1. Tim Hecker – Rainbow Blood
  2. Nicolas Jaar – Colomb
  3. Luke Abbot – Brazil
  4. LTJ Bukem – Demon’s Theme
  5. Colin Stetson – Judges
  6. TV on the Radio – Staring at the Sun
  7. The Field – Is This Power
  8. Lucky Pierre – Angels On Your Body
  9. Apparat – Ash/Black Veil
  10. Bjork – Hyperballad
  11. Underworld – Two Months Off
  12. Boards of Canada – Turquoise Hexagon Sun

mlrVST: Project details

For the last few weeks I have been working away on a fun little project to recreate / expand on a great bit of software for the monome called mlr. The original patch was written in Max/MSP which is great for putting together these sort of sample juggling applications. However Max/MSP remains a proprietary language / coding evironment meaning it’s not possible to get in and hack around with the source code without owning a full copy (which unfortunately I don’t). So in response, I decided to create a VST plugin in C++ which is fully open-sourced / modifiable. While my project (unoriginally named mlrVST) borrows heavily from existing incarnations, I hope to add plenty of my own features and ideas: in particular I’ve looked at adding several granular synthesis capabilities.


So what stage is the project at just now? Well I have a basic VST up and running. It has a GUI, it makes sound, it responds to the monome and can play back loops at varying speeds (set internally or by the VST host). Windows builds are available but I’ve not had access to OSX to try building a Mac version (the project uses the cross-platform JUCE library so it should work!). There is lots still to do: presets, live audio recording, resampling etc, but there should also be enough working to have fun playing around with! For more information (downloads / screenshots / source code), the best place to go is the monome.org forums, although the github project page should be useful too.

I hope to write some more articles about the technical side of the project (using JUCE etc) in the future so feel free to check back now and then!


Growing crystals in Python

Diffusion-Limited AggregationAs part of my preparation for my PhD, I’ve decided to have a look at other programming languages, partially just out of curiosity, but also partly due to the frustrating length of time it seems to take to get code up and running in Java/C++. Python is often mentioned as suitable scientific programming language so I decided to dive straight in. I’ve only been using it for about a week and already I’ve been very impressed with the speed with which I can get prototypes up and running. Coding in python seems more eloquent, concise, almost like writing pseudo-code at times. The community encourages writing “pythonic” code where the finding simplest, cleanest (and often fastest) method is highly valued.

So to test out the new language I decided to have a go at implementing a basic lattice-based Diffusion-Limited Aggregation model. The basic idea is set off a series of random walkers around a central “seed” – if they come into contact with the seed they stick to it and a new walker is released. The colors in the above diagram show how new that part of the crystal is (hotter – new, colder – old). The code is available over at github; the curious should also have a look at the faster version rewritten in the NumPy numerical library.


Couple of new Tunes

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a bit of recording with Folk It and friends. First set is a tune (as yet unnamed) that I wrote on the banjo with Mike Starkey on guitar. The second part may need a little bit of tweaking – it sounds a bit too much like a free jam! I’m definitely looking to pick up a four-string banjo at some point, they’re great for writing tunes if nothing else:

[swf file=”audio/EwansToon.mp3″] Banjo Tune

The second set is a couple of Irish tunes that we arranged with Folk It, and although we can’t seem to find the names of the tunes anywhere (please comment if you recognised them!), the set is called the Stingy Midges Set:

[swf file=”audio/StingyMidges.mp3″] The Stingy Midges


Album release: The Grit That Makes The Pearl

CD coverEight months after entering the studio for the first time, we finally launched the album “The Grit That Makes The Pearl”. It’s been a fascinating process from conception to physical product, it really makes you appreciate the amount of work that goes into making a CD.

The majority of tunes and arrangement were done by good friends Hugh Marwick and Stuart Mackintosh, with fiddle from Gavin Marwick (of Bellevue Rendezvous), Sean Cousins on drums and myself on piano. We were also joined by the wonderful Eilidh Mackenzie on vocals and Calum MacGillivray on pipes.

For sample downloads / CD sales head on over to the official site (designed by myself), marwickandmackintosh.com. There is a tour to support the CD starting June 21st, starting in the Highlands but hopefully travelling further afield later.


Masters Thesis: Modelling Non-linear Behaviour in Valve Amplifiers

I have finally completed my masters thesis on modelling valve distortion in guitar amplifiers. It’s been a fascinating project that has introduced me to many interesting modelling techniques. A large portion of the project has been looking at Volterra series representations, and although these have revealed some intruiging behaviour, I have not yet managed to use them to produce acceptable audio output. I had a bit more success using neural networks, particularly using the nnsysid toolbox. You can download the main report below along with the preparation report (supplement with some more of the theory). 

Download: Main Project Report [pdf]
Download: Project Prepartion Report [pdf]

exponential sine sweeps

Spectrogram showing the response of a valve amplifier to exponentially swept sine signals.


Boards of Canada news

BoCIt would be fair to say that I am a bit of a Boards of Canada nut. I’m sure everyone has at least one band whose releases they collect religiously, and believe me there are plenty to find for BoC including some stupidly rare cassette tape things (A Few Old Tunes is definitely worth tracking down online). It has been some years since the band last produced an album and their notorious reticence only makes matters more fustrating for fans. However news of updates to the official website looks encouraging, and we may well be seeing a new album within the next few months, although how their sound will have progressed in the last 5 years, given all that has going on in electronic music is anyone’s guess!

Anyway to celebrate this potentially exciting news, I would like to share a fantastic piano cover of one of my favourite Boards of Canada tracks, Turquoise Hexagon Sun performed by Goldmund.

[soundcloud url=”http://soundcloud.com/keithkenniff/goldmund-turquoise-hexagon-sun”]