microdrum

Cue Huey Lewis and the News singing “Back in Time,” because we’re going back to the 80s. And where we’re going, we don’t need … stereo.

Robert Henke (who has of late mostly shed the Monolake moniker) has a brilliant new Max for Live drum machine that borrows some of the limitations of vintage 80s drum machines. There’s a particular nod to drum machine pioneer Roger Linn (credited as such). But this isn’t just 80s nostalgia. MicroDrum’s restrictions, sound, and use of ideas from that hardware can bring new creative possibilities.

Features:

  • Zoom in on samples to 10 ms and truncate start point
  • Tune up and down, optionally quantized to semitone
  • Basic decay and anti-aliasing filter
  • Use lower sample rates with parameter control
  • Bit resolution
  • MIDI triggering
  • Drag-and-drop samples
  • Mono audio

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Paula Temple. Photo: Julia Gunther.

Paula Temple. Photo: Julia Gunther.

For me, one of the best things about 2014 was, simply, Paula Temple.

The artist, on R&S Records, consistently demonstrates that you can combine a dedication to heavy, left-field but traditional techno with an expansive appetite for experimentation. And then there are her signature, over-the-top-in-a-good way bass detonations. Her DJ sets were each highlights – check out the Goûte Mes Mix below, heavily featuring her regular collaborations Dadub, Eomac, and Lakker (the latter whom I got to join Friday in Amsterdam, lovely lads).

And then there was her audiovisual show with Jem the Misfit, a shining beacon at this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event (from the aptly-named venue across the water, EYE). We’ll cover more in detail shortly as we talk to the artists but suffice to say I was impressed that Paula struck just the right balance between her shadowy, pounding techno world and more reflective moments of calm, perfectly matching the wondrous worlds of Jem the Misfit’s vibrant optical candy. Just as Paula Temple finds transcendence in tried-and-true techno vocabulary, Jemma Woolmore’s visual performance picked up familiar tropes – “let’s film stuff melting,” for instance – and makes them new, colorful abstract etudes and geometrically-tuned compositions.

Next up for Paula Temple’s ambitions is a new record label called Noise Manifesto. We’d heard word this was coming, but the free download “Gegen” gives us the first clue where this is going – before more releases come to Bandcamp and the like. Continue reading »

replika

Miracle on Schlesische Straße?

Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind. It also means that Native Instruments is giving away a delay effect for free before it goes on sale at full retail – so now’s the time to grab it. (There’s also a download voucher, some Remix Sets, and a gear giveaway, but it’s the delay that I think rises to the level of newsworthy.)

The thing is, delays are very often as useful if not more indispensable than reverbs – whether it’s dark, dubby techno you’re producing or experimental soundscapes. And this one is really, really good – good enough that I’m a bit behind in writing about it because I got distracted trying it out; I was very quickly making some new ideas with it.

What makes Replika special is that it combines three delays in a single interface: Continue reading »

7-spotify-light-mode

A full-featured DJ app can be yours for fifty bucks, and it can stream the songs you don’t have right off Spotify. djay Pro is here, and with it and a new generation of contenders come some serious shifts in digital DJing.

Algoriddim have been making user-friendly DJ apps for a while. That started with a beginner-friendly Mac app, but extended to iOS and the until-recently-neglected Android platform (which is now at last fairly viable for mobile DJing).

djay’s ease of use was already enough to make it appeal to casual DJs. Then, in May, Algoriddim pulled an ace out of their sleeve – Spotify integration. You still need a reliable WiFi connection, and streaming still isn’t quite as convenient as working from downloaded files, but for wedding DJs or anyone who has to take requests, it’s a boon.

Still, mobile gadgets are limited. Connecting hardware for control and sound is a pain compared to a desktop, and storage is restricted.

Today’s release of djay Pro is a serious salvo in the exploding DJ market. There are two big bombshells. One, Spotify DJing has just become a reality on desktop. Two, big players in the DJ market now have to contend with a friendly, affordable competitor.

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ED1

Some people are addicted to flinging birds at stacks of things until those stacks fall over. Or they use spare moments to flick through thumbnails of single people who they’ll never meet. Or they read random 140-character texts about stuff from angry folks, yelling at each other.

Not you.

You are addicted to drums. And not just any drums. You want electronic drums, drums you can tweak and dial – genuine synthesizers, grooving. Just playing back the sound of an 808 isn’t going to cut it. If you’re sandwiched in coach class, your knees pressed against the seat in front of you, you at least want to shut out the din of a screaming baby in the next row and start adjusting that granular hat, just so. You want a rave in your head, and you want a fully-equipped cockpit to control it.

Somehow, out of the many, many apps for the App Store, nothing quite did this. Oh, sure, there are elaborate MPC-style grooveboxes and plenty of oddities. But I’ve been watching over the last year as one app gradually involved into what I – and, I suspect you – really want.

And now it’s here. If you can find any compatible iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad, I think you’ll want it.

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Synergy.

That’s the direction you can expect from Beatport and SFX Entertainment. And the speech above from the film In Good Company more or less fits. (The plot of that 2004 movie even includes an acquisition by a conglomerate.)

Basically, SFX may have solved the problem of how to make money in the streaming business – by making its money elsewhere. Or, it seems that’s the plan.

Here’s the problem: music streaming has razor-thin margins versus sales. The artists and labels eek out fairly small bits of change, generally. They can blame the streaming services, but with those services having to pay off server bills, development, support, and all the royalties for the music themselves, there’s not much left in the way of profit in their end, either.

Enter SFX Entertainment, the media conglomerate that bought out Beatport. As reported by sources at the Wall Street Journal, SFX’s Beatport will in 2015 launch a free, ad-support streaming service. The paid service as you know it – recently redesigned as Beatport Pro – will apparently live on with the Pro name. (You can also read the details at DJ Tech Tools, since the WSJ is behind a paywall.)

So, what does this have to do with synergy? Everything. Continue reading »

Techno legend Jeff Mills has a beautiful quote making the rounds on social media, responding to the question of audience. He’s still making music for them, he says – but doesn’t want to get pulled into simply giving them what he knows will work. Watch from about 8:30 for the video above, in its original context (a 2010 tugobot piece).

It resonates for me with the Milton Babbitt’s “Who Cares if You Listen?” (That’s a title Babbitt claimed he never used; this is a tale so familiar to contemporary music that it has its own Wikipedia entry, for those of you catching up at home.)

But what I love about Mills’ sentiment is not that it’s somehow anti-audience. It’s that it’s a challenge made by the artist to himself. It’s not that he loathes audiences, but that he wants to “think in the other direction … in order to be able to move further …” It’s about going somewhere, “to become more creative.”

“It’s for them … but I don’t want to know what they think; I don’t want to know what they like … I only want to be able to go as far as I can with this music before I stop.”

Continue reading »