15/52: company7music.com

Something very special happened this week: the solidification of a group of extremely talented musicians that I am fortunate enough to be a part of, called company 7.

This week’s project was getting things organized for company 7’s upcoming releases and Web presence. The group’s new site is:

http://www.company7music.com/

company 7 is made up of Hans Anderson, Rebecca Anderson, Gabriel Craft, Rebekah Craft, and Bill Van Loo. Our current plans are to finish up an EP for release on chromedecay later this year, and begin planning our live performances. I’m proud to be part of such a talented group of musicians.

A little backstory about the members of company 7. Hans and Rebecca Anderson are a husband-wife duo also known as Double Helix. They have recorded for labels like Transmat Japan, Rush Hour and Delsin, producing house music tinged with jazz, dub, and gospel influences. Gabriel and Rebekah Craft are another husband-wife pair. Gabriel is an extremely talented drummer, having played with groups like Cloud 9 and others. Rebekah is a singer-songwriter, taking her talents to the acoustic guitar and poetic lyrics.

We first played together during the fall of 2004, during a burst of creative output. Family life and other commitments obliged us to put this group on hold, however, until fall of 2009, when we began working on new material again. Photos from one such session are found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chromedecay/sets/72157622286457436/

This week, we made the decision to finish up our current set of material for release as an EP, as well as getting our Web presence up and running. The results are the new company 7 website, as well as some more behind-the-scenes work like putting together chord charts, track info sheets, and so on, to allow us to more easily work on finishing our material.

I’m very excited to bring you our music in the near future.

14/52: chromedecay: field – demo 1 (bicycle & garage sounds)

This week’s project has been in the works for quite some time, but is just now being picked up again. It’s a demo of some new sound/preset work I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’m calling this first set of material chromedecay: field.

One benefit of being a teacher is that I have my summers off, and I spent some time this past summer with my Minidisc recorder, binaural microphones, and other recording gear, capturing sounds in my house and garage.

recording bike sounds

One of the sets of sounds I recorded was using my bicycle as a percussion instrument, along with some other random sounds from the garage (like dropping and hitting a plastic pop bottle, and so on). I recorded about 30-45 minutes worth of raw sounds, and then recorded them into the computer as several long, continuous audio files.

14/52: Logic - Overview

At that point (late last summer), that’s where I put the project down temporarily. The work I did this week was to start isolating individual hits and loops in order to turn them into usable sounds. Because I’d recorded the long segments off the MiniDisc into Logic, I started there. Also, I much prefer cutting/editing sound files in Logic compared to Live – Logic’s much more of a traditional audio editor, and I find it works great for that kind of work.

Much selecting, trimming, and saving of individual files was done.

14/52: Logic - Sample Editing

You can see some of the list of files here:

14/52: Logic - Sound List

After I had saved out many, many individual hits and loops, I started loading things up into Ableton Live, my preferred composition tool. Live is the ultimate destination for this material, as I intend to eventually make these sets of sounds & loops available (though that’s a project for another week!).

Here’s a couple views of what it looks like when brought into Live:

14/52: Ableton Live screenshots from sound design/programming

14/52: Ableton Live screenshots from sound design/programming

If you go to the full-size version of those photos, you can see that most of these sounds ended up in Live’s Drum Racks, which is a great tool for this kind of thing.

I then spent some time writing a demo track that would give these sounds a chance to shine.

14/52: Bill Van Loo working on sound design in Ableton Live

Here’s the final product:

14/52: chromedecay: field – demo 1 by billvanloo

All the sounds you hear in the demo track were produced from the field recordings I did, with the exception of the bassline.

10/52: new live recording – chromedecay live 2009

I’m pleased to announce the newest chromedecay release, “chromedecay live 2009“. This release features live performances from Bill Van Loo and Joshua Schnable.

Each of these sets was recorded in late 2009. Bill Van Loo’s set was recorded at the Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti, MI, and Joshua Schnable’s was recorded at FFMUP in Princeton, NY.

This release is available for purchase via iTunes, Amazon and other digital distribution sites. Check the release page for more details.

Joshua’s live set was recorded on October 12, 2009. It is a collection of new work; a tribute to the Berlin dub techno movement of the mid-1990s.

My live set was essentially a live performance of the Ypsilanti by Night record, with lots of live tweaks and additions, along with a rare performance of my track “FM Study”. You can view video from the first song of my live set below:

Bill Van Loo performs “Ypsilanti by Night” live at the Dreamland Theater from chromedecay on Vimeo.

See also: chromedecay behind the scenes: bill van loo live performance rig, part 1 and part 2, where the gear and methods used to perform my part of this recording are discussed in great detail.

9/52: chromedecay 2010 sampler CD

This week’s 52 things project is the 2010 chromedecay sampler CD. It comes in a handmade cardstock sleeve with one of 5 original photos, and contains a selection of new music by chromedecay artists. It’s $3 plus shipping, or free with the purchase of any full-length release (while supplies last). Read more about this project below.

9/52: chromedecay 2010 label sampler

I often start working on a project idea for 52 things a number of weeks before it’s completed and ready to show here on the site. This week’s project is an example of that type of pre-planning.

I’d been thinking about putting together a sampler CD that would contain new music from chromedecay artists for 2010. It’s important to me that chromedecay releases be unique in some way. The obvious trend has been toward digital-only releases, so I felt the unique quality for this CD sampler would be to emphasize the visual and handmade aspects of it.

I got an email from Snapfish at the beginning of the year, advertising 50 prints for 50 cents (plus shipping costs). I started thinking about what I could do with 50 prints, and realized they’d make great cover art for a small CD-R release.

I then started going through my iPhoto library, looking for photos that would make good covers. I settled on using these 5 photos, with 10 copies of each, for a total of 50 prints:
P1160839_23785815708_be0c43f014_oP1110426-EDITEDP1110385_2P1090927_2

The prints were 4×6 inches, so I uploaded versions that had a 2″ strip of black to one side in order to produce a final image that was 4×4 inches square. After they arrived, I spent 15 minutes or so cutting off the black strip to produce a final 4×4 square image:
Starting to assemble the covers Cutting the 4x6 prints down to size

After a bit of work, I had all 5 sets of cover photos cut down to size:
the completed 4x4 prints

I then set the cover photos aside, waiting for the right time to complete the assembly of the covers. This week, I spent some time in Photoshop creating the overall cover layout, including placement for the cover photo.

I also used the time between the first of the year and now to solicit new material from some of the chromedecay artists. I got great material from both Joshua Schnable and Rob Theakston, longtime contributors to the label. The final tracklist ended up being this:

  1. Cultivating – Rob Theakston
  2. 1970 Sumeria – Joshua Schnable
  3. 11-14-2009 – Bill Van Loo
  4. 5/52 (Rhodes & Reaktor) – Bill Van Loo
  5. 1970 Sumeria (Bill Van Loo’s JPL remix) – Joshua Schnable
  6. Vostok Station – Joshua Schnable
  7. Overextended – Rob Theakston
  8. The End of It – Bill Van Loo
  9. Dust Bred – Bill Van Loo

After finishing the layout for the CD sleeve, it was time to print, cut, fold, and glue. Here’s a short video describing that process:

9/52: chromedecay 2010 label sampler CD behind-the-scenes from chromedecay on Vimeo.

You can see more photos of the whole process below:

9/52: 2010 chromedecay sampler photos on Flickr

I’m very pleased to announce that these are now available. As mentioned above, it’s $3 plus shipping, or free with the purchase of any full-length release while supplies last.

8/52: Bill Van Loo “The Ghost of an Idea” now available digitally

I’m pleased to announce that a 4-track EP of my ambient guitar work entitled “The Ghost of an Idea” is now available for purchase digitally. This week’s project was getting a page built for it on the chromedecay site, and organizing all the other stuff associated with publicizing the record’s digital release.

This record came together at the beginning of December 2009, when my longtime friend and musical collaborator Rob Theakson sent me the following text message:

The fateful text...

That was on a Monday night, giving me 6 days to produce 21 minutes of music. Now, if this had been anybody but Rob, I would probably have laughed at the idea, and given it no further thought. However, Rob is one of my best friends (as previously mentioned) and he has a way of convincing me that crazy ideas are actually good ones.

I found myself staying late at my church on Tuesday of that week and recording a bunch of guitar improvisations after band practice ended. I had a very loose idea of what it should sound like, along with a rough conceptural framework to hang it on.

The title of the record, “The Ghost of an Idea”, is taken from the prologue of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”; the four track titles are abbreviated forms of chapter titles. As I started thinking about the story and how it’s structured, I was inspired by the complex and emotional memories in it, as well as the idea of the Holy Ghost inhabiting and inspiring artistic works of diverse forms.

That gave me just enough to go on. I took a guitar piece I’d previously recorded for Rob but which had never been released, and that became “The First”. The other 3 pieces were based on these guitar improvisations, which were edited and layered in Logic Audio (much like “6 strings for a winter’s day“, my earlier ambient guitar work).

The cover image is a photo of a house in Ypsilanti that I took last summer:
Ypsilanti house

Once I delivered the final mixes to Rob, he quickly pressed up 50 copies of the record as a 3″ CD, which is one format that his boutique label releases music on. A number of copies made their way to me, and I sold the majority to recipients of my email list in the following week or so. I have a few left to sell at shows, but that’s it, so I realized it made sense to also offer this digitally.

After looking into my options, I found that RouteNote seemed to make the most sense for this release. Its major difference from other digital distribution companies like CDBaby (who I use for most of my digital distribution, especially for releases that are also available as physical CDs) is that RouteNote doesn’t charge a fee upfront, but instead takes a slightly larger percentage of each MP3 sold. For a release with such a small number of tracks, it would take quite a bit of sales to recoup even the $55 setup fee that CDBaby charges, so it seemed to make sense.

I’m very please that this is now available; RouteNote has distributed it to the Amazon MP3 Store and eMusic. It will be available via iTunes very soon.

You can also check out the growing selection of other releases on chromedecay, both by me and others.

7/52: Bill Van Loo remix of Joshua Schnable’s “1970 Sumeria”

Earlier this week, chromedecay artist Joshua Schnable created a new track, and he gave me access to the stems in order to remix it.

Bill Van Loo remixing Joshua Schnable's "1970 Sumeria"

Here’s Joshua’s original “1970 Sumeria”, on SoundCloud:

1970 sumeria by jschnable

I got the stems downloaded and started work on my remix, using a very minimal setup – just the laptop running Ableton Live 7, my M-Audio Trigger Finger, and my headphones. This allowed me to start work in my wife’s art studio-slash-home office while she was doing other things.

Bill Van Loo remixing Joshua Schnable's "1970 Sumeria"

Here’s a screenshot of Ableton Live partway through work on the remix:

Ableton Live screenshot of Bill Van Loo remix of Joshua Schnable's "1970 Sumeria"

I finished the remix in the actual chromedecay studio today, and now it’s available for you to listen to via SoundCloud:

1970 Sumeria (Bill Van Loo’s ambient JPL remix) by billvanloo

5/52: iBook instrument station

This week, I spent some time setting up a new instrument station in the chromedecay studio.

5/52: iBook & Reaktor/Logic instrument station

A few years ago, I replaced my trusty titanium PowerBook with a shiny new Intel MacBook. That brought lots of increased power, but as I mentioned in the post at the time, it meant losing some things I really liked as a result of moving from the PowerPC-based PowerBook to the Intel-based MacBook. My favorite Rhodes electric piano sound came from Logic’s EVP73 plugin, which didn’t run on Intel Macs. One of my other favorite sound sources was Reaktor Session, which I loved for its Vierring ensemble, among others.

logic: evp73 screenshot
reaktor: vierring screenshot

This week’s project, then, was getting an old 500MHz iBook set up to restore that lost functionality! I realized that I could install my old Logic Audio 6 on the iBook and set up EVP73 and Reaktor Session running inside it as AudioUnits plugins. I only get a couple instruments at a time, but that’s perfect – I’m still running Live 7 and Logic 7 on my MacBook Pro, and the audio from the iBook just gets routed straight into that.

Getting Logic installed and set up was a breeze – this is one place where having dongle-based copy protection makes this much easier than a networked challenge/response or authorization. I just plugged in my old Logic dongle, installed the program off CD, and I was up and running. Getting Reaktor Session going was a little more work – it uses a network-based authorization scheme, and I had to email Native Instruments support to get it authorized (to their credit, they turned it around in a day or two and it was quite simple after that).

What I now have is an instrument station that consists of the iBook running Logic 6 with EVP73, Reaktor Session, and any other native Logic instruments I care to load up. It’s got a little 2-in/2-out MIDI interface connected over USB (thanks again, Kent!), which lets me connect my 76-key controller keyboard, as well as MIDI clock sync from the MacBook Pro rig. I can sit down at the keyboard, pull up a great Rhodes sound on the EVP73, and just play. That’s what I was really missing – the chance to just play, without having to worry about routing, plugins, compatibility, and so on.

Here’s a quick jam I recorded last night. The electric piano sound comes from EVP73, the synth sounds are from Reaktor Session’s Vierring ensemble, and the drums are being programmed in Live with a Drum Rack I built.

[audio:http://www.chromedecay.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/5_52_-rhodes-+-reaktor-session-jam.mp3|titles=5/52: rhodes + reaktor session jam]
download this audio track: 5/52: rhodes + reaktor session jam

A few detail photos:

5/52: iBook + 76 keys

5/52: iBook snake detail

Finally, if you’re interested, here’s a setup shot, showing how I took the self-portrait that’s at the top of this post:
5/52: setup shot for Bill Van Loo iBook instrument station portrait

The camera for the shot (a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18) is on a microphone boom stand, angled down using a Manfrotto mini ball head. The main light for the portrait is a Vivitar 283 with a 1/2 CTO gel (shown at the right of the photo), also on a microphone boom stand.

Also, you can see that the far end of the studio there is a bit of a mess. That’s another kind of project, though…

3/52: behind the scenes video, part 2

I’m pleased to announce that Part 2 of the “chromedecay behind the scenes: bill van loo live performance rig” video is now available on Vimeo. (Part 1 is also available).

chromedecay behind the scenes: bill van loo live performance rig, part 2 from chromedecay on Vimeo.

This 18-minute video shows me demonstrating my live electronic music performance rig. Part 2 covers using Ableton Live with TouchOSC and OSCulator, pad and keyboard controllers, and overall concepts of live performance.

Background information: all this video was shot a few months ago, in a whirlwind evening of setting up cameras, assembling gear, taking test shots, checking lighting levels in my living room, rigging cables, keeping my cats off the table I was using, fighting with my MiniDisc recorder’s microphone, and me waving my hands a lot. This week I finally finished editing it all in Final Cut Express, and I’m now thoroughly sick of the “rendering video” progress indicator. I’m quite pleased with the end result, though!

My friend Kent inquired privately about the technical details from Part 1, so I thought I’d include that here.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION
This video was recorded with 2 cameras; a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 was used for the head-on shots, and a Canon Powershot SD1000 was used for the overhead shots. All video was recorded in SD 640×480 format due to the cameras used. Editing was performed with Final Cut Express.

Screen captures were done with iShowUHD screen recording software for the Mac.

Voiceovers were recorded with a Rode NT1 into Logic Express 7, then exported for inclusion into the project. External audio was captured onto minidisc, then imported into Logic Express, edited, and exported & synced in Final Cut Express.

2/52: behind the scenes video, part 1

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I love teaching and sharing knowledge. This led directly into my chosen profession as a technology educator, and also shows itself in other ways, including making demonstration videos.

I’m really pleased to be able to offer this week’s 52 things project: Part 1 of a 2-part series describing and demonstrating my live electronic music performance rig. Part 2 will be posted as next week’s update.

chromedecay behind the scenes: bill van loo live performance rig, part 1 from chromedecay on Vimeo.

Other work from this week

In addition to making this video available, I’ve also been busy taking photographs this past week. On Monday night, I did a quick session in the chromedecay studio, shooting self-portraits so I’d have a new profile picture for Facebook and other social media sites.

Here’s the self-portrait I ended up deciding upon:
Bill Van Loo profile picture

This was shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, with an external SunPak flash triggered by optical digital slave. I’ll write more about this setup at a later time. Upon reflection (no pun intended), I’d probably add a reflector on the right to fill in some of the shadows on the right side of my face, but I’m well enough pleased for now.

Here’s another shot I liked from that session. It’s cropped to a ultra-widescreen aspect ratio to get rid of the glare from a poster that’s directly above me; light was bouncing back off the acrylic from the poster frame, due to the flash pointing at it, so I cropped it out and got this:
Bill Van Loo in the chromedecay studio - January 2010

I also took advantage of the winter weather to shoot some outdoor photos. Here are a couple of favorites; these are both long exposures taken at night.
50 second trees Huron River long exposure