Do doo do do

David Cameron delivers a Press Statement outside No 10, Downing Street to inform of his EU deal made in Brussels last night.

After David Cameron announced that he was stepping aside to let that creature Theresa May into the position of completely unelected Prime Minister, he was caught ‘humming’ a wee ditty as he walked back into Number 10. Definitely a man who has checked out.

I quite liked the sound of it, so gave it a remix below:

See ya Davey. It’s been real.

(For another remix, check out this one from Graeme Coleman – complete with accompanying video)

Image ‘David Cameron delivers EU statement outside Downing Street‘ by Number 10 used under CC license.

cup fungus – defame the dead

defame the dead

defame the dead

Following on from the release of drouth, I found a new project quickly formed and gathered steam. Rather than use Game Boys to compose, I started exploring different electronic instruments. The result was a much more unpredictable, experimental, and far noisier sound than I’ve had before. That shift meant that it didn’t quite feel like an unexpected bowtie album, and so I’ve chosen to release it under a different name: ‘cup fungus’.

Today is the official release date where it crashes angrily into the world.

You can download the album for free on Bandcamp, or stream it via Spotify as of right now (search ‘cup fungus’). If you are interested in something a bit more physical, there are also an extremely limited number (only five!) of hand painted cassette tapes available from my label – cow tongue taco records.

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Retrograde: New Adventures in Chiptune

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One of my tracks from the ‘really something’ EP, released in January of this year is featured on a new compilation from ‘I Thought You Were a Marxist Records’, named ‘Retrograde: New Adventures in Chiptune’.

The label has got a whole pile of artists that make some really interesting, weird experimental music, so I’m pretty pleased to be included in amongst them. Have a listen for free over on their Bandcamp, or below:

New Track: MTL

Over the past couple of months I’ve been acquiring different bits of gear in a sort of obsessive kleptomaniac fashion to build upon the basic foundations of chiptune, and explore the different things I can do with it. As part of that, I’ve gotten a bunch of cool (and definitely not cheap) hardware sequencers… but I find myself constantly coming back to the Game Boy.

Musicians in the chiptune world often talk about the limitations of the console as one of the things that inspires them. For me, it’s probably the opposite: I am amazed at just how powerful these old handhelds can be, controlling all sorts of different gear. Primarily though, I just love composing on LSDJ.

The natural progression from drouth feels like it lies in an album that still has its roots firmly in the chipmusic world (composed entirely on a Game Boy – with the DMG sounds in the mix) – but with a deeper electronic influence, with the handheld sequencing other synthesisers to a greater degree.

Game Boy on Plane

I visited Montreal recently, and composed a track on the plane rather than watching the same old terrible TV re-runs that were available (another plus for the Game Boy there in its portability…). When I got back to Glasgow, I put it all together and recorded it. Have a listen below:

 

Cow Tongue Taco Records

Banging on about ‘analogue’ is something that I always try and avoid. It seems pretty redundant, and too easily dismissed as hipster pish. Digital is great, but the thing is, the more I think about it, the more I end up drawn to the analogue world: film cameras, vinyl, old synths…

With that in mind, a while ago I decided to do a limited edition run of drouth on cassette. Despite all the memories of tapes getting fankled up and having to fix them with a ballpoint pen, there’s something pretty cool about them. They suit lofi music pretty well, have more personality than CD, and are far more accessible than vinyl financially.

As everything seems to end up doing lately, this minor project grew arms and legs, and has been pretty good fun to put together. I’ve set up my own tape-based label to put the release out on, named ‘Cow Tongue Taco Records’

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Thanks to Lee for the awesome logo.

For now the label will just be for releasing my own limited edition tape runs, but will eventually bring on some other artists who would be sympatico.

All the music that gets released on the tape label will be available at http://music.cowtonguetaco.com (Bandcamp), and the shop at http://cowtonguetaco.com.

If you happen to be in a band/make music yourself and would be interested in a limited edition cassette release, get in touch and we can see what we can come up with: stephen@cowtonguetaco.com

mexxed again

When I was recording drouth, there were a bunch of tracks that I wish had vocals, but that I couldn’t quite come up with something on my own. In the end, it worked out for the album that they remained largely instrumental… but I thought it would be cool to get some different folks to do their own take on vocals.

As part of that, musician pal Christy Scott lent me her voice for a couple of tracks. Ultimately, the idea is to release all of them as a collection. For now though, here’s a new version of ‘mex’, with Christy on vocals. I think it sounds pretty great…

You can download it here. (right click > save as).

making stuff

I’ve not posted much recently, but I’ve been busy making stuff in the background.

My pal Lee left a bunch of his pedals with me to try out, and in amongst them was a kit to build an octave-up fuzz. I decided to put it together (and discovered how handy a multi-meter is at the same time).

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When I realised how straight forward it is, I decided to have a bash at building my own signal splitter pedal as well, to take one input and give three separate outputs at the same volume.

I didn’t want to just leave the enclosures bare aluminium, so started to look into ways of painting them. After reading endless advice online, I decided to just get some spray paint suitable for metal, and use a varnish over the top. I didn’t bother sanding the cases down, as many people suggest – so we will see how they last longer term.

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Lee had a good name in mind for the octave-up fuzz… which I scrawled onto the enclosure with an acrylic paint pen before putting the varnish top-coat down.

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As well as the pedals, I decided to release a really limited run of my last album drouth on cassette tape – hand spraying each of the cases myself. Doing something so hands-on was really enjoyable… but there’s still a ton that I need to do before they will be ready. Like uh, buying a tape player. Ahem.

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I’ve still to get the circuit together for the Smack Ma Pitch Up fuzz, but I got the line splitter pedal finished… and learned a fair bit along the way. The included LED wasn’t all that bright, so I stuck in an extra, high powered one – which I can’t show in the pictures as it is brighter than the sun.

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The pre-drilled enclosures I’ve been getting save some hassle, but they are a pain to get a hold of in the UK, and the LED hole in the line splitter was way too big. So, I decided to get a drill press to do my own.

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Hopefully this will mean I won’t drill off my hands in future when modifying Game Boys either. Not too bad for fifteen quid.

I’ve got a bunch of plans to make some of my own DIY electronic instruments and effects pedals in the future, so even though getting all the stuff together has been a wee bit of an investment, it should be worth it in the long run.

Because of all this stuff, I haven’t had too much time to sit down and make music over the past week or so, but I’m going to do so this weekend. I have a noise album that needs completed…

Alternative Volca MIDI Out Mod

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Lately I’ve been experimenting with a different way of recording tracks, which is more ‘live’ than drouth was. It relies on having lots of different instruments going together at the same time, and so synching them up properly is pretty important.

I’d run into a problem lately where I didn’t have any way to synch up my Game Boy or other MIDI synth if they came at the end of the chain. The Korg Volcas have MIDI input, but not MIDI output, which is annoying. I knew there was a kit available to modify them to have MIDI output, but it was pretty expensive. After a bit of Googling, I realised that the mod wasn’t all that difficult to do at all, so I decided to have a bash.

Note: This isn’t meant to be a complete step-by-step tutorial on how to do the MIDI out mod. There are lots of sites out there that do a great job of explaining that. This is meant to explain an alternative method of implementing those. Links are in the post.

The best looking one involves adding in an additional DIN connector onto the top of the Volca, which you can find details on over here. I really didn’t fancy taking all of the knobs off and potentially screwing up my synth by drilling the hole wrong though, so hunted about for alternatives.

A few people had inserted a 3.5mm minijack port out, which can be used to transmit MIDI signals. In particular, there was one mod where you simply connected the MIDI out pads to the Volca’s existing minijack sync out port. That seemed like a great option, and I went ahead to do it:

After doing it, I discovered that this wasn’t really ideal. It may well have allowed you MIDI out, but it meant that the Korg sync out no longer worked. That wasn’t really ideal for what I was looking for. Back to the drawing board… I decided to add in an an additional minijack socket to transmit MIDI, and keep the rest of the Volca’s functionality intact. There was a decent tutorial on this here, and I had some experience of this kind of thing from all my Game Boy mods, so it seemed perfect.

Sadly… this too was not perfect. I had a minijack to DIN cable that supposedly transmitted MIDI, but it turned out that for this option to work you really needed to mock up a custom cable. I was too impatient for that, and given that I knew my track record of losing cables, being tied into a single cable for MIDI output seemed to be a bad idea. Hmm.

To check that the circuit actually worked first, I dug out a panel mount DIN socket and wired it up. It did, perfectly. That left me with the problem of where to put the damn thing. There is literally no space in the Volca series for an extra huge jack, unless you were prepared to drill the top plate… and like I mentioned earlier that wasn’t on the menu.

Taking inspiration from the first pioneering Game Boy modders, I decided to drill a small hole in the Volca’s case, wrap the wires in heatshrink tubing to bind them together, and then connect them up to a female DIN connector that would sit outside the Volca – minimising the need for case modification.

Here is what the wires looked like before being hot glued into place:

And here is the final product, with the Volcas happily dancing together via MIDI out:

So there you have it, an alternative to obtaining MIDI out from your Volca without having to resort to defacing the case too much. This is a stupidly easy mod to do electronically; it’s just the case modification that’s a bit of a pain.

For the technically curious, I used stranded wire for the individual connections (for flexibility), and got the female MIDI connector from eBay somewhere. My version could definitely have done with being tidied up a bit, but it does the job. I may do the same thing to the Volca Sample at some point, as it’s exactly the same – just with the solder points positioned slightly differently.