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 »

You’ve seen plenty of EDM and DJ parodies, snarky Facebook images poking fun at people who can’t use turntables, what have you.

But let me just level with you: this video could basically be a parody of CDM … of me. I…

Well, I can’t really say much more. Just watch. (Another way you can tell this is made by producers, for producers, rather than, say, by someone at Saturday Night Live who doesn’t know how this works – check the gear choices.) Also, I think I need to go to MediaMarkt to buy a new keyboard, as I may have just spit my coffee all over this one.

What you’re seeing is the work of Norwegian sketch comedy show Kollektivet. 2manybuttons sounds like a Max for Live patch, even. Pitch perfect.

Thank you to reader Stig Fostervold for posting this to our Facebook page.

More – if you speak Norwegian, anyway:
http://www.tv2.no/kollektivet

Wait, what did we just watch, exactly?

So, there’s some sort of EDM movie involving Zac Efron. And then 128 bpm the… what?!

Laptops?

eBay?

2006 club hits by Justice … as the title / hit tune … hashtag?

Obvious DJ gear but also … as Aroon Karvna notes “WTF detail: there’s a Buchla Music Easel at 1:25.” Holy boutique modular, Batman, you’re right! Continue reading »

pocketengineering

First, they made dirt-cheap synths and drum machines. Then, they made housings that turn them into handheld calculators. Now, they want … you to rethink the case entirely.

Say what? So, the bad news is, Teenage Engineering’s cool calculator-style cases for their amazing-sounding, crazy-cheap synths and drum machine are backordered. And that is too bad. Because, damnit, even I can’t get one. And they’re really cool – I had a look at the cases at Musikmesse, and they recall nothing if not a Braun-style dress-up suit for these wonderful (and useful) sonic toys.

But this being Teenage Engineering, they’ve found a cooler-than-usual solution to being backordered. (Remember, this is the firm that made accessories 3D-printable when they had trouble making and shipping them overseas to everyone who wanted them.)

They’re letting you get in on the act. And with these creations already in the hands of a design-savvy crowd, I don’t doubt for a second that’ll inspire some ingenuity.

To make your job easier, they’re releasing precise measurements and CAD files. .PDF, .DXF, .SLDW, .STL, .STEP, all there. (Hint: if you have to ask, it’s probably not a format you need.)

Send designs, ideas, or videos, and you get an exclusive t-shirt. (As in: “Teenage Engineering couldn’t ship their cases, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt — okay, actually, kind of awesome exclusive t-shirt.”)

Deadline: 3 weeks.

Go win one for Team CDM.

https://www.teenageengineering.com

Hey, one of you already had one idea:
Teenage Engineering Drum Machine, Hacked with Big Buttons

What? Still want to drool over the official cases (and want to wait to get them)? Or at least use them as inspiration? Here you go:

IMG_3136 Continue reading »

holly

I’m remiss in not posting this last week when it debuted, and I suspect many CDM readers have heard already, but if not – drop everything, and have a listen (in full) to ‘Platform,’ the new LP from composer/producer Holly Herndon.

The full LP is now on Spotify, etc., or NPR First Listen.

There’s a lot to discuss here. “Platform,” as the name implies, is intended as a first step toward other interactions. There’s the process and technique behind the music itself. A fearless champion of the laptop’s instrumental and compositional potential, Holly has made the album itself and the discourse around it into a means of demonstrating and discussing the kinds of processes that can realize the possibilities of the computer. There’s a conceptual conversation to have, investigations into the worlds of technology, utopia, and electronic surveillance – more than just music, the album is a project about our digital lives. And then there’s even plenty to say about Holly’s own career trajectory. More than anyone I know, she has been able to successfully bridge the academic electronic musical realm, the world of festival and club stages, and the popular media view of electronic music. (And yes, I count three largely separated cultural islands there. I’ve now and then personally drowned in the seas that separate them, so this is no small feat.)

But because those are all wonderfully deep rabbit holes into which to climb, I think it’s best to start with the music. Hearing them for me had an odd sense of familiarity. I’d heard some of these track in some form in a couple of live shows, but to me, that sensation with music is a flag that I should pay close attention to what I’m hearing. Pop or “hooks” or not, there’s something that happens when a composition works, a way it finds its way into your brain. It sounds like you’ve heard it before the first time you’ve heard it, and stays with you and makes you want to hear it again. Because this record is in the mainstream press, you’ll see some writers stumble around odd descriptions like “techno.” But it seems to me timeless, genre-less. Part of its genetic code is modern: this dense forest of repeated samples and slices, a self-awareness and comfort with the means of production. Another part feels like a modern answer to much earlier work of Eno, Laurie Anderson, retold by a generation that grew up with those sounds. But from that soup comes tracks that feel like songs, feel fully formed, get into your head.

In between, there are also great moments of theater and wit, so I’ll be curious to see where the “platform” leads. Continue reading »

minibrutehack

Arturia’s quirky, compact, unmistakable-sounding MiniBrute – and the patchable MicroBrute – are among some of the nicer desktop instruments to hit recently. But you can make them do more with hacking. And that’s especially relevant as the original MiniBrute goes on sale.

The MiniBrute is already a nice synth. Sure, it’s not as compact as the more recent MicroBrute and lacks that synth’s cute little modulation patching section, but you also get full-sized keys, and it’s still a lovely instrument. The trick is, you can hack it to add an SH-101-inspired step sequencer as found on the MicroBrute and the SE edition of the MiniBrute. Couple that with an offer than through the end of June prices the limited supply of MiniBrutes at just €399 / US$399 / £299 – that’s the sort of “oh, okay, maybe I will get one after all” price.

You can add a step sequencer with a free SysEx hack: Continue reading »