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mod-review Xenosaga - Dance of the Cyborgs (Insecurity, Opening, Omega)

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Hey everyone,

It has been about three or four years since I've been on here. I'm thinking about submitting this track and would love some feedback on it!

 

This is a remix of the first Xenosaga with a couple of different sources. It's a very classical soundtrack (even in the more electronic parts) and I've always thought it would be cool to hear some of the themes done with synthesizers. At this point, I'm worried about my fledgling skills as a producer. It sounds a little murky to me. Also, that bass drum in the beginning isn't as powerful as I would like, and I'm not sure what to do about it other than look at other samples to use. As I said, feedback is appreciated.

 

Update 9/14/2015: New version posted, basically I have been tweaking this for the past few months based on the mod review feedback and have a few more questions at this point.

 

Update 9/25/2015: A somewhat different version with more source and some sound design changes.

 

Source breakdown:

 

0:00-0:15 -- Original

0:15-0:37 -- Insecurity theme (the harp at 2:26 in the source)

0:44-0:59 -- Opening theme passed around between the sine and saw leads (2:37 in source)

1:00-1:22 -- Insecurity theme again

1:22-1:51 -- Omega chord progression played by the airy sound (heard at 2:23 in the source)

1:43-3:16 -- Opening theme again, looped over and over with a few octave changes and some modulation

1:49-1:52 -- Short reference to the motif played by the strings in Omega (1:43 in source)

2:31-3:16 -- String countermelody from Opening (0:53 in source)

2:46-3:16 -- Recurring chord progression from Opening (0:37 in source)

3:16-3:30 -- Choir from 0:00 in Opening, direct transcription

3:30-3:45 -- Reprise of the Insecurity theme, melody in the triangle lead with a flourish at the end

3:45-end -- Original

 

Remix

Remix v2

Remix v3

Remix v4

Latest version

 

Sources:

Insecurity

Opening

Omega

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Okay, it's been a while, so bump! I made a newer version with less compression, some different EQ on the bass drum in the beginning, and a couple of other things that I've added and modified. I'm putting it up for mod review since I would really like feedback and it's basically at a stage where I might submit it (minus any critiques people might have!).

 

https://soundcloud.com/experimentalsoundlab/dance-of-the-cyborgs-1

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Such a cool piece, I never actually played Xenogears. This is making me want to.

 

The beginning is particularly murky. Sounds like you were going for a filter-opening effect but it muddies up the piano/bass drum a little too much. I'm not a marvelous producer by any means so I'm sure there are quicker fixes, but my first inclination would be to EQ the REVERB on that bass drum, put a High Pass Filter on it to remove the ambient boominess that is muddying it up and making it feel under water. (Create an AUX channel just for the reverb, send your BD to it, and then you can apply your EQ directly to the reverb channel). Maybe just use that effect on the synth line that starts creeping in, not on all 3 tracks? The whole thing could use some emphasis on brighter frequencies, since the parts are already pretty dark in composition.

 

The snare in at 2:17 could use some beefing up/snap/verb (for my taste). I'd go as "80s" on that drum part as possible. Verb the shit out of it!  :-P    And I'm always a fan of altering original parts....since that part gets repetitive, perhaps get some motion going with the drums and alter the pattern ad nauseum?

 

Hope that's helpful.

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It's funny you should mention reverb on the bass drum; what you hear is actually as dry as I can get that sample! I'm messing a bit with the attack right now to see if I can make it sound more crisp, but it might be time to give up and look for a different bass drum sample...

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Okay, I did some messing with the mix, cut one of the bass tracks to give the other more room, upped the compression on the orchestral percussion to give the bass drum more volume and punch, and added some glitchy stuff with the echoing pads. I think there are some clipping issues now which I will probably work on later today, but here's version 3!

 

https://soundcloud.com/experimentalsoundlab/dance-of-the-cyborgs-2

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Man that sounds so much better! Now that opening is really kickin'! I love the way is gets you anticipating the "all in"; Great ebb and flow.

 

The panning is a little much for me in headphones, I'd be interested to hear that kick more center, and I'd tighten that cymbal crash transient up with the downbeat, but dude....sounds really good. I'd say you're pretty much set on this one.

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[MODREVIEW]

 

- That cymbal crash at :40 is really out of the mix.  I think it needs to come down and maybe take a splash of reverb, because it's way too upfront in my ear.

 

- The driving kick drum at 1:07 ish is a little too forceful for my tastes and distracts from the music, in my opinion.

 

- The high sin-wav-ish synth that is arping throughout a large portion of the piece gets very grating on my ear after a while.  If it were to come back in the mix via a reduction in volume a bit and be a little more supportive rather than out in front, that would reduce that, to me.  I'm a stickler about repetitive stuff, though, so some people may not mind that.  

 

- Other than that, I really don't have anything technical to say about this.  It's mixed well and seems pretty solid.  

 

[/MODREVIEW]

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Okay, so I've been tweaking this on and off for the past few months (sorry for bringing back an old thread, I spent too long trying to get "distance" from the piece and ended up forgetting about it) Here's the latest version:

https://soundcloud.com/experimentalsoundlab/dance-of-the-cyborgs-3

 

Hoookay, let's see if I can remember all the changes:

-Brought down the kick drum a wee bit

-Pitch-shifted the snare in the second half to give a more "boomy" sound, some compression, eq, and reverb for maximum boom without losing the punch

-Some more glitches in the super airy synth

-Added some drum glitches, wooo glitches! I have been listening to a lot of edIT and Skrypnyk to build on my glitchyness in this piece

-Brought down the repetitive sine lead, also added some modulation and growliness so that it's not as stagnant, even if it is just looping the same melody over and over again :P

-Put that crash cymbal on its own track, did some eq and brought it waaaaay down

-Added in a quiet little triangle lead for the reprise at the end

-I tried to make the beepy white noise sound in the outro a little more randomized (you can tell it's a repeated pattern in the old versions), ended up using ableton's auto filter instead of the onboard Massive filter and bouncing to an audio track for consistency. It's less beepy, but it's more randomized now, which I like, I think.

-Some added variety to the drum patterns in addition to the glitching

-Minor tweaks to balance, eq, and compression

 

There may be more, but I can't remember at the moment. On to questions!

 

-How's my source usage? I'm realizing that the second half is almost entirely original material. The repeated sine loop is the only part that I'm using in the buildup section (starting at 1:51), and I'm worried that it might be too liberal to qualify as "source." That particular idea is taken from 2:37 of the track "Opening". Is it too liberal? I'm including a source breakdown in the main post so that hopefully it's easier to tell what's source and what's not.

-Is the kick drum still too obtrusive? I was worried about bringing it down too much and ending up with a weak kick sound, but it's possible that I didn't bring it back enough because of that concern.

-Is the big boomy snare sound too much? I think may have kinda gone overboard on the reverb, but I'm not sure.

-Do the crash and suspended cymbals sound more balanced and fit in the mix better?

-This is not super important, but any opinions on the white noise effect at the end? I was kinda going for something like the intro to this. Does the old version sound like it's obviously a pattern and does this detract from the "randomising" effect? Is the new version not beepy enough? I know that's kinda relative and depends on the listener's preference; I'm just trying to get a second opinion.

-Is the overall mix drowning in too much reverb?

-Are my lead sounds too basic? The saw one in particular is two basic saw voices in unison with some filtering, and the sine lead is literally just a mono sine wave until the buildup part where it gets some modulation. Should I be doing more or do those sounds hold your interest?

 

Thanks!

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I'm not a big fan of Mitsuda's music. He's got some good stuff and some stuff that I just can't get into. This soundtrack seems to be one of his better ones. Just saying I've never heard the sources before so my take on source use isn't that of someone more familiar with them.

 

The use of Insecurity is there. it's a very small part of the source, but it's there. The use of the Opening is more liberal and thus not as easily recognized. For a remix with so much original writing, that's a problem. The Omega chord progression stands out and I think it's identifiable enough... at least when it's been pointed out to me. Even if I was familiar with the soundtrack, I'm not sure I'd make the connection from just hearing the remix. Source usage is likely going to be a problem.

 

I'm not sure what ocr's stance on using small pieces from multiple sources to make a single remix. A ReMix doesn't have to use everything from source to qualify, but there has to be a lower limit of some sort. I know multiple sources have been used for little cameos in completely unrelated remixes, but their sources are rarely listed as such. Rexy does this a lot. I suppose it comes down to whether it makes sense for the arrangement... and I'm not sure it does.

 

As for the arrangement, the overall structure is nice and original. The transitions at 1:22 and 3:17 aren't very smooth, and the 1:51-2:03 part is essentially a "drop everything except melody, start over with new chords"-type change. While a cool concept, I don't think the execution is up to par. imo, anyway. Then there's the ending that just... ends, without any punctuation or signaling beforehand. The drum loop just stops. Not very smooth. The arrangement has a fair amount of those kinds of clunky instrument exits.

 

Arrangement isn't quite up to par. It's original, which is fine, but it's simplistic in its source use, uses very small parts of the sources, and doesn't move all that well between some of the parts.

 

Then there's some technical problems. I like the sound design overall, but there's a few instruments or sounds that bother me. The crash at 0:37 is not only rather raw sounding, but there's something off about its timing, too. Your leads are a tad loud. Since you've got them in the high registers, they cut through quite well on their own. Their lower notes aren't quite as audible, but a velocity-sensitive modulation routing thing could solve that. The pad at 2:02 doesn't quite fit the sound so far. It stands out in a bad way.

 

It's not really my style of music, so I can't comment on the finer details, but I do find the drums to be a bit too simple for my liking. I'd layer the kick instead of having this weird mid-low tap sound to it. Could be an overdrive or something on it to make it more raw, but it exaggerates the wrong parts of the sound. I'd also add fills in a lot of places, especially before a change to signal it to the listener.

 

I just realized how long a post this already is. I'll answer your questions and then summarize.

 

Source usage? Difficult to say. It's there pretty much throughout, but I'm not sure such small pieces count as valid source usage. Only one way to find out, I guess, and that's having a judge listen to it. Or several of them. You'll know after you've submitted. It's very difficult to say if the interpretation qualifies for ocr.

 

Boomy snare? I've got no issue with the main snare. Maybe it's a tad lacking in mids, but nothing problematic. A background drum somewhere? Didn't stand out enough to be a problem.

 

Crash and cymbals? At least one that still stands out.

 

White noise effect? Whatever you've got at the ending, I like it. It's the sudden stop of the drums that bothers me with the end, nothing else.

 

Too much reverb? I don't think so. There's lots of it, but I think it makes sense for the style.

 

Leads to simple? No, I think they make sense for the style. Lead writing gets old after a while, though.

 

--

 

Arrangement has some clunky transitions, but the overall progression works well. Can't say about source usage because I'm not a judge. I'd very much like to hear if someone familiar with the soundtrack can pick out the sources in a single listen or two. Lead writing is simplistic and repetitive, which I think suits the style but there's some for some variation and potentially additional source references. A few sounds don't fit, either the wrong timbre or just not mixed right.

 

Not taking the source usage question into account, I guess it'd be a "no, resub". The technical and arrangement issues aren't too difficult to solve. It ultimately comes down to whether the judges feel this is acceptable source usage or not, and that's not something I can answer.

 

I like the mood and sound design here, so I'd very much like to have a more polished version posted on ocr. Fix what you agree with and sub it. Good luck. :D

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Wow, thank you so much for your feedback! Thanks especially for the comments about the source usage; I think I have a better idea of what the judges might say about it now, even if I'm not sure what they will ultimately decide. I may try to add in some more source, but I'll have to see if that makes things too cluttered. As it stands, I'll consider this mix a success if the judges are only concerned with source usage and not about production or arrangement, even if it doesn't get posted.

 

To that end, I have some more questions :P

 

...the 1:51-2:03 part is essentially a "drop everything except melody, start over with new chords"-type change. While a cool concept, I don't think the execution is up to par.

 

What would help this section? I'm definitely adding a fill to transition into it, but is there anything else that could help improve the execution? Also, this is kind of a long shot, but do you know of any tracks that do this kind of transition particularly well? It's totally okay if you don't want to go hunting for something that weirdly specific, just wondering if there were any examples that came to mind off the top of your head.

 

The crash at 0:37 is not only rather raw sounding, but there's something off about its timing, too. 

 

Thank you so much for mentioning the timing issue with the cymbal, that's something I noticed and then promptly forgot about and apparently never noticed again  :oops:  The sample just has a bit of a delay in it, so it's been moved to sound right on the downbeat now. I'm working on making the cymbal blend in better as well.

 

The pad at 2:02 doesn't quite fit the sound so far. It stands out in a bad way.

 

That's one of the few sounds in the mix that I didn't make myself (aside from drums and samples); it's an Absynth preset. I liked it because it sounded to me like a cross between a big creepy church organ and a kinda fake sounding choir. I can see that not fitting with the mix though. I guess I'd like to hear your opinion on the specific timbre of the sound. Is it too bright? Does it sound hollow? Is there something that could help it blend better, either a completely different sound playing those notes or something layered or added to the sound as it is to give it a different quality?

 

I'd layer the kick instead of having this weird mid-low tap sound to it. Could be an overdrive or something on it to make it more raw, but it exaggerates the wrong parts of the sound.

 

And the kick is the one drum sound I attempted to program myself! This is my first time making any kind of drum sound, so I guess you could say the kickback was expected (sorry, terrible pun). More seriously, though, I'm not exactly sure what to do to fix this. I could swap out for a different kick sample and start fresh, but I guess I'm not sure what you mean by "the wrong parts of the sound." Would layering another kick with more of a high end improve the sound? Is it just eq'd poorly? There's no overdrive on it, btw, it's all eq and compression. Are there any particular example tracks you recommend listening to where the kick is layered/mixed especially well? As I remember, I was using this mix as a reference when I was making the kick.

 

Once again, thank you so much for the feedback!

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I think the main problem I have with the 1:51-2:03 transition is the organ-like synth that follows. Other than that, it's a fairly good breakdown, something I guess my wording didn't quite convey. It's just something you do a lot in the track. 0:40, 2:00, 3:20.

 

The copious amounts of reverb and delay on the melody there keeps it from losing atmosphere. If you make the other transitions, the problematic ones I listed in the other post, and find a more fitting

 

--

 

Timbre isn't just brightness, it's all the component frequencies, which includes various resonances in real instruments, various qualities of the human voice, and all kinds of filters of basic waveforms. Absynth's waveforms are additive synthesis, where you change the amplitude and phase of each harmonic overtone. That easily gives it the qualities of organs, as well as some vocal qualities to the sound.

 

When you've got a glitch-industrial-demoscene-y sound going, the organ-like sound doesn't quite fit in. I can't put this timbre/sound design stuff into words, I just know when it's working and when it's not. Kind'a like how people who don't know anything about music can still tell that a guitar is out of tune, even if they don't know which strings or by how much or what direction.

 

I suggest you replace it. The rest of the sounds form a cohesive soundscape, perhaps in part because you don't create very complicated sounds (afaik), so the much more complicated sound stands out as not fitting in. You can try to de-complicate it in Absynth, or just make your own sound from scratch. Whatever you do, take a backup before messing with the sound too much. You should always take backups before implementing anything someone tells you to, in case you misunderstand, or they are idiots, or both.

 

An option is to start the 2:00 part with a different synth and fade the organ synth in as the track progresses. That's if you don't want to repalce it entirely. It's an option.

 

--

 

The kick isn't necessarily bad, but it has this weird bump to the 200-500Hz area (big round numbers because I haven't checked exactly).

 

When you say you programmed it yourself, are you saying it's a synth kick?

 

My guess is that it's the EQ that's doing it, something you did to your sound to give it the qualities you heard in the Cheetahmen remix, but without having the right sound to begin with. The EQ is a chisel - it cuts (and, magically, boosts) the sound that's already there. If the kick lacked energy in the 200-500Hz area, it would be better to layer another kick sound with the desired qualities in that range than to force it with EQ. Or, ideally, layer them first and then add a less drastic EQ boost to the desired frequency range.

 

The problem is less noticeable on my speakers than on my headphones. It might be fairly close to the Cheetahmen remix' kick, but it doesn't fit your sound design as well as that kick fits that remix'. Also, on comparison, I noticed your track is rather soft. An aggressive kick fits an aggressive track, but yours doesn't have that aggression. It's not just that your track is softer, but also that the sound design isn't aggressive. Yours is more brooding, more creepy. You'd have to change a lot of your sounds to justify a very aggressive kick.

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In response to your question about the kick, yeah, it was a synth kick. A very low sine wave with some pitch modulation and a tiny bit of white noise in the beginning to give it a sharper attack.

 

Whatever you do, take a backup before messing with the sound too much. You should always take backups before implementing anything someone tells you to, in case you misunderstand, or they are idiots, or both.

 

Yes, haha, I'm definitely creating a backup before trying out all the new things. Which is quite a lot in the new version.

 

Changelog:

-Added a decent amount of additional source in the second half (see source breakdown for details).

-Added fills in all the transition points (lots of fun with Ableton's Beat Repeat effect)

-Replaced the kick with one that possibly fits better? Actually it's three different kicks, two are layered together for the section at around 2:00

-Dialed back the leads volume-wise

-The organ-sounding pad is still there, but just barely. At this point it's adding a bit of color to the...

-Choir and whirly synth pad, which have taken over the organ sound's role in that section

-Another lead type synth added to that same section, doing a kind of countermelody thing taken from the source

-Fixed the crash cymbal sound timing, added some reverb to hopefully help it blend better (I figure since the track is swimming in reverb that more reverb is the way to go :P)

-The break at 3:16 has been replaced by a shameless pull directly from the source in an attempt to use more source more conservatively. This was also partly done because of the new chords in the 2:00 section which don't transition well if I go straight back to the reprise chords.

-Got rid of the arpeggios that started around 2:56 because it was fighting with the new countermelody lead for space and anyway I was too lazy to change the arpeggios so that they followed the new chords

-Threw in an additional white noise thingy right at the end because I was feelin it

 

Aaaaaaaand questions:

-Do the fills work to signal transitions? Are they too weak or boring?

-Do the various kick sounds work better with the mix? I didn't make these kick sounds, but I selected them with this mix in mind because I think it's a little closer to the feel that my mix aims for and also it's one of my favorite mixes. I know that it's a little more energetic than my mix, but I think it's within the same ballpark. I completely understand if the kicks are still too aggressive to fit in with the mix, though.

-For the chord change at 2:46, is that transition from original to source writing smooth enough? I tried to be a bit sneaky with adding the extra source.

-For the verbatim source part at 3:16, does this work to ease the transition into the reprise?

-Does the countermelody synth get buried in the mix or stand out too much?

-Do the choir and synth pad sounds that essentially replaced the organ sound fit better in the mix?

-Are the leads still too loud and/or repetitive?

-Most importantly, do the added source parts make source usage in this piece less ambiguous?

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It flows better than before. The repetitive elements are still repetitive, and the frequent breaks are still frequent, but I find those things less problematic now. The sound design is more cohesive, even though the leads still stand out (though leads should, just not too much). The saw lead is probably still a bit too loud.

 

Can't give you a proper review because by now I'm biased, especially with source usage since I'll just hear your melodies and consider them familiar. Another mod can give you a proper review, I'm really just bumping this.

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