Hey, sometimes it’s the simple things.

I was going to write something, but – well, it’s a tuner. Watch the film, from Ableton Liveschool. And I have to say, Ableton has found a way to make this Device more interesting than previous Max for Live efforts. It even has a histogram.

Perhaps the most newsworthy element here – a sign of the times – is that the resurgence of analog synthesizers has meant that tuning outboard hardware is now again an application for tuners. You’ll see in the video here an example with the classic MOOG Minimoog, but see the Ableton-shot photo below for an Arturia MicroBrute. Keyboardists, not just guitarists, are now using tuners, too.

If only we had some digital means of keeping things in tu– jeez, what the heck is going on, anyway? Strange, cyclical days.




It’s nice to get what you ask for. More than any recent release I can recall, Ableton Live 9.2 feels like it’s ticking off a task list of user requests. The software enters (a very stable, in my experience) public beta this week. There’s nothing earth-shaking, but I know CDM has enough Ableton users that this will matter.

To get there, though, be forewarned: Ableton is dropping support for some older Mac and Windows operating systems. (10.6 and earlier / Vista and earlier, respectively.)

If you make the cut, though, you’ll likely find some welcome changes in this free update for Live 9. See if these complaints sound familiar to you – as now they get addressed:

You want to warp techno and house without headaches. This one was especially maddening: you drop a completely regular, four on the floor, 125 bpm track into Live, and get … a whole bunch of complicated warp markers and tempo changes? Uh, that’s note right. Ableton says they’ve improved Auto-Warp and downbeat detection to better recognize fixed tempos. No more “four scattered on the walls, ceiling, and your face.” Back on the floor. Good.

You wish warped tracks sounded better. Ableton promises improved Complex and Complex Pro warp modes with “punchier transients, even at extreme settings.” So far, the difference is subtle, but sounds good – think clearer rendition of sharp, percussive sounds.

You want better latency compensation. The big development here, and one we’ve waited for, is that automation is fully latency-compensated. Previously, adding automation could through off latency compensation for devices. Also, Ableton says they’ve improved latency performance with Max for Live and third-party plug-ins.

Some more details on the latency compensation improvement, from Ableton: “Latency-compensated automation refers to applying delay compensation to automation events. Previously, clip contents were compensated but automation breakpoints were not. This meant that in Sets with latency-inducing plug-ins, automation might occur before the corresponding events in clips. This doesn’t happen anymore.”

You play an instrument, and forgot a tuner. There’s now a Tuner built-in. Yep, I think we had a whole article about this, so thanks!

You want to play pads on your whole Push, not a little corner of it. Here’s the thing: Ableton’s Push hardware isn’t an MPC. So a 16-pad grid is a small corner of the controller. In Push’s Drum Rack mode, that allows the use of a step sequencer with the extra pads. But maybe you’d prefer to wail away on all 64 pads. Now, you can switch between these two modes. (Novation has actually made the lack of a step sequencer on their Launchpad Pro a selling point for this very reason. If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, though, Push’s ability to choose may be ideal.)

They’ve also released a new video showing that off – below.

What else? Continue reading »

Sonic history in electronic music may be made with technology, but it’s also the output of someone’s brain. As such, it’s natural that liberated creativity can produce all kinds of possibilities. And it should be no surprise that history sometimes comes in cycles.

Or… make that rectangles.

Speaking of Poland, this short animation, crafted in 1971, features spooky sounds that would be at home on any modern dark techno floor. Entitled “Prostokąt dynamiczny” – literally, “dynamic rectangle” – the animation is by experimental filmmaker Józef Robakowski, with music by the incredible Eugeniusz Rudnik. We saw Rudnik yesterday in our piece on Polish electronic music pioneers (and their connection to modern partiers), and featured in the Boiler Room film.

It’s worth considering the visualist here alongside the sonic artist. The Poznań-born Robakowski was an early pioneer in video art and experimental film – on the standards of the international stage, not just as a curiosity from Poland. His work ranged from conceptual pieces (photographing coriander, for instance) to meditations on Poland’s still-recent, dark history (piecing together collage from the Holocaust). Continue reading »


When audio software maker Camel Audio announced they were ceasing operations and making their product line unavailable, we considered two possibilities: either they had simply closed shop, or they were bought.

Well, they were bought. That is, we can’t confirm the plug-in vendor has been purchased by Apple. Here, let’s line up two scenarios again. Either:

1. Camel Audio spontaneously moved their UK business registration to Apple’s London address and named Apple lawyer Heather Joy Morrison as their sole Director. (Upside: awesome prank. Downside: um, maybe you get thrown in the Tower of London, or whatever England does these days.) OR –

2. Apple bought them.

MacRumors breaks the story, but this is no “rumor.” Because the UK corporate registry records are public, they have the PDF of the filing. (See below.) And Heather Morrison is listed on LinkedIn as Apple’s iTunes Senior Counsel, Europe. (My guess is this has nothing to do with the App Store or iTunes, but just that Ms. Morrison is the most convenient senior legal representative for Apple in the UK.)

Okay, so now we know Apple bought Camel. What does it mean for Camel’s products, like CamelSpace or CamelPhat? Continue reading »

Marek Biliński live in Warsaw, 2013. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Robert Drózd.

Marek Biliński helms a Moog live in Warsaw, 2013. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Robert Drózd.

The setting looks futuristic — like Stanley Kubrick teamed up with Syd Mead to make a theme park. But it’s actually Warsaw and environs. And the path the future is via the past, and a history largely unknown outside of the country. Boiler Room, best known for webcasting parties, shifts gears from what’s new-and-hip to where it all began, and the result is inspiring.

The film was directed by Marcin Filipek for Boiler Room with the input of Gosia Herman of Boiler Room Poland, and is the result of half a year spent gathering artists. The stunning imagery is the work of cinematographer Michal Dabal.

The strongest part of the film is unquestionably its glimpse of early Polish pioneers, and the challenges they faced as they carved a path through new electronic musical frontiers. So, you get:

The film also makes a connection to today’s musical generation in Poland, with younger artists: Continue reading »


How much freedom do you want when building things? You want the ability to experiment and make choices, but you also want the process of making to be easy enough that you can play.

Bleep Labs last week introduced the first two kits in a series they’re calling Rad-Fi. The idea is, follow the instructions, and you can build a synth and an effect quickly by connecting parts on a breadboard. That makes kit assembly stunningly easy, because there’s no soldering involved. It also means it’s very possible to make modifications by snapping in additional parts, or, if you want to get fancy, reprogramming or adding intelligence with the aid of an Arduino.

The concept is not to be a kit on a single board – there are other options for this. Fueled by experience teaching workshops and helping people learn about electronics and sound quickly, this is best understood as a set of parts and techniques that rapidly puts an idea together, for later modification if desired.

Rad-Fi a collaboration between Bleep’s John-Mike and Pete Edwards (the latter, of Casper Electronics fame, is an American now based in the Netherlands – in case you’re in Europe and looking to book a great synth-building workshop). When I was in Amsterdam last year at STEIM, Pete showed me some of his projects – rich-sounding instruments capable of terrific sounds, all assembled from standard parts on a breadboard. Rad-Fi here are an outgrowth of some of those ideas, merged with efforts by John-Mike Reed in a similar direction. Continue reading »


It’s the best-known sample of all time. It might be the most-heard six seconds of sound in modern recording.

But before it became the “Amen break,” the signature riff was part of The Winstons’ song “Amen, Brother.”

And so, how much did the artists who actually produced the original sound earn from their “success”? Well, that’ll be … nothing, apart from the original revenues from the 1969 release. Nothing in royalties from its use … well, seemingly everywhere. (N.W.A.? Oasis? Futurama? Check.)

Zip. Zero. The drummer, Gregory Coleman, died homeless in 2006. Richard L. Spencer, the vocalist and sax player you hear on the classic cut, owned the copyright but never got a cent from its reuse. Forget Searching for Sugarman. BBC tracking down Richard L. Spencer (picture, top) may be the even bigger story of a lost and unsung musical hero, all but disappearing after 1971.

So now, one crowd funding project wants to right the wrong, doing through donations what the international intellectual property system couldn’t do for an independent musician.

The project is the brainchild of Martyn Webster, a 42-year old DJ from the UK. Webster fits the MO of the whole Amen break-sampling scene, making electro, hiphop, and rap in the 80s and 90s. So, he’s just a DJ who loved this musical gesture and wanted to give back. The plan: raise money, then give it to Richard L. Spencer to make up for years and years of success given to other artists.

Mr. Webster writes, simply: Continue reading »