Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by jb »

Wow so that challenge was bunk after all. Jeez you guys we coulda done a god damn pop song
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by furrypedro »

jb wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:33 pm
Wow so that challenge was bunk after all. Jeez you guys we coulda done a god damn pop song
You certainly could have done. The challenge made no restrictions regarding style. But if you'd done a pop song then we probably would have been deprived of your cuica action!


Time for some reviews, but I would like to say that I know every single judge including me had a super hard time ranking these since they were all great tracks and all approached the challenge in cool and differing ways. One of the most troubling parts of Nur Ein is when you have to rank a song that you really like last, but arguably Round 6 is the hardest round in terms of the percentile you have to achieve to pass. I think everyone, especially those who got knocked out, should feel very proud of their efforts. Bravo for making a great round!


Alleviators: Cool concept, and the doom-laden strings lend a dystopian mood to proceedings. You've managed the feat here of making something that sounds well outside your usual ouvre, and yet maintains your distinctive aesthetic with the melancholic and plaintive vocal melodies. I appreciate the use of effects to give different timbres on the various vocal tracks, although it felt a bit like the vocals were a tad pitchy in places. I don't know if this was as a result of the effects, but also I am the worst person to verify that so I could be completely wrong. The choral hook has a great synthwave vibe about it. On the first couple of listens it felt a bit dynamically flat, but I notice there are some variations in the arrangement and structure as the song progresses, which are just about enough to keep things sonically interesting throughout.

Elks of the Economy: Haha nice. I'm not exactly sure what genre this sits in (lounge jazz, samba?) but as I've recently become a bit of a bossa nova fan it does raise a smile, especially the (albeit sparse) inclusion of the cuica, which is surely one of the greatest instruments ever created. The instrumentation generally is pretty great, in particular the various percussive elements. One thing that's prevented me thus far from dipping my toe into attempting this style is I have no idea what chords are appropriate to use. I imagine it's mostly major 7ths, but whoever's in charge of piano here seems to have a pretty commanding grasp of the style. Indeed everything seems to fit together so well it sounds like you've all been doing this for years.

Moss Palace: Every time I listen to this I hear something new in the mix that I hadn't noticed before and I do particularly like it when that happens. This feels like it inhabits the ethereal world of late-90s Björk; both dreamy and a bit creepy at the same time. The shift into the second section evokes some kind of dark wilderness which I think would fit in well on a Final Fantasy soundtrack. The vocals are fantastic, as ever, and the use of autotune adds to the otherworldly quality which permeates the track. Regarding the instrumentation, I'm never quite sure exactly what it is that I'm hearing which makes this quite an exciting listen.

Stacking Theory: This is the first song I heard that I thought might have broken the rules with your use of drums. I haven't compared the sound set to your previous tracks, but you've definitely used drums before (I just read your notes, electronic drums. Okay, you get an eyebrow raise instead of a fail). That being said, I do like the beat so I could overlook it if I'm feeling lenient. The rest of the arrangement sounds totally fresh so as far as the melodic instruments go you're safe. I like the vocal layered with the synths to provide main chord/riff base, and the overall atmosphere is suitably summery; I can imagine your lounging on your front lawn with this playing. I like the vocals in the verse, particularly the meter of the lines, although there are some bits when it feels like your stretching your voice beyond what it's comfortable with. I also appreciate the double-time switch in the chorus, but there it feels like the hook lacks the punch I want it to have. (Also, re: your liner notes, I like your cromulent use of wordage.)

Vom Vorton: When I first heard this I thought it sounded like an S Club 7 song. But maybe a kinder comparison would be The Divine Comedy at their most jaunty (which, let's be honest, is pretty fucking jaunty). You weren't to know this but I do have a bias against this kind of swing beat on the hi-hat, and I think this the main source of any negative sentiment I have about this song, as everything else pretty nice. Good to hear your busting out your piano chops, and all the brass and flutes, etc. lend a Beatles-esque vibe. I was wondering if you were singing about an actual robot or not, now I realise not. I'm not sure if the robot epithet feels appropriate in this context. In any case, this is bursting with energy so there is an infectious sense of fun about it.



Rattlebox: Don't tell anybody, but this is probably my favourite song in this fight. It's just full of energy and huge hooks. It's so hard not yell "weekeeeeeeend" in the office as I listen. Nice dynamic shifts to keep the momentum going, and cool synth wibbling. Now go back and do it all again with dulcimers and tibetan nose flutes.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by mo »

Be happy to talk chords in this style sometime, but check out the chart for Girl from Ipanema sometime, that’s pretty much The Godfather of this, even though we only used the typical m6 once, the other things really are just versions of that for most of the verses
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by furrypedro »

mo wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:56 pm
Be happy to talk chords in this style sometime, but check out the chart for Girl from Ipanema sometime, that’s pretty much The Godfather of this, even though we only used the typical m6 once, the other things really are just versions of that for most of the verses
Cool, I'll have to check that out, thanks. I think if I ever did try it out I might need to go on a little percussion shopping spree first!
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by gizo »

I'm just going to say again that I really dug Elks this week, it sounded like it was lifted from our preferred gardening radio show - Ports of Paradise
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by grumpymike »

I thought everyone met the challenge head on. Some were a little more inspired and some were a little more to my taste. I know everyone tried hard and there are 5 judges with equally distinct and valid opinions. Such is the Ein.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by mo »

gizo wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 6:09 pm
I'm just going to say again that I really dug Elks this week, it sounded like it was lifted from our preferred gardening radio show - Ports of Paradise
I think it’s more like that little indie lizard lounge, the song they play when they want you to order more drinks
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by mo »

Anyway see you guys in that lizard lounge, martinis on the Elks
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by Future Boy »

gizo wrote:
Tue Jul 05, 2022 7:07 pm
Elks: You get 'On Horseback' by Mike Oldfield. It's complicated how we ended up there, but congratulations. Also you can have some Arthur Lyman too, to keep the mood going.

Also we all know this is really about the Iron Giant, which is how it should be.

Thank you so much for these, they are delightful.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by crumpart »

So I just read Giz's liner notes, and the "PIFsynth_bip" is this PIF synth patch that I added to beef up the chorus a bit (bounced in place, aka "bip" so that Giz wouldn't have to download a bunch of stuff).

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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by vowlvom »

Woo! Congrats Gizo, see you in the final!

I know I've already gushed about the challenge, but I just want to say thanks for that again. I think sometimes it's hard to realise how much you're stuck in a rut until something forces you out of it. Hoping I can carry some of the joy and fun I felt working on this song into the next round, and maybe even past the end of Nur Ein? We shall see.

Quick confession on my song: I had the feeling while working on it that there was something familiar about the piano part, and I thought it was probably reminiscent of a Belle & Sebastian song so I went through their discography and decided I was thinking of 'The Boy With the Arab Strap' which has a similar bounce / keyboard part, but was different enough not to worry about. However, SECONDS after the songs were posted I received a message from The Lowest Bitter informing me that I had accidentally ripped off 'Loan Your Loneliness' by Gruff Rhys. Apologies for this accidental plagiarism! Luckily it's only the intro / verse keys, the vocal melody is totally different, as are the other parts of the song, but the similarity in that section is pretty ridiculous and I'll definitely be reworking this song post-contest as a result - hoping I can fix it without ruining it, because I love this and it's totally different from anything I've done before, which is exciting to me.

Anyway, some reviews!

Stacking Theory - this is so much fun, and such a fascinating, detailed sonic palette that sounds distinctly like you while pushing in a bunch of interesting new directions. Love the slow pre-chorus that really lets the chorus pack a punch when it kicks in, and the layered vocoder harmonies. My favourite bits are the little da-da-doo-doo keyboard / sample bits in the verse though. Fun lyric too, I have MAJOR nostalgia for running around under a sprinkler in the hot summer, now I'm going to retcon those memories to feature considerably more robot.

Moss Palace - this is super lush, maybe my favourite of your songs this Nur Ein. The tuned harmonies work really well against the flutes and choirs, and the glock is a perfectly twinkly addition. Lyrics took me a while to figure out, but they're very clever - great take on the title.

Elks of the Economy - so smooth, the performances and production here are superb. Love the lyrics as written, although hearing them over smooth jazzy pop is an unusual experience, not necessarily good or bad, just something that makes my brain itch a little bit. Mostly the toes-in-the-sand verse. This isn't a genre I'm particularly familiar with but I really enjoyed the relaxed vibe and melancholy undercurrent.

The Alleviators - somewhat echoing Mo here, but it's very cool how this feels like part of a concept album, but slightly frustrating that it doesn't feel like the breakout hit from a concept album. It's nicely moody and atmospheric but the other songs have more compelling hooks that stuck in my head a little more. I'd be totally on board to hear more of the story though, if you ever felt compelled to write it! Otherwise, well produced and performed, no real complaints other than the other songs grabbed me a little more.

Grumpy Mike - I'm amused by the idea of attempting this challenge for your first song of the contest. The chaotic samply / synthy / orchestral riffs are really fun and then the chorus sounds more like classic Grumpy Mike with the fuzz and vocal intensity, I'm glad you managed to get a shadow in and it sounds like you also had fun with it!

Rattlebox - this rules! Love the synths and the cleaner guitars sound just as great as your fuzzy ones, nice new wavey vibe to this in addition to the killer powerpop hooks. You're so good at stuffing catchy bits into your songs and the vocals are nostalgic and slightly mysterious. Hope you'll be in for a final round shadow too, really enjoying your stuff.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by mo »

Future Boy wrote:
Thu Jul 07, 2022 12:09 am
gizo wrote:
Tue Jul 05, 2022 7:07 pm
Elks: You get 'On Horseback' by Mike Oldfield. It's complicated how we ended up there, but congratulations.
Thank you so much for these, they are delightful.
Ironically I just picked up a vinyl of Tubular Bells at a yard sale the other month hahaha
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by ken »

mo wrote:
Thu Jul 07, 2022 9:33 am
Ironically I just picked up a vinyl of Tubular Bells at a yard sale the other month hahaha
Aw, that song was on a mix tape someone made me a long time ago. A long time...
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by DuToVa »

Grumpy Mike and Rattlebox... glad you submitted the shadow songs. Really put the icing on the cake for this round!
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by gizo »

ken wrote:
Thu Jul 07, 2022 10:58 am
mo wrote:
Thu Jul 07, 2022 9:33 am
Ironically I just picked up a vinyl of Tubular Bells at a yard sale the other month hahaha
Aw, that song was on a mix tape someone made me a long time ago. A long time...
I love Mike Oldfield - my dad is a huge fan too, so I grew up listening to Tubular Bells and Ommadawn and Amarok and so on.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by Lunkhead »

Evermind wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:29 pm
Elks of the Economy
... The timing gets a tiny bit loose in the percussion past the three minute mark, but only slightly.

Moss Palace
... Timing on the percussion feels a bit late in the last chorus.
I'm not sure what you're hearing. I did the percussion for the MP song (obvs) and I also did a lot of the percussion for the Elks song. For Elks, I used MIDI loops, so they shouldn't be any more or less on the beat later in the song than earlier, unless Future Boy (who mixed the song) had a different tempo in his project in his DAW than I did. I'm nearly certain that was not the case. Similarly the MP percussion was a mix of MIDI and also audio loops which I copy/pasted throughout with "align to grid" etc. turned on, so they should all be on/off the beat by the amount throughout the whole song.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by Evermind »

Lunkhead wrote:
Sat Jul 09, 2022 3:30 pm
Evermind wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:29 pm
Elks of the Economy
... The timing gets a tiny bit loose in the percussion past the three minute mark, but only slightly.

Moss Palace
... Timing on the percussion feels a bit late in the last chorus.
I'm not sure what you're hearing. I did the percussion for the MP song (obvs) and I also did a lot of the percussion for the Elks song. For Elks, I used MIDI loops, so they shouldn't be any more or less on the beat later in the song than earlier, unless Future Boy (who mixed the song) had a different tempo in his project in his DAW than I did. I'm nearly certain that was not the case. Similarly the MP percussion was a mix of MIDI and also audio loops which I copy/pasted throughout with "align to grid" etc. turned on, so they should all be on/off the beat by the amount throughout the whole song.
It may have been that the other elements were off, not the percussion. If everything is in the same groove but off the grid and the percussion is exactly on grid, it will sound like the percussion is off, even if you just had repeating loops or MIDI. I don't have that kind of visibility. Listening to the Moss Palace entry again, it sounds just slightly early to me now, but still not quite on time. I'm not sure it will make you feel any better, but I voted the Elks song in the top two, and the Moss Palace song as the third spot. What kept me from rating the Moss Palace song higher was not the small timing issue mentioned in the reviews.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by sailingmagpie »

Wowzers and I thought the last round was tough to rank!

I've gotta say, absolutely everyone nailed the challenge and it's a real shame that only two could go through as I think any of you would've been worthy finalists.

Vom Vorton
I saw your admission of accidental Gruff Rhys plagiarism but what this really reminded me of was the theme to 80s afternoon quiz show Going for Gold, a reference that very few people reading this will get, I imagine (Fun fact, that theme was written by future Hollywood ubercomposer Hans Zimmer!). It's really paid dividends that you've dived all in and grabbed the challenge by the horns. Speaking of horns, the 80s Casio brass is great on this though I do kinda agree with Furrypedro on the hihats. Plus points for going all Jarvis Cocker, spoken word halfway through.

Stacking Theory
On my first listen, I made a note saying, "Is this about some kind of robot hose?" I wasn't too far away! I love the almost hip hop feel to the groove and the flow in the verses. This is a real head nodder that shifts gear to a banger for the chorus and the lyrics feel really personal (even if they aren't!). "Fail the Turing test..." is one example of the good wordplay throughout the lyric and that noise going back from the chorus into the verse is like a sorbet to cleanse the palette. This track really climbed my rankings the more I listened to it.

Moss Palace
Lovely icy vocal sound! It sits really well with the Twin Peaks vibe you're going for and the production is spot on, though the very start of the first syllable of "Hear an echo..." sounds like it's cut off slightly. The little run up before the last chorus might be my favourite moment in the whole round and the switch to minor for the chorus works really well. However, it does feel like this is slightly too long. It could maybe do with some sort of middle 8 to mix things up. Lyrically, this is comfortably the cleverest approach to the challenge.

Elks of the Economy
Definitely getting the Steely Dan vibes shining through here. The genre specific instrumentation is cool and has a real Space Age swinging bachelor pad exotica feel to it. Plus you've got the best use of the word "lubricate" that I think I've ever heard in a song. There are a couple of awkward bits in the lyrics, "...like a bro," for example but that's made up for by having ALL the chords going on.

The Alleviators
The Westworld-y concept is great but I feel like the story is a bit underdeveloped. You've got a good beginning and middle but you're really lacking an ending. I agree with others when they say this is a great start to a concept album though. The synth bass/strings combo works very well and I like the lyric but there are a couple of lines that stick out and could do with a rewrite imo eg "...don't mind the dark," or "...quite reasonable," which feels a little unnatural to my ear. Another cool track from you though. I hope you'll continue working together post-Nur Ein.

Rattlebox
I'm loving the analog synths (especially the solo) and the plentiful catchy melodies. The subtle arpeggio in the background is excellent. This feels like it could be a lost 70s rock anthem. I really wish you'd been in the competition, as this is yet another enjoyable ditty from you. Also, good to hear the return of your collaborators at the start!

Grumpy Mike
I'm totally onboard with how absolutely wonky this is! The robo-vocals are cool and this totally sounds like it was recorded by the house band at The Alleviators' robot theme park. The mix of the heavy guitar and electronics on the "fire" sections reminds me of Des Rocs.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by BenKrieger »

sailingmagpie wrote:
Sun Jul 10, 2022 4:32 pm
The subtle arpeggio in the background is excellent.
That's my Elektron Digitone. That FM synth has a beast of an arpeggiator!
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by grumpymike »

Vom - I saw you mentioned on discord reconfiguring this to avoid sounding like something else. i don’t think you sounded too much like that song - personally, I hear more Soft Cell and Muse here. That’s the sign of a good song - sounding familiar but nobody knowing exactly why. What you do need to do, if you’re dicing up this masterpiece- consider giving me the damn double chorus ending.
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Re: Nur Ein XVII: Round Six "Summer Robot"

Post by vowlvom »

grumpymike wrote:
Thu Jul 14, 2022 11:56 am
Vom - I saw you mentioned on discord reconfiguring this to avoid sounding like something else. i don’t think you sounded too much like that song - personally, I hear more Soft Cell and Muse here. That’s the sign of a good song - sounding familiar but nobody knowing exactly why. What you do need to do, if you’re dicing up this masterpiece- consider giving me the damn double chorus ending.
Haha, noted. I don't think I'll change it too much, just a tweak to the piano so it's not quite as obvious right at the start - once the other instruments come in I think it's fine. Will definitely consider a bonus chorus since you've been such an outspoken Summer Robot cheerleader!
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