Sonic Triangle: Back from the dead!

Well… I have to admit, when I first opened this blog with a post about my band, Sonic Triangle, I didn’t expect it to be nearly five years before we released anything new. Five years!! How the hell did that happen? :O

But better late than never, as they say. (I sometimes think I should adopt that saying as my motto, as it applies to so many things in my life). We finally released a song! Two songs, in fact. One’s called Mercury, and it has a video as well! The other is called Homesick, and it doesn’t have a video. (Actually, it sort of does, but I doubt that that video will ever see the light of day, so we’ll just pretend it doesn’t). We’re pretty happy with both of them, and I hope you enjoy them too.

As to why it’s taken five years, I’m not actually sure. It’s not as if we haven’t been doing stuff… Alex sent round the first demo of Homesick way back in spring 2011, and we’ve actually been working on it (and about seven or eight other tracks, some of which we might finish and release at some point) on-and-off pretty much ever since then. We’ve just all been quite busy with other things, and haven’t got to the point of having anything we feel happy enough with to release until now.

A shot from the Mercury video, featuring our very talented singer.

A shot from the Mercury video, featuring our very talented singer.

Our process of recording hasn’t changed a great deal since I first wrote about it. Most of the instruments are still played on my Casio keyboard, though when I moved house a few years ago I brought the Technics electric piano that I inherited from my uncle out of storage, so the piano parts are now played on that, which is a big improvement. We did some recording with the glockenspiel, but it doesn’t feature on either of the new tracks. I think the way Alex creates the MIDI demos and edits the final versions has changed a bit, but I don’t know the details. I just play my keyboard and piano, then Alex goes away with the sound files and a few hours later a marvellous mix appears that leaves me thinking “Did I really play all that?”.

We’ve now dragged ourselves into the 21st century and created a Facebook page, supplementing our rather minimalist website. I think we always had a Twitter account, it just hasn’t been used much.

(In other music news, I’m looking forward to seeing Belle and Sebastian live next month… they’ve been on my list of bands to go and see for even longer than it’s taken us to finish Homesick 😉 ).

Projects Update

(This post is mainly an attempt to give myself a gentle kick up the bum towards doing something about all this stuff).

So… it’s nearly 3 months since I posted about my personal projects, so it must be time for an update. Generally I haven’t got as much done on them as I’d hoped; travelling the world and playing with geek-toys has taken up a lot of my time over the past few weeks. But looking down my list and thinking about what I’ve achieved, I can see that it hasn’t been quite as bleak as I feared. And now I have Luna and a whole month (well, nearly) of not travelling anywhere at my disposal, I should be able to make some more progress.

Projects Bubble, Everything and Chippy are not really my responsibility to keep on track. There was a tentative plan to do something on Chippy back in June, but it was scuppered by a very full schedule and a hair dye disaster. It would be nice if more was happening on them (especially Bubble), but I’m not going to beat myself up over the fact that it hasn’t yet.

Project Hohoho: the funding campaign is now over and we raised a respectable amount :). First actual filming commences soon, though I probably shouldn’t say any more about it just now as the plans are still being kept under a certain sandwich-like food item (watch the pitch video!).

Project Noah is one of my major paid work projects. It’s coming along very nicely (apart from a slight setback involving a crucial building being full of asbestos and possibly having to be evacuated for an extended period while they get rid of it). I have an idea for a blog entry I want to post about this as I do think it’s really interesting stuff… it will take a bit of preparation though.

Project Bits: This is maybe the one I feel is most important but it seems slow to get started. I did a bit of writing and a bit of general planning work and research. It’s become more and more ambitious in my mind, which is probably a good thing in that it might help to differentiate it from anything similar that’s out there, but a bad thing in terms of making it less likely to actually get finished. I definitely need to organise it and work out what exactly I want to do.

Project Buster: not much progress. I downloaded a whole load of stuff for it onto my new computer but haven’t had time to do much with it yet. In my head it’s starting to become a bit more concrete, and form tentative links with Projects IOM and Fantasy World.

Project IOM: I was sort of hoping for some nice summer evenings as they would have given me a chance to do more of this. So far I’ve been disappointed :(. Let’s hope August and September are nicer.

Project X-Ray: haven’t done much, but it’s sort of linking up in my head with Project Fantasy World, which is going a bit better… and I have a more definite (but probably impossible) idea for it.

Project Megadroid: this one actually is going OK, after a quiet spell. Getting the new phone has helped it along rather a lot. So has something else that I may blog about separately.

Project History: making a lot of progress on this lately, again after a quiet spell. The first thing that needs to be done on it is quite a laborious task but the end is now in sight!

Projects Classical, New Leaf and Tridextrous haven’t got far. New Leaf really shouldn’t be hard to get finished but other things keep distracting me.

Project Fantasy World: this was possibly the vaguest idea of them all, but it’s taken shape in my head and started to connect with X-Ray, Buster and Bits. I’ve been playing with some software that could help with it and getting further than I expected to.

Project Bonkers: … um, yeah.

I do feel a bit more inspired now :). Hopefully next time I post about one of these it won’t be in quite such vague and meaningless terms!

Projects, projects, projects…

This is heavily inspired by (read “ripped off from” 😉 ) a post on my brother’s blog.

I also have a bunch of creative projects on the go. Well actually, a lot of them are not quite so on-the-go as I would like, in fact some seem to be terminally stuck not going anywhere. Maybe talking about them a bit more publicly will inspire me to get them going again.

I’ve always been like this, I think. Ever since I was quite small I would come home from school and spend most of my free time writing stories, messing around making things on the computer, drawing maps of places I found interesting, or learning new music on the piano. I never saw the appeal of spending hours in front of the TV (I still don’t), and although I did play a lot of computer games, I must have spent at least as much time designing and writing my own as I did playing other people’s.

Now that I’ve got a full time job it’s a bit harder to find the time to do all that kind of stuff. But because it’s important to me, I still try. I’ve already blogged from time to time about my Android app making, my bandour film group, (on my other blog) one of my home-made computer games, and piano playing. To try and organise things a bit better and prioritise the stuff that’s really important to me, I decided to make a list and give them all codenames like Alex did in his blog. Here is the list, along with a little symbol of some kind for each one. Some of these overlap with Alex’s ones because they’re group projects of some kind – they have the same names that he gave them. Some of them are slightly ill-defined and are really catch-alls for a whole possibly area of creativity that I might be interested in experimenting with later on. Some are much more specific. OK, on with the list!

Project Bubble – this is the codename for our next Sonic Triangle EP, which has been in production for quite a while now. Alex already wrote a whole post about it so I won’t say much here.

 

Project Hohoho – the Beyond Studios Advent Calendar! Alex and I have both already written whole posts about this so again I won’t say much here.

 

Project Everything – this is really Alex’s project and I don’t know if he wants to reveal what it is yet, so I won’t.

 

 

Project Chippy – Alex’s web series!

 

 

Project Noah – this is actually a work (as in paid work) project. I need to find out whether I’m allowed to blog about it or not. I probably will be able to, and I hope I am, because I think it’s really interesting.

 

Project Bits – this one’s computer related and probably way over-ambitious, but at least I’ve been managing to make some progress on it lately.

 

Project Buster – one of the sort of vague, catch-all ones.

 

 

Project IOM – this one has been coming along quite nicely, before I even decided to make it a Project with a defined end goal. It’s nice because unlike most of the others it involves leaving the house quite a lot.

 

Project X-ray – another of the vague, catch-all ones… including ideas that are probably also way over-ambitious, but might be fun to play around with anyway.

 

Project Megadroid – if you’ve paid attention to my previous blog posts you can probably work out exactly what this one is just from its symbol and name. But anyway… it’s one of the few that’s (a) got a well defined goal, and (b) probably isn’t too far from reaching it… yay! It’s been taking a bit of a hiatus recently but thinking about it is starting to tickle my interest again, so maybe I’ll finally get it finished (and release it on here).

Project History – this one is journaling-related. It probably deserves its own post at some point.

 

 

Project Classical – another one that’s probably quite obvious from the name and pic.

 

 

Project New Leaf – a nice, hopefully quick and simple but very rewarding little Project that will help with some of the others once it’s done. I won’t say more than that because I’m saving it for its own blog post.

 

Project Tridextrous – ambitious, probably slightly insane, may never happen.

 

 

Project Fantasy World – very broad, catch-all project… no definite plans in it yet but an area I’m still interested in returning to.

 

 

Project Bonkers – … um, yeah.

 

 

So that’s them. Some of them will hopefully get their own posts soon and hopefully having a place to write about progress will inspire me to actually make some progress to write about.

 

An Aversion To Versions

When there are different versions of a song or piece of music, I’ve noticed I get quite picky about which one I listen to, even if the differences are only minor (like two different mixes by the same artist). I was thinking about it this morning as I picked out Pet Shop Boys – A Red Letter Day to perk me up on my way into work, and noticed myself avoiding the album version in favour of the single release.

Almost all the time, it seems to be that the first version I hear burrows its way deep into my subconscious and settles in as my favourite, then any other ones I hear subsequently fail to unseat it. I remember how disappointed I was when I bought the CD of Hergest Ridge, one of my favourite albums by one of my favourite artists (Mike Oldfield) and found it sounded nothing like my Dad’s old LP that I knew and loved. In fact it sounded so weird and stripped down in comparison that I took my first CD back to the shop thinking it was faulty. It wasn’t… I later found out that the original mix actually wasn’t available on CD at all as Mike Oldfield had decided he liked a later remix better and wanted that one used for all future releases. (On the plus side, though, I was ridiculously over-excited when he eventually changed his mind and I finally got my hands on a shiny CD copy of the “real” Hergest Ridge – only fifteen years later!).

Often I end up raiding my Dad’s music collection or scouring the internet for that elusive version of Pachelbel’s Canon or Space Cowboy that I heard years ago and still can’t get out of my head. (Amazon MP3 is a godsend… they seem to have almost everything and you can preview it before buying to make sure it’s the “right” version!). It even happens with our own music sometimes… I still have a copy of the old vocal-less, keyboard-less MIDI demo mix of It Could Be Different because I listened to it so often back when we were making that song that sometimes I just crave hearing it again rather than the much more polished final version.

Actually I can only think of one song right now where the version I ended up liking wasn’t the first one I heard. Even though I’d got used to the album version of Running Man by Jimmy Nail first, it’s always sounded bland to me since hearing the single release.

Other music news: still haven’t managed to book any more gigs or festivals yet, though I’m looking out for them. Still also practising away at the piano and been meaning to post about that again. Still slowly getting nowhere with new Sonic Triangle EP, I’m sad to say :(.

There’s a glockenspiel on my coffee table…

… a freakin’ glockenspiel!

(It’s actually Alex’s).

There is also the score for the glockenspiel part of the next Sonic Triangle song, sitting there inviting me to practise it. Just when I’d finally got used to having the keyboard, viola, tin whistle, bamboo flute and stylophone here. (This is actually the first time we’re using a real acoustic instrument in one of our songs. Previously everything was either keyboard, drum synth on the computer, or vocals. Plus a few weird sound effects such as me impersonating a station announcer, and Heather and me screaming on Oblivion at Alton Towers).

I can probably say goodbye to getting anything useful done at the flat as long as this situation persists. I’m supposed to be working from home today but c’mon… this is like shutting an eight year old in a room with a bouncy castle in one corner and a fully functioning chocolate making machine in the other and expecting them to get on with their homework unsupervised. By the time I’ve finished hammering out the tuned percussion parts from every song I can think of, there won’t be much time left for programming.

It’s also reminded me that I always wanted a set of tubular bells to play with, not just because I love the album of that name but also for the sheer coolness. I’m guessing they’d be expensive though. Especially if you take into account having to find somewhere else to live after I get evicted for disturbing the neighbours.

Sonic Triangle: how it’s done

What better way to inaugurate this new blog than with a post about how our band records our music? (Well actually, there are probably lots of better ways… but this is my blog so I’m just going to do whatever the hell I like 😉 )

We’ve done 8 songs and a video so far. In the video you get to see my flat, my office and most of my drive to work as well as some random locations around Edinburgh. We’re a bit of an unusual band. It’s difficult to say what our style is or who we’re similar to, so draw your own conclusions. For those who are interested, the music (apart from the drums and vocals) is all played on one of these:

…my faithful Casio WK-3000. Considering Casio isn’t exactly a renowned synth company I’ve been continually amazed at how nice it is. The sound quality and number of features are excellent, far better than I expected when I bought it. With touch-sensitive keys and a proper sustain pedal plugged in it even works as a decent portable piano. The one drawback of that is that the keys aren’t very weighty compared to a proper piano’s, but you can’t have everything.

There are typically up to around 10 keyboard tracks per song. We record them one at a time in high resolution using an external SoundBlaster box connected to my laptop and a free program called Audacity (though currently switching to Goldwave instead due to Audacity’s infuriating tendency to crash suddenly right at the end of a good take of something long and difficult). Then Alex fiddles with them and mixes them using Magix studio (I think… or maybe he’s switched to a Sony studio now), imports the drum track which is done in a program called iDrum, and mixes in the vocals. None of the software or hardware we use is particularly expensive but we’re pretty happy with the results. (Mostly… the bass lines could be better. The keyboard bass voices aren’t its strongest point. Maybe we’ll find a way to improve on them).

We’ve never played live yet. It would be a bit of a challenge but I’d really like to. Alex has recently bought himself one of these:

which I’ve had a play with and I reckon we could do passable live versions of some tracks with the 2 keyboards. He has a glockenspiel now as well, but that isn’t used in any of the tracks so far… those are all-electronic apart from the vocals.

(My own taste in music is pretty much as weird as the band’s style. I expect I’ll say more about that in future posts).