One little whinge about Sierra

I’m disappointed that Apple hasn’t added a simple, but needed, tweak for Finder. And it’s something that bugged me in Mavericks (I never did upgrade past that on my last machine).

Why is it so hard to have both tabs and new windows at the same time? This has been a feature of Linux for years now, but Apple seems to not want to implement it into macOS (and can I just say that it’s nearly impossible to not call it OS X?).

A bigger whinge for another day is how restrictive macOS is becoming. Like I said the other day, Apple peaked with Snow Leopard and it’s been downhill since then.

I’m not quite ready to move to another OS full time (it pains me to even think of having to use Windows at home), but I’m becoming less and less impressed with it all the time.

GarageBand is a perfect program, but I’m not sure how much longer I will keep using macOS just for it. Especially since there are other DAWs that I’m sure would be beneficial to my musical experiments.

If things get too bad, I guess I could always dual boot a machine. Windows for DAW stuff, Linux for everything. Most of what I use is open source or has an open source equivalent.

But I’m sure every version of the Mac operating system had something I bitched about. And thought was the final straw. But over 14 years later and it’s still my main OS. Go figure.

Back with new music

A little over 3 years ago the hard drive died in my old iMac and I successfully replaced it. I wasn’t so lucky this time. Something bad happened to the power supply and yada yada, I have a new iMac. Its pretty swanky. I bought a refurbished unit, which might come back to haunt me. Hope not.

macOS Sierra is… well, I’m not hating it, but it’s still not as great as Snow Leopard was. But I gotta stop living in the past.

Anyway, today I was finally able to upload two new releases, only a few weeks late.

Animal Drone by Abandoned Shorelines and Intercrural Love E.P. by XR1300.

I have tons of stuff in the queue. Full length albums from both bands. And some experiments from Sarkeesian. And more “ambient revisions” from Abandoned Shorelines. So the next few months should be good…

Computer update

I’ve made a decision on what to do. I ordered a new 2 TB hard drive and it should be here by Monday. It’s going to be a bit of a pain to install, but I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Given my current financial situation I cannot afford to buy a brand new iMac. So spending about $75 on a hard drive and doing the work myself was the most economical and sensible solution.

I hate to admit it, but I almost thought of building my own PC.  I was kind of envious of the “battle station” threads I see on /g/ and used some of their sources like Logical Increments, but the machine I had picked out was just as expensive as an iMac. And I quickly realized that I didn’t want to run Windows for a DAW, and neither Windows nor Xubuntu is any kind of substitute for OS X.

I’m still muddling around on my iMac, but I can’t do any lasting work on it. I do not trust the dying hard drive, so I still can’t make any music. Also, this iMac is pretty old (over 7 years) and El Capitan will be the last OS I can run. But I am on Mavericks right now, so I’ll take the time to download and install EC on the new drive later.

So, this isn’t the end of Ratan X. Just a new(isn) beginning.  When I installed a new drive back in Dec 2013, I told people I’d be happy if I got another year out of my drive. And I ended up getting nearly 3. Again, I’ll be happy if I get a year out of this new drive (and for nothing else to fail). Hopefully by then I’ll be on better financial footing and be able to get a totally new machine. Whether that is an iMac or not is anybody’s guess. Depends how I like El Capitan and the reviews Sierra (and beyond) get.

And then I hit a wall.

OK guys, bad news. My computer is on its last leg. For the longest time it was humming along just fine, but in the past few days it’s gotten pretty bad. I’m having hard drive problem (bad sectors).

The good news is I was able to make a good backup of everything. The bad news is that I’m not really sure if I want to replace the drive in my 7 year old iMac or buy new. I’ve been amazed that my  machine has lated this long so far. But the downside of that is I might spend money on something futile. My computer could develop another problem and go kaput after I spent all the work on replacing the drive. It’s a real pain in the ass to replace a hard drive in an iMac. Or any Apple product. This is the one downside to owning an Apple product.

Buying a brand new computer isn’t really an option. I’m not that rich and while spending $2000 on a computer in 2009 was a bit of a gamble, it’s an even bigger gamble today than it was then, financially speaking. Also, the new iMacs are literally impossible to upgrade or replace hardware in. I had a hard drive crash back in November of 2013 and was able to put in a new drive and hum along for nearly 3 more years. But I’m not sure that would happen again. And I don’t want to spend nearly $2000 on a machine that might die after 3 years.

Thinking of an iPad, since it has Garage Band on it. But I think it would be a pain to use compared to a desktop. I want an iPad anyway.

While I far prefer OS X to anything else out there, the only thing that is really tying me to a Mac is GarageBand. And I’m almost thinking of ditching it for something new because it’s made me lazy. But there aren’t any good DAWs for Linux that I’m aware of. And switching to Linux full time isn’t really something I can seriously consider. Despite the fact that i mostly use my computer for music creation and watching anime (and browsing 4chana and 8chan).

All of this means that I have back ups of my sites and GarageBand files (and the exported .aiff files from those projects) both in the cloud and on a local hard drive. But how long it takes me to release them is anybody’s guess. Depends on what I decide to do with my computer.

New releases by Sarkeesian, Abandoned Shorelines and XR1300 when? Was supposed to be October 13th 2016. But now, not so sure.

Introducing my new project… Sarkeesian!

As I hinted at last week, I have re-released the Brother Curtis ep under the name Sarkeesian.

This is a brand new project that I plan to use for more experimental/noise type stuff. Including guitar ambient music. The name is an homage to Whitehouse. You can look up why that is. But we are our own people and not associated in any way shape or form with any moralistic, puritanical dullards who might share our name.

There is no set schedule for releases under this moniker. If I want to release a single song at any time, I will. Much like the music, this will be a free-form endeavor.  Enjoy if you can…

A brief history of music by Ratan X.

Not that anybody asked, but here goes nothing…

Rural Citizens Band (late Dec 2006 to August 2015). — Officially broken up in early 2016, but for all intents and purposes this project came to an end once I moved. There are some crusty releases early on (especially the first one), but once I got the hang of things and found my voice, things improved a lot. This is still the project I compare everything else to.

XR1300 (June 2013 to present) — This was started around the time I was taking a vacation from RCB. I was going to end things with the 8th album then do everything under this monikor. That changed when I started doing drone music and I wanted this to be more beat driven. Again, the first album is kind of crusty, but the second album (and everything afterwards) was a huge leap forward. Still making music for this. Still lots to come out in the near future. Yes, I’m still flooding the market!

Akibare (March – April 2013) — Noise annoys. This was actually the first side project I did after taking a hiatus from RCB. It was a chore to make this album, because I was trying to make each track more obnoxious than the last. And I took the easy way out of making “noise” music, by mostly taking sound samples and amplifying them to distortion. That isn’t to say a new noise project isn’t coming out soon.

Brother Curtis (February 2015) — I have made only one EP under this moniker, and it was released to a hidden subdomain on the ahoy-hoy.net domain. Then I took it down a few days later. Mainly because the album cover was an esoteric symbol that may have been used by a gang of human traffickers. I really don’t want my music associated with such people. This project is a drone metal/dark ambient project and I really liked the synth sound I got out of it. Kind of sounds like live Sunn 0))). Some day I might re-issue it with a new album cover. And maybe re-relase it under a new moniker that would encompass more experimental/noise stuff. We shall see…

Abandoned Shorelines (February 2016 – present) — The current ambient project. A lot like RCB, only beatless. And with more emphasis on beach life and culture. So far I’ve only released drone tracks and ambient revisions of XR1300 songs, but I have a full-length album of new material in the works. That should be out very soon.

And now you know the rest of the story. Good day!

An RCB sabbatical

But not a sabbatical from making new music.

The first music I ever released was released under the name of “Rural Citizens Band.” I’m not 100% sure where the name came from. Part of it is based on citizen’s band radio, but not really. I almost went with “Angelina’s Pet Orphan” but thank God I didn’t. It would no longer make sense today, and might have political meanings I didn’t intend.

That was back in December of 2006. At first I thought of it as fun, maybe even a bit of a joke. The first album reflects this as it’s not too good and it’s too sloppy and amateurish in its execution.

For a while there I only put out a new album every nine months or so. There were times I thought “Uh oh, it’s been nine months, better throw some tracks together and put out a new album.”

Then something funny happened. I put out one of those albums. Then I recorded an entirely new album a few weeks later. Then another. VIII was originally going to be my final RCB album because I thought it was the pinnacle. Then I started making drone tracks and drone albums.

Eventually I started a “side project” named XR1300 that somehow became my main project.

I kept putting out more RCB albums and the last two, Travelogue of the 80s and XXII were probably my two best. At least two strongest.

For that reason and more, I plan on putting the RCB project on permanent sabbatical. See, all of those songs were recorded in a previous time and place I literally cannot go back to.

I still want to make drone music and ambient music, but I feel it’s best to seal the time capsule of RCB and go forward with something new.

I will release an album of all new material by XR1300 very soon (and a remix album), but henceforth, all ambient and drone music will be released under a different name.

I already have two drone tracks (two totally different versions of the same song) ready to go. I just need to come up with a new name.

Really, nothing much is changing other than the name. When I get things online, I will post here about them.

This is a good thing.

The importance of good mastering

I’ll let you in on a secret. There will be a new XR1300 album in the new year. No more remixes or anything, but 13 brand new tracks!

As I was recording and mixing it, thoughts went back to two years ago when I released the second album, Surrender Is Not The Answer.  At the time I was creating it, I was really looking for a noisy and gnarled sound. I was having some issues at the time (moving, unrequited love, “the real world,” etc) and was in a pretty bad mood. The sound of the first version was a reflection of how I was feeling inside. Unfortunately, things got a lot worse after that, but that’s for another post.

At the time I thought the album sounded good. I was pleased with it and its ultra compressed and ultra loud mix. It wasn’t until a few months later that I tried to listen to it again and thought it was an abomination. It had far too much high end and the results sounded like a mess.  And not even a good mess. It literally hurt my ears.

A year later I remastered the album (which basically just involved me mixing the tracks and songs at much saner levels). And while the results no longer sound like the sonic annihilation I was originally going for, I thought it made for an infinitely better album. I was no longer embarrassed by the results and could actually listen to the songs again without killing my ears.

I would imagine some people think that mixing sounds too low sound wimpy and weak. And they might not be completely wrong. Though there is always the volume knob…

To show the difference between the original and remastered versions of Surrender Is Not The Answer, I present the waveforms of the song “Hiding On Planet Yuri” which was one of the more painful songs to listen to in its original incarnation. Obviously the one at top is the original version.

Screen Shot 2015 12 23 at 6 11 09 PM

While the waveforms can never tell the entire story of a song, there is absolutely no reason why a song should be mixed that way. It’s a literal brick wall of noise that allows for no dynamics and is exhausting to listen to.

Also, it needs to be pointed out, when you mix that loud, you have no real peaks. All you get is clipping. Look at the image on the bottom and you’ll see actual peak points. The one on top is just a smooth level all the way across. That’s digital clipping. That’s what you want to avoid at all costs.

Of course, one could make a middle ground between the two. I could have made the remaster a few decibels louder and still had better dynamics. But I’d rather mix and master a song so the listener can make the song as quiet or loud as he or she desires. That, and I wanted the remaster job to sound completely different without actually changing the music.

And that is why mastering is an important part of your final product.

Far too much music is mastered hot these days. I’ve talked about the loudness war before. Most products out there is nowhere near as loud as I mixed my album (which was louder in spots than Iggy Pop’s dismal remix of Raw Power), but few if any sound like the way I master things now. Hopefully things will change now that most online music services normalize sound levels.

You got it!