Kyma 7 in Four Minutes from Symbolic Sound on Vimeo.

Somewhere apart from the general purpose computer, the standalone electronic instrument, the racks of modulars, there is Kyma. For nearly a quarter century, this boutique digital instrument has opened up sonic realms to a scattered illuminati of artists. And this week, it hit a new milestone, with functionality and resources intended to make sound exploration still broader and more accessible.

Three years in development, Kyma 7 is here.

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The buzz around modular often comes back to the same refrain: modular is cool because it’s open ended. That rat’s nest of cables, modular advocates say, represent freedom. No argument from me, but Kyma can fairly make a similar claim, backed by a somewhat obscenely deep set of sound tools you can patch together. Kyma’s not cheap by computer standards, and not expensive by analog modular standards. A mid-range system runs about four grand US$, with a “lab” system still just shy of three. That’s nothing to sneeze at, given that you can download Pure Data for nothing and load it onto a $300 laptop, and still get a deep graphical digital environment. But for its followers, Kyma represents an investment in possibility – and sound quality.

Kyma, like the mountain in the image for Kyma 7, is something I largely admire from afar. But admire, I do – and Kyma 7 has some nice things in it.

Look closely, and you see an environment that has no direct comparison. Whether or not you want to live there, getting a look at Kyma is like glimpsing a far-off tropical island: it’s a world unto itself.

Kyma-software Continue reading »

(Short answer: no, they aren’t.)

So, the thing about Amsterdam’s Paradiso is, there are balconies. And the thing about being in a balcony above Kraftwerk is, their once-secret live rig for their 3D show is now fully exposed.

The next question: what’s happening?

I have been squinting at this live video for some time, and I’m not sure. Some things are obvious: definitely MK I Maschine drum machine controllers from Native Instruments, definitely a MIDI keyboard for the odd solo, fairly certain I also spot a Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL controller (encoders and faders and red lights) and the display for Steinberg’s Cubase which appears to hold backing tracks.

Someone is reading … well, something. It appears to be an iPad UI, maybe, pre-iOS 7. It involves text. Is it an email?

What’s happening musically and extra-musically here? I could say more, but I think it’s time to crowd-source CDM Nation’s incredible eagle eyes and superior technical knowledge. Let us know what you think (I’m also getting some feedback via social media), and perhaps we can arrive at a final conclusion. Continue reading »

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It costs just a hundred bucks. It’s tiny, in a metal case with ultra-compact knobs and light-up buttons for hands-on control. And with MIDI, USB, CV, and even dedicated littleBits ins and outs, there’s a reason I described the announcement of KORG’s new SQ-1 sequencer as a sequencer that does everything.

But doing everything in such a little box is a tall order. And the SQ-1 packs in so much, it’s not obvious what its capabilities can be. One one hand, there are some powerful features that you might completely miss (like MIDI-to-CV capabilities). On the other, it has some limitations you should know about, as well. In trying to be all things to all gear in the smallest package possible, it has to make some sacrifices – so it’s better at some jobs than others.

I’ve gotten my hands on one and begun to use it (thanks to a studio neighbor who brought one back from Japan). And I’ve been in touch with KORG’s engineers in Japan to clarify its capabilities. So, let’s take a detailed look. Continue reading »

And, let’s take a moment to have a laugh at the expense of EDM DJs – and, around that moment where you get some bloodied laptop fingers, ourselves.

YouTube Comedy purveyors Nacho Punch take on Oscar-winning Whiplash – a film about a jazz drummer – with a DJ rendition set in a made-up “Skrillex Academy.”

You’ll want to have the original fresh in mind first, so see the original above, then the parody below.

And then… well, here I was going to make some snarky comment or some sort of clever insight, or perhaps broaden the comedy to some deeper reflection on the meaning of…

Who am I kidding? Now I’m probably just going to spend the rest of tonight watching the rest of these YouTube videos, instead of the usual wundergroundmusic.com stories. Yeah, thanks for that. I should really be getting on a new mix in Traktor. Why don’t you see glow sticks any more, anyway? I … lost my train of thought. Crossfade.

Via DJ City. Thanks to our friends at the talented Aconia creative lab for sound + media, who actually have a whole lot of talent and are, indeed, some of the best.

Hey, sometimes it’s the simple things.

I was going to write something, but – well, it’s a tuner. Watch the film, from Ableton Liveschool. And I have to say, Ableton has found a way to make this Device more interesting than previous Max for Live efforts. It even has a histogram.

Perhaps the most newsworthy element here – a sign of the times – is that the resurgence of analog synthesizers has meant that tuning outboard hardware is now again an application for tuners. You’ll see in the video here an example with the classic MOOG Minimoog, but see the Ableton-shot photo below for an Arturia MicroBrute. Keyboardists, not just guitarists, are now using tuners, too.

If only we had some digital means of keeping things in tu– jeez, what the heck is going on, anyway? Strange, cyclical days.

Enjoy!

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It’s nice to get what you ask for. More than any recent release I can recall, Ableton Live 9.2 feels like it’s ticking off a task list of user requests. The software enters (a very stable, in my experience) public beta this week. There’s nothing earth-shaking, but I know CDM has enough Ableton users that this will matter.

To get there, though, be forewarned: Ableton is dropping support for some older Mac and Windows operating systems. (10.6 and earlier / Vista and earlier, respectively.)

If you make the cut, though, you’ll likely find some welcome changes in this free update for Live 9. See if these complaints sound familiar to you – as now they get addressed:

You want to warp techno and house without headaches. This one was especially maddening: you drop a completely regular, four on the floor, 125 bpm track into Live, and get … a whole bunch of complicated warp markers and tempo changes? Uh, that’s note right. Ableton says they’ve improved Auto-Warp and downbeat detection to better recognize fixed tempos. No more “four scattered on the walls, ceiling, and your face.” Back on the floor. Good.

You wish warped tracks sounded better. Ableton promises improved Complex and Complex Pro warp modes with “punchier transients, even at extreme settings.” So far, the difference is subtle, but sounds good – think clearer rendition of sharp, percussive sounds.

You want better latency compensation. The big development here, and one we’ve waited for, is that automation is fully latency-compensated. Previously, adding automation could through off latency compensation for devices. Also, Ableton says they’ve improved latency performance with Max for Live and third-party plug-ins.

Some more details on the latency compensation improvement, from Ableton: “Latency-compensated automation refers to applying delay compensation to automation events. Previously, clip contents were compensated but automation breakpoints were not. This meant that in Sets with latency-inducing plug-ins, automation might occur before the corresponding events in clips. This doesn’t happen anymore.”

You play an instrument, and forgot a tuner. There’s now a Tuner built-in. Yep, I think we had a whole article about this, so thanks!

You want to play pads on your whole Push, not a little corner of it. Here’s the thing: Ableton’s Push hardware isn’t an MPC. So a 16-pad grid is a small corner of the controller. In Push’s Drum Rack mode, that allows the use of a step sequencer with the extra pads. But maybe you’d prefer to wail away on all 64 pads. Now, you can switch between these two modes. (Novation has actually made the lack of a step sequencer on their Launchpad Pro a selling point for this very reason. If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, though, Push’s ability to choose may be ideal.)

They’ve also released a new video showing that off – below.

What else? Continue reading »

Sonic history in electronic music may be made with technology, but it’s also the output of someone’s brain. As such, it’s natural that liberated creativity can produce all kinds of possibilities. And it should be no surprise that history sometimes comes in cycles.

Or… make that rectangles.

Speaking of Poland, this short animation, crafted in 1971, features spooky sounds that would be at home on any modern dark techno floor. Entitled “Prostokąt dynamiczny” – literally, “dynamic rectangle” – the animation is by experimental filmmaker Józef Robakowski, with music by the incredible Eugeniusz Rudnik. We saw Rudnik yesterday in our piece on Polish electronic music pioneers (and their connection to modern partiers), and featured in the Boiler Room film.

It’s worth considering the visualist here alongside the sonic artist. The Poznań-born Robakowski was an early pioneer in video art and experimental film – on the standards of the international stage, not just as a curiosity from Poland. His work ranged from conceptual pieces (photographing coriander, for instance) to meditations on Poland’s still-recent, dark history (piecing together collage from the Holocaust). Continue reading »