Custom Darkroom panels for the modular

Check out these beauties, courtesy of ProModular:
Darkroom SOTNMS panels
Os, April 2010

A new toy for The Darkroom

Or more properly, a new toy for The Lightroom, since apparently Mike's studio has been dubbed The Darkroom, and this beast lives in my studio.

People have said we sometimes sound like Tangerine Dream. Expect that comparison to be made more often in the near future!

Os, June 2009

The orange amp

We did some more recording the other day. Two things worthy of mention.

First, we used Mike's lovely old Marshall amp (pictured), which I'm particularly fond of simply because it's orange. As I recall, this was the amp that gave us the feedback sounds on Mercury Shuffle (on the last album, Some Of These Numbers Mean Something). This time it gave us some more screaming feedback, which was nice but not why we plugged it in, and some eerie slide guitar parts for an otherwise entirely synth-based piece (a rarity for Darkroom).

Secondly, we tested out another new plug-in that I'm writing. More on that later. For now, know that it sounded awesome and we pretty much wrote a track on the spot based on its sound.

Os, May 2009

The start of a new project

On Feb 8th Mike and I got together for a session, which promises to be the start of the next album. Currently the direction is back to the more ambient end of our output, possibly pursuing the drone-type sound we briefly explored in the podcast (e.g. in the track drone_of_4_4_7).

Nothing gets the juices going like trying new gear combinations, and this time we tried a few new things. I had a new in-development plug-in to try out (more on that later) which worked gratifyingly well. We also tried out re-amping for the first time, which seems to be very much in vogue at the moment in all the music making mags. We re-amped my Prophet '08, and also re-amped Mike's guitar (so we could get the sound of plug-ins on the laptop feeding a guitar amp). All sounded good and I'm sure we'll be doing it again.

You can see the amp rig in the photo - my trusty Rode NT-2A mic, Mike's extremely heavy Rivera combo being used as the cab, and the rather wonderful (and wonderfully inexpensive) Harley Benton GA5H all-tube head.

Os, Feb 2009


It struck me the other day that a) my studio was a mess, and b) I have a reasonable amount of outboard gear which I once thought was excellent and only stopped using because I went down the "everything must be in the computer" route, and was therefore languishing in various unusable locations.

The solution? Some custom studio rack furniture from StudioRacks. I can't recommend this chap highly enough. Very friendly and attentive service, excellent quality results, and the fact that everything is custom made means you can get exactly what you want.

os, Oct 2008

Cheap Chinese mics 'r' us

14th May 2008 - the second 'audit' session for the new album, and time for a few overdubs. One track only needed a little extra guitar (it must've only had, like, 10 guitar parts at that point).

Mike had a new cheapo Chinese ribbon mic he wanted to try out - the T.BONE RM700. It's an odd looking thing - like a big metal lollipop. We stuck it in front of Mike's awesome Rivera amp and cranked it up.

The sound is - interesting. Makes things sound a bit old and knackered. Also it turns out there was a nasty resonant buzz on something - maybe the mic, maybe the cab - but fortunately we recorded a DI signal too. You should still be able to hear some of the buzz on the album, where we felt it was tasteful rather than annoying.

os, June 2008

Prophet '08

A new arrival in the Darkroom studio - a rather lovely Prophet '08 by Dave Smith Instruments.

Dave Smith was involved in the creation of such legends of synth history as the Prophet 5 when he was working at Sequential Circuits Inc. He now has his own company and is turning out some very nice new machines.

Expect to hear a lot of this keyboard (as well as my trusty Juno 6) on the new album.

Today's podcast episode is a track consisting entirely of Prophet '08, recorded mainly as an exercise in getting to know the new beast. Enjoy!

os, April 08

The Dragon's Ball

Wednesday 27th Feb: To Croydon, for the Dragon's Ball at the Green Dragon. Darkroom + Andy Booker, or Improvizone with Mike & Os? (Not sure if there's a difference...) Supporting Croydon-based Burning Shedders, The Resonance Association. Thanks Daniel.

We were billed as 'lo-fi dreamy techno' (!) The theory was we'd play drones with percussion... but to me, the venue didn't seem right for that, and it's definitely not what came out. Haven't heard the recording back yet - but towards the end,  I remember picking up on something Os played and thinking "no echo & maximum fuzz". Darkroom go ambient metal?

The fuzzulator helped make this work: Small but flexible, it handles vintage, gargly non-linear as well as brutal, bright & focussed with compressed lows. Varying the guitar's volume & tone does something useful as well, and given I typically use a volume pedal after the fuzz, there's a whole range of tones to explore even without echo. Somehow last Wednesday I rediscovered this!

Audio & video to follow...

Mike, March 2008

Update: Andy has written about the gig on the Improvizone blog.

The Tape 606

I read on a blog the other day about Goldbaby and their unusual range of sample libraries, including an interesting take on the ever popular Roland TR808/909 sample set:

Not another 808 sample! Well actually it isn't... this is 407 samples taken from two 808's recorded into an Ampex 351 1/2" valve 2 track tape machine! That's not all... We also put the 808's through other vintage gear. Plus we recorded the 808's naked into a Metric Halo ULN-2 firewire audio card. Then we chose the best samples. All 24 bit, and all phat analog goodness! If you can't get a hold of a real 808 then this is as close as you can get in samples... Maybe even better than the having the real thing!

Better yet, they've put out a free (as in beer) library of TR606 samples, which I've been having fun with recently. Go get it here.

os, Feb 2008