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As if Amsterdam Dance Event, the electronic music mecca of Europe and the world’s largest festival of its kind, weren’t packed enough already – there’s more.

Tucked inside the festival we’ve got five days of programming devoted to spatial audio, on the 4DSOUND system. As part of ADE Sound Academy, itself focusing on threads between technology, practice, and music, the event at Amsterdam’s Companietheater will explore the frontiers of new settings for music and sound. From plumbing the possibilities of the 4DSOUND’s forest of speakers to opening a discussion of immersive sound and music now and in the future, a combination of master classes, hands-on workshops, and live performances will challenge us to imagine what is possible as music fills new environments.

Meeting that challenge necessarily requires us to be engineers and artists, teachers and students, all at the same time. So I’m humbled to myself be involved in this program variously from all those perspectives, as an artist venturing into connections between architecture and music with Robert Lippok (Raster Noton), and via CDM, hosting discussions on how to push this and other technologies forward.

And you can be, too. The event is open to public attendance during ADE, and because we want your input, CDM is hosting an open call for participants to join us on a weekend-long Hack Lab. In that laboratory, limited in participation to facilitate maximum collaboration and time on the system, we’ll get to see what we can discover in finding new ways of exploiting spatial sound (and visuals). Continue reading »

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That NI is making a keyboard to provide access to its Komplete line of production tools should surprise no one. And not just because of numerous leaks – it’s the next logical step for the Berlin software developer.

After all, NI has an entire line of hardware that makes access to Traktor easier for DJing. And it developed Maschine, a software tool that from the beginning was built to facilitate hybrid hardware/software workflows. The thinking is simple: computer software offers terrific versatility, but when it comes time to actually explore sounds and play, you want knobs and faders and buttons and pads.

And keys.

As with the Maschine and Traktor Kontrol hardware, Komplete Kontrol is on one hand a standard MIDI controller. Connected to a computer, there’s no reason you can’t use it with other software via MIDI. But when combined with NI’s own software, Komplete Kontrol magically inherits other functionality and an unparalleled degree of integration with sound parameters and library browsing.

I’ve gotten a chance to talk to the folks at NI who developed Komplete Kontrol, and have an S25 keyboard here that I’ve begun testing. It’s too soon for a full review, but I can offer some first hands-on impressions – and answer some likely questions. Let’s get started.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Continue reading »

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You’ve seen the leaks; now here’s the official announcement.

Native Instruments is releasing an update to its Komplete suite of production tools (including Massive, Kontakt, Absynth, Reaktor, and others). And while the software update is largely composed of some (nice) new instruments, the banner news here is hardware.

As NI has done with its DJ line (Traktor Kontrol) and Maschine groove workstation, the company is unveiling integrated hardware that makes for a hybrid hardware/software solution. The Komplete Kontrol instruments come in 25, 49-, and 61-key variations, coupled with touch strips for pitch and mod, 8 encoders paired with interactive displays for parameter control, sound browsing, and arpeggiator and scale-mapping functions.

While you can’t quite take your eyes off the display with the same ease as you can Maschine Studio or Traktor, you do get interactive access to your Komplete library, and Reaktor instruments, too.

I’ve been testing the Komplete Kontrol S25, so I’ll leave impressions for a separate story. (A full review will come closer to the October 1 release date; the software isn’t entirely finished yet.)

Update – it’s ready. Our hands-on with the S25 keyboard.

But as far as the announcement, let’s stick to the facts – after the obligatory, heart-pounding promo video.

Seriously, I wish you were here. Every time I touch a MIDI keyboard, it’s totally this exciting. It’s like watching NASCAR cars explode inside a galaxy going supernova with an Icelandic death metal band – and that band is buck naked.

Continue reading »

modular-2p

It seems everyone is getting in on modular gear these days, thanks to the Eurorack format. But many of these modules are variations on a theme – new models of old classic modules, existing synthesis components and filters that have just been reborn as a module.

monome white whale, shipping this month, is something different. Connect a monome grid controller to a modular, and suddenly that array of light-up buttons becomes a probabilistic sequencer. It’s live performance oriented in a way too few modules are. The results are surprising and lovely. The solution isn’t cheap – you need a monome in addition to the modular rig and sequencer module, and the setup is optimized for the larger, spendier monome models. But it does produce a standalone setup that’s a joy to behold.

white whale – possibilities from tehn on Vimeo.

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cyrusrex + Baseck – #DBC611G-1D from Muff Wiggler on Vimeo.

Pulsing, rattling, buzzing, quivering, the music of LA-based artist Cyrus Rex is a sumptuous feast of sound. Here’s a musician who connects massive arrays of gear, like some post-apocalyptic robot dream, and then makes it sound like it – rapid-fire machine reveries set in motion amidst nests of cables.

Little wonder this video at top, with Cyrusrex and Baseck, comes from MuffWiggler. It is full of gear:

Cyrusrex + Baseck – Modular Synth, DSI Tempest, DevilFish TB303, Strymon BigSky, casio #DBC611G-1D

But don’t stop there. Cyrus Rex’s music is an IDM orgy of synthesizers, each sound precise and exquisite amidst the raging terror of noise. Continue reading »

Guessing that 'new' flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Guessing that ‘new’ flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Keeping new musical instrument announcements under wraps prior to embargo dates is proving, again, to be more or less impossible. Native Instruments’ Komplete updates, teased in a video on Friday, have now been prematurely revealed via one print magazine hitting newsstands (Beat, in Germany), and multiple leaks by dealers (some even crawled by Google, according to a CDM reader). Forum members at GearSlutz have been dutifully reproducing everything, leaving few secrets. From there, the cat’s out of the bag; I’m seeing this spreading through German-language outlets and expect others will pick this up soon. Oddly, forum members and commenters have also proceeded to review the announcement in some detail, apparently on the merits of a serious of text bullet points and screen shots alone.

I think that’s a little ridiculous. You need to hear instruments to judge them; you need to actually use hardware and software to judge its quality. Implementation is everything.

This isn’t the whole story – not yet. The leaks don’t yet reveal any details of how that works, only the basic physical form of the keyboards, as well as what instruments have been added in Komplete 10′s software.

So, I’m posting it here in the hopes that more inquisitive CDM readers will ask us some questions. What would you want to see tested; what would you want to know? Let’s see some questions rather than premature reviews, and we can find some answers. (My experience is, readers here ask terrific questions.)

But for starters, here’s the information shared on GearSlutz and in a story on (German-language site) Amazona.de. The big story, as the teaser video suggested, is keyboards designed for controlling instruments in Komplete. Many of the hardware features you’ve already seen in the “teaser” video (which actually showed quite a lot): Continue reading »

glitch

Native Instruments today releases a teaser video which it says is “A glimpse of the future” of Komplete, the production suite that includes Reaktor, Kontakt, and various synths and the like.

That video clearly shows some kind of hardware. Now, the degree to which I can speculate about an unreleased product is inversely proportional to the amount I know about such a product.

So, with that in mind, let me objectively describe what you see in the video in ways that are truly obviously discernible, for those of you who can’t be bothered to squint at the video yourself. I’d say we see:

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