Right in the manual, KORG suggests that you might turn their magnetic modular system, the littleBits Synth Kit, into a keytar. But this is a sort of “attach all the modules to a bit of wood” affair.

Meanwhile, in Japan…

Pantograph is an art/design agency and animation house (site link – Japanese only). And when they got their hands on the Synth Kit, they did it up properly. Think beautiful, multi-colored cases, proper playable ergonomics – and a blinking light-up KORG logo. The results are enchanting:

If you want one of your own and you’re passing through Tokyo (superfans, buy that plane ticket now), you can make one apparently at the Tokyo Toy Fair. See the news item from KORG Japan: Continue reading »


“Producer”: in electronic music, this used to mean some person who makes tracks. Today, some special electronic musicians go way beyond that role. They’re combining skills partly because it means diversifying income, but also out of a real love for doing a variety of stuff. They’re holed up in the studio making music, sure – but they’re also finding collaborative ways of doing that, often online, and sharing skills and sounds as they develop them. It’s a more open, connected approach to electronic musical practice.

And Mad Zach is a great example. He’s a producer and DJ, but he’s also a journalist, he’s devising new ways of performing with controllers, he’s sharing sounds and techniques with others, and he’s teaching.

I’m biased – I mix a lot of these things myself, and I’ve naturally gotten to be friends with other people who are doing the same. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this is a Renaissance Man / Renaissance Women phenomenon, or if we just can’t say no to things! But it can be fun!)

So, I was really eager to get to talk to Zach about what he’s up to. CDM got that opportunity when we Beatport approached us to provide some input on a video tutorial accompanying a sound pack Zach was assembling. Zach and I talked a bit about what to share, and in the end I encouraged him to talk about his approach to playing live and making more soulful grooves. This wasn’t advertorial – on the contrary, since it was a voluntary collaboration, I used the opportunity for my own ulterior motives of getting to learn more about how Zach works. I’m really happy with the result, which you can see below.

But I also wanted to talk to Zach more about how he wound up making this sound pack, and how he manages these different threads of his career and musical activity. With so many in our community pursuing multi-track music making in this way, that technique may be just as important as what he does with the software. Continue reading »


The new music video for Lusine, like the track itself, is almost sickeningly stomach-turning, it’s so beautiful.

Director Christophe Thockler has made an epic opus. The last time we caught up with Thockler, he had set 36,000 photos of melting ice to the chilling music of Ben Neill and Mimi Goese.

This time around, we’ve gone from ice to the titular blood. And that’s lots of blood – enough to attract vampires from a couple of cities away. 5 litters of blood rush through some 15 kg of components salvaged from TVs, phones, and computers, waste turned into what the director dubs “electrorganic” material.

He isn’t just shooting stills this time – but 30 minutes of video and 7,000 photos combine to the result you see here.

Lusine – Arterial from DaBrainkilla on Vimeo.

Continue reading »


Music software developers usually tell you about compatibility well after an OS is out, or at least the day it comes out. Steinberg is already releasing information about OS X Yosemite, the new Mac operating system, before it’s even out. And they may be well-advised to do so, with Apple for the first time allowing the public to test the latest OS.

The current installer for all Steinberg software breaks under OS X 10.10 Yosemite, the in-beta software. There’s already a fix on the support site, though:
Steinberg Application Installer Tool for Yosemite

Download this tool and you’re sorted.

I’m curious, anyone brave enough to be testing Yosemite now?

I’ve just this month upgraded to 10.9. After some installation hiccups, the install has been great – though this again confirms my theory of “stay about one year behind the latest OS.” (Also, it seems you will want a newer machine with SSD to use some recent software on the Mac side, generally.)

Let us know in comments – developers and users alike.

Photo courtesy Apple.

Note: We’re already hearing some issues with Ableton, mentioned on their forum. This is pre-release operating system software, however. Generally, our advice holds: don’t install any new OS – even a shipping one – until you’ve verified compatibility with critical software, and made a backup to which you can easily revert. With pre-release software, it goes even further: expect bugs. Install only if you have a spare machine and enjoy troubleshooting, and report what you find.

Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak - and he's going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak – and he’s going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

It’s “the science of being imperfect” – and Mad Zach is one heck of a mad scientist at it.

We all know Ableton Live productions, even sometimes from fairly skilled music makers, can get painfully stuck on the grid. If that’s the disease, Mad Zach has the cure. Armed with Ableton Live and together with releasing a very special, very useful sound pack, this insanely-prolific DJ, producer, writer, and educator has some advice for how to get the soul and groove back in your machines.

CDM teamed up with our friends at Beatport Sounds to work with Zach on an instructional video that goes deeper into the craft of the groove. And I love what Zach has done with the tutorial. If you’re still learning your way around Live, I think you’ll still like it — just follow along the beginner and intermediate tutorials first before you tackle it. At the same time, if you’ve got a bit more production under your belt, it won’t insult your intelligence. I learned something, and I’ve been using Live since 1.0.

Highlights, as we “escape the grid”:
How to use the (oddly underused, misunderstood) Grooves section in Live
Extract an original TR-909 shuffle
Drawing in swing
Recording MIDI controllers

Now, some background: Continue reading »


If you’re reading this, and if you care about controllers at all, you’ve probably got one. Now the question is, what are you missing? LaunchControl XL is coming with a whole mess of handy faders and knobs if you’ve got more controls than you can map.

In fact, while it would make an utterly horrid marketing statement, I would dub the slogan of this hardware like this:
Twist knobs without having to constantly press shift and select keys or give up having some faders.

There’s Push, of course, the Ableton-controlling flagship, complete with pressure- and velocity-sensitive grid. There’s AKAI’s former APC, which already has a full complement of faders, encoders, and triggers. Beyond that, we’re talking about various combinations of faders and knobs and triggers in smaller controllers in some combination. For example:

There’s the Novation Launchpad – built like a tank, dirt cheap, just a grid.

There’s the new AKAI APC mini – grid with faders, but no knobs.

There’s the Novation LaunchControl – knobs and some pads, but no faders.

Well, now Novation is back with the LaunchControl XL. It’s knobs, yes – but more knobs. And those knobs get their own colored indicators so you know what they’re controlling. And now it has faders, too. And if it doesn’t sell like hotcakes to everyone, betcha it sells like hotcakes to people who have just a Launchpad.

24 knobs in three rows of eight – which maps conveniently to Live
Multicolored indicators on the knobs for multiple functions
Driver-free (so if you’re using Bitwig or Renoise on Linux, you’re in, too)
16 multi-color buttons give you track focus, mix controls
Works on iOS, too, via Camera Connection Kit

£159.99, coming late August, which is also roughly when we should have one in for review. Continue reading »


I stand by the plot as far today’s announcement that Pioneer is remaking the Technics 1200. This is a straight-up remake, bearing no real direct relevance to the rest of Pioneer’s offerings other than name. But as with the KORG MS-20 or the Moog Keith Emerson Modular, just reissuing something from the past already adds a subplot.

First, it’s worth reconsidering what Panasonic, makers of the Technics turntable, said when they exited the market:

We are sure that retailers and consumers will understand that our product range has to reflect the accelerating transformation of the entire audio market from analogue to digital.

In addition, the number of component suppliers serving the analogue market has dwindled in recent years and we brought forward the decision to leave the market rather than risk being unable to fulfil future orders because of a lack of parts.

The “lack of parts” question is still a mystery. It’s possible that Pioneer is making this turntable in limited quantities. It’s also possible (and I’d guess more likely) that they simply chose parts that are easier to source, or that this issue was overstated in that announcement.

But the “transformation” is simply wrong – and perhaps the absence of any mention of digital vinyl here is telling. In fact, let me emphasize this:

While digital has grown, it has turned out to be something other than replacing one thing with another.

The motivation for my snark this morning, though, is that this also means you might want to improve, not only remake. Continue reading »