Friday, August 28, 2009

DCAM synth squad

fxpansion a london based developer has finally released their long awaited DCAM Synth Squad, a collection of 3 softsynths- amber modelled on classic analogue string synths, Cypher an analog-style FM synth and Strobe a monophonic bass/lead synth- think SH101, pro one etc but capable of being much fatter and more aggressive, and Fusor, which allows you to combine up to 3 instances in layers, apply splits, and effects both globally and individually as well as arpeggiators, animators and step sequencers
all the tech stuff can be discovered here and a good comprehensive review at waveformless strobe is a single oscillator synth, but with multiple waveforms available (including noise) the oscillator can be 'stacked' and detuned for fatter dual oscillator or 'supersaw' patches. a sub can be blended in as well as drive and an analogue knob that is supposed to re-create the instability of the old gear. our sh09 never sounded anywhere near as brutal as strobe- forget all the hype these synths sound superb, the demos on the website do not do them any justice- why can't they include some techno industrial/dubstep examples!!- they have loads of bottom end and when programming any control with movement can be synced to tempo. the modulation possibilities are complex but absolutely ideal for darker grimy electronics. They can be driven hard and respond authentically needing little additional processing. fusor is worth mentioning it houses a wrapper to stack instances and add some superb effects -similar to the ones in guru - fusor can also arpeggiate and note sequence 808/909 style plus it can be used to step modulate virtually any knob or setting- also worth mentioning is each plug in can be used standalone so a evening or 2 sound designing is coming up... it's also got a very well written manual and is certainly priced competitively forget the crap red and black silhouettes.

it would have been good to have access to the fx from each synth rather than via fusor and the high cpu use needs watching, not a great problem to us as we freeze/render parts as we go... these small critiscms aside the suite represents another step forward in the quality of soft synthesis - skullkid on the next cd is our first track bristling with DCAM sound pressure duties...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


as work progresses on the new CD 3 fx plug-ins we constantly deploy are devastor [4 band distortion], redoptor [vintage tube distortion] and decimort [bit reduction] from the polish d16 group these are high quality effects for a very good price. the old school brushed steel look allows for lots of tweaking and sound shaping. distortion, filtering and bit reduction remain our most applied effects and these units are highly capable from subtle changes to more extreme measures. distortion and saturation are fully covered by devastor and redoptor whilst decimort allows us to re-create the sound colouration caused by the lower sample rates, lower bit rate and conversion circuits of the early samplers. the unit has pre-sets titled mpc 60, emulator as well as well as for the obligatory c64 it also has a filter section can be switched to indpendant right and left treatment and a dry/wet rotary balance pretty handy when used as a insert. other distortion units we use are kombinat by audio damage which has three distortion engines with 7 tweakable effects for each this box is also sensibly priced has excellent band killer eq and filtering as well as ring modulation and compression [sickman] featured lots of kombinat lastly ohm force preditohm which again is a first class distortion effect but is fairly expensive by todays standards. this unit has a distinctive character with gui's you either love or hate and capable of destructing anything fed into it - one feature we often deploy is it's ability to generate feedback [global] being an immediate example ohm force also have ohmicide their newest distortion effect which retains the feedback option across all bands and includes a 'no distortion' setting so you can flavour with just the multiband dynamics and filter sections

Sunday, June 21, 2009


for some while we have used resolume and sony vegas pro along with various cameras/video cameras for our visual work as VMAG. vegas pro is an expensive program but very powerful with a clean workman like interface. we have just upgraded to version 9 which offers little advantage over version 8 apart from a few nice new video effects, some tweaks to help streamline your workflow and of course the new industrial dark grey skin - if you cannot afford pro movie studio platinum does a good job but is seriously restricted by only allowing 4 video tracks. resolume is the package we use for our live transmissions- the new version resolume avenue 3 handles audio as well as video but we have no need for this functionality preferring the older version 2 software- raw footage is imported, processed by multiple effects then rendered in short looping sections of 3-5 seconds using a pegasus mjpeg codec at 640x480. we add stuff to this bank of clips periodically before dividing the clips into decks on a per track basis. live the clips are manually triggered from a stage laptop sent to venue projector. only master bus effects are added which combined with the modest file size means they run efficiently from our laptops and every performance is different as we try to keep up with trigger points- even the 640x480 output size works well projected at near cinema size - this is so far in advance of our original visuals which were created using photographic slides and a bank of kodak carousel projectors fed with sync pulses from a fostex A8 reel to reel machine along with heavily cut and spliced super 8mm cine film - the most recent vegas extract VICTORY can be viewed here

VICTORY edit in vegas

Thursday, May 28, 2009


[added a short CROP preview video to the main portion control website with a burst of amnesia]

ULTRA is the project for the new material that will follow CROP, hopefully released by year end 2009. the new material deploys our trademark thick analogue sequencing and electronics with heightened production. the material will consist of 10 audio pieces of equal quality with an emphasis on strong rhythmic songs. onion jack releases will be the vehicle for our experimental/ ambient constructs

working in software only and to ensure the quality of ULTRA we constantly demo synthesizer and effect plug-ins. our most recent purchase is sawer, a vintage modeling synthesizer based on the rare 1980's Soviet analog synthesizer, polivoks. sawer has a beautiful GUI and sounds fat and raspy especially good for wide unison sawtooth basses and leads. it's available from image line.
we are also looking forward to trillian the update of spectrasonics triliogy that has been used for some of our bass duties over the past few years - trillian promises to add a lot more synthesized bass patches and waveforms than trilogy and it is powered by the steam engine developed first for omnisphere. we only use the synth basses - it's a shame they don't make just a synth bass version, do many people want synth and real bass patches? another product we are monitoring is fxpansions DCAM which shows promise but no sign of it's release yet...

Monday, March 16, 2009


it is now confirmed that CROP will be a 2 CD digipak with the main full length compiled CD and a shorter new EP. brain scraper death dive has been rebuilt and a new track 'amnesia' from the forthcoming all new CD [scheduled for year end]

we are often asked which DAW we use: our current DAW's of choice are reaper, sonar and ACID7 pro, reaper is a small program but fully featured, capable and stable - it is easy to set up with screen layouts, key bindings and macros. it has a loyal following and active forum - in our workflow it is an essential creation tool. ACID remains the best sample/loop based environment and sonar is deployed to finalise timeline arrangements and mixing - just edging out reaper. we also have fl studio and reason on our machines to sketch ideas and build midi sections. following CROP we have a number of tracks starting to take shape and featured 3 of these in our transmission at tinitus on 11.04.09 - as well as the rebuilt brain scraper death dive...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

i staggered mentally

part of 'document' will include postings regarding the software we deploy in modern day portion control as well as comments regarding our long time existence with music technology. this article looks at the equipment used to produce i staggered mentally 1982/In Phase

our principle synths were the roland SH-09 -a single oscillator machine with just PWM, ramp, square and noise waveforms, despite these limitations it became a pc workhorse machine supplying many leads and bubbling/noise effects. next the roland RS-09 which was a string/organ synth best heard on out of order - it was possible to blend organ and strings into some sort of a pad sound then fatten it further with the onboard chorus - the drumatix drum machine TR-606 and the, now legendary TB-303 bass line were deployed on drum and bass duties, both boxes were bought on day of release, from londons camden town rock shop - prior to this we were using the roland CR78 which just didn't have the edge we hoped the new machines would... roland had developed a 5 pin DINsync connection which locked these two silver boxes together the other synthesizer, and breaking the roland monoply, was was the moog rogue a cheap analogue subtractive monophonic moog with two oscillators that continuously drifted but gave it a thick unison buzz best of all we could force it to feed back on itself and it created some huge saw sweeps he is patriotic is a good example as well as pretty good bass tones and screeches higher pitched washes that contributed to the overall chracter of the material-sex crimes shows these to good effect - the sample and hold feature allowed us to experiment with pulsing tones and throbs which were synchronised manually- the manual had a spare A4 patch sheet which we photocopied to carefully recorded the slider and switch positions, it felt good owning a box with the moog logo- cassette tape voice sections, toy whistles and some manual percussion - materials were clamped into a large bench vice and played with drumsticks, the vice had a metal resonance which added to the effect - i staggered mentally was recorded to 8 track 2" tape with all parts played manually except the drums and bass- effects were spring reverb, roland space echo, rack reverb, mxr guitar distortion, phase pedals- some parts were driven through a guitar amp and miked up, various tempo and vari speed tape techniques were also used - once mixed to 1/4 tape some parts were cut and spliced to add repetitions and to tighten sections - pat bermingham the in phase label owner engineered and recorded it at gants hill on the east london/essex border, apart from sort out that was recorded with van kaye and ignit at ding dong discs in holland

I staggered mentally is available on 'archive'
archive microsite

pic: recording sort out [ding dong discs]

pic: [left to right] TR-606, RS-09, TB-303, SH-09, moog rogue

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


our first release for sigsaly communications will feature a collection of immediate tracks from our recent releases as well as witness transmission intro, a rebuild of brain scraper deathdive from pycho bod saves the world, defend speeded up and remixed by NTRSN and amnesia the first piece from the new material scheduled to follow by end of 2009


release june 2009 in digipak format