Hella Gems | Original Music Blog

There once was a band called Men of Science. It was comprised of two childhood friends, and they made many albums. Their music brimmed with youthful enthusiasm, humor and occasionally a rueful longing for seasons past and galaxies far away. They weren’t afraid to take artistic chances. They were the opposite of self-conscious.

I had the pleasure to meet them when I was in college. I was taking a machine learning class when I met GC, who was one half of the duo. My memories of GC and KG, their music, the scene that had emerged around them, and the people I met because of them are priceless.

They played this song at a house party back in May 2006. It was around the week of final exams, and I walked in to see the festivities beginning. When GC threw a party, it wasn’t a traditional party: it was an evening of talent and spectacle. Performer after performer would give the audience gifts plucked from the realm of the imagination. Violin playing, absurdist poetry, algorithmic art, musical theatre, assorted nonsense. It was all fair game.

After some opening acts, the duo began their set, being introduced as a “glam rock band from Chicago”. In actuality, it was just two dudes with a keyboard and Fruity Loops playing a backing track. The song they opened with was “It’s Alright”. It has since become one of my favorite Men of Science songs.

After jamming to it the other day, I decided to record a version of it (with some lyrical elaborations). Peace be with you GC and KG.

Remixes

October 4th, 2014 by

Here are some remixes I did.

2012

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Usher – Climax (MW Remix)

Early 2014

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Lewis – Hunter (MW Remix)

Inside the house

June 23rd, 2014 by

In some of the video games similar to the one I’m working on (Faxanadu, Zelda II, Wanderers from the Ys) there are little towns spread out across the land, always consisting of five or six little houses. The residents always give you helpful advise and encouragement when you barge in uninvited.

There ‘s always some “inside the house” music that’s warm-sounding and soothing. So here’s my version of that. Two version’s actually:

Inside the Elfin House

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Your fellow elfs have such useful hints as “You must save our land.” or “Don’t try too hard.” This track has a generous helping of the fairy sparkles that I’m trying to work in to the soundtrack (sort of a theme really).

 

Inside the Goblin House

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As lauded as Elfin craftsmanship is, the best equipment can only be bought by shady goblin in the corner (the one with the eye patch and the cigar). Where does he get it? Oh, he’s not at liberty to reveal his sources.

Dungeon (revamped version)

June 23rd, 2014 by

I was working on filling-out one of the simple tracks from this post. Added melody and what not.

In addition to the usual SNES musical influence, I added a little bit of 80s-style pomp rock sound.

 

I guess the first version was more of a sketch. I still might use both versions, though.

 

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soft_rock_dungeon

2012 Compilation

April 29th, 2014 by

At some point two years ago the drive to actually finish and share tracks left me. I think partly this has to do with an overly harsh internal critic, and also the realization that I should be able to do music without constant positive external reinforcement. Then in 2013 I decided to share some of what I had worked on, so I did a bunch of cleaning, and organizing. This was difficult. I deleted sketches that were going nowhere, and I selected the most finished and interesting pieces from 2012 to share. So here it is – the 2012 year in review. Only two years late. I didn’t include the working titles for any of these because they feel too raw to have a title.

 

I think I made this for a project with David. We were creating a mix tape one song at a time and alternating between us.

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MW – 2012 – Track 1

 

The distorted synth is saved somewhere.

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MW – 2012 – Track 2

 

 

This is a huge collage made entirely from samples. See if you can recognize the source material. (No seriously, I don’t remember every thing I sampled.)

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MW – 2012 – Track 3

 

 

This is another track for the project with David.

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MW – 2012 – Track 4

 

 

This was originally going to be a remix of Headlines by Drake, but I thought it sounded better without the vocals.

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MW – 2012 – Track 5

 

 

Some hip-hop, why not?

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MW – 2012 – Track 6

 

 

Or how about some Jazz? Just noodlin’ away.

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MW – 2012 – Track 7

 

 

I think I just wanted to use an arpeggiator.

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MW – 2012 – Track 8

 

 

Tracks 9 and 10 are two versions of the same song. I think the main difference is 10 doesn’t have guitar.

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MW – 2012 – Track 9

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MW – 2012 – Track 10

 

 

I think I just wanted to play guitar.

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MW – 2012 – Track 11

 

 

Big bombastic rap instrumental. Imagine Eminem yelling over it.

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MW – 2012 – Track 12

 

 

Remix of some Phoenix song. I think it’s 1901. The backwards vocals thing at the end doesn’t help me remember what song was the source. It was pretty cool that they released stems from the old album. Some new stems from their latest album are posted as well.

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MW – 2012 – Track 13

 

 

Imagine Drake complaining about being rich and famous over this.

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MW – 2012 – Track 14

 

 

 

Not much to say about these two.

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MW – 2012 – Track 15

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MW – 2012 – Track 16

 

 

Started as a remix of Shimmy Shimmy Ya, but it was too raw for me that way, so I gave him the mic and let him take it away.

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MW – 2012 – Track 17

 

 

I think this was called End Credits as a working title.

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MW – 2012 – Track 18

Another SNES style track. You win the game! I suppose this would be the music that plays after the end with the credits rolling by. Not the most original piece, I guess.

Like the rest of these tracks, it would really sound a lot more like the real SNES if I down-sampled it a lot. That would automatically take care of reducing the range of the frequency response too. For now, though. I’m just showing them off in their full high-res glory.

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you_win

More SNES style tracks

October 24th, 2013 by

I’m working on some more SNES style tracks in FL Studio. I think the synthesized electric guitar (with res filter) is a bit of a stretch for the SNESs audio quality when compared to the pros actual attempts at mimicking the electric guitar . Oh well, I like the sound.

 

I imagine this music to go in some earlier part of the game, where there’s some exploration with occasional, easy enemy encounters.

As usual, the track is meant to loop.

 

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early

Some SNES style music

October 6th, 2013 by

Lately I’m working on some SNES style tracks, sort of like the great Square RPGs of the Super Nintendo age.Games like Secret of Mana and the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger and so forth.

I’ve been interested in capturing the flavor of the SNES. Unlike the original Nintendo, there’s no built-in wave tables. Each game had their own, which they could loud from memory. This means that there’s no real “signature sound” that you can get from using tools like Famitracker or whatever. The only common bond between these games is that the samples are always really short and looped, due to the overall low memory available. Additionally, there’s some sort of delay effect built-in to the hardware.  If you go back and listen for it, you’ll hear SNES games universally making excessive use of the effect for all sorts of things.

I pulled together a bunch of cheezy, fake-sounding samples to use that sounded about right. I also made a particular “delay” preset which I named “SNES”. It basically duplicates the cheezy “double-attack” effect that I was hearing in a lot of games. It’s subtle, but it makes the over-all sound seem “bigger”. At first, I was going to go real authentic and cut my samples down into quarter-second looping bits like the SNES would have used, but I figured that would just be a lot of work. Instead, if it sounds “about right,” I’ll just be satisfied with that.

So for these tracks, imagine some RPG style wars-of-elfen-magic-bla-bla-bla.

The first track would be for some part of the game were you emerge onto the overworld after forging some grueling monster-infested underground tunnel. The enemy’s forces are still hiding all around, but it’s good to see the sun and the trees once again. Oh, and it’s daybreak.

The second track is for some Dungeon. Maybe the final boss’s fortress, which you can only enter by finding the seven pieces of whatever. I reused the arpeggio from the first track, so that will represent some sort of tie-in between the two areas.

These are intended to loop indefinitely in the video game, so they end abruptly. Just imagine them repeating continuously.

I do have an idea about what to use these for. I’m working on a game in Gamemaker Studio that would incorporate these tracks, but don’t hold your breath for the release. I’m not very good with finishing these types of projects. If I were to use these tracks for the game, they would be heavily down-sampled, which would probably make them sound even-more Super-Nintendo-ish.

 

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daybreak

dungeon

Old Man Mardigan

October 23rd, 2012 by

Old Man Mardigan

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So, it was back in the summer of 2011 when erf and I decided to fight the decrease in creative output and associated malaise with a series of all-or-nothing recording sessions. We were both getting older, and I wasn’t satisfied to let the music be simply discarded as a boyish hobby (which it isn’t). Over a 2 month period, typically on Sunday afternoons, we would head down to his basement studio in the historic Homepark district to record a series of demos.

They were demos, and they would remain demos, because they were meant to capture the feeling we had on that particular afternoon, and nothing more. Each song was conceptualized, written, arranged, recorded, and put in the can in no longer than 90 minutes. No second takes, no regrets. erf would work the controls and play the more competent instrumental parts, I would share songwriting and vocals with the good man. By the end of the year, there was enough for an EP.

On that first afternoon we made this ditty.

High Flyer derives from the same sessions.

To the Sea!

June 21st, 2012 by

rocky beach in Cadaques

Catalan indie group Manel tends to feature middle-class characters in everyday settings, aggrandized by heroic or mock-heroic balladry. This song is no exception–it’s just about going to the beach with a friend or loved one.

See Manel’s live version with choir at the Palau.

Our version is a little downtempo and slightly maudlin, hope it doesn’t dampen too much your summer festivities.

Tu i jo hem sopat en bons restaurants,
tu i jo hem ballat a la llum d’un fanal,
tu i jo volavem en un Ford Fiesta groc,
tu i jo hem cantat a la vora del foc,
tu i jo hem buscat coses similars,
tu i jo hem tingut el cap ple de pardals,
tu i jo dalt de la nòria,
tu i jo i la nostra història,
però tu i jo no ens hem banyat mai al mar, al mar, al mar.

Plantem les tovalloles, convido a un gelat,
juguem amb alegria, esquivem passejants.
A l’horitzó es divisen les veles
d’uns nens que fan optimist a la cala del costat.
Dormo una estona, a la que bufa la mar,
així estirada se’t veu espectacular
llarga i blanqueta a la sorra llegint
intrigues de final inesperat.
Es abusiva tanta calor.
T’incorpores i et poses bé el banyador,
amb el peu calcules com està l’aigua
i tot esta llest per tal que entrem al mar.

Així doncs si un dia vens i passes per aquí,
i sí malgrat la feina trobem un matí,
no em perdonaria mai, no podria assumir,
no agafar-te amb la moto i que no fessim camí,
molt lluny d’aquí, a l’altra banda del món,
hi ha un xiringuito amb quatre pins al fons,
tu i jo asseguts a la barra d’un bar,
sona bona música i som davant del mar.

You and I have dined in good restaurants,
You and I have danced by a hurricane lamp,
You and I have flown in a yellow Ford Fiesta,
You and I have sung at the edge of the fire,
You and I have searched for similar things,
You and I have flipped our lids,
You and I above the quarry,
You and I and our story,
But you and I haven’t ever bathed in the sea, the sea, the sea.

We put down the towels, I buy an ice cream,
We dodge passers-by, we play and scheme
Towards colored sails dividing the sky,
from kids sailing Optimists in the cove nearby,
I sleep a while, the sea breaks,
stretched out like that you give me the shakes
long and pale and in the sand reading
intrigued by an unexpected ending.
So much heat is quite an abuse.
You sit up and adjust your bathing suit
toes in the water you test the degree
and everything is just ready for us to enter the sea.

So if one summer day you pass by,
and if despite work we set aside,
a free morning, I couldn’t resist
grabbing the scooter and giving you a ride,
to the other side of the world, quite far
in front of four pines, there’s a beach bar,
you and I seated under a tree,
good music playing and we are in front of the sea.

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To the Sea!

Graham: vocals, bass, keyboards, translation, sea samples
Kelly: vocals, pirate vocals, guitars
Xana: vocals
recorded in August 2011 in Barcelona

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