Thursday, February 21, 2013

Analogue Man and Rack Effects

I am continuing to enjoy reading "Analogue Man's Guide to Vintage Effects". There is some really good information in this book but to be honest I don't have all that much interest in old analogue effects. I have some mid to high end effects that I like just fine and a few low end EH boxes because they do something unique.

Analogue Man believes that rack mount effects are all terrible. We will have to agree to disagree here but I do like analogue electronics, I have a full line of foogers in addition to my digital effects.

IMHO analogue be it effects or synths are different animals. I think the mistake some make is to believe that you have to have only one or the other. I like analogue for different reasons. It's like saying you can't like both acoustic and electric guitars. Not true. Again, they are just different animals.

Analogue tends to have a certain mysterious element to it. If I use a digital effect it just rubs a program and you more or less know what you are getting which can be very useful. With analogue, I twist knobs and sometimes strange sounds come out. Anyone who has used FM on a Voyager will know what I mean but also freq box foogers and others. There is a high "What the hell was that" factor. So, analogue lends itself to experimentation.

Another complaint of digital is the interface on rack mounts. Ok, point scored. Yes, it's not all that easy to program these beasties but they are also not on trick ponies. Some, like Eventide, have tried to tame the beast with smaller boxes that do a lot but have smaller parameter spaces. On the flexibility issue the digital beasties win. If your just a wannabe guitar player who thinks he/ she can sound like x by buying a pedal they use, then sure, go buy the pedal. You won't sound anything like your guitar hero but sophistication would be wasted with anything more than a "louder" or "grungier" button.

So, on the which sounds better battle - neither. They both serve a purpose.

Analogue effects are more experimental, digital are more flexible. Again, it depends on what you want and that can even vary from song to song. Music is never black and white which is why I love it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

More Wob Wob Wob

I am sure that most people remember the Saturday Night Live skit with Christopher Walken asking for more and more cowbell. Lately, I feel like him. I was researching some musical ideas this morning and last night and I already have 3 more pieces of gear I would like much like the comical call for more cowbell. Then I started thinking about those early pioneers of electronic music who either spent days slicing tapes, punching cards to run a computer program or using rudimentary oscillators to make electronic music that in many ways is far more creative than anything today my own work included.

I know I tend to pick on dub step as a genre but it seems to me it's based on a single sound used in cliched variations of wob wob wob to crank out dance music for crazed drug addled youth at raves. Ok, sure I guess I sound like a grumpy old man and yes, I am showing my age. But I think of Alvin Lucier's "Dripsody" or Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Hymnen" which are wonderful collages of sound pieced together by by artists who would have dreamed of having the tools I have to work with.

About a week ago I started thinking about cross overs. I built one not by buying new gear but using Live's instrument racks and EQ8 and a few soft synths and hardware I already have. I loved the results. So much so I started a new project called the mirror project. Mirrors help us to see ourselves. We see the faces of many people every day but we only see ourselves in mirrors. Musically I think I have become so consumed by looking for the next best cowbell that I failed to realize the magic of sound that those early artists knew so much about.

So, I look in the mirror and realize that I don't need more gear or cowbell but it's time to start really listening and thinking about sound and music and like Alice in the Carol's tale go through the looking glass and rediscover the magic of sound free of the burden of worrying about new gear. The old gear still has many secrets to be revealed just behind the looking glass.