It seems hard to be an artist these days without a steady stream of mixes. The problem is, a lot of these become monotonous and similar. By contrast, this week, Flying Lotus drops a free download that feels more like getting a pass into someone’s hard drive.
Ideas + Drafts + Loops is full of random snippets of music, many of them – despite the name – fairly fully formed. FlyLo’s signature over-compression is showcased, of course, but you also get sparkling, shimmering rushes of sound, like a beautifully-romantic clip for Aqua Teen Force. (Being in California, of course FlyLo has been doing TV work, a lot of it great stuff.)
These are gentle and improvisatory, unadulterated fun without the burden of having to be a commercially-consumed track. And the results feel like a brilliant ray of sunshine in the midst of this December, a musical advent calendar (24 tracks, no less) of surprises. Personalities like Thundercat appear, musical notions are set free to roam, weirdness is allowed. “Puppet Talk” introduces a wavering synthesized and then resynthesized Satie Gymnopedie, in a shuffling, syncopated waltz.
The Internet’s ever-angry demand for more content, regardless of quality, can be oppressive. But this is its best side: it’s a chance to let the stranger corners of your imagination, the musical marginalia of production, see the light of day. Continue reading »
A USB-connected step sequencer with controller is now improved, and open source.
The Digital Warrior is a boutique hardware controller hailing from Cyprus, combining a 16-voice, 32-step sequencer with four pots and two three-color endless encoders, all attached via a driverless USB connection. It’s capable of acting as a step sequencer/controller with any tools you like, but out of the box includes support for Traktor remix decks and Ableton Live control.
The remix deck functionality with Traktor is a particular draw; developer and producer/DJ Tomash GHz pioneered this particular way of combining step sequencers and Traktor’s Remix Decks. (Check out a lovely video at top to see him in action.) But the controller also works with Ableton Live, and is pre-configured to control Drum Racks. Since those Drum Racks in turn can include loops, samples, or patterns, that can mean triggering whatever you like. And it’s worth checking out the documentation: everything from controller assignment to color to trigger operation mode (momentary/toggle) is easy to customize. There are even dedicated controller modes designed to work with Ableton or Traktor (the “Ableton” mode will easily work with any other software you have on hand, or, if you don’t mind including the computer, hardware).
You can also store up to 64 patterns. My only hardware complaint is really that there’s no MIDI for standalone mode.
For Traktor, Tomash has made two rather nice sample packs, so you can add a synth or drum kit to Traktor quickly. I’ve just started playing with the prototype, and now I think I’ll always have this with me when I’m playing with Traktor.
But it’s also noteworthy that the Digital Warrior is now open source hardware, under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license.
Continue reading »
Google Glass continues to see musical ideas. Alexander Chen, whom we saw composing violin ensembles with Google’s wearable tech, now turns his attentions to literal glass – wine glasses.
In “Glass through Glass,” we hear a beautiful, ethereal ensemble of wine glasses resonating in harmony. Yes, you could do this with other devices, but glass does make the recording experience seamless, as would any wearable camera.
Cornell conductor and professor Cynthia Turner, too, is beginning with Google Glass primarily as a point-of-view camera. But she intends to go further, reported The Verge earlier this fall. She’s streaming the conductor’s perspective as she conducts, and experimenting with digitally-projected programs. And that could be just the beginning: Continue reading »
Elektron’s Analog Keys goes on sale this week, and begins shipping next week. It’s Sweden’s latest dream-worthy analog instrument, a 4-voice analog synth with integrated sequencer. And it’s no entry-level toy, either: you’ll need US$1849 / 1749€ / £1449 to make it your own.
But — what is it, exactly?
Okay: confession. When music hardware maker Elektron invited us to a party with a big lineup in Berlin, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who hoped we might see an entirely new product. Maybe we’d even get a new Machinedrum. What we got, while nice, sure does seem a lot like Elektron’s Analog Four, only with a keyboard attached.
The Analog Keys does indeed share an architecture with the Analog Four. (“Architecture” maybe is understating it – fundamentally, it is the same synth under the hood.)
But let’s talk about the differences that aren’t immediately obvious. I’m assuming the giant picture of the keyboard and the “Keys” in the name means one difference you can’t miss. But Elektron’s Jon Mårtensson tells CDM the other things Analog Keys has that Analog Four doesn’t. Continue reading »
It’s real, and yet, it isn’t. It’s the sound of percussion, but it resonates in an otherworldly way. It’s the flaming, blood-red surface of a volcano, but it’s melting before us. Some of the most evocative digital works walk this line, transport us to a place our brains can accept, yet not entirely believe, universes just past the reaches of our imagination.
And so the collaboration between Egyptrixx (Toronto’s David Psutka) and A N F (Berlin visualist Andreas Nicolas Fischer) congeals around the notion of texture and surface. In generated geometries, globs of interplanetary resin, space insect innards about to evolve, sound and visual alike take on hyperreal computer perfection. They’re beautiful and terrifying, glistening molten immersion.
Oh, yeah, and hopefully you like the color red. (I recall a phase in my childhood where I became so obsessed with the hue that I hung red curtains in my room, so that the mid-day sun bathed the entire bedroom in fire-hot color. It looked like this – well, with far more terrestrial furniture, of course.)
The music video, AX//S:
Egyptrixx – Ax//s from A N F on Vimeo.
Continue reading »
Whether you’re building an experimental effect or performance tool or writing the Next Big Thing in Mobile Apps, you might need some signal compression.
Working in Pure Data (Pd), it’s easy to create patches that get unruly, especially once you add live audio input. For mobile developers, things get even worse: you have to make your app work anywhere, with a range of devices, acoustic environments, microphones — the list goes on.
The folks at Two Big Ears, who are working on their own rather lovely Android synth, have come to the rescue of Pd hobbyists and mobile developers alike. They’ve build a handy external for master compression in Pd. Their description:
tb_peakcomp~ is an open source external for Pd (and libpd: compiled, tested and used on our iOS and Android projects) that works well as a master stereo compressor. It features variable attack, release, ratio, make-up gain and knee smoothening. It is MIT Licensed — which means you can pretty much do whatever you want with it.
So, you can use it in your own Pd patches, or drop it in an iOS or Android app. Download it from their site: Continue reading »
umidi – The World’s First Custom & Visual DJ Controller from umidi on Vimeo.
DJs, laptop musicians, and VJs may never agree on what layout is optimal for controlling their apps. With UMIDI, they might not have to.
The Kickstarter-funded project has an ambitious goal: building whatever control you want, to order. Use a graphical Web interface to select a layout, and the producer will custom-machine a case out of aluminum, etching it with your own design, and adding the controls you want. The resulting hardware is USB class-compliant and works with any software, they say, and weighs under 3 pounds in a reasonably small form factor and less than an inch thickness.
For now, controls include knobs, endless encoders, faders, and an especially nice-looking aluminum push-button trigger. There’s also a textured-aluminum jog wheel for cueing and the like. Most intriguingly, though, if they reach their “stretch” funding goal, they say they’ll add drum pads. You then choose from these controls to add up to 36 on the 6×6 grid.
Custom lighting shines through cuts in the faceplate, Tron-style. With 288 LEDs, you can create both effects and visual feedback.
Continue reading »