Soliloquy...

                                         Review of the Kush Audio & Relab Plate Reverb Plug-In

 

   As a small studio owner, I’ve had occasion to use hardware reverbs for many years in various incarnations of my space. I currently have reverb products made by Eventide, Orban, Lexicon & Roland in use in my studio. These are run as send/returns on my console. I track through the console into my DAW, edit there, & then mix into the console, using outboard compression, delays & reverb primarily. I’ve been making the move “into the box” for effects, & have subsequently purchase reverb plugins from Universal Audio, Waves & smaller “boutique” manufacturers, most of which are emulations of vintage plates or processors. A couple of them are room emulation reverbs, & others employ more sophisticated convolution processes.

 

   I enthusiastically endorse most of Kush Audio’s hardware pieces & have several of their fine plugins also, so when I learned of their foray into effects, I was eager to try out their reverb processor.

 

   Relab’s digital reverb emulations have established their reputation for excellence in reverb processing, so combining their pristine effect processing with Kush Audio’s unique dynamic processing seems a very natural partnership.

 

   Immediately after installing the Goldplate on my Macbook Pro Retina 15” & opening a session in PT, I was struck by the elegance of the GUI. Simple & symmetrical, logically organized & intuitive…Linguistic licentiousness, typical of Kush Audio’s interfaces is mercifully sparse “squish” being the only onomatopoeic device evidenced…

 

   The only aspect of the GUI I found distracting was that the Output knob defaults to 4.4dB, instead of the usual 0dB…

 

   I used an instance of Goldplate on AUX inputs, one fed by double-tracked nylon string guitars & another receiving a stereo 808 beat track.

 

   With the blend 100% wet on each, no drive or ‘squish’ applied, & using the ‘material’ slider for bass & treble tone adjustment, I was able to dial in a very pleasant sounding plate quickly, & found the coloration of the sliders for reverb time & both high & low  filters to be visually representative & reassuring of my selections, a nice touch & consistent with the ethos of Kush’s own suite of plugins…

 

   On the drum track insert, with longer reverb times, increasing the distortion resulted in an increased bass presence from about 23% until the late 70-100% range where it seemed to have the opposite effect…the bass drum presence tapered off. With short times, the “boing” of the 808 was accentuated as the drive increased in the last 25% or so of the drive sweep. While varying the reverb times, I noticed that increasing the drive control enacted tone shaping that provided interesting effects; I must say that distortion was very hard to generate using any settings however.

 

   In the fully wet position, monitoring only the wet signal, I noticed digital artifacts (pitch glitches, swoops & glides for example) as I turned the pre-delay control, & the L-R levels fluctuated randomly as I increased & decreased reverb time settings. Despite being fed a perfectly balanced signal, it was disconcerting to note that the wet signal level couldn’t be level at any setting, randomly increasing from L-R depending on the amount of reverb time. This made it hard to balance the dry & wet signals on my console. If I reduced the wet signal the overall level smoothed, but fully wet (blend 100%) the L-R levels varied as much as 3-6 dB.

 

   On the guitars, increasing the drive increased sustain of different frequencies resulting in some tonalities that clashed harmonically with the dry signal, however I found this to be a useful result; dialing back the drive when harmonic sustain didn’t work with the dry track enabled me to then make adjustments to the frequency that caused the discord on the dry track, much like sweeping for nasty frequencies with a tight Q on a boosted eq frequency. Distortion was much easier to achieve of course, & the effect of moving the slider between steel & gold was more pronounced in terms of highlighting ‘bassy versus bright’ tonalities.

‘Squish’ added a shimmery quality to the guitars at higher settings, almost like a slap-back effect at times.

 

   I imagine that on sounds heavy on transient information versus smoother initial attacks, Goldplate’s result will be more pronounced.

 

   Overall, the Goldplate seems to me to be a very useful tonal shaping tool, generating unusual effects & offering plenty of room for experimentation for creating aggressive reverb sounds that can be replicated consistently. Aside from the L-R level disparity issues noted above, the plugin functioned cleanly & blended seamlessly into my workflow; I was able to use it to get interesting results immediately & intuitively.

 

   I liked it with modest drive & ‘squish’ settings, 100% wet, with the slider between steel & gold. There it sounded most natural & useful to me as just a reverb. I really like having the ability to freeze parameters for consistency whilst switching between different presets…I wish more plugins offered this VERY useful feature!

 

   Finally, I left the oversampling feature off, as the 10-15% increase in CPU usage on my laptop I noticed whilst running 2 to 3 instances of Goldplate was more than I desired.

 

                                      Kudos to Kush & Relab for a unique take on reverb as an effect!

                                                          HOV & TWO TANGO

The two albums (HOV & Two Tango) contain material written over a 25 year period, starting around 1992, the majority between 2000 & 2007, & through 2017. These were largely written on a nylon string Godin guitar, & started life as fingerstyle guitar pieces. The arrangements, vocals, bass, drums, piano & other instruments were all completed in 2017. I wrote, arranged, played, recorded, mixed & produced these by myself. I owe special debts to Maarit Vaga, Darryl Smith, Gary Simboli, Vincent Pastore for their excellent musicianship, friendship & insights. Thanks to Mark Parson for allowing me to bend his words to suit my purposes, & last, but absolutely not least, THANK YOU to my bandmates & sons Ben & Sebastian, without whom NONE of this would've ever been completed.

 

 

 

Two Tango

V1:

I lean across & fix his tie & smooth his rumpled suit. Finger-comb his greasy hair & light his foul cheroot. He’s cool & quiet Bogart-faced, as distant as the insane. Don’t love him, he just takes up space, friend for life’s fast-lane.

V2:

It’s time to go, I quietly muse, he sits at his repose. Search the bands but not for blues, already feel morose. I’m paranoid, delusional, my folly on display. Feel a breeze we’re free at last, finally on our way.

CH:

Sweating hard we inch along I’m desperate for a break. The radio mocks me with its song, it feels just like a wake.

V3:

I look behind & feel the heat of civic scrutiny. I turn, he’s slumped down in his seat, the breath goes out of me. He’s doubled over, bent in two, whistling as he dies. Lights & sirens, red & blue, shouldn’t be surprised.

CH:

Bridge:

Should’ve realized about the smoke, saw it in his eyes. How cool it looked between his lips, how hot between his thighs.

CH:

It’s time to go I quietly muse, & gather up his clothes. Search the bands, I need some blues, feeling indisposed…

 

Written in Seattle in ’99 about finding a way to commute alone in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane... 

JME: guitars, upright bass, piano, drums, vocals

Gary Simboli: end piano solo

 

Handout

V1:

Come to you with my hat in my hand hoping that you’ll understand I’m really not lazy or trying a scam. Just down on my luck, skipping a beat, pulling on ends that won’t meet…

V2:

Played the game with the cards I was dealt. The deck was stacked, but I always felt I would die on my feet before I ever knelt. But here I am now, face down in the dirt, nothing but pride left to hurt…

CH!:

Asking you to help me is crazy when I’ve wasted everything that you gave me. Thinking back on it the memory’s hazy, got no expectation that you might save me.

V3:

Looking up from down here it seems to be there’s only one solution that I can see, I’m hoping that this ‘cosmic push’ is for me. Just down on my knees braced for the shove, not so sure the answer lies above…

CH1:

CH2:

So I’m asking you to reach out & save me, ‘cause I’ve used up all the time that you gave me.

I’m not holding out my hands ‘cause I’m lazy, pull my ‘self’ up while my mind still obeys me…

 

JME: guitars, basses, keys, drums, vocals

Being There

V1:

She lies in her bed & she thinks of just what her life could’ve been. She looks across & wonders out loud what it was that she saw in him. She still believes in divine providence & that she is a part of a plan; she cries & she wonders why she feels alone & ended up here with this man

CH1:

Is it enough…just being there? Is it enough…being there?

V2:

Sleep comes too slowly, & finally dreams that are full of frustration & fear. She tosses & turns but the shadows remain until one by one they disappear. Desires & memories shifting their shapes until all of them turn into one. There are no answers but questions abound about why all her hope is undone

CH1:

V3:

Something reminds her of all that she has, a reason to help her to live. The strength that she needs being here with this man who can’t love, doesn’t feel, never gives…

Bridge:

She waits…

V4:

He does everything he can do & she knows it’s enough, she’d grateful for him being there

CH2:

 

Maarit Vaga: vocals

JME: guitars, upright bass, keys, piano

 

Sultans of Swing (Mark Knopfler)

 

I love the original version of this song. There really is no way to cover it except by trying to release one of the inner voices...

If you listen carefully, you can hear a string breaking on my baby Taylor acoustic guitar...

Maarit Vaga: vocals

JME: guitars, upright bass, mandolin, percussion

Ghost                                                                 

V1:

Wherever parities collide, it stands to reason ghosts abide. A choice not taken, or denied, can cross your path & coincide. The lines of life can intersect with those of death, that then connect

& show themselves to those who see, but only momentarily.

CH:

Voices whispering in my ear. Still & small, so hard to hear. Far away but very near, what ‘was’ once will disappear

V2:

Come now my wandering ‘used-to-be’, caught between the ‘could’ve-beens’. Do I see you as you see me? Do I show up in all your dreams? You point at me with crooked finger, I wonder why you must malinger. The fears we share are all well-founded, & why our presence here is grounded

Bridge:

A whisper here a fragrance there, I feel your presence in the air. A cool spot where you used to be, nagging doubts are haunting me

CH:

 

Inspired by A. Zee’s amazing book: “Fearful Symmetry”. I believe in ghosts, but not that they are the dead come back to haunt us…perhaps we’re seeing people caught between dimensions that intersect with ours occasionally, revealing alternate realities that occurred based on choices we didn’t make & roads we didn’t take…

JME: guitars, fretless 5 string, piano, keys, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

Creep

V1:

You make me angry every time I see your face. Cheap cologne & body odor in my personal space. Keep a healthy distance from me, back another pace.

CH:

Please don’t stand so close to me, my eyes are up here. Can’t you see, it could never ever be a possibility with me?

V2:

Deeply troubled toss & turn all night because of you. Sleep all day because of what you’ve put me through. You peeped into my life & rifled through my garbage too.

CH:

Bridge:

Every single breath I take reminds me of my big mistake, there is no possibility that there could ever be a ‘we’.

V3:

What leap of logic led you to the notion we were friends? If heaping coals of fire upon my head’s what you intend, weeping only makes it worse, on that you can depend.

Creep. There’s only trouble waiting for you in the end.

CH:

Bridge:

Every single breath I take reminds me of my big mistake, there is no possibility that there could ever be a ‘we’. Get as far away from me as north & south could ever be, look in my eyes & you will see, that ‘us’ is not reality. Restraining order’s in your future. Civil action? How’s that suit ya? Creep, I really mean sincerely, that you’re going to pay dearly…

 

I wrote this years ago, but hadn’t recorded it properly (not counting the numerous live versions The Fauxtones tracked). It was inspired by a creepy guy who used to ogle my secretary, resulting in her issuing the edict: “my eyes are up here” to him on a daily basis…the guitar solo & lead vocal were each one take. The drums, scratch vox & bass were tracked live in the studio right after a Fauxtones gig, along with our entire setlist for a band demo (in the Fauxtones boxset I released last year). 

JME: guitars, fretless 5 string, keys, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

 

At His Hand

V1:

All the wonders of man & the pride of his plans, everything he creates, all that he understands

Every measure of joy at the work of his hands is a vanity built on a mountain of sand

V2:

We are naked & poor, everyone is alone. We are slaves to desire & every passion we’ve known      

Anything we can see is because we are shown; we have nothing of value, no good of our own

CH:

At His hand we are chastened refined & made pure. At His hand we find mercy, forgiveness ensured. At His hand strengthened, to overcome & endure. At His hand we find comfort & refuge secure

V3:

We have freedom to choose & to question His will, so partake of His cup, we can all drink our fill. Any measure of grace is sufficient to keep us until everyone is redeemed, every promise fulfilled

CH:

 

For my dad…

JME: guitars, upright bass, drums, vocals

Darryl Smith: piano

 

The End

V1:

I’m weary of silence, it gnaws at my mind, empty of laughter & light. I’m lonely, alone, ‘cause my promises bind, for better or worse, wrong or right…

Pre-CH1:

Is living deceiving? Will it all be alright?  Do better days wait for the strong?

CH:

Take one more breath & I’m closer to you, no reason to doubt what I’m told

Just one more breath & I’m closer to you…the last one’s the one that I’ll hold

V2:

I see you & hear you in places I fear, echoes & shadows of how we once were.

Memories fading that once were so clear, I hope but I just can’t be sure

Pre-CH2:

Is dying believing we’ll meet in the light? I don’t want to know if I’m wrong

CH: 2X

 

Written for my friend & bandmate Wayne Burlison

 

JME: guitars, bass, piano, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

Some Day

V!:

In spite of the cost I gambled & lost, should have thought it through. Knew all along the reasons were wrong, but promises hold true

CH!:

Maybe we’ll meet again someday, if it’s your will, find a way…Wonder if he, thinks about me, & feels this way about it too?

V2:

Life twists & turns, then crashes & burns, leaving me alone. A voice in my ear, far away but so clear, I’m staring at the phone…

Bridge:

Ringing in my ears, we sat & talked for years

CH2:

Why don’t we meet I hear you say, if it’s sure, we’ll find a way. He tells me he’s been thinking ‘bout me, & feels the same way ‘bout it too…

For Maarit…

 

Maarit Vaga: vocals

JME: guitars, upright bass, piano, drums, vocals

See It My Way

V1:

Here I am, consequences be damned. News from the front, it’s the end. Orders were followed, simple, no question, the party that’s seated won’t bend.

V2:

The watchdog’s at heal when money’s the meal, the PACS roam the coast. We pull the trigger when you make us fear others most.

V3:

The law is a language common sense can’t apply to the difference between truth & lie. Profanity settles all discourse because the bottom’s where everything dies…

CH:

The wind & the wild have scattered our days, the Hands of our Maker have strewn our remains. Politics thrown in like dirt on a grave, the numbers don’t lie & won’t save.

V4:

I’ve gotta go, but I’ll take your ears. The sag in your brow makes the front reappear. Living for you was worth dying, I fear. Can’t take you with me, I can’t take it here.

Bridge:

It encourages me to encourage you to see it my way. Your teeth always show, I don’t know if you’re grinning or planning to rip out my throat…see it my way…

CH: 2

JME: guitars, bass, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

 

Waiting On God

V1:

I’m waiting on God for a higher vision, some general guidance for my indecision

If I spend too much time trying to reason it out, is it not divine, to be only devout?

V2:

A bush seared by truth didn’t lose a leaf; all the signs around me won’t help my unbelief

I’m wasting my time wondering what it all means. Is it not just, to be haunted by dreams?

CH1:

Looking for answers, some kind of thread. All I’m getting’s more questions instead

It’s like I’ve never been, it’s like I’ve never been

V3:

Still waiting on God, for a lesser vision. My self-reliance is my own decision

So I spent all of my time and I figured it out. Is it not sublime to forget about doubt?

CH2:

Visions come to me as I lie in my bed. A rush of angels sings in my head

It’s like I’ve never been. Like I’ve never been

CH3:

Visions come to me as I lie in my bed. A rush of angels sings in my head

It’s like I’ve never seen…

 

The electric guitars on this sound like a male choir...they were done with an e-bow…

 

JME: guitars, bass, piano, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

Vincent Pastore: violins

Matilda Erakare: cello

Two Tango:

All songs, lyrics & music written by JME except tracks 11 & 12 lyrics by JME & Mark Parsons.

All arrangements, orchestrations by JME

Recorded, engineered, mixed, produced by JME at Erakare Recording, Albion, NY

HOV

This was the original music for the lyrics for “The Two Tango”, hence the title…I wrote the lyrics with an actual tango-style arrangement, & once the music was done, I realized it didn’t sound at all like a tango. Thus, I wrote new music for the lyrics & kept this as an instrumental.

 

JME: guitars, bass, piano, drums

Neon

Originally written in ’98 as a drop-D fingerstyle guitar piece. It sounds like neon…thanks to Maarit Vaga for the title! 

 

JME: guitars, bass, drums

Switchtrack

Originally entitled “DDDDD” because that’s how the original drummer I played it with referred to it. Written in ’92, this is one of the oldest pieces on the album…this was definitely a case of 'demo-chasing'. The original recording was done in a church in NJ in 1993 on a Portastudio. Drummers could NEVER replicate the original feel because the original drummer (Dan...wish I remembered his surname) was unique in his approach...until my son Ben captured what I envisioned.

 

JME: guitars, bass, keys

Ben Schell: drums

KYT

Written by Ray Ashley in the early ‘90s, we rehearsed it in our band PDQ. My arrangement takes Ray’s melody & bassline through some chicanery to a 5-part vocal harmony ending with the death of the ‘boob-tube’ in question. I wrote lyrics for it several years ago, but decided to leave it (mostly) instrumental.

 

JME: guitars, bass, vocals

Ben Schell: drums

All Green

My ‘mash-up’ of Miles Davis’ (or Bill Evans', depending on your perspective) 'Blue in Green' & Miles' 'All Blues'. A fingerstyle arrangement incorporating the bassline, middle voices & melody of "All Blues", sandwiched between "Blue In Green" as intro & outro.

 

JME: guitars, bass, drums

Friar Turk, Osman Takes Charge, The Devil's Backpack

This, Osman Takes Charge & The Devil’s Backpack were all nylon string fingerstyle pieces I rearranged. Joe D’Andrea, the drummer in PDQ, improvised the drums during a road-trip Ray Ashley & Joe made for sessions at Erakare Recording in ’07 (we were recording Ray Ashley’s “Yeti Suite”). “Osman…” began as the vehicle for the lyrics I wrote for “KYT”, & “…Backpack…” was originally entitled “Prince Of The Power Of The Air”. Maarit thought these two sounded like 40 days in the wilderness, & she suggested the titles for both! 

 

JME: guitars, bass, piano

Joe D'Andrea: drums

Giant’s Walk

My arrangement of The Police’s “Walking On the Moon” melody superimposed over (some of) the chords & modulation ideas from John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, hence, “Giant’s Walk”. It started as a fingerstyle guitar piece written in the cemetary on Sweden Rd in Brockport while I was visiting Albion to see whether or not I wanted to move my family there in 2002.

 

JME: guitars, bass, drums

Kill Road

This started out as an exercise on my 7 string guitar to move through every key smoothly. I realized that it sounded how a Shephard tone functions, so I decided to orchestrate it to expand on that idea…the string quartet on it was performed on a synth-guitar using orchestral samples. 

 

JME: guitars, bass

Ben Schell: drums

Road Kill

This little synth piece was the starting point for the “string quartet” in “Kill Road”. I wrote this piece first, & adapted it to work with the modulations in 'Kill Road'. I like its dry, stark quality, so here it is…

 

JME: keys

Waltzing Matilda

The arrangement was written for the memorial service of an old friend. Australia’s unofficial national anthem is a beautiful piece of music. I wrote a bass part to darken the harmony a little...for me, it retains its poignancy with the bleaker undercurrent. 

JME: guitars, bass

All songs & music written by JME except tracks 4 (Ray Ashley, arr. JME), 5 (Miles Davis/Bill Evans arr. JME), 9 (The Police arr. JME) & 12 (traditional arr. JME)

All arrangements, orchestrations by JME

Recorded, engineered, mixed, produced by JME at Erakare Recording, Albion, NY