Saturday, December 15, 2007

I've Got a New Complaint

My complaint is this: Horror is just not that scary.
I love horror movies, and I love horror stories and novels even more, but the last few years I seem to walk away from them maybe a little grossed out, but that's about it. Even the recent ones that I've really liked, Gary Braunbeck's The Keepers for instance, have entertained me, but not scared me.
So imagine my surprise when I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom about a week ago, took one look at the dark expanse I was going to have to cross to get there, and decided I could hold it 'til morning. I was afraid. I kept imagining there were people in my darkened living room. People with scribbled out eyes. And it was all Joe Hill's fault.
Now maybe you are the type of person who thinks this would be a bad experience. Maybe you wonder why on earth someone would want to scare themselves. That's a different discussion all together, but if you are like me, if you like the thrill of imagined terror, allow me to introduce you to Heart-Shaped Box.
I'm not going to give too much of the story away. Just the setup, and it's a good one. Jude is an aging rock star who lives with his much-younger girlfriend, the latest in a series, and his two dogs, Bon and Angus. He also collects odd and rare items like a used hangman's noose and a signed confession from the Salem witch trials. One day, Jude's assistant mentions an unusual auction on the internet. A woman is selling her stepfather's ghost. And, of course, Jude can't resist bidding.
A thriller, a ghost story, a touching tale about the healing power of music, Heart-Shaped Box is all these. If you like a good scare and a great story, head down to the local book shop and get yourself an early Christmas present. Just don't go after dark.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Plugins To the People!

Back in my days of working at music stores, there was nothing I found more alluring and mystifying than the expensive and complex world of rack-mounted effects units. I would scratch my head as a I saw some guy dropping $300 for a used Lexicon reverb unit, thinking to myself 'Um, doesn't he know that $75 Peavey Rage comes with reverb?' At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder if these long, thin pieces of gear held the key to why my four-track recordings sounded so thin and lifeless. But it was all theoretical. I mean, I was a college kid and any money I had went straight to beer or guitar gear. These things were way out of my pay-grade. Even the physical racks they screwed into were expensive!
Lately, I've found myself falling headfirst into another expensive and mystifying world: Computer based home recording. Learning and experimenting with new techniques is like crack and I need another hit! The world of computer recording is full of outrageously priced toys, but one thing that surprised and gratified my wallet is the world of free vst plugins!
Here are the same styles of effects and tools I drooled over long ago in their rack mounted versions, but now they are free for me to download! Some are samples put out by the manufactures to entice you to buy packages of other plugins. Some are developed by software designers for fun or to prove their skills! No matter the cause, we home recordists are reaping the benefits big-time!
Like so much on the internet these days, music, blogs, podcasts, you have to wade through a lot of drivel to get to the good stuff. Not to worry, weary traveler, I have made it my mission to find the greatest free plugins on the web! Here's a few of my favs so far, and I apologize in advance for gushing like a gear geek over these plugins:

Despite what young PT thought, having a great studio reverb unit is essential. And finding a good free one is anything but easy. I've downloaded quite a few bad ones. However, I was eventually referred to the Ambience Reverb, and I haven't been disappointed. Quality stuff! Get it here!

These were among the first free vsts I downloaded and I still use them all the time. Kjarehus is a company that makes high end plugins, but their 'Classic' series is available for free! Their free Classic Chorus is considered by many to be one of the best available, free or otherwise! I also use the master/limiter quite a bit. Check 'em out at: is my latest discovery, and I'm loving it! The Fish Fillets pack includes a sublime compressor, a desser, and an expander/gate. They are all good. They also offer the Endorphin, an excellent master channel compressor.

JMan introduced me to the Studio Devil vst Amp simulator over on the Another cool free set of guitar plugins can be found here:
It includes sims of:
- Boss DS-1 (Distortion stompbox)
- Boss SD-1 (Super Overdrive stompbox)
- Tube Screamer (Overdrive stompbox)
- Oberheim PS-1 (Phaser stompbox)
- Univox Univibe (Modulations stompbox)
- Fender Twin 1969 (Guitar amplifier)
- Marshall JCM900 Dual Reverb (Guitar amplifier)
Not bad! And I'll say it one more time: All free!!!