Launchpad meets Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder

We used to talk about the home studio. Then the bedroom producer. Then laptop music. Now it’s more like the everywhere studio – and the computer may be nowhere to be seen.

Tools like Launchpad for iOS tend to exist in some sort of alternate dimension from the world of music tech writing, even when it comes to this site. But quietly, a lot of people are making music with them. (It doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of iPads and iPhones out there, or that the apps are often given away for free.)

But just because this is a category that’s friendly to newcomers doesn’t mean the music is any less serious.

This week, Novation is promoting its Launchpad with some heavy artist collaborations. Kicking off a new soundpack set are Machinedrum (Ninja Tune) and Lapalux (on Brainfeeder, the label most associated with Flying Lotus). I find these to be really nice choices. Vapor City is really one of my favorite electronic releases of recent years – and I will be the first to admit I’m completely biased by the fact that Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) is a lovely gentleman.

Let’s have a listen to the music: Continue reading »

alchemy

Logic Pro has a new flagship synth instrument. And that synth is no basic pack-in – it’s one of the deepest software instruments on the market.

It’s also no stranger. As expected following Cupertino’s acquisition, Alchemy, a deep “sample manipulation” synth, has made its way into Apple’s product line. It’s now everywhere on the Mac desktop. Even in GarageBand, you can access Alchemy-based presets. In Logic Pro X, and even MainStage, you can access the full instrument. (That means the $29.99 MainStage is now also a heck of a steal if you just want the synth.)

(I do say desktop – there’s no sign of Alchemy on iOS at this time. On the other hand, if those “iPad Pro” rumors are true… well, I’ll let you fantasize about that; Apple of course won’t tell me anything.)

Now, we more or less knew back when Camel Audio was acquired by Apple that this would also mean no more availability of Alchemy as a plug-in for other DAWs (or other platforms). What we didn’t know is what form the re-released version would take. And that’s where there’s good news: Alchemy has been vastly updated.

If you’re just looking for a sound quickly, you can mess about with transform controls and pull up a wide range of presets. If you want to go deeper, you have an instrument that does additive, spectral, formant, granular, sampling, and virtual analog synthesis. In fact, I can’t think of another single instrument that does quite as much all via one interface.

Logic Pro X 10.2, available as a free App Store upgrade or for instant purchase, includes a raft of other improvements. And Alchemy itself hasn’t just been shoved into Logic’s interface – there are some significant additions there, as well. Let’s have a look: Continue reading »

Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Windows 95. But the best part of all of this may be this oddly eerie, beautiful set of ambient tunes, slowing down the best-known Windows branding by 4000%.

This is what Brian Eno sounds like when you Brian Eno-ify Brian Eno.

While we’re at it, it’s worth revisiting some of the startup sounds over the years. Continue reading »

So, we all know we’d like to get our hands on software music making with something other than the mouse. Now — how? How do you actually make that physical knob or button do something useful on screen, and at the right moment?

There’s the brute-force method, manually applying MIDI learn. There are fancy dynamic ways of assigning controls. But the former is inflexible and requires extra work, and the latter means that you typically can’t “lock” every control where you need it. (That is, the automatic methods sometimes “outsmart” you to the point of not allowing you to do what you wish.)

DDC – “Dedicated Device Control” – is a solution for Ableton Live that finally keeps controls mapped to specific software without sacrificing flexibility.

It comes in several parts:
1. MIDI Remote Scripts (this means it doesn’t require extra software running or Max for Live)
2. An editor for making your assignments.
3. A capture tool for use with third-party plug-ins and Max for Live devices (that is, not just internal Ableton Devices and Racks).
4. A repository full of controller files to get you started. Continue reading »

Remember when apps were novel toys for experimentation? Now, an app could give your drum machine a run for its money.

It’s the third wave of iOS apps. We’re now onto a moment where, cresting the wave of tools, a few are becoming simply invaluable to the right users. They can make an iPad feel a bit like dedicated hardware, perhaps even in a way that a computer can’t. And that to me makes them worth examining, even if you have no desire to use an iPad.

Elastic Drums has that feeling to me. On its surface, it’s just another drum machine app with a sequencer. But by tying together features you need for production and performance, it’s one of the few apps where I feel like I can really produce something serious. And its sound engine is unusual enough that it actually has personality. Continue reading »

We’ve heard a lot about Stems, a distribution format providing four separate, DJ-ready parts. And we already go to the point where you could buy a range of Stems music online. What you haven’t been able to do is try making your own Stems, unless you were on one of the early label partners.

That changes today, with Native Instruments’ public release of the free Stem Creator Tool. This is officially a beta version, but NI reports the files are created correctly and you should find it stable.

This also means whether or not you’re sold on Stems yet, you’ll get a better picture of how it works for producers.

First, to the pack itself. You get get:
1. A quick-start guide. (There’s also a video, included here.)
2. A guide on making your own Stems album cover (so it says ‘Stems’ on it, basically), accompanied by a template .psd file.
3. A software tool for Mac and WIndows that handles metadata, dynamics processing, and file export. (Only 64-bit Windows is supported at the moment, but 32-bit support is coming.)

Probably your best bet is to watch the video. There are some interesting details you might easily have missed in previous discussions: Continue reading »

modulations

America’s on-again, off-again love affair with electronic music – often, with idioms it helped create – is endlessly full of unexpected twists and turns. But all this bears examining. For some, it’s a journey back to the music that first inspired them. For others, it’s a chance to learn, perhaps, how where music has been might help lead to where it’s going. It’s a chance not just to repeat electronic music past, but go beyond it.

And if you’re looking for something to entertain you this weekend, you could do worse than Modulations, a documentary from 1998.

Back then, it was “electronica,” not “EDM.” But then, as now, high culture met festival culture – Karlheinz Stockhausen and Danny Tenaglia get equal screen time. Robert Moog weighs in. Some figures – Carl Cox, Derrick May, Giorgio Moroder – are just at home on today’s lineups. Others are not. As in the 808 film, Arthur Baker gets a starring role, too.

The film is mainly a document about the dance scene, but as such, offers a reminder to what 90s culture was, and how it does and doesn’t mirror the situation today.

And now you can watch the full thing for free on Vimeo or YouTube. Ah, back when electronic music was real electronic music, parties were real parties, and all the women were purple. (Erm, see the cover image.) Um… right. The 90s. Here’s Vimeo:

Modulations – Full Feature Film from Cultures of Resistance Films on Vimeo.

But wait — there’s more. Continue reading »