If you can’t get to a shoreline this week, I wholeheartedly endorse watching the waves crash behind none other than TM404, aka Andreas Tilliander. We had a sort of Roland meditation with him before, and I’m even more fond of this set.

Sit back and enjoy an hour of sound.

It’s worth reflecting on the resurgent hardware set, particularly with the Roland AIRA lineup some of the most talked-about, popular gear of 2014 (and volca beats still selling, and Rhythm Wolf in the wings).

TM404_cover01 Continue reading »

Been there. The artist Dillon, working magic on the studio and stage - but finding her muse in bed and beta waves, half-asleep with no one else around.

Been there. The artist Dillon, working magic on the studio and stage – but finding her muse in bed and beta waves, half-asleep with no one else around.

Electronic music has become associated with over-the-top lyrics, the plastic veneer of party-time superficiality. But in any medium, some people are writing from the heart, and that can obscure a simple reality: writing from your most vulnerable places can be hard.

Whatever your music-making medium of choice, you may resonate with artist Dominique Dillon de Byington – born in Brazil, raised in Germany, now goes by the simpler Dillon. Berlin-based, English-language Electronic Beats has taken their superb video series Slices from a hard-to-locate DVD to the mass audience of YouTube, and shorts like this demonstrate why that’s good news.

Dillon is making heartfelt, poignant songs paired with lucid production, first on “The Silence Kills” and now brings those same sensibilities with still greater depth on her second outing, the album “The Unknown” on BPitch Control (the label helmed by Ellen Allien).

But it’s a struggle, one that’s easy to recognize. On a secluded Winterreise through slightly bleak-and-gray, damp German forests, she reveals how she worked through the potential creative blocks. She stopped writing, for one – sometimes the only cure to a creative block is a retreat. But then she also turned to middle-of-the-night forced writing sessions, visited by the half-awake muse. (There’s, of course, physiological phenomena coming to your aid in that state, as your brainwaves shift to creativity-inducing frequencies in the half-asleep mode of relaxation.) Continue reading »

The long wait for the new production software Bitwig Studio has created anticipation and exasperation in equal measure – people were excited, people were impatient; some drooled over every tiny feature details, some dismissed them and said they’d wait until it shipped. But the wait is over; today is actually the day Bitwig Studio is something you can download, try out, and buy. It’s not a beta; this is it. 299€ / US$399 buys you the full download version; a demo is available. (Boxed versions cost more.)

So, what can you expect on today as release day?

Well, at least Bitwig has enlisted some significant third-party support.

bitwignektar

There’s hardware controller support, from Novation’s Launchpad, for instance. At Musikmesse this month, we saw hardware integration from Livid Instruments and (newly-debuted) support from the beautiful Panorama keyboards. The latter means a keyboard that integrates directly with the workflow of the software, with Bitwig joining Reason, Cubase, and Logic. Here’s a look at how that works with the very-pretty Nektar (and that installer just went live today, too): Continue reading »

Moog's latest are more portable and more affordable than ever. And with expression and CV inputs, they can also unlock a world of sound exploration entirely in a shoe-compatible interface.

Moog’s latest are more portable and more affordable than ever. And with expression and CV inputs, they can also unlock a world of sound exploration entirely in a shoe-compatible interface.

Yes, it’s a good time to be in love with synths and drum machines. But for all the hype around those instruments lately, adventurous guitar effects are also seeing a new renaissance. While guitarists have always had a lovely palette of oddball stompboxes and grungy distortion and effects, they’ve lately been seeing more affordable, more accessible tools for sound design that had been more associated with synths.

And, of course, wherever you see the word “guitarists,” any instrumentalists who need stomp form factor will also benefit – bass guitar, electric violin, experimental accordion, whatever.

Say the name “Moog,” and most people will see keyboards in their head. But Moog Music has become as much a maker for guitarists as keyboardists. That includes the brilliant if spendy Moog Guitar, but also the Minifoogers, a tasty lineup of compact stomp effects that make the sounds of the Moogerfooger line and Moog synths less expensive and more portable.

And there’s also Eventide, whose H9 harmonic processor is both one of the best of its breed in the harmony category and a platform for more Eventide stompbox effects. That is, you can load up any effects you like while still accessing the features with your feet – it’s like a computer you can use with shoes.

Chris Stack of Experimental Synth has been making videos for years showing off all the Moogerfoogers can do. Now, he’s gotten a loan of the Minifoogers and came away impressed. His nephew Vincent Crow shot a quick video to show off the sonic range of these boxes, neatly arrayed into a pedalboard full of Moog-ness:

Chris’ favorites? He tells CDM, “I found the Drive pedal to be surprisingly interesting. I’ve always loved the overdriven Moogerfooger sound, and this takes it to another level.” Continue reading »

Hexonator

Resonators are a breed that could use some new life. Let’s not even talk about Ableton Live – use one of the presets in the built-in effect in that software, and any producers are likely to perk up their ears – and turn up their nose.

But that’s why it’s nice to see the latest effort from Artemiy Pavlov and Sinevibes. The Ukrainian developer has just been on a roll lately with clever, Mac-friendly (Retina Display, even) creative plug-ins. And the latest is a fresh twist on a resonator.

Six tuned resonators already makes a nice resonator plug-in, but Hexonator also doubles as a sequencer. With 32-step chord sequencing and timing options, you can create some really elaborate effects. And you do this via the sort of unusual, animated UI that is Sinevibes’ signature.

Features:

  • Six melodically tuned resonators with positive/negative feedback, adjustable bandwidth.
  • Chord sequencer with up to 32 steps, variable timing, shuffle and glide.
  • Multi-mode filter: low-pass, band-pass, and high-pass at -12 dB and -24 dB per octave.
  • Two modulators with 8 waveforms and adjustable chaos.

Continue reading »

Keyboard and controls and triggers all in one tiny bus-powered unit for just over $100 street. The APC this year also goes tiny.

Keyboard and controls and triggers all in one tiny bus-powered unit for just over $100 street. The APC this year also goes tiny.

For any tool that has “live” in the name, physical control lawill be important. And so even with a broad market for controllers targeting Ableton’s flagship software, now including the slick Push hardware from Ableton themselves, AKAI’s re-vamped APC line earned intense interest when it debuted at Musikmesse this month.

Let’s make sense of what the new APCs can do and how you might choose between models. I got some hands-on time at Messe, and now even in advance of a review of finished, shipping hardware, it’s worth teasing out the breakdown of the 2014 APC line.

The original Akai APC, short for Ableton Performance Controller (despite obvious, intentional similarity to “MPC”), came out in 2009. Then, there was just one model, the APC40, later seeing a companion, cut-down APC20.

Now, there are three distinct models:

APC MINI. US$99 street. This is a serious challenger to the currently popular entry-level favorite, the Novation Launchpad. In addition to a Launchpad-style 8×8 grid with three-color feedback, you get the faders (8 channel + 1 master) the Launchpad is missing.

APC Key 25. $129 street. Basically, imagine a tiny Ableton control surface squeezed into AKAI’s mini-keyboard: clip matrix plus 8 controller knobs.

APC40 mkII. $399. You get the triggers and faders as on the MINI, but also a crossfader, dedicated mix controls, and, crucially, Device controls.

The ultra-portable MINI, now with faders. (And I have fairly small hands.)

The ultra-portable MINI, now with faders. (And I have fairly small hands.)

There are a number of features these units have in common. Continue reading »

Mute Speaker's Cambodia Beats Project

Mute Speaker’s Cambodia Beats Project

Enough gear. Let’s get some music to hear. From the UK to Cambodia, Rob O’Hara is making beautifully-crafted music we never want to miss. So a new record is absolutely time for attention – and time to bring in our friend and regular columnist Matt Earp, aka Kid Kameleon, to give a listen.

I’ve written about Rob O’Hara before for CDM, about this time last year – he’s mega-talented and makes excellent, no-frills hip-hop head-nodders under the name Mute Speaker. All his tunes just kick and punch and spin in all the right ways. You can grab most of his catalog on his bandcamp and he’s Brighton based. Or at least is for one more week – that’s when he picks up and moves to Cambodia! Seems like he was so smitten with his time there a couple months ago that he’s pulling up his roots and flying across the globe – but not before putting out a full-length charity album of his signature hip-hop sound made entirely from samples recorded while there. It contains some of my favorite Mute Speaker productions yet and all the proceeds go directly to Landmine Disability Support. Because Rob’s just that kind of awesome guy. Continue reading »