The Blue Zone 01-25 Special Edition
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Product Version: 1.01
Experimental Electronic Textures
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The Blue Zone, was originally incrementally released as an on-going series of one-off experimental electronic textures and instruments which grew over a year to form a unique sound library. It proved to be extremely popular with well over 4000 releases sold to date and now being used in TV, Film and Media studios across the world.
Since release The Blue Zone Series instruments found their way into a number of high profile projects…
Please note: The full version of Kontakt is required (Not Kontakt player)
Most of the sounds in the series have been created from scratch using unusual combinations of custom tube hybrid equipment, experimental analog circuits, tape delays, ring modulators, vintage analog gear and test equipment. These sounds and textures in this series are mostly but not exclusively aimed at Ambient, New Age and Sound Score genres. Each instrument is presented with a basic subtractive synthesizer interface permitting the user to further tweak the sound to suit his needs.
In celebration of the first year of the series a Special Edition release of the first 25 incremental releases are presented as one library along with their original audio demos. The instrument names have been prefixed to indicate their release number. 44 bonus layered multis have been included that span across the library – these have been prefixed with TBZxx and include several complex arpeggiated offerings. A “rogues gallery” of much of the equipment used to make TBZ01-25 can also be found in the documentation folder along with some production notes giving clues on what gear was used for each sound.
After Dark is the latest atmospheric addition to The Blue Zone Series for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above. It comprises of 4 multis and 7 instruments made with several pieces of cherished gear in the studio including the Minimoog (FM plucks), a Studio Electronics Omega 8 (xmod bells), and two high frequency 1960’s tube signal generators mixed to form an audible superheterodyne effect similar to the Theremin…
Below is a quick improvised demo of the 4 multis bundled with the release in action:
Ice Fields… a cold place..
After Dark… a frightening place!.
Temple Pings… a spiritual place..
Blue Halo… a warm place..
Alien Waterscape is the latest atmospheric addition to The Blue Zone for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above. A series of tube processed mostly white noise based SFX made with the Hideaway Studio Triple Tube Hybrid Phaser, a gorgeous 1966 Krohn-Hite 310-C all tube swept BPF, a White Noise Generator, TL Audio Tube EQ, an old 78 on a 1955 Garrard RC80M (well why not!), a very mangled bit of Blofeld and a recent very wet Atlantic Front!!
Anthem Keys… made with 3 layered tube overdriven PWM waves presented in octaves. Adding a rapid filter envelope results in synth chime type timbres and warm pads with slower envelopes.
Two example patches and a multi are provided with the instrument.
Chopped Chymes is this weeks addition to The Blue Zone Series. It comes in the form of three instruments… Cosseted Organix is a warm dual layer of a phased organ patch I recently programmed on the Omega 8. This was washed through a stereo analog chorus and tube EQ and one layer tape processed on the Copicat. Woodstock Chymes consists of several acoustic recordings of a Woodstock wind chime being struck and the results fired off, round robin, via the arpeggiator. Phased LFO chopper is a feedback effect passed through a Small Stone Phaser and several random round robin starting points fired off by the arpeggiator throughout the natural phaser cycle. All three work together quite nicely in any number of combinations…
This is made up of two main instruments… a curious arpeggiated effect called Type 545B Chopper and a warm pad called Composite Chorus and comes in two example forms (Strings) and (Hall Pluck). There are also three multis in the download: Choppersphere, Super Hall Pluck and Sustained Hall Pluck.
Type 545B Chopper was the result of one of my more experimental sessions. The raw sample data was made in a rather bizarre manner by feeding a basic waveform into channel #1 of a 1968 Tektronix 545B tube scope and setting it up to trigger on it. This resulted in the sawtooth generated by the timebase being in sync with the incoming waveform which was promptly fed back into channel #2 on the scope. The Type 1A1 plug-in unit was then set to chop mode whereby the two input signals were alternately chopped to create a complex waveform syncronised to the external signal. The trigger level was then slowly tweaked resulting in a very unusual signal ending up on the vertical signal output. This was captured and several seconds of sample was programmed up to fire on random round robins with different sample starting points on each. The harmonically rich waveform was then filtered randomly and a simple arpeggiator patch setup to sequence the whole thing.
The delay in the default instrument has been configured to run at 120 bpm – this can be tweaked in the GUI to gain the desired effect at any bpm set in Kontakt. It is quite entertaining to hold down some notes and start tweaking the filter cutoff, filter amount and filter decay settings as well as just about everything else on this one!
The second instrument in the choppersphere download is called Composite Chorus (a red one!) and is based on a composite of a number of string like timbres layered and fed through an analog chorus unit.
Both sounds can be played together and indeed layered with any other sound in the Blue Zone Series.
Cyclic Resonance is another very organic offering made by creating two lightly filtered wave sequences on a Waldorf Microwave I and feeding them into the Dual Tube Hybrid Filter where both the tube BPF and multimode filter stages were in near resonance with both cutoff CV channels modulated by an LFO. The filter gets caught up in the harmonics as the LFO sweeps across the hot spots and also has the effect of accentuating the inherent noise in a nice way…
A full pre-installed download of all 22 instruments officially released to date along with the following extras is now available:
• 1GB of 24-bit samples
• TBZ13 Area_13 “The One That Got Away”
• TBZ24 Crystallum Modus
• TBZ25 Snow Flakes
• 44 New Layered Multis blending cross library textures with TBZxx prefix
• Original 78 .nkis & 56 .nkms now prefixed for easy identification of release
• Original demos for the first 25 releases (in mp3 format)
• 28 minute long compilation of select demos from the series (mp3 format)
• “Rogues Gallery” of much of the equipment used in the making of the series
• Production release note summary for clues on how each sound was made
• List of instruments and layered multis along with original release dates
Electron Clouds is the latest addition to The Blue Zone. It was made by feeding an xmod’d dual oscillator source from Minimoog 7751 into a gorgeous 1966 Krohn-Hite model 310-C all tube Band Pass Filter which I recently fixed up. An external regen path was connected to the tube BPF using a tube preamp to impart strong resonance to the point of near self oscillation. The result was remarkably effective and the cutoffs were controlled to gently sweep the harmonic resonance points. Several loops were setup and presented as random round robins.
This download features 4 example patches and 1 multi. The basic sound is presented as keys, a pad and an arpeggio. As usual, all of the patches are quite sensitive to velocity.
This week’s little delight I’ve called Flux Reversal and felt like a blue one to me. This evolving little number was made with a blend of several layers including three warm gently overdriven tube signal generators, a series of reversed glassy digital hybrid bells and three analog waveforms from old signal generators mixed in a super smooth sequence using a pendulum orbiting in a bath of brine water! The latter setup I call The Water Mixer and often makes bystanders raise their eyebrows when they catch sight of various test leads and old lab equipment hooked up to a baking tray full of salty water!!… Things your mom told you never to do – like sticking a knife in the toaster… which, knowing me, I probably tried as a kid! (you forget such events as an ever tinkering electronic engineer after over 30 years of this kind of thing!)…
This one works well on it’s own but also sounds rather nice played together with sustained diallings of Anthem Keys…
There is something quite special about 1960’s tube signal generators. My good friend Stephen Howell (Hollow Sun) has also picked up on this – how can mixing three free running tube generated sinewaves together sound so sweet? – but they do and whatever is happening is almost impossible to see even when viewed side by side with more modern offerings. Naturally then feeding the results through a gentle tube overdrive adds a slice of sonic magic
Some 8-bit digital goodness was also used in the making of this one – a curious multi-sampled reversed bell like effect but I couldn’t resist feeding the results hot through one of my active tube EQs.
A 10 triode design of mine, the active tube EQs have been secret weapons in my sound design for some time now are very different beasts to most semi-passive offerings to be found…
I spend a lot of my time restoring and revamping old studio gear and it’s often nice to celebrate the return of an old faithful with a sample or two. This 1985 Crumar Bit One was somewhat distressed when it arrived with several broken keys and had a habit of crashing until numerous contacts were cleaned. The Bit One was designed by Mario Maggi, the same creator as the mighty Elka Synthex. Although the Bit One was significantly less feature rich, it was still an interesting offering with its dual free-running master oscillators featuring a variable detune control and Curtis filters. One area this slightly odd beasty excels at are plucked instruments thanks in part to the phasey/edgy results of setting the detune control to just off zero. The shifting phase effect between each bank of oscillators on each key-on is often cited as a shortcoming… I really rather like it! Although the Bit One is not everyone’s cup of tea I have found its qwerks quite endearing.
Heavenly One comes in two parts… Heavenly Harp is a large multi-sample playing on the effects of the Bit One’s shifting phase and Heavenly Pad is a cyclic phaser pad using a blend of eight instruments which have been processed with the Dual Pentode Buffer and I think the two work nicely together as a multi.
Oil Can Overdrive
Oil Can Overdrive is the latest addition to The Blue Zone Series. It was made by feeding an X’mod patch from Minimoog 7751 hot into my recently fixed up 1960’s Echo-Reverb Electrostatic “Oil Can” tube delay along with a hand cranked tube generated sine wave to create a feedback effect and the result fed into a Watkins Copicat tape delay. There is a hell of a lot of tube/analog generated magic going on here!!..
Panoramic Tones was the first opportunity to try out a new (old!) piece of kit I’ve been working on – a 1960’s Baldwin all tube “Panoramic Stereo Tone Converter“. The PTC is an extremely unusual spring reverb in that the audio is passed over the spring as a 20KHz ultrasonic AM modulated carrier using piezo ceramic transducers. As a result it is much more complex than the usual offerings and has a considerably more tortuous signal path. Having built a high voltage power supply to drive the chassis I modified the spring tank itself to add a transmit transducer in the middle of the spring with receivers at the ends to impart a pseudo stereo effect. This very clever and almost forgotten technology has a number of advantages… firstly the spring is almost totally immune to vibration and it’s quite unnerving how the occasional accidental knock doesn’t result in the usual cacophony of clangs. Secondly the frequency response appears to be flatter and the results somehow more musical. I have had other success with this unit but that’s for later…
Panoramic Tones was made by feeding patches I dialled up in the SE Omega 8 and Supernova blended and fed hot via a tube EQ into the ultrasonic reverb.
PM3211 AirVox is a celebration of the return of yet another old gem to the living world. This time it was 1976 Polymoog #3211 recently acquired by the musical genius that is Will Gregory of Goldfrapp. Rescued from the US as a very dead but promising example I set about an intense couple of weeks breathing life back into her. Some 45 CMOS chips, 37 LEDs and a retrofitted switched mode PSU later along with a deep cleanse resulted in sound – glorious sound!..
PM3211 AirVox is the 1st multi-sample to be captured from #3211 with Will’s kind permission and includes 3 demo instruments and 3 multis…
Quantum Entropy is the latest addition to The Blue Zone Series for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above. It consists of a three layer multi presented as separate instruments which can be layered with any of the other sounds in the series. In this release the raw material for all three sounds was from rather unusual methods…
Octave Flipper was made by recording the vertical signal output of a 1968 Tektronix 545B tube oscilloscope with the timebase pushed into instability between single and double cycles on the screen whilst triggered by a cyclic input signal and chopped (multiplexed) with the timebase sawtooth waveform! This caused a harmonically rich octave flipping effect.
Grand Nebula was made by pushing a high frequency LFO modulated sustain on the Monotron into infinite delayed feedback with the filter cutoff set low and feeding the results through the Watkins Copicat tape delay.
Neptune Brass is a warm brass like pad made by gently feeding multiple raw oscillators into a tube overdrive and then into an analog chorus. Its also presented in arpeggiated form.
Radio_TBZ was made with a gorgeous 1950 Pye P35 all tube short wave radio set to the 31M and 19M bands and capturing a long sample of a data carrier tone submerged in DX radio noise along with some heavily distorted distant Morse code. Several loops were made and a number of random round robins setup.
Sustained Infinity was made by hooking up a Watkins Copicat into a mixer and feeding its output back into the tape delay input but mixed in with a tone from a Minimoog model D to excite it into frequency controlled feedback by tweaking the EQ on the mixer in the regen path. The sliders were ridden to slowly entice and sustain feedback and then carefully held off everything descending into chaotic madness. Three takes were made and transposed down by several octaves in Kontakt and looped on a random round robin.
Please note there is occasional clipping – the beast was very much tamed by hand and proved almost impossible to prevent completely.
The Blue Zone is a progressing series of experimental instruments released by Hideaway Studio in installments for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above.
Tape Dreams is a double offering with a common theme…
Controlled distortion is something that absolutely fascinates me and is something I’ve been exploring for a number of years now and is very much part of my sound. Guitarists have drawn apon the potential musicality and movement imparted by complex distortion for decades, but it often surprises me how its potential is often overlooked when it comes to synthesis. There are many forms of distortion and the complex interplay between input source material and all number of non-linear effects in controlled situations can be very beautiful.
For me, more often than not, I use tube circuits and analog effects to manipulate source material but increasingly I’m becoming very interested in what analog tape has to offer…
Armed with a gorgeous 1967 Revox G36 all tube half track which I fixed up last year and a Watkins Copicat which I totally rebuilt from a wreck I set about trying out two concepts…
The first sound I’ve called Twisted Tape and was made by feeding a slow PWM wave from a CS01 into the Copicat for a few seconds and then pulling the (delightfully worn out!) tape loop away from the erase head and muting the input signal thus leaving a continuous loop of lumpy saturated organic goodness – how typically analog! – it started off as a cold PWM pulse train and is almost flute like off tape.
Wave Reversal was made by recording an arpeggiated effect and blending it with some other source material of mine. Several seconds of the resulting composite was then recorded fairly hot onto the Revox at 7.5 IPS, the tape was reversed and then played backwards at 3.25 IPS. The sound was then transposed down a further octave. Several long loops were created in Kontakt and a random round robbin configured to trigger them.
The Electron Forest
The Electron Forest is the second release in the Blue Zone Series. It was made by mixing the hand cranked output of two 1960’s tube sinewave generators running well above the audible range (60 to 100kHz). This produced upper and lower sidebands, the lower being in the audio range. This was passed through a tube EQ resulting in a super smooth superheterodyne effect much like tuning an old AM radio but with no extraneous noise. The Theremin works on a very similar principle.
A long recording was made and then several random round robin loops were setup in the instrument.
You will have noticed that The Electron Forest GUI is ochre in colour. The idea is that the instruments in The Blue Zone Series will be colour coded:
Blue: Ambient / New Age / Washes & Synthetic Textures Ochre: Sound Effects Red: Synths
Tri-Phased Intervals was made by feeding a late 1960’s Philicorda GM751 into the Triple Tube Hybrid Phaser – then capturing long samples across five octaves and transposing down and resampling as bailed intervals. One of only three examples world wide, the Triple Tube Hybrid Phaser is something I conceived a couple of years ago and is an analog processor with a particularly convoluted signal path. This unique design is in effect three overdriven tube buffered 4-stage analog phaser blocks fed and tapped in a complex series parallel chain with tube mixing and multiple feedback paths. A complex triple LFO generator permits a variable phase spread between each phaser block which permits anything from a deep plunging effect to swirly heaven. The phaser was setup for maximum swirl and the resulting signal was passed through an analog chorus. Each captured sample was looped and set to start at random positions in the phaser cycle. The result is pure organic swirl!
For instant gratification simply plug in your favourite sustain pedal and play an enormous chord… for the next 10 minutes whilst you’re teleported to another place!
Triple Phased Halo
Triple Phased Halo is the latest addition to The Blue Zone Series for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above. It was made with two tube generated bell ratios each created by feeding mixed dual sine waves from a 1960’s tube infested Panoramic Two Tone Generator fed hot into the Minimoog’s external input with the filter running in self oscillation at a fixed ratio. The results were passed into the Triple Tube Hybrid Phaser and a number of loops created in Kontakt…
Tubed Electrostatic Sustain
Tubed Electrostatic Sustain is my first to be created using a wonderful 1966 Fender Echo-Reverb tube electrostatic “oil can” delay which I recently fixed up. This bizarre old technology creates a delay by writing an audio signal in the form of a continuously varying electrostatic charge onto a rotating metal disk (like a photocopier) which sits in a bath of dielectric oil – hence the name “oil can delay”. The technology was developed by Tel-Ray and is just about as analog as it ever gets with its overdriven tube preamp and wonky belt driven disk.
The instrument was created by overdriving the tube stages with several cycling PWM waves from a CS01 synth.
Water Strings is a multi-sampled composite of various analog sources including the Water Mixer concept (see below), 1938 Novachord #346 and Vocal Resonators – spanning over 75 years of audio technology! Although there is no doubting the Novachord is a pretty special and historically instrument as is, it is also a superb source of sample material for interesting new and organically loaded sounds!