A closer look at Richard Bailey’s artwork, made in paint, and not digital.

Yes, I create digital music, too. One of the things I’ve loved about CDM is the chance to share music making, from the construction of the tools to the production of performances and recordings. If that’s all we ever get out of music – getting to share with someone else – that’s already more than enough for me.

This week I’ve released my own End of Train Device, a full-length ambient / leftfield electronic album.

You can listen to the record in its entirety streaming on SoundCloud, on a site I built using their Premiere App for the Web. (HTML5 + Flash, so it works on computers, tablets, iOS, etc. I’m going to write up a little more documentation on how to use this yourself later this week, in case the included documentation in their code isn’t entirely clear! It’s the same app that Amon Tobin and NinjaTune just used for ISAM.)


It’s also available to stream, share, or as a name-your-own-price, Creative Commons-licensed download on Bandcamp.


I wouldn’t be a writer if I weren’t also a practitioner, so I’m glad any time I can finish this sort of project. At the same time, it’s been a chance for me to reflect on why albums matter to me as a listener – and this release is already a jumping-off point to get to do some research about distribution outlets for independent labels and artists online.

Artwork. The cover images and visual design are the work of Richard Bailey, known as a music artist by the name Proem. Richard also created the code and CSS for CDM’s 2010 redesign. (He released his own new record on n5md last August.)

What I actually use. I don’t use every single tool I test and review in my work; I’d go crazy if I tried. This record was produced largely in Ableton Live. Almost each piece began as a live performance set, and then was reworked into a finished composition later. I tend to start by building up a palette from scratch, working with found sound, synthesis, the piano/keyboard, or some combination. Then I try to construct performance instruments I can play live – Kore, Reaktor, and Live Drum Racks variously feature heavily in these tracks. It’s various live performances that get reworked into a composition. This release represents about four years of work, total, including a great time spent with a group residing with artist Duncan Laurie at his studio. (His electronic contraptions, which I got to play with with Richard Devine, feature alongside sounds of Vidvox developer David Lublin making stew in “Oscilloclast.”)

I didn’t mix in Live, though only because I needed to switch environments to regain some perspective. Half the tracks were finished in Harrison Mixbus; the other half in Propellerhead Record. I’m not as plug-in-happy as I probably sound; most of what you hear is done primarily with my favorite Audio Damage plug-ins and some Propellerhead goodness, along with a lot of sample manipulation.

So, there you go, for everyone who’s been asking me that question for the past years, I’m finally `fessing up and answering.

Mastering. I’m incredibly indebted to my mastering engineer and friend Danny Wyatt (faculty at Dubspot). He worked with Steinberg WaveLab, iZotope Ozone 4, and URS to finish things off.

Me… My background is in classical composition and piano, so that probably … explains a few things.

The experiment(s). Now that this is out, it’s a chance for me to test-drive a lot of the tools for self-releasing music in their present state. I’m hardly the first to write about experiences as an independent artist. Everyone from Brad Sucks to Trent Reznor has weighed in. Digital Audio Insider is a great current read from indie artist David Harrell of the Layaways. Mostly, I get to benefit from the research everyone else is doing.

I very much want to see these models work as a listener, maybe even more than I do as an artist. I can always account for my own musical output – I’ll make music, regardless. But if there aren’t successful tools for other people to use, then I can’t count on other people continuing to release their work, which means I won’t have access to it. Some of my favorite music of 2011 has already been without a label attached; I’ve probably spent more money on Bandcamp than any other service.

Since a lot of writing has been industry-centric, I’m happy for any excuse to cover this exclusively from the perspective of an artist.

We kicked off queries about some of these questions with CDM reader Tricil, who built the Amon Tobin SoundCloud site, by the way – he’s a consultant/designer as well as musician.
Tricil Measures Topspin: One Solo Artist on Making it Online, Comparing Bandcamp

Tricil has already assisted as I’ve begun researching the state of current services. I’ll be testing the ones that look the most promising. I’ll be talking in coming days about how to make SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and Topspin work if you’re an indie artist or label, as well as some reflections on pricing and distribution models for services like TuneCore.

A preview: Bandcamp recently allowed the ability to acquire free music by leaving your email address. It works just as brilliantly as Bandcamp’s purchasing features. But as you’ll see below, what it doesn’t do is pull email addresses directly from the embed – the thing that’s been Topspin’s signature feature.

I hope you enjoy my music; any chance to share it is something I appreciate. I hope you’ll continue sharing yours, and in the words of the old Sesame Street song, that you “don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear.” At the same time, stay tuned for some follow-up about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s worth your time. After all, tearing technology apart to see how it works is part of the mission here.

  • vinayk

    Will give it a proper listen when I get home after work today – but the streamed songs sound great.

    As someone who consumes more music than I write – I've really found that bandcamp is superb when it comes to buying music. There are a readily availible number of formats, the layout is clear and simple, its easy to pre-listen to songs and many people provide a "pay this or howevermuch more system" which I like.

    I'm interested to know how you found using propellerhead record as a mixing solution?

    One day i'll release my own album =P until then I will enjoy everyone elses!

  • Peter Kirn

    @vinayk: I love mixing in both Mixbus and Record primarily for the same reason in each – it's great having a convenient, conventional console view. Record is also insanely efficient and stable in my testing, and I really like some of its built-in effects. Mixbus, of course, will host plug-ins, so that can be less restrictive if there's a particular plug you need at the mixing phase. And Mixbus also runs on Linux. I'm actually really keen to advocate these tools to proper mix engineers I know, as I think they'd really love them if they gave them the chance.

  • Congratulations Peter, just grabbed it and about to listen!

  • I enjoy the album so far.  I'm reminded once again how huge an influence Steve Reich is on modern electronic music.

    I also notice there are tracks that flirt with being techno without going the full dancefloor. You up for some more DJ-friendly remix/edits?

  • i love when theses gamelan balinese elements are highlighted. sounds like some algorithmic sequences at times. did you use your pd ninjutsu for any of this? i don't see it mentioned above.
    excellent album!

  • End-of-train-device…Is that the same as a FRED (Flashing Rear End Device)? Looking forward to giving this a serious listen. Congrats…I know how hard it is to be able to finish stuff especially when you are also running such an awesome site.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Graham: FRED = ETD / EOT, yup – and you win bonus points! Thanks!

    Story from Trains Mag.&nbsp ;http://cdm.fm/lLGVTd

    @driftpattern: Not so much Pd on this one, partly because these were started earlier. Wait for the next. 😉

    @chaircrusher: DJ-friendly remixes? Absolutely down!

  • utm

    Looking forward to giving it a proper listen tomorrow. I'm impressed that you have time to keep up with creating music, writing about it and keeping up with everything else!

  • streaming….just finished first track….liking it. congratulations.

  • Nice work man 🙂

  • Electronic Face

    Super cool, man! Sounds like you put a lot of work into this. It paid off, sounds great. You've got some intricate madness going on in these tracks, but it's still cohesive as a whole. Way to go, and thanks for sharing!
    Audio Damage make some great plugs. Tattoo is my go-to drum synth (at least until I have money for a Vermona DRM1).

  • @Peter Kirn, we both picked End-Of-The-World-Day to release albums! I've heard worse excuses to plug…


  • I like what I've heard so far.

  • Jonathan Tucker

    Great album, Peter! You pace your musical elements very similarly to Monolake, and I love that.

  • Really cool work, love it . You have definitively several talent Peter ! and you know how to manage your time , congrats

  • To me, it's a great mix of the two things I enjoy most in music, technique and melody. A rather unique, and beautiful album, congrats Peter.

  • Kim

    Congrats on the release. I particularly liked tracks 3 5 and 7. Train 69 being my favorite. Where did you find the time? I would like an article on how you found the time to make an album with all the other activities your involved with. "Time management for Musicians".

  • Hi Peter!
    I'm really happy you're making music, and plus, using Bandcamp too!
    I'm at work now, but I'm going to buy it when I'll be back home.
    I had a quick pre-listen from Bandcamp and I think it's really cool!


  • Great music! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Good to here your work Peter, thanks for sharing 🙂
    You are a true inspiration and music lover with this site and your own work. Congrats on the creation!
    I love piano 🙂

  • Congrats, Peter! fantastic work!!

  • Sounds lovely!

  • This is really good! Thanks for the music, and thanks for your hard work with CDM!

  • Jeff Brown

    +1!  Diggin' it …

  • wi_ngo

    Great stuff, Peter. Definitely can hear the classical influence. Also sounds like you may have composed for live dance performance as well. I've been there and recognize that feel. Reminds me of some compositional style elements of mine that I think I may need to bring back into my sound.

  • erm…

    Fresh. Very fresh.

    Really appreciate this release. These are rich, deep sounds. The space they fill is informed. Packed, I should say.

    Thanks for your work.

  • Peter Kirn

    Thanks, everybody! I really do appreciate the feedback.

    @BirdsUseStars – listening, for sure! Thanks! We've each given birth to Geminis. 😉

    As for the time management questions, absolutely, happy to look at that again. Not that I have all the answers there, for sure.

  • plasmatron

    Hy Peter ! I love your work ! I use to do some electroacoustic stuff… but guys at the faculty didn't like all the beats I used to wrangle…  To much beats the said ;-)…. anyway … I like your stuff. With time, I got into mastering… And now  4 years after (mastering lot of pop and other style) I would like to specialize my work in eletro music… I need contacts !!! Have a good one !

  • FYI i asked bandcamp support if they had any plans to set up a notifier when an email address is collected, and it doesn't seem to be on the roadmap. 

    so on a basic level, this email thing has a long way to go for them and topspin is a clear winner in that regard.

  • bsack

    "Oscilloclast" is a great title! and i really like what i've heard so far.

  • Very good!! Congratulations! It's fresh sounding and original. I had been wondering if you actually made music yourself, what an answer!

  • Amazing album. Bravo Peter !

  • ifthenwhy

    Real nice work sir. I'm curious to know how you did it. What synths etc? Process?

    I too have had a great experience working in Record ( for mixing and tracking). The SSL emulation is truly spot on and easy to use yes? For VST's I just Re-Wire out to Live. And I actually love working in Record for the VST limitation. This is simply because I have "less" potential VST plug in distractions. So if I want to use a VST I really need a good reason (to boot Live and route Re-Wire etc). 

    I've found the idea of having so much available at one time is detrimental to my process. You?

    Was happy to see that you're using Record successfully too!

  • Congratulations on finishing this release, Peter!  This album bears repeated listens to pick up on the different layers.  So far, a compelling listen.

  • really like the album did you use any mee-blip in it ?

  • Workingit

    Nice job Peter. Sounds very cool.