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If you love the smell of solder as much as you love patching sounds together, this may be for you.*

Bastl Instruments, the boutique Czech electronic instrument maker, tell us they’ve finished the much-requested kit versions of their modular lineup. They’re not any different from the other modules, apart from you solder them together yourself. Now, of course, that means you can make them not work. But the Bastl crew, innovative as always, have a solution there – a 25€ paid service with the cheeky name “Come to Daddy” lets you pay to have them work it out for you if you break things. Just don’t let the unfinished kit collect dust: the service works for only 30 days after purchase. Continue reading »

303

Put some actual “computer-controlled” in the 303.

The folks at British maker Kenton have a way of churning out little boxes that do things people need. MIDI Thru, check. Connecting those USB gizmos that lack MIDI, check. Plugging MIDI to your modular, roger.

So, to that, add a single box that translates MIDI to DIN Sync (sync24) – and back again.

DIN Sync, as developed by Roland, is suddenly news again because of a rekindled interest in vintage gear. If you want to synchronize a TR-808 or a TB-303, DIN Sync is what you need.

The Kenton D-SYNC isn’t the first converter box, but I suspect that like some of the other Kenton boxes I mentioned, it’ll win points for its simplicity. If all you want to do is hook your 303 or 808 up to your rig, and get it clocking off MIDI signals – or, in the other direction, sync some MIDI device to DIN – this focuses on that task.

dsync Continue reading »

In our last episode of “watching things on the Internet instead of doing real work,” we were enjoying a full-length 90s electronic music documentary and a bunch of music videos.

Well, here we are at yet another weekend. And hopefully we can give you some video watching pleasure yet again, in those moments when you aren’t, well, hopefully, making music.

Leading the pack is a 1986 story from Chicago TV news back when house music was in its early days, as spotted by Dancing Astronauts. And it’s an astounding document, featuring Danny “Sweet-D” Wilson, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Steve “Silk” Hurley, and Keith Nunnally. Two big takeaways. One, it’s interesting to note that London was already catching onto house even when these artists were relatively obscure in sweet home Chicago. Europe and the UK, always ahead of American audiences when it comes to American music – note the British announced proudly wearing an enormous American flag shirt.

Two, it’s fantastic to see this stuff being made live. Why that shouldn’t be more commonplace in 2015, I have no idea. Steve Hurly and Jackmaster Funk constructing a track is inspiring and fresh nearly two decades later.

But there’s more, of course. With no particular theme, here’s a bunch of documentary stuff to queue up.

If you’d rather go to pioneering electronic composition in place of 80s dance music, here are two documentaries on the incomparable Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, via OpenCulture (which just happened to pop into my inbox today): Continue reading »

wurrly

The music industry is fantastic at hindsight. We’ve obsessed over the spread of online piracy, the death of the CD, then the impact of streams. But every measure of the business model is somehow framed around acquiring records. And it’s about passive consumption.

We have to remember, though, that passive consumption is itself really the outlier. Until the dawn of recording, music only existed when you played it. Our current copyright and licensing system was first structured around sheet music. And that world never went away. Precise recordings can give you the experience of listening, but no technology can give you the feeling of singing.

So it’s time to start thinking about business models that involve active participation. We saw that earlier this month with label Ninja Tune embracing remixing in an app and Launchpad sound packs. Here’s a more conventional approach.

Wurrly is an app for recording covers of popular songs. It starts with a song store (and links to the originals on iTunes), but instead of tapping to download, you tap to sing. Choose a pre-made accompaniment (full band, piano, or guitar), set the key and tempo, and record. The cleverest part of the app is probably the interface for adding finishing touches: you get a simple fader for mixing and Instagram-style effects. (I’m sure we’ll keep hearing about an “Instagram for music” or “Instagram for sound” until someone really nails it.) Continue reading »

maxology_physical

There is a powerful world of sound exploration in your hands. But sometimes the hardest part is just starting.

So the quiet launch of a site called Maxology is very good news. It’s evidently a place to go for tutorials and projects and more.

And right now, you can grab a bunch of free and open source objects for physical modeling, built for Max 7 and Max for Live. That opens a window into a world of realistic and impossible sounds, built on algorithms that mimic the way instruments work physically and acoustically. Continue reading »

midimini

“It was acceptable in the 80s…”

The standard MIDI DIN cable – that’s the big honkin’ connector you use on most of your MIDI gear – has become the bane of music hardware makers. The problem is, as gear has gotten smaller, the standard DIN connector hasn’t. And that’s a big problem, literally. To add a MIDI port to a device, you need to not only have enough clearance for the connector itself, but the whole around the port and the physical assembly that contains it. Speaking as a hardware maker, that takes up space you can’t even see from the outside.

As a result, a lot of hardware that should have had MIDI in and out doesn’t, to save room. Or it’s forced to be thicker than it needs to be. Or it squeezes out other useful ports.

To be clear, on devices that can fit a MIDI DIN, it still makes sense. It’s a standard part, you’ve got the cables, you’ve got things to plug it into, and the connector is safe to use. But if it simply won’t fit, something else is a must. And that’s why other connectors are already shipping on gear. Imagine if they were all interoperable. Continue reading »

Launchpad meets Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder

We used to talk about the home studio. Then the bedroom producer. Then laptop music. Now it’s more like the everywhere studio – and the computer may be nowhere to be seen.

Tools like Launchpad for iOS tend to exist in some sort of alternate dimension from the world of music tech writing, even when it comes to this site. But quietly, a lot of people are making music with them. (It doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of iPads and iPhones out there, or that the apps are often given away for free.)

But just because this is a category that’s friendly to newcomers doesn’t mean the music is any less serious.

This week, Novation is promoting its Launchpad with some heavy artist collaborations. Kicking off a new soundpack set are Machinedrum (Ninja Tune) and Lapalux (on Brainfeeder, the label most associated with Flying Lotus). I find these to be really nice choices. Vapor City is really one of my favorite electronic releases of recent years – and I will be the first to admit I’m completely biased by the fact that Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) is a lovely gentleman.

Let’s have a listen to the music: Continue reading »