90sboilerroom

What are you doing right now? Because … well, you might wind up chortling for a few minutes.

Maybe it’s the pervasive grim glumness of “serious” dance music. Maybe it’s the ubiquity of Boiler Room, now the brand for everything involving electronic sound and live video. (Yes, they’re now on Twitch, for whoever watches Twitch.)

Mostly, it means those of us looking for the next viral Boiler Room parody to avoid doing what we’re supposed to be doing with our work / lives / etc. now have something to tide us once we’re caught up with / have re-read boiler room knows what you did last night.

You’re welcome.

Continue reading »

hithertoo

The first antidote to any element of today’s music scene we don’t like is to begin sharing the music we love.

And here’s a case in point. It’s a must-listen mix of all-female artists (via the female:pressure network), assembled by Akkamiau Kočičí aka hiT͟Hərˈto͞o.

This list for me is significant not because these are female artists. This could just as easily be a list of artists who move me personally, who inspire my own music.

Akkamiau shared some sentiments on making this mix with me that would seem to echo that. These artists are not only female but members of the vast female:pressure network, it’s true. (The only exception is Happa, who remixes Holly Herndon.) But that restriction, says Akkamiau, was “just as a conceptual limitation of the selection, to set the pool.” Continue reading »

s8

This is, first and foremost, a plea for the pleasures of back-to-back DJing and mixing (for podcasts and the like) the same way. The controller, being the S8 but also any related hardware, plays a supporting role, not the other way round.

But like so much else in the world of electronic music technology, solo too often trumps ensemble. So let’s talk about gear – and why I was surprised to like something as huge as the S8 more than I thought I would.

I finally convinced my techno-making musical partner Nerk to lug the S8 out of the offices of Native Instruments where the company has been hyping the thing up, and into our studio. The idea: take a break from production and mix together some of the sort of music we love and want to hear more of. You can listen to that at the end.

Nerk’s reluctance was over the S8′s hulk. It’s not terribly heavy, but it is big. He’s not alone, either. More than a few DJs I’ve talked to view big, coffin-sized controllers with derision. Not only directing their ire at NI, that includes oversized devices from Numark, Pioneer, and others. And I tended to lean the same way, just because most DJs I know either keep it compact so they can squeeze into cramped booths (see our backpack-ready round-up) or go with what’s already there.

Part of why I’m glad to get to review Native’s new D2 controller next week – it’s essentially the deck control section of the S8 lopped off the rest of the device – is that it seems more practical. And so its bigger brother, the S8, like the S4 before it, seems on first blush more like an SUV to the D2′s sedan. This is an oversized Cadillac Escalade of a DJ controller, in other words, bought to look expensive and ostentatious while parked in the driveway while never taken off-road. (That’s not so much metaphor as direct comparison.)

However, there’s actually some reason to give this breed of devices a second chance – and to hope they find their way into the occasional studio or club installation. Continue reading »

moderna_main copy

It’s a long weekend in America, many bits of Europe, and other parts of the world, and that inflection point has arrived where the Northern Hemisphere looks forward to summer. So, let’s celebrate, turning attentions from dark, moody techno and experimental ambience to some splashes of color – techno plus all its further branches and blossoms.

And that means turning again to our friend Moderna, aka Missy Livingston, of Ghostly International.

Continue reading »

heisenberg

Plugging a keyboard or drum pads into your Web browser is now a thing.

One month ago, we first saw hardware MIDI support in Chrome. That was a beta; this week, Google pushed it out to all Chrome users.

So, what can you actually do with this stuff? Well, you can open a Web tab and play a synth on actual hardware, which is pretty nifty.

Support is still a little dicey, but the available examples are growing fast. Here are some of the coolest, in addition to the MIDI example and demo code we saw last month.

The examples are certainly promising, but you may want to temper expectations. Users of browser-based solutions built on Flash will find some of this old news. Audiotool, for one, has already had a really sophisticated (semi-modular, even) production tool running for some years. (It’s relevant here that Audiotool is coming to the HTML5/MIDI support, but it isn’t here yet.) And while open standards are supposed to mean more compatibility, in practice, they are presently meaning far less. Even though Safari and Chrome are pretty close to one another in rendering pages, I couldn’t get any of these examples working properly in any browser other than Chrome. And while I could get pretty low-latency functionality, none of this is anywhere near as solid in terms of sound performance as any standalone music software.

So, that leaves two challenges. One, the implementation is going to have to improve if non-developers are going to start to use this. And two, if this stuff is going to see the light of day beyond music hackathons, it’ll need some applications. That said, I could imagine educational applications, demos of apps, collaborative possibilities, and more – and those expand if the tech improves. And, of course, this also gets really interesting on inexpensive Chromebooks – which it seems are selling in some numbers these days.

But that’s the future. Here are some of the things you can do right now: Continue reading »

function

Techno right now has a problem. It’s kind of a nice problem to have. There’s some music that’s just terrifically well-produced in the spotlight, so much so that it’s tough to say no to it. It’s a bit like having the number to a Chinese takeout place and knowing every time they deliver it’s going to be delicious. Yeah, tonight you should really cook a nice, heal– oh, come on, though, sesame chicken.

What I mean is nicely summed up by the latest mix from Function. This is about as perfect a snapshot you’ll find of a particular mode in techno. It isn’t, in any real sense, really experimental or progressive. It’s the classical chamber music of the dance floor, drawing a line between a scene in the 90s to one that flourishes today, after years of careful gardening.

Don’t be overly put off by the fact that this is Berghain techno or that the photo of Function makes it look like he’s feeling a bit down as he wanders a car park late at night. (Caption: “$(#&*. Someone just keyed my rental car.”) The mix is something many of you (not all of you, but many of you) I think will thoroughly enjoy hearing.

And for his part, Function is upfront about what his intentions are. Part of what he can do is take you into his musical world. Since you can’t take photos inside Berghain (and a picture doesn’t really capture music, anyway), this is a way in from wherever you are using your mind. But notice the connection to 90s Manhattan, too:

“The mix is about Berghain, an approximation of the way I play there and the relationship I have with the club. That relationship is similar to the one I had with my first home, Limelight, in New York City from the early 90s onwards.”

That sense of careful historicism isn’t incidental. And I suspect that’s why Ostgut is quietly putting out this mix (as an uncompressed WAV file, no less). This is their marketing. This sound and the people who really believe in it are what draw people, what create this center. (I was joking about the Chinese takeout, maybe because it’s just before lunch. A better metaphor is actually foodies following a chef, people who do care about what they’re consuming. No MSG, for sure.) Continue reading »

izotope-rx4-denoise

It’s sometimes tough to write about audio tools precisely because they tend to bundle together a lot of features. So let’s step back and consider why they tend to do all of those things.

With audio repair, it’s a pretty easy explanation. From your perspective, your sound is $#*$#ed up. You want to get it un-$#*(&ed up.

Of course, in reality, there are tons of variables. The context can change: You might be repairing sound from a recording of instruments. You might be fixing dialog. You might know what you’re doing – even on big-budget TV and film, recordings can wind up with sound problems. Or, let’s be honest, you might kind of have no clue what you’re doing and wound up with $(&*ed up sound because you yourself $#(*&ed it up. (Uh… yeah, been there.)

The underlying problems can be varied, too – even in a single recording. Different takes didn’t match. There’s hum. There’s noise. There are unwanted sounds.

So, all of this is to say, over the years I’ve seen a number of general purpose repair toolkits, along with specialized toolkits. Right now, the one iZotope makes is special in that it bundles all the things you might ever need to fix audio into a single toolset that can work for more or less anyone. It doesn’t entirely eliminate the utility of more specific tools here and there – some of which may already be in some form in your DAW. But the tools are unusually advanced, unusually complete, and I think at the moment there simply isn’t anything else that does as much. If this is a First Aid Kit for sound, it’s kind of also a fully-staffed Emergency Room and Operating Room. Not like a field hospital. Like Mount Sinai.

I’m going to be talking a bit about iZotope this month partly because I’ve noticed that this year, they’ve shifted focus a bit from just reeling off features to talking about what they were doing in the first place. So I had a chat with them about RX and Ozone, in particular, two of their flagships, and it led to this.

RX4 is particularly useful in TV and film production because of the likelihood those users need to fix stuff – more on that in a moment. But it is worth considering in a production environment if you ever record anything for any reason. Continue reading »