Wednesday, 27 June 2012

New track: Lost A Grand

The main voice in this says "since I started work, I must have lost a grand". This man was recorded on the 208 bus in South London and had plenty to say.
He had been going on about his life in the area. Clearly, he had been in trouble before, sleeping rough and taking drugs. I don't normally earwig in on people's conversations, but (and you can hear it in the track) he had a very penetrating voice and was sat right behind us upstairs. He pointed things out to his mate "I had a shag down there", and "I used to sleep in there, but they've tidied it up now. I woke up on fire once". He wasn't sure if it was falling asleep after doing a crack pipe that had caused the fire or whether his mates had set light to him.  For the bit put into the track, he was going on about being ripped off by credit card companies. "Since I started work, I must have lost a grand".
The crowd voices were recorded at a protest march by the Congolese people in Whitehall, London. They were marching in protest of thier leader, I must admit I do not know much about Congo. The signs people held seemed to say that rape and murder were going on on a massive scale at the hands of their government. My son Dillon and I wandered into this march by chance. I recorded sound whilst Dillon took photographs. We got a lot of useful material. The march wasn't on the news that day.
Both of these samples seem to reflect our current troubled times. the man on the bus is one of the people that our idiot leader really wants to go away. But he won't will he? Boris (the mayor of London) promised to rid the streets of London of people sleeping rough by the end of this year. It transpires that the figures are rising instead. Cameron wants to take their benefits away. They juggle the figures. Putting graduates into Poundland stacking shelves for no extra money except for the benefits they recieve. Cuts to education and the health services. Times of austerity they say. Yet if you taxed the mega-rich 20% of their income for a year (don't worry, it won't hurt them) it could generate something like 80 billion pounds. So, no need for cuts then. It drives you round the bend..
Other sounds: There are shortwave clips and some synth loops built by Andi using Figure on the iPhone and some built by myself using Logic, and some synthetics made using a clip of white noise that has been sent through filtering and modulation effects. There is also a treated recording of a digger on a building site.

This track might be the last in the series of free ones we have dished out this year (it is the 8th). What we plan to do next is add one more to the collection and put it out on BandCamp as an album with some extra stuff (artwork and bonus tracks).

There is plenty more to come too.. This will be followed by a second album of new material and some tracks from the archives... we also still hope to perform some some live work. This time in front of an audience and with some visual things as well..

We will keep you informed right here.

thanks for your support

Simon (& Andi).

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Dark Matter & Light Shards: DJ mix

After a gloomy start to summer, a couple of disappointing gigs (in terms of turnout), but some fabulous new music coming out, I decided to try to combine all of this into a new mix. It has its dark moments, but stick with it, as there are shards of light too. Immerse yourself in sound. 

Mostly techno/ electronic but with jazzy, psychedelic and lo-fi vibes as well. Despite the dark content it is quite a chilled journey, with with a groove on. All of it either recent releases or faves from the last year.

I needed to try out the new version of the DJay software that I have as well. Fabulous it is too..

As Cameron continues his appalling hypocritical journey to completely destroy any hope for the future of our young people and artists, dark times are here. So we need these shards of light. I don't know about you, but his recent statements about "sorting out" those on benefits made my blood boil. He has clearly not thought it through (again), what about disabled people for example? And thats just the start of it all.. Plus, he himself and his lifestyle exists through handouts from his multimillionaire friends and family. Liar. Scumbag. Clueless out of touch moron.

Anyway!  I hope you enjoy this hour long eclectic mix, with its dark and light moments.

It begins with some ambient drone from the "V" album by KTL. I must admit, I don't like the whole album; the track at the end with the daft "scary" voice puts me off an otherwise interesting listen. I haven't put the whole twelve minute version in here, after about three minutes it mixes in to an Andy Stott track. "Work Gate" is from his brilliant "We Stay Together" LP from last year, which you can get coupled with the equally inspirational "Passed Me By". In my opinion one of the most interesting releases I have heard in a long time.


The next track; Om Unit's "C66 Jam" came free with a recent Bleep/Sonar promotion. Its a trippy piece, reminding me of experimental synth days and stoned grooving. Lovely stuff. I will check out more by this lot.

Andi & I discovered the brilliant duo Sculpture recently and went to check them out live, where they were supporting a band fronted by Charles Hayward (Monkey Puzzle Trio). Sculpture did not disappoint. Mind boggling visuals generated on a turntable with a video camera and sounds built using tape loops and echoes. Well worth exploring live. The track here is a remix that they have done of a band called Snorkel using mostly tape loops. See the demonstration video below:

'this is what it's like most of the time'
'you could call it a showreel'

I have been slowly trying to collect everything by Floating Points. I love his vibe. Interesting electronics combined with tinges of jazz and weirdness. This track is from his "Shadows" album released last year. It was part of a collaborative project with a friend of his who used computer programming that studies drum machine and synth activity to generate visuals in real time (something I am interested in for X-Amount). Check out the video for the wonderful track "Sais":

One of my favourite albums is Luke Abbott's "Holkham Drones" and I was so pleased to see the new EP "Modern Driveway" come out a few weeks back. This track "Carrage" comes from it. He seems to get a unique feel from the very basic and minimal of sounds and techniques. Fascinating and beautiful.

Modern Driveway - Luke Abbott

The next track "Catnip" (by Lazercat/ Audit) is one of the more dance orientated, almost Nu-Disco tracks I got last week for a potential DJ set after a gig that never happened. I had plenty of new dance ready to go, but that will have to wait for the next opportunity (I couldn't resist adding one of them here)..

This leads into a new Four Tet track called "Ocaras", which is the B-side of his recent 12" "Jupiters". I have been really enjoying Four Tet and Daphni's output recently, but I wish more of it would be released digitally, those 12" are so bloody expensive and often hard to come by.

Another recent  album of forward-thinking electronica is "R.I.P" by Actress. I have been listening to this a fair bit (it sounds great in your ears on a train), "Shadow From Tartarus" is one of several tracks here I played during the breaks on our recent X-Amount radio show. The next track was also played on the show. A new discovery for me; Emika. "Chemical Fever" is a recent EP she put out on Ninja Tune.

I couldn't finish on that note this time, so I put on a lovely retro-sounding piece by Belbury Poly. Last year's "Belbury Tales" was gorgeous. Even the CD packaging and booklet was a joy. This track "Now Ends The Beginning" is from a new single out on Ghost Box where Belbury Poly and Advisory Circle cover each other's tracks. I love this vaguely remembered 1970s illusory feeling that they get on Ghost Box. A good positive way to finish.

Simon x

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Our second live gig on NakedBeatz

So, another live X-Amount show on NakedBeatz..

We had this rather ambitious idea of playing as much new stuff as possible. From an aesthetic point of view, this made a lot of sense; we had been so busy putting new jams together we had built up quite a backlog of material that was waiting to be edited and mixed. From a practical viewpoint however, it was not so good. We had decided to perform in a similar way to the last show (back in January) and do two forty minute sets using our laptops hooked up via Airport, running Ableton with a bit of DJ'ing inbetween. That meant editing and mixing an hour and twenty minutes of music beforehand to prepare the gig. A tall order given the amount of time we had before the performance.

We decided to go for it! It was up to me, really. I do the post-production side of things (with Andi's guidance/advice/complaining/swearing), and after a long period of contemplation I decided that it would be worth a go. We would do some recent tunes and twelve new ones. If I ran out of time we could always fall back on the previous gig's work.

It was incredibly complicated and hard work, but we got there. We also added in a re-work of a favourite track of ours from last year - "Oppressor" (from "You Need Glasses"). This was a good result as it originated from our earliest (maybe first?) jams using Ableton. Back then we decided to throw away everything after we had improvised with it. A kind of art-punk attitude which we later realised was a bit daft..

So, I got this huge project in place eventually and we jammed through a rehearsal session at Andi's the night beforehand. It was all looking good.

Two screen shots of the pre-gig arrangements in Ableton (click to see larger)

But! On the night we were all ready to go and things went pear-shaped. We had set up at Mr. Bloor's house in Deptford, South London. He DJs for NakedBeatz every other week (as DJ Simple). The NakedBeatz studio is somewhere else entirely, what happens is that the set is broadcast via a PC in Mr. Bloor's house, you switch over from the previous DJ (who could be anywhere in the world) when you go live.

When it came to the time for us to go live, Mr. Bloor pressed the button and the computer went "error". Bugger. Mr. Bloor frantically tried to sort the problem, but to no avail. Andi and I were sat there poised and ready to go for nearly an hour and a half before we finally went on the air. Even then it still wasn't working properly, so we have no idea what the poor listeners suffered (apologies if you were one of them).

All the technical hitches threw us somewhat and it was quite difficult to get into the right vibe, so we were not at our best. Still, the recording of it is not so bad..check it out and let us know what you think..

Rather than explain the tech bit this time, I thought I could run through where the sounds came from on each track.. you might find it interesting..

Set 1:

1: Steam
The set opens with a recording of a carrier bag. The bag features throughout the two sets. The bag was scrunched up, a microphone placed inside and the bag was recorded as it un-scrunched itself. The next sound to enter is a treated recording of me hitting jam pot lids with a butter knife. Other samples are of shortwave radio. Andi made the synth sound using Propellerheads "Figure" on his iPhone.

Figure by Propellerheads

2: Box
Box has been explained in a previous blog (see: here), so I won't go on about it here. This is a "re-dubbed" version. I like the acoustic sounding kit. Listen out for a recording of Andi tapping his feet at work and cutting strips of wire (reversed).

3: Oppressor
This was rebuilt from the original samples used for the version on "You Need Glasses". I added a synth bass to enhance the bassline that originally was generated by filtering one of the drum loops. The voices and other sounds and voices are all treated shortwave recordings.

Again, this one has been explained in a separate blog. The squeak was recorded in the local kids playground (the swings). The crowd sounds are a combination of a recording in a cafe and Andi walking around a building site, recording. The low pitched voices were recorded on the 208 bus in South London. The hiss noise is a waterfall and one of the synth sounds was generated from tape hiss. The main bass is a filtered section of the cafe recording.

5: Hobo
The bag and the jam pot lids return. Three bags this time, one heavily time-stretched. The bassline is a pitch-bending long 909 bass drum. Glitchy treated acoustic guitar. The synth sounds and one drum loop are again made by Andi using Figure on the iPhone. Plenty of easy to spot shortwave samples too, which is also where the chattering voices come from.

6: Crush Your Pride
This track is named after the shortwave sample present here, where there seems to be a translation going on of some Christian principles regarding "pride". There is a filtered Rhodes riff, sub bass and another synth and drum loop generated using Figure. A pad synth riff and drum parts were made in Logic. A sample of the Roland R8 drum machine and shortwave recordings.

7: Disgrace
The rather disturbing bassline for this was made by Andi using the Korg iMS20 on the iPad, as were the beeping sounds in the front half of the track. The voices are all recordings of shortwave radio.
The second beeping sample is overlapped from the next track (Flap Flops) and is a recording of the pelican crossing outside Waterloo Station.

8: Flap Flops
The recoding of the pelican crossing is melded with some shortwave radio beeping sounds. The snare-like sound here is actually a recording of someone throwing something large and metallic into a skip. There is a treated recording of the swimming pool at Bromley Leisure Centre and sounds from Wrotham Steam Fair last year. There are some treated Gamelan Gong sounds. The track ends with the sound of someone running to catch a train wearing flip-flops.

1: Matter
A pitch bend acoustic guitar and a familiar sonar sample begin this track. Then you have some shortwave mutterings with drum parts made using Ultrabeat in Logic. Another acoustic guitar completes this snippet.

2: Tang
A dirty feedback guitar that Andi calls "Simon May on the roof" begins this track. Most of the other parts of this track were built in Logic then trashed in Ableton. There is, as usual, shortwave lurking.

An accidental sample that I recorded on shortwave comes from Nicki Minaj's "Beez In The Trap" has been chopped and twisted. The other vaguely musical sound is some sort of eastern Zurna-like instrument I also picked up on the radio. I never found out what it was properly as I preferred not to tune it in correctly, keeping the barmy distortions. The low voice I call "the beast" comes from another snippet of shortwave, and there are other shortwave voices present too. All the drum parts were built by Andi using the Korg iMS20 on the iPad. The bass is made from a recording of the pier being deconstructed in Herne Bay, I think it is actually a motor boat engine in the distance.

4: Lost A Grand
The main voice in this says "since I started work, I must have lost a grand". This man was recorded on the 208 bus in South London and had plenty to say. At this time he was going on about being ripped off by credit card companies. The crowd voices were recorded at a protest march by the Congolese people in Whitehall, London. I recorded sound whilst my son Dillon took photographs. More shortwave and synth loops built by Andi using Figure and myself using Logic, and some synthetics made using white noise. There is also a treated recording of a digger on a building site.

Photo by Dillon Skyring-Birch

5: Bottle Banker
This was originally called "Dennis' Tune" because Andi's daughter's Guinea pig Dennis seemed to like it (hello Mr. Bloor, that info was for you). It begins with a recording made at the bottle bank in New Ash Green. The carrier bag and jam pot lids return again. There is the sound of a train door's 'closing' beep sound. Voices come from shortwave recordings and there is some reversed acoustic guitar. The disgusting bassline was made on the Korg iMS20 by Andi.

6: Auk
Most of the parts of this were built in Logic, synths with a real electric bass. The main synth is treated live in Ableton using the Saturator effect along with a filter that exaggerated and created harmonic vibrations. Shortwave effects and trashed drum parts complete the picture.

7: Stammerung
So named after mis-spelling "stammering" when identifying one of the shortwave voices here, it also seemed to fit with the German 'counting' voice. There are drum and synth loops made on the iMS20 alongside samples of the Roland R8 drum machine, synth loops made in Logic and a real bass guitar. Some sounds are made from a recording of strings on a piano being plucked that I made at Nicky's house in Salisbury, which have then been effected by Andi.

8: Gannett
Synthetic double bass and piano parts recorded in Logic and then trashed in Ableton, with some random acoustic guitar harmonics shimmering. Shortwave lurks as usual, this time heavily gated and chopped up.


Note: to see more of Dillon's photography go to:

Note 2: The tracks listed here that have clickable links as their titles: clicking the link will take you to the SoundCloud page that has a free downloadable version of the track

On the tech side, this was all put together using pretty much the same methods as the previous gig back in January (see: Our live gig, tech details & stuff), only without so many mistakes. I have since learnt to always use WAV (or AIFF) files with Ableton as the program reads and understands them better. If you use mp3s the program simply converts them and stores WAV versions it creates in its "Decoding Cache" folder. This folder can get pretty massive quite quickly if you are not careful. Use WAVs and there is nothing in it at all (besides the ever present "cache content" file).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Kaleidoscopic Slides

When putting together ideas for the visuals to accompany our recent live show, I stumbled across the slides I made for the Rhythmicon Club, Salisbury back in 2000 (I used to install projections there). I love these kaleidoscopic ones. I have used them for the artwork for the CD copies of our live gig. I thought you might like to see the best of them. I don't mind you downloading them, but please give me a credit and let me know if you use them in any way, I have been ripped off too many times already!

I made them by constructing a tube with a Kaleidoscope attached at one end and my 35mm camera at the other. In a dark room I pointed it at the televsion which was hooked up to my Atari ST computer. I just generated simple geometric colours and shapes on the screen, and photographed the distortions through the kaleidoscope.


see more of my artwork at my (soon to be updated) website:

Friday, 8 June 2012

Last night's gig

Many thanks if you tried to tune in to our live show last night on NakedBeatz. We must apologise for the hassle we put you through, sorry. Andi and I were all set to go at 8, when the PC running the streaming of the gig went on the blink. We were unable to broadcast until almost an hour and a half later, and when we did, it was still not working properly, so as far as we can tell the broadcast was at best intermittent. Well done if you stuck with it, we hope we didn't do your heads in too much.

It was very disappointing for us as we had put a huge amount of preparation into the show.

We did manage to record it all though, and I have listened back today, and it all sounds pretty good, so we will post a copy online soon. We will let you know as soon as that happens.(see below)

Thanks again, and sorry again

Simon & Andi.


Both sets have now been uploaded here:


Do have a listen & let us know what you think.. (each one is about 45 minutes long)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

X-Amount live on digital radio this Thursday!

We are doing a live performance on NakedBeatz this Thursday June 7th from 8pm-10pm (GMT) on DJ Simple's show.

It will be a similar arrangement to the one we did back in January. We will play two 40-45 minute live performances with DJing inbetween.

We have just about finished the preparations for it apart from a final rehearsal tomorrow. The performances will feature all new material, 16 tunes, 12 of which have never been heard before. It has been a lot of work, and we are pleased with it, so we very much hope you will be able to join us.

NakedBeatz is a digital radio site, and you can download an app from the site if you want to listen on a smartphone, or you can just play it on your computer. You can also text us live on the night via the site, and with any luck there will be a live video feed. We hope to provide you with a lovely slide show (a bit of improvement was needed after last time!)

Don't miss it!