Saturday, August 8, 2009

If you'd still like to... can download the files listed in my last post. The stupid file hosting service I was using had a download limit, and shut off once enough of you downloaded it. So, as I like to be forward-thinking with my use of teh intarwebz, I introduce you to a cool new music-sharing service: Soundcloud.

Below is a player. Each song has a little download button next to it if you'd like to have a copy of the mp3 to put on your ipod or other such device. And remember, the lyrics are in the previous post:

Friday, May 8, 2009

because i love you so much - the Nimbus project

I discovered with my last post that giving you free things to download makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Since I have a certain fondness for warm, fuzzy feelings, I have decided to do a little more.

Back in 2004, a guy I'd met at a church social function befriended me and took me under his wing. We were both kind of loners at the time, and had similar interests, namely music. At the time, I wasn't really into any electronic music at all. (I know, right? Can you believe that?) He had been huge into it for over a decade, and bit by bit he got me hooked. Aaron Jasinski (often referred to on this blog as just "Aaron" or "Jasinski") taught me pretty much everything I know about electronic music, synthesis, sound design and most of my favorite mixing tricks.

We became fast friends, and started doing little projects together. At one point, he told me that he'd always thought it would be fun to produce some hip-hop tracks. It just so happens, I told him, that I rap. We immediately set to work, he with samplers, synths and effects, me with a pen and a pad. The resulting 3 tracks that we came up with were some of my favorite stuff I've ever done.

The first one was a kind of super-produced, nonsensical hip-hop anthem, called "Fastball." The second was a litany of ladies-man braCheck Spellingggadocio based on absolutely nothing true, called "Sharpdressed," (as we used a sample from ZZ-Top's "Sharp Dressed Man"). The final one was written in frustration over religious persecution I'd encountered at the community college I was attending at the time. It was called "The Acceptable Intolerance." All three tracks displayed impeccable production skill on Aaron's part. I played a couple synth lines on it, but 99% of the magic you hear is him.

[Note: Aaron's main gig is as a painter and designer, but he moonlights heavily as a musician and remix artist. I mean, he's this good and he's just moonlighting? That's nutty! His art can be seen here and here, his prolific remixes can be heard here, and you can follow him on Twitter here.]

I had been brainstorming a new hip-hop pseudonym for some time, as my old one was a bit outdated, and decided (albeit momentarily) on "Nimbus." I wanted to make a nod to being from Washington, and thought I'd shorten up the scientific name of our state's biggest resource: rain clouds. I've since changed it again. Keep your eyes open for future updates!

Now what you've all been waiting for: You can download a zip file with all three mp3's in it HERE, and below are the lyrics. Keep in mind that the first two are extremely silly. ENJOY!

Track 1 - "Fastball"

BLAM! when I light up the microphone and explode
With the beats behind me tappin and beepin like morse code
My brain’s a portal to another dimension so pay close attention
When you’re rollin with the lowered suspension

I’m all up in your area like your zip code
98058’s the life and 425’s the mode
Makin’ wrong what once was right, enemies quick to take flight
When day becomes night, suddenly I’m out of sight

My rhymes are all up in your face so what you gonna do now?
You’re retreating like a coward from my lyrical attack
My beats are all up on you like the shirt upon your back

I need a drink of water, fire’s getting hotter,
The TV’s showing re-runs of M*A*S*H* with Colonel Potter,
But I’m stuck in one place, yo, rooted like a rose
Pigs flyin’ overhead, ground cold cuz hell FROZE!

Fastball, change-up, throwin’ you a curve
Watch your back cuz in the end you’re gonna get what you deserve
Fastball, change-up, throwin’ you a curve
In the end, y- y- y- you get what you deserve!

As my Antarctic flows snowed down, the roads froze
And numbed the nose of every person in the first 5 rows
Ill circulation to the extremities
Scarves and hats and ski jackets hide your identity
You gots to know your enemies;

see the wolves dressed up as sheep
The Adversary has connections that run deep
Get off of my back, my liberty I keep
Awaken from your slumber cuz mentally you’re asleep

BEEP! BEEP! Who you beepin’ at, freak?
Run your ideas through your brain before you speak!
Pull back your mask and expose your scaly skin
Cuz we’re exposin' your nature and we’re in it to win, yo

Life burns with intense ferocity
Fate is not without a sense of reciprocity
But destiny can suddenly throw you a curve
In the end y- y- y- you get what you deserve!


Track 2 - "Sharpdressed"

Verse 1:
[phone rings]
(Actual phone call): "What up? Oh, just kicking it here in the studio... so, did you wanna come here then?"

Slick with the wardrobe,
talented with the comb,
ladies flocking just as if I was
a walking pheromone.

Never alone for too long
before there's someone on the phone
like a homing beacon
something always makes my presence known

Every word, every gesture
every gaze is efficacious
please excuse me if I am
overly ostentatious

in my All-Stars and my
three-piece suit, you're caught
on the double-windsor
perfect triangle in the knot

looking like i'm a groom's best man
i don't know why, i'm just a blessed man

I don't have to try hard
or be an obsessed man
it's just that every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man

like polished marble
like an exacto
from the commencement to the

Playin' for the love of the game
not the glory
girl, why don't you come over here
and tell me your story.

I'm just being
honest when I say the way I
play is to have a different
lady every day OF THE

WEEK, hanging on my
arm and on every WORD
I SPEAK, loving all the

As if the game had cruise control
i hit "resume"
and quickly introduce myself
to every lady in the room

If attention's like sunlight,
I'm kicked back and baskin'
Gentleman or gigolo?

Some people think I'm insane
most people sayin' I'm vain
Struttin' round with my
momentary main jane

Every time we spin a hook
I get another look
another name in my
little black book

I'm gonna shake your life, girl
you're bound to get SHOOK
I'm prone to stealin' hearts, girl

I must confess
I want you to acquiesce, let down your guard
it ain't how much you win, girl
it's how you play your cards!


"(laughs) ... 98058 ... ok, cool, so I'll see you in a little while, then. ok, i'll talk to you then."

TRACK 3 - The Acceptable Intolerance

Verse One:
Hate, nobody claims to
have, but they partici-
pate, in bigotry with
help, and sanction from the

state, which dictates
what we congratulate
controlling public enmity
determining my fate

The wizard's just a cover
for the man behind the curtain
his voice booms "EQUALITY!"
but what I know for certain

is that it doesn't exist,
The nickel's just been flipped over
vilification again,
history's pattern tripped over

A well-meaning public
has now become the subject
of plans to get them upset
'bout those that rise above it

Everything that's holy's burning!
Gather round the fire!
They conspire against all belief
in something higher

than human desire, then in
every public school require
that all students must admire
their filthy league of liars

the acceptable intolerance
has traveled through the wire
and become the status quo
let's all wallow in mire!

"Peace" improperly defined
as "absence of debate"
will only numb the mind
so that it can't equate,

they never tolerate
somebody's sense of self
unless you put your faith
and soul upon the shelf.

They want their thoughts applied
to everyone but them
"everyone's equal"
but dissenter's they condemn

The media is rife
with patronizing views
they want respect
but do their best to clear the pews.

Just look at the news
search for the clues
society's bruise
surrounding abuse
dividing the hues

I lose faith in intentions
'cuz moral dissension
denies intervention
it goes without mention there's unbroken tension

And then they choose what we fight
they cause you to hate
they know what we fear
they know how to bait

With the security of brothers
to the hateful lust for foes
the acceptable intolerance exists
'cuz no one knows.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

allow me to explain myself: how i became an audio nerd

I'm an enormous nerd. In lots of different ways, too.  I'm a computer nerd, a book nerd, and a philosophy nerd, among many other sub-species.  One of my biggest areas of nerdity is music and audio.  The technical term for it is to say that I'm an "audiophile."  I love all things that involve enhancing the experience of listening to music.

[Warning: This blog post is very long. Just skip it if you're in a hurry.   -Jake]

You might think that this affection comes directly from my personal work as a recording technician and sound designer, but it has deeper roots.  I was conditioned at a young age to become the way I am.  My dad was a casual audiophile himself, and I grew up in a home where the central element of the living room was a modular, analog stereo system, complete with speaker cabinets my dad had built himself (with four-way crossovers!!).  In the age before the $99, 5.1 surround-sound home theater system - or any surround-sound home theater for that matter - I watched Star Wars on a s0-s0 television, but with front-and-back, dual-stereo speaker cabinets, each of which being about 5 feet tall.  That's 16 individual drivers (speakers) throwing sound at me with every swipe of a lightsaber and every footfall of an imperial walker (yes, I'm that kind of nerd too).  So you see, my ears were kind of spoiled.

Thus began a long, complicated, and often frustrating love affair with recorded sound.  Over the years, my tastes and preferences matured.  My preference for lots of bass (due, I'm sure, in large part to the fact that teenagers' ears are less sensitive to low frequencies), was gradually replaced with a preference for clear bass.  My preference for loud stereos and speakers was replaced with a preference for accurate ones.  I became pickier, yes, but at the same time, I appreciated the good stuff so much more.

A History of Formats
The first recordings I ever listened to were on cassette tape, and on vinyl.  Tape was obviously easier and more convenient, so expediency conquered and I was a tape man for years.  CD was a definite step-up, as it reduced many of the limitations of tape and, let's be honest, it sounded better.  I had never listened to an mp3 until I was about 16 or so, and by then, I'd kind of lowered my audio standards, or rather I'd forgotten my roots, and I accepted mp3 quality at face-value.  It was a moot point really, because any listening I did to mp3's at that point usually was done through cheap little computer speakers, thus filtering out any fidelity that might be there to begin with.

Before I go on, let me explain a couple things, and hopefully dispel a couple myths.  Tape in general, is not a bad format.  To this day, tons of professional studios use reel-to-reel tape machines in conjunction with digital media, because of it's fidelity and because of certain sonic properties that tape naturally has.  Tape cassettes, however, no matter what the pimply kid in the skinny jeans tells you, are a terrible medium.  Cassette, because of it's physical limits, necessitated frequency manipulation when mass-producing, producing that well-known high-frequency hiss.   Also, due to the magnetic nature of audio tape, over time it is subject to a process called "print through," in magnetic information on one part of the tape bleeds over onto whatever part of the tape it is pressed up against, and vice versa.  Ever listen to a tape you've had for a long time, and hear stuff going on in the background at a silent part?  Or hear what the guy is about to say get said really quietly right before he says it? That's print through. Yes, this happens with all tape, but in studios, they minimize print-though by storing the tape with the reels wound tail-end out, so that any echo happens during the sound and not before it.  Also, unlike studio tape, cassettes get information recorded to both sides of the tape, making it possible to wind it in such a way as to avoid print-through issues.  In general, cassettes suck for anything besides digitial information, but that's a completely different can of worms to be discussed in a later post (keep your eye out for a post on digital audio).

Getting Serious
I became obsessed with recording when I first got a tape recorder when I was about 6, but I started getting serious about it when I was 16.  I did a bunch of research, reading books and magazines and picking this guy's brain.  I took out a loan from my parents and bought my first recording setup.  I got way into it, even though I had no idea what I was doing and sounded like boiled poop half of the time.  But it had become a quest for me.

After returning from a 2-year mission for my church, I started working at Guitar Center and assembling my rig in a piecemeal fashion.  As I started listening to digital formats like mp3, wmv and wav through nice (well, at least nicer equipment) I discovered that yes, in fact there was a difference between them, and yes indeed they were almost always lower quality than CD's.  It wasn't until a couple years later, while studying music in college that I discovered that vinyl, that format I'd never really become attached to, and which I had just assumed was inferior, was actually higher in fidelity than all of the rest of them...  And it blew my mind.

Digital? No.... Well, Ok
Did I go out and buy a turntable with an expensive needle cartridge and a super-sweet analog stereo system?  No.  Unfortunately, expediency (coupled with an empty pocketbook) once again took me away from vinyl.  I do plan, in my future home to have a study / listening room in which I will have vinyl records and a super-sweet hi-fi setup, but in the meantime I'm a digital man.

Let's face it.  Analog will always be nicer, but digital will always be more accessible, transferable, and generally more convenient.  So, is there a place for us audiophiles in the digital realm? You betcha.

I first really started listening to mp3's in earnest with the purchase of my first iPod back in the summer of 2005.  It was a 20GB iPod Photo.  I loved it with all of my heart.  I began ripping CD's to mp3 left and right.  My ears were still relatively immature at this point, and I still hadn't really discovered the limitations of the mp3 format for myself.  And I didn't for another year or so. As I accumulated more and more high-end equipment via my employee discount, I was surprised to find that I was hearing more problems with sound quality.  It was ironic, but more importantly it was skin-itchingly frustrating.  What it actually took me about 2 or 3 years to discover is that the sound quality problems had always been there, they were just more obvious because of the quality of the equipment they were being played on and through.  Turns out that 128kbps mp3's weren't quite as acceptable as I'd thought they were.

By winter 2006/2007, I would only create mp3's at 192kbps, and it was acceptable most of the time, but still, certain songs, usually loud ones, would drive my ears crazy.  It got worse.  And worse.  Soon, I was thinking that all my equipment was going bad.  Nice equipment, paired with ears that were being given a college education, combined to create a constantly uncomfortable and unsatisfied Jake.  Then, just a couple months ago, it occurred to me.  Could it be that iTunes sounds bad?  No way, I mean, it's APPLE for goodness sake!  It should be great.  So, to test out my theory, I opened up the same mp3's in iTunes and in that ugly, clunky old program, Windows Media Player, and I did an A/B comparison.  Result: Holy crap,  iTunes is distorting my music!

The Sweet Melody of the Songbird
Just weeks before discovering this malady, I was introduced to a fantastic-sounding, free mp3 encoding format called LAME, and to variable bit-rate mp3's.  They sounded a ton better than normal mp3's, but iTunes was still distorting my stuff, so one day, while visiting one of the audio/music snobbery websites that I browse, I came across a forum thread where a bunch of snobs were discussing what media players they used.  I did a google search for every one of the players they mentioned.  Eventually, I came across a wondrous little gem of potential awesomeness by the name of Songbird.  I went through the mp3's that had distorted the most when listening in iTunes, and not once was there an ounce of distortion.  Not one crackle!

Some of the other players were more critically acclaimed, and a couple of them - Foobar, for example - are renowned for being the highest fidelity media players, but I chose Songbird for a couple reasons.  Firstly, it serves my needs as pertains to audio fidelity.  Secondly, it is completely modifiable.  It's made by Mozilla, and it's doing for media players what Firefox did for web browsers.  Like Firefox, there are tons of add-ons you can install into it, like a window that displays the lyrics of your songs, or a pane that displays recommendations based on your current selection, or even the ability to tweet about the song you're listening to.  In this day of the iPhone, desktop widgets and the Google Android mobile OS, any software that doesn't let you customize is quickly going obsolete.  Customization is the future, so I'm a big fan of Songbird.

So, there you have it.  My nerd-history (nerdstory?)  in a digital nutshell; How I got to where I am and how I justify it.  There you go.  I want to reward you for getting all the way through this post if you did, so since there is no way to dispense candy via the internet, here are the download links for two LAME-encoded variable-bitrate mp3's (at maximum quality: V0), of two recent songs of mine:
Enjoy! (Just don't listen to them in iTunes if you want to get the most out of them!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'The Sandwich'

Recently, I did some music for a video made by Projectline, Inc., a creative services / marketing firm (I'm probably describing them incorrectly)  based in my beloved Seattle.  It's a funny video promoting their company, and was written and directed by my lovable big brother Ben.

I made sort of a big beat kind of track, and tipped my hat to Dr. Dre with some low brass.  I tripled-up the bassline with brass, synth (GForce impOscar) and piano, and added a screaming synth lead (Native Instruments Pro-53) near the end.  I had a lot of fun doing it, and I think it turned out well. Check it out for yourself.

Click HERE, or watch below:

UPDATE (4-27-09):
I also did the "theme song" for their Ask Larry segment (Larry being their IT guy), which can be seen HERE.  It which  also uses track 4, "Want and Should," from my album Fragments in Abstract, which you can listen to on the sidebar of the blog:  --------->