March 5, 2023

I've found tape loops and the associated techniques interesting for a while, but I haven't been willing to put down money on a bunch of tape players and effects pedals and such. I realized that I can emulate this workflow in VCV Rack, so this album is an exploration of it. In less charitable terms: this was conceptualized as an extended AMULETS pastiche.

I ran into an aesthetic problem thinking about this album. It felt like the audio source for the loops should be something "real", but my handful of acoustic instruments are at home. My solution to this was to only create samples outside of VCV Rack, then bring them in to manipulate. It's kind of silly, but it works. Using entirely digital means to emulate an analog workflow sort of echoes the cover art, which is digitally painted watercolor.

Speaking of the cover: it's really good, right? Izzy, who did the cover art for Out of My Hands, painted it. I knew I wanted an abstract foggy landscape. Izzy took that prompt and knocked it out of the park. Check out its twitter to see some of its other work.

I bought a MiniLab MkII for this album, because having physical dials to turn seemed incredibly necessary for this kind of work. I recommend it! It's very sturdy and well built for something so affordable. I kind of wish I had sprung for the MkIII; faders really would have come in handy.

Overall, this workflow is a ton of fun, but it's really easy to end up making super long songs that don't justify their length. Further experimentation and refinement is necessary. More pre-planning seems like a must, for starters. Still: a fun exercise. Would do again.

Tracklist (27m 42s total)
  1. Welcome Home (3m 27s)

    The MiniLab came with some software instruments. You can hear the electric piano and a sound off one of the Analog Labs here.

  2. Singular (3m 43s)

    This one turned out kind of static. I didn't build in enough ways to change the arrangement while I was patching it together. I also need to practice fiddling the knobs musically.

  3. From First Principles (3m 23s)

    This is single looped piano sample run through multiple pitch-shifted delays. I think it sounds pretty neat, but would really shine as a sample. It'd make a good background texture, or you could run it through an envelope and use it as a chord sample.

  4. Delicious Sands (5m 3s)

    I'm not gonna sugarcoat it: I'm really proud of this one, even with my amateurish keyboard playing. I kind of cheated the tape loop metaphor by allowing myself to retrigger the piano chord, which you can't really do with tape, but it sounds cool, so it doesn't really matter. Same with the rhythmically gated noise sounds, which are technically against the "asynchronous loops" gimmick I started with.

    Speaking of cheating, Paulstretching sounds is a cheat code to making them sound all cool and ethereal. Most of the tracks here are Paulstretched samples from Garageband.

  5. Unfalsified (5m 20s)

    All the sounds in this song come from Casio keyboards. That's not super important, but it is kind of neat. I definitely need to practice my improvising, but skill issues aside, you can't deny: I had a lot of fun.

  6. Ego Rat (6m 44s)

    This one's definitely cheating. The drums and chords are tempo synced. I tried a version with me improvising melodies on top of the backing loops, but it turned out bad, so I redid the song with an arpeggio line taking its place.