Bluebird OST now available to stream / buy on bandcamp

The Bluebird original soundtrack album is now up on Bandcamp and will make its way to all the other platforms in due course. Here I'll say a few nerdy things about it.

First, an embedded streaming link -- Bandcamp allows a limited number of completely free listens before you decide to buy so have at it:

The whole thing ended up being done in the DAW (Reaper) without any hardware / externally recorded instruments. This makes things very straightforward, especially when it comes to making revisions, which is something you end up doing a lot on a project like this.

The big stars of this recording are:

  • The SWAM instruments from Italian developer Audio Modeling. I think most of their instruments make an appearance somewhere but the woodwinds, strings and French horn get a lot of use.
  • Pianoteq from Modartt -- in particular the Anton Petrov grand piano, Fender Rhodes and vibraphones get a good workout.
  • Vital, the wonderful free subtractive / wavetable synth.

SWAM and Pianoteq use physical modelling. This technology, which has been around at least in theory since the 1980s, seems to be having its moment and providing viable alternatives to sample libraries that are more expensive, bulkier and less expressive. On the other hand, Vital probably does at least 80% of what my Hydrasynth can do; I made a lot of Vital patches while doing this project that I might release at some point if I can work out a good way to do it.

There's also some Surge, AAS Ultra Analog, AAS Lounge Lizard, Odin and probably some other instruments I'm forgetting, but those above account for most of the sound. There's a whole mess of effects in there of course. The reverb is almost always something from the Convology library.

A few of these tunings appear alongside the usual 12-EDO. All the instruments used are microtunable because why would anyone use an electronic instrument you can't tune in 2021? But I try not to make a fuss about my music being "microtonal" or not; if it sounds good it's good, etc.

OK, enough about gear. Here's a few words about the tracks.

"Krupnik for Baispole" is easy-listening background jazz that, if you listen in, reveals itself to be a bit hotter than it ought to be. Here NI Vintage Organs and Battery 3 samples for the drums accompany brass and reeds from SWAM. I'm a big fan of Battery 3's acoustic percussion sample sets and the "Full Jazz Kit"; sadly you can't buy them any more and they aren't included in Battery 4, but that's OK because NI's copy-protection regime is so oppressive that I defected a long time ago. Around the 4:35 point there's just a blatant SWAM flex: can your sample library do that?

"Steam Journeys" is also a bit of an odd one. I was trying to channel that sort of haunted 1970s cheap TV documentary sound but it developed into something else. The NI organs are back, and a very mutated Pianoteq patch sits somewhere between a thumbtack piano and a hammered dulcimer; Pianoteq is good at this kind of thing but frustratingly hard to use to make sounds that are very far from where you started. There's also a synth line with a guitar-amp-style distortion coming from a demo version (sorry guys) of Positive Grid Bias. I don't really need Bias but if I saw it on a deep discount some time I'd buy it, because when you want that sort of thing it's excellent at it.

In Bluebird these are both examples of diagetic music: the characters can hear the music as well as we can.

"Jellyfish Moon", "The Fields and Black and Sunken" and "A Scribe with his Manuscript" are all non-diagetic music, which is used rarely and under particular circumstances; to say more would be spoiler-ish. Stylistically these are more my usual sort of thing, which if I had to elevator-pitch it would be a mixture of 20th century classical language, a blend of classical and electronic instrumentation, floaty rhythms and abrasive textures. If you like my stuff I hope you'll enjoy them, if you don't I guess you won't. I do think they work to interesting effect as soundtrack pieces in the audio drama, though, even if they're not going to make it onto your relaxing-in-the-bath playlist.

"A History of Renslow" is a mild self-indulgence. It's non-diagetic, but it accompanies a mildly fourth-wall-breaking moment so it's a bit different from everything else. In Bluebird you only hear only a few seconds of it but I decided to turn them into something a bit larger. These are very synthesizer-heavy and probably represent too many hours listening to Tangerine Dream, early Pink Floyd and that sort of thing.

Anyway, enjoy it and do check out Bluebird itself if you feel at all inclined. As always with these things, word of mouth is our only real promotional tool so if you like it or know someone who might, please help us spread the word.