thoughtless

Noah Pred didn’t just run his own label. He has run a label that has traced a lot of the finest music of the past years, making its way from Toronto to Berlin. And he did it while juggling his own career as a techno producers’ producer, a DJ’s DJ. At 100 releases, he’s got plenty to say about what that musical journey has meant – and not just the easy bits. I pressed Noah to reflect on what he really thinks of the flow of the music industry’s power and resources to the top, and the conflicts that can happen in trying to keep a label like this going.

And, like any meeting with Noah, there’s plenty of great music to discover along the way – stuff you know, stuff you don’t. Certainly, I’d never be afraid of not being able to name-drop every release; Noah has a way of discovering superb music you wish you had known earlier. So let’s go along for that trip.

If you missed the last seven years, don’t worry. We have not only a chat with Noah, but some music to hear.

There’s a 50-track mix to mark the latest mixes, free to hear. (Track listing below, at bottom.)

And 130+ podcasts to hear, on Mixcloud, which I suppose should cover your next seven years.

http://www.mixcloud.com/thoughtless/

No? How about the entire catalog on YouTube in celebration of 100 releases:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThoughtlessVideo/playlists

“Ah,” you say. “But, I can also read.” Good! Let’s! The music to hear, the life of a label, the effect of global capitalism on our souls – I’d say we’ve got our bases covered. Continue reading »

Lurking in the bargain bins of game shops is a surprisingly well-built keyboard. The Rock Band “keytar” controller may have been made for games, but the keybed is solid, the thing is light, and it can run on batteries. So why not turn it into a standalone instrument?

That’s what Jamie Robertson has done with his, and he shows you how.

The magic here is something he calls the WAV Trigger. Without naming any names, while there are a lot of cool Arduino shields and the like out there, a lot of them are pretty functionally limited. They’re cool to play with, you can build some fun projects, and they can teach you a lot — but the WAV Trigger is something different.

It’s built to play 14 tracks of uncompressed audio at once, with enough control that it becomes a viable, 14-voice, polyphonic sample playback instrument. MIDI is built in, and trigger latency is low (around 8 msec).

It’s also a bargain – under US$50.

The mod isn’t tough, either. Check out the full instructions from Jamie (“Robertsonics”):
Turn the Rock Band 3 keyboard into a sampling instrument with the WAV Trigger

And more on the WAV Trigger:
The WAV Trigger vs. MP3 players

RBK_Hero001

Fabulous bargain stuff.

saturnv

Space is the place. Again.

And SoundCloud is now a place you can find sounds from the US government space agency, NASA. In addition to the requisite vocal clips (“Houston, we’ve had a problem” and “The Eagle has landed”), you get a lot more. There are rocket sounds, the chirps of satellites and equipment, lightning on Jupiter, interstellar plasma and radio emissions. And in one nod to humanity, and not just American humanity, there’s the Soviet satellite Sputnik (among many projects that are international in nature).

Many of these sounds were available before; I’ve actually used a number of them in my own music. But putting them on SoundCloud makes them much easier to browse and find, and there are download links. Have a listen below.

Another thing: you’re free to use all of these sounds as you wish, because NASA’s own audio isn’t copyrighted. It’s meant to be a public service to the American people of their taxpayer-funded government program, but that extends to everyone. There are some restrictions – not everything NASA publishes is covered by the same license, though it appears to be on SoundCloud. And you aren’t free to use NASA’s name or logo or imply commercial endorsement. (The Eagle didn’t land on a bag of Doritos.) But that means just about any imaginable musical application is fair game. They do ask you to list NASA as source, but that’s only reasonable. Read their content guidelines for full details.

Let the space remixing begin.

European Space Agency, your move.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in. If you want more, NASA centres all have archival libraries, and the agency has routinely worked with artists and composers to interpret the work they do. See also other research centers around the world. And yes, that’s my Saturn V photo at the top, because, and I’m sure this will come as a huge shock to everyone who reads this site, I’m a big nerd.

Continue reading »

What if those encoders had a new life? Photo (CC-BY-SA)  Shunichi kouroki.

What if those encoders had a new life? Photo (CC-BY-SA)
Shunichi kouroki
.

Dear Gods of step sequencing, we beseech thee.

Give unto us first a lot of knobs. We pray for a bounty of encoders, ideally built into hardware everyone kind of forgotten about.

And shine upon us with lights round those encoders.

Next, let us breaketh our warranty together, so that we may onto thine encoders map parameters.

And set my people free from the chains that bind them to their computers, so that they may roam free across the land and sequenceth hardware free from the tyranny of the folding metal fruit books and boxy Compy.

Amen.

Yes, your prayers have been answered – maybe prayers you didn’t know you had. Like, wouldn’t it be great if someone came along and turned the inexpensive Behringer BCR2000 encoder box into a badass step sequencer. Continue reading »

playthebuilding_big

Not satisfied with producing hundreds of records and working with a litany of famous names, sound artist / composer / musician HÃ¥kan Lidbo several times a year embarks on some novel experiment in sound and interactivity. In the latest, he’s worked with smart lightbulbs from Philips to transform an entire building in Stockholm into your very own personal game board.

They’re calling it the world’s biggest Master Mind game, and who are we to argue?

The idea is, windows become pixels, and you play online to try to guess the color code of your opponent, in a game of wits.

Continue reading »

The tidy toolbar at the bottom shows Audiobus connectivity.

The tidy toolbar at the bottom shows Audiobus connectivity.

Here’s a case where the iPad version of a DJ app has surpassed what even the desktop version does.

On Windows and Mac, Traktor is a powerful app for DJs, to be sure. But there isn’t an obvious way of routing DJ mixes through external effects or connecting it to other production tools. On iOS, now there is. Native Instruments quietly added Audiobus support to its popular iOS DJ app, which opens up the ability to route sound from the DJ tool to other apps.

Why would you want such a feature? Recording mixes probably isn’t strictly necessary, because Traktor DJ already has an internal facility for doing that. More likely, there are two use cases:

1. You want to expand the effects available to Traktor. (Add, for instance, a convolution reverb.)

2. Use Traktor as a production tool and instrument, with other tools in your chain.

Connecting apps via Audiobus - here, a free guitar effect from IK Multimedia.

Connecting apps via Audiobus – here, a free guitar effect from IK Multimedia.

Continue reading »

Just because there’s a nice marketing angle doesn’t mean that it has to be the story for you. And that’s been true of NI’s big, splashy product launches. Sure, there’s the epic-looking Traktor Kontrol S8 hardware launched this week – but you tell us you might be just as pleased with a compact controller or an update to the iPad app. And Maschine Studio does wonderful things with its big screens – but the MK2 still has great pads, costs less, and fits in a backpack.

And then there’s Komplete 10. Yes, NI is keen to talk about its light-up series of keyboards, which integrate with the software. But whether you want them or not, what you shouldn’t miss is the superb new Reaktor instruments that come with the bundle.

Rounds is one of the best synths I’ve used recently, full stop. It takes the new analog modeling techniques NI honed elsewhere and launches into new digital domains of effects, modulation, and FM sound generation. Polyplex is simple but good fun as a drum machine (even if it makes me long even more for a better sample loading facility in Reaktor). Kontour is yet another deep synth, capable of rich, mutating timbres and eminently playable. No surprise: it comes from Stephan Schmitt, the NI founder who also gave us Reaktor itself.

Matt Cellitti walks through the trio of new Reaktor instruments in a series of tutorial videos, so it’s a great way to get started. Let’s watch. Continue reading »