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*NO* Ristar "Ice Star" *RESUB*


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Artist: Troyificus


OK, let's try this again.

As before, this has been made for 'An OverClocked Christmas v.XVII'

I took the judge's comments on-board, had a sulk about it, got over myself and returned with a righteous fury! And promptly fell flat on my face again when the wonderful @Hemophiliac told me in no uncertain terms that it still wasn't up to standards. Following which, after so much back and forth that the poor guy is probably sick of the sight of my name, it's reached this point. I'm happy with it, he's mostly happy with it, this is the version that's being submitted to the album, so I'm trying again with the illustrious judge's panel. Happy holidays!

Source breakdown:

0:00 - 1:16 source

1:17 - 1:35 original, with source elements added

1:36 - 1:53 original

1:54 - 2:12 source

2:13 - 2:48 source, with interpretation and embellishments added

2:49 - 3:06 source, but it's a repeat of the intro with the descending arpeggio added in


Edited by Emunator
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This is not a good looking waveform, it is brickwalled with over 6db of headroom.  Why oh why?

I have not heard the original submission so this is my first hearing of this arrangement.  Nice sounding bells right away.  The lead bell is very loud when it arrives at 0:18, compared to the bass and drums. 

At 0:54 it is just bass guitar and drums, and the bass sample sounds very simplistic, dry and exposed all by itself.  Having some backing element or some kind of sfx or just another element to add interest to such a simple section would have helped add interest and nuance to that part of the arrangement.

I like the buildup that follows, with the reverby bell and filtered-in vox choir.  The Christmas bells are lovely!  Although all the bells are so loud against the bass and drums.

The drums are mixed quietly, the samples are simplistic and the writing pattern is repetitive.  The kick is barely audible over the bells.  The mixing here really isn't ideal, the volume balancing is not good and the bells feel disconnected from the bass and drums as if they are not part of one track.

I see in the previous vote that the Js had a problem with repetition.  I haven't heard that versions so I can't compare but this version is also quite repetitive.  Not quite dealbreaker repetitive for me but right on the cusp.

I think I need a few more playthroughs to decide if repetition, simplicity, unbalanced mixing and the strange brickwalled mastering are passable or dealbreaking.

? just not sure yet

Edit 12-19-23:  Larry's vote reads as a clarification of everything I was hearing and feeling.  I re-read my own vote and I share his thoughts exactly, and my vote needs to be a

NO (resubmit)



Edited by Chimpazilla
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  • Chimpazilla changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (1?) Ristar "Ice Star"

This is certainly a vast improvement on the repetition front. There's a lot of re-use of the main hook—a lot—but there's plenty more here. I particularly like the new last section, where the change in the harmony line changes the character of the hook. I'm not as big a fan of the big church bells, though; they sound off-key to me.

I can't explicitly hear the brickwalling issue Kris mentioned, but I can certainly see it. There's just no reason for that kind of aggressive hard limiter. Please apply some proper compression instead. It'll make everything sound that much better.

I actually think the bass solo is fine, given its length; the bass is rich and has a lot of harmonics in the mid frequencies that help it stand alone, for a little while.

There's a lot of room for improvement here, for sure. I wouldn't mind seeing this get sent back for some tweaks. But I also wouldn't mind posting it as-is.


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  • MindWanderer changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (1Y/1?) Ristar "Ice Star"

Aw the bells in the beginning are nice. 

I'm generally of the opinion that if I can't hear it, I don't care about it. If I heard some funky stuff in this, and then looked at the waveform, I could diagnose it, but I don't generally watch the wavforms of my spotify tracks. I don't hear anything in this that makes me go HOLY BRICKWALL at all, so I wouldn't even bother looking at the wav. 

I like the pacing of this track, I like the mixing, the bells sound full and evoke a nice playful character that matches the original. It has plenty of source and plenty of interpretation. Belongs on the site, to me. 


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  • XPRTNovice changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (2Y/1?) Ristar "Ice Star"

^ the original vote. i said the drums were rough and the arrangement was lacking.

starts with some church bells, and then gets a nice groove pretty soon after in the drums and bass. the melodic material comes in at 0:18 and it's pretty much just the lead bells, bass, and drums. after a bit i could hear some pad work, but it's still pretty minimal in the soundscape. after once through the melodic material, there's a very sudden transition with a live bass playing the melodic material at 0:54 as a solo essentially.

this drops out and goes back to the bells in a slow build with some choir elements. this is a nice section and way more edible than the earlier parts. drums come back in at 1:54 - and there's a descending line played by church bells (i just can't get over how the overtones sound when you do melodic lines with them...this is intrinsic to the carillon and not off-pitch, but i agree it always sounds wrong), and this switches over to the original bell tone for an outro.

i find the instrumental choices to be not particularly cohesive and unifying, and the sudden shifts in style were a little surprising. i agree this has changed a long since the original that we heard and it's certainly better than it was. i think this is probably over the bar, but man, it's close. the earlier section sounds pretty simple. the second half brings it up.




edit 12/20: I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one yesterday. i think i'm changing my vote. I actually feel like darksim in that i can't point to a specific issue that is egregious, but when i compare this to the other winter track i judged yesterday (VQ's) the craft of that track, and the depth of composition, is just so much farther along. this is simple to a fault - simple is hard to do, and while there's some moments this is great, the entire first half is just a bell lead and a bass. this isn't Death on the Snowfield simple with the careful soundscape work and beautifully performed guitar, and that's what it'd have to be to pass. "no major mistakes" isn't good enough.


Edited by prophetik music
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  • prophetik music changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (3Y/1?) Ristar "Ice Star"
On 12/19/2023 at 8:30 AM, prophetik music said:

i find the instrumental choices to be not particularly cohesive and unifying, and the sudden shifts in style were a little surprising.

IMO, you made the case on why this doesn't pass.

Strong bell intro, which makes you think the production will be better than it ultimately turns out to be. Drums at :18 and :36 are still bland, mainly because of the snare line at the core of it, even though there's good cymbal activity. The bassline writing until :54 doesn't work in some places (e.g. :32-:36), but it's quiet enough where it's not a huge deal. Yikes at how empty this sounded from :54-1:13. The padding dropping out by 1:00 and exposing the dryness of the clap groove was needlessly sloppy. I get that it's a point of dynamic contrast; I believe another subtle part/pad could help that not feel like such a noticeable quality disparity.

Better fade-in padding transition into the next section at 1:14, but the way these sections change up feels too disjointed to me. Vox sounded pretty fakey, but it's wet enough to not be a huge sticking point and gets the job done. Overall nice stuff though leading into the big bells returning at 1:53, which was a fuller presentation. The belltone-like lead at 2:11 had a nice sound, yet its timing is slightly but noticeably off, so it doesn't quite flow. There's the bassline back again noodling around and quietly sounding off on occassion until 2:29, and the snares until 2:39 were plain and plodding again.

The arrangement is creative and the second half's execution is better in terms of overall fullness, Troy, and this may pass as is, but there were still lots of smaller textural details and awkward transitions that added up to prevent this from feeling cohesive enough, IMO, even though this is well in the right direction and a meaningfully marked improvement.

NO (resubmit)

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  • Chimpazilla changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (3Y/2N) Ristar "Ice Star"

I've listened to this one a good few times now, and although it does have a simplistic quality to it, I can't find anything egregious that would cause me to reject it.

The bell sound in the beginning is decent quality, then just as the overtones are getting dissonant, it drops out, which was a good decision. The bass is nice and soft, and the new bell sound is sweeter, if a little loud with some of the resonant frequencies. There's a light lofi-filtering on the reverb if I'm not mistaken, and it gives it a nice little crackly texture in the background.

The bass solo is alright, but the sparseness of this part is pretty weak. I'd have liked a little more sizzle in the hats for the groove here, to really sell it. It's alright, but there's definitely room for improvement there. Speaking of the hi-hats as well, I don't think I can hear an open-hat to closed-hat transition in the whole piece. You use open hat cymbal samples, but they're not linked to the closed hat so the kit doesn't sound believable as a single unit. Having the closed-hat sample silence your open-hat sample should be easy to do in your sampler, so look into that in future. It can make your grooves sound so much better as well.

After the bass solo, there are some more nice-sounding bells, but is it me, or do they come in a fraction early? On repeat listens, I think it's a trick of the delay on the descending bells preceding them, but listen to the first hits at 1:18 and 1:26. I think I'm going mad...

Anyway, we get some more of the bells from the intro and then another go around, before a soothing pad enters at 2:30 for a warming final chorus. Classic jingle bells in the outro fadeout. Would have been nice to hear some more fleshing out of the ideas, but the bare bones of this one are solid.


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  • prophetik music changed the title to 2023/12/17 - (3Y/3N) Ristar "Ice Star"
  • 4 weeks later...

I think this would have made it through to the front page a long yesteryear ago as-is. It's fairly cleanly done, the source is clearly there, the groove makes my head do that head-nodding thing, and there's nothing egregious about it that hurts it. 

It's the sum total of all the little issues -- the very sparse part writing can work in the right context, but in this one, it sounds like it needs more call and response, ESPECIALLY in that bass solo section. The timing of some things are a liiiiiiiiiittle bit off, almost like you played it in by hand, quantized, and then didn't check the quantize job all the way throughout. The sounds themselves could just use a teeny bit more oomf to them, and then little details like DarkSim mentioned about your hi-hats could help too. 

To make this one pass, I'd personally want to hear a few more tasteful parts added in -- some call and response, something to make it a musical conversation throughout instead of each instrument just standing up and saying their piece and then sitting down.  

I know it's discouraging to be rejected twice on the same song, but please don't give up! Whether it's this song you resubmit again, or just another arrangement that takes this feedback and incorporates it during the actual building process, I think you're really on the right track here.

NO (resub)

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  • Liontamer changed the title to 2023/12/17 - Ristar "Ice Star"

I had never heard the original sub, so I must go by ear for this one.

We got evident source use, with some lovely transformations like the choice to bring in the B section's bass (albeit offset by two measures) over the A-section at 0:18, sprinkling in bits of the C-section at 1:24 and 1:33 during the re-build, the double-time at 2:07, the call-and-response between the original writing and source section in that entire section that starts at 2:11, and the shift to a minor key at 2:29. Interpretation-wise, you understand how to personalize a track, and I can see the cases for the Yes camp liking this one based on the general idea and presentation.

However, I have some qualms with its presentation. As mentioned by my fellow Js, the textures are very bare-bones and rarely ever have anything more than bass, melody, and percussion happening simultaneously.   Other parts like pads, arpeggios, and keys can go a long way and add more density to this. You do have instruments like your bells that have enough layers to function as three at once, and you substituted the percussion aspect at 1:17 for a pad underneath - but they further expose the gaps in the soundscape. See if you can add some other subtle textures underneath to thicken things.

Even if you do that, there is still the problem of mixing everything. As things stand, the bells are way too loud, even with the brick wall master in consideration. The kick drum is barely audible and could fare better with some EQ shaping on the bass to make it stand out. Additionally, the only multi-layer instrument you've got are those bells, as mentioned earlier, meaning your dry/exposed parts of the percussion kit need some textural tweaks if they are to be more upfront.

I appreciate the creative direction behind the mix, Troy, but the sparseness and your mixdown are two significant issues that I'm afraid I can't shake off. This track needs some further TLC with additional instrumentation and a thorough mixdown, and I'm glad you've spoken to Hemophiliac as an extra pair of ears to help you out. I hope you get back to this one soon.

NO (resubmit)

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  • Rexy changed the title to *NO* Ristar "Ice Star"
  • Liontamer changed the title to 2023/12/17 - Ristar "Ice Star"
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I've been coming back to this one many times and struggling to reach a verdict. There's a lot of things I do like about - the adaptation of the source material, the overall "vibe" of the track, and the arrangement itself, at their core, are really enjoyable. You did a great job making this into your own on the arrangement level. The tubular bells are a great touch. I can see how this won some judges over on that merit alone.

I can't point to a singular issue that sinks this, but at the end of the day, I ultimately feel like the sound design and mixing lets this down. Many of the sounds used are so simplistic in tone, and the balance issues with the mix serves to accentuate these deficiencies rather than mask them.

There's a lot of potential for a really groovy rhythmic cadence, but with the bass and drums being mixed so far in the background, it never feels like it locks into a groove I can really feel. The picked bass sample at :54 has a lot of potential, but it just draws attention to the fact that the bass in the rest of the track feels phoned in and doesn't have nearly the same amount of character. The rhythmic elements feel detached from the melodic ones rather than working together.

The lead bell tone is very plain sounding, so coupled with the fact that they are sequenced pretty rigidly and frequently play long uninterrupted stretches of melody without anything else going on to pad it out, you draw further attention to an aspect of the track that is fundamentally not very strong.

I think Rexy's suggestion about other pads/arps/keys is also one to explore. It's a lot easier to get away with using stock-sounding samples when your instrumentation is fully fleshed out. But I also think that finding ways to add more interest to your part writing, especially the lead melody, would go a long way. Here's just a few ideas that come to mind, none of which are "must-haves" but just different approaches you could explore:

  • Listen to your drum groove and explore ways to get them to work together rather than just coexisting in the same space but never really talking to one another.
  • Be more intentional with your velocities on a micro scale - first look at the groove you want with your beat and accentuate the on-beats and off-beats, then you can subtly track your bass and melodies to that rhythm so that there's more of a cohesive pulse to the track.
  • Change up the lead sound occasionally with some call-and-response action with other instruments - Flexstyle said it best about music being a conversation rather than one instrument standing up and speaking their peace uninterrupted, and I will second this suggestion wholeheartedly.
  • Selectively layer in additional belltones/keyboards during certain sections of the song. Try to put yourself in the headspace of a pop song and visualize your arrangement from a verse/chorus perspective, where you want the verse to be more subdued and the chorus to hit a little harder. Punching up certain sounds and adding or removing layers with intention can help signal to the listener where they are in the arrangement.
  • Get a little wilder with your delay - for example, using dotted delay patterns or a stronger ping-pong effect, or automating your feedback amount toward the end of melodic phrases, for example, is a great way to add some spice to your melody lines. Just because it's a sequenced melody line doesn't mean it has to be stagnant, there's a LOT you can do with processing even the simplest of synth sounds. This same philosophy can apply to nearly any creative effect.

This is one of those tough votes where no singular issue is bad enough to drag the arrangement below the bar, but there's also nothing especially captivating that pulls it up over the bar, either. I think my final verdict is that this concept absolutely has potential, but it requires more boldness, ideas, and, perhaps most importantly, intention with what it's trying to do. I do hope we see this again and I'm wholly confident you can bring this up to par, Troy :)

NO (resubmit)

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  • Liontamer changed the title to *NO* Ristar "Ice Star" *RESUB*
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