In defense of Youtards

Before I get defensive, let me say that I'm a fan of Chris Randall's writing on his blog and am disappointed that he doesn't share as much of his opinions in recent months. I also use Audio Damage VSTs a lot and there are many unique sounds to be found within them.

Now for the defensive bit. A while back I was introduced to the term 'youtard' while reading his blog and immediately felt self-conscious. To be fair, he does use the term to refer to both Youtube as well as some of the amateur content on there. It is both the medium and the media.

The term felt like a personal slight and that's probably why I still think about it. I've uploaded countless videos of piddling quality. An early outtake from a recording gathered so many criticisms that I hid it for a while and ended up deleting the comments. In hindsight it was quite funny to see a drummer suggesting I was miming along to a drum machine but at the time it grated.

Anyway, I've come to realise that 'youtard' may actually be a fair description. While the noun 'retard' is usually used as an insult these days, the notion of something being 'retarded' as lacking development does still have a certain clinical ring to it. And 'retard' was a perfectly acceptable term in the past to describe various conditions that hinder an individual from reaching their potential.

In this way I feel that I am a 'youtard' as I generally use video as a way of demonstrating and, in doing so, am hindered by being both in front of the camera and behind it. When I studied television production we were encouraged to work in teams and it is often the result that the sum of a group effort exceeds individual contributions.

So I've come to realise that my work is always going to be retarded in a sense but I won't pretend that my music videos are attempting to compete with commercial content. They are, however, an opportunity for me to learn and improve and enjoy seeing a sense of development.

Rodaidh McDonald's friend on gear

"There's an electronic producer called Leila, who's a friend of mine, and she has wonderful insights into a lot of this stuff. She was talking about equipment and she was saying, 'You should never have too much equipment!', because any piece of gear you've got in your studio that you don't use is going to be putting you on a guilt trip, making you feel bad when you need to feel good when you're recording! You can end up thinking about the gear when you should be thinking about the music, when the gear's only really there to express it."

Naviarhaiku109 - The cool breeze

This haiku shared by Naviar Records this week reminded me of one I wrote late last year about the sound of the wind in cypress pines.

My track draws on my haiku but the theme is about pantheism and communing with nature. I quite like the line about growing lighter in the shade of a tree.

Inspiration for the song comes from Max Martin and Dr Luke, who have been responsible for a number of the biggest hits in pop music over the last decade. I read a beaut piece at Popbitch about their approach and took a few lessons from it, particularly the opening guitar riff.

The lyrics were written and recorded quickly. I don't consider myself a singer, so they're very much a 'trace' of an idea (to use the term from John Seabrook's book The Song Machine). I don't really consider myself a guitar player either but, anyway, it's a sketchy sketch too.

This track also uses the 3/4 bassline idea that I've been incorporating into various tracks for the last six months or so. And I had the idea that I should also include woodwind instruments, so I added a couple of MIDI clarinets from Ableton Live's sampled instruments.

Cypress pine
move with the wind
create a calm
deep within

In the quiet
empty space
a resonance
fills this place

From the branch
high in the tree
a sound like old tape
is calling me

In the cool shade
I close my eyes
feel a spirit
stir inside


Fall away
fall away
all my trouble
and some pain

Fall away
fall away
become distant
and I feel a change

I grow lighter
in the shade
of the tree
where I pray

Here I know
the divine
here I know
peace of mind

It’s my nature
in this space
far away
from the human race

They all

Fall away…

Disquiet Junto 0213 Complex Signatures

The Junto this week was another interesting challenge, this time posed by artist Charles Lindsay. Dunno if I can describe it, so have a look at the Disquiet page.

In some ways it's not surprising that I've taken the tracks and remixed them into a dubby feel. It's an approach I've taken with many other samples but here it also reflects the rhythms that the three audio recordings had in common.

The request to explore "notions of perceived techno-organic intelligence" lent itself to an IDM remix and then I started getting all cosmic thinking about cycles falling in and out of phase, as well as the idea of a pulse or heartbeat that's central to all things.

Yesterday I opened Lindsay's recordings in Ableton Live, applied gates to help identify useful transients and then made loops to create rhythms. The percussion mostly came from the hydrophone recordings, then the computer whir was used to create a bassline by pitching it down.

I got a nice dub-sorta track going at 120 BPM and then sped it up to 126 because it swung better there. Before long I was jamming along on my bass guitar and I recorded a part but found it seemed to define the track too much, so I took it out again.

This morning I listened back and thought it was done, then started uploading. Then I listened again and decided to cancel the upload, as I'd had an idea to make the rhythm more complex.

Opening Live again, I exported the track at 94.5 and 189 BPM before editing these with the version at 126. I like the result, especially the way the track seems to slow down then speed up as the kick parts fade in during the last third.

I called the track 'Signature' because, as mentioned, the remix approach is a bit of a stock response from me. Another signature is my use of a three-quarter-length rhythm, like the 3/4 alongside the 4/4. This was why I used tempos at 94.5 and 189 against the main one at 126 BPM.

Then at the end I reversed the opening so it can pull up to where it started to be looped.

Naviarhaiku108 - Midnight

The haiku from Naviar this week is written by Kyle TM, whose name I recognise from Soundcloud. It was surprising to me that it was about the night as it approaches dawn, as I had an early start at work this week and composed a haiku about that time too.

First a confession: My track was started ahead of seeing the haiku. After thinking I needed more drum tracks, I spent last Sunday recording a couple of rhythms. I picked the one I liked better and quickly sketched a couple of chords and a bassline. It's a bit wonky, so I might fine-tune it a bit yet.

Naviarhaiku107 - The sleet falls

Sleet isn't something I see much but I can think of those times when it looks like rain but it's cold enough for snow. Last time I saw this was in Armidale last year.

For this track I started at 117 BPM, a favourite. 4/4 sounded a bit dull, so I started experimenting with 3/4 but ended up reversing my recent formula. This has a 3/4 percussion track and a 4/4 bassline, I think.