Artist: Almark Title: A-Test Keywords: electronic, avant-garde Reviewer: Carrie N. “This is a test”… Almark is a musician from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The music gives very weird feeling when being liste…
When music went to CDs and other digital formats it lost a lot of it’s warm sound, much of todays music is recorded either at home with software or by a professional studio using analog equipment. Either way the final transition goes to digital, MP3’s, flac, wav and so on. As technology progresses we are able to create the sound that was lost long ago using virtual effects and virtual instruments, soft synths, etc. I’ve noticed in the past 2 years EQ plugins sound less aliased than they did 6 years ago. The sound of near analog is heard, without the hum, without the 60hz interference. But still there is no actual warmth, the warmth comes from a solid state mixing board and equipment.
On my last album I was able to create this warmth using various plugins, since the entire album was written and mixed with software I was able to create some songs with tape emulation, this is very noticeable in Wow-and-Flutter on -ATD-, where the debilitate use of tape drag is heard throughout the track. Digital music can be very harsh, not to mention pure noise, the louder we turn up the masters we work on. Too much compression causes the drums to sound like someone stepped on them, and since there is only a 0 db limit peaking, “after that it’s all noise”, we’re kind of limited considering analog was about +3 db with room to spare. You also have to take into consideration -RMS (Root mean squared) where the power of the audio is exponentially turned up every 1 db of boost, -6 is commercial loudness, -3 RMS is actually damaging to listen to for prolonged periods.
Once you go above -3 it’s all noise, but even today commercial music is being mastered at -3 RMS! That leaves -3 more db of RMS left only, very little headroom, mostly static and clipping. Tape allowed for that breathing room better, but I have read that there were less bits on tape compared to say 16 bit on a CD, the quality on tape is actually less, cassette tape that is. People who were lucky to own a reel to reel recorder had far superior sound quality than a cassette. But then you have to contend with real wow-and-flutter sounds, the dragging of tape, the speed at which the tape is played not continuous like a CD but wobbly at times. Classical music with wow-and-flutter artifacts would be a good example of the dragging sound, kind of eerie sounding, especially when it’s some Aria or Opera. Digital music also has 0 DC and analog is not flat on the waveform, usually off center, even by a small %, making the waveform move off center a little, corrected with audio editing software. Today we have 24 and 32 bit sample rates.
The higher sample rate, 32 bit floating point is very quiet and allows for that limit that digital audio has, giving you a few more decibels of headroom, but once you mixdown to 16 bit (who would these days) unless you need a CD burned, you start to clip. With some plugins you can achieve the warm sound that literally adds fuzz and a noise ratio, introducing emulated tape hiss. The hiss sounds so authentic without the trained ear no one would know. We can now fake analog signals and let some warmth be heard by boosting the lower frequencies, the subs especially, around 60 hz to 100 without cutting the mids too much. Most free EQs do not produce the quality of superior sounding digital EQs, so keep that in mind. The sound designers have used tricks these days to give us that fake warm sound, some allow distortion, or harmonic exciters built into the plugin itself. Fabfilters are a excellent example of where EQ’s are going and the quality gets better and better over time. Until next time.
Why not I say? I grew up hearing many types of genres, from 80s rock, 60s soul, Classic Rock, Top 20, movie soundtracks and even Jazz, Grunge, Rap, hiphop, pop, etc. When you have listened to so much music eventually you settle in a place where you feel most comfortable, I knew 14 years ago that I would still love Electronic music probably for the rest of my life, it was a time where I tapered off hearing the older music, growing up to metal, grunge and so forth, I was content and even my style of music changed that I was making, as guitar was no longer prevalent to me, I was simply transforming. It probably happened because someone I knew stole my amp and pedals and I lost my guitar to the pawn shop. But I kept my acoustic and still play often. Electronic music just has a different vibe that draws me into it, it’s like the modern jazz that never gets old, and yet we’re hearing not real drums but synthetic ones, to be honest the ears prefer pulse waves over acoustic drums it seems.
While I also love Classical these days, my listening habits fluctuate but always end up on the main, electronic. Electronic music seems to be a place where I am calm, it relaxes me, I use to listen to a lot of metal and Grunge and while I loved those bands I had to move on, I still listen to a lot of what I use to on occasion, but mostly Electronic. In the world of Electronic you can hear all types of genres, a friend and I have been speaking about how jazz influences a wide range of electronic music and I have to agree on that assumption. The deep bass tones from waveforms draws me into it’s sound, Electronic music is not set in stone and we don’t have to worry about rules or where it’s going, no matter how mainstream it becomes it’s still what it is, another form of music, but it still has much to evolve, we haven’t learned enough from it yet, presets are the problem I’m afraid, i’m just as guilty from this, as sometimes I make things from scratch but presets allow for a boost of creativity in your synthesis work.
Sound design brings forth new sounds and I’m always finding that I love the sound from a certain preset, that’s what they are for, a boost, when you enjoy the sound you have to use it, I don’t use a sound to cheat. If I can make one I do sometimes. Electronic music is a free spirit, it moves where it wants, since there are so many forms of it we’re pretty much unlimited to choices. It doesn’t feel as restrained as guitar rock or other forms of 4/4 music, it’s intelligent, interesting and raw as it wishes. A synthesizer has more buttons than a guitar, and being a guitarist I understand both worlds quite well. The world of electronic music is infinite, it’s just that you can do more with the sound, it’s more open to expression, and jazz, even on guitar is it’s infinite world, rock has limits, metal as well, it all comes down to jazz I suppose. Until next time.
I wonder sometimes why I prefer listening to electronic music than I do anything else. My brain is not much different to anyone else I guess. So is it my imagination or my is it my level of thinking that makes me like IDM. I think it is important to listen to all types of music. I have listened to all sorts of genres like Jazz, Asian and folk music. I think this gives you an appreciation that not everything just fits to a 4/4 beat or a standard chord structure.
I can honestly say that I do not understand music theory. I really don’t need to understand it as long as I can get the notes to fit on the grid. Jazz teaches us chords that don’t get used in popular music, but in the right place a diminished chord or an augmented chord can sound spectacular.
I try to steer away from 3 note chords. They just sound plain to my ears. Quite often I use two notes chords with a base note acting as the root note or the middle note. You have to experiment to get the structures unusually nice. By listening to Jazz I have made some great discoveries about chords. By listening to tribal music I have discovered how rhythms can be syncopated.
I believe that if you can listen carefully enough to music that you don’t really understand then you pick up some new musical idea from it. You may not use it for a few days but you’ll have that idea playing in the back of your mind, that sound you heard, that beat that stuck in your mind; It’ll come out in an unexpected way.
So what I’m saying is don’t just listen to standard types of music, get right out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Explore Youtube, find something different to listen to and absorb it like a musical sponge. Your brain is receptive to anything, it is just the cultural and social boundaries that prevent us from leaving the accepted paths. The more diverse your way of thinking, the more diverse your creativity.
Fusus is on our group “We are the New Underground.”
Check out her music.
existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence:
"abstract concepts such as love or beauty"
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It goes deeper than that, especially in music, take if you will the element of a melody but instead of playing or layering the sounds together, you instead take them apart, thus showing their vague sides to be heard. When I approach electronic music I do not set rules. What comes out is how the music is made, keyboard and DAW, melodies from the mind to the keyboard and then arranged from scratch. Abstract Electronic music is not a genre, it touches between the avant-garde and some strange artwork in a museum. I often find myself admiring abstract art, and others are turned off by such as these, strange I think to myself. Now I don’t enjoy all abstract art, but I’m finding it in many places these days, even video games. There is something about these shapes, patterns and colors. If you think about them and apply the idea to music you have much the same thing, only in sound form. It’s neither complex or simple. One of the reasons why abstract art is so hard to present is due to it’s patchy nature, it only appeals to the certain individual, a characteristic that lures the unique soul who finds comfort in it. Electronic music may have rules but then again, no music has rules once you leave the box. The avant-garde may very well be the world of the abstract but this is debatable, between the two they somehow compliment each other, with melody one is using harmony (traditional) while the other the abstract and or avant-garde come together to create unorthodox moments. In 2013 I wrote a album called ‘The Nineteen Eighty Four show’ this was very abstract, it’s like a strange work of art once you listen to it and actually let it absorb into your mind it begins to make you want to hear it more, that is if you are intrigued by that sort of thing. With Electronic I’ve always had this inside of me, even 14 years ago I called one of my album Abstract Electronic, simply because it does not seem to sound modern or traditional. Since there are so few who are actually abstract sounding I will list who I feel sound this way, they are as follows. Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher and GusGus. Over the years I have discovered that the abstract in Electronic is hyper theory, or a word I simply think of, another form of music theory, where one even touches the jazz sound, while not having training in either Jazz music or music theory I have somehow found a way to this world of strange and unique, hidden and even avant-garde. Below is the album I spoke of “The 1984 show” As the years continue and discovery of more strange elements the music continues to evolve in my ears. Until next time.
It all starts with your music, it starts with the first time you release a song to the Internet and few hear it, for a solo artist this is something very normal now, there are many of us, we all release music without much thought to consequence, other than we want the music to be heard, or spoken of. I can’t give a perfect map as to what the Underground is in terms of ‘hidden’ but in my words.. Once you the solo artist release music it is in a place of nowhere, twitter posts by you, you the person are seeking to be known, this is not the underground but beyond or away from it. In order to be in the underground you must be known in the underground, a few groups does not classify you in that realm of listeners. They, the people who discover you does not give you classification (yet) From discovery I understand a little more of what means to be known. If someone finds you in blog after blog, you are swimming in the underground, your music is now being heard with countless other ‘featured’ acts, and this my friends is how it starts. If you the musician are not featured in blogs, reviews or followed by many so-called fans, you are a solo and private artist. We might think it’s easy to break into the underground, it isn’t. The underground is like a layer where media is starting to notice what you do, you get your music in big blogs, things like Pitchfork, Resident Advisor and even Rolling Stone, you are not mainstream, that is set aside for bigger fish, aren’t you glad? The layers are this.
non-notable indie reviews
Interviews and net radio
ei: stuff like rockers dive, Lonely Oak radio.
Friends who follow you in numbers and listen
Some sales, good comments and being noticed by other indie artists.
FM college radio and so on, small time things.
Starting to get noticed in the underground, reposts, people checking out your blogs, finding your album showcased in places unknown.
Viral coverage, more reposts and finding people who say they heard you on this and that net-radio (hasn’t happened yet)
Breaking through the solo indie world into another layer, the underground.
Notable coverage of a few online magazines discovering you or by sending the music to them.
Followers increase in twitter, facebook, you are now being noticed in the underground, you are no longer ignored. Sales go up by 10% and reviewers now seek you.
Spin finds your latest album and wants to do a review on you, other such magazines and so forth. The competition of being known is happening. You have achieved being heard and known in the underground. When people say, have you heard that new such and such album, underground listeners that is, that is being underground.
All of this seems quiet disheartening, and it is, the Internet is vast and you and I are nobodies until we are noticed, but with continued effort and annoyance of being ignored, eventually someone will be kind to review you, that is beyond the non-notable and into blogs that actually matter. Have I achieved the underground? Not yet.. But I did break into the sharing world in 2010, it’s a slow uphill climb, it depends on your music preference.
Until next time.
From the 80’s to the Internet
Hi, my name is Hannah Thurston (aka Fusus) self proclaimed synth geek. Here’s some thoughts on the progression of the synth from the 80’s to the Internet.
Electronic music is a many splendoured thing. It covers so many styles and genres I’ve lost track of them all! It’s funny how in the 80’s that synth music dominated the charts. The synth was the defining sound for many artists at the time. So what lead to the demise of synth pop? where did synth music go to find shelter?
Synths to Samplers
80’s synths became unfashionable in the 90’s. For instance, the Yamaha DX7 was prolific in the 80’s but by the 90’s it was almost totally forgotten. Sitting unused in many studios. The problem was that it was too difficult to program so you were stuck with the presets. No one wanted to hear that FM Bass One sound any more, it was considered to be too kitch for further use. The Roland Juno 106 (the poor man’s Jupiter 6) was also left to gain dust in many studio corners. because they had been overused for pad and brass sounds. So what replaced these iconic synths? Well, samplers of course. No one needed synths any more. You could buy a disk with a multi-sampled piano and it would sound like a piano, not a cold DX piano.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
During the 90’s the only thing that saved these old synths from the scrap heap was rave music. You could pick up a DX7 for about £150 quid and use it blow your bass bins. The usage changed because the necessity changed. For some reason best known to themselves the main synth manufacturers decided to standardize their sound sets causing one of the biggest cock-ups in synth history…….General Midi(spit). The mainstream synth became a bland excuse for a home keyboard. Interestingly the biggest selling synth of the 90’s was the Korg M1, a sampled based synthesizer which didn’t even boast resonant filters. The rave scene loved this synth and it featured prominently in the charts right through the mid to late 90’s (this was not a GM synth……good going Korg!).
By the mid 90’s synth sales had swung in favour of samplers. It took a few years for the synth
manufacturers to realize that GM was going nowhere and then ‘hey presto’ they made up for it with the invention of Physical Modeling and The Virtual Analogue Synth. The Roland JP8000 was like manor from heaven for synth enthusiasts. And then something even better happened…..The Virtual Studio. PC’s became powerful enough to be your multi-track and your collection of synths. It was like having Jean Michelle Jarre’s entire studio handed straight to you, but on a hard drive.
The late 90’s saw the revival of electronic music largely because of the PC. Today, all the synths you could ever want are available as VSTi’s (virtual instruments) which are downloadable for free from various sites. The Internet also provides us with the platform to share our VST created electronic music. I can find hundreds of artists on Soundcloud who make excellent electronic music with no commercial interests. The community of electronic artists grows everyday. I see the Internet as the future of music where no, or little profit are sought.
And as for Commercialism
This means a loss of revenue for the big labels because we’re not listening to conventional radio stations so much. Commercial music belongs on the radio anyway. The charts are of no concern to us. The charts were invented for record labels to compare sales. Who gives a damn who’s at number one any more? Does it matter? If we can hear what we want to hear on the Internet for free, then we don’t need you Sony, EMI…..sorry guys. But lets hope that Soundcloud doesn’t get taken over for commercial gain. If it does, I’m leaving and going somewhere else, that’s for sure.
Fusus is one of our members on “We are the New Underground” you can hear her music on SC and contact her on twitter.
We grow up hearing things that influence us as musicians, sometimes we don’t know we are musicians until later in life. But if you are one, you are from the day you walk. If by finding that you’re making beats on tables or car panel while your parents drive you to school then yes, you have those talents hidden in you. The furthest back I can remember is when I was quite young, 11 comes to mind where I was tapping away with my fingers like some Techno beat on a table one day in time to nothing, but I thought it sounded cool, and at this time I didn’t play guitar or anything for that matter. Being 1988 I instead had a huge love for Nintendo.
Some might say, what are your influences, what makes you sound the way you do? It’s really hard to say what those things are, these days I’d like to attribute my influences to life mostly, the depth of the soul, the imagination and experimenting with the unknown. I do have musical roots, I will skip guitar roots as they may not apply to what I do Electronically.
If anything hearing 80s pop may have been a reason, because during those days much of the music was electronic driven, some of it was synthpop, some of it was mainstream, either way it had a good beat, retro is deep in my veins and this tendency came out in my last album -ATD-. But still when you search through your life as to why you sound the way you do there is only a list of reasons but no real solid reason why. Dare I say progression? Beginning with no training as to how to make or write electronic music in 2000, no tutorials, no Youtube or special manuals, just experimentation, alone in a dark apt with no Internet. Yes, progression and more, taking these influences such as Industrial, EBM, Goth, Ambient, Classical, Jazz, Cinematic, DnB, Glitch, New Wave, Synthpop, Darkwave, Electro, 80s soundtracks, and Severed Heads, plus the act of doing whatever, including an ‘abstract approach’ for the sake of sounding interesting, I came to where I am today.
I’ve often searched for others who have the same sound, that’s like looking for the same stamp that is labeling all your factory items, no two are alike, and this case, the approach to the avant-garde makes it even more, dare I say original? So long ago I stopped searching, if you can say with confidence you sound different, then good, because that honor is certainly something of a rarity, and I would rather be different than famous and never make any headlines, knowing that I didn’t give into the modern fad of ‘enter next mainstream genre here’ Over the years I have gone different directions and left behind all influences to do something unique, and it’s hard to do that because music is finite to our hearing and understanding, but infinite to our imagination. There are millions of ways to make a chord, a progression of notes or arpeggios, but given a different tone of say timbres or harmonics these things turn into something otherworldly.
You see it’s important to be happy with one’s craft, or we get bored and go back to cutting wood or building a house, or playing video games for our full time hobbies. When you can use influences such as the air you breathe as a poetic outlet into the world of music that is when you have broken free of any media bubble, because in nature, in life and in soul there is an infinate world of sound, the ‘cone of silence’ I like to call it. As I apporach it I feel more in tune with an entirely different sound in writing music, and build off of the past efforts to make something new and strange, or unusual. This certainly could be explored more in greater detail, even by writing these words, expect a part 2 in time.
No one knows this answer really, unless you are backed by some known label. The Internet is a huge place and you can be swallowed whole if not careful. Twitter allows for people to access what you’re doing once you build up a group who actually take time to listen to your rants, posts and dare I say, music. Over time you find those with like-minded feelings toward what you do and this in turn builds rapport with others, they repost, and share what updates you have with their friends and you grow. Sometimes we need a boost though, blogs and reviews help in a great way, without them we are lost to the mass of others. We have to keep relations with others, this becomes automatic promotion, a simple ‘how are you’ is fine most of the time. RT a person’s post builds trust and confidence that you are loyal in that respect, we’re all helping the other out in the underground world. But I went a step further as to bring focus to many electronic musicians, check out this group, many of these people are hardly heard or greatly heard, either way the more exposure the more notable we become, let’s be known. We are the New Underground. Covering a wide spectrum of Electronic styles, underground, mind you.
One Million Random Digits by Bjørn & Ulf The only source material used for this arrangement is the digits in the famous book “A Million Random Digits” (from 1955). Numbers in the book was first made into raw sound (noise), then processed and arranged. The raw sound can be download here http://ift.tt/XsBPwJ
One Million Random Digits by Ulf Rørbæk
As the years pass we tend to develop a different pallet of likes and dislikes and loves. It seems the older I get, the more picky I become musically. Guitar riffs bore me to death, and that’s the majority of the guitar music that is coming forth these days, but sometimes I am impressed. Being a guitarist myself you would say, hypocrite, not so, basically the depth of guitar and music for that matter is lost in many areas these days so it’s no wonder I was un-wowed by Emo and other forms of music since early 2000. The true artist is lost to the mass of so-called musicians. We live in a time where everyone wants to be a musician, or everyone is a musician.
Can everyone be poets? No of course not, where would the romance be if that were true, yet everyone is a poet, do you see my point? Beat-makers a plenty is today’s world of music. One is a so-called drummer, one is a so-called guitarist, he/she can play a few chords and form a band and have fun, music is more than that. It’s a depth that is so intense that it makes you feel as if you’re rising off the ground. I haven’t heard much guitar music that gives me chills since the late 90s, and that comes from taste and being a little more selective than others, this isn’t my fault, it’s just the way things are. So in this regard I simply go backwards into what I love, I did grow up to many things, guitar music in the 90s was pretty amazing, ever feel chills listening to AIC? I did and still do, and I’m not super into listening to Grunge as much these days, I still enjoy it at times, it is in fact the music I grew up to. Electronic was my 2nd love, guitar the first. Don’t forget Radiohead, amazing music.
So I began playing guitar in 1992 then came to experiment with electronic about 1998, over the years from 2000 - I’ve heard a lot of music that bores me to death, I literately turn off whatever noise machine I’m hearing, radio or television and go looking for something that moves me, I’m spoiled, can’t help it. When you have a Classical taste, “this is a figure of speech” you want more that a couple of heavy chords, you want substance, I’m hungry I say, so I go looking for intelligent music that eventually fulfills me. In the past more people would explore music in big ways, during the 80s there were these avant-garde groups such as Dalis Car , Peter Murphy - Bauhaus and Mick Karn - of Japan, I never heard this music until about 3 years ago, you can imagine how I felt hearing it, amazing work.
A lot of these gems are hidden in the past, but thanks to the Internet we can now find them. Take today’s underground music, such brilliant musicians I’ve met. Brokenkites, Wasaaga, and 3dtorus and a few others and thankfully I know them. These are what I call ‘artists’ real musicians, they move me, it takes a lot to move me, just as I have to make music to move myself, EDM does not move me, Dubstep does not, but the real passionate spirit of a talented person who isn’t just pushing buttons does. Call me a music snob I don’t care, let’s hear something that is brilliant for a change, math rock is getting old and Electronic music is still far from being explored, the hidden artists are doing things that no ears have heard before, yet these people are ignored to the greatest degree, while pop-media is #1. Do you realize that the music that has been played outside the underground has sounded that way for over 15 years? That’s a pretty sad thing isn’t it? So clearly the depth is lost with repetition and drone-like guitar muddiness that never seems to change, Cold Play anyone? Now you understand..