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  1. #1
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    The Van Allen Belt - Lactater Tots // a review

    My second exposure to Troy's pet project. This time w/ vocals. Music hasn't changed much, but takes on a less experimental mode with the vocals, which are very reminisant of Stan Ridgeway in both timbre and lyrical content. The vocals are very mono-toned, off-kilter and ironic. They are amusing and interesting enough, but (also like a lot of Ridgeway's songs) don't hold the attention for an entire album. I think I liked the experimental nature of the all instrumental album more so than a long CDs worth of these. But I do see growth. Troy needs to graduate to a better sounding production and hoen those lyric writing skills.

    Keep em coming...I have yet to wince

  2. #2
    Stainmaster Finch Platte's Avatar
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    Hmmm.

    Quote Originally Posted by 3-LockBox
    My second exposure to Troy's pet project. This time w/ vocals. Music hasn't changed much, but takes on a less experimental mode with the vocals, which are very reminisant of Stan Ridgeway in both timbre and lyrical content. The vocals are very mono-toned, off-kilter and ironic. They are amusing and interesting enough, but (also like a lot of Ridgeway's songs) don't hold the attention for an entire album. I think I liked the experimental nature of the all instrumental album more so than a long CDs worth of these. But I do see growth. Troy needs to graduate to a better sounding production and hoen those lyric writing skills.

    Keep em coming...I have yet to wince
    I thought the disc sounded very good, production-wise. A hell of a lot better than the new Arcade Fire or Nick Cave discs.

    To me, I heard a lot of Zappa influences in a lot of the songs. Not a big Zappa fan, here, altho I loved the Grand funk disc he produced and played some guitar on. What does that tell you??

    I couldn't understand the lyrics, but it's not just you, Troy- I have a hard time discerning them on almost any CD. I just could not get into this disc. It's just not something I would listen to, and it's the same with the comps you send me- I just don't listen to the same type of music you do (except for PT and FKs), so it seems natural that this would apply here. I've said it 3x before that I appreciate the effort that goes in to something like this, but it ain't my bag.

    Lots of potential- don't give up, man.

    fp

  3. #3
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    unusual

    Yes there is the ZAPPA influence -- and I also hear some WEIRD AL YANKOVIC.

    While I am a fan of utilizing some occassional uncommon structures in music, some of these songs could use a bit more traditional foundation, i.e., verse, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, etc. Or, in some cases, the verse and the chorus have the same musical structure, which in an attempt to add interest, can backfire.

    In addition, when a key change is needed or when added, I'm hearing some combinations that do not necessarily work as well as others.

    Just my opinion -- but I had certain rules and methods drilled into me in music school, which, of course, were very traditional.

    Does not mean that this music does not "conform" .............as Bach proved centuries ago, with a little imagination, you can plow new ground. It all depends on the context.......for example.......RED STAR would have been rejected in my music history class but wildly appreciated in percussion ensemble or jazz class.

    Having said that, I don't intend to present the impression that I have only negative criticism -- I always tip my hat to any person that is willing to take the time to learn and experiment, because it is always a longer process than people believe and it allows the student to appreciate the music of other on a whole new level.

  4. #4
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the comments you guys. Constructive negatives are good, I WANTED them, frankly. Keep in mind that I sent you guys (and many others here) that disc specifically BECAUSE you guys have very discerning tastes and lots of musical knowledge.I knew you'd be hard on it.

    Yeah MC, I wear my influences on my sleeve. Most people mention hearing a lot of They Might be Giants and Thomas Dolby too. I dig the structure and key change comments. Structurally, the songs are more like show tunes than pop-rock songs. I'm kind of half aware that I'm breaking the rules, but my lack of education allows me to do it without hesitation.

    Thanks for not saying turgid again FP. Lyrics are printed inside the cover.

    And yeah, I GOTTA do something about the Ridgway vocals . . .

    I'll try to make you wince on the next one, 3LB.

  5. #5
    Global Village Idiot mad rhetorik's Avatar
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    "...and then at the end of the letter I like to write <i>'P.S. - this is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated.'</i> "


    <b>_R.I.P. Mitch Hedburg 1968-2005_</b>

  6. #6
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    Well I like the Ridgway influence on this stuff, but it is a mix of everything Troy all thrown into his "music". I think it's kind of cool that his stuff has that off the wall Ridgway feel to it.

    Like Troy's art, his music he creates is different.

    My guess is his 37th release will be the bomb.

    Maybe one day Troy will tour with Mike Keneally or CGT and break into a whole new career. He could play his music and then sell grilled cheese sandwiches for extra dough.

    Dave

  7. #7
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Thanks again guys, altho I have the starge feeling like I'm the retarded uncle at the family Christmas, blissfully unaware as everybody in the room talks about him . . .

    "Uncle Troy, he's just . . . endearingly weird" while I sit in the corner and drool.

    Another Green World. Wow, that's neet. More like Tiger Mountain to me. I can see/hear it. I really did layer in a LOT of stuff, some of which may not show up until many repeated spins. Try it loud with headphones, at least play it on the good hi-fi, not the computer.

    Several people I know always come back to Klaxon and Doppelganger. I'll remember that. I thought there are soft/hard, stop/start dynamics going on all over the place. Suburban Tiki, Psycho Synchromensh have a lot of that . . . or do you mean something else?

    Geezer, your e-mail bounces. Wot's the deal?

  8. #8
    Musicaholic Forums Moderator ForeverAutumn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy
    Thanks again guys, altho I have the starge feeling like I'm the retarded uncle at the family Christmas, blissfully unaware as everybody in the room talks about him . . .

    "Uncle Troy, he's just . . . endearingly weird" while I sit in the corner and drool.
    You made me laugh out loud!

    I haven't listened to your latest disk yet, sorry. But I do want to thank you for sending it to me. So....Thanks!

  9. #9
    Forum Regular jack70's Avatar
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    Re

    Troys Lactater Tots -- I'd heard a few MP3's last year, but this was the first CD of any kind from Troy, so thanks. I've played this a lot recently. Overall I think it's neat, but it's also not for everyone. I'm especially intrigued because of the way Troy got into this, ie w/o a music background, per se. That aspect is something that appeals to my sensibility as a tech guy who's also very interested in art. I find the way those 2 things intermesh differently in people quite interesting (the appreciation/philos of art, vs the making of it, vs the tech/science based-mental process's involved). It's something the Japanese have a kinda cultural belief about... they're more attuned to such things I think.

    I thought the jacket and overall production was (unsurprisingly) quite professional. The tunes do have a "sameness", and I think that's something that could be more easily avoided, in your case, than say, with a real band where one is stuck with certain musicians, their talents, styles, and sound. I'd change some of the attack/delay/decay parameters a bit, from cut-to-cut, or re-process certain aspects in post-production, in order to give the album more breadth and color, strictly from a sonic view. I have no idea how Garageband works or interfaces, so I'm just talking in generalities. (I don't know how the backbone of the synth is controlled... loops, rhythm generation dynamic variability controls...).

    I also don't know the way you compose... how much is taken from inside your head, and how much is creatively integrated in the process itself, so it's hard to get specific here. You may have produced exactly the thing you were after. But I'd try using different timbres/voicings a bit after the basic rhythm stuff is down. At least from cut-to-cut. There's an 80's techno sound to much of it (which may be what you want... in which case, nevermind...LOL). But it reminds me of the synth voicings of many of the bands of the 80's (from dance to fusion... Yellowjackets for example). I'd like to hear more color & variety... but that kinda experimentation might take lotsa time, may not even be possible, and not give satisfactory results (?)

    Yeah, the vocals are very Ridgway-esque, although I don't know any of his solo stuff... just his older voodoo stuff. It's fine. But again, you might try using some different experimental mixes where you change the voicings of just that (vocal) track... a different harmonic transform. Again, I don't know how possible that is, or even if you'd want that, but I've found that you often discover new places to go by experimenting (& sometimes you get lost, or go nowhere... LOL).

    I'm also curious... what do you usually do first... lay the rhythm, or play off some chordal/changes/layout. Those of us who play instruments tend to focus on the primary chordal changes first... but that process can start anywhere (backwards) in synth composition. I wish I had more time to ask more "inside" technical questions... but with web communication as it is, it's hard.

    I found much of it kinda fun and playful. Will you continue along the same compositional lines, or try another completely genre (style) of song structure... punky, rap, or bossa-synth-pop?
    You don't know... jack

  10. #10
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    Troys Lactater Tots -- I'd heard a few MP3's last year, but this was the first CD of any kind from Troy, so thanks. I've played this a lot recently. Overall I think it's neat, but it's also not for everyone. I'm especially intrigued because of the way Troy got into this, ie w/o a music background, per se. That aspect is something that appeals to my sensibility as a tech guy who's also very interested in art. I find the way those 2 things intermesh differently in people quite interesting (the appreciation/philos of art, vs the making of it, vs the tech/science based-mental process's involved). It's something the Japanese have a kinda cultural belief about... they're more attuned to such things I think.
    Thanks for posting comments, first of all.

    Yes, the process is utterly different from any traditional means of creating music. Compare it to the advent of computer 3D modeling; a totally new way of creating. Making music in this manner (nuts and bolts explained below) doesn't even have a name yet! It really IS a breaking wave and it's really cool to be riding it in.

    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    I thought the jacket and overall production was (unsurprisingly) quite professional. The tunes do have a "sameness", and I think that's something that could be more easily avoided, in your case, than say, with a real band where one is stuck with certain musicians, their talents, styles, and sound. I'd change some of the attack/delay/decay parameters a bit, from cut-to-cut, or re-process certain aspects in post-production, in order to give the album more breadth and color, strictly from a sonic view. I have no idea how Garageband works or interfaces, so I'm just talking in generalities. (I don't know how the backbone of the synth is controlled... loops, rhythm generation dynamic variability controls...).
    It really is amazingly flexible. Virtually everything is adjustable in the ways you mention. Overwhelming.

    I can honestly say that I was after a sort of sameness with this disc. I wanted it to sound like the same "band" throughout, like it was recorded with similar instruments in the same studio to give it cohesion.

    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    I also don't know the way you compose... how much is taken from inside your head, and how much is creatively integrated in the process itself, so it's hard to get specific here. You may have produced exactly the thing you were after. But I'd try using different timbres/voicings a bit after the basic rhythm stuff is down. At least from cut-to-cut. There's an 80's techno sound to much of it (which may be what you want... in which case, nevermind...LOL). But it reminds me of the synth voicings of many of the bands of the 80's (from dance to fusion... Yellowjackets for example). I'd like to hear more color & variety... but that kinda experimentation might take lotsa time, may not even be possible, and not give satisfactory results (?)
    Generally, my preocess is that i start with a basic factory supplied drum/percussion loop. I start playing over it with the MIDI keyboard, either building piano chords or a one finger melody. Sometimes I'll use a bass voice and poke out bass lines first. Once I have this simple played tune I can go into the program's editing mode and move individual notes around anyplace in time. I tighten up my sloppy playing and build big fat chords up from my one note melodies. I duplicate the melodies onto different instruments and add or delete notes, change octaves etc depending on the instrument voice.

    Bear in mind that I let the simple melody loop play in the background all the while. That way I can hear changes in real time. This period is also where I start laying countermelodies either by playing them or by building them manually in the editing window.

    By this point I've got the basis for the "A" section of the song (or it may end up being "C", whatever). Now I start building chorus and bridge sections to go with the first section. It's in this part of the process that I really hone in on a sound for the song. I experiment with different instrument textures and where to place them in the mix. How much of what sort of atmosphere do I want?

    By this point I toss the drum loop and build a drum track from scratch using MIDI notes. I'm starting to shy away from that now and just lay a lot of overdubs over the basic drum loop.

    The vocals come last. Because the song (or parts of it) are constantly looping/playing in the background, I start to hum the melody and words spring from that. Sometimes I'll build a new counter-melody specifically with the idea of singing to it. I make up words sort of as I go. I really have very little in mind when working up lyrics. They sorta just happen. Once I lay the vocal tracks I delete the countermelody that I used to sing it to, or at least knock it way back in the mix.

    So, to answer your question, I'd say that it's virtually all from my head, but it's the process that allows me to concentrate on the composition and production and not have to worry about being able to play a minor 7th. I can just build it.

    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    Yeah, the vocals are very Ridgway-esque, although I don't know any of his solo stuff... just his older voodoo stuff. It's fine. But again, you might try using some different experimental mixes where you change the voicings of just that (vocal) track... a different harmonic transform. Again, I don't know how possible that is, or even if you'd want that, but I've found that you often discover new places to go by experimenting (& sometimes you get lost, or go nowhere... LOL).
    I could fill another CD with out takes and failed songs! Some of the vocals are 25 takes! I tried it a million different ways. OTOH, most of "Two Four's" vocals are 1st or second takes.

    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    I'm also curious... what do you usually do first... lay the rhythm, or play off some chordal/changes/layout. Those of us who play instruments tend to focus on the primary chordal changes first... but that process can start anywhere (backwards) in synth composition. I wish I had more time to ask more "inside" technical questions... but with web communication as it is, it's hard.
    The only "layout" I use is the drum tracks.

    As an example, this song "Werner Von Blowfish":
    http://www.designshed.com/toonage/Werner.mp3

    Started with a drum track. I played a 4 note bass line. My buddy John played the guitar solo over it (about 5 takes). I took the bassline and duped it to a synth and raised it a couple of octaves. I then added some atmosphereic synth pads over that and we sang all the parts, ad-libbed on the spot. We added some FX and goofy junk in and around the vocals. I took some of his discarded guitar solos and made a second solo out of them and embellished it with more synths. 3 hours and it was 90% done. The next day I added some drum overdubs to the basic factory supplied loop in less than an hour.

    So, only about 4 hours from absolutely nothing to that finished piece. Lets see you do that with a real band!

    Quote Originally Posted by jack70
    I found much of it kinda fun and playful. Will you continue along the same compositional lines, or try another completely genre (style) of song structure... punky, rap, or bossa-synth-pop?
    Well, I'm still finding my feet so I'm experimenting with a lot of different things, developing a style. I am going to stick with things I like and styles that move me. Why would I do a rap or punk song? I don't enjoy or listen much to rap or punk, so I doubt I'll be heading that way. I do have some latin flavored things in my failure file . . .

    I'll be happy to talk to you about it some more via e or PM Jack. Thanks for your interest.

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    good advice.........but;

    jack wrote.................

    "The tunes do have a "sameness", and I think that's something that could be more easily avoided, in your case, than say, with a real band where one is stuck with certain musicians, their talents, styles, and sound."




    Sometimes this also backfires.
    Sometimes the "sameness" is because you didn't get the ideas of others.

    When I am ready to do a new tune, I do all the writing of the drums, bass, rhythm guitar and lyrics. I then choose my musicians based on availability and which person I think is best suited for that specific part -- many times, this selection involves a certain "sound" I'm looking for. (For example, if I need a "munch" rhythm guitar sound, I'm not going to select a guy that constantly provides the guitar sound of Chet Atkins).

    We "rehearse" a couple of nights just to get a feel for the song -- this is done so I don't have to pay for studio time for rehearsal purposes.

    Then we book the studio and go in with food and drink and make a full day of fun work.

    I ALWAYS take the other musicians suggestions during the rehearsals and the recording phases. I INTENTIONALLY leave many of the parts in a basic and open status because my music education is limited to percussion and composition. I don't think like a bass player or I don't think like a pianist.....thus they ALWAYS provide a little something.
    This process also allows those musicians to feel like they contributed more than just being an instrumentalist robot that takes direction.

    The result is ALWAYS a better song than origianlly composed. And it definitely remains the property of the original composer, it has just been tweeked and improved upon.

    Many times a musician will have many ideas, some of which you might not immediately appreciate or some of which might be options. I always allow those ideas to be recorded.......then, I book the studio for another session two or three weeks hence and come back ALONE for the mix-down and choose the parts I want based on what I have been listening to. Some of those options might not get utilized in the final mix........
    Producer's prerogative !

    Using this process, I have avoided the "sameness" to a great degree.

  12. #12
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Yeah, but sometimes other people aren't an option. Take, for example, me. I'm difficult to work with, for various reasons that I won't go into here. And my songs all sound different. (So far, anyway.)

    You're also talking about playing live, and recording in a studio, the first of which isn't an option for Troy, the second of which isn't a concern of his.

    Don't get me wrong, it's good advice -- I've always likened playing with others as opposed to playing alone as masturbation is to sex. It's just better.
    Eschew fascism.
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  13. #13
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the insight inbto your process MC.

    Yes, based on the 2 songs I put together with my musician pal John (here's the other one: http://www.designshed.com/toonage/Marshmallows.mp3 ) I can see that working directly with other knowlegable input changes everything for the better. Feeding off each others ideas and trying things I would have never considered changes the whole dynamic.

    I would LOVE to do more. Unfortunately, he lives 500 miles away.

    I've actually done some collaborations with other Garageband geeks out there where we e-mail unfinish files back and forth, but it's not the same as that eye to eye vibe.

    I know a few other people near by that play, but I can't get any of them to participate at this point.

    MC, wanna do a song?

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    the available personnel

    Dusty and Troy:

    I realize that I am in a unique and fortunate position when it comes to arranging for talent in all instrument areas. Many of us in this geographical area that have done studio work are willing to "pitch in" on other individual projects without payment............we assume that if we all do this for each other, that in the long run it comes out about even.

    The composer/producer of the song pays for all studio time and provides food and alcohol during the rehearsals and recording sessions.

    I go in and play drums for their projects as much as they come in and play other instruments on my projects.

    It can be incredibly demanding because the drum tracks are the first that need to be "perfect" before we proceed with the remainder of the tracks. We record (on a "live basis") the drums, bass, lead vocal and rhythm guitar with the intention of nailing down only the drum tracks and then re-do everything else individually. If we get lucky on the bass or rhythm guitar track on the live recording then we keep that as well.

    If you have never sat in a drum room (segregated from everyone else) and been asked to play it perfect on the first take - sometimes even being forced to use a tick track - then you don't know the thrill of actually accomplishing such shyt. It is so difficult that you don't want any of your tracks "fukked with" by the engineer or the producer after you nail them down.

    All the other musicians have the luxury of playing as many takes as they need to get the tracks they want.

    Troy -- how do you propose we go about "doing a song" ???

  15. #15
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterCylinder
    Troy -- how do you propose we go about "doing a song" ???
    Check your e-mail!

  16. #16
    Forum Regular jack70's Avatar
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    Re

    RE:MasterCylinder

    Those are good points about using the input of others, especially if one's not a flat-out genius type (like Zappa) who knew EXACTLY what sounds he wanted, and what he didn't want... and knew it in his head beforehand. I'd agree the better bands all have great individual musicians, who sound best when playing within their own contributive style, yet also "play within the whole"... kinda like a jazz group does. I think the best producers will record songs a number of different ways, allowing less, and more, freedom to the members, and then deciding on the best result later on, just like a film-director does with multiple takes of scenes.

    But I was more giving an observation on the "limits" of the 2 different mediums (synth's vs real bands). A Led Zep album is going to sound pretty much similar, first cut to last. With a synth, you can create widely different sounds cut-to-cut. It's probably a good thing to do what Troy did... ie, not go all over the map stylistically or "sound-font" wise. In fact, most pro artists in other fields do that... they find a niche and stick to it. Troy does that with his photos, as most (good) pro photographers do... whether it's portraits, nudes, landscapes, nature etc. So it makes sense. I guess I was just commenting that a synth composer has a much bigger sandbox to play in... if & when they want to. But that sandbox CAN be a limiting factor, if one stays too much in one corner of it.

    You don't know... jack

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    hmmmmm

    And to think..............All this time I thought jack was a guy !













    Nice tits.

  18. #18
    In perfect harmony DarrenH's Avatar
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    Troy,

    You're having a lot of fun with this program. But....

    ya gotta lose those cheesy new wave synths. Man, do those suck. And those vocals don't match the music. Get more organic. The piano parts sound cool. Especially the intro to Space Junk. Use more of that. Space Junk was very cool btw. Kudos to David Campbell for his guitar playing. Excellent song.

    Good job and thanks for the audition. Don't take it too hard

    Darren
    Let the midnight special shine a light on me.

  19. #19
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Well, I gotta tell you that I just played the CD for the very first time today. Seems it got delivered around the holiday season and someone in my family took it upstairs to the office and it's been sitting there until today. Thank goodness I finally got around to straightening things up in there or that's where it would be still. I'm very sorry for not acknowledging it sooner, but to be honest there are a couple of other folks that I'm guilty of doing to as well.

    If it makes it any better, I played it first, before finishing the Erasure disc or even opening the new ...trail of dead. OK, who is doing the vocals? Not your wifey, that's easy enough and I know she isn't getting paid scale for her work but who is the Stanard sounding cat? Do I really even need to ask? If I do need to ask I will say that the similarity is uncanny but the more I listen to it, the more I think you worked out a deal with the man. Yeah, I hear some of the other stuff too, but not really caring for anything Zappa I could not possibly care less about that weirdness. It's the other weirdness that appeals to me, especially track 6 and the beginning in particular.

    I'm not going to ding you for any production issues or songwritting. Even the worst song is 10 times better than anything I could ever do. Awfully cool disc Troy, and I offer you my belated thanks. BTW, Happy Holidays back at you.

    jc
    Last edited by Jim Clark; 01-26-2005 at 08:08 AM.
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