So much energy is spent reflecting on the merits of different tools, or re-hashing tired debates like the comparison between analog and digital, often with the assumption that you can hear the tool in the finished work. But the real value of an expressive, creative tool is that it can produce wildly different results in different hands; it’s the measure of its versatility. And the measure of music is the music itself.
That makes it doubly satisfying listening to the results of the Efficient Music Competition CDM hosted with the Renoise production software and Linux-powered Indamixx netbooks and software suites. While tracker applications have been conventionally associated with certain styles, there’s music here from every possible genre. There are contributing artists at a wide variety of different stages in the development of their craft and creative output – just as all of us are growing and changing. There’s even a spoken word piece with a cow in a can (one of my offbeat favorites). I’m sure you’ll hate some of the music and love some of the rest; some will think the voting results were spot-on and others will be surprised and find the results upside down. Such is taste.
You can download all the entrants in the original Renoise file format, which you can play on any Mac, Windows, or Linux machine even with the free demo version. They’re ranked by popular-opinion vote.
On the main competition page, most of tracks have SoundCloud players, which means you can also connect with artists you like at that community:
Remember that all of these tracks are Creative Commons-licensed, meaning they’re ripe sources of samples and sounds you can use freely in your work. If you need them for commercial purposes, you can contact the artists.
Taste aside, though, it’s fantastic to hear the range of activity going on. And keep in mind that the challenge of the competition, as sponsored by the software Renoise and Linux netbook vendor Indamixx, was to do more with less. As lovely as it is to have ever-growing computational resources, this is proof you don’t need them all the time. Even an affordable Atom-powered netbook is capable of real production, which says great things about the ongoing mobilization and democratization of computer music technology.
We have more than just a one-dimensional set of results. The contest judges offer lots to hear, including commentary on the tracks. And I’m pleased to share my own CDM pick and honorable mentions.
Now, for my own personal Editor’s Choice selections. Keep in mind, these are governed exclusively by my own taste; your mileage may vary.
My pick: After a lot of listening, I’m naming the official Top CDM Selection dvoraktunes’ Tangeble, by Dave Smith-Hayes.
The track didn’t make it into the top popular selections, which is another reason to highlight it here. Sure, it sounds chippy, but it isn’t fondness for chip music and raw, digital sound that prompts me to give it honors. I thought some of the sounds here were the freshest in the bunch. It makes nods to breakcore but manages to parody it in an intelligent, inventive way. (“Chipbreak” is an apt name, as it’s something that, well, happens to chips.)
Catch it on its drop.io page:
Here’s what its creator had to say about the track and the software:
It’s one of the first few tracks I ever made in Renoise, I decided it had the best breaks and best instrumentation. It’s a chipbreak track that uses two drum loops (the amen and a Ryan Gruss break) and two simple waveform tracks. Along with filtering, delay and chorus effects. Everything is native to Renoise, no use of VSTs or third party plugins. It should be more than adequate for a netbook.
Generating Drum Kits in the instrument mode is definitely something some one should look into if they’re slicing beats like an old school tracker (fast-tracker II? It’s before my time, that’s for sure). It’s definitely helped me plug in breaks super fast. And learn your effect columns! They can help you achieve some of the coolest sounds that I find are really hard to emulate outside of Renoise.
The work of Cornelius Noll (aka 84 Caprice) is easily one of the highlights of the event. It’s worth a visit to the Audio Cookbook site for the track and a lot of background on how it was produced.
It did (rightfully) make it near the top of the competition, but it’s worth mentioning that Atte André Jensen’s Længere væk (“further away”) made exquisite use of vocals on Renoise – even if vocal production is not normally associated with trackers or netbooks.
I love Transient’s self-described “abstract hip-hop” on Green Butter:
ASCII Death Star is a thumping, tasty track:
Sometimes, what’s nice about these sort of contests is listening to a track and hearing a musical voice that isn’t your own, that isn’t expected. The cut “Mole” seems just wildly quirky to me, like soundtrack material, and I got to play it while auditioning tracks as I drove along the I-5 in LA:
There were many, many worthy tracks, and polish was clearly rewarded in the top five, but at least I’m able to note a few that might otherwise have been missed.
Finally, I’ll shout out a couple of tracks for being especially topical:
chunter deserves recognition for inventing a name for this ("compact electronic desktop music") and then using an open-source, Linux vocoder to sing it:
And, of course, I have to give a special nod to the tune submitted as a CDM theme song. Give "You Know CDM" a listen:
Podcast and Track Commentary
Ronald Stewart of Indamixx put together a full, hour-long podcast with his top tracks and commentary on his take on each of them:
He also had some nice things to see on the Renoise forum:
I just want say I can agree with the comments about ‘competition’ being too restrictive. This was so much more than a competition. This was special. Thank you to all the Renoise producers!
Peter Kirn and I were talking at Dubspot Sunday night and we both agree that this competition BLEW AWAY any opinions of what Renoise sounds like, sounds, specific genre etc. That mold is officially shattered and I think we are all moving on to bigger and better with computer based music production. The fact that someone can produce this caliber of music on a netbook will redefine mindsets that we have yet to realize the benefit for years to come! Let’s cook this for 2-5 years and see how the dust settles (IMO it will be in all of our favor). Lastly, the incredible amount of global contributions to Indamixx (via Linux community) and all of the songs submitted has placed this contest in a new realm that I have never seen in a contest in the USA. This is the ultimate global collaboration that can never be taken away from all of us!
Rock on brothers!!!
I can’t wait for that Renoise Party
Thanks to everyone for contributing, and feel free to share your comments – including constructive criticism – below. (Key word: constructive!)