Gahhh, I wrote a long review for this, but for some reason it didn't post and I lost it all. OH WELL, TAKE #2.
Man, let me start by saying that, after reading your song description, I can't help but say that you remind me a lot of myself four years ago. I was in the same boat, having to figure out loads of dumb workarounds just to get a final export on my track. I was using EWQLSO on an old PC running Windows XP with a single-core CPU and 3 GB of RAM, which was an absolute nightmare, through and through. You should definitely look into upgrading Cubase, or finding a cheaper DAW (like FL) which doesn't place limitations like that on you.
Right, first order of business is the melodies and harmonies. Like in that other track of yours I reviewed a year ago, I think you did an absolutely wonderful job on both accounts. The unwavering sense of movement and 3/4 pace, coupled with the unorthodox sound palette, really make this a unique and distinct listening experience, that isn't easy to forget. With regards to composition, you don't leave much to be desired. If I had to point anything out, it'd be that you lent a little from that incredibly overused i - VI - III - VII progression, but thankfully you go places with it and use it well, so it didn't come off as generic or cheesy at all.
And wow, your instrument/sound set is just ridiculous. My prevailing thought while listening to this track was "how the hell did he think of this stuff" haha. You've got everything from an accordion to a piano to bells to weird squeaky percussion/effects, which give this a likable yet unique style. Additionally, I agree with the reviewer below me. The low quality of the real instrument samples doesn't detract from this piece at all. In fact, it arguably adds onto the obscure style you have going.
You saw this coming a mile away, but I think the primary issue with this piece is the production value. I have some good news, though; I didn't hear any clipping. Now, I'm not very good at noticing clipping, but from what I heard, you got rid of it, or at least got rid of the worst of it. As for the mix itself, it sounds too doused in reverb and lacking clarity for my tastes. It actually doesn't sound half bad at the start, but the further we get into the track, the more it seems to degrade into muddiness.
Also, the mix feels rather flat. I was hoping for it to open up at one point, but it never really did. I felt almost like I was hearing the same dynamic level for the whole track (save for the intro and outro which were suitably soft). I feel like the instruments are just squeezed together and need more space. I wanted to hear a disconnect between the foreground and background, but everything seemed to wash into each other (especially during transitions like 0:50, 1:33 and 2:00). Careful EQing and cutting down on some of the reverb can remedy this.
All in all, what you have here is an oddly relaxing, yet engaging piece, with a quirky set of instruments and some truly memorable and solid, waltz-esque composition. Enjoyed it!
Yay! Thanks a great deal for reviewing this track, not once, but twice! XD
I can relate to losing everything that you've written (or done in general) for something, and it's one of the most frustrating experiences I know of -_- Nowadays I try to remember copying everything, every now and then, but it's always the times that I forget doing so that something goes wrong D:
"I was in the same boat, having to figure out loads of dumb workarounds just to get a final export on my track."
=> Hahha, yeah. I think that many musicians, especially the ones starting out experience lots upon lots of technical difficulties and other issues while trying to work with DAWs. Or maybe that's just what I'm telling myself in order to not feel alone in this o.O
I will certainly upgrade my Cubase, probably to the latest version too. After all, it's not that expensive in the end. I'm having more trouble figuring out what VSTs I want to buy :/ I'll really have to think about what I actually need. I believe my computer will be able to handle pretty much, despite being a laptop, as it has 8 GB RAM, a decent sound card and an i7 processor. I'd like an external sound card too though. There'll always be to much I want compared to what I realistically can get XD
"...melodies and harmonies."
=> I actually wrote the composition on the piano before recreating it in Cubase, as I wanted a solid base to go on for this project. I definitely used very cliché chord progressions, mainly because I wanted to work with something simple to begin with. I tried to focus on having several different transitions too, so that I could practice automation. If I were to try to orchestrate some other piano piece of mine, like "Medley of a Shattered Mind", I'm sure I'd just destroy the composition and fail horibly :'D
In general, I think that my strong point lies in composing, and as we all know, certainly not it things like production!
"...ridiculous instrument/sound set."
=> I'm glad that you as well as many other people liked the weird intruments I used! I wanted to vary the intruments a lot, both as it keeps the different sections interesting, and because it's good practice. I grew kind of fond of the low quality instruments too, for this track at least. Sadly, you can't get away with that in every genre. Electronic stuff is pretty easy, but if you want to create somewhat good sounding orchestral pieces, great instruments would help a lot.
As I think I already told someone in the review, I might as well have thrown a dice for which instruments I would combine together (except for in the beginning, where I knew I wanted to use an accordion, bells and weird percussion). I couldn't combine any instrument though; I tried to make them harmonize (like the harmonica!) to some extent at the very least :)
"You saw this coming a mile away..."
=> Yup yup, it's also why I really wanted the help of reviewers regarding this >:D There is very little clipping left, but I've located two very minor instances while listening at a high volume, at 2:04 and 2:10. It's caused by the cymbal sound which I should've mixed better.
"As for the mix itself, it sounds too doused in reverb and lacking clarity for my tastes."
=> I must agree. I tend to overuse reverb in all my tacks, and this one is really muddy. I wanted to give it a sense of dreaminess, but I know I went far overboard. I think I should make a really dry track in the near future. All the reverb made the balancing of the different instruments far more difficult as well.
"Also, the mix feels rather flat."
=> Now that you say so, it's certainly true. Once again, part of the reason is that I started out with too high volume while mixing the track, and I couldn't really increase it too much without redoing all the automation, at least if I didn't want a lot of clipping in the track :( I should learn how to balance these things from the very start. It didn't help that I had to export half the track on beforehand and thus rendering it uneditable later.
You're also right in that the track didn't open up at any point (well, as you said, apart from the outro). I would've liked to do some kind of a breakdown at some point more in the middle of the track, perhaps right before the climax.
The instruments are definitely, so to say, squeezed together.
"I wanted to hear a disconnect between the foreground and background..."
=> That's a really good idea!
"Careful EQing and cutting down on some of the reverb can remedy this."
=> I'll think about this. In fact, I'll take all the advice you gave me to heart, and hopefully be able to implement it into future tracks of mine!! :3
Once again, thanks a million for reviewing my track! I'm truly grateful for the fact that you spent some of your time giving me tips! :')
I absolutely love the unconventional percussion~ those high-cutoff sounding bleeps and bloops, AHH!
Lots of progression in the arrangement, kind of like a more dynamic M.C. Escher endless staircase (in that it feels like it's constantly moving forward, despite looping, but dynamic in the sense of...well, dynamics, haha)
I actually really like the "lower" quality real VSTi's. It gives it a sort of character that it wouldn't have if it were made of more believable VSTi's, but I can definitely relate with putting a lot of time into a composition, and trying to get a real-sounding sound and being unable to.
I'm glad you like the percussion. I actually really like that effect too :)
I definitely understand what you mean with the M.C. Escher ndless staircase comparison! I had thought about this piece in similar ways as well :3
Yeah. As I don't have realistic instruments, I wasn't going for realism in this piece. I focused on creating nice sounds instead of realistic ones :D It'd be cool to have great VSTi's though!
Thanks a lot for the review, gween123!!! XD
Loved the intro, then how you slowed it down into a dreamy song. The effects are great, and this is awesome. Reminds me of an old Zelda game :D Loved it to be honest. Great work!
Thanks a lot for the nice words, Reformed!
I love all the squeaky-sounding FX. ^^ I liked the instruments and the melodies. Pretty soulful and emotional, although I thought the quality wasn't exactly top-notch. At times it lacks some harmony parts and structural support, and at others it's pretty muddy and distorted (like 1:34). Interesting atmosphere you got going on here, though - sounds medieval at some points, old-western at others...then there's that piano thing at the end. :) Also, a little bit of 90s-style trance in there around 2:30. ;O I was going to comment that I liked how you brought it full circle in the end, and that it should've just stopped at :08, but that was before I realized that it had looped. XD Pretty good job with the looping. That said, I'm still not convinced this is your maximum potential, Ale. Seems like you need to update Cubase/add more memory to your computer, though. ;( Still, it's very unique and interesting. I'm looking forward to hearing more of your work, my friend! ^^
I like those squeaky thingeys too :3 I use a certain kind of plug-in on normal percussion to create that effect :p
I agree that there'smuch to improve on the quality! I'll try to get better eventually, and I'm sure I will be :D
I don't know what is so muddy at 1:34, but it might be that one weird intrument in the background (I honestly don't even remember what it is or why I put it there o.O)...
Really? Old-western? That's not how I see any part, but I'm sure there's some influences from there, as I love Western music XD Trance though; that I buy ;)
"but that was before I realized that it had looped. XD Pretty good job with the looping"
=> At least it loops somewhat well then! Especially if one doesn't anticipate it :)
I definitely hope this isn't my maximum potential; in that case, I'd be a bit disappointed :/
I most definitely should update my Cubase! It'll cost much more though :(
Thanks for listening and reviewing, Andrew! :'D
Man this is fun to listen to! I didn't mind the sounds either as I think the heavy reverb helped--kind of gives a unique quality with all your interesting parts going on and your choice or arrangements. With your limited capabilities, you were able to create a really nice piece.
The frequencies sound quite warm to me-- downloaded! now i can just chill and relax on my bed while listening
I don't know why exactly, but I tend to use tons of reberb. Actually, I think that is beacuse of the dreaminess it often gives birth to :3
Apart from the beginning, my arrangements were actually pretty random, as it wasn't the main aspect of this piece (which would be the transition practice). I like the result though, but the process was pretty much like: "Hmm, I wonder what It'd sound like if I combined Some heavily altered 8-bit percussion with two leads playing different melodies in the same rhythm while there's a somewhat filtered orchestra and piano in the background. Let's try it!"
Thanks for listening + downloading, and of course for leaving a nice review ;)
Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.