Bank holiday weekend is the perfect time to make a paper model of an SR.N4 hovercraft. Actually this is a prototype for a model we’d like to include with the new album, as long as it doesn’t push the cost up too much. We have acquired through eBay an original 1970’s paper model, presumably sold by HoverSpeed as a souvenir of travelling by hovercraft. This is supplied as two sheets of foolscap card pre-cut and scored and a sheet of instructions. We scanned these and adapted them to fit on a single 12″ square to go inside a record sleeve. The prototype was printed onto A4 inkjet photo paper which meant that it is rather smaller than the 12″ version. It also turns out that this type of paper is rather too soft for a small model. The original looks to be big enough and the card stiff enough that it can keep itself together with only tabs and slots but the prototype required strategic use of sticky tape and glue. Nevertheless the idea behind the original works quite well.
As The Ramsgate Hovercraft draws towards completing its debut album a timely bit of luck allowed us to get down to the Slipway boatyard at Ramsgate Harbour and record the strangely celestial sounds of the launching of the Nore Crest tugboat. In newsreels and documentary footage these boats appear sweet, wee vessels, but, when viewed up close and personal-like, they are behemoths in their own right. Sending a ship like this back out to sea after its refurbishment is a hefty operation (similar to prancing about with a dainty little Zoom mic!) – and the twisted animal-like noises it makes in its slow descent match the scale of the tugboat – a quarter hour or more of wrenching locomotive-like wheels & constantly oil drenched cables whining a celebration of sorts. Thanks to main man Jim at the shipyard for letting us make this field recording that will no doubt add another far-out extra dimension to our forthcoming LP.
From the Mourning of the World is a new compilation of songs by “various uncivilised artists” curated by Marmaduke Dando for the Dark Mountain Project. There is a wide range of styles here; really what the songs have in common with each other and the Dark Mountain Project itself is that they are all musical responses to troubled times and rather from an outsider’s perspective. These are modern songs with deep roots, perhaps folk in the making in a very broad sense. Despite the variety the songs do not jar being side-by-side, rather this makes for an interesting and colourful experience, and despite the potentially bleak inspiration behind the project there are moments of humour too. Favourites on first hearing include Wildwood by The General Assembly, which also appears on their album Dark Mountain Music, and To The River by Look, Stranger, however this album needs several more listens and this may change.
The production of this album was financed by an Indiegogo campaign and I am very pleased to have been one of its sponsors and to see the project come to fruition.
From the Mourning of the World is available from Bandcamp now as a download or soon as an LP.
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to take a mono track and spread the sound in the sound stage without having to introduce other effects like reverb or chorus. Although it’s always nice to have more tools at one’s disposal I also have the frustration of having an Alesis mixer whose aux send is mono (it mixes stereo pairs down to the send) but a fully stereo effect chain. My solution is this mono to stereo effect box. This was inspired by a circuit given by R. A. Penfold in Practical Electronic Music Projects (Babani, 1994). The idea is to introduce a frequency-dependent phase shift in one channel. At low and high frequencies the right and left channels are identical, but in between one channel is out of phase with the other, peaking at 180 degrees at around 1kHz. The effect is similar to reversing the phase of one of two identical channels but because the effect cancels at low and high frequencies it is rather milder and avoids the sensation of having water in one’s ear. I adapted the circuit to be fully discrete, using a pair of transistors instead of op-amps. That makes it more hovercraft. Here is the schematic:
In practice R11 is a trimmer used to take a slightly attenuated signal to one channel while the other channel is taken from the output of the phase shift circuit. There is small loss associated with the phase shift circuitry and this allows the balance to be adjusted. The circuit is powered by a 9V battery and draws just under 3mA. Here is the circuit under construction and finally mounted inside a small plastic project box from Maplin:
These are the phase shift and gain characteristics from a QUCS simulation (the phase shift is actually continuous, the jump seems to be an artefact of QUCS’s trig calculations):
And here is the transient response showing it comfortably handling a 1V input signal.
Finally of course the most important question is: “how does it sound?”. With a simple solo instrument with little in the way of harmonics such as a flute there is not much discernible effect. With a more complex sound such as a piano there is a mild but useful “spreading” effect most obvious when switching between the dry and wet signals. Here is the Roland Sound Canvas piano first without the effect then with it:
With a full song the effect is quite dramatic. Here is a snatch of Suvarna first in mono without the effect then with the mono version fed through the effect: