31 July 2011

Refuge en Verre Review by Artemi Pugachov

I received this review of the Refuge en Verre album I did with Ron Boots in my mail. It was done by Artemi Pugachov. I thought it would be nice to share it with you. Enjoy:

This is the first collaborative project of two Dutch electronic artists Ron Boots and Michel van Osenbruggen aka Synth.nl. Both musicians have unique rhythmic / melodic styles, so their influences meld together well to create a work of classic melodic Dutch EM (the "Eindhoven School"). These tracks were performed while both musicians stayed in Belgian Ardennes with their families, so the music has a bit of a pastoral quality to it, without resorting to complete new age relaxation vibe. The title track slowly builds with bass pulsations, floating pads and a wonderful melodic synth solo. It's relaxed, warm and comforting. I like the synth work on this track - everything is in place - the tasty pulsations, the high-flying solos and the warm pads. Some restrained piano notes lend their airy charm to the soundscape. "La Roche-en-Ardenne" kicks in with melancholic pads and a relaxed rocking rhythm. Then a wonderful synth melody appears - rich, symphonic and emotional. Nice stuff that will leave all fans of melodic EM speechless. "Orage d'ete" has an ambient intro loaded with the sounds of nature (do I hear a distant thunder?) and moody pads. Some synth melodies appear as well as some nice flute and sax. This is quite pastoral and reflective. Later in the track a few tribal-like percussion instruments appear but the track remains essentially an ambient effort. "Coucher du Soleil" opens with moody male choirs and some tasty synth effects. A sequence appears and then a rhythm and a rippling synth solo. This track is a bit sad and melancholic. "Contemple du Ciel" begins with mysterious pads and radio voice samples.
A wonderful bass sequence then appears and an electronic tr-808-like rhythm drives this relaxed track forward. I like the way melodies are combined with rhythms on this track. "Rosee du Matin" is very Vangelis-like, with its fat CS-80 style leads and an overall symphonic approach. Really nice and maybe the best track on the entire album. "Combat des Coqs" begins with sounds of roosters but soon a rippling sequence appears. It is supported by a stomping rhythm and a guitar lead. Rocking drums appear and drive the track along. I am not sure if the guitar is real. It sounds like those trademark licks played by Frank Dorittke (at least it is in a similar style) but no guitar player is credited in the liner notes. Anyway, this piece is the most rocking and wild of the lot. "Soleil Levant" arrives with tasty pads and a well-programmed sequence. A slow rhythm then starts, the whole reminding me a bit on Gert Emmens circa "Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades". However, once the solos arrive, you know you're listening to Ron Boots. The sound is very characteristic. Michel adds fine melodic touches as well. A great finish to this pleasant melodic EM album. Recommended.

You can find more information about the album on this URL http://www.synth.nl/Refuge

21 July 2011

Synth.nl Mobile Studio in Action

If you think I'm not doing any music while I'm away you are wrong :) I can't go without my music. Here is the mobile studio I carry around when I'm out on a trip. I run Cakewalk Sonar on my notebook with some soft synths mostly Rob Papen's stuff, I use an Edirol UA-25 sound card with my AKG K-271 headphones and an Akai MPK mini keyboard. Everything is USB powered and runs right on 110 and 230 Volts. On this set I can make music anywhere in the World. I start the projects with soft synths and can use the midi data later to play on my hardware synthesizers when necessary and add some external effects etc. At the moment I am working on a track about the Gemini space missions inspired by our visit to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base last week. I already did a track about the Mercury Project in the past. You can listen to it here if you like: http://www.synth.nl/music/samplers/schallplattexii. Enjoy!

20 July 2011

Synth.nl visits Cape Canaveral Air Force Base

As I wrote before in the previous post on our visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida we went on a special tour that also included the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. On this base are several historic sites such as the launch facilities where the first American Satellite was launched the first American manned space flight and so on. In the picture on the left you can see a Mercury-Redstone rocket on its original launch pad where Alan Shepard launched as the first American in space. The mercury project later on led to the Gemini project and that eventually went into the Apollo program. On this spot you could still see everything as it was back in 1961 when this all happened.

It is nice to see everything on the outside but we also went into the launch building and all the equipment in still in there. It is amazing to see all the old equipment and hear our guide tell how it all was back then. They really had no idea what was going to happen when they launched the first man into space and they just improvised as they went along. Back then they already decided to launch over the Ocean so that if anything went wrong they could let the rocket explode over the Ocean in stead of over the land causing possible civilian casualties. It was also interesting to see how all this knowledge was brought in by a German engineer called Dr. Werner von Braun who just before developed the V2 rockets for the Germans in WWII. There even still was a V2 rocket engine in one of the buildings there.

Here is a view from the window of the launch complex. As you can see they were actually quite close. There was only 300 meters between the rocket and the building. Now-a-days during Space Shuttle launches the minimum safe distance is around 5000 meters, but of course the rockets are bigger as well. The windows you see are actually made out of 3 layers of bullet proof glass to prevent anything from coming trough and the whole building was build like a bunker with blast doors and all. In the picture above you can also see the clocks hanging over head showing local time, count-down, hold-time and Zulu time.

And here is a picture of the Launch Computer. It have been very sophisticated back then, but the logic in there probably would fit 100 times in your mobile phone now. Next to the Mercury launch pad was also the pad where the first American Satellite launched. After this we also visited the Gemini facilities and also the spot where the Apollo 1 crew died in a tragic accident during a plugs out test. And even now there are some active launch pads on the Air Force base where they still launch all kinds of satellites, but we were not allowed to make pictures of those of course ;) All in all I really enjoyed this tour and it really has a magical feel to this early space exploration stuff. I can really recommend taking this tour when you are at the Kennedy Space Center. You will just have to book it up front since there is only one tour a day and they fill up very quickly. I hope you enjoyed this and I'll happily tell you more about it if you are interested. Just let me know. I'm glad I have seen this as it is all part of the whole Apollo and Space Race history.

Synth.nl visits Kennedy Space Center

As you know I'm in last stage of finishing my upcoming Apollo album. I have been throwing a lot of 3D stuff at you the last period, but here is some real stuff coming. We decided to take a trip to Florida USA where I am at the moment and yesterday we visited the Kennedy Space Center for some final inspiration for the album. I really like to get in the mood for a project like this and I thought there would be no better way than this. Here is a picture of me under the big NASA logo after the entrance.

We booked a special tour called 'now and then' that also visited the air-force base where the Mercury and Gemini projects took place. I will post a separate blog item about that, because it was very special. But on the tour we also saw a lot of the launch pads that are still currently in use and we saw the Vehicle Assembly Building that I just made in 3D. So it was nice to see it for real and get a sense of the size of it. Imagine the size of this thing with a complete Apollo rocket standing in it. In the left corner of the picture you can also see one of the crawlers that were used to transport the Saturn V rocket to the launch pad and just recently was still used to transport the last Space Shuttle to its final destination. We just missed this last launch by the way by a couple of hours :(

Even though the visit to the Air-force base was spectacular, the highlight of the tour was a visit to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. They have the original launch control center of the Apollo 8 flight in there and they made a real launch scenario with it. Everything is automated and while experiencing the launch on a big screen you can feel the vibration and see the whole control center light up and acting long. An awesome experience for sure. I filmed the largest part of it so maybe I can even use this footage somewhere in my promo film later on, since it is quite authentic. After this presentation you are guiding into a big hall where the inspiration got even better.

In that hall is a real Saturn V rocket up for display. It is hanging over your head and the size of it is enormous. It is even way too big to get into a picture. You can see all the stages of the rocket separately and also there is a separate model of the LEM and Command Module. Awesome too see. At the main Kennedy Space facility there is also the rocket garden with a Saturn 1b model, that is a little smaller. All in all I can't wait to continue work on the project now and that was exactly the purpose of this visit :) After the Apollo stuff we also watched some more recent Space Shuttle related things and the last thing we did was a ride on the Space Shuttle Launch Simulator. Awesome :) It really gives you a feel what a real launch is like. If you are ever in the Florida area I can really recommend a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.

17 July 2011

Apollo 3D Project (Part 12)

I created a new scene again for the Apollo 3D project. This time it is the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building where they assembled the complete upright Saturn V rocket on top of the mobile launch pad including the launch tower. NASA still uses this building until today. When the rocket assembly was done the doors would open and they could roll it out on top of a special transporter called the 'crawler'. Most work for these scene went into the parking lot by the way. I hand places all the little cars one by one in their parking space. I just thought it made the scene way more alive than with an empty parking lot.

Here is a close-up of the crawler I just talked about. NASA actually has two of them that were custom build for the job. They are enormous and travel and a maximum speeds of 2 miles an hour. When the crawler drives up the five degrees ramp on the launch pad it uses a special laser guided system to keep the whole platform leveled horizontal to prevent the rocket from tipping over. Also this system is still used until today to transport the Space Shuttles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad. It takes 30 people to operate this vehicle by the way.

And here is another close-up I made of the launch tower itself. You can clearly see the arms that both hold fuel and electrical lines and the top one was used to get the astronauts in just before the launch. At launch time first of all the arms would sweep away from the rocket. The only thing I'm still figuring out is how NASA removes the crawler from user the launch pad eventually. I have seen pictures where the mobile platform stands on some kind of stands, but the whole procedure is not really clear to me yet. So if you know, please enlighten me ;)

And here is one final shot where I combined the moon surface scene I made with the LEM model that I made before. I think this one looks quite convincing now. This one looks ready to animate now, but maybe I should also throw in an astronaut and a flag and maybe some tool. Ah well... we'll see about that. Enough for now I guess. I hope you have enjoyed these series so far and don't forget that you can click the pictures to view a larger version of them. More coming soon!

13 July 2011

DonQuixote on RoboCast Podcast #49

The DonQuixote track that I recently released was played on RoboCast Radio Podcast #49. You can listen to or download the show on this URL:  http://robocastradio.podomatic.com/entry/2011-07-13T06_08_24-07_00.

I'd also like to point out again that you can buy the song in my ReverbNation store if you like on this URL: http://www.reverbnation.com/store/index/artist_281496

Enjoy and thanks for your support!

11 July 2011

Apollo 3D Project (Part 11)

I'm still working on the Apollo 3D project. I needed some nice moon surface surroundings for the landing and EarthRise scenes that I'm planning. So I looked really hard for original material. It turned out that a real 3D scan of the Apollo 15 landing site existed, so I focused on that one. You can actually download it as a free 3DS model, but I started out with a picture that was taken by the same Japanese SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) Lunar Mission that scanned the Apollo 15 landing site. They brought back a huge pile of 3D data from this mission that was used to create the most details maps of the Moon up to date.

And here is a render of the 3DS model that I converted to Cinema 4D. I had a lot of trouble getting that done since it is very big and I needed a PC with a lot of memory and a 64 bits version of both applications, but I got it now. Even though it is a very detailed model it is still taken from very far away. So to make it usable for close-up's I incorporated another 3D model of some lunar craters into it. If you click the picture and look closely you can see a square on left that has a slightly different color on the left. I did that intentionally so that you could see it.

And here is a close-up of that same scene from a different angle. You can see the craters I added in the front. This will make an excellent spot I guess to land a LEM. The mountains in the back also make it perfect to picture a nice illuminated Earth in the distance for a nice Earth Rise scene. Maybe I'll also add some rocks to the scene later to make it even more realistic, but for now I'm very happy with this model that has taken me a very long time to create.

And here is a final close-up of the craters themselves. I think they look just great :) It is great to use real moon scans in stead of some imaginary scenes that I used before. OK enough for now, but I thought it would be nice to share these with you. And don't worry I'm also still working on the music in the mean time. I'm really finalizing the tracks together with my friend Hans. But since the release date for Apollo is set for the 1st of October we don't have to rush that much which is a nice thing of course. We can take our time to make it all as good as we possibly can for you. OK more soon!

06 July 2011

Apollo Release Date Set!

I know I have kept you waiting for a long time, but I'm almost done with the Apollo album now. In the mean time I discussed the release with my record label Groove Unlimited and we decided that we are going to release the album on CD at the Electronic Circus Festival in Germany. It will be held in G├╝thersloh on the 1st of October 2011. I will have a stall there were you can buy the album from me first hand. You can find more information on the festival on this URL: http://www.electronic-circus.net/

I will also be present with a stall at the E-live festival on the 15th of October in Oirschot, The Netherlands where you can also get the album directly from me. More information on that festival on this URL: http://www.e-live.nl

I hope to see you on one of these occasions :) I'm looking forward to the release and until then I'll be working on it for sure. I'll keep you posted on the progress.