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25 September 2010


The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ integrated, multi-faceted audio/visual exploration units gang aft agley. Eddie Izzard has been known to query such Burnsian verse. I mean, do mice make plans? Well, exploration unit and sound designer Biomechanoid, which describes himself/herself/itself as just such a unit on his/her/its website, certainly does, even if addled on Absynth. Not the wormwood-tinctured, 74% ABV Swiss barmy fluid (sorry, ‘medicinal elixir’) absinthe, but the Native Instruments soft synth, a copy of which is, of course, necessary if this article is to be of any relevance. Excessive green hours spent on Absynth can lead to dangerous addiction, as with the anise-flavoured beverage, and it would seem that Biomechanoid is so afflicted, having rustled up a six-volume sound set backed by more than 750Mb of original samples. Camel Audio sells the collection in two bundles: Biolabs Absynth Sounds Vols 1-3 and 4-6 at £39 a throw, although buying the full package makes more sense financially. Let me see, 39 plus 39 equals... umm... more than 65? Sounds about right.

24 September 2010


Stick your head above the parapet and await incoming. It’s a thought that occurred to me after a poster to an online forum pitched in with comment on MuzoBlog’s editorial voice, adding to a number of emails I’ve received from folk who seem a mite confused about the site’s raison d'être. That I should have the temerity to stand up and make my voice heard on the interweb is bound to invite sniping, made all the easier thanks to the the online anonymity behind which detractors lurk. But what the hey. My skin is thick, my testes large. The main whinge is that there’s too much of ‘me’ in the copy. It doesn’t read like the neutral, detached commentary you’d find in a print magazine or commercial online publication. The reviews are written in the first person from personal perspective, both informally and attitudinally, and I might even cuss a little along the way. Well let’s clear things up, shall we?

23 September 2010


Try sitting in an anechoic chamber. I bet you’ll be calling for the ambience within hours, such is the unsettling nature of a non-ambient space. Reflected sound is all around us and it feels unnatural when missing. From the extreme of bawling your head off in the Grand Canyon to singing in the shower, humans are accustomed to acoustic feedback from the environment and without it, we get uncomfortable. When producing music, ambience presents its own set of posers. Close-miked acoustic instruments sound unpleasant because mic pickup is usually too tight to capture sound bouncing off the walls of the recording booth. Electronic instruments fed straight into the desk, or deployed as in-the-box plugins, are as dry as a recovering alcoholic, and just as interesting to listen to. More whistle-whetting is the special brew of the RP-Verb.

22 September 2010


It’s said you can tell when spaghetti is cooked by throwing it at the ceiling. If it sticks, it’s done. And you can tell when a sound engineer’s brain is cooked by the way he or she slings the spaghetti of electrical cables, inevitable in live performance and studio session, desultorily about when he or she is just about done in. With traditional bands, guitarists have it easy. Radio transmitters carry audio to pedalboards and FX racks, keeping cables neat. Sound engineers, meanwhile, have electrical spaghetti to contend with in order to deliver power, audio and digital data. You’d think synth players would be laughing up their sleeves, what with electronic keyboards and computers requiring little electrical looming. But then they boot Propellerhead’s Reason.

20 September 2010


Numbers affect human affairs more than we’d like. From overdraft to tax return, they serve to remind that we’re broke. We track the passage of time, counting away our allotted span; monitor the enervating effects of ageing with numerical data from medical check-ups; and when the end comes, gauge our popularity on the number of people who attend the funeral. Occultists study numbers, a practice called numerology, but all of the above have nothing to to with Numerology 3 Pro, the latest incarnation of Five12’s souped-up step sequencer and which is a damn sight more uplifting than the first three sentences of this review. Incidentally, if you’re using a Windows PC, look away now. We’re in OS X 10.4+ pasture from here on in. Right, putting morbid psychopathology aside, let us spruce up our sequencing smarts with a quick study on steppers.

18 September 2010


Back in Summer 2010, IK Multimedia invited guitarists to rock out with nothing more than their iPhones, earbuds and a natty variant on the previously desktop/laptop-only AmpliTube amp/FX sim software suite. Naturally, an audio I/O was necessary, hence the iRig, an inexpensive piece of hardware toting a 1/4-inch mono jack socket for guitar in, a stereo mini-jack headphone out and TRRS plug for analog audio hook-up to the iPhone or 2nd-gen-plus iPod Touch. Oddly, for a guitar gadget, the mainstream media went bonkers for it, with mention made far and wide of this backline and floorboard palmtop solution. The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian and more carried articles heaping mounds of praise, while a gazillion YouTube clips appeared bringing amateur axe-wielders widdling to the fore. At around the same time, a certain Mr Jobs had a new toy in the offing - a halfway house between an iPhone/iPod Touch and a laptop in the shape of the slender iPad. The iRig for iPhone having been near reviewed to death, let’s look at the iPaddy incarnation - not the cut-down freebie version, but the £11.99 commercial offering.