Nikol to show you some serious patching techniques. And yes, of course, this is a nice showcase of Bastl’s own skiff of modules. But it’s also a nice example of what you can do with modulated envelopes – adding modulation to an amplitude envelope to give it a more complicated shape than just attack and release and so on. You could certainly apply this to other modular environments.

Actually, one of my favorite modules Bastl have put out lately is this one: Hendrikson is designed just to make it easier to add stomp box and external effects to your modular rig. It gives you easy-access jacks for patching in your pedal or pedal chain, some handy knobs, and all-important wet/dry mix. Plus, you can patch control into that wet/dry to automate wet dry controls with your modular if you like.

https://www.bastl-instruments.com/modular/hendrikson/

They’re obviously having a lot of fun with this:

Hendrikson

Speaking of economizing, how about that Zoom MultiStomp you see in the middle of the video? It’s got a whole massive list of different effects, all of which you control, and a street price of around $100 right now.

Vaclav I believe turned me on to that Zoom. And now switching to the desktop hardware they make, here’s a personal testimonial about how much he’s appreciating their THYME looper – seen here played live and with some destructive looping.

Vaclav tells us: “I have been playing the THYME for quite a while and has a certain instrumental quality that is quite hard to master – as with any other instrument… it really became one of the most essential pieces of musical gear that I use all the time. I am really proud of it being a real instrument now and not just a dream that I had more than 3 years ago!”

I’m here in Moscow now for Synthposium where we’ll see Bastl at the Expo and in a talk on music gear business in the online age. Stay tuned.

https://www.bastl-instruments.com/

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Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.

Listen/watch:

Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

http://www.legowelt.org/

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Punctuate, saturate, EQ, and elevate with the latest Eventide plugins

Sound processing machines have always tread a line between necessary tool and creative effect. The latest mixing and mastering bundle from Eventide promises on both those fronts.

It’s called the Elevate 1.5 bundle, with two new plug-ins, and two major updates to existing plug-ins (including the titular Elevate). And it’s made for mixing and mastering, though there’s clearly appeal for production, too.

Kudos to Eventide for coming up at least with clever titles for the stuff in their most recent bundle, in an industry that, like carmakers, so often resorted to unintelligible combinations of letters and numbers. (BMW 325i? UA 1776 LN revision H? Who knows?)

So, you get the Punctuate, the Saturate, the Elevate … which are at least descriptive, if slightly sounding like EDM festival stages or energy drink flavors. (I’ll meet you at Saturate! E!-vent1d3 is on in 30! PLUR, bro!) And the … EQuivocate. Okay, that one earns extra points on pun factor, minus a few by sounding like what happens when you get yelled at by your mixing and mastering engineer.

But it’s what the Eventide processors do that’s very cool. Rather than simply emulate vintage gear – since you’ve got plenty of options for that – these are modern processors that focus on redesigning processing in a way that’s closer to how your human hearing works.

And appropriately enough, then, they’re part of a collaboration between Eventide and Newfangled Audio, a sort of boutique DSP algorithm house founded by veteran Eventide engineer Dan Gillespie. (Science!)

EQuivocate is a “human ear” EQ – so a graphic equalizer that’s designed not around a set of theoretical frequency bands, but around frequencies that you actually hear.

Elevate is a combination of multi-band limiter (so you get frequency-specific dynamics if you want), that “human ear” EQ, and audio maximizer. The idea, then, is to control both dynamics and frequency domain to max out your sound in a way that’s human-focused, bringing those integrated tools to bear on the mastering process.

New to those tools, EQuivocate has more controls and range adjustments, and Elevate adds a true peak limiter – so you get the futuristic features but without clipping or becoming broadcast unsafe in the process.

Added in this release, while the new bundle is only dubbed “1.5,” are two fascinating all-new creations. And they’re both all about driving the sound, in a day and age that calls for louder sounds, without squashing.

Saturate is a spectral clipper – so in addition to the 24dB drive, you can continuously control the way the sound curves and distorts. (Hey, I said some of this stuff could be fun to abuse in the production phase.)

Punctuate is a transient emphasis plug-in – so you take 26 bands, again shaped around the human ear, and emphasize or suppress attacks. And that seems really appealing – the idea that you dig into shaping the envelopes of elements in a mix, beyond just applying conventional dynamics processing or compression with some blanket controls over everything. It’s less “big hammer,” more precision tool. (I think it’ll also be interesting to compare this to Accusonus’ Beatformer which – while not the same thing has some related ideas. DSP zeitgeist, basically.)

I always get a little nervous when magic tools for mixing and mastering are unleashed on producers who don’t entirely know what they’re doing. I should know – I’m one of those people. But on the other hand, the hearing-focused design of these tools and the ways they let you work with dynamics and frequency domain make them interesting to the creative process, too, when it’s actually okay that you’re messing around and breaking the rules.

I wanted to go ahead and write up this news in advance of a review, because I’m going to take a look with a couple of other producers/engineers so we can go 360-degrees on how you might use this. Let us know if this raises any questions you’d like answered (and anything else you’d like to see us review).

AU/VST/AAX, macOS 10.7 and later, Windows 7 and later.

US$139 promo, $199 after that; upgrade from EQuivocate US$99 intro, $149 after. (It’s a free upgrade if you have the original Elevate.)

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/third-party-plug-ins/mastering/elevate-bundle

For you Eventide devotees, here’s the full list of what’s new in the existing two plug-ins in the bundle:

Elevate 1.5 Release Notes:
1. Added True Peak Limiting mode to Elevate as well as True Peak output metering
2. Added new Saturate Spectral Clipper plug-in
3. Added new Punctuate Auditory Transient Emphasis plug-in
4. Alt click now sets sliders to default in both DRAW CURVE on and off modes.
5. Updated some graphics
6. New UPDATE button will inform user when further updates are available

EQuivocate 1.5 Release Notes:
1. Added Range Parameter which will allow you to scale and invert the EQ curve, even after MATCH EQ is locked in.
2. Added Band Activate/Deactivate switches to allow you to hear the effect of each band in context.
3. Alt click now sets sliders to default in both DRAW CURVE on and off modes.
4. Updated some graphics
5. New UPDATE button will inform user when further updates are available

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This plug-in is a secret weapon for sound design and drums

It’s full of gun sounds. But because of a combination of a unique sample architecture and engine and a whole lot of unique assets, the Weaponiser plug-in becomes a weapon of a different kind. It helps you make drum sounds.

Call me a devoted pacifist, call me a wimp – really, either way. Guns actually make me uncomfortable, at least in real life. Of course, we have an entirely separate industry of violent fantasy. And to a sound designer for games or soundtracks, Weaponiser’s benefits should be obvious and dazzling.

But I wanted to take a different angle, and imagine this plug-in as a sort of swords into plowshares project. And it’s not a stretch of the imagination. What better way to create impacts and transients than … well, fire off a whole bunch of artillery at stuff and record the result? With that in mind, I delved deep into Weaponiser. And as a sound instrument, it’s something special.

Like all advanced sound libraries these days, Weaponiser is both an enormous library of sounds, and a powerful bespoke sound engine in which those sounds reside. The Edinburgh-based developers undertook an enormous engineering effort here both to capture field recordings and to build their own engine.

It’s not even all about weapons here, despite the name. There are sound elements unrelated to weapons – there’s even an electronic drum kit. And the underlying architecture combines synthesis components and a multi-effects engine, so it’s not limited to playing back the weapon sounds.

What pulls Weaponiser together, then, is an approach to weapon sounds as a modularized set of components. The top set of tabs is divided into ONSET, BODY, THUMP, and TAIL – which turns out to be a compelling way to conceptualize hard-hitting percussion, generally. We often use vaguely gunshot-related metaphors when talking about percussive sounds, but here, literally, that opens up some possibilities. You “fire” a drum sound, or choose “burst” mode (think automatic and semi-automatic weapons) with an adjustable rate.

This sample-based section is then routed into a mixer with multi-effects capabilities.

In music production, we’ve grown accustomed to repetitive samples – a Roland TR clap or rimshot that sounds the same every single time. In foley or game sound design, of course, that’s generally a no-no; our ears quickly detect that something is amiss, since real-world sound never repeats that way. So the Krotos engine is replete with variability, multi-sampling, and synthesis. Applied to musical applications, those same characteristics produce a more organic, natural sound, even if the subject has become entirely artificial.

Weaponiser architecture

Let’s have a look at those components in turn.

Gun sounds. This is still, of course, the main attraction. Krotos have field recordings of a range of weapons:

AK 47
Berretta 92
Dragunov
GPMG
SPAS 12
CZ75
GPMG
H&K 416
M 16
M4 (supressed)
MAC 10
FN MINIMI
H&K MP5
Winchester 1887

For those of you who don’t know gun details, that amounts to pistol, rifle, automatic, semiautomatic, and submachine gun (SMG). These are divided up into samples by the onset/body/thump/tail architecture I’ve already described, plus there are lots of details based on shooting scenario. There are bursts and single fires, sniper shots from a distance, and the like. But maybe most interesting actually are all the sounds around guns – cocking and reloading vintage mechanical weapons, or the sound of bullets impacting bricks or concrete. (Bricks sound different than concrete, in fact.) There are bullets whizzing by.

And that’s just the real weapons. There’s an entire bank devoted to science fiction weapons, and these are entirely speculative. (Try shooting someone with a laser; it … doesn’t really work the way it does in the movies and TV.) Those presets get interesting, too, because they’re rooted in reality. There’s a Berretta fired interdimensionally, for example, and the laser shotguns, while they defy present physics and engineering, still have reloading variants.

In short, these Scottish sound designers spent a lot of time at the shooting range, and then a whole lot more time chained to their desk working with the sampler.

Things that aren’t gun sounds. I didn’t expect to find so many sounds in the non-gun variety, however. There are twenty dedicated kits, which tend in a sort of IDM / electro crossover, just building drum sounds on this engine. There are a couple of gems in there, too – enough so that I could imagine Krotos following up this package with a selection of drum production tools built on the Weaponiser engine but having nothing to do with bullets or artillery.

Until that happens, you can think of that as a teaser for what the engine can do if you spend time building your own presets. And to that end, you have some other tools:

Variations for each parameter randomize settings to avoid repetition.

Four engines, each polyphonic with their own sets of samples, combine. But the same things that allow you different triggering/burst modes for guns prove useful for percussion. And yes, there’s a “drunk” mode.

A deep multi-effects section with mixing and routing serves up still more options.

Four engines, synthesis. Onset, Body, Thump, and Tail each have associated synthesis engines. Onset and Body are specialized FM synthesizers. Thump is essentially a bass synth. Tail is a convolution reverb – but even that is a bit deeper than it may sound. Tail provides both audio playback and spatialization controls. It might use a recorded tail, or it might trigger an impulse response.

Also, the way samples are played here is polyphonic. Add more samples to a particular engine, and you will trigger different variants, not simply keep re-triggering the same sounds over and over again. That’s the norm for more advanced percussion samplers, but lately electronic drum engines have tended to dumb that down. And – there’s a built-in timeline with adjustable micro-timings, which is something I’ve never seen in a percussion synth/sampler.

The synth bits have their own parameters, as well, and FM and Amplitude Modulation modes. You can customize carriers and modulators. And you can dive into sample settings, including making radical changes to start and end points, envelope, and speed.

Effects and mixing. Those four polyphonic engines are mixed together in a four-part mix engine, with multi-effects that can be routed in various ways. Then you can apply EQ, Compression, Limiting, Saturation, Ring Modulation, Flanging, Transient Shaping, and Noise Gating.

Oh, you can also use this entire effects engine to process sounds from your DAW, making this a multi-effects engine as well as an instrument.

Is your head spinning yet?

About the sounds

Depending on which edition you grab, from the limited selection of the free 10-day demo up to the “fully loaded” edition, you’ll get as many as 2228 assets, with 1596 edited weapon recordings. There are also 692 “sweeteners” – a grab bag of still more sounds, from synths to a black leopard (the furry feilne, really), and the sound recordists messing around with their recording rig, keys, Earth, a bicycle belt… you get the idea. There are also various impulse responses for the convolution reverb engine, allowing you to place your sound in different rooms, stairwells, and synthetic reverbs.

The recording chain itself is worth a look. There are the expected mid/side and stereo recordings, classic Neumann and Sennheiser mics, and a whole lot of use by the Danish maker DPA – including mics positioned directly on the guns in some recordings. But they’ve also included recordings made with the Sennheiser Ambeo VR Mic for 360-degree, virtual reality sound.

They’ve shared some behind-the-scenes shots with CDM, and there’s a short video explaining the process.

In use, for music

Some of the presets are realistic enough that it did really make me uncomfortable at first working with these sounds in a music project – but that was sort of my aim. What I found compelling is, because of this synth engine, I was quickly able to transform those sounds into new, organic, even unrecognizable variations.

There are a number of strategies here that make this really interesting.

You can mess with samples. Adjusting speed and other parameters, as with any samples, of course gives you organic, complex new sounds.

There’s the synthesis engine. Working with the synth options either to reprocess the sounds or on their own allows you to treat Weaponiser basically as a drum synth.

The variations make this sound like acoustic percussion. With subtle or major variations, you can produce sound that’s less repetitive than electronic drums would be.

Mix and match. And, of course, you have presets to warp and combine, the ability to meld synthetic sounds and gun sounds, to sweeten conventional percussion with those additions (synths and guns and leopard sounds)… the mind reels.

Routing, of course is vital, too; here’s their look at that:

In fact, there’s so much, that I could almost go on a separate tangent just working with this musically. I may yet do that, but here is a teaser at what’s possible – starting with the obvious:

But I’m still getting lost in the potential here, reversing sounds, trying the drum kits, working with the synth and effects engines.

The plug-in can get heavy on CPU with all of that going on, obviously, but it’s also possible to render out layers or whole sounds, useful both in production and foley/sound design. Really, my main complaint is the tiny, complex UI, which can mean it takes some time to get the hang of working with everything. But as a sound tool, it’s pretty extraordinary. And you don’t need to have firing shotguns in all your productions – you can add some subtle sweetening, or additional layers and punch to percussion without anyone knowing they’re hearing the Krotos team messing with bike chains and bullets hitting bricks and an imaginary space laser.

Weaponiser runs on a Mac or PC, 64-bit only VST AU AAX. You’ll need about five and a half gigs of space free. Basic, which is already pretty vast, runs $399 / £259/ €337. Full loaded is over twice that size, and costs $599 / £379 / €494.

https://www.krotosaudio.com/weaponiser/

The post This plug-in is a secret weapon for sound design and drums appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Get a powerful spectral delay, free, in MSpectralDelay plug-in

What makes a delay more interesting? A delay that’s combined with spectral controls. What makes that better? Getting it for free. MSpectralDelay is here – and looks like a must-download.

It’s been a while – I’m sure I’m not alone in missing Native Instruments’ Spektral Delay, discontinued some years back. MSpectralDelay is a different animal – NI’s offering had a whopping 160 bands, whereas this has just six – but you do get a powerful, musical interface that lets you treat delays in a different way.

The idea is this: divide up your sound by frequency, with one to six bands, then add the delay effect with tempo sync and apply modulation.

What the developers Melda have done that set their offering apart is to provide really precise parameter controls with clear visual feedback, MIDI control of everything, and clever features like automatic gain compensation and a “safety” limiter to prevent you from overdriving the results.

Also surprising: not only is there mid/side processing, but you can set up to eight channels of surround, offering some spatial applications.

Melda plugins also feature some nice standard features like modulators with time signatures, morphing and preset recall, different channel modes, and more.

Full feature list from the devs:

The most advanced user interface on the market – stylable, resizable, GPU accelerated
Dual user interface, easy screen for beginners, edit screen for professionals
Unique visualisation engine with classic meters and time graphs
1-6 fully configurable independent bands
Modulators
Adjustable oscillator shape technology
Multiparameters
M/S, single channel, up to 8 channels surround processing…
Smart randomization
Automatic gain compensation (AGC)
Safety limiter
Adjustable up-sampling 1x-16x
Synchronization to host tempo
MIDI controllers with MIDI learn
64-bit processing and an unlimited sampling rate
Extremely fast, optimized for newest AVX2 capable processors
Global preset management and online preset exchange
Supports VST, VST3, AU and AAX interfaces on Windows & Mac, both 32-bit and 64-bit
No dongle nor internet access is required for activation
Free-for-life updates

There’s also this kind of funny demo video, which first explains why you want a delay, and then – as is custom in our industry – tell you that, naturally, everyone from complete beginners who barely know how to switch on their computer to advanced professionals will be able to have exactly the same experience because presets parameters blah blah.

That said… well, you do need a delay. And this is awesome. And beginners and pros will probably have fun with it. And there are presets. So… fair points, all.

Go grab it:

http://www.meldaproduction.com/MSpectralDelay

via Sonic State

Free download requires registration; the offer ends June 3.

The post Get a powerful spectral delay, free, in MSpectralDelay plug-in appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.