Electronic drums have had a hard time escaping the shadow of Roland’s TR line. But that’s no reason to limit yourself, yet again, to another two scoops of vanilla ice cream in your cone.

And so, even with an increasingly crowded Eurorack modular scene, it’s worth applauding the entry of the mad scientists of Bastl Instruments in the Czech Republic. They’ve got a number of new modules that are weird and wonderful, inspired yet again by the legacy of a nearly-forgotten electronic pioneer of the Communist-dominated 70s, Standa Filip. And while you may have spotted their debut in the market, I think the drum modules steal the show.

First, let’s enjoy some actual, beautiful music.

HRTL got his hands on a 95HP rack of Bastl goodies, rustic wooden panels and all. The music is dynamic and live, urgent in a way that can only come from not-too-perfect improvisation, lush and lo-fi all at once. It’s also a nice antidote to “look how much gear I bought” rigs and (uh, yes, I’ve gotten into this trap) modular patches that loop endlessly and don’t stop augh make that bleeping pattern quit it’s going to drive my head out of my skull.

Ahem. No, it’s nice, recorded live with no post-processing:

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Grim music is very much in vogue these days – the tell-tale sign being washed-out back and white photos that seem to have escaped from the liner covers of horror movie soundtracks, among other giveaways. But it can get carried away. You might sometimes wonder if producers were being paid by their reverb plug-ins in exchange for lengthening delay times.

Milena Kriegs aka Milena Głowacka, however, is some blissfully frightening music I feel is worth listening to. Straddling darker, deeper techno and adventures into more ambient/experimental territory, this Warsaw-based artist is at the center of a growing amount of finely-crafted electronic shadows.

And she’s a particular aptitude playing live. What I’ve come to appreciate about Milena’s work is its economy and extraordinary restraint. Each move is subtle and slow, each sound – and yes, each reverb tail – necessary. As such, I think she’s a nice introduction to a network of European artists making these sorts of sounds.

Głowacka is a relative newcomer to many of the parties she plays, having begun playing only in 2012. But she has quickly established herself on some high-quality lineups. Her October set from about blank is a standout of recent live PA sets that have crossed my way. (That event included resident Silva Rymd in her wonderful ZEROIZE series alongside long-time electronic music mainstay Heiko Laux.) Fluid, each sound a consistent thread:

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Imagine if the Eno/Schmidt Oblique Strategies, a music theory book, and an Ableton quick-start manual all got caught in a transporter accident with a bunch of different music producers.*

That seems to be what you get with Making Music: A Book of Creative Strategies. In one sense, the aim is to be none of these things. It’s not a manual. It’s not a template for music making. It doesn’t, apparently, rely much on musical theory in the traditional sense.

But, then, if you know the man behind it – Dennis DeSantis, a classical percussion virtuoso and composer turned documentation czar – this all makes sense.

The book is divided into the three places where you might become stuck creatively:

1. Beginning
2. Progressing
3. Finishing

And in each section, it includes both problems and solutions, plus hands-on reflections from artists, ranging from experimental to club. (I wish it had sections for “soups” and “desserts,” but this isn’t my book.) Sometimes, it’s talking about specific harmonies in house music. Sometimes, it’s reflecting on the very act of listening.

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The list of inexpensive electronic instruments you can have for a little bit of change continues to grow. The Saw Bench, now on Kickstarter, is a 100% analog monosynth. You get one voice, one oscillator with modulation, in a box with some hands-on control via knobs and MIDI input (for notes and control).

It’s so nice, and so cheap, that I had to go talk to its creators to find out the whole story. And that lead to a nice chap from the Netherlands by the way of Pieter van der Meer.

I was especially confused about the price – at 100€ assembled, they’re more or less putting it together for free and charging you not much beyond their cost. So I asked about that, too. (Spoiler: this box is a calling card for them as makers – and what a nice calling card it appears to be!)

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Pieter explains: Continue reading »

audiomux-midimux

We’ve seen the future, and it’s … back to wires.

First, we saw midimux connect any MIDI app or hardware on your iOS device to any MIDI software or hardware connected to your Mac. Plus in a 30-pin or Lightning cable, run some software on each end, and connect anything. Then, we saw the promise of audiomux – doing the same thing for audio streams.

Now, audiomux is available on the App Store, not only individually, but as a bundle with midimux. (The developers initially asked midimux users to wait while that bundle became available, to avoid overspending.)

And, as all of this have unfolded, a number of videos and hands-on tests have demonstrated what it can do. Plus, there’s a new (competing) solution out for Windows users, too, so you don’t have to feel left out. Let’s get caught up.

Here’s a great video walkthrough of both midimux and audiomux by the folks at thesoundtestroom:

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The future happens gradually — and then by the time you’re sequencing a Web browser using Rubik’s Cubes, you might barely notice.

But Sweden’s most inventive producer is back yet again with his latest novelty, this time turning one of the world’s best-selling toys (hundreds of millions of units) into a usable sequencer.

Håkan Lidbo (concept and sound design) teams up with Per-Olov Jernberg (programming & visual design) and Romeo Brahasteanu (game board). The clever conceit here is to swap black for one of the colors, thus creating a foreground and background. Make a 4×4 grid of these cubes of 4×4 each, and you have a very usable sequencer – in fact, one more flexible than a lot of hardware sequencers out there, I might add. (It also bears some resemblance to my favorite drum machine of the moment, iOS’ Elastic Drums.)

The design is simple. And the functionality, like other computer vision-powered sequencers, is reasonably straightforward. Continue reading »

shaduzLabs – maschinIO from Mickael Le Goff on Vimeo.

Ever thought you’d play Space Invaders on your Maschine? You might.

It’s rough days for people who like standalone drum machine gear. Native Instruments’ Maschine is great in combination with software, but it turns into a brick when disconnected from a computer. The mighty Akai has followed suit, replacing their vaunted MPC with more accessories for your computer or iPad. This stuff is the dream of marketers: you get all-in-one hardware/software solutions. But when you want to cut the cord from your computer or go beyond the stock functionality, it’s another story.

One hack promises to turn all of that around. And it’s making progress. Continue reading »