I’m a bit late to the game in reviewing the iConnectMIDI, seeing as how iConnectivity have discontinued it. I wanted to shower a little love on this device, though, because it was one of those rare purchases that really changed the center of gravity of our studio setup. I’m sure the build quality and feature set will continue with the new line of the device, but I won’t know, because the iConnectMIDI in EB Labs Highlandview will only be replaced after it is pried from my cold, dead hands.
Initially I picked up this device to provide MIDI for my iPad. Although I have lithe (and sexy I might add) guitarist fingers, trying to play those wicked softsynths on the little touchscreen keyboards was not exactly the best with several full size keyboards around me in the studio. The goal, then, was to be able to play using my controller keyboard for fiddling around and then to be able to playback via sequences in REAPER on my PC. I unboxed the iConnectMIDI and found it to be a nice hefty piece of kit — solid build you don’t need to worry about crunching or dropping. I RTFM (which was pretty short), plugged it into my controller keyboard and my iPad, and fired up Alchemy Mobile. I had to hunt around for the correct MIDI input, they get enumerated a little strangely on the iOS side, but in a few minutes I was jamming (or in this case swimming in lush ambiance). The iConnectMIDI shipped with all the ports routed to the iPad, so it just worked out of the box.
Initial successes in the bag, I started plugging in more devices. I connected up the PC and found that I could record the MIDI output of my controller keyboard into REAPER while still routing MIDI to the iPad. Previously, to work hardware synths, I had to route into the PC and back out using monitoring which introduced obnoxious latency. Things got even more interesting when I plugged my Akai MPD18 directly into one of the iConnectMIDI’s USB jacks. With zero setup I was capturing MIDI from a USB device without even plugging it into a PC. Mind = blown.
“Well, won’t be needing this anymore” I said, tossing my little 2×2 MIDI interface into the nearest bin… The iConnectMIDI ended up being the central hub of our entire studio’s MIDI world. In the current setup, it connects directly with my PC, then connects to my Korg X5 and Roland Juno-G via the MIDI interfaces. The Akai MPD18 and iPad connect via USB. There’s other stuff I could do to optimize the setup (such as connect the Juno-G via USB) but honestly there is no need at the moment. The iConnectMIDI does everything I need and does it well with huge potential for tweaking. The provided iOS app opens up a whole other world of filtering and routing, being able to save and recall scenes as needed. I could easily see this as being central in a musician’s live setup as well, possibly allowing for laptop-less setups (a thing we all strive for).
Overall, I’d say the iConnectMIDI is my best gear purchase (beside my iPad itself) in the last two years. Worth every penny.
After a little over a year of intensive planning, recording, and mixing, Undercover is done. Tonight we’ll be signing and packing up the last of our Kickstarter rewards. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully express our thanks to our fans, family, and friends that made this album possible. The support and encouragement we received really recharged our batteries and given us the juice to not just finish this album but to look to future projects.
For those of you that missed ut on the Kickstarter action, fear not! At the moment, the album is available on the following sites:
So, I suppose this brings an end to this chapter of Endless Blue’s history. Next up is the B-sides of Undercover, those tunes we recorded but didn’t quite make the cut on the final album. After that, though, is another all original album. We’re already a few almost fully completed songs in, with a ton of ideas in that primordial ooze stage. We’re really excited to get back to it as there is nothing more fulfilling than finishing one’s own songs.
And it’s about time. Covers are fun, but writing is funer.
For now, though, we’re going to relax and celebrate.
So here we are, coming to the end of the process. It’s been a wild year of writing, recording, mixing, and rerecording. Next week we pass along our mixes to Brian Hazard at Resonance Mastering and, from there, the CD pressing service. And from there to your hot little hands. The final track list is:
Jolene – Dolly Parton
Turn the Page – Bob Segar
Bad Things – Jace Everret
Safety Dance – Men Without Hats
The Thrill Is Gone – B. B. King
2wicky – Hooverphonic
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? – Culture Club
I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones
Tarkus – Battlefield – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
What Don’t You Do Right – Joe McCoy / Peggy Lee
Magic Man – Heart
Beautiful Accident – You’re Pretty
Now, I know it’s cliche for an artist to say “this is our best album EVAR”, and I’m going to happily fall into that cliche. Undercover has come together in a truly amazing way, with everyone in the band pushing each other to reach farther and up their game. There was never that feeling of “well, that’s good enough” — no, even though it made me want to tear my meager hear out, Laura was rerecording entire songs just a few nights ago, and to great improvement. This will be the best sounding album we’ve released to date.
As of the holidays we have completed principal recording for Undercover. Recording a whopping 18 songs in just over a year is pretty decent for a bunch of people with full-time jobs. This does fall short of the 20 song goal I had set, though. Two tracks were sketched out but never got fully launched and I just ran out of steam and drive to replace them. You reach a point, too, where you can slog through two more tracks or you can start shaping and tweaking what you’ve got. We all collectively decided its time to do the latter. So apart from pick-ups and tweaks, Laura and Scott are done.
Which leaves me as designated driver at our studio get togethers, as my work has just started.
But mixing? I love it. It’s probably my favorite part of the process. I liken it to sculpting more than any other activity. You take a stone, rough it out, then slowly use your tools to shape it into art. Same with a mix. It has somewhat of an iterative process to it — you tweak the mixes, burn them to a disc, throw it in your car for a few days. Between driving to work and the house to let the dogs out you get plenty of “Oh, that doesn’t sound right” moments. Take this, tweak the mixes, lather, rinse, repeat.
One step I will be glad to be handing off for Undercover is mastering… Yes, thanks to all the kickstarter love, I will not be in charge of the mystical incantations and pixie dust portion of our album. No, that I will be leaving that to Brian Hazard of Resonance Mastering. We’ve bumped into Brian’s work all throughout our existence as a band and are excited to finally have the cash to splurge on his mystic powers of squishing sound. Expect Undercover to sound really effing good.
With that I’ll bring this to a close. The Heat soundtrack just popped up on my iPod, so I’m going to go cry and wish it was summer. Then I’ll go mix some tracks.
Just wanted to drop a note that, yes, we are in fact still alive. Hooray!
The reality is that we are deep in the grind for Undercover. 14 songs with full recording, three need vocals or bass or both, two that are in the midst of production, and one left to be picked. This is easily the most ambition project any of us have worked on — pretty crazy stuff. And most crazy is that I actually think we’ll hit our release date of April 2013! On the mixing side of things, I find myself working much more efficiently, tossing out recipe production tricks and just going with what sounds good. I have a nice clear vision of what I expect each track to sound like, which is a bit different than what happens with our original work… Covers are so much easier since you already have a starting structure to work off of.
Given all of that, I will be excited to get back to Endless Blue music. Working with Scott on Undercover has helped to shape a bit of a derivative sound for us, a bit more of the organic “real band” vibe. At our last recording session we all recorded live in a single take rather than tracking separately, and it was pretty cool. Not sure if I heard any magic just yet, but I look forward to trying it again soon, and especially on our new music. I feel there is something to getting that more “bandy” vibe in our music that takes other artists like Zero 7 and Air out of the electronica genre and puts them firmly somewhere else. I’ve always felt trip-hop, at its soul, was always more organic than its cousins, and it’s really exciting to take it there more fundamentally in Endless Blue.
In other news, I’ve been dealing with ongoing shenanigans on YouTube, and the general feeling I’m getting is… Icky… We’re going to be trying out vimeo as an alternative hosting site. Granted visibility will not be as high there and we will not be cancelling at YouTube any time soon, but all the same, I feel vimeo is a bit more artist friendly.
Chilling out this evening, having a beer and partaking in my latest obsession: crappy thrift store vinyl. There’s something about the tactile immediacy of vinyl that is very appealing. There was also a glut of vinyl put out in the 60′s that is not only interesting but really lost to the world — I mean, how many of the approximately 10 gazillion 101 Strings albums (a thrift store staple) were reissued on CD or digital format? Not to say this stuff is particularly very good… But it’s a snapshot and has a “sound” I’ve become very attached to.
Anyway, first an update on “Undercover”:
Arranging and recording continues a a pretty steady clip. There have been a few hiccups in the early summer (busy travel schedules, moving our studio, and Diablo III to name a few), but we’re still easily on track to finish principle recording by the end of the year, with mixing and mastering to take place in the spring of 2013. We’re in the thick of our big donor’s songs, some of which have been… Challenging… But that’s been the whole point of this album, to put us outside our comfort zone. We’ll post our progress on SoundCloud this weekend to our donors that have access.
In between working on Undercover tracks we’ve been working on original material for our next album. It’s all just preliminary stuff at the moment, with a few exceptions. Hard to describe where our sound is headed, but it’s a little different — maybe a little more classic trip-hop with plenty of vinyl injected in (see first paragraph). It’s still a bit amorphous, but it’s definitely headed in a direction. Who knows which one, though…
On the live front, we’re all itching to play some shows but have fallen out of the game enough that its proving a little tough to get the ‘ole motor running again. A planning meeting is in order, maybe with a some minutes and synergy to make it official. Wisconsin, here we come, ever so slowly.
Finally, here’s a new video, this time for “Goodbye”. Miramax seems a bit miffed at our use of “Kill Bill”, but hey, whatever. Come at me bro.
So here’s a little something different. After spending a summer listening to dj BC’s awesome albums Another Jay On Earth (Jay-Z vs. Brian Eno) and Wu Orleans (Wu-Tang Clan vs. classic NOLA standards), I got really hooked on mashups. Problem was, in my eyes there were tons of great one-off ideas but very few fully realized concept albums like the ones BC delivered. There’s a real power and elegance in following a theme or thread for 30 minutes through an album compared to the ADD severity of someone like Girl Talk, who can’t seem to keep a concept going for 30 seconds…
When I finished production on Unfriend, I had a bit time to just goof off and try something new. I thought I might try my hand at doing a mashup. During a particularly long run I hit on the concept of Mosby, which was just that — mashing Mos Def and Moby. I had no idea if my cheesy idea would ever work, so I just sat down and tried it out. It took a while to find the tracks that “matched”, which seems to be the key to creating a good mashup. A few hours, some timestretching and EQing, and I had banged out The Beef After. I was pretty pleased with the results, so I kept going. Before I knew it I had eight mashes of Moby and Mos, and after a month of mixing, tweaking, and mastering, I had an album.
Now, this isn’t for everyone, and likely a lot of our trip-hop fans won’t like this. Rest assured this doesn’t mark some new direction for Endless Blue. I just had a lot of fun making some music that I really enjoy listening to. And since I can never sell it, I thought I’d share.
Undercover is a concept we’ve had for some time now — a studio CD of all covers, trip-hop-ized and reinterpreted in our style. We’ve been considering it for years, fermenting and sloshing around in our little brains but never quite happening. The logistics of gathering all the suggested songs and paying the royalties to release the covers has always been just a bit out of our reach.
And then Kickstarter came along, giving us this amazing platform to croudfund and manage such a project (and possibly get us in front of new supporters and fans to boot). About a year ago, before we had even finalized the track list on Unfriend, we knew that our next project would be Undercover via Kickstarter. After many hours of hard work and preparation, the time has come.
Help us fund Undercover and you get to help us pick the songs you want us to record. Help us at a premium level, and you get to pick a song directly. You pick, we record. What could be more fun?
Digging through the archives and dusting off boxes really gets the gears going. On a seemingly impossible mission to mine remixes from archive.org, it hit me: most of these remixes are over five years old. Isn’t it time to get some new ones? Providing remix materials seems even more relevant in this day of mashups and social sites like SoundCloud.
I spent an hour or two this weekend working up a remix pack for our rather popular songLow off the Smoke Through It album. It’s a combination of loops and full audio tracks in the OGG format (before you groan, there are 6 bazillion programs that can convert to .wav or wahtever). Provided is a REAPER and EDL project that will show the fully tracked out song. Lead vocals are dry, and most volume and panning automation has been stripped. I tried to get the “best” sound for each loop/track, so this isn’t a really spectacular mixdown. FYI.
Anyway, have at it. This remix pack is released Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (click the CC image on this post for details). You can remix away and even sell it on your CD or on bandcamp. You only have to give us credit and share your resulting track as well. Hopefully you’ll share it with us on facebook, twitter, or SoundCloud. We would love to reshare it to all our fans as well!
So this is Scott Feldstein, the newest member of our rag-tag crew of trip-hoppers. He’s been playing bass since he was 13 and plays in a way that evokes large reptiles smashing asian cities (I mean, seriously, you should hear Goodbye live now). Yet Scott is definitely on the same page as Endless Blue and will use his mighty talent only for good and for our wicked grooves. You’ll be seeing/hearing a lot of him as he takes over bass duties from Nick in 2012 and beyond.
Incidentally, this time we really really made sure he wanted to be in our band before we announced his membership.