“But I don’t have enough time.”

So, get a camera crew from FACT to loom behind you and watch while you produce, all with a clever ten-minute clock ticking away for their series Against The Clock.

Actually, no. Two problems. One, the pressure might make you completely freeze up. Two, yes, you might not have FACT around.

But you could imagine a timer. Deft, the aptly-named Croydon, UK artist whose work ranges from cinematic and ambient straight through to footwork, here goes a bit modern drum and bass in a perfectly passable track that he assembles under the clock. Got to hand it to him for that.

And his tool of choice is one that gets far too little attention around these parts: ancient-in-computer-years Windows stalwart FL Studio aka “Fruity Loops.” FL gets extra points here for putting useful samplers and other instruments right front and center, building in a step sequencer, and generally getting you making music right away. Even doing it all with a mouse doesn’t look so awkward. FL users, maybe you can spot something clever in here, but mostly I think it’ll warm your hearts. Continue reading »

Now, your iPad can go from sweet-sounding pads to hordes of angry bees and back again, all by modeling physical behaviors of flocking. It’s called the Photophore, and it’s a “flock synthesis” instrument.

You may have seen synths that produce lush sounds by combining oscillators – the eight-oscillator Swarmatron springs to mind. Well, this synth puts the “swarm” in “Swarmatron.” With up to one hundred oscillators per patch, it uses physical modeling to transform sound by simulating flocking behaviors.


I’ve seen experiments that have done things like this with flocking algorithms and particle systems, but this must be the first serious attempt I’ve seen to make a dedicated iOS instrument. For a previous incarnation of the concept on desktop, check out AnarchySoundSoftware’s SwarmSynth – which is still available as a free Windows VST. (Just enter a serial. That app has particles flocking through an “envelope-constrained 5 dimensional parametric hyperspace.”)

And it’s not just a toy – inter-app audio and full MIDI support are built in, so this can fit nicely into your production workflow. (And, oh yeah, I’m keen to combine these sounds with our WretchUp app, which now boasts expanded Audiobus support.)

Full feature list: Continue reading »

This Novation hardware just got a lot more powerful and usable.

This Novation hardware just got a lot more powerful and usable.

You want to improvise with Ableton Live. You want to reach out and turn a knob, and know what it’ll do. You want to be able to grab controls that have something to do with clips that are playing.

Yeah, so Merry Christmas to us. Permit me being a little excited, as I am immensely grateful to the developers. It’s a rare case where you say “wow, I wish that this –” and then suddenly get what you asked for nearly before finishing the sentence.

Just last month, we saw a way to get grids in order using LaunchSync, a tool designed to make it easier to synchronize multiple controllers. Combine them for more control; synchronize them so that, for instance, the faders on a Novation LaunchControl XL can correspond to the clips on Ableton Push.

But we asked for more.

We asked for more hardware compatibility. Well, the creators gave it to us – for free.

We asked for more controllers. That’s available in LaunchSync PRO, which adds four pages of controls that follow the “Red Box” so you have more hands-on parameters with whatever you’re playing.

But, wait, wouldn’t it be great if your iPad could also sync up with your hardware. So, for instance, you look at touchAble, the most extensive iPad app for controlling Ableton Live, and have it stay in sync with whatever your hardware was doing. (That’s doubly useful, because the iPad can easily show more parameters and reveal clip names all at once.)

This iPad app (touchAble 3) just got a lot more powerful and usable, too. It now follows whatever you're doing with your hardware. So you can actually play, rather than squint at your gear and get confused.

This iPad app (touchAble 3) just got a lot more powerful and usable, too. It now follows whatever you’re doing with your hardware. So you can actually play, rather than squint at your gear and get confused.

I asked the developers at Isotonik and the one developer of touchAble to make it so, and… well, they did. It’s amazing. They did this in their free time, as independent developers, on their own. (I actually stuck them on a shared Facebook chat and watched as they buzzed back and forth.) So, please, go buy stuff from them, so they do this more often. (That script is only 5 pounds; touchAble is easily worth the App Store cash.) Here’s how it all works: Continue reading »


There’s a Japanese Taishogoto and vintage Lexicon PCM reverb and loads of computer production. But even for us souls tempted by gear lust, it’s the soul of process that has us talking, and talking, and talking – and listening, on repeat – with Stewart Walker. Native Instruments employee by day, prolific producer by night, he was kind enough to give us an extensive window into his world for CDM.

In the dizzying flurry of music racing past, Stewart Walker’s “Ivory Tower Broadcast” is one I keep coming back to me. It’s one that somehow I’ve gotten closer to on repeated listening.

Without losing any of its forward momentum, this is a record with a permeating sense of laid-back calm, of ease with itself. The opening “Desolation Peak,” for instance, ticks along at an amiable shuffle, all while buzzing with nervous electrical energy tearing along the fringe. “Gone at First Light” slips into the shadows, but it’s inviting, not overly gothic. Delicate and intimate percussion and strums above big synth drones and pads. Throughout, Stewart’s gentle and casual personality shine amidst thick, dark sounds. This is a friendly tap dance at the edge of an abyss.

“Candycoated” is dense and dreamy, in hypnotic motion, a real standout. “Rose Machine” drifts into a shoegaze cloudy sky, but even there, the mix keeps each element clear and distinct, with inventive textures woven into the haze. There are moments where guitar is front-and-center – “Caught in the Switches” – almost echoes Robert Fripp with ambient guitar licks. But the darker moments are never humorless or drab; “Exits Have Been Chained (For Security)” is packed with detail and groovy, ominous with an upturned smile.

So, let’s talk about how he arrived at the record, and how he finds his technical process and voice. Continue reading »


From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues.

New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, it continues a series of performance showcases with the LEAP performance space, with artists spanning Europe and America.

3DMIN stands for “Design, Development and Dissemination of New Musical Instruments.” At first blush, it looks like more of the odd new sound interface experiments to which we’re already accustomed. But its scope and reach are broader. Researchers pulled from across disciplines look beyond just the musical object to every aspect around it (two Berlin academies, TU and UdK, are included). They look into history (hello, Teleharmonium), filing instruments by evolutionary adaptation as if collecting prehistoric oceanic fossils. There’s a sort of squeezebox of the future (see below), as part of investigations in design. They’re working with modern choreography (with a wooden apparatus used by dancers). There’s work on spatial sound, and controlled laboratory investigations of embodiment.

Squeezebox - from the future! PushPull.

Squeezebox – from the future! PushPull.

Continue reading »


It began as an exclusive for a limited-edition workshop. But it’s turned into more. Moog’s Werkstatt synth is a lovely little analog synthesizer in its own right. But, driven by its educational mission, it’s also become a means of learning electronics.

This is a synth you want to hot-rod.

Werkstatt_Noise_bb Continue reading »


Let’s get straight to it: there are two big problems with controlling Ableton Live from an iPad. One, relying on WiFi means risking disaster if a connection is unstable for some reason (OS updates, wireless interference, gremlins and demonic possession, whatever causes that). Two, you invariably wind up with remote controls for some things you need, but not others. It’s like having a remote control for a TV with half the buttons missing. You wind up going back to the mouse just because you can’t work out any way to turn such-and-such knob.

touchAble 3 fixes both problems.

There’s loads of stuff in this update, but … that doesn’t matter. All you need to know:

1. Plug in your Apple USB cable, and skip the WiFi whenever you want. See bottom. (Being able to choose wireless or wired – good.) Works on OS X and Windows.

2. Get the add-on (in-app purchase) Live Template Pack, and you get some 42 templates for Live’s instruments and effects that look like the on-screen ones, only adapted to the iPad. Use them, and skip the mouse. See top.

main-reel Continue reading »