Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

well hello there canadians

Citizenship and Immigration Canada just made it easier to book gigs – the work-permit requirement to perform anywhere serving food and drinks as a major part of their business model has been removed! Well, mostly – you can’t work anywhere on an ongoing basis without a work permit, and that includes bars and restaurants. But still!

This is a big deal for some of us. Everyone else, carry on as usual.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

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Thursday, January 16th, 2014

the return of analogue synth

Forbes Magazine has noticed the return of the analogue synthesiser. I’ve seen a lot of people buying old and rebuilding; I wasn’t aware how many of the classics were back in or about to return to production.

Korg MS-20 (courtesy Wikipedia)

There seems to be some idea floating out there – and certainly in that Forbes article – that it’s a matter of rejecting digital, with it’s an implication that it’s some sort of Overdue Retreat From False Progress, and similar foolishness.

That’s not just wrong, it’s stupid. It’s the kind of derpitude written for people who don’t understand a subject and are wearing their late-middle-age everything-was-better-in-my-day nostalgia crap goggles.

Never wear those.

But something real is happening: a recognition that these were interesting and unique instruments in their own rights, and that new “versions” of the instrumental idea are not the instrumental idea. Just as the successors of the lute were not lute version 2.0, the successors of these synths are are not these instruments, version 2.0. They’re new instruments, with their own merits and flaws.

The technology model of continuous improvement doesn’t apply to everything, no matter how hard you try.

Similarly, just as MIDI violin doesn’t preempt real violin, emulations of the actual instrument – while useful, I’m a huge fan of the Animoog implementation on my iPad – do not always replace the actual instrument.

Particularly not with players. Not with the musicians. All of these things have their own physicalities, and for a lot of players – like me – that’s important. There are tens of thousands of bass guitars out there; there are a few I love. There are far fewer Irish Bouzoukis out there; and there are two, so far, I love. Part of that’s the sound; part of that is the physicality. It all matters.

I’m glad that’s finally being recognised for these classic analogue subtractive synths. The recognition that they are unique instruments, of a kind and a type, and of value not as a step to something else, but to themselves, and their unique sounds – it’s long overdue. Returning them to production is no more some kind of reactionary step backwards than is continuing to produce fiddles.

And I’m all for it. Welcome back to the fold, subtractive synths. We missed you.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

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Monday, December 30th, 2013

between new years and old

Happy almost-new-years everybody! Time for either the big new year’s clean and hatsumode, or lots of vodka science and quality assurance testing, or hey, why not have both? I’m for it. We could call it Vodka Science Day, throw it in with the rest. Only downside is I’m not sure anyone would notice. I’ve, er, “got friends” who just call that Thursday.

If your music collection needs refreshing, the big Mega-Music New Year’s Download that I talked about before is still going, so go grab that while you can. And all my Bandcamp downloads are still set pay-what-you-like, too.

If you had – or still have – trouble with their official download link, here is a backup that I put up myself, so use that instead.

Whup, gotta gear up, kaiju’s about ready to hatch, and you know what a mess that is! Have fun out there, and try not to die.

That’s supervillain for, “Hey – I like you.”

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

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Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

megamusic download is go go go go go!

Okay, so I mentioned the big project? Well, a bunch of bands, including us, SJ Tucker, Heather Dale, and lots more, got together for a truly massive free mega-music ‪download package. Seriously, there are like 39 artists in this thing:

The Mega-Music Download Page

If the download link there doesn’t work for you for some reason – it’s been a bit swamped! – here’s a direct link to the .zip file with all songs:

Backup Download Link

In addition to the previous, there’s Betsy Tinney, Talis Kimberly, Pandora Celtica, Julia Ecklar, Ginger Doss, Whisky Bards, Tom Smith, us – so many different bands.

GO GET IT. And if you like what you hear, a lot of us are doing specials right now on our own download pages, like us, where everything of ours on Bandcamp is currently pay-what-you-like. That won’t last forever, so GO. NOW.


Click for full-size

And a happy new year to everyone!

eta: Okay, maybe having everybody involved tell all their people at the same time wasn’t the best idea. XD If you’re seeing an XML error, it’s a result of server overload; try again in 15 minutes to an hour. But my Bandcamp downloads are working fine – Bandcamp is more robust. :D

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

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Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

random house goes after writers

Via John Scalzi: Random House is trying to adopt ALL the wretched, musician-bankrupting models of the record labels, and force them onto writers, all at once.

I DO NOT HAVE STRONG ENOUGH WORDS FOR THIS: DO. NOT. BUY. IN.

John’s post, with all the gruesome details. The imprint is called “Hydra,” but it’s Random House.

DO NOT BUY IN. DO NOT LET FRIENDS BUY IN.

This is EXACTLY the model that labels have used to take ALL the money from the artists – ALL of it, so strings of chart-topping hits never “make money” and send artists into bankruptcy after years of below-minimum-wage returns.

DO NOT BUY IN. RUN from this. Run from it, and STOP OTHERS FROM SIGNING.

Seriously. This new model from Random House is the EXACT model musicians are trying to work around and recover from. IT IS BUILT TO STRIP MINE YOU FOR EVERY PENNY YOU EVER MAKE, AND MORE.

There is no winning here; not just for anyone who signs this agreement, but every other writer trying to sell their work. EVERYBODY loses – except the imprint, of course. And eventually even they even lose.

DO. NOT. BUY. IN. And tell others. This cannot be allowed to fly.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

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Monday, December 3rd, 2012

and now it is time for gift-giving season

In much of the world now, it’s gift-giving season! So I’m putting the CD copy of Dick Tracy Must Die on special sale at Bandcamp: it’s $9.99, the same as the digital download.

Also, I’ve added a physical CD of Cracksman Betty, for $4.99, also the same price as the digital download. It’s the version we sell at shows.

If you like our music – and if you’re reading this I imagine you do – help us find new listeners and fans! Give these discounted copies to people you think would like them. At $4.99 and $9.99, they’ll make really good stocking stuffers.

Besides, it helps pay for the new album we’re working on, which is no small thing. Din of Thieves is going to be pretty epic if I have anything to say about it – and my Rainmaker 68000 says I do – but even volcano-powered generators aren’t free, and the more time we have to spend stealing things, the less time we have to work on the album.

And we all want us working on the album, rather than working on taking over the west coast, don’t we?


Rain-Triggered Earthquake Distribution Probabilities.
Purely hypothetical, of course.

I thought so.

So! Spread the love. Or the terror. Whatever. Buy copies to give to other people. Warn them we’re coming, muah ha ha. If you’re nervous about buying straight from the supervillain, Dick Tracy Must Die is also on CD Baby, and they’re… ugh… reputable and shit.

So go! Spread the holiday fear! And as always, minions, you have a special place in my heart, so – try not to die, okay? Thanks.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

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Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

studio buildout part 6: your computer and digital audio workstation

We’re heading up to Vancouver tomorrow for VCON! We’ll be there for the weekend, hitting Chapters and Siegel’s Bagels and picking up some desperately-overdue cider rations and kicking around town. Mmm, Growers, how I miss thee. If you’re around, yell!

Also, there’s an exciting special event coming up here next week; you’ll want to read about it. More on that below the fold.

Right now, let’s talk Digital Audio Workstations.

First, what are they? Simply put, Digital Audio Workstations are software implementations of the physical hardware you’d use in a large recording studio to record your music. They include virtual mixing board, virtual patchboard, virtual tape recorder, virtual cables, virtual effects plug-ins, virtual equalisation – and depending on the package, even more.

The goal is simple. If you can do it on one of these:


I’ll be in my bunk

…then you should be able to do it in your digital audio workstation (or DAW) software.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as basic recording. Were it, you could get a little digital recorder and be done. What that giant hunk of hardware – or your software DAW – gives you is the ability to record several tracks of sound, separately or all at once.

A DAW lets you play those tracks mixed together in a synchronised fashion, move and edit your recorded sounds, adjust their levels (both relative to each other and in absolute terms), adjust equalisation, add effects such as reverb or distortion or overdrive or whatever you have plugins for, and so on.

Some DAWs include integrated MIDI support; some include sequencers as a core component. Some even support remote boards that give you all those sliders and knobs, so you don’t have to use the mouse or keyboard so much. Those are cool, and easier to use in some important ways, if less portable.

But at the most basic level, you have recording, editing, mixing, and playback. At the most basic level, you have GarageBand.


I will not be in my bunk.

Now, I’m not mocking GarageBand. GarageBand is a great introduction to concept, and surprisingly capable. It makes a whole bunch of tasks really easy, has integrated MIDI support, and includes a bunch of virtual MIDI instruments.

While from a features standpoint it’s pretty limited, and while it handles tracks in a way that implies they’re less generic than they are by naming them after instruments and making them sticky in weird ways which might confuse you later, it’s still a great first experience.

If you just want to get the idea with GarageBand before tackling something more complex? Go right ahead. Because I am not going to lie to you: the learning curve on the more advanced DAWs can be brutal. Particularly on the free/open source ones.

So, what’s out there? Well, if you have the money, and a Mac, I hear great things about Logic Pro. For both Mac and PC you have Pro Tools, which is called an industry standard because it is one. Pro Tools Express is free with some hardware purchases – but it’s also limited enough that I wouldn’t use it myself. Reaper, for Mac and Windows, has fans in the professional community. (And as Tom Smith noted last week, IK Software is having a big sale right now. This is relevant to your interests.)

But we’re about dirtball DIY. Let’s talk building your own kit, and doing it the cheapest way.

There are really two topics here: hardware and software. We’re already talking software, so let’s carry on.

The cheapest route, in dollar terms, is always open source. Linux is free software. You may have to be able to do a lot of internals work – no, that’s not fair; you’d better be ready to rip its guts out – but you can do it.


Afraid? You will be. You will. be.

Audacity is a relatively-simple open-source DAW. It runs on Windows, OS X, Linux, and some Unix OSes, not that you’re likely to run into those. It’s easier to set up and it works. I ran into its limitations in the first hour, but that’s because I already had aggressive goals; it’s the GarageBand of the open source world.

Ardour is my workhorse, and it is a monster. It runs atop specialised sound server software called JACK, and runs on OS X and Linux. If you run it on Linux, you’ll have to grab PulseAudio by the throat, slice off its head, and salt the ground on which it dies. This will not be easy in some Linux variants (Ubuntu, I’m glaring hatefully in your direction) but it must be done. Ardour is monstrously frustrating (at times), is possibly the most difficult to learn software I’ve ever used outside of 3D modelling…

…and it can do anything. But it will make you cry getting there.

MusE has a fair bit of traction in electronica, because it’s really a sequencer. But it also has DAW capabilities, and the stated intent is to expand into the DAW arena. It’s Linux-only. If you anticipate a lot of sequencer use, and have relatively light physical instrument requirements, give it a look.

Rosegarden started out as MIDI and composition software, and that’s still where its heart is. But, as with MusE, it’s headed into DAW territory and added at least some of the basics of the functionality. If you like sheet music composition and MIDI, you may want Rosegarden.

So, what about the hardware? I’ll approach this from the idea that you’re building a new box for this, or upgrading an old one substantially. If you’re not, well, skim this anyway.


Screw you, Best Buy

Here are things not to care about: what the case looks like. How cool anything on the motherboard sounds. (We already talked about external sound interfaces; if you skipped it, go read up.) The graphics card. You’re not doing video: you do not care.

What you do care about: fan noise. Bus throughput, on the hard drive side and on the USB chain side. (I’m assuming you’re on USB and not FireWire or Thunderbolt, mostly because that’s where we are in the technology curve right now.) Raw CPU power. Lots and lots of RAM. If you want to spend some money, throwing some dosh at an SSD drive is not misallocated funds.

Basically, you want to build a lean box dedicated to math – because math drives your virtual effects – and moving audio data around, and nothing else. Every other toy, every other frob, adds interrupts and takes CPU and bus time away from what you’re doing with audio. Rip that shit out.

One particular task you’ll want to figure out is probing your USB bus for onboard devices. A lot of motherboards will share device assignments between on-motherboard equipment and external USB ports. This is technically correct – the best kind of correct – but in high-demand applications results in more interrupts on the bus and slower throughput. This can and in my case did result in higher latency and buffer overruns. Find and use ports which are unshared for your external audio card.

Also, for Linux in particular, you may find that wireless internet will be a problem. It’ll work, but will interoperate badly with your realtime kernel, hammering you with interrupts and popping you out of realtime mode.

Some people ditch networking entirely. If that’s not okay, go wired. If you must go wireless, get an external wireless bridge and connect it via ethernet cable to your wired (and realtime-kernel-compliant) ethernet card. This will solve many weird network problems.

But I said we’d talk about hardware, dammit! So okay! Where do you get performance hardware for cheap?

Well, you shop around, of course. Check your local parts stores, but the cheapest route I’ve found is to get a copy of CPU magazine’s motherboard roundup issue – preferably the last couple of years’ worth – and to go the gaming kit-out sites.

Yes, I know, I just talked about case mods and all that: don’t care. You don’t go for the frills: you go there for the motherboard clearance sales, because last year’s gaming l33tness is this year’s dogshit, as far as they’re concerned, and they just want it gone.

As a result – the fire-breathing motherboard inside my DAW? 75% off retail. The CPU, 60% off. The RAM, sadly, not as much, but still: bargains are to be had, and I had them.

When browsing, though, choose wisely! Look over the supported hardware list for your operating system and DAW and follow them. The last thing you want to be doing is tracking down some obscure kernel bug and finding that it’s only fixed in a downstream revision your distribution doesn’t even support yet, so you end up installing a custom kernel configuration and doing haxx0r insanity, not that I know anything about that.


Fuck yeah, meme baby. Fuck yeah.

And that’s an overview! Believe it or not, that is an overview; there are an endless series of twisty passages you can run down on this topic, all alike. I’d browse a little, pick one, and dive in.

If you’ve already built a DAW, what do you use, and why? What problems did you hit that I haven’t covered? Is anybody out there using Thunderbolt yet? Share your experiences!

Finally, I teased an announcement up top. It’s super awesome. Get this:

NEXT WEEK, we have a special event! We’ll be kicking off a series of monthly guest DIY posts with one from JEFF BOHNHOFF.

You may know Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff from their YouTube hit, Midichlorian Rhapsody, or some of their many albums and awards. Jeff and Maya also built Mystic Fig Studios, and Jeff has engineered and recorded literally dozens of albums in his 30-year musical career.

And next week, Jeff will be stopping by here, to talk about DIY sound control in your home studio. We’re thrilled to have him, and YOU WILL WANT TO READ THIS, if you have any DIY recording interest at all.

Until then – see you in Vancouver!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

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Friday, May 11th, 2012

and now on itunes!

Cracksman Betty has shown up on iTunes! It costs more there! I don’t know why! But they make those decisions, not me! Clearly they think it’s a real album. :D Yay! It’s not much more, they just set their standard pricing on it. But that’s okay by me. ^_^

If you haven’t given a listen yet, you can hear the whole thing right here, on Bandcamp. No 30-second samples here! They you can buy it on iTunes, or hopefully give it some review love, which it very much needs.

I never did a review raffle beforehand because there wasn’t a beforehand! So I’ll do one now instead: write and post a public review in the next two weeks (plus a little – two weeks plus the weekend) and I’ll email you a special home-burned CD edition of the album. (It’ll be less S-100 Bus which you’ll still have to download on its own because of licensing, but it’s free, so that’s okay.)

This should play the whole album for you:

Cracksman Betty (Remixed and Remastered)
CRIME and the Forces of Evil

 
Post the link to your review here in comments to enter. And have a good weekend!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

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