Formlabs Fuse 1
The last months have been very busy getting Formlabs’ new product ready to be shown at our event The Digital Factory: The Fuse 1is a benchtop (not desktop!) SLS printer. SLS stands for selective laser sintering, and it is (as far as I need to understand it) a laser sintering a nylon powder. The nylon powder needs to be brought up to a high setpoint (around 180 C), which is just slightly below the sintering setpoint, and the laser finally pushes it over the edge. As far as embedded software is concerned, the mechanical control (motors and laser) are pretty much identical to the Form 2, but the heater control is much more elaborate. It is also quite challenging and interesting to work on a machine that is so much bigger and more intimidating than the Form 2. Tested.com did a great overview of the printer.
I have also been working with my colleague Adam Lebovitz on the music for the commercial video. The video definitely has a “Facebook is like Chairs” feeling to it, but the dramatic arc was great for scoring. We started the music in Maschine and Ableton, laying down some claps, and coming up with some chords. I was dead set on using strings, and started doubling the chords with NOVO. The middle section was just a filler for quite a while, but it was the section I was the most excited about, allowing me to put all my cool and weird synthesizer patches to use. The discussion went to and fro with Cody, the director, for quite a while. The first version was too melancholic, so I added some synthesizer noodling to the track. Later on, the changes were mostly time adjustments to make the images fit the flow better. This required quite some odd-time measures. The idea to go with a polyrhythmic piano and synthesizer pattern payed off, as the measure boundaries were quite blurry from the start.
Even for such a short project, the number of revisions and alternative versions of the project grew very quickly, and definitely strained my naive project structure. I will definitely handle this in a much more organized fashion the next time (if ever) a similar project turns up. Around the end of the project, I set up my new Ryzen Windows setup, and decided to use the new computer to finalize the project, and load all the huge Kontakt patches. This turned out to be a bad idea, because Ableton Live was not playing nice at all. Copy pasting patterns on a Kontakt instrument track would crash Live. It would not recognize half of my VSTs. I painfully managed to finish the project, but I really hope they come out with a patched version soon.
I owned an OP-1 for years, but never really managed to get something out of it. The main reason for that is that it is a hard to control machine, and thus not specially suited for techno. There is no easy way to synchronize loops (except by pressing start at the right time), and the sounds are more on the weird side. Of course, this is all problems that can be overcome with practice and commitment, but it was always enough for me to not really get into it.
Getting more confident with my fingerdrumming (thanks to Melodics), I looked around for videos of people making beats, and stumbled upon the channels of Red Means Recording and Andrew Huang, who are amazingly talented, and make great sounding tunes (seemingly effortlessly) on this little machine. Sticking to more hip-hoppy ideas, broken slurring beats at 85 bpm, I gave it a new try. This time, I had an amazing time, just rerecording things over and over on tape, and not worrying about sound, structure, just letting ideas flow. I also often recorded ideas from the computer into the OP-1, instead of using a DAW. Here are some of the beats I did, usually running Maschine and some crazy effects through to the OP1, and then maybe adding a couple of synths and weird effects on top. The fact that you are limited to a 4 track is pretty good for general creativity. Do a take, and usually, you have to keep whatever you did, because there is no undoing. It takes a bit of planning to do a proper song structure, since you have to lay down the bare elements up front before overdubbing. I thought of using a section of the tape as scratch pad to go back and copy paste patterns, but it is quite tedious to do so.
This was the first tune I did, and even with post processing, I messed up the drums and made this weird cricket sound way too loud, else it would be quite killer. I will rework the individual tracks and try to make it more palatable. The vocals are pretty lame and out of Output’s exhale. I have a really hard time gelling with the Output stuff. What I like about this track is how much overdubbing I did, without thinking about it. I would never really have done that in a DAW, and would have obsessed over structure.
This one is done entirely on the OP1, using some vocals resampled from the radio, and a melody done with the finger sequencer:
While this uses maschine and strings from the computer, with the bass and some percussion from the OP-1.
I kept banging them out, not really knowing if anybody actually wants to listen to this. I love it.
This is beatless, just a piano and then layering tons of pads on top. It’s important to record very hot, because the OP-1 tape tends to get noisy quickly.
Finally, for this last one, I spent quite some time cleaning up the individual tracks in Reaper. This time, they are vocals I cut up (from the converse library), and some heavy hitting maschine kits.