_\\__T_A_T_I_C___L_I_N_E_____________________________________ November, 1999
\\//__ Monthly Music E-Zine __________________________________ 82 Subscribers
Table Of Contents
Message From the Editor
Letters From Our Readers
In Tune -- Acumen's "One of a Kind" and "Pitch Black"
The Zen of Tracking -- Abstraction
Screen Lit Vertigo -- "Corruption" by Savage (Party Version)
Call To Keyboards -- Tracking Unions Wrap-up / MP3 vs. MOD
Message From the Editor
This has been an exciting issue to write. I think it has a lot to do
from the fact that we got a long letter from Puolikuu, the first in a
great while. I love to have feedback! Thanks Puolikuu. Also, we have
broken the 80 subscriber mark. Notice, the marque -- we have 82 offical
subscribers. Spread the word folks!
Meanwhile, we also got quite an issue for you. We have not one, but
two songs in review of "In Tune" this month, both by Acumen. This was
the result of a communication error, but it's for the benefit of you,
the reader and Acumen. We have another great article by Dilvish on the
art of Abstraction in this month's "Zen of Tracking." Check it out,
and let him know how you like his new path, as it were. Seven reviews
"Corruption" by Savage in this month's "Screen Lit Vertigo." And
finally, I take another stab at getting you all in debate mode in "Call
to Keyboards" as I discuss the MP3 format vs. MOD format.
JANUARY ISSUE WILL BE LATE:
For obvious reasons, the January issue of Static Line will be late.
But, this doesn't mean that I will have any more time to prepare...as I
will not only be celebrating the new year, but I will be moving half way
across the country, starting a new job and all the other family things
that go with the holiday season. So, if you have anything to publish in
the January issue of Static Line, please send it in early, perhaps even
before the December issue. Expect the issue to be a week or two late.
Letters From Our Readers
-=- Letter from distance -=-
I've just finished reading through the issues released this far and I
must say it has been stimulating. I'm tired elseway, though.. I'll try
and squeeze a little feedback here.
Coplan [as you're at least the first if not only person who'll read
this, it's a bit funny to say "Coplan" instead of "you" but wotahek] has
a bit of 'commercical' attitude, by which I mean these this should be
that (especially 'a non-musician listener should be able to know when
the ending begins' .. why to kill the surprise?!). Perhaps this
considers only the couple of first issues.
And the detailed reviews are ace! I'm sure it's helpful (heaps!) to
get such a, erm, detailed review. I know I've got a lot of useful tips
from reading Coplan's texts and I just hope I can (subconciously)
remember them all when I do tracking. :-)
Having two reviewers on the same subject is good indeed. Too bad SiN
couldn't be around anymore, well, maybe Coplan filled his absence by
writing those detailed texts. I'm sure Setec will do as good a job as
SiN did (his taste seemed to somewhat match mine).
Setecs articles (percussion and sines) have been quite good.
The software reviews are actually, for now, useless for myself as I
lack serious cpu, but I imagine they would be very, very, useful if I
could run them.. well, I know now what I'll be looking for if I ever get
my gear upgraded. Thanks go to Louis.
Dilvish's ZoT gets nothing but thumbs up. Great counterbalance to
Coplan's technical and Setec's practical advice.
Seven's Inscene partyreport (#012) was very nice too.
All in all, I want to say you're doing a good job and really should
get more encouragement than you say you get. Hopefully you will have
more regular columns and articles, as this has clearly been a problem
before. The last issues have seemed to be quite filled and stocky,
especially that interview with Necros was long and tasty. Compliments to
Mage are in order.
Yeah, "I can't wait for the next issue"
--Puolikuu / tempo'pkbrb
-=> Reply from Coplan:
Well, that was a much needed letter! I'm glad you like what we're
doing thus far, and I hope we improve in the way that you would want us
to (in the ways both mentioned and unmentioned). I pretty much speak
for myself, but I'm sure most of the staff would share my views when I
say that it's great to have feedback. For the most part, I like what
I'm doing when I know I'm improving. As Editor of this fine magazine
-- I have learned a lot...and I hope to continue learning so that we
can bring you a new issue every month that grows in quality.
Thanks for the feedback. I hope you start a trend.
Acumen's "One of a Kind" and "Pitch Black"
By: Coplan and Setec
-=- Introduction -=-
First, let me explain this interesting situation. We don't normally
review two songs -- and it won't be very often that you will see this
happen again. We were introduced to Acumen's music last month by
Puolikuu (see "Letters From Our Readers," this month). Neither Setec
nor I had ever heard of Acument before, and out of curiousity, we each
downloaded a few of his songs. As we debated about which song to
review, I think we got a little confused. I (Coplan) personally only
reviewed "One of a Kind," but Setec reviewed both songs. As I write
this, I'm looking at the clock, and I don't have time to whip up a
complete review of "Pitch Black," so out of fairness, I refuse to even
try. Regardless, I'm sure you'll see a good outline of Acumen's work
tonight, as both songs are very different.
Just a warning about "One of a Kind." If you are familiar with
Acumen, and have a version of this song already, you may want to follow
the link to the song location below, because there is an updated version
of the song. I have listened to both version, and for the most part,
there isn't much difference. But, Acumen tweaked some of the sound
samples and instruments, and it makes the song a bit more powerful.
Also, from the hand of Acumen, he wrote this poem as a companion to
"One of a Kind" and asked me to publish it this month. Enjoy!
Like a snowflake on the sky,
I came into your mind,
I looked towards your eyes,
and said your heart is mine.
You took a step behind
and told me I`m your kind,
right then I started smiling
and looked upon my darling.
--Milan Kolarovic (aka Acumen)
-=- Coplan -=-
First of all, let me jump right into the review of "One of a Kind."
I am traditionally an orchestral song writer -- and this has shown in
many of my own tracks. As I have explored the world of digital music
over the last few years, I am slowly evolving into the combined
orchestral/electronic music styles -- much like this song. This song
gives me the confidence that my personal experimentation can result in a
music style that is possible. As Setec and I are in the same music
group, and we talk quite a bit, you'll see he has a similar path here,
and that's why this tune has been good for us to review.
The Opening: In my honest opinion, the opening is nothing
spectacular. But as I study more and more music, I'm starting to
realize that it doesn't have to be. I was raised as the type of
musician who likes dramatic openings -- because it will drag the person
into the song with an ear-catching resonance. But, curiousity does the
same thing. If the opening makes you curious, then one need not
concentrate so much on dramatic openings. The strings in this opening
are very soothing. This is the result of a good chord progression as
well as very good mixing. I have a feeling that Tori Amos best
described as "Violins filled with Water," as these strings melt into
each other. I like that. The Percussion? In itself, it isn't anything
wonderful either, but his use of his percussion instruments carry a
distinct knowledge of music. Acumen breaks out of his obvious pattern
every once in a while to lead into another part of the song -- a good
technique, but possibly a little over-used in this song.
Let's listen to the transition into the main body of the song. As
with most music, the actual end of the opening and beginning of the
body can be deliniated many ways, but for intensive purposes here, I'm
speaking of the transition between order 9 and 11. It doesn't seem
like this transition is any different, so why IS it different? It
doesn't take an idiot to figure out that there are now two new
instruments (for the most part) here. That piano is the key as it
totally sets you up for the main body of the song. But, more
importantly, the sound of the piano resides after the percussion cuts
out. This wasn't true before, but now it is. Consider sound residue a
string that ties one part to the next. Setec is always telling me with
my electronic styled music that I should throw in static samples because
it will ease the hollowness of a peice. It also ties the empty parts
to the full.
Detail is key! Acumen knows that -- or perhaps he has a natural knack
for it. Regardless, he's got the details in order. There are very
subtle details in this song that probably go unnoticed by most of you.
So, why am I pointing them out? Because I noticed, and I want to thank
Acumen for them. For example, after everything picks up as the main
theme comes into play, sit back and listen. Listen to the instrument
that obviously exist...then see if you can forget about them. In
channel 9, you have the "Power Choir" sample, in 17 and 18 you have the
"Angel Choir" sample and in 27 and 28, the "Mark Tree." They aren't
important, but they add something simplistic to the song that gives me
the notion of a lower level -- one that I appreciate.
Many moods make this song pleasent. The song bounces back and forth
between a few moods. I think we can do without some of the repetition
in the song, but it isn't annoying, so I won't complain. There is one
part that especially like though, and that is the part that starts at
order 33. Here is a completely different movement. I feel this part is
somewhat confused, and simple. There isn't so much backup here, and it
sounds sort of hollow. But I like it because it gives me a breif look
into Acumen's mind. Is he thinking of times long ago? Is he thinking
of someone else? Now is the time to realize that the artist doesn't
analyze his music, nor does he typically try to give his song meaning.
In many cases, the artist writes what's on his mind. This is one part
that gives me a window into his mind.
Just when you thought the song was over, Acumen ends it...again. I've
seen this in mainstream music before, but I've never seen this done in
the scene (except when the song is supposed to loop, of course). I am
not going to comment on this, but I will say one thing. Some may find
this type of closing awkward and unfavorable, while others may think
it's just plain nifty. If the song is your song, it doesn't matter. If
you aren't getting paid, then 9 times out of 10, you're writing for
yourself -- so do what you want. Above all, realize this when you get
reviews of your own works. You may like criticism, because you want to
improve on your works...but you don't always have to agree.
-=- Setec -=-
Coplan managed to really hit the spot this week with two tunes that I
have really grown to enjoy. Even more remarkable is the fact the tunes are
in a category of music that I myself am desperately trying to get the hang
of. Both tunes are by an artist that is new to me, Acumen. One thing that
really impressed me about this guy is the fact that the two pieces are
quite far apart in sound, even though they could both be branded as being
in the same category of music.
First off is "One of a kind". This - as well as the other track - is
one of those tunes that mix sounds from different categories, taking
some things from orchestral music and blending it with electronic
sounds. It makes for a very soundtrack-like sound and feel, something
that I've personally always liked.
First things first, the intro is quite funky, but I am not sure how
well it really fits the feel of the rest of the piece. It is an all-drum
intro that suddenly breaks into some vinyl noise for a few seconds
before the main theme kicks in. Well-executed but not well fited for
The actual theme is quite good indeed though. Lots of variation on
the very good chord progression. It spins around a few times, soloing
the drums and kicking the main theme in again with more power and
several additional layers. Quite dramatic and well crafted. It then
sweeps into a quieter part with a very, very nice piano lead. Everything
seems to go well together, it all fits perfectly in the piece. And the
leads really are quite good and very atmospheric indeed.
At around 2:40 comes a transition that I really enjoyed. It seems
like it shifts the key up a bit and then fades into the main theme
again. This is an awesome way of adding some drama to a track. At 3:06
comes one of the most wonderful transitions I've heard in tracked music.
Everything stops and in comes a marvelous piano part that gives the tune
that extra thing that so many other tracks lack. A B-part, something
entirely different from the main theme. And in this piece, it just works
And hooray! For once I really enjoyed the ending of the tune - this is
one thing that I tend to pick on usually. It is really nice done, just as
you think it is over the theme kicks back for one last spin before ending
on a hit. Very nice indeed and a nice break from those boring volume ramps.
The only thing I really want to pick on in this piece are the many
parts where the drums are soloed. I've mentioned this before, it just
seems entirely out of place in this sort of tune. Other than that,
everything is just peachy. It is very much a soundtrack sort of tune so
there isn't really a lot of progression going on, it tends to evolve
around some main theme and just work out different variations on that
lead. But somehow it just fits perfectly in this tune. I really liked
Next track, "Pitch Black" also by Acumen. Right off I fell in love
with this tune. The intro is awesome, there is a really marvelous
303-like bass-line that imediately dragged me in. And the beat that
follows is very nice indeed, powerful and fitting. That is why I was so
disappointed when the main lead entered. The intro was building up to
some dark tune and then comes some cheesy happy lead. It doesn't help it
that it suddently switches to something more dark and atmospheric, that
really just makes the matter even more confusing. It is like Acumen
didn't really know if he wanted one atmosphere or the other.
The next part of the track is great though. Darker lead, more atmos-
pheric and a lot more inventive than the previous one. These parts
practically made me forgot about the rather poor previous lead and
everything is dandy until the tune hits cheese-mode once more. It is a
sad story, cause this piece could have been WAY better than "one of a
kind" if Acumen had just made up his mind about the feel of the track. I
absolutely love some of the parts, the rez basslines are really great,
percussion fits perfectly and everything blends together well. Except
that damn cheesy lead. It really annoys me, because I love everything
else this tune has to offer.
Title: One of a Kind
Filename (zipped/unzipped): ac-1ok-est.zip / ac-1ok.it (IT 2.14)
File Size (zipped/unzipped): 909 kb / 1.1 MB
Title: Pitch Black
Filename (zipped/unzipped): ac-1ok-est.zip / ac-1ok.it (IT 2.14)
File Size (zipped/unzipped): 1.4 MB / 1.6 MB
"In Tune" is a regular column dedicated to the review of original and
singular works by fellow trackers. It is to be used as a tool to expand
your listening and writing horizons, but should not be used as a general
rating system. Coplan's and Setec's opinions are not the opinions of
the Static Line Staff.
If you have heard a song you would like to recommend (either your own,
or another person's), We can be contacted through e-mail useing the
addresses found in the closing notes. Please do not send files attached
to e-mail without first contacting us. Thank you!
The Zen of Tracking
A good musician understands the benefits of abstraction. There is a
philosophy today that says you have to know, understand, and create
every little tremor in the sound yourself. It's not good enough unless
you personally draw out the whole wave-form, or personally bang on the
rock that shapes it.
There is a whole branch of society which shares that view. The truth
seekers. The scientists. Universities. Government. They all want to
have their hands in every minute detail. They see only form and
substance. They miss the deeper meaning. They completely over-look the
"feeling" or the "quality" of the music.
The same attitude is very present in the demo scene. They are the
ones who say, "true coders use native machine code", or at least
Assembly language. Some of us know a little better than that these
days, but others are missing the point.
Details are like the clay of a pot. Clay (substance) is great - and
very usefull to hold things together - but it is in the hollow center
where it's usefullness lies. It is the abstraction of nameless,
formless, shapeless being that creates quality.
Have you ever wondered why some of the greatest synthesis algorythms
ever made are subtractive? In music, it is the abstraction that counts
- the little bits of hollowness and silence move us, in harmonic balance
and contrast to form. Knowing the right place to "reduce", or stop the
music is a wonderfull key to drawing out the best emotions.
Abstraction implies that you take a step back - forget the form -
forget the substance - forget that you think you know anything, and
"feel" what is really there. This is called "getting your groove on".
;) Doors begin to open, and possibilities emerge where you thought there
were none. If you get stuck on a piece of music - you're not sure where
to go with it next, parhaps it is time to move backwards, rather than
forward. Sometimes a step back will carry you accross the abyss.
The same principal applies to all branches of human experience,
knowlege, thought, relations, religion. Everything.
Right now the programming world has it's head spinning over a
seemingly innocent technology called XML. It is really nothing. It's
merely a language which lets you define tags - little tokens that
surround a piece of data and say, "this is a first name" or "this is a
last name." It's a very simple concept, but everybody has been so
caught up in telling the computer explicitly, one line at a time exactly
what to do, that they overlooked the possibility of separating data from
Now marvelous new innovations are possible. Much more customizable
applications - better data management, data sharing, features that were
previously not possible to create. All because of one little step in
the direction of abstraction.
The big secret is that XML was never even a step forward. Languages
like it have existed since the 70's. It's a step sideways. It's only a
new perspective. A new way of looking at the same old problems.
In relationships, the same concept comes into play time and again.
In your conversations, and your arguements - especially your arguements.
Most conflicts are caused by mis-understandings - when you THINK you
know something that isn't really true in your partner's perspective...
that's when the real conflict arises. They can't convince you that
you're wrong, because you THINK you know you're right. Time to take a
step back: "Is this conversation going anywhere? No? There must be a
knowlege problem here - time to step into abstraction."
When you can identify the information you THINK you know, and set it
asside - it is only then that you see the true picture, and the real
issue. Your partner is mad at you because you're not listening to them
- but they weren't listening to you, either! you say. So what? You
didn't listen to them.
But I was RIGHT!
What does that get you? Apparently, it gets you in a big argument with
no real gain. So what?
BUT THE TRUTH MUST BE KNOWN!!!
What is truth? Truth is substance. Truth is fact. Truth is a
wrapper for the abstract. Truth is not what matters, and here's another
big secret... truth is subjective - not concrete -- it is only the
container for something much more important... and when you understand
(truly understand) what all this means, you will no longer be bound by
the all powerfull "truth" - in life, or in music.
So forget what you think you know. A true sage "knows" nothing.
That is his whole advantage.
Some of you may find this "abstraction" thingie kindof familiar. It is
the Quality of Pirsig in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance",
the Te in the Tao Te Ching, the Buddha in Zen, and the omnipotent "One"
- the mother of the Ten Thousand Things, and the source of Chi. It is
life, love, awereness, perception - everything. Find it, and you will
find the Way you seek - the path to peace.
Note: If any of you find my column enlightening, or interesting in any
way, but find things that rub you the wrong way, or strike you as
"not quite there", please let me know. It would be interesting to
turn the monologue into a dialoge.
Screen Lit Vertigo
Corruption by Savage (Party Version)
Found at www.scene.org
1st place at Arroutada'99
System requirements: P133, 16MB RAM, 3.3 MB HD, VESA2,
Test Machine: PII 350 64MB SB16, Win98 in dos-mode (BOOTGUI = 0)
Savage says Corruption is "an oldskool critic demo" at the start. It
describes the production quite well. For the oldskool part: if we
disregard the hi-color mode used, the code could have been written 4
years ago. The 2D-effects are very simple: scrolling pictures, (radial)
blur, a rotozoomer, a few polar effects and lots, lots of flashes. 3D is
limited to one scene: a few rotating (drug) pills. But the critic is more
important: Corruption talks about the problems of our "modern" society:
sex, drugs and violence. It does so in a metal/rock-style with slogans
and text on every screen, in a simple but readable font, although the
constant jumping and flashing are a threat for our epileptic friends :)
There are two big hand-drawn pictures of gangstas and a prostitute, that
are in separate files (PCX-format), so you can view them apart from the
demo. The prostitute is probably a copy, but it looks good. Also
numerous photos and an avi were used, dealing with armies, weapons,
drugs, sex-adverts, ... It gave the demo a "cheap" feeling at the start,
before I realized the emphasis was on the message. And photos are more
realistic, and thus conveys the message more clearly than pixeled pics
(and to make a pixeled version of every photo would take ages, there are
One S3M: a fast-paced metal/rock tune, with distorted guitars and
lots of drums. There's much variation, with slower synths, solos and (I
think) the scratching of an LP used as an instrument. The constant 100%
left-right panning of the guitars get on my nerves, and will drive you
crazy if you listen to it with headphones. Apart from that, it fits the
theme of the demo, and the flashes, appearing texts and some effects are
well-synced to the drums & guitars.
It would be stupid to comment the code, it's not meant to be very
good. Watching the design, there's one thing that looks wrong: I'd put
the part about war at the end. It's the strongest part with the most
shocking images, and the sex-adverts following it now are a kind of
anti-climax. Besides, war is worse than prostitution (I think, I've no
experience with both of them :)). So, this demo is not meant to impress
the audience by fast effects, pretty pictures or happy music, it wants
to shock you and maybe start some deep thoughts. Some people like this
style, others don't. If you don't know, try it.
Call to Keyboards
Tracking Unions Wrap-up / MP3 vs. MOD
-=- Introduction -=-
I was sort of upset that my only reply was also a member of the
Static Line Staff, but I'm going to try this again (last time). For
those of you who missed last month -- this is an interactive column. I
will give you a topic, share my views, and you may reply with your
views to contradict my own, or to shed new light on the subject. Each
week, I'll begin with the "Wrap-Up" from the previous week. Then, we
start with the next topic. Get involved! Let's get some debates going
-=- Wrap Up -=-
Last month, I brought up the topic of tracking unions, of sorts. My
general conclusion was that they are helpful to those new in the scene,
but not truly needed by experienced trackers. We had one response in
relation to this topic from Seven, a member of our very own Static Line
staff. How has his reply changed my view? I tend to agree with him as
far as reviewing the review. I can speak from the reviewer's point of
view (reason obvious) and I must say that if you dislike one of these
tracking unions because of the quality of feedback...tell them. Maybe
they'll improve. Meanwhile, I can say that it is easy to forget that
people may actually read your review -- it's often that I feel no one
will read my review, so I could write almost anything. Well, here's
Hi, Seven's keyboard here: I'm a coder, and as such I've nothing
sensible to say about tracking unions :) So why am I wasting your time?
As you might know, I review demos (for both Static Line and
Demojournal), and I'm talking as a reviewer now. Most reviewers (be it
from music, demos or others) get very little feedback. And if they get
it, it's mostly flames from people who don't agree with something they
wrote. Sometimes this is justified, sometimes it isn't. But it would be
nice to get some positive feedback too. If you read a review, it
encourages you to get a tune and you like it, tell the reviewer so. If
your tune is reviewed, and you get a huge amount of fans due to it (yeah
right:)), a little "thank you"-mail is probably appreciated. Of course,
if you disagree with something, or you want to point out something the
reviewer forgot, that's feedback too, as long as it's no flame. Maybe we
need professional review-reviewers :) Just make sure you criticize the
article, not the person. Remember, nobody gets paid for it, very few
people do it to slaughter newbies, but everyone can bail out due to too
much discouraging reactions.
-=- New Topic: MP3 vs. MOD -=-
This is by no means a new topic in the scene. It has had many heated
discussions in the past, and I have heard views from many people as to
their opinions. Now for mine:
MP3 is good for mainstream music -- it isn't good for the scene. I'm
not at all opposed to MP3 as a media type. But, I can't belive that
many trackers will release in ONLY this format. When I approached a few
of these trackers, I was given reasons such as sample ripping
prevention, promotion to non-sceners and file size problems. Okay, I'll
give you one of those as a logical excuse -- the file size can be a
I have a tracker in my group (Abraxis Digitalis) who does exceptional
work with samples -- and his music in MOD format can be very large.
Given that each sample may be well above 50kb or more, and that there
are many samples in a given tune, the song can get rather large. I
think he said his last song in MOD format was almost 8 MB. That is a
large size. Now, for a 5 minute song in MP3 format, that would end up
being 4 MB. So, the file size issue is justified. But there are some
trackers out there that will write a 400kb song (like myself) and then
code it to a 4MB MP3? Why? There's absolutly no point!
Non-scene exposure? Call me stubborn, but if anyone wants to listen
to scene music, they're either in the scene, or should be. And if
they're going to reside here, they gotta do as the scener's do. Grab a
MOD player that supports the desired MOD format. There are even
plugins for your favorite internet browser. I hate to be blunt -- but
the average non-scener isn't going to want to listen to your music, and
if they really do, they might not mind downloading a relativly small
program to play it.
Now for my favorite excuse: Sample Ripping Prevention. Welcome to
the scene, samples get borrowed here left and right. So long as they
are properly credited, this has been an accepted practice. So, you
want to protect 6 samples that you generated yourself. As great as
they might be, what about the 5 samples that you ripped yourself?
Hippocritical, don't you think?
You're opinions here, please.
Editor: Coplan / D. Travis North / email@example.com
Assistant Editor: Subliminal / Matt Friedly / firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Manager: Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / email@example.com
Columnists: Coplan / D. Travis North / firstname.lastname@example.org
Calvin French / email@example.com
Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / firstname.lastname@example.org
Louis Gorenfeld / email@example.com
Seven / Stefaan / Stefaan.VanNieuwenhuyze@rug.ac.be
Virt / firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff Writers: Acell / Jamie LeSouef / email@example.com
Darkheart / Zach Heitling / firstname.lastname@example.org
Setec / Jesper Pederson / email@example.com
SiN / Ian Haskin / firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support: Draggy / Nicolas St. Pierre / email@example.com
Jim / Jim Nicholson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Static Line on the Web: http://www.ic.l7.net/statline
To subscribe to the Static Line mailing list, send an e-mail message
to "email@example.com" with "subscribe static_line <your e-mail>" in
the message text. You will then be asked to confirm your addition to the
mailing list. Expect a new issue during the first weekend of each
To unsubscribe from the mailing list, send an e-mail message to
"firstname.lastname@example.org" with "unsubscribe static_line <your e-mail>" in
the message text. Your subscription will then be removed.
If you would like to contribute an article to Static Line, be aware
that we will format your article with two spaces at the beginning and one
space at the end of each line. Please avoid foul language and high ascii
characters. Contributions should be mailed to Coplan
See you next month!