albums
Underway
2017 The Walking Dad
2006 Wonday
Compilations
1993 Songs to Sleep By
1997 Songs to Sleep By 2
2002 Sunday Sampler
2002 Dad's Picks
1999 Mix 1 (sy55)
2010 Mix 2 (triton vocal)
2010 Mix 3 (triton instr.)
SY55
1991 Archives
1992 College Collection
1993 College Collage
1994 The Hermit
1997 Where's My Muse
1999 South or Southeast
Triton
2001 In the Margins
2002 Renewal
2002 Re-treat
2002 Convenience
2002 Back Up
2003 So So
2003 So On
2003 So Long
2003 Baby Steps
2003 Baby Talk
2004 Schmocial
2004 Brroom
2004 Chuckadee
2004 Disco Hike
2004 Extra Extra
2005 Coma Pill
2005 Ourboretum
2005 Jaminy
2005 Padden Drift
2005 Gorilla Love
2005 Aminals
2005 Vegibles
2006 Fruitine
2006 Dignored
2006 Miner
2006 Mouseculine
2006 Yata
2007 Zipit
2007 Sixawon
2007 Halfdosin
2007 Whatcom Home
2008 What Roses
2008 Pho Kit
2008 Composed Pile
2009 Decomposed Pie
2009 Swaddlicious
2010 Lost Train
Soft Synths
2011 Out the Margins
2011 Redebut
2011 Reprogression
2012 Working Progress
2013 Tripico
2014 Aerosol Concrete
2015 Reduced to Clear
2016 Motions

Track List

# title lyrics time download listen started recorded rating
1 The Pharaoh Moans lyrics 4:32 download listen locally 2011-03-25 2011-04-14
2 Duty Free Jazz - 0:35 download listen locally 2011-04-04 2011-04-14
3 Bad Weather Man lyrics 3:49 download listen locally 2011-04-04 2011-04-14
4 Screen lyrics 3:01 download listen locally 2011-04-05 2011-04-15
5 New Plate - 3:52 download listen locally 2011-04-18 2011-04-22
6 Cazna - 2:31 download listen locally 2011-04-25 2011-04-27
7 Shamburg - 3:58 download listen locally 2011-04-28 2011-05-02
8 Nice to Say lyrics 5:52 download listen locally 2011-04-29 2011-05-05
9 DKM - 7:13 download listen locally 2011-05-06 2011-05-10
10 Vet - 5:22 download listen locally 2011-05-10 2011-05-13
11 Bass Camp - 3:11 download listen locally 2011-05-16 2011-05-17
12 Unworthy - 2:53 download listen locally 2011-05-17 2011-05-18
13 Centurienne - 4:34 download listen locally 2011-05-19 2011-05-20
14 Bow House - 4:20 download listen locally 2011-05-23 2011-05-24
15 Too Many - 2:48 download listen locally 2011-05-23 2011-05-26
16 Rekora - 2:59 download listen locally 2011-05-27 2011-05-31
17 Mayo Blaze - 3:27 download listen locally 2011-05-31 2011-06-02
18 No Kontakt - 4:21 download listen locally 2011-06-03 2011-06-07
19 Shingles - 3:07 download listen locally 2011-06-08 2011-06-14
20 Bananakin - 3:57 download listen locally 2011-06-15 2011-06-16
Total 76:22 play all locally album rating:

Notes

This is my first album using only soft synths. I still employed the Triton as a MIDI controller, but all the instrument sounds are 100% virtual.

In terms of songwriting (or lack thereof), it's pretty much the same old test-level formula of repetition and improvision that you've come to know and love ignore all these years. The instruments, effects, and mix just sound a little different.

So we can think of this album as a learning experience, like a city walk is a warm-up to a hike. Hopefully the real hike will come next. And not just yet another warm-up.

Songs

The Pharaoh Moans

This started as a [fake] guitar improv, tacked onto the end of a soft synth test. Luckily, I forced myself to record along to a metronome, so I was able to clean it up later.

The title had been floating around my head for a few days. You know how I like those puns!

I was sick a few days into working on it, so took advantage of my deep voice to record some vocals, which were mostly improvised. I tried to make them fit the title and the dark mood of the song, but I couldn't resist throwing in some puns.

So, right away you know the "new" Tripecac won't take itself too seriously!

Lyrics to "The Pharaoh Moans":

down de down de down
down de down de down
down de down de down
down de down de down

the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans

yes i will eat the broccoli
yes i will eat the spinach
and the peas
and the asparagus and brussel sprouts

but not the beets
i will not eat red deep dark blood

i will not eat the beets
i will not eat the beets
i will not eat the beets
i will not eat the beets

if you give me a nice dessert
then maybe i will eat the beets

mummy
mummy
mummy
mummy

the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans
the pharaoh moans
  

User Comments:

  1. "wow, this song was great!" - Giovanna (2011-05-13)

Duty Free Jazz

I accidentally had a bass and trombone part playing at the same time, and found that no matter what I played, it sounded like a "serious" jazz band. Without thinking, I pressed record and jammed for a few measures, with no metronome or anything. I added drums later, in one take.

I left the notes as-is; the only cleaning up I did was tweaking the effects in the mix.

Bad Weather Man

Inspired by the bass and trombone duet in "Duty Free Jazz", I recorded a quick bass and vocal improv in one take. I then added other instruments to it, mostly noodly improvs, evocative in places but overall very messy. Those long noodling solos were a nightmare to clean up.

I later replaced the original vocals with new ones which had a weather theme. They're pretty dumb, but then again so's the music.

Unfortunately, the chorus got stuck in my head, so I felt like I couldn't just trash it. So day after day I worked on it until finally I said "enough" and declared it finished so that I could move onto greener sonic pastures.

Lyrics to "Bad Weather Man":

    
i've got that feeling again
i've got that itch in my brain
i've got that feeling again
i've got that itch in my brain

i don't know but it looks like snow
i don't know but it looks like snow

i don't know but it looks like snow
and it feels like a tornado
i don't know but it looks like snow
and it feels like a tornado

i don't know but it feels like snow
i don't know but it feels like snow
   
according to the weather man
we better make a better plan today
according to the weather man
we better make a better plan today
according to the weather man
we better make a better plan today
according to the weather man
we better make a better plan today

the weather man calls for stickiness
the weather man calls for stickiness
  

Screen

After the sludge of "Bad Weather Man", I wanted something peppy and clean, so I avoided long jams and created this using my traditional loop-based method.

It sounds a lot like one of those "mindless" Tripecac grooves, but to me it seems a bit fresher thanks to the new instruments.

I could have made it longer, but wanted to move onto the next idea. Perhaps it leaves you wanting more? That's rare for Tripecac!

Lyrics to "Screen":

i like looking at the tv
looking out the window
looking at the screen
  

New Plate

I wanted to create a new template, so I named this song "New Plate" as a reminder that after I finish it, I need to save its instruments and effects setup as a template.

It's based on a bass improv, but is also loop-based so that it's not rambly like "Bad Weather Man". I wanted to take a break from vocals, so I kept this an instrumental.

Cazna

I started this on ANZAC Day; hence the backward title.

I wanted to make a "real" reggae song, and had great intentions for it, but when it came time to start it, I didn't have much energy, and it ended up being tame and lame and samey same same.

Because it wasn't worth spending much time on, I kept it short and sparse. The one nice thing about it is that you can hear the percussion sounds pretty clearly, which is kinda nice. I think the percussion sounds a lot more realistic than the Triton.

Shamburg

I wanted to make something Krautrocky. That didn't quite work; it ended up sounding more like dark electro-funk.

I appreciate the dancy energy, but wish there were more variety. It's dark and shallow, like a puddle of oil.

I tried to get the kick and snare drum to sound like a good drummer. I don't know if it worked. You can hear the attempt best near the end.

Nice to Say

The words for this song had been floating around my head for a couple months. Originally, I intended to open the album with it. However, the steep learning curve I experienced with soft synths caused me to hold off on this song and finish a few tests first.

By the time I finally started this one, I had already given up on the album being a classic, so the pressure was off. This made it fun to work on, which hopefully shows in the final product.

Lyrics to "Nice to Say":

if you don't have anything nice to say
if you don't have anything nice to say
if you don't have anything nice to say
don't say anything at all    
  

DKM

I started this the day after I found out a podcaster I listen to had just died of cancer. It's pretty dark, reflecting my mood at the time.

When I picked it up again a couple days later, I was in a much better mood, so I made it a little bouncier and added a bit of reggae flavor near the end. Hopefully that will make it sounds like less of a dirge.

User Comments:

  1. "Really dark and ominous. But if it was inspired by the passing away of the Candian blogger" - Giovanna (2011-05-13)

Vet

We recently finished watching the third season of "All Creatures Great and Small", which is an old TV series about veterinarians in 1930s England. It's a cool show, and we've since started reading the books (by James Herriot).

The song title also refers to the fact that I'm starting to regard myself as a veteran of making music rather than a newbie. Note that I say making music, not performing it. Or selling it. I'm still sub-rookie when it comes to those activities.

So like any veter[inari]an, I find myself applying the same tried-and-true techniques over and over again, day after day, patient after patient, song after song. My musical procedures have become automatic, efficient, and predictable, which is great if I want to march through another day's productivity requirements with minimal mental strain, but it doesn't leave much room for true creativity or ingenuity.

I've long realized that in order to generate music which deviates from my previous repertoire, I need to prevent myself from relying completely on familiar techniques. I can do that by imposing new rules on myself (usually in the form of procedural restrictions), educating myself with other people's music making techniques, trying out different instruments and recording equipment, mimicking new styles of music, even collaborating with other people.

While collaboration is unlikely to happen any time soon, I have used the other tactics in the past. They all met with at least some degree of success, but required more mental effort. It's more relaxing to make music unconsciously, by going through familiar motions. Right now in my life, relaxation time is precious, so each day there's a big incentive to stick with the status quo.

That said, I find myself getting restless when listening to the songs I've been creating. They are all [mostly] decent and listenable, but none of them really excite me. They aren't the type of songs that I normally want to hear. It's like I'm a vegetarian cooking meat for somebody else. Yeah, it smells all right, but I wouldn't want to eat it myself. Time to start trying to make music I want to eat.

Anyway, for this song I decided to challenge myself a bit by creating some rules.

The first rule was to make the drum part playable. This meant sticking with a single drum kit and making sure only 2 hands and 2 feet would be required to play the entire drum part. I think I succeeded, well, at least in spirit. The mixing was the hardest part; I never was satisfied with it.

The second rule was to only have 3 melodic instruments. I chose an acoustic bass, a practice piano, and an acoustic guitar. This means a 4-person band could in theory play every note of this song with no overdubs. Not that they would want to, but hey, it's a gedankenexperiment, and it doesn't have to be lucrative.

The third rule was that it would have to be petty, to counteract the gloom of the previous song ("DKM"). I was in a good mood when I started it, so this wasn't too hard.

The end result is bouncy and somewhat old-school (in terms of Tripecac), which I guess reflects the lively, old-fashioned nature of the show.

2011-09-10 UPDATE: After the album was finished, I liked this song a lot, but felt the arrangement needed a tiny bit of trimming to get it on par with the writing and performance. So, as a first for Tripecac, I went back to this song almost 4 months later, and made those few tiny changes. What you are hearing is the edited version. Hopefully I don't do this too often, or else I won't ever create anything new!

User Comments:

  1. "Nice song. Some parts are layered nicely." - Giovanna (2011-05-13)

Bass Camp

I forced myself to spend some time learning one virtual instrument: the Scarbee MM-Bass, which came with Kontakt. I watched demos videos, read the manual, and tried out a bunch of articulations before starting the song.

Unfortunately, I ran into a couple bugs and interface inconveniences, which irritated me. That didn't, however, stop me from using three instances of Scarbee MM-Bass in the song, along with one instance of Abbey Roads 60s Drums.

The end result sounds a little dumb, and (not surprisingly) bass-heavy, but I really like the sound of some of the drum fills. As for the Scarbee MM-Bass, well, IMO any extra fidelity and nuance is not worth the bugs and the 145MB memory footprint.

Unworthy

I originally wanted this to be a 100th birthday song for my grandma, but it ended up sounding very dark, plodding, and grating, which definitely does not reflect her.

In order to be able to start a proper song in time for her birthday, I forced myself to finish this one quickly. Because of my haste, it ended up sounding empty, rushed, and dumb, definitely unworthy of attribution to my grandma or even inclusion on this album.

However, since I work linearly and tend not to throw ideas away (no matter how bad), I felt I had to finish this song, and quickly, so that I could still have time to at least start the song for my grandma.

Does this description repeat itself? Does the song? Perhaps that's because I blitzed through them both.

In order to finish them.

So that I could start working on the next song.

Which will be for my grandma.

(On the positive side, at least this song demonstrates that I can work just as quickly with soft synths as I could with the Triton, churning out songs in a couple hours.)

Centurienne

I started this on my grandma's 100th birthday! It's prettier than the last song ("Unworthy") but is a bit slow and dark, and still doesn't do her justice.

Oh well. At least it sounds heartfelt. And I gave her a phone call, which she enjoyed.

Bow House

The title is Denalese for doghouse. I wanted something peppy and a little more sophisticated than the last few songs.

I chose some orchestral sounds, and started learning their articulations. Some of thse required more octaves than the Triton has, so I connected my Edirol PCR-A30 to give me those lower octaves.

The resulting tests sounded more intricate than the typical Tripecac song. They also clashed with each other. I got rid of a sax part, and added a simple, sparse bass line.

For drums I turned to a drum machine rather than the acoustic kits I used in the previous songs. This ultimately gives the song an electronic, dancy feel.

Too Many

The title is a pun on Toumani Diabete, the famous kora player. For this song, the kora sound handles the melody while the djembe and riq provide rhythmic accompaniment. To make is sound less sparse, I added a concert hall reverb, which makes it sound a little more like a live performance.

In case all that sounds fancy, it's not; although the instrumentation is exotic, the song structure, melodies, and rhythms are standard Tripecac fare. Or should I say filler?

The title also refers to the fact that I feel like I've been recording too many tests and too few songs with points. And within each of these tests, I tend to include too many drum parts (including on this song), and too many instruments doing only very basic, forgettable things. Instead, I feel like I should be playing fewer instruments, but with greater feeling and direction.

What this song/test has taught me is that the mere act of changing instruments doesn't automatically result in different-sounding music. I need to tackle the theory part of song construction first, focusing on making each single part important, before trying to glue and loop everything together like I always do.

User Comments:

  1. "absolutely loved it! bravo!" - Giovanna (2011-05-27)

Rekora

Giovanna liked the last song ("Too Many") a lot and wanted to hear another using the kora, so I gave it a shot.

This time, I used an uncommon minor scale to make it sound more exotic. Unfortunately, to me it sounds more like old classical music than anything African. Oh well. At least it doesn't sound completely Tripecac-ish, which I guess is a good thing.

For percussion I tried some other "world" instruments. I really didn't know what I was doing with them, so I soon gave up on sounding authentic.

Feeling the song needed some oomph, I added a bass line and some funky kit drums. Hopefully those will make the song more jogging-friendly, and will help me steer clear of the dreaded New Age tag!

User Comments:

  1. "wow I like the sound of this song. It does not sound Tripecac though. I would like to hear more of this!" - Giovanna (2011-06-01)

Mayo Blaze

The title is a very lame pun on mayonaisse. It's inspired by the fact that I started this at the end of May, and that I wanted May to go out in a blaze of glory. Instead, thanks to some bad news at work, May (and this song) just kinda lurched and fizzled out sadly.

It starts off with a gentle new age harp, as a bit of a joke. Then it turns into a reggae groove. All very predictable after a few measures.

The mix is horrid, with either too much or too little reverb and/or bass at times. I adding some articulations and reverb automation to the harp, but any subtlety got buried by the yucky mix. Blech! The ending sounded so bad that I decided to just fade it out.

On the positive side, I think the EP solos are pretty decent. Still, they aren't enough to save this song from being a huge disappointment after the last couple songs, which were a lot more interesting and good sounding.

No Kontakt

I wanted to try some of the other soft synths in the Komplete package, so decided to force myself to avoid using Kontakt for this song. Hence the name.

As a challenge, and to get myself familiar with the freebies, I decided to stick with the synths that came with Sonar. Some of them I piped through Guitar Rig, which came with Komplete; I don't regard that as cheating, since Cakewalk also includes a version of Guitar Rig with Sonar.

For drums I used Session Drummer 2. I started with an old-school drum-machine sound, to make things sound cheesy. Then I switched to an acoustic kit (handled by another instance of Session Drummer 3) for contrast.

I did the same thing with the bass, making the synthy one accompany the drum machine and the upright one accompany the acoustic drums. Both bass parts use Dimension Pro.

Then I sprinkled some other instruments on there, one of each of several remaining soft synths: z3ta+, RXP, Rapture, and Square I.

The end result sounds (and times) very different from typical Tripecac. It's louder, and more aggressive, and there's a canned guitar loop in there which makes it sound a little weird. As a test, this was interesting. As a song, well...

Shingles

I liked the aggressive, dark sound of the last song, and wanted to see if I could get a similar tone using Kontakt.

For drums I used a gated Abbey Road 80s Drums, which sound pretty good on this track. I kept them very simple, and [hopefully] playable.

For the bass I wanted a phaser effect like on some of the early Cure albums. I wanted to use Guitar Rig on the bass, which meant I had to re-route the bass instrument within Kontakt to a new audio output, onto which I applied Guitar Rig. This was cumbersome, and triggered a long series of effects tweaks and track rearrangements that eventually had me overhauling my instrument and effect plugins menus. Blech!

After all that work, I used some more Guitar Rig to dirty up an organ so much that it sounded like a noisy electric guitar. Now that was cool! I also used a mellotron sax part as a gritty complement. Not quite as cool.

The end result is driving, grungy, but ultimately vacuously repetitive, because by the time I got finished fiddling with the effects and interface, I was too tired of the song to be inspired to add anything new.

So think of it as a sonic experiment rather than an actual song. Actually that caveat applies to most of my output!

User Comments:

  1. "It's a pretty energetic song" - Giovanna (2011-06-23)

Bananakin

For the final song on the album (whose name is a combination of "banana" and "mannequin"), I wanted to mix together lots of instruments and techniques into one big, powerful finale.

I started with a repetitive, driving bass line, which I originally intended to speed up into a funk song. In the process of fiddling with the tempo, I found that I actually liked it better slowed down, so that it establishes a darker, deeper groove.

I then added some Abbey Roads 60s drums for a realistic feel. For a sassy contrast, I added a sprinking of 808 drum machine from Session Drummer 3.

I piped a clav into Guitar Rig for a garagey guitar sound. Again looking for contrast, I added some orchestral instruments like strings and trumpet. To bridge the two sides, I added 12-string guitar and electric piano. All fake, of course. Kontakt and Dimension Pro provided the bulk of the sounds.

In the end, it was a lot of fun to work on this song. The mix of different synths didn't bother me as much as I though it would, and it didn't force me into "bleeps and bloops" land. I like the live sound of it.

Of course, ten years from now I'll probably look back and think, "Man that sounds so fake!" But I can't get to that ten year point until I take these first baby steps into the land of soft synths.