Pity the iPad. Unlike the Commodore 64, Apple’s wundertablet doesn’t come with a state-of-the-art SID synthesizer chip inside. Well, now emulation solves that problem.

SidTracker 64 is both an emulation of the SID sound chip on the Commodore computer line, plus a workstation for arranging your own songs. And it’s already got some songs to get you started, like the classic “Commando” by Rob Hubbard, which you can play or remix.

It’s loaded with all the usual production extras. And don’t let the “tracker” name put you off: you can play in real time, which naturally works well on the iPad:

The app emulates the later 8580 chip. That may displease purists who seek the original, but apart from some very specific glitches on the original 6581, the two are capable of producing basically the same sounds. And while the SID is associated with feel-good 80s video game lore, it’s really a beautiful and versatile synthesizer, in no way restricted to that particular genre. The work of Bob Yannes (who went on to found Ensoniq), it fits well into synth history. Continue reading »


Any trip, anywhere can turn into a creative opportunity – if you pack the right stuff. So if you’re hitting the road this summer, here are some thoughts.

Adam John Williams is a media artist and maker and musician and lots of other things. But even among that rarified breed, he’s somewhat unusual. The man brings Olympic effort to hack days – one of the organizers behind Music Tech Fest and a prolific performer and inventor. As a participant at our hacklab at CTM Festival, he was applying painful shocks to himself in time with Ableton Live – and that’s just one example.

Adam is a maven among mavens, so of course peering inside his luggage is uncommonly interesting. (Don’t worry, we’ll keep it geeky.)

An image of those very contents crossed my feed as Adam headed off to Reykjavik, so I asked Adam to explain. It’s got some good tips for what to pack, as well as a window into the way he approaches each day as a chance to make something new.

Here’s what he says: Continue reading »

EMT 140 MkII

Say what you want about what’s real or what’s authentic. The beauty of digital sometimes is that it lets us do things that would otherwise be impossible – or at least far out of our reach.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t my hands on an EMT 140 plate reverb. Practical, though, it ain’t: sure, you can covet “analog” gear, but this thing is a physical plate reverberation that’s the size of a car. You know “room” reverbs? This is a reverb that’s the size of a room. It weight 600 pounds. (Not figuratively. I mean it literally weighs over 270 kilos.) Flash back in time to 1957 Germany, and this monster was actually the convenient, compact size – presumably much as our grandchildren will someday laugh that we don’t snort the latest iPhone up our noses.


First, let’s look at the historical model: Continue reading »

Here’s something cool, and something depressing – all in one.

What’s cool: Paul Lemere, participating at Cannes’ MIDEM Hack Day, built a tool that magically figures out where “the drop” is in a song.

What’s creepy and depressing – uh, to me, at least – it knows this because some of you apparently can’t resist scrubbing directly to that point in the song. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t the whole point some amount of anticipation before just immediately getting to the release of pl– I’m going to stop right there, as there is no family-friendly way to talk about this.

Paul Lemere has a great explanation of how he arrived at this knowledge – after some false starts using other approaches. He explains:

Every time you scrub your music player to play a particular bit of music on Spotify, that scrubbing is anonymously logged. If you scrub to the chorus or the guitar solo or the epic drop, it is noted in the logs. When one person scrubs to a particular point in a song, we learn a tiny bit about how that person feels about that part of the song – perhaps they like it more than the part that they are skipping over – or perhaps they are trying to learn the lyrics or the guitar fingering for that part of the song. Who’s to say? On an individual level, this data wouldn’t mean much. The cool part comes from the anonymous aggregate behavior of millions of listeners, from which a really detailed map of the song emerges.

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It seems Apple Music isn’t just about consumption. Not surprisingly, Apple’s own GarageBand/Logic family appear to figure into the company’s plans. Accordingly, GarageBand will get an update on June 30, the same day Apple Music (and Apple Music Connect) are scheduled for launch.

And for anyone who says the company is “abandoning” pros, here’s the less evidence that – at least from Apple’s perspective – the company sees the production and Mac markets as integral to their global consumer domination.

First, we now have a pretty clear image of where Camel Audio and its Alchemy synth have wound up. As expected, it’s resurfacing as an Apple instrument. Apple themselves have revealed that on the refreshed GarageBand page. Updates there are minor, but there’s a clear view of the UI from Alchemy, reimagined as Apple’s Smart Controls layout. Apple Insider breaks that news (oddly beating us in the music tech realm). Continue reading »


Summertime. You certainly can’t complain about your options in electronic music festivals.

But in some of the best festivals, there’s also a sameness – talented lineups, repeated from weekend to weekend. That predictability is part of the draw, part of the commercial viability of many of these events and of the artist industry they support. But where do you go if you want something different to happen? If you want a mix of music that’s different, an environment that’s different, if you want all the things that wouldn’t work elsewhere?

One place to go is the countryside of Serbia, from the 3-5 of July. A select group of 300 people will get to do just that.

There, three of Belgrade’s best underground music forums are teaming up. The people behind Dis-patch Festival and “cult” clubs Drugstore and 20/44 are joining up to make something small, decidedly un-commercial, and unique. There’s reason to keep your eyes on what happens next, even if you’re not going to be anywhere near the Balkan region this summer. Drugstore, for one, has become an essential hub in what defines the worldwide electronic underground at the moment.

I’m going there next month partly as an artist – I played the old Drugstore before it was shut down and replaced by a grander new venue – and on behalf of CDM. In the latter capacity, we’ll have our own tent (or possibly dome) in which we welcome inventor/artists to share their creations.

Of course, it’s not uncommon for festival organizers to make claims about being different. So we’re joined by Relja Bobić and Bane Jovancevic to learn what they mean, specifically, and to hear more about the state of the music landscape in the region in 2015.

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Before Elektron – you know, the Swedish drum machine company – there was Elektron.

The Elektron-83 is the creation of Jožka Říhák, legendary in Moravia as a genius electronic instrument builder. His Syntezátor – 83 Unisono went into production, but the ELEKTRON – 83 is one of a kind. We got a live performance and demo/explanation of the creation at Brno’s Synth Fest hosted by Bastl Instruments and their new Noise Kitchen shop in the Czech Republic.

And this thing is simply amazing.

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