Saturday, 22 December 2012

Main Title - Marathon 2: Durandal (Power of Seven /

Marathon. Creepy, proper 3D aiming, shadows, clips/magazines for ammo, oxygen for breathing in air or underwater, proper physics, neat cyberpunk's a shame that the first game (up until recently with Aleph One) was only for Mac, although I certainly did enjoy blasting aliens with my brother on a G3 machine and an old Quadra 650 Mac - this is pre-OSX gaming at its finest - thanks Dad!

Replacing the characterful MIDI soundtrack of the first game, the second has a pumping dance track when you start up, giving you the idea that you are out to cause some mayhem and ruination to the Phfor from the first game. Most of the music in game became sound effect-driven to add suspense, but this still added up to a great title and an absolute blast on Windows or PC.

As for the band themselves, as far as I can tell the name Power of Seven was a pseudonym for another band called Psykosonik, who made music comparable to the 2Unlimited dance/pop crowd at the time. I gather that the mention of seven hooks in to the running theme of using the number seven in the Marathon games as well - although you would be better off looking at a Marathon lore website for a better of idea.

Either way, Power of Seven's opening title track for both Durandal and Infinity set the tone nicely and ensure that wonderful pavlovian response of going toe to toe with some Phfor, armed only with double shotguns. Bring it on!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Minibrute Patch cards

I was a bit fed of of finding few resources online for Minibrute patches since I bought mine. Of the few - and when I say a few, I mean literally a handful / can count them on one hand - of sites where you can download patch cards for sounds, nowhere is there a scan of the blank Minibrute patch cards that you get in the retail box from Arturia (not even on their website!). I haven't opened mine yet as I would like to keep them in pristine condition. Whether this has something to do with the 'Brute not being around in such high numbers or lack of effort from the owners, I don't know, however I did want to remedy this.

I've tried to recreate the Minibrute front panel as best I can with GIMP, using the existing Minibrute diagram on Arturia's website that they for one of their patches as a base, so that you can make your markings and share them with other Minibrute owners. While I would have liked to go mad and label everything up on the panel, I thought it would be best to keep it as simple as possible and just add space for a patch name at the bottom. This is not designed to be cut out and placed over the top of the unit, by the way - the intention was to make something that can be edited and shared easily as a graphic file. It's not as fancy as some I have seen, but it should do.

In the end I made two versions; a standard 'Brute panel in its traditional colours and an inverse, printer-friendly (ie: it consumes less ink) version. I didn't bother putting a link to my blog anywhere on the image as I thought it would spoil it, but if you find it useful, do ping me an email at southerntrax(at) or post a link back. Otherwise, share it far and wide and I will hopefully be able to share some patches once I get the time to write some down.

Side note: I've reached 100 posts!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Gods / Bitmap Brothers

A really well done introduction track for the Bitmap Brother's game Gods, where a young Greek warrior proves his worth to Olympus through a series of challenges and trials - platform shooting and puzzles. As is customary for a Bitmap game, the lovely 16colour graphics are tempered by the tough, unrelenting and brutal gameplay, with lots of hidden treasures and powerups being awarded for completitionists and curious players who experiement with the many items, switches and traps hidden amongst the levels. It's enjoyable in that it actually rewards slower play to avoid traps and hazards, so the pacing is quite a change from the usual manic platform action of Sonic and the like.

Despite it being on older 16 bit home computers and later ports to the Mega Drive, it remains a solid title with some lovely FM stylised music and sound effects - on the Atari ST music, in game music is disabled, so the game runs nice and fast and is punctuated by some great, crisp sound effects. The introduction theme is notable as a good example of early 90s dance that made it into these commercial games and it's amazing that game designers were able to get fairly decent quality samples of their professionally produced tracks into games, which at that time came on 1.44Mb floppy disks

 Well worth checking out.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Some updates and new gear

It's a right Korg-fest at the moment!
I know it's been a bit sparse in terms of updates at the moment but I've been super busy ahead of the end of this year and furthermore there are a ton of video games that have been sapping my attention.

My Soundcloud account has been looking a bit bare of late, so the plan is to finish a few tracks that I have had banging around for a few months and move on to using my Minibrute and Microkorg for some new music. With any luck I should be able to pipe them through my mixer and record phrases in Audacity for use in Madtracker.

Minibrute and Synth Kitty
In the meantime, I had a hankering for an effects generator to plug my Minibrute into after seeing some lovely videos that used older analogue delay units for playing with and settled on the Korg Mini KP2. It's a smart little unit that has loads of different effects including delay, reverb, filters, panning, LFOs, beat slicers and so on and as it's small and easy to use, it's the perfect thing to add to my set up. I've also been using my Monotrons with it and having a right old jam session or two.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

TT 303 - A 303 clone with balls

It's funny that someone recently said that most bassline synthesisers either emulate the TB303 or the Moog Taurus. Well, now that I have the answer to the Taurus in the shape of the Minibrute, perhaps it's timely that the TT 303 has come to my attention.
As far as I can tell it is a TB 303 that has been upgraded with its own operating system for pattern generation and storage. So you can use it to get all those great old acid basslines as well as create new ones quickly by tweaking a randomly generated one - I can imagine that results my vary here but it might take some of the sweat out of programming a TB 303 if you are not used to step programming. Luckily a misspent youth playing with ReBirth put paid to that idea for me.

As far as I can tell they are all sold out, but there will be more coming according to the website - I have also seen a few paid adverts on the London Gumtree for new ones of these. Might be a nice Christmas present for yourself!

Full details at:


Yes, you saw it right - I am now the proud owner of a Minibrute. After umming and aahing around for quite long enough, when I found one at the Music Production Show last month, I had to get one when I found that a retailer at the show had them for £399. A steal considering what it is and especially as I was given a masterclass in its operation by one of the nice chaps at Source distribution.

So let's get some of the limitations out of the way first. Yes. it's a short keyboard but the keys are nicely sized and come with configurable aftertouch as a lovely bonus (so you can affect vibrato or filter cutoff directly during play). All the knobs bar one (the envelope amount on the square wave is really loose on mine but nothing to get in a hissy fit over) turn nicely and build quality is above par, especially for the price. It's a heavy mother as well and is hardly going to move anywhere once you get it seated on a table or worktop. It's great to have one knob per feature control on a synth as you can really see what you are doing and tweak on the fly. The lack of patch memory really isn't a problem as you begin to get a good idea of the features of your synthesiser and what it is capable of. After a while, I found myself quickly dialing in some favourite types of sounds and remembering what goes where helps in this regard.

So how does it sound? In a word, amazing. Despite the 'brute being a single oscillator, because it's a mixer you can sculpt some really great sounds out of it and not just bass sounds either. An added advantage of having a well designed synth whose pitch isn't limited in software (Minitaur, I am looking at you, sir), it means that you can do all the nice leads and trumpet sounds as well as the thundering, window-rattling basslines that this synth is known for. The arpeggiator is good fun and even things like the swing knob can add some shuffle to a phrase.

I think Arturia have done themselves proud and this is an excellent entry into hardware analogue synthesisers. Yves Usson and the team have made a synth that sounds great but is above all fun to use and I hope I can do it justice by using it in my productions as well.

Note: No, I won't sell it so please don't contact me asking about it.