Station Point

Crafting Tune Artifacts

Alien Autopsy Via Sample-Rate Reduction

Posted on | January 6, 2011 | 2 Comments

Here’s a cool sound-design trick. If you want to get a vocal-sound­ing ‘for­mant fil­ter’ effect out of a synth that only has a nor­mal low­pass fil­ter, you can take advan­tage of a quirk of sam­ple-rate reduc­tion effects to gen­er­ate mul­ti­ple “mir­rored” fil­ter sweeps through the won­der of aliasing.

Here’s a sound clip from my machine­drum with a sim­ple saw­tooth note and a res­o­nant low­pass fil­ter being mod­u­lat­ed down over a quick sweep. It’s played four times, each with increas­ing amounts of sam­ple-rate reduc­tion applied:

increas­ing srr

This sam­ple looks like this in a sono­gram (I used the Sono­gram View plu­g­in that Apple includes with XCode). Hor­i­zon­tal axis is time, ver­ti­cal is frequency:

Notice that as the alias­ing (reflect­ed fre­quen­cies) increase with the sam­ple-rate reduc­tion effect, you begin to see mul­ti­ple copies of the fil­ter sweep. This cre­ates the love­ly, com­pli­cat­ed “alien voice” sound. Here’s a short Machine­Drum loop I was play­ing around with when I real­ized what was going on here:


And for the Elek­tron-heads read­ing this, here’s the MD sysex for that pattern+kit:

PS: the wikipedia arti­cle on alias­ing has a good run­down on the details of this phenomenon.

Wake Up Tech EP

Posted on | September 12, 2010 | No Comments

Out now on Beat­port,  Wake Up Tech fea­tures three orig­i­nal tracks and two dance­floor-friend­ly remix­es by Point­ben­der (Sean Ander­son) and Gift Cul­ture (Michael Hale). This EP was released under my tech-house alias ‘Chaka­har­ta’.

  1. Alem­bé
  2. Super­bro­ken
  3. Super­bro­ken (Point­ben­der’s Super­ben­der Mix)
  4. Super­bro­ken (Gift Cul­ture’s Psytech Mix)
  5. Jaz­zstab

Album art­work by Jamie Cameron Northrup.

Avail­able for Down­load on Beat­port.  Please pass the word if you like it, and thanks for your support!

Early Reviews:

Nick War­ren - “Excel­lent” [Hope Recordings)
Noah Pred
– “thanks for send­ing!  point­ben­der mix works best for me but the gift cul­ture mix has a nice groove too” [Thought­less Music]
Josh Collins
– “real­ly like those tracks, nice work!” [Human Life/NRK]
— “Very chunky!” [Freerange / NRK / Slip & Slide]
Soul Minor­i­ty
– “Alem­be is Superb !! Will sup­port Oth­er tracks are a bit too techy for me, but Alem­be in 10/10 !!! Thanks !” [Kolour / Pack Up And Dance / Stratospherik]

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Ableton Live, The Machinedrum and The Monomachine (Part 2): Minimizing Latency

Posted on | June 6, 2010 | 4 Comments

In Part one of this series, I post­ed tips for get­ting the Mono­ma­chine and Machine­drum synced and record­ing prop­er­ly with your Live ses­sions. The oth­er half of the equa­tion is which oper­a­tions to avoid that might intro­duce laten­cy and tim­ing errors dur­ing your sessions.

Ableton Prints Recordings Where It Thinks You Heard Them

I guess this design must be intu­itive for many users, but it con­fused me for a while.  If you have a set­up with any­thing but a minis­cule audio buffer, mon­i­tor­ing through a vir­tu­al instru­ment witha few laten­cy-induc­ing plu­g­ins in the mon­i­tor­ing chain, you will hear a fair amount of mon­i­tor­ing laten­cy when you play a note.  The same goes for record­ing audio.

When record­ing a MIDI clip, I expect­ed that Live puts the actu­al MIDI events when I played them — which it does­n’t.  It shifts the MIDI notes lat­er in time to match when you actu­al­ly heard the out­put sound — try­ing to account for your audio buffer delay, the laten­cy of your vir­tu­al instru­ment, and any audio pro­cess­ing delay from plu­g­ins in the down­stream sig­nal path.  There’s one excep­tion to this — it does­n’t wor­ry about delays you might hear due to any “Sends” your track is using.

So your MIDI notes (and CC’s) are record­ed with “baked-in” delays the size of your mon­i­tor­ing chain laten­cy. I’m going to call this baked laten­cy.

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Ableton Live, The Machinedrum and The Monomachine: Midi Sync Notes

Posted on | June 6, 2010 | 9 Comments

Recent­ly I’ve been (going crazy) get­ting the tim­ing tight between Able­ton and two out­board sequencers — the Elek­tron Mono­ma­chine and Machine­drum.  On their own, these sil­ver box­es have amaz­ing­ly tight tim­ing. They can sync to each oth­er to cre­ate a great live setup.

Add a com­put­er DAW into the loop, and you intro­duce jit­ter, laten­cy, and gen­er­al zani­ness to the equa­tion.  And it’s not triv­ial — this is obvi­ous­ly-miss­ing-the-down­beat, shoes-in-a-dry­er kind of bad.  I test­ed the jit­ter / laten­cy by ear, as well as by record­ing audio clips and mea­sur­ing the mil­lisec­ond off­sets from the expect­ed hit times.

I don’t think this is fun­da­men­tal­ly a slow com­put­er / poor set­up issue either — I’m run­ning a good inter­face, using a tiny 32 sam­ple audio buffer. The rest of the set­up is an i7 Intel Mac run­ning OS X 10.6.3, Able­ton Live 8.1.3, Emag­ic Uni­tor 8 midi inter­face and an Elek­tron TM‑1 Tur­bo­Mi­di inter­face for the Machinedrum.

Below is a jour­nal of what’s work­ing, what isn’t, and my the­o­ries on why… Read more

How To: Algorithmic Music with Ruby, Reaktor, and OSC

Posted on | November 20, 2009 | 2 Comments

The basic idea is to use a sim­ple OSC library avail­able for Ruby to code inter­est­ing music, and have Native Instru­ments’ Reak­tor serve as the sound engine. Tadayoshi Fun­a­ba has an excel­lent site includ­ing all sorts of inter­est­ing Ruby mod­ules.  I grabbed the osc.rb mod­ule and had fun with it.

I’m giv­ing a brief pre­sen­ta­tion at the Bay Area Com­put­er Music Tech­nol­o­gy Group (BAr­C­MuT) meet-up tomor­row, un-offi­cial­ly as part of Ruby­Conf 2009 here in San Francisco.

Here’s a link with down­loads and code from my talk.  It should be all you need to get start­ed, if you have a sys­tem capa­ble of run­ning Ruby, and a copy of Reak­tor 5+ (this should work with the demo ver­sion too).

Ruby mono sequence example:

reak­torOsc­Mono­Se­quences-192 MP3

Ruby poly­phon­ic drums example:

reak­torOscPoly­phon­ic­Drums-192 MP3

Leave a com­ment below if you have any ques­tions, or cool discoveries!


Machinedrum Recursive Sampling Test 02

Posted on | November 16, 2009 | 4 Comments


So this is anoth­er exam­ple of using the MD’s inter­nal sam­pler to cre­ate a recur­sive “feed­back loop” of sam­pling and resam­pling and resam­pling.… This has a ten­den­cy of psy­che­del­i­cal­ly twist­ing the under­ly­ing beat.  The way this stuff sounds has real­ly sur­passed my wildest dreams.

MD Recurse Test 02

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Machinedrum Recursive Sampling Test 01

Posted on | November 4, 2009 | 1 Comment

This was a first test at using the Machine­drum’s inter­nal sam­pler recur­sive­ly.  I was try­ing to emu­late my frac­tal waveta­bles sounds in hard­ware, as close­ly as the MD could do it.

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Cool Tricks For Better Mixes

Posted on | September 3, 2009 | No Comments

I recent­ly slugged through mix­down on my track Super Bro­ken and found the fol­low­ing 5 tips invaluable:

1. Mono Is Awesome

I’ve heard this one a mil­lion times, but nev­er actu­al­ly tried it. This arti­cle does a great job describ­ing the hows and whys: The Secret Ben­e­fits To Mix­ing In Mono. Among oth­er great insights — if you sum to mono and lis­ten through a sin­gle speak­er, you get less room and cross-speak­er interference. 

2. FX Halos

This is a great trick for time-expand­ing effects like delays and reverb. In a word, duck your effects sends by the sig­nals feed­ing them.  The grad­ual release of your duck­er / com­pres­sor cre­ates a “halo” around the dry sound, as the effect­ed tail glides up into the mix. This arti­cle does a great job describ­ing how to set this up in Able­ton Live.

3. The Law Of “Common Fate”

Learned this one from John Chown­ing, the father of FM syn­the­sis, at BAr­C­MuT talk.

Gestalt psy­chol­o­gy turns out to be a gold­mine for some mak­ing abstract works of art (like elec­tron­ic music). The law of “com­mon fate”, accord­ing to Wikipedia, is: “Ele­ments with the same mov­ing direc­tion are per­ceived as a col­lec­tive or unit.”

Chown­ing’s exam­ple had to do with apply­ing vibra­to to FM string sounds, but it has applic­a­bil­i­ty all over the mix­ing process.

For exam­ple, when “pump­ing” pads, hi-hats, and basslines in syn­co­pa­tion with the kick drum, the prin­ci­ple of “com­mon fate” sug­gests your brain will gel them into a unit — pro­vid­ing more con­trast between the upbeat and downbeat.

4. Embrace Subtle Delays

This is relat­ed to the pre­vi­ous point on “com­mon fate”.  I’ve found it’s very use­ful to use a short “ambi­ence” ‘verb, and send low lev­els of many parts of the song in order to “seat” every­thing in an acoustic space.  Again, this is an old trick, but I found this arti­cle illu­mi­nat­ing in know­ing what my brain wants to hear.

5. If You Make Dance Music, You Need To Be Able To Monitor Down To 28 Hz

And unless you’re in a real­ly, real­ly well-set­up room with no neigh­bors, that means get­ting a good pair of ‘cans.

After exten­sive research into every pair of head­phones I could find, I nar­rowed the field down to the Ultra­sone HFI-550’s. Got mine off Ama­zon for $89.  All I have to say is — 50 mm dri­vers (they don’t make the 550’s any­more, but the HFI-580’s are sim­i­lar).  I feel these come the clos­est to repli­cat­ing the sound of your track play­ing over a nice club sys­tem — espe­cial­ly in the bass depart­ment.  They did­n’t sound great when I first got them (com­pared to a 4 year old pair I’d bor­rowed from a friend), but I’ve been burn­ing them in with medi­um-loud pink noise and the bass exten­sion is loos­en­ing up nice­ly. Update 2011: I don’t love the sound of the HFI 550’s after all.  I found my old Sony MDR-V7506’s actu­al­ly seem more faith­ful in the bass depart­ment, despite their small­er (40mm) dri­vers. The insight still stands — if you want to rock the subs, make sure you can hear the lows with your mon­i­tor­ing set­up.  A good pair of cans can help you check your mix­es: you can hear the bass with­out the dis­trac­tions of any room modes or oth­er free-air acoustic problems. 

If you can hear the sub-bass, you can mix the sub-bass. Sim­ple as that.

Fractal Wavetables

Posted on | March 20, 2009 | No Comments

floatfractBased on work by com­pos­er Ter­ran Olson, I’m releas­ing a Pro­cess­ing applet that lets you play with recursive/fractal sound syn­the­sis by set­ting a few sliders.

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The Plant

Posted on | July 10, 2008 | No Comments

Tech-house mini-album The Plant is out on Har­mo­nious Dis­cord.

Spar­rowl­izm (Pre­view)

Check out the full release at any of these fine locations:

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