Studio Focus: Simo Cell / Hugh on June 22nd

Simo Cell

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Simon, I make music as Simo Cell. I have been DJing for 10 years and producing music for 6; I have released EPs on Livity Sound, Brothers From Different Mothers, Wisdom Teeth and Fragil Musique. My style is a mix of bass music, experimental techno, and electro.

What is your current studio set up

I share a studio with Tite (half of Society of Silence). He has tons of gear that I can use whenever I want. The list is so long that I won’t be able to name all the synths. I mainly work on my computer via Ableton. I would say 90% of my work is done with a computer.

Then I plug my computer into analog effects to have a more organic sound. Aside from that, I use the Universal Audio Apollo 8 Soundcard, a Monome as a midi sequencer, a Pocket Operator PO-12, a Roland Space Echo, a Dynachord delay, a PCM reverb and a saturator called Culture Vulture to give the sound more warmth.

When working on the track, what is your process?

I don’t have a premise when I start a new tune. I just choose a BPM between 80 and 150, depending on my mood. Then I start by writing drum patterns. I select a kit drum on Ableton or a kit I made myself, and I create a rhythm with sequencers. I let the sequencer do the main job, and select the best ideas. The goal is to write a lot of different patterns. Then I plug synths or audio plugins, and I jam with arpeggiators and sequencers. I try to build delicate ambiences and play a lot with effects to sound design. When I have 2 or 3 solid loops with melodies, synths, and drum patterns, I try to write a full track. I always work on 2 or 3 projects at the same time to keep a fresh mind.

How do you usually go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

I use synths and audio plugins, then I use a lot of FX, nearly always in the same way (grain delay, delay, tape echo, frequency shifter….). Sometimes I try new FX and see what happens. The goal is to tweak the sound, to make mistakes and to select the right ideas. Sound design helped me a lot to develop my signature.

If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

When I experience a creative block in the studio, I just stop making music during one week or so. It’s essential to let it go sometimes. It’s not a big deal if I can’t finish a track.
Otherwise, as I said, there is a lot of gear at the studio. It’s a real luxury to be able to try new machines at your convenience. If I’m stuck with a sound, I can switch a computer on and toy with it. Even though I use my computer most of the time, it’s a real security for me to know that I have other options just in case. Everything is about confidence.

Simo cell artwork

What advice would you give for getting tracks ready for the club?

Being a DJ helped me a lot to understand how to build a track. The structure of the track is very important; you need to build tension.

Another essential feature is the mix-down. A good mix-down makes a huge difference in the club. Using Eq is the key. Drums are very important, kick drums need attack. And you must avoid conflict in the low-frequency area by side-chaining the sub. A bit of spacialization is important in the high-frequency area, but not too much. I don’t have so much advice to give because it is mainly instinctive.

What’s up next for you, any releases in the pipeline?

I just released an EP on Brothers From Different Mothers last week, and I’m currently working on a new EP for Livity Sound.

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Five Must Try Circle² Techniques / Hugh on June 10th

Must Try

1. Vinyl stop FX

Circle²’s Echo effect module can be used to create vinyl stopping style FX. Firstly, load up any basic bass patch then set a continuous arpeggio running (by selecting Hold and pressing a sequence of notes). Next, turn on an LFO and drag it’s modulation circle to the time parameter of an ‘echo’ effect - turning the ‘echo’ mix slider up to full. Hey presto - instant turntable scratching style FX! For further refinement, experiment with the Echo delay time and LFO modulation rate settings.




2. Self oscillating filter

When some analog filters are used with extremely high resonance settings, they begin to self-oscillate, becoming their own sound source… Circle²’s analog modelled filter behaves in the same way, so make sure you know how to harness this technique! Firstly, set up a new patch with no oscillators turned on, then turn on the filter and push the resonance to full. Lastly, assign a randomised sequencer to modulate the filter frequency. Go ahead and layer with oscillators for an out of this world sound.



3. FM synthesis

All Circle² oscillators can also be also be used as modulators… That is - extremely fast LFOs. For FM synthesis (frequency modulation), we turn on 2 sine oscillators, then drag the second oscillator modulation circle to control the coarse tuning of the first. Next we set the coarse tuning of oscillator 2 to -24, and its level to 0. Now experiment with different oscillator shapes and tuning settings.



4. AM synthesis

Circle²’s oscillators can also be used for AM (amplitude modulation) synthesis, where one (or more) is simply used to modulate the output level. We use exactly the same setup as in the previous FM example, however the modulation circle of Oscillator 2 is this time dragged to modulate the Output level. Again, experiment with tuning levels and wave shapes - AM can have some really crazy results!



5. Synthesising drums

Let’s start with synthesising a kick - we simply use a sharp decaying envelope to control the pitch of an analog sine wave oscillator, and the frequency of the noise oscillator. Next we’ll synthesise a shaker loop using filtered white noise. Firstly, we turn on both the noise oscillator and the Arpeggiator (in sync mode at a 1/4 rate). Adjusting the frequency up, we turn on a bandpass filter. Finally, we assign a sequencer to modulate the filter frequency for added rhythm.

Studio Focus: Edmondson / Hugh on May 31st

Edmondson

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hallo, I’m Sean - I produce music as Edmondson and run a little vinyl series called Lissoms. I’ve previously released stuff on Hypercolour and emf, as well as a few remixes here and there. Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and living in Berlin.

What is your current studio set up?

I know it’s common to modestly say you have a simple set-up and then reel off a comprehensive list of gear, but I currently use just a laptop, Akai midi controller and a pair of Adams A5X’s at home. I’m lucky to also share a studio with a few others, so there’s a wide array of gear coming and going. At the moment I’m dabbling with the Elektron Analog Keys a lot.

When working on a track, what is your process?

I sample a lot so it’s usually chopping and arranging in the beginning, and I usually rely on this to set the precedent for the rest of the tune to follow. I just track out an 8 or 16 bar loop and if I can let it go for a few minutes without needing to do much I’ll progress with it. The best ones fall into place in a couple of days but most get drafted out several times and (often needlessly) tweaked over a couple of months.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

I do a lot of searching on YouTube and in Facebook groups, there’s a load of super nice sources primarily for hip-hop producers which can lead into a YouTube vortex of sampling gold. For drums and textures I use a Zoom H1 mic, and I have a couple of go-to soft synths I run through the midi controller which I run through some effect chains for the more non sample-based projects.

If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

Do something else! I still struggle to recognise when I’m making progress or making something worse. I think I’d advise avoiding the internet in general when you’re not feeling productive - we’re almost the guinea pig generation for having this galaxy of time-wasting devices at our fingertips, and despite the plethora of tutorials and potential sources of inspiration it can be difficult to apply any of it if you’re in a rut. For me personally, exercise or drinking seems to be the best way to reset your creative approach.

Much of your work has a distinctly lo-fi aesthetic, though we’ve learned that a lot of your workflow takes place in-the-box. Do you have any tips for our readers that want to achieve this kind of sound using software?

Sourcing samples or creating sounds with plenty of character and warmth is probably the best way to start. I don’t use much in terms of plugins so I find creative filtering and distortion can throw up some of the most interesting results. I picked up a cool free thing by Klanghelm called IVGI which is really nice for treating drums too.

Lissoms

We loved the first two releases on your Lissoms imprint. Can you tell us a bit more about the concept and plans for the label?

Thanks a lot! The concept is pure self-indulgence I guess, I wanted to create an outlet for my music so that I could make the kind of records I would be excited about finding. I found myself, particularly when living in London, kind of at the 50% agreed stage with a few labels and would often end up second-guessing my ideas and instincts when trying to finish projects. I wanted to remove all of that, so even if the music itself is flawed or not quite where I want it to be at the time, it’s a pure and personal product of the time it was written.

What’s up next for you?

I have an EP coming out with Man Power’s MeMeMe imprint in Autumn, 3 tracks and a remix from someone I respect massively. I’m in the process of finishing LLL003 & LLL004 for Lissoms, and the first should be ready to go in Autumn too.

Berliners can catch me at about:blank on the 28th of June for the Hypercolour & Friends party.

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Circle² x Academy 303 (Barcelona) / Hugh on May 9th

Due to its demystifying interface and instantly accessible workflow, Circle² is renowned within music tech educational circles as being the one of the most effective synthesis teaching tools. We spoke to Jesus Del Cerro - who heads up the Academy 303 music tech school in Barcelona - about how their students use Circle² to become synthesis experts.

Academy 303

Firstly, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and Academy 303.

Academy 303 is the only Ableton Certified Training Center in central Barcelona. We offer a wide range of personalized music tech and production classes in both English and Spanish, catering to all levels of ability. We normally limit our class sizes to 5 students - this enables our students to receive a lot of personal tuition - we’re proud that this means our students tend to learn fast and thoroughly.

In addition to Ableton live, we offer many specialized courses in different techniques tools and musical styles. Our mission is to provide training to a professional standard, so you can develop your creativity and turn your passion for music into a profession.

Academy 303

How do you use Circle² at Academy 303?

We use Circle² to teach synthesis in all of our Ableton Basic / Pro courses. We love the minimal interface and unmatchable visual feedback that Circle² provides - having tried almost everything on the market, whether it’s for beginners or experts, we feel that Circle² is the best synthesizer for teaching and learning. It’s amazing how fast our students become familiar with complex modulation - the possibilities are infinite!

In which ways does Circle² work particularly well as a tool for learning synthesis?

The concepts of modulation are very easy to understand using Circle², due to simple the drag and drop routing options, alongside the visual feedback / single pane user interface. Furthermore, the analog and wavetable oscillator possibilities are massive, meaning many different styles of sound can be achieved.

Academy 303

The world of synthesis can be quite daunting at first, do you have any tips for those just starting out?

Always keep experimenting and don’t stop having fun! Sometimes the best realizations come from happy accidents, so never be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to synthesis.

Thanks for your time, Jesus!

Studio Focus: Kalawila / Hugh on March 25th

Kalawila

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi! My name is Robin, and I’m a third-year student of radio production at the Stockholm University for the dramatic arts. When I ́m not doing that, I make and play techno under the alias Kalawila. Sound takes up a lot of my time.

What is your current studio set up?

I actually produce from home, since I don’t have the privilege of having a studio, and up until recently I didn’t have much of a “setup” at all. I made my first records with an old iMac, the basic Logic 9 software, and four or five external plugins that kept crashing, so I could only work for 10 minutes at a time before the computer went OAIGFJNAOIGNAIOEGABEUGABEFCA. It sounds odd, but I also think limitations is your best friend when doing something creative.

I make most of my music with samples and field recordings since I have access to microphones & recording equipment at my university. For instance, I might go down into the huge university garage and bang on a metal container, record it, then twist & turn it inside out with effects on my computer at home until it sounds like something completely different, like a magnetic frog or something. I have a small array of analogue synths as well, like the Korg Volca series, and a Semblance from Analogue Solutions, but it’s only recently that I’ve been getting into hardware. The most important thing about hardware for me is that it needs to be intuitive and easy to understand when you’re starting out. Otherwise, it’s just going to be intimidating.

When working on a track, what is your process?

It really differs. For my first records, I decided to take real newspaper headlines and make music that I thought described that scenario. For instance, my first record is “Slagsmål utbröt på Mount Everest”, which is Swedish for “A brawl broke out on Mount Everest”. Or my latest record, “Ensam kamphund tog Pendeltåget”, which means “Lonely fighter dog rode the commuter train”. I thought those were funny scenarios to try and paint. I’m really inspired by computer games as well. For instance, the other day I came across a spell called the “Hyper kinetic position reverser.” I have no idea what that means, but I started making a track about it. I don’t have any musical background with playing an instrument, so I try to come at it from a different angle.

Recently, I’ve been adding the drums at the very end because they don’t stimulate my imagination that much, they have a much more apparent function. And I ́d like to keep the track from having a function for as long as possible. The perfect scenario would be if the finished track isn’t “dance music”, but rather music that makes you want to dance. Those are two different things.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

It’s really fun how easy it is these days to make a tangible recording unrecognisable from the original. Just that part is sometimes enough for me. So you can just go in your bathroom, take a metal object and bang it on the thing that dries your towel. Let it resonate, record it, and then sit for hours and basically mistreat the sound in every possible way imaginable; apply filters, stretch, distort, do everything possible on a computer. Later, when I start applying delays is usually where a song or rhythm starts to take shape. I trust my intuition a lot, I can hear instantly if a sound fits into my musical universe.

Kalawila

If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

I actually had my most serious one recently, where everything just sounded like absolute garbage, and I felt pathetic every time I tried making a track. That’s not good. However, during those kind of times I’m fortunate that music isn’t my full time job. If it was, I would have felt super stressed, but now I just focused on other creative stuff, one which ended up being a radio theatre piece. Focusing on other things, in turn lead me back to fiddling with music in a naive way. Feeling naive is big part of the fun for me, and if I’m not having fun, whatever I’m doing at the moment just ends up being really shitty, so whenever I get bored or frustrated I do something else. I guess what I lack in work ethic, I make up for in versatility.

Mixing down can often be frustrating when starting out in production, what advice would you give for getting tracks ready for the club?

Master the EQ. I’ve noticed when mixing tracks with more experienced studio friends, that a lot of work just goes into “cleaning up” the track and making sure each element has it’s place and isn’t disturbed by other elements. Also, I don’t use any reverb at all on the elements that are typically the loudest in the song (like drums). When you play the song at a club, you can really take advantage of the fact that the room gives you a natural reverb, rather than adding another reverb to the fictional one you added in the song.

What’s up next for you, any releases in the pipeline?

I’ve almost finished my next record “Lönnmördare fick betalt i frimärken EP” (Assassin got paid in stamps), and I’ve decided to start releasing friend’s music on my label as well, which I think is really exciting! The two next ones will be by my good friends Birds ov Paradise and Dorisburg! Tracks that I’ve been playing out for a while now, that really just need to be heard by more people.

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Image Line Remote App For Circle² / Hugh on March 2nd

Image Line Remote For Circle2

FL Studio users! Deftivity International have kindly released a free Image Line Remote template, so you can control Circle² from your phone or tablet.

Head over to their website to download the template.

Studio Focus: Hugo Massien / Hugh on February 13th

Hugo Massien

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m a music producer and audio software developer from the UK. Labels I’m currently associated with are XL Recordings and 17 Steps.

What is your current studio set up?

I work on an iMac alongside Maschine Studio, using Logic X and a load of 3rd party synth and effect plugins (including Circle²). For monitoring, I’m using Adam A7X, KRK Rokit 6 and Beyerdynamic DT770.

When working on a track, what is your process?

I definitely go through phases. At the moment a lot of my tracks are born out of synthesis. I’ll program a lead or bass patch from scratch until I’m happy with the result, then build the percussion around that from the kick drum upwards. In other circumstances, I might begin a track with the percussion, or a vocal sample. For me, the most exciting part of music production is the realisation of an idea that no one else has had yet, so in general, that’s a good place to start.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

Percussive one shots normally come from drum machine packs. Vocal elements come from movies, tv and the obscure corners of YouTube. Everything else is synthesised using predominantly subtractive, wavetable and FM techniques, occasionally resampled for further mangling.

If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

Often If I hit a bit of a block I’ll just open up a synthesiser and program some patches from scratch, normally that leads to inspiration. Also, at the moment my material is fairly club focused so visiting a decent event can be inspiring as a contextual reminder. If all else fails I’ll just take a break.

Mixing down can often be frustrating when starting out in production, what advice in this field would you give for beginners?

Talking from experience, don’t get bogged down with tutorials and reading forums. There’s too much information to take in at once and the merit of a lot it is questionable. Try not to spend too long on a mix, realise that you’ll probably never be truly satisfied with it. Just get your levels right and EQ out any piercing or conflicting frequencies, your ears will just train themselves over time.

What’s up next for you, any releases in the pipeline?

A few of my new tracks have been on rotation in the clubs for a while, so they should be dropping on 12″ and digital over 2017. All will be announced in due course!

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Circle² Future Sounds Collection / Hugh on February 7th

Preset Art

Since the release of Circle², as part of our Future Sounds series we’ve been periodically releasing free genre focussed preset expansions for you to use in conjunction with the factory library.

We’ve decided it’s now time to round up the first 8 expansions into one collection…

Download the collection

These expansions have featured on our Weblog alongside context on the scene they emanate from, stylistic pointers for each genre and a sample track that demonstrates how they can be used. Make sure to check out the direct links below if you don’t want to miss out on this extra information!

Gqom
Chicago House
Dubstep Vol. 1
Holiday Presets
Grime Vol. 1
Trap Vol. 1
Future Deep House Vol. 1
Future Pop Vol. 1

The Circle² preset folders can be found here:

OSX - Application Support > FAW > Circle-2 > Presets
Windows - Program Files > FAW > Circle2 > Presets

Don’t forget to keep an eye on our social media pages and Weblog to keep up to date with all our free expansions and updates.

Circle² Future Sounds: Gqom / Hugh on January 12th

* All non percussive elements in this track were generated using presets contained in Circle² Future Sounds: Gqom.

As part of our Future Sounds series and following on from our recent Gqom and Music Tech with Emo-Kid SA feature, we’ve put together a new pack of Gqom inspired presets.

Gqom is a heavily percussive musical style so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the rhythmic style of the genre if you’re going to have a go at producing it. Bass synths are typically, deep, repetitive drone style sounds that surround the kick drum to provide low end tonal body. Sharp synth stabs and more dissonant synthesized FX are then used to add further decoration in the higher frequency bands.

Download the pack below, it contains all the elements you need to make a Gqom banger!

Circle² Future Sounds: Gqom

1. Deep G Power Bass
2. Drone Depth Filler
3. Sea Bed Chord
4. Mystery Chord
5. Flute Robot Lead
6. Vibrato Pluck Lead

Download the preset expansion

To install the presets, just unzip and paste the folder “Future Sounds - UK Gqom″ in here:

OSX - Application Support > FAW > Circle-2 > Presets
Windows - Program Files > FAW > Circle2 > Presets

Gqom and Music Tech with Emo-Kid SA [Gqom Oh!] / Hugh on December 29th

Gqom1

Over the last few years an innovative dance music scene has emerged from the townships of Durban and South Africa’s other major cities, garnering the interest of the music community worldwide. A combination of skeletal polyrhythmic swing, fractured hip hop percussion, and stripped back tribal house influences, South Africa’s clubs are alight to the sound of Gqom. Gqom, a Zulu word meaning “hit” or “drum” seems an apt descriptor for this incisive, percussive music.

As audacious as it is razor sharp, the gqom production aesthetic has a compellingly stripped back feel, invoking comparison to the raw instrumental dubplates that were produced during the burgeoning stages of the grime scene in London, circa 2003 to 2005 - think producers such as Jon E Cash, Ruff Sqwad and Dread D.

To find out about how this genre shaking, signature sound is being crafted, we spoke to renowned Gqom producer and Gqom Oh! signee, Emo-Kid SA, to get an insight into the music technology that’s driving the scene, and to find out about life as a Gqom producer.

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what lead you to producing Gqom?

I go by the name Emo-Kid SA, I’m 22 years old and was born in Durban, South Africa. I’m currently working with a London (South Africa) based record label called Gqom Oh! Owned by Francesco Nan Kolè. I started doing music in 2013 when I had my first ever computer which I was supposed to be using it for my I.T. classes, but I ended up falling in love with creating music (Gqom). I was also into producing some little bit of hip-hop but Gqom music really had me going crazy - I couldn’t stop myself from creating it.

What is your current studio set up? Are most gqom producers working in a similar way?

Believe it or not but most if not all of my production was created in my bedroom with just me, FL Studio, my computer and some little speakers, nothing fancy at all. Most of us Gqom creators don’t have much studio equipment since most of us like myself, we come from disadvantaged homes and so we have no other option but to work with what we have.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

Most of the sounds and percussion I use are the wave samples that I usually get from my fellow gqom producers. We always share sounds with each other if one has downloaded some new free sounds online. For designing my music I normally use FL Studio, assisted by some nice plugins. It is a perfect tool for me to use when creating Gqom. It’s user friendly and very nice for most Gqom producers out there.

When working on a track, what is your creative process?

I wouldn’t say I have a consistent creative process I use to produce every track, but it has to do with the mood you’re in at the time - since Gqom music is a very “up beat” type of music it’s always great to produce the next morning after a good party. Gqom music is all about good vibes. You can’t create Gqom if you’re not in a great mood.

It’s hard to find gqom tracks for sale or download online at the major retailers such as Beatport. How does do DJs and fans access your music?

Yes, it’s not easy to get it on Beatport or other music selling sites, but I have a Soundcloud page where you can get most of the music I have released there. Also on my Facebook page there’s a lot of my music which I have available for free download.

What is the standard technical set up for a gqom DJ? Do clubs in SA cater for vinyl DJs?

It’s very hard to find a vinyl set up these days it’s very unfamiliar here in SA. Most clubs just use CDJs but I would love to learn vinyl one day.

What is up next for you? Any releases in the pipeline?

I have been creating quite a lot of music recently which I hope to release on the next Gqom oh! compilation, which would be released some time next year. I also want to drop an EP of my own soon. Theres so much music here and I wish for it to reach your ears soon.

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