Friday, November 10, 2023

When Slot Cars Were A Thing. But are they Back?


I was crazy about cars when I was in Junior High School early 1970s.  Hot rods, drag cars, plastic 1/24 models and HO Slot cars were all connected in my way of thinking then.  This was way before I discovered electronics and audio.

The American model car magazines Model Car and Model Car Science covered it all,  and I had tracked down a few imported issues at Sydney newsagents. Magazines like ROAD & TRACK and AUTOSPORT and others covered the remaining cool stuff.  Most of it didn't exist like that in Australia though. American styled Hot Rods and Choppers, where tires where not completely covered by fenders, for example,  were not road legal in Australia. The only home slot cars back then were the UK Scalextric, which were really dull in comparison. They didn't even have fat tires back then.

The American stuff just seemed very exciting.  And then something really amazing happened. AURORA AFX slot cars came to Australia!  I could buy my own set. Similar to the way Hot Wheels had come to Australia end of the 1960s. 

I saved like crazy and eventually bought a set.  I remember ALAN MOFFAT, a top touring car driver for Ford being at the Chatswood Grace Brothers store in Sydney promoting the AFX slot cars, and that may have been the day I bought my set. I do remember most of the kids there being about 5 years old, so image their fathers were there to see Alan, rather than the slot cars.

I have kept 2 of the cars from back then, the  101 UOP SHADOW CAN-AM car and the PORSCHE 917 Coupe, pictured at the top of the page.  These are from the time before magnets were added to attract to the power rails, to increase the speed they could go around corners.  I remember reading the slot car section of Model Car when someone started doing this to their cars in a slot car club, the rules didn't disallow it, and there was much discussion as to if it should be banned or not. 

Road racing like CAN-AM and Le-Mans 24Hr was a major interest back then.  I eventually made a larger layout and had it setup on a large board with scenery in the workshop under my parents house. I played with it mostly by myself, and the friends that did visit had little interest in it.  

TYCO was the other American HO scale brand, but it never come to Australia in my time. 

Recently Youtube started to show me slot car related videos. Maybe me looking at Archives of old model car magazines I used to have but threw away in the early 1980s triggered that.  The chassis of the current slotcars looked familiar, but the brands didn't. They all have those added traction magnets now. Only today found out AURORA went out of business in 1983 (and all IP then bought by TAKARA TOMY ) and TYCO was bought by MATTEL late 1990s.

The Youtube videos covered race sets and cars from Autoworld ( has AURORA styled pancake motor cars and tracks ) and other smaller brands that make equivalent TYCO styled stuff. 

Quite a few of the videos have seen have been HO scale Drag Racing using an Autoworld set that has an electronic Christmas tree and finishing gate.  Looks pretty cool, but just know it would get boring after 5 minutes. Drag racing is partly about driver reaction time, but mostly about car performance, and having just 2 cars wouldn't have the variation in competitors to make that fun. 

Road racing is all about going as fast as possible each lap without coming off at the turns and that takes practice and the use of lots of different speeds.  Far more play value in that than purely reaction time. 

These days can see why Computer Games like ‎Forza Horizon , (even though I have never played it) makes old toys like slot cars obsolete. 

There was a big commercial slot car track, the oldest in Australia, with 2 large 8 lane 1/24 scale set ups not far from Waitara Station  that I had visited more than a few time in 1972 ~ 1974 or so. I even made a 1/24 race car with a lexan body. At the least it taught me  how to solder.

Sure I spent more time making and remaking the chassis than actually racing it on a track. Would have visited the racetrack more, except getting from my parents place in St.Ives to Waitara on the weekend was very difficult using public transport back then, with the train line closed for maintenance and almost no bus service to the local Pymble Train Station!  This was back when all shops were closed on Sundays and only open till midday Saturdays!  Had to walk over an hour home from Pymble station on a few occasions.  

Read that it shut down and closed in June 2021. "the oldest, continuously running raceway in Australia, being "Hornsby Slot Cars," originally "Waitara Raceway," in the northern suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales, will close its doors and cease operation at the end of June."

Interestingly, Applied Technology, appeared very close to that old slot car place a few years later, and became a major mecca for all things microcomputer and me in 1978~ 1983 or so, and I could drive there then!

In my Semi-Retirement I sometimes think about what I used to find fun, and why it isn't now, or why that thing vanished.  Slot cars was one of those things.

When downsizing and preparing to move back to Japan in 2019, I just took all the slotcar tracks and other stuff I still had, and the old toys our kids had to the dump and threw them away. Many car loads. It had proven impossible to sell, or even give away, anything where we lived, and time was running out to move. Just didn't have the space for that stuff any more. A shame, but it was all I could do.  A year or so later our oldest son discovered via a Netflix documentary all the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys I had bought for him on my trips to America had become quite valuable, but he hadn't looked at them in 20years and didn't have the space to take them before I had to throw them away. 

That is just the way things go.

Update 2023/11/22  Seen a few YouTube videos saying Slot Car Racing IS Back! I don't know about that, and if it means the 1/32 scale Carrera and Scalextric digital sets. Also 2 of the HO scale Drag Racing channels have gotten rid of their HO tracks. I am not shocked at this, as there isn't much entertainment value in a Drag Strip with 1 or 2 guys and cars. Part of the problem for circuit racing seems to be autoworld HO track isn't wide enough for many modern cars. Also QC issues.  Using 1/43 or 1/32 scale Carrera track with HO cars a better approach. The HO car guide pin needs to be enlarged with a plastic sleeve, and possibly gluing on some braid to the front of the pickups is all that is needed. 

I find it hard to believe to would really be back though...

The 2020 to 2023 Covid years were a boom to many hobbies as people spent much time at home. Music instrument sales went through the roof too. I think the booms are over now, and many will get back to what they were doing the years before 2020.   

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Monday, October 30, 2023

Free Art & Music Webpages & The Google Unsearch

For the longest time our Art And Technology website was for the serious business of showcasing our illustration work, and it did okay at that, with the understanding of Google search changes and failings over the years.  I do that freelance work, for hire.   

We later put up our car related comics page  which related to our freelance work, but wasn't itself selling anything.

In the last couple of years after "semi-retiring", we put up the  Our Original Comic Books page and this year, the In The Asteroid Belt: Our Rock Opera and the Megacurve - Adrian Bruce Music  pages.  

These aren't about me selling anything at all, and in fact are more about the stuff I give away.

They are also visited far less than the samples of previous paid work I have done.  Most people visit our website as they are after some business logo or design , or need to repair a turntable, or do something with midi merging, as I have articles on a few technical subjects I give away info on too.

Our website pages that get the visits have generally been around a long time, and I have made sure the indexed url for them never changes.   I saw moving back to Australia in 2001 how unfindable a new website was.  Getting establish, and having credible links and be in the indexes took years.

I have found recently added pages are almost unfindable, the way the google search algorithm works now.  But, they can be found in Bing and DuckDuckgo! Web search engines and forum posts are the indexes to a website now. The majority don't go to a website and just look around after they found what they originally went there for. They come from somewhere else looking for something in particular.  The SEO gaming by millions of crap website probably doesn't help the Google situation, but in reality, they care far more about advertising and top search results are no mostly sponsored pages. 

I get so much SPAM email about site re-writing and SEO optimization. I am not hard to find!

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Future Of Bandcamp?

The big, not war, news the last few days has been Bandcamp has been sold again to a company that charges artists and labels for its services, and 50% of staff were sacked in the process.

There is no information on the real future of Bandcamp, and what features it has that will change, if any, but I would guess to use the service in the near future, you would need to sign up to an Artist Plan with the new owners Songtradr 

Have to say I have no interest in that, and if it comes to pass will just delete my Bandcamp account and rely on my SoundCloud artist page, and my own self hosted Megacurve - Adrian Bruce Music page on our Art And Technology website, which looks like this today:

But I did like the features of Bandcamp better then the free SoundCloud account I have used for many years. Mostly being able to replace a track with a newer version after the track has been released. But the reality is, I never got the plays on Bandcamp that I had with SoundCloud.  Just played by a few friends.  I don't have or collect "fans" on social media, never even tried getting a following!  For the longest time I just used my music as the soundtrack to my 3 minute YouTube Illustration showcase videos, pretty much slideshows with a soundtrack. My illustrations are what people have been interested in.

To give some perspective on both sites, these are the play stats for my tracks on both platforms. They  have to be read with the understanding that I stopped putting new tracks on SoundCloud near the end of 2017, and then put them exclusively on Bandcamp instead. 

I have never really promoted my music on any of these platforms. I make it for myself.  I have links on my website and a link to a track if I used the music in one of my YouTube Videos. I promote my illustration work, a more serious endeavor for me, and what all my YouTube videos were for.

Bandcamp for me never got anywhere near the plays of SoundCloud. Strangely so.  Bandcamp had an Editorial Team that all lost their jobs in the sale of the site. These people were the Gatekeepers there, and from my point of view, should have never been there at all Like the bad old days when a couple of DJs and AR men decided what you learnt about and heard on the radio. Can't say I engaged with what they promoted at all.  Expect the previous owners felt that way too. 

I was professionally involved in developing musical instruments and music production systems, but my own music has always been a hobby. Nice if someone gets to hear it though.  I have all my Bandcamp tracks set to "pay what you want, including 0", so I have never sold a track on Bandcamp. 

So I don't know the future of Bandcamp, but with the news of staff cuts, I put a few new tracks on my SoundCloud account, and refreshed it a bit. 

If Bandcamp becomes a payed service it will probably impact a lot of people, but not me. I can always give them away from my own website, (or maybe Gumroad or Soundclick ), maybe have a Donate If you like via a PayPal button.  If Songtradr doesn't change anything, we will keep things as they are, but probably focus back onto SoundCloud again, for as I showed above, Bandcamp really hasn't helped get stuff played.

But in recent years, the most plays of my music has been heard is as the soundtrack of YouTube shorts, the most popular of those being me doing a time lapse drawing of a silly monster. 

Have read often that Hip-Hop is the king of the genres in recent years, and that isn't what I do, so not being popular doing old guy music makes sense. Here is some of what we do:

Megacurve#1 6 Track Snippets and Artwork in 59 seconds 

Megacurve#2 Another 6 Track Snippets and Artwork in 59 seconds 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Being a Professional, Amateur & Hobbyist

When I was a kid, drawing and making things, mostly out of paper or balsa wood, was what I did for fun. When I got to High School I fell in love with recorded album music. Then audio electronics became a passion and a very serious hobby. 

Turned that into a career. I was an engineer, a Professional. Earnt my living doing it. I developed products, managed projects at times, and solved problems.  

But it started from wanting to play my records on a HiFi sound system as an unpaid hobby. 

Listening to music is still a hobby.  (Strange, no one has tried to monetize ... oh, yes, they do by writing record reviews...)

I don't "do" electronics any more.  Not as a hobby. Only if I need to, like changing the battery in a Kindle.

I do vector illustrations freelance.  Paid part time Professional work. It evolved from my first hobby though, well the drawing part.  

I make music, cartoons, comics and music videos as a hobby now.  2020~2022 during the pandemic was probably the most active with hobbies I have ever been. I treat these hobbies as  I do making plastic or resin model kits. 

Or sculpted something or painted a watercolor. Doing something for the fun of it.  The reality is more that if I aren't creating something every so often, I get depressed and down about wasting my time (i.e. my life time left) and not doing something constructive.

It is nice if someone listens to, reads or watches something I make though, so I always publish it to the Internet and retain the copyright. I don't need payment. Even if I am serious about my hobby works.

I have released my music on Bandcamp under the Megacurve banner.   Like this track:

But I haven't registered and gotten ISRC codes , joined PPL, MCPS or PRS, or set myself up as a record publishing company so that my track plays can be tracked and I could collect royalties, like a "professional"  would. Same for me then not paying DistroKid $22.99 a year to put my music on Spotify and Apple music

All that stuff costs money. Of course it has cost money to buy my music gear and make the music I do, but that is okay, as it is a Hobby. I only ever bought music gear with the money I made from my Illustration Freelancing, never from my Engineering work. It was a principal for me. The studio is a wonderful toy. I think of myself these days as a musical cartoonist/prosumer, and don't identify as a musician or guitarist. I don't collect guitars or want to play live on stage. Musically you could say my stuff is unsophisticated.

For the millions of music makers that do pay those fees to release their songs on the streaming platforms, 95%+ don't make enough in royalties to cover the fees anyway. And with Spotify now deciding that "small artists" now aren't going to get any payout for any streams that get anyway, they will not get anything, unless they can sell CDs or tracks on Bandcamp or whatever.  A new type of Vanity Publishing, or Pay To Be Played? But I guess it means they are Professional musicians.  It helps self esteem. 

I have all my Bandcamp releases set to $0, "pay what you want, including nothing", to download them.   

My comics are also free to download from our website.  Nice if someone looks at them, but it was the creating them that was my need. I print them out 2 pages to an A4 sheet and put them in these cool 40 page A5 files.  I revisit them every so often.  

You can do something to a "professional" standard as a "hobby". Don't they call that an "amateur "? 

It all depends on how you see yourself, and what you need to fill your life with "what makes you happy or content."

For me, that doesn't include trying to make money off my music or comics.  They are akin to diary entries for me about things I felt at the time I made them. 

So this blog was vaguely about being a Professional, Amateur & Hobbyist. All at the same time around different fields. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Sunday, October 8, 2023

When Radio controlled the buying of Music


Growing up, the AM radio was the only way to hear music and know what to buy, if you were into that. In Sydney 2SM was the only station for that, and the above is a TOP40 chart from 1971.

I realize now, much of what became hits was only because of PAYOLA from record companies to have something continuously played. There were DJs that also played what they liked though...

FM Stereo didn't start in Sydney Australia till 1975, my second last year of Senior High School, the same year color TV was introduced. I had a part time job collecting shopping trolleys Friday afternoons and had joined a mail order record club.

In Australia, Countdown started in 1974, and the first time there was a country wide gatekeeper declaring what was hot to the 14 year old girls in their demographic. It did help Australian music. Must say Australian Pub Rock also got a little support. Even ROSE TATTOO got promotion. 

I remember clearly listening to the massive hit MISEX track SPACE INVADERS, and the DJ getting sick of it and taking it off midway with a scratching sound.  He had probably played it every 5th track in his shift and couldn't take it anymore in 1979. 

About that time is when music videos became a massive music marketing thing too. It was still all the hits, with a few hits from Album Bands.

Music was important to me and the way you dressed and the length of your hair showed your allegiances. 

The record companies pretty much controlled what you heard and knew about.  Meant a band could be huge, as the population interested in music was force feed it.

In 2023 now, it has completely changed. There isn't that controlling force and the Internet has completely fragmented things.  Still gatekeepers, but there are many of them, with smaller audiences. 

It is also now so easy to hear any music anytime you want with Spotify or YouTube. It isn't all as special as it once was. 
When I had to buy an expensive album, I played the album side completely through, and played the album many times. I studied it and the album artwork.  

It was a different world then. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023


 For some reason YouTube showed me an interview with actor comedian Adrian Edmondson a week ago

I only know of him from his hippy character in THE YOUNG ONES. A comedy I didn't watch and didn't find funny that my much younger sister found hilarious. He wrote an Autobiography and the interview was about that.

As a child he spent a decade in boarding school. What I found interesting, and struck a chord with me, was that when he finally left there, he didn't see those school "friends" for some 15+ years. One of those "friends", when finally leaving was asked by his father, "Do you want to say goodbye to your friends?", and he said "No".  They were all like that.

His school "friends" where actually "situationships".  Alliances formed to help survive a difficult time, even 10 years at a boarding school together.

I feel I knew most "friends" from school, university or the companies I have worked at were just acquaintances,  but this new word "situationships" sums them up better.

Had 2 or 3 friends over the years, real friends, but everyone else is a situationship.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Always Something New You Can Learn


I had never used Reapers InputFX feature. To process MIDI or audio at at the input before it is recorded.  

For vocals and things like that, I just use track FX and add compression there, so it can be changed latter as needed.

But in using the MIDI JS modules to process MIDI, putting them as InputFX allows you to record their output. Useful too in this case.

So the above YouTube short is a small section of a track where I experimented with JS modules that produce 1 note chords, arpeggiation and force notes to a scale.  Interesting.

The animation is revisiting Terry Gilliam styled paper cut outs, all done in Moho Pro12.

A longer version of this track: 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Simple Minded and Naive: Instrumental

Simple Minded and Naive. An instrumental from yesterday. 

Based around a 4 bar octave bass riff synth part. I have made this same track 100s of times. The fingers just naturally hit these notes doing this.  It is adlibbed and very simple minded. Just a fun happy, bouncy thing for most of it. Synth parts are "mostly" just the black notes, and mostly just octaves in all the synth parts.

And the the guitar section briefly takes it else where.

Been listening to the 17 minute Porcupine Tree: Anesthetize track a lot in the last few days. It is kind of like 5 different songs strung together with some particularly interesting heavy guitar in odd rhythms in part of it.  

My track here isn't like that, but in one sense was inspired by that. Will see how other tracks of mine develop. 

The thing about this is that it is a recording, made in my DAW. It isn't a performance, even if I adlib to the part I just recorded. My interest is in making recordings. In a studio. 

Addition: 2023/9/27.  Yesterday a friend was saying how he is using Chordpulse to come up with chord progressions in his song writing.  He is starting with the lyrics and working backwards from there, from my point of view.
Many years ago I used JAMMER on DOS with a Roland D-110 multi-timbral sound module. I never did anything with it though. They have all the styles, intro, verse, chorus, ending things, but all based on classic hits in those styles.  I found it just did too much, and was really for people doing covers.  Lots of people want to play covers.  Educational, but not my thing.

I have a small KORG microKEY keyboard on my desk at all times, and that is how I come up with chord progressions, if I aren't mucking around on the guitar.  I am not going to come up with big fancy chords a Jazz musician would though.  That is okay, your style partly comes from your own limitations.  I can look up any chord I don't know if that becomes important.  It hasn't.
I see Chordpulse is very affordable. Has a 14day free trial too.  Have to say I don't want it though. 

I see there are related free chord generating JS plugins already provided in my Reaper DAW too.  They do an equivalent thing, but really don't want them either. Better off just learning a few more complicated chords the old fashioned way.  
Being able to play things to improvise in real-time is really important to the way I make my music. But if I run out of inspiration and skill, something to maybe revisit.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Friday, September 15, 2023

Mail Delivery In The Rain: Ambient Music Soundscape

Mail Delivery In The Rain: Ambient Music Soundscape. Based on a 5 minute Zoom H1 recording of the rain from an open window in our house. Half way thru the mail man delivers our mail on his motor bike.

Too much like a couple of previous things, but, hey, that is what AIR SUPPLY & AC/DC did so it is what it is. It also came together so quickly, as it used the previous ambient projects template project. Would like to take the melody else where though, and may revise this later. Have NOT put this on our Bandcamp as yet.

The sound of the rain is so relaxing. The lazy synths and the slow bass pulse help that to me.

I didn't think I would do another of these recorded ambient pieces, but it rained for a couple of days this week, and remembered I had wanted to get a good recording of that one afternoon. So instead of the postman ruining the recording, it actually is a feature.

Probably the next stuff will have Metal power chords again, Maybe inspired by the Porcupine Tree albums been listening to the last weeks. We will see.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Steven Wilson - Limited Edition Of One

About 3/4 of the way thru this, but already read Harmony Codex at the end. Rather different from the approach in Joe Satriani's book. Lots of things in it I can relate to. 

At first I thought he was repeating himself a bit, but later Chapters don't feel that way.  I am finding it interesting, and relate to much of the record collecting side of things, taping stuff off the radio and music discovery, but I never stepped very far from rock/ pop /metal/ synthesizers.  I never borrowed a record from a Library, but I did join a Record Club when I was in High School and I could afford it.

I was never the "most successful musician you have never heard of".  I could have been a bit the guy that designed "some cool stuff you may have lusted over", from Roland or Fairlight Instruments, and similarly, you have never heard of.

But, since the later 1970s I have been making recordings, building synths and gear. Had a PortaOne 4 track, so never as serious as Steven was. My career was electronics design, or so I thought.  May be more like one of his keen friends. I am some 8 years older than Steven, even older than Rick Beato, so things were even more different back then, and I was in quite backwards Australia.

I didn't upload any music I had made for anyone else to hear till the 2010s when SoundCloud happened.  Have stuff under name Megacurve on SoundCloud. But I haven't put anything on Soundcloud since I joined as Megacurve on Bandcamp. 

Bandcamp having the features I want that Soundcloud doesn't, like being able to sell music, but more importantly, being able to update the track or album after it has been created. I just use that all the time.  Must say, I have never sold any of my music, but I did sell illustrations and cartoons, outside my engineering career, that paid for the gear to make music. And that is actually good enough for me.

I have written the much shorter 50 page  WHERE THE SMOKE COMES OUT, webcomic on a bunch of my memories and career.  Do I need to add lists or more family details? Mostly no. {I should add I wanted to learn the guitar when I was in junior high school, but my mother, with no interest in  music and only ever listens to talk back radio, thought that was a waste of time, and I should play sport instead. So I did soccer.  I was terrible at it, and took up every weekend. Had to wait till leaving High School to buy my own guitar and teach myself. }

But back to Steven's book, he explains what he did to get where he is now, and all his concerns with Social Media and all. Social Media, and what is popular on it, what goes viral, very much has the stink of BIG BROTHER about it. He doesn't use those words though. The dumber something is the more likes it will get liked, whereas some art that has taken years will be almost ignored. I so feel that. He also goes into details about his family, and that is something I have done little of in my work.  

In Absentia, the album they finally get a big label behind them to make, they all feel great about it, but upon release it doesn't make the charts.  The feeling is the world has moved on since that kind of music ruled the world.  

Lots of things in it I can relate to, but when it comes to his favorite books, movies or songs the opposite is true. Few of any of them I had even heard of. Much he likes is so "down", but he is British, and that is part of their character. Makes you realize how unusual and glorious Supermarionation and THUNDERBIRDS where to spring from that wet island. 

Interesting influences.  An interesting read. He has OCD tendencies, as do I. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Trip to Chiba, and the works of Steven Wilson


Spent three days in Chiba at the beginning of September, across the country from here. Stayed on the fourteenth floor of a hotel not far from Chiba JR station. The dawn sky one of the mornings was truly wonderful, and the phone picture really doesn't capture the streaks of pink that emanated from the rising sun, rather like the "troublesome" Rising Sun flag.

Didn't stay long in the hotel though, as there visiting family, our grandson and kids.  His name is  翔 馬 (Shoma, soaring/flying horse, ala Pegasus). We also talked and went out with our sons in-laws, and had a ceremony at their local shrine.

A tiring but wonderful trip. Not for making all public here though.

During the trip preparations, I noticed Steven Wilson is about to release his new album Harmony Codex.  Steven seems to have had articles about what he is doing in many of the Sound On Sound Magazines I bought over the years. 

Everything from how he recorded his early Porcupine Tree albums at his parents place, alone, to doing surround mixes for Classic Rock Albums, and becoming one of the goto people for that.

Have know about him for years, and have had his In Absentia album for almost as long.  I played that album on the Shinkansen from my X1 music player using SONY noise cancelling earbuds both ways on the trip. He has also had quite a presence on YouTube, even being interviewed by Ric Beato not long ago.

His album remixing moved from 5.1 Surround to the recent Dolby ATMOS. He has become kind of a spokesperson for ATMOS in some ways. ATMOS seems to be being forced onto the music industry, but I am not going into that. The way it is being done seems rather unpleasant, even if Steven says the results are amazing, 

Steven has taken the unusual step of having exclusive listening parties in places with truly massive ATMOS setups as part of the Harmony Codex PR. Listening to the album the way no one does these days. From start to end, in comfortable surroundings with the lights and mobile phones off. 

YouTube influences in the UK and the USA have been invited to these, and have been duly reporting how amazingly awesome the album is. Enough to make me very suspicious that it couldn't be that good.  So the album has an ATMOS mix, as well as a standard stereo CD release, and there are various boxed sets with discs for the different versions.  

I have actually pre-ordered the standard version Harmony Codex CD from Amazon Japan on getting back home. Will see if it gets on the playlist of stuff I play all the time, or not.  At the same time I also got his older Porcupine Tree Deadwing, Fear Of a Bleak Planet and his last Future Bites albums.  

I am catching up on some of his stuff, the way I did with Freak Kitchen and Smashing Pumpkins, which had proven to be very worthwhile, and inspirational for my own music making. 

Months ago I started on a Comic about From Mono to ATMOS Music Production but discovered a few things that made me stop.  It would have been a continuation of my MUSIC ON LOUDSPEAKERS, from Mono to Stereo. The first page of which is shown here and available here

I have had an interest in Surround Sound for a long time, but the setup for a home ATMOS (and music production) system is rather trying. Can monitor on headphones, but the number of speakers and their placement isn't very practical.  Back in Australia I had a Yamaha Home Theatre 5.1 Amplifier and a surround speaker system in the living room. Rarely used it though, as in an open plan living space it was too loud and annoyed the family not watching the movie, which was 99% of the time. I ended up watching most movies with headphones or just the TVs small stereo speakers. 

These days only have a Small 32" HD Hisense TV with Sound bar, and only got the Sound bar as it made the sound "clearer" and less muffled than the TVs own small stereo speakers. Have no interest in a Home Theatre for Movies any more. 

Last year I did Binaural Headphone Only mixes instead of some of my music, and YouTube Shorts, and think they are really cool. Part of the reason is that for myself, I really only listen to album music when travelling, and that is on headphones. The Shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Tokyo is 2 hours.  One of my YouTube shorts: 

I may still come back to ATMOS.  The Dolby Atmos Composer Essential  package is about USD$164 for the component to be able to mix in ATMOS for my Reaper DAW. That would mean just monitoring in headphones  though. We will see what the future brings.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Monday, August 21, 2023

700円 Breakfast Outing in Japan: Ambient Soundscape

This ambient piece is all about the recorded environment sounds, as I left home, walked to the station, catch the train, walk to the café in the local Mall, and then the reverse. A real "time machine" for me. First thing I have made to place such importance on the environmental recorded sounds, even if the previous project lead to this.  

Use my Zoom H1 recorder set to auto level, usually with the low cut filter on and with a "dead cat" wind shield.  I found the wind shield is vital to any outdoor recording. For most of the walking outside the recorder is held in my right hand and I just walk normally, just not swinging my right arm. The H1 is all I have ever needed in a portable recorder.  

The 24bit WAV file were copied via USB from the H1 to the project directory, and were dropped on a track in Reaper, then sections selected, cut, fade in/out and level adjusted together. Color coding some clips helps with keeping track of things.

The first quarter is basically the sound of me walking to the station from home, with birds, insects, distant traffic noise and the sound of passing other people. It does set up a kind of rhythm and tempo. The sound of the train pulling into my local station, then cuts to outside the destination station walking past the bus stands, past some apartment building construction, up the café steps, then the sound of the coffee machine grinding the coffee beans and espresso steam. Then the café serving robot saying take the tray with your order and thank you in an anime style voice.

Some sounds in the Mall, then the sound of the train leaving after I arrived at my home station and the beep of the station exit gate as I pay with my contactless travel card. Then the walk home and close the front door. 

Will anyone else find it interesting? No idea at all, except some outside Japan may find a breakfast that good and cheap an impossibility.

It uses the VST synths with the addition of an ARP 2600 this time similar to the last few Ambient Music tracks. 

The music is not the focus at all. Just all adlibbed one take parts, not recorded to a grid at all.   

Have previously considered getting Roland Binaural Earphones with Microphone CS-10EM to use with the Zoom H1, for this kind of environmental sound. They probably aren't any good if there is any wind though.

This GUSTO café has the best value Morning Sets around and a Bellabot server robot. For that price you also have unlimited use of the drink bar, but a freshly ground hot or ice coffee is all I ever have.  Same breakfast without the sausage and beacon is 550円, and that is what I actually had yesterday. In all cases I get 5% off for being over 60, as are most in GUSTO having breakfast.  
The hip young things are over in Starbucks paying more for a sugar loaded Frappuccino.

I did a little 1 page comic on the Bellabot here: 

The image is a photo of the breakfast, and is slowly warped using the MOHO Pro 12 Bone method.

The track is also in our "pay what you want" (even 0円)  Spirograph Album on Bandcamp.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Japanese Railway Melodic Ambient Soundscape & Video

About 2 years ago I used my Zoom H1 and recorded an hour or so of local railway and station sounds. I didn't go into the station at that time, and got many train sounds from along the local park along side the rail line to Osaka.  That is far enough away from a rail crossing to not get the DING DING DING of the bell when a train is coming and passing.   But there is such a crossing next to my local station, so any recording of a train coming into or leaving the station taken on the platform gets that included. FOR FREE!    

After pulling out those old files and putting together an initial track, I decided to ride the train, and get on platform recordings on the platforms and in the train at our, and the next much larger station. While I was there got some environmental sound in the Mall as well.   And had a small Frappuccino. I find it strange people here will spend so long in a Starbucks. I much prefer being at home, and always sit outside, even in the heat or cold.

The wind shield on the recorder probably looked like I was torturing a small animal...

For this type of thing I generally have the mixed and mastered track WAV file looping at a really low level for an hour or so. If something stands out and annoys me, I go back and fix/ change what ever it is, then repeat the play on loop while doing something else.  It is annoying small noises or sounds, or the way a melody goes seem fine until you do this loop play thing.

I  revised this track 10 times today.  I just upload it again and say "it is what it is". It will take me many weeks away from it to get any perspective on it.  I must be 80% happy with the way it is at the moment.

I put a steep notch filter on local platform recordings to suppress the main DING to clean them up a little, but used other announcements this time when a train wasn't arriving or leaving, that didn't have the DING.

The motion graphics video uses this railways route map graphic element. I pulled it out of a PDF of their route map.  Shows what speed trains stop at what stations. It is pretty too.  Four copies of that graphic element was animated in MOHO Pro 12. I initially tried using pictures of the railway lines trains, but the result wasn't interesting or abstract enough. For something where the music is the main element, I think it works well enough.

The track is in our Spirograph Album on Bandcamp.

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Play: Don't Know Where You Will End Up


Thinking about the creative projects been working on in the last 3 years being back in Japan.  "Don't Know Where You Will End Up" kind of describes it.

I cycle through my "creative" interests, among other things, of making music, illustrations, comics, videos and models/ sculptures. Not working fulltime anymore means there is more time to do these things. The first time in my life since being a little kid before I started the eternal boredom of school. But it isn't the doing more, but the doing what that has surprised be.  I have combined these interests, with enough technique to be interesting, in recent works.

Recent Melodic Ambient Soundscape videos have combined my animated illustrations with long synthesizer/ guitar pieces. The In The Asteroid Belt videos combined sculptured stop frame puppets and models with rock guitar and synth music. 

Also did 3 comic books using vector and ink on paper illustrations, in what looks like a quite unique manner. Two vehicle related and one Sci-Fi.

Before I started each project, I had no more direction than, I want to do a comic now, or lets try some soundtrack/ ambient music, write and sing a metal pop song, or do a Sci-Fi music animation.

They all came out of play

Hans Zimmer talks about play in his HOLLYWOOD REBEL documentary and I think it is why these things occur the way they do. And been fun. None are project managed or have detailed planning before hand. Such a change from my working life that had all been about schedules, time management and deadlines.

So in the last 3 years, I have discovered how significant Play is. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

UFO Kyoto Dusk


So did another melodic ambient soundscape yesterday, and put together this animation of the dusk sky with a photo I took out the window of my office/studio here in Kyoto a couple of days ago.  Put my phone against the window, pointing up to avoid most of the houses across the street, then cropped the roof tops out. A day or so before TYPHOON#7 came through. 

The Reaper project looks like this:

Still just adding little things to the end of the same project, but I do save it with a new name each time. MS-20mini and SQ-1 used to make some noises with additional motion in them.

The Animation is very simple, with zooming in on the the sky, with the black oval "UFO" zoomed around the screen to add additional interest.

The sky today is cloudy with brief thunderstorms passing through. The view from my desk chair is more this:

Our cat is admiring the view, until I stand. Then he will steal my desk chair and immediately fall asleep.  

I don't mind these melodic ambient things at all. Will play one on a loop for hours, while doing something else. 

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Soundscape Spirograph: Machine


At 5min 20 seconds, it is short for a soundscape piece.  The music is all synthesizer and sound effects in this.  The Reaper project looks like this, and shows the VSTs being used. 

Also Reverb, Delay and Flanging from ValhallaDSP.

The video is 4 images animated with rain and a slow pull back. 

Originally did the vehicles as dry marker sketch concept art in the 1990s. Very inspired by Syd Mead and Rob Cobb at the time, and still am.  

Revised that into a comic panel a few years ago for Terraform, and revised that panel by extending it on the left to get the HD (1280x720) aspect ratio to animate. 
The rain is a particle effect in MOHO PRO12, and as I have now seen, a common thing to do in an Ambient Music video on YouTube. Low effort motion on a still image.

The music has been uploaded and in our Bandcamp Spirograph Album

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Asteroid Music: Ambient Pulse


Ambient Pulse is a 10 minute synths and sound effects track on our Spirograph Album .  This one doesn't have any guitar, some of the others tracks do.

A Korg MS-20mini and VST synths with a good helping of ValhallaDSP reverb, delay and flanging went into producing it.  This is the first long track I ever tried. I call it more Melodic Ambient than Ambient music. Or do you just call this type of thing Ambient Sound or a Soundscape?

The VSTs I mostly used on this are shown here. Surge XT is a particular favorite recently. TAL Bassline is also something I get a lot of use out of, and never for bass lines. Such a simple, but useful synth. 

The long 60 second upward rising tone was generated in Audacity using the chirp generation function.  Easier than using the MS-20 manually.  

The visuals are reused props from our YouTube  In The Asteroid Belt animations, and put together using MOHO PRO12 Animation.

The starship model used is one of several craft and puppets I made in the 1990s, but the Asteroids where made from styrene foam in 2022.

In the 1990s I was fascinated with what the new Desktop Studio affordable tools for video, animation and music production could allow a single person to do. I wrote a series of articles on Desktop Science Fiction Production, and others on building custom models that were published in the UK magazine Sci-Fi & Fantasy MODELS

Exciting times then. Twenty Five plus years later I went back to trying my hand at that stuff again after a very long break, where life and work got in the way.  

A shot of the recent studio

We can be found at ArtAndTechnology