The best electronic pop song for a decade.. “Fireflies”, Owl City

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment
I completely stopped in my tracks the first time I heard “Fireflies”. Here was something immediately different and new, and at the same time brought me back to the electronic music of the 80’s – especially things like the Howard Jones-esque syncopated hand claps re “What is Love?”.

Gosh even the lyrics were new… simple, cute. From Facebook, “If your household appliances wrote love songs while you were away on vacation, their cheerful blips and bleeps would pour out the windows, sweep through the neighborhood like candy-coated tidal waves, and you would return home to find crowds of people standing on your lawn, clapping and singing along to the happiest pop melodies imaginable. Welcome to Owl City.”

Not sure if this is a Pro Tools track (certainly sounds like it due to all the automation going on, my guess would be Pro Tools or Logic), but each sound, each nuance is immaculately and deliberately placed – it’s what I’d call a “by design” track. Even the ADSR envelopes are edited and fine tuned on the instrument tracks  – nice (tip:listen to the sustain on the piano sounds). Hat’s off. Definitely testimony to Adam’s admission of sleepless nights in his basement on his MySpace page.

I love the bold but appropriate use of Auto-Tune (assuming that’s the plug-in of choice) on the vocals (especially the octaving and doubling), although I’d love to hear Adam’s real voice (in this case though Matt Thiessen is featured as a guest artist on this track) just once on a B-side album track.

Overall, now we’re well into the new millennium, kudos to electronic music and kudos to you Adam Young for bringing this neglected genre to a whole new generation – you are most deserving of “Fireflies” placement on the current Top 40 charts and all the success that it brings.

Categories: Music

Pro Tools 8 on Windows Vista… finally up and running.

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

People have been asking me why I’m still running Windows Vista and not Windows 7 at home. Believe that I can’t wait to get on Windows 7, but for the moment the software that is my “air to breathe”, Digidesign’s Pro Tools currently isn’t certified for Windows 7 – although Digidesign are certainly working on it.

Operating systems aside, that hasn’t stopped me from doing a major Pro Tools hardware and software upgrade to Version 8.0.1.. and, my goodness, is it a major upgrade. Firstly, welcome MIDI! After all these years, MIDI finally makes it as a first class citizen in Pro Tools. That’s an important factor, even though I’m mostly doing production mixes of audio, because so many “embellishments” can be added and edited via MIDI before converting them over to audio or instrument tracks (percussion and loops are two good examples). The User Interface has been enhanced, and I’m getting quite good performance (very low CPU utilization) even though I’m running native, so I’m looking forward to pushing a big session through it to see how much plug-ins and tracks I can run simultaneously, but I don’t realistically expect the same output as a system like Sonar from Cakewalk which was designed to run native from the ground up.

I know a lot of you are curious about the gear (it’s also a top question), so here’s the current list with embedded links and mandatory accompanying photos:-

Darien's ProTools 8 Studio on Windows Vista

  • Pro Tools 8.0.1 with Complete Production Toolkit – the production toolkit has got a serious array of heavy duty plug-ins, not to mention the track expansion capability.
  • 003 Factory – really nice control surface, allows me to do flying fader automation and automation of parameters, plus a cool Firewire-based MIDI interface for the rest of my studio.
  • Mackie 1642-VLZ3 Mixing Console – I run all my modules, computer, output from Pro Tools and microphones through this console. It gives me solid sounding pre-amps and EQ before going digital into the 003 and Pro Tools. Great sounding console.
  • Mackie HR824mk2 8” High Resolution Studio Monitors – lovely they are! :-) Flat, transparent, loud… and all the way down to about 38Hz or so. I’ve got them mounted and acoustically isolated on stands (with decouplers) so all that energy pushing strait into the room. Nice.

Darien's Synths and Modules

  • Shure SM58 – for recording miscellaneous percussion etc..
  • Roland A-90 Expandable Controller – this is my main keyboard for MIDI entry
  • Yamaha V50 – Classic. I also use this as a MIDI controller when I want a lighter feel.
  • Roland JV-1080 sound module with Orchestral Expansion – nice module, powerful for it’s time, although the sounds sound dated. Still a good general purpose sound module.
  • Custom built computer (would you expect anything different?) – CM Stacker 830 NVIDIA Edition Case, Intel Core Duo (soon to be quad) 3.0GHz, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX (also soon for an upgrade), 2 x Dell 2407WPF 24” LCD Monitors (wall mounted, tilted slightly inwards), around 1TB of usable RAID 0+1 storage, Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution (great response – no issues with drop outs so far). Oh and I forgot to add the most important piece – all hardware and drivers are on the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List for Windows Vista: you can get to it from

So if you’re interested in in getting a mix or a re-mix done and you’ve already recorded your audio and got it in digital form, drop me an email.

Categories: Professional Audio

A quote from Albert Einstein

April 29, 2009 1 comment

I was looking for more detail on what Einstein had referred to when he was talking about the “Mind of God” and I came across the following quote, that I like very much. He was asked, “Do you believe in God?”

"I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws." (Einstein)

If you have any references on the “Mind of God” and Einstein’s quest for a Unified Field Theory, do drop me a comment.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Perfect Pop Song… “Getting Away With It”, Electronic

January 24, 2009 Leave a comment

“Getting Away with It” coverYou’ll hear me go on about great pop songs from time to time, but here’s my nomination for the perfect pop song of all time.

Getting Away With It”, Electronic, 1989

From Wikipedia, “"Getting Away with It" was the first single by the English band Electronic, which comprised Bernard Sumner of New Order, ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and guesting vocalist Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys.

Musically, Bernard Sumner wrote the verse and Johnny Marr wrote the chorus. The lyrics, co-written by Tennant with Sumner, are a parody of Marr’s Smiths partner Morrissey, and his public stereotyping as morose and masochistic (Pet Shop Boys would further satirise this trend on their 1990 song "Miserablism").

The fluid, rich production incorporates a full orchestra (conducted by Art of Noise’s Anne Dudley) and a rare guitar solo by Marr, while the three remixes that appeared on the two UK 12-inch releases take in disparate musical styles like disco and acid house.” (

What can I say – the pop gods aligned for this one – Bernard Sumner, Jonny Marr and Neil Tennant, with just beautiful, beautiful strings by none other than Art of Noise’s Anne Dudley. And even more so, a parody about the stage personality of Morrissey – how rich can such a deceptively simple and melodic pop song be? Amazing.

I can hear you saying now, “yeah, yeah, yeah, but what does it sound like? I wanna hear it for myself”. Here’s the link, my friends, from iLike :-

The video doesn’t match the glory of the song, so don’t get distracted by that. This is one of my favourite versions – the full 7 minutes where you can hear the rich glory of the orchestral strings woven through the sweet electronic pop. Enjoy everyone – the perfect pop song. Let me know what you think…

Categories: Music

Renelle’s first time running on a grass field… a typical ‘big city’ post.

January 1, 2009 Leave a comment

At church last Sunday Renelle was particularly restless, and, as the traditional duty of the fathers on this sacred weekly Sunday, I carried Renelle away from the main sitting area and onto the nearby field. What a wonderful experience it turned out to be! Being in a huge city like Kuala Lumpur, it was her first time on grass and her first time where she could start to contemplate going faster than her already solid walk – it was only for a minute, as church has already concluded, but nonetheless we made the point there and then to repeat the experience – and this evening was the evening.

We headed over to AmCorp Mall to get a cheap digital photo frame (let me know if you have any recommendations by the way), and instead we came across Padang Timur, just opposite AmCorp Mall and near the Taman Jaya LRT Station. Winner! Park the car, take her out of the car seat, find a place in the middle of the field… release child! Photo moments ensued….


Above: "Get ready…. Go, go, go!"…. "I’m gonna catch you!…"


Above: Thinking: What’s this Daddy?… "Green!"…. Daddy, "Yes, green grass!".

Categories: Uncategorized

The Food Journey with Renelle continues… (plus other updates)

December 28, 2008 Leave a comment

So it’s probably a given that Renelle’s first public food outing would be fast food (see below) given I like it so much. The reality was though that neither my wife or I had had the chance to go out for ‘normal’ (read Asian) food in well over a year. Craving for Chinese seafood, we took the plunge at South Pacific in Petaling Jaya – definitely a past and continuing favourite. Here’s the successful photo outcome (we shouldn’t have worried so much because she really enjoyed herself, even though we couldn’t hang around too long):-

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Above: Renelle getting settled in. Quite excited with the kitchen in the background and with the cars in the car park, "Car, car!".

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Above: The excitement continues with her new surroundings …, "out!".

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Above: Figuring out the high-chair. Oh yes, South Pacific have them. Nice. :-)

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Above: Finally, food time! Eating all by herself – good job! We were really very proud of her. The favourites? ‘Green!‘ or Baby Kai-lan, ‘Egg!‘ or Omlette with Lap cheong and, to my wife’s horror, frog’s legs in ginger and garlic, "Yum, yum!".

Obligatory Christmas Day updates…..

With Christmas just passed there were a number of activities over the holiday season that we captured on digital film, but let’s start with one of the highlights for any child – unwrapping her presents (oh and a quick ‘thank you’ to all that gave gifts).

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Above: The presents under the tree and starting to figure out what ‘open!‘ or unwrapping is for the first time.

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Above: The unwrapping continues….

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Above: The presents all unwrapped in a mess of wrapping paper and excitement.

Merry Christmas to all!

Categories: Uncategorized

First Fast Food (well actually, first time eating out) just like a ‘big girl’.

October 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Had just amazing day Saturday at Mid-Valley yesterday. Here’s Renelle in the car, all excited to go out.


Firstly, we got there early before the crowd, a bit too early, so we headed over to McDonalds which was open for breakfast. First up, McDonalds has baby chairs…. cool. Second up, Renelle was happy chilling in the chair, after being a little curious in the change in mechanics from her chair at home.

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The best bit was, she was more than happy in sharing my McEgg with me – nothing like a few tidbits of ham coated in cheese for a snack in the morning… yummy.


Then we played our usual game together where I fold something and give it to her to unfold, then she gives it back again… repeat until bored. Here’s a video at the end of the game with the McDonalds serviette looking a bit bedraggled.

Really enjoyable morning – makes me want to take her out every chance I get.

Categories: Uncategorized

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