40 Yards from the Machine LP - Liner Notes

Notes for the 40 Yards from the Machine LP on Bandcamp. These are mostly tech jottings so I remember what I did. Any thoughts, questions, etc on the music itself are welcome at the email address on this about page.

1. Cave Man Sample Dump 03:07

After owning Elektron's Sidstation for a few years, am finally buckling down to programming patches in it instead of merely tweaking presets. When I first acquired the thing the LED menus just seemed too obscure and daunting. I think a couple of years working with modular hardware has helped me understand what I want to program in the SID, which gives me the incentive to get in there and dig around in all those nested subcommands (on a tiny green screen). Having said all that, this is not sophisticated tunesmithing, owing more to the Troggs than Les Paul. As for the vocal samples, processed with Doepfer's A-112 sampler module for Eurorack, it's kind of a first for me to be doing this Art of Noise thing that was beaten to death in the '80s, e.g., using the "duh" in "dump" as a repeated percussion hit. Suddenly, now, I want to hear this again.

2. Bitter Incumbent 02:44

Reaktor's OKI Computer 2, a chiptune-esque wavetable synth, sequenced with the Monoliner virtual sequencer and overtracked, spins out the opening and closing segments. Sandwiched in between is a bazooka blast of arpeggiation emanating from the Sidstation, using two of its oscillators as the alto and the soprano and kind of shamelessly transposing away. Shameless because it's so easy to do -- but I love those harmonies. The basic note-on patterns are coming from the Octatrack.

3. Have Gear Will Geer 02:30

Used the Expert Sleepers ES-4 module to trigger and LFO-sculpt various modular patches. At the end I had a collection of patterns that were too diverse to beatmatch or melodymatch into a proper song, so I made a "suite." The title has nothing whatsoever to do with Will Geer's amazing performance as an evil Colonel Sanders-cum-Dick Cheney CEO in John Frankenheimer's film Seconds.

4. Lapdance Landscape 03:47

This started out as an industrial throbber done live with the modular synth (making use of various oscillator-type modules and assorted envelopes), but then a wistful tune was added. The latter is the Massive (wavetable) softsynth, starting from a blank preset and building up a chord (0-2-7 -- what is that?) with some modulation and effects. The only canned sounds were some hihats but even those got effects.

5. Your Toy Army 01:34

Pure Sidstation sounds, driven by MIDI notes from the Octatrack. The opening is the preset "Chordmemry," with jiggered LFOs. Other sounds are patches I made from scratch, including the noisy wavetable one that sounds like an ancient computer game -- which one I couldn't say.

6. Texas Sawtooth Massacre 02:33

Sounds from the computer_controlled_rack (the name I gave my modular on the Modular Grid gear fetish website), MIDI-triggered, sampled, and arranged in the Octatrack. The main excitement here is a gritty wavetable sample originating in the WMD Gamma Wave Source module, sampled by the Doepfer A-112 in wavetable mode (with CV-sweeping of the table at my barbaric skill level), played as a MIDI controlled synth (with hi, lo and notch filters), sampled in the Octatrack, then "sliced" and rearranged to make 10 or so patterns. There is also a bass line and the reappearance of the most famous beat in the history of electronic music. This is kind of rough going at the outset but gets better as it progresses IMHO.
Note: after the above was written I remixed this, with a hand-crafted substitute breakbeat (before and after the redo, it's slowed down about 30 bpm for this song) and also EQ'd to removed some high pitched spikes that were drilling through my eardrum.

7. House Dwellers 02:40

All-Octatrack-and-Eurorack rendition of a House-like tune. This is pretty crunchy, what with all the low-bit-depth and low-sample-rate sampling going on. Am happy with the way this came together, using the Octatrack to MIDI-trigger and sample 1- to 4-bar motifs that are layered and arranged. One modular synth riff was borrowed from an earlier track, "Soul Fusion Disassembly."

8. The Enveloping Shape 02:37

Long chains of random percussion sounds were edited down to discrete loops and layered. The idea was to find musicality in noise. The percussion originated with some Reaktor beats individually manicured and played in the computer_controlled_rack's two lo-fi sampler modules, the Doepfer A-112 and the ADDAC wav player. LFOs were used to scramble wav order, sample start time, loop size, sample rate, etc -- all the classic tricks you can do with these units -- and the output went to modular filters and delays that were further LFO'd. Seductive as the output was, it was further wrangled to make blocklike patterns that could be assembled in Cubase into a composition. Am thinking more of music these days as a process like filmmaking, where you do all your shooting and then retire to the editing room to make the film. The title comes from a plugin I used to reduce certain transients from explosive, speaker-rending pops to something more listenable (Steinberg's "envelope shaper").

9. 40 Yards from the Machine 03:09

Spoken word sample ("some forty yards from the machine," randomly read aloud from Charles Fort's book Wild Talents) recorded in the Doepfer A-112 sampler module in "wavetable record" mode with the Expert Sleepers Silent Way LFO (20HZ Sine Wave) modulating the CV at the input stage. Despite the manual's promise of "drastic" effects resulting from this, so far all it seems to do is add a crackle to the recorded wav. Am probably doing it wrong but in wavetable mode it doesn't really matter what the sample "sounds like" because it's just repeating small snippets of the waveforms. On playback, Silent Way LFOs set to various speeds, waveforms, and ranges modulate the wavetable output, yielding mangled vocals and staccato pulses that resolve into pitched buzzes and hums. This raw output is then snipped and rearranged in Cubase to make musical patterns and severely damaged-sounding robotic vocalese.

10. Ambigious Anthem 00:41

NI Massive synth preset "Ambiguous" played over Sidstation beats from a Battery kit I made a while back. Some sampler module texture near the end of the track.