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So busy….. Whew.

Hey there mobile music makers.
Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for a couple months. Our living situation had become rather urgent and changing moment to moment.
Short version is our slum lord who owns the house, that is basically sectioned off into 5 studio type apartments, stopped paying the utilities he was responsible for. That led to water being shut off for 10 days in March, and lots of headaches for us ever since. To top it all off, he has decided to just let the bank take the property.
Skip ahead to today (and removing the dramatic details) and we are on the verge of getting a house.
However time is running out fast. We only have until August 1st to find a place to live.
I hated to do it, but in the interest of sparing my wife and son the discomfort of just taking anything we could afford (which is nothing really) I swallowed my pride and am accepting my fathers enormous help. It pretty much adds up to receiving an early inheritance, and nobody has to die, yay!
I’d much rather have done this all myself. I’m no fan of not earning what’s mine. I’m doing this for my family.

Hopefully we will close on a nice little house not too far away. It’s an old house, which we like a lot more than those new cookie cutter yuppy houses that seem to pop up all over like so many silver SUVs and wannabe high rolling twenty something’s fixated on material wealth and appearances.
Fuck that. Excuse my French.
The house we are close to closing on is just right. Plus it has a huge basement that’s already partially renovated for me to set up a full on studio slash work space. A Smite Office, if you will.

Aside from all this I’ve been working on some new music. I’m making very chill ambient soundscapes with melodies and interesting textures. No drums. Lite percussive accompaniment might appear, but no in your face drum beats.
As usual I’m creating every sound from scratch myself using only my iOS music apps. So despite how much I love hearing Alchemy, it is once again pushed off the table.
At least it was, until that latest update arrived that seems to allow custom sound designing by importing user samples. I may have to reconsider and give that some thought. Is Alchemy now actually a synthesizer, instead of a cool preset morphing player? This is the one thing that’s held me back from using it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing. Problem is, the sounds are recognizable and clearly presets made by someone else. Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean who expects everybody to always create every sound themselves? Its pretty unreasonable to demand or expect. I just happen to personally prefer making my own synths. I’m crazy like that, and I’m not judging.
So maybe this new import feature will open things up?

Well, back on track. Alchemy may be part of this new music. Several new apps I’ve received and or bought since March will find their way into my project.
Some new, some old. Some need to be reviewed.
I bought and tried to love Looptical, but ended up irritated by it so much that I just deleted it in a fit of rage. Money wasted. What a pain in the ass that app is.
I get it, people love it. That’s cool. I personally can’t freaking stand that thing.

Cubasis is forever removed from my workflow. Ironically right when they finally added automation.
Yay.
Not!
The FX are still crap, the instruments sound cheap, and I’d never use them so why would I care to automate a bunch of cheap crap? I don’t. Later Crapbasis. Too little too late.

Before this turns into a big rant of apps that piss me off, I’ll switch gears.

Oscilab, now with Audiobus support has become a new favorite of mine. It’s such a nice app. Great and clever on all counts. Fantastic sequencing with a cool twist. I really have been enjoying Oscilab thoroughly.

MitoSynth really sunk it’s teeth into me. Wooji hit a home run with this new synth. I love the novel interface and all the automation options. It took a few minutes to get comfortable with its design, but it wasn’t long before I looked up and several hours had gone by. What a joy to use.
Only thing I don’t like about Mito is the limited scales, and no assignable key conveniences. Sure, I should just know when I’m in tune, but having the option to just set the playable notes to all be in key is a very nice short cut.
Alright I’m a bit lazy there, so what.

Among those I’m also wearing out Z3TA, microTERA, CubeSynth, AudioReverb, Crystaline, iVCS, Samplr, iPulsaret, and several others.
Auria is now my exclusive iDAW. It simply can’t be beat as far as I’m concerned. Best on all counts in ease of use, quality, and functionality. On my iPad Air, I can work it harder than ever. I hardly ever use midi so it’s perfect for me. I just don’t have any problems with it.

Audio Mastering App will continue to be my “goto” mastering suite. It does everything I need it to do. Hi/Lo shelving, 3 band stereo imaging, gentle reverb, EQing, Compression…and it’s just easy and reliable. It fits me.
I have Final Touch, but it’s Stereo Imaging is pretty awful. The rest of it is alright, but a little contrived for my taste.

I think I’m done for now. This run on letter that was to be a small update on what I’m doing has gotten long enough.

If everything goes as planed, and we are settled in to our new home come August 1st, I’ll return to writing reviews.
Until then I have to choose how I use my currently limited hours each day, and making music takes priority over telling you what apps I think you should buy.

Wish me luck. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.

Cheers :)

PS- We just got news that the house may very well be ours to move into as soon as next Friday, or shortly after. Yippie! Out of this dump, and into our own house. So close now.

Oscilab – Review

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Oscilab is created by 2Beat
Available the iTunes App Store

Oscilab has been on the radar of anticipated new music apps and now finally hits the App Store.
It is a unique wave sequencer where by touch, drag, and sweeps will determine much of the music making experience.

Right off the bat I was feeling great and very happy with how it operates even if it was a little unusual. Didn’t take long to get comfortable with this at all.

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28 wave shapers, 6 channel mixing, FX and great on the fly live sound manipulation for each channel independently via X/Y pads and some pretty nice synthesis and drum options are some of the many features. Everything is easy to find and access. Great interface. I likey!

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Exploring this unique and fun new sequencer has been nothing short of fun.
I really like how easily they made this for doing live tweaks to the sounds. With scenes that can wait until the current one has played out before the next seamlessly enters the flow, and instantly changing a sequence without any drop outs is sweet.

Shaping the sounds wether they are loaded samples or your own synth designs at a whim rocks.
The FX are pretty simple if not a bit bland, but no problem just run Oscilab through Audiobus or IAA and use your other FX apps to…. To…to… Hang on?

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Wait a second? Where’s the Audiobus or Inter-App Audio support?
I assumed it was available, but where?
No…no…..no…..NO!
Just AudioCopy, “Open In” and SoundCloud for sharing….WTF? This isn’t 2009.
Did this cool, fun, impressive app really just get released without the most basic and expected supports for inter app connectivity?
It can’t be? Not again…… Geeeez! How frustrating.

This isn’t happening, is it? Well, I guess so, never mind.
I don’t mean to be harsh, this is a cool new app, but come on. Call me when it can actually be integrated in the most common workflows we actually use these days. Then I’ll finish the review. Until then this ones on hold.

Stroke Machine – Review

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Stroke Machine is made by Wolfram Franke Franke Music
Available from the iTunes App Store

Wolfram Franke dives in to iOS music production with the colorful release of the unfortunately named “Stroke Machine”.
Really. That’s its name. In the many hours I’ve spent with Stroke Machine I never once found anything that brought on an “Aha!” moment of clarity that explained why this name was chosen; I just can’t make the connection.
My inner 15 year-old came up with at least a dozen alternate names that could be just as hilarious, but that’s a different immature article.

This new and interestingly designed groove box has a lot to offer. A whole heckuva lot!

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Stroke Machine is a full service “groove box”, synth, beat maker, 128 pattern sequencer and full on work station. To start, this machine certainly has plenty of very nice features and functions for designing multitudes of drum and synth sounds.

The built-in synth has two oscillators sporting the standard analog waveforms.
A built-in sample player which earlier had problems but is working much better today. The number of voices are limited only by your device CPU.
Modulation controls for frequency and ring also allowing quantized automation of the sounds. Multi mode filters, white and pink noise generators are here too.
The tone generators run to a transient generator, and another multimode filter.
There are four effects busses and about eight sound FX. Routing, LFO, ADSR or ADBD envelopes with variable slope, and more. Much more, (linked below) the list of features is substantial.

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Next is a 128 pattern/”kit” step sequencer and each pattern has room for twenty four (12 perc and 12 melodic) sounds, and tracks with many common parameters like Tempo, Swing, Measure, mute, solo, etc.

Also featured is a detailed note editor, modulation automation, and quantize. Like I said there are lots of bells and whistles. I can’t list everything completely. Check out Franke Musicfor all the details.

They say loading, arranging, and so on is done intuitively and quickly.
I don’t fully agree with that and find much of that aspect of this app to be anti-intuitive with some things being in places I wouldn’t have instinctively expected. Nevertheless it’s all there and its working.

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Problems with Stroke Machines early iterations had been plagued with debilitating bugs and missing key features. A somewhat rough start leaving many to feel like they bought a half baked beta with huge potential. This seems to happen a lot for some reason?
Thankfully Wolfram Franke has been on top of it all and addressing the many early flaws with considerable and affective updates.

Prior to the most recent update (2-19-2014) Stroke Machine was largely unusable. At least up to its greater potential.
That has all changed. Thank you Mr.Franke.
The sample player is working well now.
A new “subdued” color scheme option is installed allowing the user to replace the original color nightmare resembling a plate of vomit from a multi colored yarn doll.
I like the the new color scheme a little better. It feels like it takes some of the over crowded impression down a notch or two. Still, its pretty crowded, but with improvements made to the rotary or linear orientations and how they respond to user input is better.

The FX generally are all decent, serviceable for what they are intended. Navigation, buttons or sliders and dials still on occasion fail to respond requiring some additional touches.
Changing to a different kit of sounds throughout the arrangements works great now.
Using Stroke Machine with Audiobus has gotten better, and more stable. Inter-App Audio hosting is supported.
MIDI clock sync, and virtual MIDI have been added.
AudioCopy for performance and recordings, and AudioPaste for samples has been added.
Adjustable latency settings are now included.
Generally a large amount of fixes, and new additions have brought Stroke Machine up to speed. It inspires customer confidence seeing the attentive actions of this developer. Kudos there.

The multi range keyboard is nice, but it’s just too tiny. I don’t know how that can be addressed considering the lack of screen real estate to work with. I suppose it’ll have to do, and for the most part it will suffice.

The potential was always there, and now with massive improvements and much needed additional features, Stroke Machine is delivering.

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All in all, Mr. Franke thought well to offer a huge creative environment for us to use and do a great many things. Fun, useful and maybe at times still frustrating, Stroke Machine is not kidding around. This ambitious app may have had a bumpy start, but today it is a powerful, stable and inspiring machine. Not yet perfect, but definitely one to seriously consider picking up.

Clif Johnston needs to move!

Hello folks.

My friend Clif Johnston, AKA Mood481, owner of Apptronica magazine and Netlabel (which I’m signed to) is trying to gather resources to move him and his wife here, Seattle Washington.

Now I would love to see him living not to far from me (Tacoma) and having a fresh start up here in the great Pacific Northwest.

He needs your help though, as moving is no small feat with many expenses (tell me about it, I have 75 days to move myself, but not as far) and logistics to work out.

He and his wife are trying to raise funds to make this all a reality.
I copies his story and pasted it below, but here is his fund raiser page link as well. I hope you might send a buck or two.

The following is taken from Clif Johnston and his fundraiser page.
How We Got Here

Rachel and I left our home in Seattle almost 6 years ago after she first got sick and had to give up her business. We sold our house and cars to pay for the move to Kentucky, where we would live in the house that had been my grandmother’s. I had arranged to keep my job in Seattle, so the hope was that we could reduce our cost of living to make up for the loss of income, pay off her medical bills, and eventually dig ourselves out of the financial hole we were in.

Just a few months after the move, the virus in her heart struck again, damaging it even more, resulting in surgery to implant the pacemaker / defibrillator that keeps her alive. At that point she was permanently disabled, unable to walk more than a few feet without a wheelchair. And we were tens of thousands of dollars further in debt.

My company went through a rough patch in 2009, which led to a temporary pay cut for a few months, and the future of the company remained mostly uncertain until we were acquired in 2011. Our first trip back to Seattle happened in September of that year, almost exactly 3 years later.

A Glimmer of Hope, and Then…

During that trip I talked seriously with my boss about returning to Seattle, and it was decided that the company would move us back after the first of the year in order to avoid a Winter move. The night before we had to fly back to KY, we got together with the friends and family we had left behind and celebrated the fact that we would soon be moving back home.

Unfortunately, by the time Spring arrived, the company that owned the company that bought us decided it was time to drop the newly merged company, finally leading to mass layoffs in May of 2012, to include me.

Within two days of becoming jobless, the company asked me to come back temporarily to finish some projects. I was still laid off, but it was postponed until the project was finished. One project led to another, and my perpetual state of being almost laid off lasted for another year until I was finally let go in July of 2013.

Trapped in Tennessee

In November of 2012, we had moved to Clarksville, TN to be closer to Nashville so my wife could get better cardiac care and the weight loss surgery needed to take some of the stress off of her heart. The surgery had been recommended by her original cardiologist in Seattle and it took 6 years to finally go through all of the insurance BS and preparation to get to the point of an actual scheduled surgery date, which was set for the beginning of October, 2013.

The timing was very rough, because my job had ended, but we couldn’t take a chance of changing insurance because then everything would have to start over from the beginning, if the new provider even covered the procedure, which many don’t. I couldn’t look very far outside the area for work, because a move would restart the clock on Rachel’s surgery. And it just so happens that our insurance provider isn’t very popular in the South, which made finding a job very difficult.

A Little Help From Our Friends

Due to all of the inter-state madness, my initial request for unemployment benefits was denied, leaving us with no income. So in November of last year we put together the first FundRazr campaign to help cover the immediate costs of insurance, rent, and necessities. Our amazing friends, members of online communities, and even strangers came to our aid, raising over $4000.

We were able to make it through that rough spot due solely to the kindness and generosity of people who cared, most likely the same people reading this right now. If so, thank you so much. We already owe you more than any amount of money could ever repay.

My unemployment claim finally went through in December. The amount falls over $400 short of covering our rent and insurance, not to mention things like food, the car payment, car insurance, utilities, etc. On top of everything, the way our insurance works is that as of January 1st, everything is out of pocket until we reach our deductible for the year (which we haven’t), making the first few months of the year rough anyway.

Time to Pack It Up

We’ve survived so far, but there are no jobs here for me. Rachel is a lot better physically. Her diabetes is gone, she’s able to get around without the wheelchair, and she has so much more energy than before. That makes all of the struggles worth it, but there’s still a long way to go for her, healthwise, and for us.

We have a place lined up in Monroe, WA, which is an acceptable commute distance from the city. There are plenty of jobs I qualify for in Seattle, and I have tons of contacts and resources to help from the past 14 years. We just have to get there… but we can’t afford the move.

I’m looking for work in Seattle already, hopefully with a company that will pay some of the relocation costs, but there’s no guarantee and we don’t have months to wait around for the perfect opportunity, because we’re spending every day figuring out what we can sell to pay the rent and insurance.

Again if you can help please visit Clifs fund raiser page.

Thank you.

3rd Anniversary of SmiteMatter.com blog

Yowdy Hall!
Things have been crazy off the rails for me lately.

I thought I’d take a break from blogging and making music after my second album Chapters released.
It kind of went on a bit longer than I intended. Now that my blogs 3rd anniversary has come by recently among many personal distractions, I can start getting back to it all.
Part of my extended break was due to a sudden living situation problem. Our slum lord has allowed the property we rent a portion of go into default with the bank. So that stressed things a bit. One thing after another.
Long story short we have to find a new place to live by the end of July.
Fun!

On a positive note I’ve begun work as a Community Manager for a cool flight sim developer, Flying Development Studio. They make the Infinite Flight app.
The work is actually very fun, but also limited hours. Not enough to live on or even move yet, but hey it’s better than nothing. I can’t complain as it’s something I really enjoy doing and it may grow in to something more.

Back to making music and writing reviews.
I have had some interesting new music apps come my way and am exploring them with the intention to prepare a few new reviews. Apps like B-Step, Crystaline, Bird Stepper, and GliderVerb to name a few.

I am also formulating some sort of a EP plan for new music. I want to do some experimental drone style ambient or “space music” stuff.
I know it’s not exactly a popular choice but it’s the sort of thing I want to do, and haven’t done much of yet. At least not any I’ve released.

So thank you for stopping by even though I’ve been under a rock. I was surprised to see that visits to this page (oddly) increase while I was silent. Ok, cool. Maybe that’s a hint? Haha.

For better or worse, like it or not, I’ll be posting new things again very soon.

Thanks again.

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