Nobody Loves You Like Me

June 22nd, 2011

In the UK I did a song from the new record called “Nobody Loves You Like Me.” A few people have been asking about the technology – it looks like what’s happening is that I’m singing into a microphone and fiddling with my iPhone and something weird comes out. That’s an accurate technical description, but here’s a little more detail.

The microphone goes into my laptop through an audio interface. The laptop is running Ableton Live. I’ve got an audio track in there that’s listening to the mic input and running a plugin called The Mouth. That plugin does a lot of awesome things, but in this case it takes the audio and um. I don’t know exactly what it does. It sounds to me like it’s taking the audio input, and using some algorithm to retune the input to a single pitch at several different octaves, the relative volumes of those octaves being determined by the frequency content of the input. You know, robot voice. Kind of a vocoder I guess? But more juicy. I’ve listened to just the 100% wet effect, and it’s almost like it’s carving out space for whatever the input note is – it’s like you can hear the shadow of the melody as it shifts up and down the octaves.

Anyway, put that all in a box and say the effect is weirdifying the input and outputting a repitched copy of what I’m singing. That pitch is determined by midi messages. So I also have a midi track in Ableton Live. The iPhone is running an app called TouchOSC which is sending OSC data over wifi to an app on the laptop called Osculator, which is set up to translate certain OSC messages into midi note events, and then sending those events to the track in Ableton Live, which is then routed to the midi input of The Mouth on track 1. I’m playing a little onscreen keyboard, and that changes the note that The Mouth plays when I sing.

I am also texting three wives and two girlfriends at the same time!

Hope that explains it. It’s probably more than you wanted to know, huh?

29 Responses to “Nobody Loves You Like Me”

  1. Beka says:

    That’s actually really cool! :O I hope to see these crazy iPhone antics someday.

  2. It was a good effect. I guess it’s essentially an auto-harmoniser. Those things work really well but need a reference note in order to be able to generate harmonising, err, harmonies.

    Foot pedals exist that do a similar thing. You route the output from your guitar through the pedal and the harmoniser takes the reference tone from that. Science. It’s awesome.

    I’d choose Paul and Storm over a foot pedal any day though.

  3. Joel says:

    It’s like a robot Paul and Storm.

  4. SRDownie says:

    Thanks! I had guessed TouchOSC and an Antares plug in (EVO, EFX, ETC). I didn’t know about The Mouth.

    Hi wives and girlfriends!

  5. BigJim says:

    I Think I got it, but can I get a diagram depicting the flow here…

  6. MattB5 says:

    Wait, what? Music stuff, blah blah blah electronics, iPhone, yadda yadda. Three wives and two girlfriends?! How’s that pan out? ;)

  7. Natalie says:

    Oh man when you did this, everyone was totally silent. It was really haunting, the way everyone was just enthralled, and the vocal effects. Wonderfully done, sounds like it took a while to set up.

    Oh yeah come back to London soon! /compulsory begging.

    x

  8. Marshall says:

    Thanks for sharing that! I had already guessed at the vocoder/harmonizer (though not specifically The Mouth), but I had been trying to figure out what role the iPhone played. Time to start goofing around with OSC.

  9. John Anealio says:

    That sounds awesome. Is this at all similar to what Imogen Heap does on “Hide and Seek?” I find it interesting when something that can be seen as cold and robotic is actually experience in a very emotional way.

  10. Mike says:

    Soo thats why your macbook was visible when I searched for a WiFi connection at the Manchester show xD

  11. alice says:

    Man, so a Kanye West cover is not out of the question.

  12. Pulsifer says:

    For a moment I thought I was reading some Douglas Adams :P

  13. ChuckEye says:

    Do you use Ableton Live for “Mr Fancypants” as well?

    Also, is there anywhere I can get the stand-alone “PANTS” sample that’s triggered by the zendrum?

  14. Thiefree says:

    I don’t understand the tech completely, but the effect was electrifying when you performed it in Bristol. It’s soft, sad, and beautiful, which describes a lot of your recent stuff pretty well, I’d say.

  15. Angelastic says:

    I’m all alone and I’m singing for two…

    Thanks for the explanation. :) I guess it is somehow similar to the autoharmonising that the ‘monkey pony’ guitar that Fat man and Circuit Girl made. Did you ever plan on using that?

    Joel: You should’ve seen him singing Nun Fight (at the end of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijNd12PkPLU )

    Mike: At the Bristol show (I think) he asked who had tried to hack into his WiFi network, and I was far from being the only one to raise my hand. :)

    ChuckEye: yes, he uses Ableton for Mr. Fancy Pants as well; or at least he did in 2008 when I took this photo of his PowerBook: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32469084@N08/3229806922/

  16. Angelastic says:

    Also, ‘I’d choose Paul and Storm over a foot pedal’ is my Wil Wheaton cover band. http://www.flickr.com/photos/32469084@N08/5361008054/in/set-72157625706822015

  17. Linty says:

    Thank you. This was so special on the night, my song of the moment. Spent the last two weeks trying to create harmonies without the tech. Now I give up :( never be a patch on the real thing anyway, need the new album now!

    ‘I am also texting three wives and two girlfriends at the same time!’
    Thought you were trying to get hold of the President of the United States, or is that classified?

  18. Angelastic says:

    The President of the United States is two of his girlfriends.

  19. Jack Harteveld says:

    I was wondering what the phone was for. I figured (read: hoped) you were playing Angry Birds or something.

  20. RogueA says:

    You’ve outsourced Paul and Storm with technology! Oh No!

  21. Frumpy Jones says:

    Follow up question: Is there a delay to compensate for? I mean, if the audio track is running, and you’re singing to the track, aren’t your vocals a tad behind the music? Or are you using some fancy pants thing to delay the audio stream we’re hearing?

    Wait, that would still look weird. It’s like watching a live .avi file with the audio out of sync.

    Care to explain a little more, Mr. Coulton> Cos voodoo magickz seem to be at play.

  22. Frumpy Jones says:

    Ummmmmmmmm… Scratch my question. Didn’t know it was acapella. Just watched a video from manchester…

    Ain’t the interwebs fun.

  23. NateMan says:

    found a video for this and must say WOW!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvqDJpUkB80

  24. Chris Foot says:

    Another performance (the London one in fact!) with unfortunately terrible video quality :( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYpMK61Ripw

  25. Rich Emmerson says:

    I was at the Bristol gig that you first did this and it was interesting trying to figure out what you were doing, though almost distracting me from listening to the song at times. I guess that’s what being a music geek does to your music appreciation when there’s a natty bit of tech involved. I was wanting you to say “LA face with the Oakland booty” using that thing too.

    I would love to hear a version of “When You’re Gone” using it – I reckon it would work really well.

  26. AnnetteB says:

    Three wives is about three too many.

    Just sayin’…..

  27. George says:

    “Get a haircut, and get a real job. Clean your life up, don’t be a slob…”

  28. Angelastic says:

    Of all my recordings of this song, people (well, skyen, who has compiled a collection of live mp3s of the new songs called ‘Artificial Artificial Heart’ on the forums) say the London one has the best audio (which is not surprising, considering it was at Union Chapel) even though you couldn’t get the requisite elephants: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI24xD0KH4A

    It’s a really haunting song and I’m just going to pretend the sound effect is all ghosts.

  29. Andrea says:

    That sounds awesome. AWESOME.