holly

I’m remiss in not posting this last week when it debuted, and I suspect many CDM readers have heard already, but if not – drop everything, and have a listen (in full) to ‘Platform,’ the new LP from composer/producer Holly Herndon.

The full LP is now on Spotify, etc., or NPR First Listen.

There’s a lot to discuss here. “Platform,” as the name implies, is intended as a first step toward other interactions. There’s the process and technique behind the music itself. A fearless champion of the laptop’s instrumental and compositional potential, Holly has made the album itself and the discourse around it into a means of demonstrating and discussing the kinds of processes that can realize the possibilities of the computer. There’s a conceptual conversation to have, investigations into the worlds of technology, utopia, and electronic surveillance – more than just music, the album is a project about our digital lives. And then there’s even plenty to say about Holly’s own career trajectory. More than anyone I know, she has been able to successfully bridge the academic electronic musical realm, the world of festival and club stages, and the popular media view of electronic music. (And yes, I count three largely separated cultural islands there. I’ve now and then personally drowned in the seas that separate them, so this is no small feat.)

But because those are all wonderfully deep rabbit holes into which to climb, I think it’s best to start with the music. Hearing them for me had an odd sense of familiarity. I’d heard some of these track in some form in a couple of live shows, but to me, that sensation with music is a flag that I should pay close attention to what I’m hearing. Pop or “hooks” or not, there’s something that happens when a composition works, a way it finds its way into your brain. It sounds like you’ve heard it before the first time you’ve heard it, and stays with you and makes you want to hear it again. Because this record is in the mainstream press, you’ll see some writers stumble around odd descriptions like “techno.” But it seems to me timeless, genre-less. Part of its genetic code is modern: this dense forest of repeated samples and slices, a self-awareness and comfort with the means of production. Another part feels like a modern answer to much earlier work of Eno, Laurie Anderson, retold by a generation that grew up with those sounds. But from that soup comes tracks that feel like songs, feel fully formed, get into your head.

In between, there are also great moments of theater and wit, so I’ll be curious to see where the “platform” leads. Continue reading »

minibrutehack

Arturia’s quirky, compact, unmistakable-sounding MiniBrute – and the patchable MicroBrute – are among some of the nicer desktop instruments to hit recently. But you can make them do more with hacking. And that’s especially relevant as the original MiniBrute goes on sale.

The MiniBrute is already a nice synth. Sure, it’s not as compact as the more recent MicroBrute and lacks that synth’s cute little modulation patching section, but you also get full-sized keys, and it’s still a lovely instrument. The trick is, you can hack it to add an SH-101-inspired step sequencer as found on the MicroBrute and the SE edition of the MiniBrute. Couple that with an offer than through the end of June prices the limited supply of MiniBrutes at just €399 / US$399 / £299 – that’s the sort of “oh, okay, maybe I will get one after all” price.

You can add a step sequencer with a free SysEx hack: Continue reading »

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_03

The changes are subtle. And if you’re looking for some kind of splashy way of integrating Maschine with Traktor or transforming how you play plug-ins, this isn’t it. But some point updates to two flagship Native Instruments production tools are worth applauding. They make these tools not only more useful, but give them more longevity.

Maschine sounds better. Maschine and Komplete Kontrol play better together. And whereas hardware/software integration sometimes seems designed solely to lock you in to certain products, Komplete Kontrol now not only works with your host and other gear, but works even when it’s unplugged from your computer – as it should.

Both are free updates, and both also now include for free Komplete Select. For Maschine users, that’s a nice add-in — and actually, this is kind of what I run mainly on my cramped SSD on the go. You get a nice upright piano, the terrific Monark Minimoog-inspired emulation (which has an amazing filter model), Massive (no intro needed there), an electric piano, the beautiful Reaktor Prism synth, and more synths, keys, drawbar organs, West African rhythms (why not?) and a really good bus compressor.

Maschine Studio's knobs and display now do more. Continue reading »

mobplaying1

Press play? More like bang drums hit stuff finger warp touchpad go crazy.

The Glitch Mob are one of America’s leading festival electronic acts. (And members like EdiT have IDM, not just EDM, credits to their name – so they were “glitching” before it was cool, in other words.) But while that circuit is in a frenzy of one-upmanship when it comes to spectacle, there’s some real playing behind this act. And that distances them from artists that put on a big show visually but have shied away from anything risky in the set – like actually playing the parts, beyond basic scene triggering or knob twiddling.

With their latest rig, The Glitch Mob apparently want to do more than just look like an epic rock band. They want to play like one, too.

And that means that while of course some complicated show and performance elements are sequenced in advance, the trio are playing – a lot. As the sun rises over California this morning, they are unveiling a new show rig. The eye candy for crowds is certainly amped up. But dig deeper, and the artists have given themselves more to do, not less, with a massive load of computational and audio hardware to back them up.

EdiT gave CDM an advance look at the rig over the weekend. Here’s a quick run-down – but if there is something of interest you’d like to know, let us know and we can talk to the band.

The Glitch Mob: Behind The Blade from the glitch mob on Vimeo.

stageplot Continue reading »

MorderNova_Lifestyle

The synth renaissance has led to yet another interesting wrinkle: the limited edition celebrity synth.

But before we get to that, apparently the first thing you need to know is that Giorgio Moroder really loves his Novation MiniNova. The little synth, with its vocoder and dial-up presets, has apparently followed him around on tour.

Making a special edition is a different take on the celebrity endorsement, though. So how did Novation go about it?

1. They’re only making 500, even with a “certificate of authenticity.” (A certificate of Moroderishness?)

2. It looks different: you get the “moustache and shades” logo – which looks adorable screened on the side, I have to admit – plus a silver/black color scheme.

3. You get dial-up Moroder presets – and, actually, this may be the best reason to get one. Team Novation have matched everything from the Donna Summer Giorgio sound to the Daft Punk Giorgio sound. (No sound samples yet; you’ll have to take their word for it.) Continue reading »

vintagedrumelements

Ready for some poppy, retro Cocteau Twins feeling in your Mac or Windows plug-in collection? The aptly-named “Vintage Drum Elements” does the job for free.

The sound source for the plug-in drum machine is the classic Yamaha RX5, with its distinctive, synthetic sound sets. And while this is advertised for your synthpop and chillwave 80s fans, you get a range of cutting timbres you could easily apply to something else – not just Depeche Mode throwbacks.

There’s also more than one kit. Four basic drum selections are included, including a harsher “synthetic” option and and “ethnic” variant, plus some really silly effects for when you’re blowing off steam in the studio. But you also get some decent ready-to-play Yamaha DX synths – bass, clavecin, marimba, and orchestra.

Now, sure, this could just be a sample library. But I actually love having the odd instrument like this around for some focused inspiration. And there are some nice paired effects. Vinyl might be a bit much, but it’s there, but the cavernous digital reverb is a good touch. Tremolo, sub-oscillator, and a “Punch” compression knobs round out the set.

It fits together into the whole 80s-retro package; have a listen to the demo song for some proof: Continue reading »

Fraction by Sinevibes video demo from Sinevibes on Vimeo.

Sinevibes has been on a roll lately. The one-man Mac plug-in shop keeps churning out elegant, attractive plug-ins with a consistent color-coded visual interface, variations on a theme that invariably include clever twists.

And now, this.

Fraction isn’t the first slice repeater plug-in. But it might be the most direct and intuitive.

I’ve been playing with it for a bit, and it’s tough to describe just how much it’s able to do, or how quickly you can get at that range. Far from just adding some stuttering effects, you can add really subtle rhythmic and timbral variations or make a near-unrecognizable sound warped into something new. It does this by letting you directly get at the bit of the sample you want to modulate, then providing a host tools to work with from there.

EDM? Sure. IDM? Most definitely. But once you get past breaking up drum loops, you can also treat Fraction as a micro-DAW / sampler / effect unit, a sound-reshaping instrument you can use on anything.

Okay, so what does it actually do?

First, you can place slice markers on the sound directly, then use animated controls to determine what to do slice-by-slice. In fact, I must admit that when I first opened it up, I briefly was confused only because I wasn’t accustomed to effects processors letting me work that immediately with sound.

Fraction Continue reading »