Here’s a really quick tip, but it demonstrates something in one illustrative video: Keith McMillen’s QuNexus is a brilliant, mobile solution for MIDI and analog control voltage.
Of course, time was when the mention of control voltage would say to people either eccentric vintage gear collectors or expensive racks of modular. But CV’s appeal is fast spreading. On the modular side, prices are tumbling, and compact suitcase rigs can easily cost less than some pricey plug-in bundles (cough). On the used/vintage side, there’s just a lot of gear you might want to connect. And now, there are affordable units like Korg’s Monotribe.
What’s great about the QuNexus is that you get MIDI and CV in one very portable, very affordable box, with a keyboard attached. Add the MIDI Expander and you don’t need a computer, either. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of the QuNexus when I first saw it, but it’s gradually become one of my favorite pieces of gear – enough that I always want it in my bag – just like those Apple video adapters, it’s always with me. It’s just stunningly playable for something so small and thin, and the connectivity makes it versatile.
Via Google+, I heard John Keston showing off a little Monotribe and Volca KEYS rig. It’s adorable and small, perfect for quick jams or mobile music making. He comments more on the setup: Continue reading »
Black Friday, the ominous-sounding American retail holiday named originally for the day when retailers broke even (think black ink), is of course on today. Fortunately, for music and sound, there’s no need to get trampled to land some discounts.
Here’s what’s in the CDM inbox – these aren’t paid placements and they’re hardly comprehensive, but some deals I thought were especially nice:
Vinyl lovers everywhere, you may want to check your local store today. Record Store Day’s BACK TO BLACK FRIDAY is on. (I guess they resisted the urge to call it None More Black, Spinal Tap style.)
Audiofile Engineering, the terrific OS X audio developer, has a sale on many of their apps, including the audio editor Triumph.
Twisted Tools, who make some of my favorite creative tools for Reaktor as well as some fascinating samples and the like, have 25% off with code TTblackfriday through the evening of the 2nd of December (11:59 PM California time on Monday).
Native Instruments has a massive sale they’re calling XXL. A whole swath of software is available at 50% off – not everything, but still a lot of choices, including instruments and effects from Komplete, expansions for Maschine, and Traktor Pro 2. Upgrades and crossgrades are also all 50% off, meaning now is a smart time to upgrade. And iOS apps iMaschine and Traktor DJ are also on sale on the App Store. Traktor DJ at US$1.99 is a particular deal; iMaschine is sorely in need of an update but still a fun way of capturing samples for Maschine desktop software and is also at US$1.99.
If you’ve waited to pick up the very-lovely iMini and unique iSEM apps for iOS, they’re US$4.99/€4.49 Friday through Sunday. And they’ve added iOS 7 support with interapp audio, too. Find them on the app store at Arturia’s section, before they revert to ten bucks.
Elektron has 10% off their machines, including Analog Four, Octatrack, Machinedrum UW, and Monomachine. Continue reading »
Yes, you know the phenomenon – loops sometimes get repetitive, cycling without variation. You can’t really blame the tool; Ableton Live, for instance, certainly allows loads of variation with automation envelopes. But as demonstrated in the latest beta video, Bitwig Studio will provide plenty of functionality for editing changes in audio clips.
I’m not totally in love with the content of the video itself – I hope we can give the beta a go soon to check out the stretching algorithm with some other audio. But the features look very nice indeed:
- Multiple audio events inside a clip
- Drag to slice up new regions inside a clip (ideal for reordering, editing)
- Extensive options in the Inspector, for quick access to time options, edits, reverse, legato, pitch, and so on
- Without needing envelopes, make edits to regions, including adding silence
- Precise tools for working with the stretching algorithm with independent settings for regions inside the clip.
There’s also the usual transient detection and so on found in most DAWs. But the ability to freely create regions inside the clips – regions inside regions – opens up editing powers with less work.
And if you can keep with it, watch as they start getting into lots of micro-edits toward the end. For compulsive editors, it’s neat stuff. It’s another chance to bring back IDM.
The bad news: you still have to wait for Bitwig. But there are some nice ideas here.
The challenge: fit everything you really want from a bass synth into a 4″ x 4″ square. Make every parameter hands-on, with full-sized knobs and switches. Give it an analog filter that can be angry, not just nice.
Our solution: MeeBlip anode. It’s the new collaboration between CDM and instrument designer James Grahame. Together with James’ engineering work, we’ve cooked up a little package that focuses on packing personality:
- Digital oscillators meet an original analog filter
- Grungy, bass-heavy sounds
- Compact, 4” x 4” case (approx. 100 x 100 mm)
- Modulation, envelope, tuning, and pulse width controls
- MIDI input for compatibility with vintage and modern hardware, computers, and (with a compatible adapter) iPad and iPhone
And here’s what anode sounds like – completely unprocessed, recorded straight out of the anode’s audio jack (more sounds to come):
Price: US$129.95 / 129,95€ / £109.95
From now through December 3, though, you can it at a special Thanksgiving discount for presale customers:
US$109.95 / 109,95€ / £94.95
meeblip.com/get-one/ Continue reading »
Ableton still doesn’t make an iOS app for Live. The software seems to lend itself to direct touch interfaces, emphasizing live performance and improvisation and real-time workflows. But there’s little reason for the developer to make one themselves: there are just too many superb third-party solutions, and they continue to dazzle.
TouchAble 2, available now, goes further than any app has before. If hardware controllers or the mouse or computer keyboard act as narrow windows into what Live can do, the latest TouchAble just seems to do … everything. Short of Live running on a touchscreen directly, TouchAble brings what the application offers to a fully touch-based interface. And because it redesigns each interface for touch, what you get is something far beyond what Live would offer just plunked onto, say, a Windows tablet.
If it’s a parameter, you can control it.
If it’s a MIDI message, you can control it.
If you want to make your own layout, you can – with XY Pads, Faders, Rotaries, Labels, Buttons and Containers. (There’s still reason to consider TouchOSC or Lemur as alternatives, even so; those apps allow for generic templates, not just those that control Live, and offer their own widget libraries and scripting possibilities, if you so choose.)
If you want to run several TouchAble instances at once, you can.
TouchAble also opens up not only the usual mixing and clip launching. With TouchAble 2, you can go deep into editing, the Browser, and playing instruments, too. Push does that beautifully in hardware, with tactile feedback; TouchAble’s advantage is that the interface is a display, and choices are broader.
New creation choices: Continue reading »
Acid techno is transformed into dub-y trance in the masterful hands of TM404, aka Andreas Tilliander, aka Mokira (under Type and Raster-Noton). In a beautiful video released this month, a lineup of blinking Roland boxes becomes simply mesmerizing. It is technically acid techno, yes, but here those rhythms rotate gently in hypnotic harmony.
Not that TM404 can’t also dial his ensemble of analog voices into a dervish-like dancefloor frenzy. That side was on evidence Saturday night in Berlin. Ostensibly, Andreas was there to promote Elektron’s new boxes, as a big Analog Four Keys banner hung behind him, but he might just as well have arrived as a Roland artist endorsement. (Well, as a Roland artist endorsement who came via time machine from the 1980s.)
Here’s an example of what that sounds like. It sounds like acid, complete with the requisite 303 squelch, but adds asymmetrical twists, rendering it in abstract, tribal energy.
As it happens, looking at how Andreas plays answers some of the controversy over the weekend to Elektron’s approach to sampling. In the launch event, Elektron talked about skipping the laptop and using one of their machines as the “studio.” That claim might make more sense with the addition of their OctaTrack, at least, but it raised a larger point (a funny one, given the room at the time was full of laptop-using artists, let alone a number of NI and Ableton employees).
I clarified details of the sequencing functions. Basically, you get sync via MIDI and DIN out, and must use CV/gate for anything else – that is, you can only step-sequence analog gear. But part of the advantage of connecting gear, as seen in this video, is really about using the onboard sequencing, because it externalizes each musical element. The parade of light-up buttons is a little like looking over the shoulder at the notated part of an individual musician in an orchestra. So sync, for many Elektron customers, is probably enough.
That isn’t the way everyone wants to work. But if you do choose to work that way, this isn’t a bad way to go about it. And TM404′s musical imagination can be inspiring, however you play.
This recording is Andreas’ favorite ten minutes from the Insomnia Festival, in Tromsø, Norway in October: Continue reading »
Not just an Analog Four with a keyboard, says Elektron. The Analog Keys also boasts a joystick, step sequencer, and hands-on workflow. Photos: Benjamin Weiss, De:bug.
I’m here in Berlin where Elektron is introducing the new Analog Keys synth keyboard as part of their Night of the Machines event. (Later tonight, we get the likes of The Field and TM404 playing live.)
We also have images and video by my friend Benjamin Weiss of De:bug Magazine — see their report with more pics.
It’s worth watching that video, because of one thing: polyphony. An OS update should bring that polyphonic capability to both Analog Four and Analog Keys soon.
Elektron are quick to say that the Analog Keys is not just an Analog Four with a keyboard slapped on – though the two do appear to share the same architecture. The emphasis is on hardware workflow, with the return of the joystick (as beloved on SFX-6 Monomachine), an updated internal step sequencer, and lots of controls. The step sequencer may be as big a deal as the keyboard; it boasts some impressive features, including the ability to set per-step presets and control external gear via CV. There’s no MIDI out from the step sequencer, unfortunately, though you can now use the Keys in a “master controller” mode – that is, as a standard MIDI keyboard. Of course, if you have an Analog Four, you know that already, though it seems we will see some firmware updates this week. (It will ship with 512 presets and preset storage capability. “Even flute sounds,” says Elektron.)
Clarification: This has caused some confusion, so here’s how it works:
- MIDI output: MIDI out is restricted for now to the Controller Mode, though you can use both that mode and the internal step sequencer at the same time. The sequencer controls external sounds; the master controlled features control external gear.
- DIN: Sync signal only – but this lets you sync other drum machines and use their internal sequencers, which is still fairly nice.
- CV out: Send up to four CV/Gate signals (via two physical ports, two signals each) to analog gear.
Continue reading »