Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SoundCloud Invasion!

I'm sure by now everyone has heard about my switch to SoundCloud, but if not, consider yourself in the know. Today I reached another one of the milestones by replacing my website players with set and track widgets from SoundCloud. There is an unfortunate side effect of slightly slower load times for these plugins, but their ease of use, both from the user side and the admin side, is worth every additional second.

A couple of the huge user benefits are tracking controls and download access. The tracking controls will come in handy for anyone that needs to rewind to listen closer, or to fast forward to a specific spot. Download access will not be available for all tracks. For those which are downloadable, the player will show a download button by the track name for set widgets, or on the border for single track widgets.

Over the next couple weeks I will be porting more tracks over to SoundCloud, most of which were probably overlooked in their previous locations. I will be making occasional publishes to Facebook and Twitter regarding new uploads, so be on the lookout for tracks you may have previously missed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Sharable!

As you may have noticed, I have been transitioning my audio streams over to Soundcloud. This move allows me to categorize items better, embed my tracks on Facebook and keep stats on plays and downloads. Another feature I will be using in the future is the ability to privately share tracks, meaning that I can share special items with my Facebook fans and those who are on my mailing list. Speaking of which, if you are not on the mailing list, now is a good time to join!

The best reason behind joining Soundcloud however, is less about what I can do and more about what everyone else can do; share the music! All of my public streams on Soundcloud can be embedded on personal sites, blogs, etc. without worries of copyright infringement. As long as you use the Soundcloud widgets (players), the tracks properly link back to me as the artist.

To share the tracks, head over to my Soundcloud page, find the track or set you want to share and click the "Share" button which is on the player. This will pop up a window giving you some options, including direct feeds to various social media sites as well as the actual code to embed the player. If you want to be super fancy, you can click the "Customize Player" button which will give you size, style and color options, so you can be sure it fits nicely on your page.

When you are done, you could have a player just like this:

Relentless Soundtrack Samples by Nick Olman

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spirit Day Reprieve

In honor of spirit day, I'd like to take a brief reprieve from the world of music and talk a bit about another topic: ignorance. During one of my daily visits to reddit I came across this page which entails a list of bands that apparently are supporters and/or promoters of the gay lifestyle. One of the recommendations outlined on the page is to look through your children's CD collection and burn any of the albums by these artists; in front of them. Looking at the page all I can say is, "Seriously?"

I have always been a huge supporter of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of basically any choice which does not infringe upon the freedoms of others. To me it's the only logical way to live, given that life itself does not grant us a set of rules; there is no instruction manual. All we can go on is what we are taught and what we discover.

Many people will argue that life does indeed have an instruction manual, though. Problem is, this "manual" changes based on what religion each person belongs to. Everyone says they are right, but no one can prove it. I realize that is why we call it faith, but how can anyone say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what they believe is the one and only truth? How can something which has no physical evidence be infallible? Over the years science has proven more against all religions than it has for any single one of them.

So, would it not be ignorant for us to turn a cheek on everyone that believes differently than we do? If all we were ever taught was wrong, how would we know? We have to see all sides. We have to hear the statements of others. We have to choose for ourselves.

Listening to music is not going to make you gay any more than it is going to make you straight. Curiousity is in our blood, and what is more curious in life than all that is taboo? An overly sheltered life leads to ignorance. Our ignorance will lead to intolerance. Our intolerance will lead to destruction.

There is no reason to make outcasts out of innocent people.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stand By Your Work

I recently came across an article online suggesting reasons behind why people pirate music. Though the article seemed to miss one of my general thoughts, it was quite logical. I mostly agreed with the reasons stated, but the last two reasons mentioned were the ones I feel best represent my issue with music these days.

Many articles over the past few years have been advocating the death of the album, because people are able to go out and purchase just the songs they like. So, what is it about all the other songs that people don't like? Well, I believe the problem is that too many groups have an abundance of filler.

Now, I'm well aware of the fact that music is subjective, but there are just so many songs out there that almost feel as though the artist was bored while recording them. As if there was no meaning behind the track, it simply existed to fill the space between hit A and hit B. It is true that not every song can be a hit, but let's face it, if all you are capable of writing is one good song, why don't you only release that song?

People are sick of buying albums that have 10+ tracks but only 2-3 truly good songs. If you bought it and don't like it, you don't generally have money back options. So what do you do? Well, it seems people begin pirating music because they feel these labels owe them something. I don't believe in pirating music, but I will actually side with those who do in this scenario.

I've had problems in the past deciding if I want to purchase an album because I was not sure I would like every track. This is why I've tried to always keep full stream versions of my tracks available online. I have nothing to hide. If people like it enough to want to place it on a personal device, then they will purchase it. If they do not, I don't want to take their money. I'm in this business to create art, not to trick people into purchasing a disc full of music they'll hate.

I wish more people would hop on this wagon, but I don't believe they ever will. "Why?", you ask? Well, because when people hear all that filler, they aren't going to be purchasing the full album. Again, I realize music is subjective, but there are songs which were so obviously created with less effort than appropriate. Filler may have worked in the past when the only media for music were physical, but it is severely damaging people's views of the industry these days.

Is it too much to ask of an artist and/or their producer to put effort into all of their work? I don't believe it is. If there is one thing I can promise as an artist, it's that I will never release anything that I myself would not consider purchasing if it had been written by someone else. I stand by the work I do. What I create may not be the most popular and it may never end up being the favorite of any person at any point in time, but it will always be exactly what I want it to be at that point in time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eternal Servants to the Departed

We've reached the end of the album today with the track Eternal Servants to the Departed. Those who are familiar with my song Among Them, which was written for the short film Gun Barista, will recognize the title from the lyrics. The idea behind the line of course, was that to survive the main characters would need to forever serve the undead. Seems almost the same as being a zombie when thinking back on it.

Much like Looks I Could Kill, this track began as a manipulated version of a fully arranged sound clip. A couple days into working the piece I ditched this original idea, as I felt the vocal portion was much less interesting than I would have hoped. The track was shelved for a couple months before I found the sounds which best suited the mood I wanted to capture.

I honestly cannot remember the original source for the main underscore to this piece, but I do know it originated from a part of the score for Relentless. If I had to make a guess, I would say it's most likely from the first waterfall scene. I do know that the original sounds were ethnic percussion instruments. The resulting layer continues to stick with me however, as one of the most hauntingly hypnotic drones I have ever created. I recall listening to just this layer alone a number of times, completely zoning out from the world surrounding me. This effect is best experienced with headphones.

Along with the main droning, there exist a couple of percussive layers. The first is a sparse arrangement from a portion of the Relentless score, originally created with sounds from Native Instrument's Tension Strike set. It repeats four times during the course of the track, each time using a different set of effects. Some are very subtle, but they are important to each repetition. Overall, the part is quite heavily manipulated.

The second percussive layer is somewhat buried but exists throughout a good portion of the second half. It's origin was a cue from If Looks Could Kill, which made heavy use of samples from Evolve Mutations, another Native Instrument collection. The semi-metallic sound was given in processing for Eternal Servants, it did not exist previously.

There are actually two melodic pieces in this track, though one may be seen more as ambiance. Both parts hail from a short electronic piano bit I composed a good number of years ago. For this piece, the first section was heavily delayed and reversed, resulting in very slow attack times. The second section was elongated and faded into the mix over just about the entire track duration.

The last pieces of the puzzle, the vocal clips, came directly from the recording of Among Them. They were granulated in FL Studio to slow them down slightly and then mechanized by a ring modulator, conforming to the rule laid out during the Locust Star days, "it needs more ring mod." I will forever be in debt to Kelly for this lasting advice, which has proven true on so many occasions.

The final whisper was recorded specifically for this track, but still fits the project guidelines in that it's lyrical source was a previously recorded track. I chose to not use the original recording as the presentation was completely wrong for the desired impact.

This track was the easiest to place on the album as it was the only one I thought could properly close the disc. I feel as though it fully encapsulates the collection's overall darkly melodic vibe. Definitely one of my personal favorites.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Looks I Could Kill

The sixth track from Smear Campaign was also the sixth in line to be finalized. The name comes courtesy of a demo reel James Phillips was putting together for a DVD pitch, which was entitled If Looks Could Kill. I'm not at liberty to divulge information about the DVD other than the fact it starred Debra Ades (who also appears as Ashley in Relentless) and it was seemingly paranormal. I do not know the entire story, so it's actually a projection regarding the paranormal aspect.

In discussions of If Looks Could Kill, James and I would often abbreviate it to ILCK, which I would always want to type as LICK. Out of this small quirk came the idea for a piece entitled Looks I Could Kill.

The track which shows up on the album was not the original arrangement. The piece began similar to Through A Corrupted Mind in that it's basis was a completely assembled clip. The piece used was from a clip of ILCK, which come out okay but far from worthy of the album. Oddly enough, the final album track only includes a single item from the ILCK score, a rather eerie drone.

The main melodic loop hails from the electronic track A Shaded View, which was initially created for a fashion video by Nigel HoSang. In the original track this part plays a more supportive role than the forefront placement it is given in Looks I Could Kill.

There is a second clip from A Shaded View which is used to enhance the bell tone layer. It is a fairly gritty and gated synth patch which ultimately goes hand-in-hand with the melody. I purposely adjusted these two layers out of sync, to create certain moments of tension as the chords progressed.

The corrosive portion which basically takes over the entire track in the end was created using the guitar setup seen on my home page. For this setup I placed small wooden beads onto each of my strings and used some magnetix to drive the strings and pickups. The majority of motion was from repelling pieces attached to the strings with a magnet in hand. The final sound clip used for this piece was actually the same loop used in the beginning of the original Relentless teaser trailer.

This track was one of the most fun to create and is also the one which is easiest for me to lose myself in. The droning melody is so hypnotic, easing me into a lull. It is a fantastic retreat from the haunting darkness, or at least it would appear as such.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

With Tortured Affection

Smear Campaign's fifth track, With Tortured Affection, was created exclusively from pieces of the track Nowhere Safe. The title was one of my entries into the Name My Horror Film contest. This title seemed quite suiting for the track in that it was created from a part of the film's score.

There are a couple of elements making up the barren soundscape at the root of this piece. The first is the acoustic percussion section, which was elongated to build the lower, more distant portion of the desolate wind layer. The second was the glitch industrial drum portion appearing in the first half of Nowhere Safe. This part was manipulated in a similar way to create the higher wind sounds. The idea was to give a true feeling of emptiness.

The melodic content comes courtesy of a very harmonically rich bowed glass segment. The instrument was not capable of producing a strong defining root, which resulted in a very dissonant and unsettling drone. This melodic layer is brought in and out of the foreground, again to try and portray an image of desolation.

The harsh buildup is a heavily manipulated layer, which consists of a good amount of distortion from Kombinat and a very high reverb send level. The basis comes from a small atmospheric clip buried in the mix of Nowhere Safe. This just proves that you should never leave a stone unturned when designing sound, you could very well miss the gold.

The melodic ending is pretty much a verbatim copy of the bell-like ending to Nowhere Safe, only on a much longer scale. I felt a bit of beauty was needed to complete the portrayal.

The overall process was quite similar to creating The Deepest of Black Waters, which I tend to think of as the older sibling to With Tortured Affection.

I suppose that With Tortured Affection could be seen as a longing. That being without a person makes the world feel cold and bleak, like being alone in a barren land surrounded only by dirt and skeleton trees, the only sound being that of the frozen wind. The more serene ending is somewhat like coming home.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Through a Corrupted Mind

At this point in the album, we move from the most complex track to the least complex track. Through a Corrupted Mind, in title, is a homage to the character Vincent from the upcoming horror film Relentless. It is not just in title, however, that the track relates to this film.

The main sequence of Through a Corrupted Mind was actually the original idea for the opening piece of Relentless. Upon extending the opening I came up with a second theme, which I felt better suited the opening, leaving the original as an orphaned sound clip. Given my obsession with sound manipulation, I began experimenting with this clip. The basis of the track ended up basically being a version of the track played at a quarter of the speed.

On top of the melodic base, a noisy soundscape is superimposed. This harsh buildup was created from the atmospheric ending of the Relentless credit piece, Nowhere Safe. It's a heavily manipulated and stretched version, a process which helped to tame the abrasive tone of the original source.

Aside from these two layers, there is a semi-percussive layer which appears near the ending. This layer is created from three copies of a percussive section of a film cue run through Audio Damage's glitch plugin, Replicant. The layers have varied reverb and misc effect settings to give the sum a bit of depth. The three parts were trimmed and arranged as necessary, but were mostly dictated through the random nature of Replicant.

As I stated in the beginning, this was indeed the least complex manipulation on the album, though the effort which originally went into writing the base melodic layer was fairly high. This track just happened to benefit from an outtake of the soundtrack. It just goes to show how important a track's tempo can be, as the Smear Campaign version, in my opinion, is far superior to the original.