How Did That Happen?

I have completed my second album, Pad Magick, with the upload of Spies (Cold War Rethink) – and had to wonder how it seemed to complete so quickly.

I have been through a period recently, where I have not been able to have Internet access except at brief and sporadic intervals. This hasn’t deterred me, however, and I have continued creating music while offline (which is when I do it anyway). Consequently, I tend to upload a bunch of tracks all at the same time.

Having only a Free account with Soundcloud, I am limited to the amount of music I can add before my limit is reached. I find this only slightly annoying because I can add new tracks to a playlist (read: album) and simply take it down when I start on the next one.

So, the first album, Emergence, has been taken down and a new album, Pad Magick, has been introduced. The focus with Pad Magick, as the name suggests, is that everything on it was created entirely with the iPad. The only exception to this rule has beenWing-borne Nature which has had a birdsong recording added to it on my computer. Everything else has adhered to the rule, though.

Although I created Piano Chillout ten whole months ago, I only recently decided to add it to the Pad Magick album as I felt it could now have a ‘proper’ home. Still, it seems to me that this album has come together quite quickly – probably because it has only taken about four uploads to get all the tracks assembled.

I’m now working on content for an EP entitled The Magick Pad but I will leave Pad Magick up for a while yet, in case anyone wants to download anything from it.

If you wish to have a copy of either Pad Magick or Emergence, please email me at and I’ll make sure you get a copy. I feel Emergence is not a very good album but it is a yardstick by which to measure my progress thus far. i’m much better now than I used to be. My timings are much better, for one thing, not only because of practice but also because the Pad makes it SO easy to edit in place. It’s worth a listen, though just to see where I came from.

FYI – Pad Magick comes with a bonus track that you won’t find online.



His Master’s Bong


Okay, I admit it – this is unashamedly a track to get stoned to and I make no apology for that. I’m fully in support of the legalisation of cannabis. I’ve used it for damn near forty years, so I should be. I’m not going to use this platform as a soap box from which to harangue the benighted government – I’m sure there are many, more erudite than myself, who have taken up the banner and are wavng it frantically.

This is a return to the hypnotic basslines that I wanted to incorporate into my music. The bass in this piece takes centre stage by being repetitive and hypnotic. You may lose ‘sight’ of it when other things are happening but it’s always there and meant to give the piece a foundation, an underlying structure upon which to build, and I believe that I’ve accomplished that.

The length may be an issue for some people (It’s over ten minutes long) but I believe I’ve created enough ‘build’ to maintain interest. I once stated to another (and better) musician that it’s difficult to get a good enough ‘chill’ in a track that’s less than ten minutes long and I still believe this to be true. The most chilled and laid-back pieces I’ve ever heard are all over ten minutes.

Voices from Alchemy Mobile Studio and Nanologue synth were used but in the flurry of creativity I forgot to note the names of the voices and the settings used. Sorry. The bassline was provided by the Upright Bass from Garageband but started life as a riff for Sequence Bass, which I wasn’t satisfied with as it was too unreal. I went through Picked and Muted basses before finally arriving at Upright, which gave the riff a nice humanised sound.

I could launch into a discussion about why I like humanisation in electronic music but I don’t want to bore either you or myself. Suffice to say that I enjoy the thought that this could be played by ‘real’ musicians – by which I mean “live” musicians and using a humanised instrument helps me to imagine that.

The track can be heard on Soundcloud at:

As always, enjoy, share, use and comment but if you use it, give attribution.



P.S. Bong Usage Sound Effect
This was accomplished with a BIC lighter, a Macdonalds straw and a pop bottle filled with water. Note: NO BONGS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS TRACK 😉


Let there be no doubt that this track is meant for getting stoned to – hence the title. I don’t call myself Weedshrink for nothing!
I did two versions of this – a short one and a long one. This is the long version. The short version isn’t bad but I felt that this arrangement gave enough length to properly space out to. Plus, there’s more ‘build’ in this version.
Made using Garageband for iPad, it also includes voices from Alchemy Mobile Studio brought in via the Inter-App Audio connection.

For those interested in the technical details, the Alchemy contributions came in as single Audio Tracks and, in most cases, were given a Large Room treatment with the Compressor and Track Reverb both set for around 50%. I tried the Dreamy setting for the Audio Tracks but they all sounded too far away to be heard properly. The final Alchemy track (Melodious Vowel Piano-Duo) was left as a Dry recording because there was quite enough ambience in the sound.

Listen, Repost, Share, Download – whatever – as long as you enjoy!


GARAGEBAND – Voice (Library)

Hip Hop Drum Machine (Smart Drums)
Stratosphere (Pads)
Warming Waves (Pads)
Audio Track (Alchemy)
ALCHEMY – Voice (Library) [Treatment]

1. Desert Guitar (Factory) [Large Room]
2. Smooth Jazz (Factory) [Large Room]
3. Actopia (Luftrum Ambient) [Large Room]
4. Melodious Vowel Piano-Duo (Dream Voices) [Dry]

You can listen and download Blazing at Soundcloud on – Enjoy!



Rather a posh title and probably one I’m going to regret – mainly because I may have to change it.

If you haven’t heard it yet, Hypgnosticism is available for listening and download on my Soundcloud page.

It sounds like it should be a live Rock track – at least to me. The structure is easy. A single phrase or riff, repeated in different disguises. Sometimes as a Soul Organ, sometimes as a Classical Grand piano. There ended up being so many tracks that I started merging them. This introduced a new aspect to the recording, though. When tracks are merged in Garageband, they are combined as an Audio track – and you can do certain things with an Audio track. The original Merge comes in as a Dry recording, without processing. You can, however, choose to change the sound to mimic a Small Room, a Large Room, have a Dreamy effect applied, make it sound like a Robot or a Chipmunk.

I chose Large Room for the organs and Dreamy for the piano. There were three drum tracks in the recording, so they got merged as well. I left them as Dry because any change makes you lose out on one or other of the drum sounds.

There is a problem, though. I feel that this track needs lyrics. It should be a song.
In actual fact, I have begun to envision this as a loose chant, like a bunch of fellas singing in a bar. Not always in tune but clear enough to be acceptable. I’ve already altered the original Garageband file to give it room for lyrics and give it a more “song-like” structure.

I don’t know what the lyrics should be about, though. At first, I thought I’d make it about a couple who have been married for years and are trying to get back some of the magic that used to be in their relationship. Then I thought, no! Make it about a guy who is in love with a prostitute, a one-way, hopeless relationship. THEN I thought I might make it an “electronic folk” song and have lyrics that reference history. As different as you could possibly imagine from regular Folk! But why not?

I still don’t know what to do but I will work on some lyrics and see how it turns out. If they sound good to me I may publish it to Soundcloud but give it a new name.

Outta here!


Spiritual Alchemy (for Anita)

Last night, a couple of friends came round while I was piddling around with Alchemy for iPad.
Anita liked what I was doing and encouraged me greatly. Hence, I dedicate Spiritual Alchemy to her. Thanks, Anita!

I didn’t have enough flexibility in AS, probably due to lack of knowledge, so I used Audiobus to link Alchemy to Garageband and recorded the individual parts there. Whilst in Garagebend, I added a drone synth and a short, commanding, synth coz I felt that the track needed it.

The track has been created entirely with Alchemy Studio and Garageband for iPad.
Various voices were used:

First Drums: Factory Library – Dance Kit ( Audio Input (GB) was set for Large Room)
Second Drums: Factory Library – Dance Kit ( Audio Input (GB) was set for Telephone)
Drone: Luftrum Ambient Library – In Randalstown (Pads)
Melody 1: Luftrum Ambient Library – Adhara Star (Pads)
Melody 2: Luftrum Ambient Library – Dream Voices Library – Stolen Beauty (Pads)

The eventual ‘track’ that combined the interplay between the two Melody’s and the Drone was recorded with an audio input setting of Large Room.

Drone: Synth Pop Strings set for minus one octave
Commanding Synth: Synth Pop Strings set for 0.


The Spook Rock

Let’s be truthful: I can’t sing. I’d like to sometimes include the spoken word in my music but my Birmingham accent doesn’t lend itself to Received Pronunciation without making me sound like I have ‘airs and graces’ or delusions of grandeur – neither of which is true.

I sometimes entertain my wife by using a character voice but this seems to default to en elderly, physically ailing Northern man who doesn’t really know what’s going on in his world and is determined to see the best in everybody. You have to be there to appreciate it!

With Hallowe’en fast approaching I felt it time to allow folks to hear my voice. Sort of.

I made a simple Blues-progression piece using Tabletop for iPad and decided, at the last minute, to give it a Hallowe’en twist by using the built-in microphone to add some… vocalisations (for want of a better word).

I called it The Spook Rock and have uploaded it to the Tabletop Community on Soundcloud.

I hope it gets played at Hallowe’en parties and the like but even if you listen and have a giggle I’ll be happy.

As an aside, I think Tabletop could benefit from the inclusion of guitars and effects pedals, or Audiobus compatibility so that these could be added via Garageband. I have to trust that the app has intentions to grow so I look forward to these additions in the future. In the meantime it’s a heck of a lot of fun!



Wing-borne Nature

Without a functioning studio on my computer, I’ve more or less been forced into using my iPad to create music. I was beginning to despair that the synths I have on there were geared toward a more ‘pop’ type of music than the Chillout and Ambient that I love to play.

While trawling through every voice I could find on the iPad, I found a nice one that is part of the Luftrum Ambient library for Alchemy Mobile Studio called End of Stars. This voice forms the melody of Wing-borne Nature. But it wasn’t quite enough. I wanted something else – a drone, something relaxing – this is an Ambient piece, after all. I found it amongst the Garageband synths. It’s called Day Spa and is a nice warm pad sound.

Together, these two instruments (with the help of Audiobus) completed the musical part of this piece and, I have to confess to being quite pleased with the result! All this was put together late last night while I yawned and thought longingly of bed. I’m not sure whether that was an effect of the music – which was resolutely aimed at relaxation – or whether these old bones of mine really needed rest.

This morning, I listened to the piece again and found it needing something else – and, I believe, I knew exactly what it needed. Birds.

A while back, I found a five minute recording of woodland birdsong which would fit the bill just great. If you want the same recording it’s available at Freesound ( – it’s five minutes in length and if you have trouble finding it a search for “Woodland Birdsong June” will locate it. So, many thanks to Justkiddink for their efforts in securing a great recording.

I used Audacity to put the whole thing together and Wing-borne Nature is available on Soundcloud for you to listen to and download should you desire to do so.



Experiments on the Tabletop

So… My Linux system has gone for a burton for the time being. I had a nice working system but then went and installed something which stopped everything else working. At least the stuff that I wanted working!

There was I, synthless and twiddling my thumbs. Then I decided to install one of the growing array of DAWs that I collect. Bad idea. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the DAW didn’t use Pulseaudio. After getting no sound at all, no matter what I tried, I searched forums online (Internet worked!) and found that Jack and Pulseaudio aren’t exactly friends and you have to fiddle about unmercifully in a terminal to get them to play nicely together. Fuck that!

My take on such things is that the DAW is supposed to work out of the box. You shouldn’t have to fiddle with it to get it to work. It’s like buying a car and having to install the engine yourself. Would YOU do that? Alright, maybe you’re okay with a shit deal like that – but I’m not. If I buy a car, I expect to be able to drive it off the car lot – If it’s supposed to work, it should work. End of chat.

I’ve heard that the latest version of Ubuntu Studio has sorted this problem out and I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’ll download it as soon as I can get some more blank DVDs to burn it to.

In the meantime, I turned to my iPad to see what I could make with the apps on there. I have a growing collection of instruments for Tabletop, so I fired it up and started fiddling around. Eventually, I landed on a laid-back, jazzy-sounding loop which still needs a bit of work.

The trouble is, I went and clicked the button that uploads it to the Tabletop Community at Soundcloud. So it’s now out in the Public Domain. I called it Laid Back Tabletop Session at Dudley, UK. Okay, so the title is shit but in my defence, I have never done this before and thought they were asking for Location Data, not an extended bit of the title.

When I found it on my Soundcloud page, I renamed it – but it still bears the same name in the Tabletop Community page.

Jazzy things, however laid-back, aren’t really my ‘bag’. I don’t know enough about the style to be confident playing it. What I’m always aiming at is Chillout and Ambient. I listen with envy to the likes of Cousin Silas who has “Pro” written all over him and I wonder if I’ll ever get that good.

Only practice will tell!

I’m in my mid fifties. My school chum (I was twelve) taught me where Middle C was, showed me how the notation worked and left me to it. I’ve taught myself everything else. While I don’t claim the right to use the term ‘musician’ I can get a tune out of almost any instrument and love to try new ones. My biggest defeat was my cousin Karen’s Bass Saxophone. I was asthmatic as a kid and just couldn’t get enough breath to get a note out of it. Laugh? I nearly asphyxiated!

Anyway, I’m now fiddling around with iPad synths and I’ll post the results to Soundcloud whenever I get something I like. Tabletop has space for roughly four to five minutes of music, which is probably why most folks who use it create beats or loops. Frankly, five minutes just ain’t enough but, for now, it will have to suffice. What I may do is download the resultant ‘piece’ and work it up and add to it in LMMS or Audacity and see what happens.

Be good,


Keep On Busting My System

I’ve been having a God-awful time with my computer – most of it my fault because I can’t leave things alone.

As you may know, I run Linux as my operating system. I had been running Ubuntu 10.04 for ages (well, since April 2010 – which is why it’s named 10.04). Because it worked fantastically for me out of the box, I took steps to preserve it by stopping it updating. But that was way back in 2010 and I’m older now and, presumably, have less brain cells.

Then something happened. I installed a new program to try it out. I can’t even remember what it was, now – but it didn’t work as expected and threw some other stuff into disarray. I uninstalled the offending software but my system seemed to be trashed.

Before you bang on about backups, it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t have the space to store them. It’s was very tight on my hard disc – or was.

Anyway, I reinstalled Ubuntu 10.04 and the other software that I needed for making music and forgot to turn off the Update Manager. Then unthinkingly accepted a Partial Update – which, again, trashed the system.

All this happened, I believe, because the repositories that fed 10.04 no longer existed.

Undeterred, I opted for an upgrade to 12.04, the Long Term Service upgrade. It didn’t work for some reason. May have been because I Upgraded rather than installed fresh. Things that had worked for me in 10.04 no longer worked and no explanation was offered.

This seems to be the problem with a number of Linux distributions. I must mention that I’m not geek enough to trawl through log files and run slick commands at the CLI – I’m an ‘install-and-use’ kinda fella. If it doesn’t work as advertised, I replace it.

After a bit of reading, I found that it may have been Pulseaudio that was causing the problem. I’ve read a number of accounts where Pulseaudio doesn’t play happily with Jack (the audio control kit). Why Canonical think we need TWO programs to cope with audio, I have no idea but the upshot was that I couldn’t be bothered combing forums for an answer when the disto should work, as advertised, out of the box. It didn’t – so it had to go.

There are, however, several Studio distributions that merited a look – and I had a few of them: KXStudio, Ubuntu Studio, PyDAW, Puppy Studio and Dream Studio.

PyDAW was a no-go because it’s a dedicated 64-bit tool and my computer (which I bought off Noah!) is firmly 32-bit and won’t run things designed for a 64-bit architecture.

So I tried Ubuntu Studio – no sound.

So I tried Dream Studio with the Unity desktop – got sound but it kept breaking down and hanging.

So I tried KXStudio with the KDE desktop – loved the desktop but no sound (Pulseaudio again – yawn).

I tried Puppy Studio but wasn’t enamoured of the desktop and couldn’t get any sound from it.

The main house computer runs Oz Unity Debut 1.0 – a great distro based on Ubuntu – but what I remembered from way back was that I had loved ZorinOS – and decided to install that on my music PC.

Zorin comes with a lot of ‘eye-candy’ effects which my processor (or graphics card) couldn’t cope with. I persevered and managed to turn them off and found myself, once again, in Nirvana.

I kicked off a synth, coupled my keyboard to it using Jack (no Pulseaudio in sight, thankfully) and found beautiful strings coming out of my speakers! So, right now, I’m happy again and the slashes on my wrists are healing nicely.

I’ve downloaded a couple more distros that I may as well test just to make sure I’m actually in Nirvana and not next door – and I’ll report on those when I’ve had the chance to burn them to DVDs and check ’em out.

For now, I can potter around and compose some stuff and, when I’m satisfied with it, I’ll post it on my Soundcloud account and scribble about it here.



Hypnosis, Lloyd and The New Elements

The thing I most like about my two favourite forms of music, Chillout and Trance, is the hypnotic effect of the music.

Chillout (or Ambient) allows you to relax as the gentle pulse of the music soothes the stresses of life. Each change in the music comes slowly, almost imperceptibly, surprising you when you realise you’re listening to a new section of the piece. In pieces like Ambeam’s Moonraker 2005 ( it’s the combination of bass and drums that sets up a rhythm that holds you throughout the whole piece, which is quite a different feeling from, say… Cousin Silas’s Turning Towards Galaxy 7 ( which is not noticeably rhythmic from the drum and bass perspective but nonetheless completely relaxing.

I suppose there are two types of Chillout – the ‘beaty’ enlivening sort and the immersive and truly relaxing sort. I absolutely love both. I could probably reclassify each of these examples as Chillout and Ambient respectively but I’m not the sort of guy that enjoys pigeonholing things and, to be truthful, I use both terms interchangeably.

Trance, on the other hand, generates a much quicker, danceable, rhythm and the hypnosis in this form of music comes from the sequencing of elements like bass and drums that hold the same rhythm or tune while you ‘get into it’. Of course, the nature of Trance is such that these rhythms or repetitious bass sequences cannot be held for too long without becoming boring. Avoiding boredom means introducing new elements to the tune in rather quicker succession than with Chillout. Often, there is a break in the music created by the introduction of a drum solo or a rising tone or arpeggio that, when it finishes, allows for the same rhythm or sequence to reiterate alongside new elements. It leaves you with the feeling of “Hell, Yeah!” and I find it all fascinating and extremely hypnotic – which pleases me greatly.

The reason I’m mentioning all this is because I plan to use this hypnotic effect in my own music. Of course, much of what I will do will be in the Ambient/Chillout genre but I fully intend to explore Trance once I get some instruction in how to create the various elements.

I had an interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Lloyd Taylor whom I met the other day. He is extremely knowledgeable about Trance and had created a lot of it in his time. I showed him ‘my stuff’ and he fixed upon Psychedelic Circuitry to play with. He snatched a single element out of the music and used it as a repetitive backdrop around which he wove wonders during the short time I was with him.

I have a very visual way of learning, and watched what he did closely. I have much still to learn but what I saw was so very instructive that I feel… what’s the word? Emboldened – yeah, that’s it! I’m determined to try new sounds, repetitive hypnotic rhythms and sequences, compressors, expanders – you name it – to get the hypnotic effect that I want.

I really hope I have the chance to study with Lloyd some more. Not that we were exactly ‘studying’ – we were chugging Jack Daniels and Bacardi while piddling about – but I look upon every encounter as a chance to learn and I know I learned a good bit from him.

So thanks, Lloyd! I appreciated your instruction and hope we have a chance to do it all again soon. Next time, I’ll bring the JD!