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This is a wonderful soundscape, the only thing I found fault with was the intro being so overtly stereo. Part of me needed so badly to hear the low end of the ambient wash being more centred, having the sounds be able to move more.

The sound design is lovely, You know for sure my next question is gonna be what's your main synth for sound creation and are the sounds created from scratch or otherwise?

The bass entering in the centre was relieving and similarly to your most recent track the mix is well balanced and spaced, my only issue being the stereo spread, it feels like it restricts the movement that my ears are wishing for, a little more centred would have me lost in the ambient wash (in a good way), but the focus on the far sides leaves me feeling a little disconnected to the music. This is of course only my personal opinion.

Saltbearer responds:

Thank you so much!

Stereo: I'm always uncomfortable knowing that I only have my own headphones (Senn HD 558s) and my current phone's (Galaxy S8 right now) sound capabilities to judge a soundscape with… I might be unaware of what to listen for, we might be hearing different things, or we're just used to different things in general. On my end, I'mmm pretty happy about how the washes come at my head. I don't have much knowledge about the technical problems I could run into screwing with width or anything, so I'm not sure exactly how movement might be *restricted*, or how low end actually works in stereo. If you want to clarify anything, make it public via edit, of course!

I will say that I probably neglect dynamic adjustments to width too much… part of that is that it seems to create ugly artifacts I have to fight with without the finest level of control. But now that I'm focusing on the edges, the outer limits feel like they sit stationary too long, and are rather contained. Some spots in the intro bear too much relative weight, too.

Sound design: SunVox is a tracker-like program with no VST support, but a collection of modules that serve as simple building blocks for more complex designs. One cool feature is that another instance of SunVox itself can be loaded as a "meta"-module. That instance can be used as a processing chain or synth, and even nested within another metamodule.

A couple of the metamodules I made and now overuse are 1. a chain of filter peaks that serve as a resonator, and 2. a double-layered band-pass/reject filter, with band edges similar to devil horns. A synth metamodule I made last May, but never completed anything with until this track, was the stringy thing. It's basically a few rough finger-drawn waveforms with filter envelopes, reverb, and a very imprecise keytracked flanger delay with some touchy feedback. A couple iterations on that over time, more filters, more reverb, a triangle tagalong, and it sounds like it does here. Glide, spot-pitchbend/vibrato, slight timing/volume offsets, etc. were used for bits of character like the sharper-sounding plucks, and the twangs at 4:33 and 4:51.

Originally, this was just going to be a short thing with the looped-ish melody adopted by the stringy thing. I realized as I was playing around that the melody was similar to something I doodled in Renoise a while back, so I made it closer to that original melody.

After looping it a bit, I thought it would benefit from a wash of ambience at the start. I decided to take another metamodule I made for granular synthesis and feed it my old Renoise project, ripped from YouTube. It was just a similar melody on a simple chimey sound, and some simple reverby pad chords with distortion and a bandpass. Densely layered, played at different pitches, with random offsets to controlled sample playback offsets, it sounds like it does at the start… oddly human at times. (I LOVE ambiguously human vocal sounds, by the way. That little nook in the uncanny valley transcends Earth.) Suddenly, instead of adding a wash of ambience, I was working on the drone half of my new longest track. cuz dang, I wasn't expecting it to sound that good.

Going into it, I thought I was going to have occasional little kicks and glitches wherever they could be slipped in neatly, but after putting off designing the percussion too long and getting the drone stuff in, it didn't feel right anymore. I added 6:04 as a weak suggestion/reminder of the percussive presence there could have been, which doesn't fit as well as I envisioned such percussion in general could have. Probably would've been a tad bolder.

5:13 after the chugging drum-like sound is some granulated throat noise, with a butt-ton of modules shaping it. It is *super* convoluted.

The high-pitched clicky glitchy fizzles are a granulated sample of a noise generator I made. Similarly convoluted.

… beyond that, I don't think there's much else of note.

what's even the character limit on this thing

Okay so first off I'm gonna assume you created this account very recently, otherwise I have no idea why you haven't been scouted already.

You have a really good handle on organic sounds, warmth and escaping from the realm of "this sound came from a soft-synth", something I myself find difficult to do. The main beat itself changes the visual space of the mix, the whole track sort of feels like you're viewing a scene from a distance, rather than being right in the middle of it like most songs tend to be. The mix feels like a closed in space that you're viewing from the outside and I really like that.

Everything has a really nice place in the overall mix, nothing feels like it is fighting for much space, you have a strong ability of giving an element of the track the spotlight whilst not losing the backing. I had moments where I was listening solely to the main element and then realised that the rest of the instrumentation was still at comparable levels of volume. That's something that's really difficult to do right, requiring a strong ear for EQing everything into its own defined space.

In my own music a lot of the time I lose the sense of space and end up with a more noise-wall type of mix after wearing myself out trying to really craft a mix. I have a lot of respect for this.

Saltbearer responds:

New: Yes indeed! Still have yet to make four songs (that I have full rights to) since rejoining. February Album Writing Month should fix that soon! 8) Don't really wanna pull stuff in straight from SoundCloud when I feel like I may improve it someday, and it would throw off the chronology…

Sound crafting: Thank you! I always aim to include some rich textures and fine details. I get particular about minute variations in notes' placements in time and space here and there, but I've also come to *love* RNG as a middle ground between settling on one timbre (etc.) and endlessly overthinking automation. It also buries "flaws" under the movement it creates, and uncovers tones or artifacts you might want to deliberately incorporate or exaggerate.

Mix: Honestly, I don't plan things out much with regards to how instruments' frequencies may fit together - it's all carved out by ear in the moment, and I'm *way* more conscious of the natural space-giving tendencies of stereo delay width, and using volume to dictate rhythm and brain-filtering. Most care I take with ranges is really just second-nature sound design, or purely additive to the mix. And lack of conscious effort comes from a mix of "can't" and won't. I think the snare might not be clipping (the video game way) with other things here as much as it should be... bit noisy. But I'm not sure how best to modify it so that I'd feel more certain about it. I could just end up gutting it in an attempt. Also not very conscious of phase cancellation. or compression artifacts. or all those things you hear to watch out for.

I don't regret trial-and-erroring my way to where I am, or focusing on experimental and unconventionally-mixed music. I'm sure it's left me with a unique distribution of values in my music enthinkulators, and the journey has felt rewarding. But since that foundation's pretty well set-in by now, it might be time to experiment with more tools of convention, and actually try hearing through others' ears...

That aside, I have to say I love "subliminal" stuff - quiet, buried, distracted away from. Really adds to a sense of depth, rewards attention, and when a bold sound and a concurrent subtle one share several attributes, if your brain tunes out the subtle one, it can create this aura where you can't even consciously hear something, but it lends an intangible magical quality to the music. I kind of tried to employ that here by taking an overtone in the bass and making it a clear, quiet synth layer transposed +14. Might've been better to push it slightly quieter and/or lusher.

souuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh appreciate your thoughts and the excuses to dump some brain!

Hey! ^^

Great job with this track, also congrats on the frontpage.

The intro is strong in setting a mental image which is something especially important in lo-fi. I agree with the other comment that the tape crackle could use some fine tuning, but also the drum sounds sound like they should be brought more into the soundscape of the track, made subtler, they currently sound like they're a layer above the rest of the track, putting hats and snares through amp/cabinet simulators always helps me to get that "small" and gentle drum sound that is present through a lot of lo-fi.

Keep it up <3

ThomasTsao responds:

thanks for the actual review!! and all of your ideas are very good, i’ll definitely try to implement them into my future projects. i actually think this is one of my lesser works, so it’s kinda annoying to have it be my most popular haha.

There's a lot to love about this track, the bass automation and effective use of fx. The chopped vocals and general spacious/otherworldly vibe this track gives off reminds me a lot of Gorillaz.

Great job Quarl!

Quarl responds:

woot, gorillaz comparison represent <3

I always enjoy listening to your music because your production techniques differ so much from my own and my personal knowledge of production that I don't have the same fourth wall break of knowing how to recreate the sounds as I do in my other listening experiences.

P.S that's a punchy snare Quarl <3

Quarl responds:

Yay, Elf love!

I get that same 4th wall vibe when I listen to other artists, totes understandable. Musicians spend decades of their lives dedicated to practicing instruments, rudiments, and styles so that they can replicate certain genres or songs perfectly by memory on the spot. Music flows out of us in the moment and then it's gone. Sometimes it's hard to emulate something you yourself just played. You ever have one of those moments where a melody just disappears forever because you were too slow to write it down? A melody is right in front of you, pulsing through your body and then it's vanished into thin air because it's ephemeral. We're all just chasing moments <3

Hey Ando! great job with this track!

You captured a really haunting and dark sound with this track. The foley, atmospheric sounds and pitch decay brass sounds are spot on. Not to mention that the melody that comes in just before the drop is so good, having a strong melody that lands in really harmonically insecure places, I love that.

I felt the drop/main groove section could have been filled out more atmospherically, that's all that's missing to my ears, this may be based on taste and opinion but to me it loses a little bit of the haunting environment you've crafted here. although you do bring it back here and there within the drop, part of me is left wanting that crushingly low and bassy atmosphere that I felt this track was moving towards. Though I liked the offbeat "Bwop" synth and how the amount of reverb was altered between accents.

The gliding basses, flutes and bells are a really nice tone in the background, the track starts to take on a pulse after the first half, like a living organism. The risers in this are also fitting and well placed.

One last thing is that the very 80's sounding chord synth at 00:46 is gorgeous and shifts just how my ears wanted it to when it came in, it reminds me heavily of the Borderlands video-game series so that's a big win in my book.

Great job and please make more stuff like this, I'm excited at the possibility of hearing more from you in the future <3

EMBL3M responds:

Hey, thanks for the in-depth review!

I totally agree with your opinion on filling out the main groove and drop. This is kinda my first step in making an atmospheric and heavy dubstep style, so that's a point I can improve on.

Also you found the reverb automation in the drop :DDDD I was hoping someone would find that!

I took the chord synth at :46 from the original actually, just edited the swell time and pitch bend. I really wanted to incorporate some of the elements from the original that I thought made the track unique.

Again, thanks a bunch for the review!

I always love when people write ideas and melodies that are shortly out of context, then the harmony is brought in underneath and you can hear how the idea relates to the harmony. That's something you've done really well here. The really harmonically ambiguous and mysterious opening capturing the wonder you mentioned but then having it grounded and cushioned by some more comforting and warm harmony, good job!

This theme takes me back to some of the lonely mountain levels of the old Pokemon games, like the gentle snowy pass that gives you a momentary break from the relentless caves. sweet nostalgia <3

EMBL3M responds:

Glad you like it! <3 you captured the motion of this piece really well, I like how you described it :D

Hey Varsity!

I've been watching your recent uploads and I'm seeing a big improvement in the quality and fullness of your tracks, some nice melodic ideas in this and a lot of gritty bass sounds, great job!

I think as you continue to progress your ability to make a cohesive soundscape will greatly improve, also developing your ear for balancing sounds to make a more connected sounding mix. you're making big steps, keep churning out music! - <3

Lot7even responds:

Thanks :P

I listened to this track when you first uploaded it and again just now, from the perspective of a standalone song and also as more purely expressive standpoint. My only criticism as a standalone song would be that the main idea of the rhythmic accents can get a little repetitive upon multiple listens, but I didn't get the impression that you were going for the feel of a traditional song here so that may be a mute criticism. Also this isn't a style of music I'm very familiar with so I could be completely wrong there.

Listening from a purely expressive angle I feel I understood this, or at least I hope I did. The sampled crowd intro going straight into the track had me relating to what you said in the description about cranking your headphones and blocking the outside world. There is pure aggression in the arrangement and sound design which I really like, everything feels hard hitting and heavy whilst still having a defined place in the mix for each instrument, something I find difficult to do myself so good job on that aspect.

You can definitely tell you're a drummer, the tight rhythmic DnB beats with lots of hat work like at 0:57 are really cool. The poly-rhythmic and rhythmically displaced moments throughout are nice touches too, you have a way of creating really raw, unorthodox and interesting sounds which is always a great thing to see!

Hope you do well in AIM and keep bringing us these fresh sounds!

Quarl responds:

Haha, Im not very familiar with these genres either. Im just making things up as I go :)

Thank you for the kind words Elf Actual <3

Edit: hope you checked out zephyo's art :D

Quarl this is great!

The percussion in the intro was really gentle and sounded real nice, the bass sounds are really good, the soft bells and hidden wilhelm were a bonus, Good job!

Quarl responds:

Hidden? I thought the Wilhelm was pretty blatant. Ive never used it before, there it is :)

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