Archive for the ‘album notes’ Category

two down, two to go

Anyone following the petition-to-SFWA flap should read John Scalzi’s post this morning for some useful advice.

Yesterday’s hammer dulcimer recording session went very well; we have two more tunes in the can, one really on the first take – Ellen comes in prepared – though we took a couple more as well, just to be safe. She can’t be back in until late March, though. Still, it’s not like we lack work to do.

It is nice finally seeing the Big Board start to turn blue, I have to say. (It’s colour-coded; blue means completed work.)

Today is more eye-surgery follow-up, so I’ll be OOS (Out Of Studio) all day. Hi ho, needs must and all that. See you tomorrow!

a Mystery Instrument hint

Nobody’s figured out what instrument I turned into a fake double-bass with processing tricks in the instrumental recording I posted last week. So here’s a hint – no, wait, two hints:

1. A couple of people have been close, in the sense of being in the right category of instrument. But in each case, they’ve wandered away again by adding on to their initial guess.

2. Directly relevant to clue 1: yes, it sounds bowed. That does not mean the original instrument actually was bowed, and, in fact, it wasn’t. That’s one reason why it’s so amazing. XD

And, of course, from the first post, I repeat:

0. It’s not synthetic, and it’s not a double-bass.

This is a contest, so here’s where you can listen to the tracks, and also the tiny rules list, which is tiny.

midi chimes are go

I HAVE THE MIDIS! I’ve actually had them for a while, but I just recorded a bunch of MIDI chimes for the Chapter 22/23 set part of the Free Court of Seattle soundtrack.

Bendy Keyboard is Not Actually Bendy

The MIDI part worked fine. I’ve actually played with it a little before; I used it (and this loverly Roland) for sound effects before, but this is the first time it’s ending up in music.

It’s also the first time I’ve tried to use Garage Band for much of anything since, idk, 2009? And damn, a girl could learn to hate that thing. DO NOT SILENTLY RESAMPLE AND RETEMPO MY RECORDINGS, GARAGE BAND, I WILL END YOU. But it did. Like, twice.

Also, I rageflip over the lack of any pictures of someone rageflipping a MIDI keyboard.

And that’s why it took like four goes to get a proper export of the sound. Still, I got it.

inb4 Why Garage Band?: Existing instruments that I could edit to sound right. I need some instrument libraries for my DAW, f’srs.

proof of work

I’m sick of talking about eye surgery and all that other crap. Remember the Bone Walker/Free Court of Seattle soundtrack album? Here, have a sneak preview work track – it’s the Irish tunes set which goes with Chapter 23 of Faerie Blood:

Normally I wouldn’t throw a work track out there, not even as a sneak preview, but yeah. This is missing the percussion, a male voice counting in individual tunes in Gaelic (because plot reasons), some chimes, and final assembly, but it has the right shape. You can see what rough beast caleighs its way towards Newfoundland in this.

That’s Ellen Eades on hammer dulcimer, Sunnie Larsen on fiddle, me on mandolin and Irish bozouki, and…

You may notice also notice a bass instrument in there. I’ve posted it separately:

I am so pleased with myself over this entirely accidental discovery. Everyone I’ve played it for has guessed standup bass or double-bass (including a professional cellist), but give your opinion; then guess what it actually is. I dare you. I double dog dare you.

I’ll tell you this much: it’s not synthetic, and it’s not a double-bass.

Actually, should I make this a contest? I haven’t done a contest in forever. First person to guess right – WHO HASN’T ALREADY BEEN TOLD AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE – gets a download of any album I have on Bandcamp, including this one once it comes out, which it hasn’t yet. Go!

late night inventions

Sometimes, late at night, I discover things. Sometimes they are hilarious things. Sometimes they are hilarious things that are awesome and end up on albums.

This is one of those times.

And everybody is in bed and I have nobody to play it to, and I can’t post it, because unfinished project (because, oh yeah, this is going on the soundtrack album) so I won’t link that in public.


last day for free downloads

I meant to turn off free/pay-what-you-like Bandcamp downloads last week, but I didn’t warn people. Accordingly:

Today is the last day you can pull my Bandcamp albums down for free/pay-what-you-like. So grab while the grabbing’s good; I’m putting minimums back on tomorrow.

A couple of singles – Kaiju Meat and The S-100 Bus being notable examples – will stay free/pay-what-you-like permanently, but the rest? Not so much.


When recording Dick Tracy Must Die, I had not the most idea in the world of what I was doing. I knew about comps, but not comp sheets. Most of you know about neither! Comping is the process of taking multiple takes of some instrument or vocal part and editing together the Best of All Worlds version; the result is called a “comp” take. It’s short for “composite,” and it’s standard and has been for decades now.

Comp sheets are timelines, basically, where you listen to a particular part in a song, and making notes as you go in time. So if there’s something you don’t like at 1m30s, you put a note there, as the song is playing. Very straightforward, really – but they didn’t occur to me, so most of the time my approach was to keep going until I had a track I thought was pretty damn close to perfect to start with, then just re-record the imperfect bits until I got them, too, all as part of the mixing process.

That screaming you hear in the distance? That’s every competent audio engineer in the world hearing what I just said. It’s kind of like inserting important ingredients – like, say, sugar, or flavouring – into the cake after you’ve put it in the oven.

Anyway, it’s also very much taking the slow boat to China, as I learned while working with Leannan Sidhe on her Mine to Love. Now I know better! And me being me, of course, that meant YAY TIME TO DESIGN A THING! So I have!

Version Zero (click to enlarge)
It’s the only legal (sized) thing at Supervillain Studio, ar ar ar ar ar

I was smart enough to print one copy and try to use it, because I’ve already thought of like five changes I want to make. And the hard part about that is making myself not stop and make new changes every time I think of one.

Because hopping christ on a pogo stick, comping is boring. Oh god it’s boring. It’s the line editing of music, and it is farking dull. I’ve been called a fantastic editor by people who’ve seen me work, and I think I deserve some of that rep (assembling “The Diesel-Driven Eight-Dimensional Jet Car Blues” out of bits and pieces from a movie soundtrack was a pretty good educational experience), but it’s still a bit brain-melty with all the tediousness.

And easy graphic design improvements to a tool/form I actually need? CAN DO SPORT.

But I’m being good. I’ll finish this track first. Then I’ll need to print a new one anyway, so I’ll make the improvements then, and test that. Because I can make all the BASK IN THE GLAMOUR OF MY PAPERWORK FORMS jokes I want to, but this really is part of making the music. Not every day gets to be heat rays and kilotesla magnetic fields; just the really good days. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration – I’d maybe quibble a bit with the numbers, but certainly not the concept. That Edison guy may’ve been a bit of a bastard, but he pretty much got that idea right.

working but not hard enough

Working. Mostly catch-up of daily life paperwork, but also some annoyances (like oh yes, our house and business insurance exploded again, because kill everyone, and I’m not giving more details because in one case my next call may have to be to my lawyer), but some on music too.

Clicking enlarges

Working on the flute track for this piece and it’s all SORRY I FORGOT HOW TO FLUTE. Which means, my embouchure is really, seriously out of shape, and that matters because I need it for this track. Ah, well, I’m working on it, and it’s improving. But damn.

up late in up lake

Up late comping fiddle and listening to J-Pop of the 1980s, in a two-hour compilation tw:freedrull found on YouTube. (“Category: Science & Technology” Awesome.)

The fiddle is for the Bone Walker/Free Court of Seattle soundtrack album – I played a bit of it in the latest episode of the podcast – and I’m trying to get reasonable comps ready for Friday’s recording session with Ellen Eades on hammer dulcimer.

I made kind of an ad hoc standing configuration for my digital audio workstation. I hate sitting for long periods of time – I’m too antsy for that! But it turns out a music stand makes a fine keyboard shelf:

Turns out I’m more likely to start working if I don’t have to sit down, and can wander away and back to it. So I’ll keep this kind of thing as an option. I’m building a better keyboard shelf that’ll have room for the trackball and also attach to a mic stand, because if you’re going to engineer something, you should totally over-engineer it. (I tried just putting a board on the music stand… it was too wibbly.)

Did I take pictures? lolno. I’ll post about it later anyway, though. It’s an easy build.


I don’t listen to my own work much – I mean, I hear it a lot, in rehearsal, right? – but it’s not just that, it’s that I can’t hear anything but all the flaws. I’m told that’s pretty common, but not universal; it’s just a quirk some artists have. Actors, too; Bill Shatner just recently said on his Twitter account that he never watches his own performances after production, for the same reason.* He’s not the only one; just the one I’ve seen say so recently.

But even with all that in mind, I do listen to my own material occasionally, for one reason or another. I listened to a few tracks on Dick Tracy Must Die this past weekend, and aside from the usual hyperfocus on flaws nobody else ever hears, I listen to those vocals and know – know – how far I’ve come as a vocalist since recording those back in 2011.

A lot of it, I can live with. The vocals… I don’t know. So I think about going back and fixing them – by which I mean re-performing them entirely – but that opens whole shipments of worms, not just individual cans. Would I start screwing with “Shout at the Desert” and how I think it’s recorded too fast? Would I start remastering the whole damn album? I have new albums to make, I don’t have time for this – but I’m insecure and worry that my old vocals are weighing down my current opportunities.

Balanced against that – I don’t get many album reviews, but the few I have got have been pretty damned good.

That’s a pretty scary rabbit hole, no matter how you look at it. Lucas’s revisionism started out fine, too – no? Don’t believe me? Look at the before-and-afters for Young Indiana Jones. That’s where it started. The revised cinema-oriented episodes are genuinely better than the shorter as-aired episodes, and are really kind of wonderful. That round of Lucas revisionism was an unqualified success. Only later did it turn feral.

So, yeah. I kind of honestly don’t know what to do here. If anybody who has heard me perform lately has any opinions, I really do want to hear them, because the artist is generally the worst judge of their own work. And while I put up a pretty good front, I don’t always have the confidence I should just to bully my way through.

*: And jokes about overacting aside – of course he’s guilty of it on a regular basis – he’s also a very good comedic actor and does, in the right hands, deliver an entirely credible dramatic performance. If you don’t believe me, go watch his turn on Playhouse 90 sometime. I suspect he’s just flat out better at drama on stage.

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