The sound world of Joey Blush (aka Blush Response) is far reaching, entering dark clouds of murky industrial, EBM, and techno, all with relentless forward-pushing grooves. But as we talk to him about how he connects his gear, we’re really looking at how he connects his thoughts.
At its best, whatever we’re doing with gear ought to be about our minds. It’s not just connecting a patch cord. It’s connecting an idea from one place to another – re-wiring neurons.
Synth legend Morton Subotnick spoke this week about that process, as he recalled first creating complex metric structures simply by patching together loops on hardware modular sequencers (there, via the Buchla). As rhythmic structures emerged, he blew his own brain open – and the landmark record Silver Apples on the Moon was born. And I thought of this:
“You’re sequencing the sequence!”
I heard a smiling Wouter Jaspers of KOMA Elektronik repeat that phrase like a Zen koan. His sequencer isn’t intended to be simple. It’s even called Komplex.
The Komplex sequencer has reached the final prototype stage, with a release in coming weeks. Joey Blush visited KOMA Elektronik in their studio to play with the Komplex and a host of modules.
And what’s significant about this is that it is a return to some of what Morton was talking about back in the 60s. This isn’t about something abstract; it’s getting hands-on, gestural control over sounds, so that there’s a direct line from your instinct to making some change in the sound by moving your body.
Literally, how is Joey making the connection? He sends over his signal flow to CDM, in terms of what you see in the KOMA video: Continue reading »
Can you think, dance, and dream at the same time? We get to debut a new video for Concubine, and it’s the perfect time to look at what this duo has accomplished in 2015.
Concubine, the project from Noah Pred and Rick Bull, is never cold, but it’s always expressing several sentiments simultaneously. It’s at once hypnotic and cerebral, visceral and abstract. Smartly-calibrated percussion politely swings atop future-prog funk flights of fancy. It’ll get a little cheeky, but within a song framework that’s been obsessively constructed. And the album itself is put together similarly. Driving dance tracks are effortless interspersed with ambient tracks that keep the dynamic energy moving – rather than feeling like incidental excursions. It is relentlessly high quality, always at a level of polish – music made by proper gentlemen who nonetheless know how to have a good time. By the time the synth sirens start going off in Entropia, you’re ready for a night out in Blade Runner’s Michelin-starred restaurant and … see where the night leads. Continue reading »
The role of the music score is an important one, as a lingua franca – it puts musical information in a format a lot of people can read. And it does that by adhering to standards.
Now with computers, phones, and tablets all over the planet, can music notation adapt?
A new group is working on bringing digital notation as a standard to the Web. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – yes, the folks who bring you other Web standards – formed what they’re describing as a “community group” to work on notation.
That doesn’t mean your next Chrome build will give you lead sheets. W3C are hosting, not endorsing the project – not yet. And there’s a lot of work to be done. But many of the necessary players are onboard, which could mean some musically useful progress. Continue reading »
Do call it a comeback. The hardware sequencer, once a forgotten relic of the computer age, has returned with a vengeance. And the reason is simple: we need it. Sure, we might play with a computer, but we’ve fallen for other synthesizers and drum machines – a lot of it quite cheap, too. We want hands-on control so we can play live again, improvise with our hands rather than furrow our brows over a mouse and screen. And we might even have beloved analog gear and want it to groove along with everything else.
Few companies represent the blossoming of love for gear quite like Arturia. It was just a few short years ago that the name meant plug-in emulations of vintage gear. Now, people are more likely to think of something like the hardware MicroBrute synth.
Arturia’s first BeatStep was cool – a combination step sequencer and drum pad controller. But it was also limited: you could only sequence one part, and pattern triggering options were woefully limited.
This month, the company has shipped the long-awaited BeatStep Pro. I’m finishing a review now – it’ll be an in-depth hands-on, and I’m also waiting to make sure I have the latest firmware changes.
But since I’m focusing on those details rather than rushing, we can meanwhile watch some videos of just how this gear looks in action. And you can let me know if that raises other questions – what do you want to know? What gear do you care about working with? I’ll answer as much as I can in our review.
For starters, here are ten analog synths – plus Ableton Live. (Digital or analog? Yes.)
If anyone can make cookie-cutter techno, then improvisation is the route back to heart and soul. And there are few people as good at making dense, bass-heavy improvised dance music as Detroit’s Octave One.
I mean, yes, it’s a little weird that any of us would get overly eloquent or snobby writing about dance music. I would hope your test is the same as my test – does piping a track make you start doing an embarrassing little jig at your desk? (Boy, am I glad my office is on street level and equipped with giant, aquarium-style windows.)
Octave One stopped by Resident Advisor recently, with a table bestrewn with gear – that thickened-up gravy of sound. Yes, that’s our own MeeBlip (SE edition, modded with an extra-big knob) on the bass stabs at the beginning. And there’s tons of KORG and other gear in there, as well. There’s a nice balance of advance preparation with rich live-played synth lines and mixing and filtering. It means they’ve done enough that they can lay down a groove, but they also can feel transitions, structure – actually say something in the moment. They’re also clever in keeping everything accessible, rather than doing something overly cerebral. Sonically, everything is defined (clever groove can help), but there’s also a healthy amount of dirt and warmth.