Back to Saturn X E2 Enters Public Beta

Back to Saturn X Episode 2: Tower in the Fountain of Sparks

Nearly two years since the first public appearance of Back to Saturn X‘s first episode, Get Out Of My Stations, the second episode has finally gone public.

Back to Saturn X Episode 2: Tower in the Fountain of Sparks features 27 new maps spanning a variety of themes including gothic temples, dilapidated ruins, rusty industrial outposts, and more. As with the first episode, all texture artwork and music are original work by the BTSX team.

  
  
  

Download link and more information here.

New music: Back to Saturn X MIDIs!

The site has been quiet for a while, but I haven’t been inactive! Among other things, I’ve been hard at work on Back to Saturn X (BTSX), a massive Doom project for which I’ve contributed a lot of texture artwork, level design, and of course music. At some point during the project’s development I decided to get my feet wet composing MIDI files, and quickly got so comfortable with it that I think the Back to Saturn X soundtrack features a lot of my best songs to date!

I’ve created a YouTube playlist comprising 12 of my compositions for BTSX, many of which are from the yet-to-be-released second and third episodes of the project. So a lot of these will be new for everyone, not just people who haven’t played Back to Saturn X Episode 1 yet :)

Among them are ambient soundscapes like “Waiting” and “Lurking”, synthy modtracker-inspired tracks like “Clonk”, and elaborate multi-part midi rock compositions like “Ether” and “Egypt”. Headphones are recommended; there’s a lot of layering in these.

For those familiar with my other released music, these will sound quite a bit different, and decidedly more oldschool. It’s not quite chiptune music, but it does have a very distinct retro videogame sound to it. Don’t let that scare you away, though — I’m really proud of these songs, and didn’t want to wait for BTSX episodes 2 and 3 to be finished for them to get heard.

Back to Saturn X itself is still in endless development, but a public beta of Episode 1: Get Out Of My Stations is currently available for your Dooming pleasure!

As a side note, I’ve also made the entirety of my 2011 album Seventeen More Times available on YouTube for convenient sharing.

One on Twoism Vol. 5 released!

One on Twoism Vol. 5 CoverThe fifth installment of the One on Twoism music compilation series has finally been released, comprising 30 brand-new songs from the musicians of Twoism.org, a Boards of Canada fan community. It features several One on Twoism veterans like Polar Sky, Illuminant, and myself, in addition to a lot of new names who’ve brought their own skills to the table.

There’s an overall focus on downtempo ambience, and a chilly analog atmosphere pervades much of the tracklisting. Among the album’s contents, you’ll find two new songs of mine that haven’t been released anywhere else. They’re called Solstice and Knipling Pin, and they’re two of the more upbeat and airy tunes featured on the compilation.

One on Twoism Vol. 5 is a free download. If you’re looking for a headphones listen to involve yourself in, or if you’re just seeking out some new electronic music from a collection of artists you may or may not have heard of before, give it a try!

Limitations, Part 2: Valley of Echoes

Remember when I said I was going to be posting up more songs sooner rather than later? Yeah, well…

Anyway, today’s post is the second installment in my series of limitation-based songs. For this song, Valley of Echoes, I restricted myself solely to the feature set from Reason’s 1.0 release dating from way back in 2000.

Valley of Echoes is an upbeat, spacey breakbeat tune that resides in a stylistic territory somewhere between Zwei and Descent from Seventeen More Times. The arrangement is mainly built around improvised keyboard jamming, and I think the end result is really fun. Production-wise, I aimed to make the restrictions I was working under as invisible as possible in the completed song. Continue reading

Limitations, Part 1: New Faction

Rack view from "New Faction," depicting part of the lead synth designThere’s a lot of truth behind the adage that limitations promote creativity. They can promote frustration, too, but mostly creativity. Honest.

Working within a set of limits should be a familiar concept for most people, especially creative folks. Whether it be the limits of the format or medium we’re working in, limits of computing power available to us, or simply the limits of our own abilities, we’ve all struggled with them at one point or another.

A set of limitations, though, can inspire us to grow our skills, take closer notice of details we may have otherwise overlooked, and try techniques we’ve never used before. I’ve come to greatly enjoy the challenge of masking the limits under which a work was created, pushing myself to achieve as much within them as possible.

In the past month or so, I’ve tasked myself with completing three songs each within a constricting technical limitation inside Reason 6.0‘s effectively limitless environment, restricting myself to a small subset of the program’s functionality:

  1. New Faction — ID8 Instrument Device for all sound generation (Download)
  2. Valley of Echoes — Reason 1.0 devices and functionality only
  3. Prima Frost — Thor Polysonic Synthesizer for all sound generation
New Faction, the first of the three songs, was built around the question of how much I could impose my own sound and style upon the simplistic ID8 Instrument Device.

Continue reading

Further musings on Rack Extensions

The series continues! My second Rack Extension art mockup is a slate-blue synthesizer with a colorful touchscreen and plenty of visible wear and tear from use.

Rack art demo #2

Rack Extension art mockup #2 by Michael Mancuso (Click for fullsize)

Obviously, as stated when I posted the first mockup a few days ago, these don’t make any actual sound. While I’d be eager of course to jump on board with any developers wanting to implement Gelatin and Plum controls on their synths, this design itself is just an artistic exercise. Knobs and switches here were arranged primarily based on their appearance, given that they mostly have no actual functions assigned to them.

Though Propellerhead Software has yet to make publicly available the exact official specifications for interface design in Rack Extensions, I’ve given quite a bit of study to their own interfaces and aimed to model the lighting and general appearance of mine to match closely with their own work. I’m aiming to make each of these mockups a greater accomplishment than the one that came before it, so for the mockup I’m currently working on, I’m focusing more directly on usability by creating a Reason-styled interface design based on a popular plug-in that already exists as a VST.

Now, as a Reason user, I have to expound further on what excites me so much about the Rack Extension concept in the first place, because users and developers both will benefit hugely from it: Integration into the Reason rack will actually enable plug-ins to be combined in a way that makes them far greater than the sum of their parts. Continue reading

Rack Extension art mockup #1

News of Propellerhead Software‘s recent announcements have already been spreading through the music production world like wildfire.

In case you haven’t heard, they’ve been developing a technology called Rack Extensions, which will allow third-party DSP developers to create and sell new devices to fit into Reason’s “virtual hardware” rack, with all the same routing functionality and other workflow benefits of Propellerhead’s own built-in devices.

To go along with that exciting news, I’ll be designing some device interface mockups and posting them up here this week. Not devices to actually make sound, mind you, but device interfaces to demonstrate the work I’ll be doing as a graphic designer for developers looking to get involved in the Rack Extension market. In this first mockup, I’ve created my own realistic, high-quality knobs, sliders, and buttons that feel right at home among the existing Reason devices:

Rack Extension Art Mockup

Rack Extension art mockup: "Amateur Home Mixdown" by Michael Mancuso (Click for fullsize)

Continue reading

New and old music online!

I’ve been hard at work on some major overhauls to the music section of the site, creating new pages that do a much better job of showcasing the music I’ve released.

As part of this project, I’ve made the entirety of last year’s Seventeen More Times and 2007′s A Terrible Flood available to listen for free online. If you haven’t heard them yet, it’s never been easier!

Even better, the Demo Reel on the main Music page features four new, never-before-heard songs that I’ve written for various projects in the past year:

  • “From Here To” — A fuzzed-out, bombastic post-rock song that’ll almost certainly appear on my next album in some form or another.
  • “Distant Pier” — A brief, melancholy night theme played on piano.
  • “Waltz of the Demons” — A mystical, completely re-orchestrated take on a classic from the Doom soundtrack. The original song by Bobby Prince can be heard here. My version will appear on the soundtrack to The Shores of ZDoom.
  • “Heatbox” — An upbeat, minute-long background track I composed for a Richard Day Research product demo video.
Though I’ve been a bit quiet on the music front lately, I’ve been busy! More to come :)

 

DTWiD 1.1a, and a sequel underway!

Just a small news update to mention that Doom The Way id Did’s 1.1a bugfixed release has been posted to the /idgames archive. Go get it!

Its sequel, Doom II The Way id Did, has also been officially announced recently. A bunch of maps have already been submitted to the project and are downloadable from the development site, including three I’ve built that I’m quite proud of: the American McGee-styled Water Main, the John Romero-styled Leap of Faith, and the Sandy Petersen-styled Dead Sea. The project is off to a really exciting start and is slated for a September release.

Doom The Way id Did 1.0 Released

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Doom The Way id Did 1.0 was finally completed and released to the public last night, on the 18th anniversary of Doom’s release.

If you haven’t heard about the project already, it’s a community-created Doom.wad replacement built in the style of the mappers at id Software who made the original game’s levels. The structural scale, level flow, architecture, and countless other aspects of the original maps were closely studied in aiming to create as authentic an imitation as possible.

More information (and, of course, a download link) can be found at the official project site, the release thread on Doomworld, and my own page about it.

In other community news, the 18th Annual Cacowards also finally came yesterday. 2011 was a surprisingly active year for great Doom projects, and so I’m honored that a few projects I worked on got mentions in it. Congratulations to all the winners, and here’s to another productive year!