Karaf: The Making

Making an album is always a weird, convoluted process.

For some people it might be a week at a studio recording previously rehearsed material, for others it might be sitting in front of a computer computer every night for weeks with a midi keyboard and a bunch of VST, but for this album the process was very different to how I usually work.

It started off as a demo I made back in 2005 using Mod Plug Tracker. I made 5 tracks, all using samples, from pianos to basic kicks and snares, and a few choirs and synths interspersed.

I forgot about it for 3 years, then in 2008 I made a feeble attempt at mastering the tracks to put them on Spotify. I say feeble as I didn’t have much knowledge of audio engineering and production back then.

Then in 2018 I got to work re-releasing all my previous material on Spotify, iTunes, etc. I briefly re-visited and remastered a bunch of albums, but when I got to this one from 2005 (titled 22″ Speed Rail), I listened to it a couple of times and realised it had potential.

It sounded like nothing on the scene at this time. And it brought me back to when I wrote that music; I was a big fan of Linkin Park, RHCP, Limp Bizkit, POD, Papa Roach, Korn, and others at the time, and when I initially laid down those tracks I wanted to make something vaguely electronic, but with strong guitar riffs.

Now, my main tool was Mod Plug Tracker, I had no microphones, and I didn’t have much knowledge of recording guitars; so the end result was something akin to a backing track.

I then exported all the original tracks from each .it file and imported each one into new Ableton Live projects. I spent a couple of hours working on the first one: All the Other Times. I added guitar riffs, added quantization for the backing tracks, added VSTis to widen the sounds, added compression and limiters, and started layering new drum tracks and bass riffs.

I started really enjoying what it was turning into.

And this small project which was intended to be a “re-release of a 13 year old album with some heavier riffs, like I wanted to record it back then” quickly turned into “hey, I can make an album out of this”.

So I went digging through other albums for discarded songs, and video sketches I had made years before, and found a few that sounded similar to the style I was trying to craft into the album.

The base (22″ Speed Rail) was laid down in Mexico in 2005, some of the other sketches were from 2008-2012) recorded in Scotland, and the rest was from 2017.

I decided to make the theme of the album about relocation, about changing over time, the mind, addiction, pain, and recovery. More importantly, it was about friends, and moving on. And most of the lyrics would revolve around these themes.

I grouped all of these tracks and recorded a few drafts for new songs, and worked on them every day for the following 3-4 months.

It was an arduous process, it always is. I went through the usual roller-coaster of “this is crap, I’m throwing it all away”, to “this is the best thing I have ever made”.

Subtle changes to the mix can change everything during the recording process.

At some point in time I had songs with rap lyrics, distorted guitars, funky electronic bass lines, clean pianos. It was a bit chaotic.

So I set out to do something I had not done before: Ask for feedback.

Usually by this stage I just kinda wrap-up, do a half-arsed attempt at mastering, and release it, knowing it’s not what I wanted to do, but it was “good enough, I guess”.

But this time I wanted to make something I was proud of, something I can release and not be afraid to share it with friends or family. Something I can listen back to in a few years and say “Woah”.

So I released a rough alpha version and asked a few friends and colleagues to do an “MR Review”. In the programming world, an MR or PR review is when you write code and make a “pull request” which is a request to merge in your changes to the main code base. Then your peers can review your code and request changes, give props, and make comments.

In a similar way I didn’t just want a music review, I wanted a detailed overview of NTHs (nice-to-haves), PPs (personal preferences), REQs (required changes), and Qs (questions).

I got my feedback after a few days, then took a couple of weeks to make those changes. I then released a beta version and sent it to one more friend who hadn’t listened to the alpha (a musician I greatly respect). He only had 3-4 comments to make which was a blast for me to listen to, I was expecting another massive list of changes.

So I made those changes and decided it was time to chill out for a few weeks and come up with a release plan. As I said earlier, it would have been way too easy to be all excited and just click that publish button. But I wanted to do things properly, whether people listen to it or not, I wanted to make a few interesting ads, release a single, record a video, contact people in the industry, etc.

And this is what led to the release of the album.

It’s always a journey but you don’t start out thinking “I’m going to make an album”, sometimes the start is just a song, or an idea, or an old album that you thought you could improve.

Click here to check it out¬†ūüôā

Thanks to everyone that helped out, as well as those who sent me comments, it inspires me to keep going and record new material.

Until next time!

Meme Killer

It took me a couple of hours to finish this song, but over 3 months to finish the video. That said, I’m proud of the result. You can check out the EP on Spotify,¬†Apple Music, or¬†Soundcloud

I’ll follow up with juicy details about the making of this video soon ūüôā

ok_doglet

Hello, it’s been a while, I know.

Finally got around to publishing something new ūüôā

The EP is a short one (2 songs), based on Synthwave/Outrun. I composed it on the way to¬†Ia»ôi in Romania (and on the way back). I’m currently working on a video for the first song.

Trivia: What are the names of the songs encoded or cyphered in?

Listen to the EP on any of these services:

Or listen to it on Soundcloud right below.

Hope you enjoy it!

The epic voyage of Stijn Van Loo, Matthias the Engineer, and Bruno the St. Bernard

New EP is out today! Available this week¬†on Spotify, Apple Music, and most other popular streaming services.¬†It’s a bit experimental so I don’t expect you too like it very much if you aren’t into both electro-funk and death metal.

The preparation & inspiration

  • Inspired by EDM, metal, psychedelic rock like Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Snarky Puppy
  • Took over half a year of fiddling around with ideas and then discarding them
  • The main part of the music ended up being written in less than 6 hours
  • Afterwards, about 4 weeks of work consisted of lyrics, mixing and post-production
  • Ended up discarding 6 songs, and using just 3 for this EP (2 intros and 1 main one)
  • There is no chorus, why would there be?

What is the story behind it?

Album CoverIt’s a story about an inter-dimensional space-time travel of an engineer (Matthias), ametalhead (Stijn Van Loo), and a St. Bernard named Bruno.

Stijn Van Loo happens to be one of the best captains in the airforce, Matthias has proved himself as one of the most creative aerospace engineers in the world, whilst Bruno is an exceptionally smart dog.

Over the course of several years several space agencies have detected a rift ocurring near a known black hole, very far away; they determine the happening is caused by an entity, and this being’s actions are causing a dramatic expansion of the blackhole. So a multinational effort is put into play to gather funds to create the best, fastest warship ever created. Stijn and Matthias are selected from a large pool of recruits; but Matthias declines to go without Bruno, who would keep them company during the long voyage.

The battleship has the ability to create wormholes which enable bending of space-time which will allow them to reach their destination in less than a year.

They name the being Dr. Simmons, whom they presume to be an evil chemist mastermind from another race. Stijn, Matthias and Bruno shortly after set out on a voyage to destroy him and potentially collapse the blackhole by detonating fission bombs near the event horizon.

This album is dedicated to Bruno, may he rest in peace.

Listen to the album

Or watch the video for the main song

Note: The video has nothing to do with the story, and is basically just me and a good friend playing GTA V over the course of 2-3 hours. Intro scene filmed in Belgium under a bridge.

414749

After three months of work I’ve finally released #414749, my 12th album. The¬†album is a jamboree of genres, albeit not intentionally so. I just let each song take it’s style and route based on how it felt, kind of like when writers let the story go on it’s way without trying to strictly determine the fate of it’s subjects.

The result is a bit strange obviously, I’ve received a few comments like “wow, this is cool, there’s a lot of styles in there”, to “wow, there’s a bit of distortion in there eh?”. Some people dislike the fact that I keep meddling with different genres.

So for my next couple of albums I will attempt to do something a bit more consistent.

I’m releasing this album for free, check it out on Soundcloud below:

You can also get the album here:

Thanks for your support, and don’t forget to share!

Cover art is an alteration of a photo by Mark Asthoff

Why I won’t be paying for Rdio… yet

Edit: Post no longer relevant, Rdio closed its doors in 2015.

After years of using Spotify I decided to give Rdio a chance, as a few friends at work use it and really recommended it.¬†I’ve used¬†the web app, mobile app, and desktop app for a few weeks now, so I thought I’d give¬†a brief rundown on the pros and cons from my point of view.

The other purpose of this list is to function as a set of recommendations for Rdio from a hardcore Spotify user.

Cons of Rdio:

1. Songs take too long to start (sometimes 1 second between songs, it doesn’t do efficient pre-fetching like Spotify does). This happens both on mobile and on the desktop version, even with a good internet connection.

2. Genre stations play completely unrelated stuff (try “dubstep” genre for example).

3. Bad last.fm integration sometimes (too slow to Scrobble) – this is intermittent as sometimes it works great.

4. Lack of plugins (like the awesome “Sounddrop” plugin for Spotify) – Wow, Spotify killed plugins as well

5. Less content available on Rdio (but I suspect they will catch up eventually)

6. Frequent/strange UI glitches (due to flaky connection, etc.) Solution = better/longer local CSS cache:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 14.00.31

7. As a musician I encountered a strange problem in Rdio. I use Distrokid to distribute my music to all popular music platforms; one of the songs in my latest single cuts off at 31 seconds, whilst on all other platforms it does not. Proof (Deezer vs Rdio):

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.23.54

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.24.52

8. The thing that really annoyed me the most is that they are too quick to pull the plug when a payment doesn’t go through. I changed banks recently and forgot to update my payment details on Rdio. The very moment the payment failed to go through they cut the cord and switched me to a free account. Popular services like Github, Google Apps, Spotify, and many others will give you a bit of leeway. Ultimately this is why I won’t be paying for Rdio, because¬†it’s the small details like this that matter.

Pros of Rdio:

1. More control over playback quality.

2. Nicer/simpler UI.

3. AUTOPLAY… this is the biggest win I think. Similar to Pandora. Finished the album? It just looks for similar stuff and carries on playing music.

4. Artist-based stations are better than on Spotify; the find better related/similar stuff.

Problems that affect both services:

1. Small clicking/spacing between continuous songs. Add option to have continuous playback maybe? An example of this is Madeon’s latest album which have linked songs.

2. Lack of plugins/apps (SoundDrop was cool!)


Both services cost roughly the same. Spotify has content, plugins and speed, whilst Rdio has UI and awesome autoplay. If you are deciding between them I would choose Spotify for now; but I really hope Rdio catches up soon as it is a promising service.