novationhardware

A funny thing happened on the way to the future. Thing is, at the same time the computer has improved as a music-making instrument, so, too, has standalone hardware.

The reality is, hardware rigs for music making are more affordable and more accessible than they ever were before. They do more, better. They’re easier to use. And when it comes time to record and arrange, the computer doesn’t require the investment of cost and time it once did, either.

So the upshot is, even the computer is making it easier to spend some time working with hardware. And that means more time to focus on improvising with your hands – experimenting with gear and actually making music – and less time setting things up. (Trust me on this. It’s funny to go back and look at old artist interviews, because we’re remembering things through rose-colored glasses – a lot of gear was harder to use and broke more often and cost more than you might remember. The best of times is now.)

The hardware still pays dividends as it always did. It forces you to focus on a knob, a fader, a key, on making some gesture in the moment – something the open-ended computer screen can’t always do. And, whatever the reason, it’s just a lot of fun.

So, deep in this zeitgeist, not one but two videos have popped into my inbox in the past 24 hours extolling the virtues of live improvisation on gear. And each should spark some ideas of your own, whether you copy elements of these rigs directly, or substitute your own. (I’m always looking for dirt-cheap substitutes, as a kind of continuous optimization problem, but I do appreciate these instruments here!) Continue reading »

Clap your hands say clap!

And the holiday gifts keep coming. Next up: an all-clapping plug-in.

Yes, Clap Machine does just what it says: it makes claps. Think four octaves of them, even, all very natural-sounding. Now, at first this is the sound of one hand clapping – okay, two hands clapping. You’ll probably want to use multiple notes to get more. (It’s actually a shame there isn’t a control for that, but … well, you’ll figure it out. I might actually whip up a quick Max for Live device to use single inputs from a step sequencer but generate more claps – anyone messed about with ideas with that?)

32-bit. 64-bit.

Mac. Windows.

VST. AU.

Natural reverb, with control.

Global volume.

And it sounds really nice. 99sounds have loads of these sorts of giveaways, the output of the Bedroom Producers Blog. For instance:

Free sound effects / sound libraries

Some distinctive vintage bass sounds

99 drum samples (really lovely collection of hits)

and Project Pegasus, a bunch of dreamy synth stuff.

The clap instrument is based on a sound library full of claps and snaps..

Grab the plug-in at: http://99sounds.org/vst-plugins/

And for more obsessing over claps: Vintage Clap Trap Synth, Now a Unitasker iOS App; I Love the 80s

Squint, and you might see Arturia's new audio interface.

Squint, and you might see Arturia’s new audio interface.

Word had already hit the street that Arturia was working on a new audio interface. Now, the company has announced its agenda for the product – and set the NAMM show at the end of January as a release date.

And, boy, are they being ambitious. Basically, if you can name a complaint about audio interfaces, Arturia is promising a solution. Let’s count their litany of problems to solve:

1. One-knob setups. UA’s Apollo Twin, Focusrite’s Forte, and (leading the trend) Apogee’s Duet have all popularized this trend (first seen on devices like NI’s since-discontinued Audio Kontrol 1). I never had a problem with the design, but Arturia says it causes workflow problems and they’re nixing it, and even draw a little picture that looks like the Apogee.

2. Breakout cables. Boxes like the Apogee are made smaller with breakout cables. Arturia says theirs won’t have one.

3. Mobile interfaces that are too fragile. Some mobile devices are too delicate.

4. Mobile interfaces that are too big. Wait, but they aren’t using breakout cables, right?

5. Incompatibility with specific OSes or I/O. The graphic includes phonographs, guitars, ADAT, Android, and … General MIDI. I’m not sure if they’ll have an Android-connected SMF player or what they mean, but yes, it is frustrating when a box doesn’t support what you want!

6. Audio latency.

7. Audio quality. Signal/noise ratio, low harmonic distortion, performance at high gain levels, good analog-to-digital converters – yes, these are all important, too. Continue reading »

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

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »