Faders. Knobs. Done.

Faders. Knobs. Done.

Sometimes, you just want to grab a fader.

Maybe it’s not about elaborate custom parameter assignment, or clip launching, or playing an in-tune Phrygian scale on a colored, light-up grid as you solo on a bowed marimba sample. You know, you just want to fade a track.

There are surprisingly few controllers out there tailored to this application. So, that makes the new LaunchControl XL from Novation a potential stand-out. It’s just faders and pots: 8 faders, with three knobs each. Each column also gets two triggers; these are switchable when used with Ableton Live to control mute, solo, and record arm functions. As on the Launchpad, Novation also provides separate user/factory templates you can access with a push-button, and switches for selecting tracks and sends, all mapped to Ableton Live.

The upshot is, you’ve got a MIDI controller that makes it exceptionally easy to mix eight tracks. And this being a Novation controller, it’s also lightweight and compact: the footprint is the same as the Launchpad, and it weighs in at under a kilogram. You can use it anywhere, because it’s bus-powered and driverless, so it works with iOS, Windows, OS X, and Linux.

I expect Ableton Live will be the most popular use case, though, so let’s begin with how Live integration works.

LCXL Continue reading »

Introducing Keezy Drummer from Elepath, Inc. on Vimeo.

Here is a plot line we’ve heard before: Musical interfaces are complicated. That makes them unfriendly to beginners. They give you options you don’t need. (So far, no argument.) The solution, of course, is some new product.

Each time we hear this plot line, someone talks about it like they’ve discovered it for the first time. This time, it’s Keezy Drummer, a new, simple drum machine app. You can hear them talking to The Verge about why this will change music technology, and why apparently in several decades of drum machines, they’re the first to work out this solution.

Here’s my challenge to you: try to actually use Keezy Drummer, and make it something you will not only use once, but come back to again and again. Go ahead: the app is free. I’ll wait. Continue reading »

Life is short. We're going to die. Listen to good music. (CC-BY-SA) David Dennis.

Life is short. We’re going to die. Listen to good music. (CC-BY-SA) David Dennis.

Happy Hallowe’en, and the entry in the northern hemisphere into short days and long, dark nights – perfect for getting lost in music listening and music making. That means it’s time to start queueing sounds to pass the time, and as it happens the CDM inbox has a selection just arriving. These are mixes unafraid of shadows and adventurous sound, and — well, the best is to let you listen. Leave the cheesy horror Theremin to someone else, and let’s enjoy something that is truly and deliciously evil in music.

Lower Order Ethics, aka Szilvia Lednitzky, can send chills up your spine – in a good way – with unforgivingly shadowy, industrial selections. If you have no interest in fancy costumes or giving yourself diabetes, in other words, Szilvia is the way you want to spend Halloween, so you can press play now. And — oh, look, it seems that she has over 16 hours of music on MixCloud, which means she can easily fill the endless nights arriving here in northern Europe, or, in a few weeks, Transylvania. (Disclosure: Szilvia is a collaborator of mine on the forthcoming Alchemic Harm project, because I was a fan of her aesthetic.)

Gothic electronic keeps getting richer – not just some distortion and all-wet reverb added to tracks, there’s some spectacular selections here from the likes of Samuel Kerridge and Cut Hands that are best of breed. Szilvia mixes for Liber Null, the Berlin event and collective that specializes in such thick, dark brews. Continue reading »


There’s nothing more personal than creative expression. And so experimenting with how you make music is more than just novelty: it’s a way to understand the fundamentals of how we relate to machines. And thinking outside the normal avenues means the ability to reach new people, as SoundLab is doing with audiences with learning disabilities. Ashley Elsdon joins us to give us the latest of how the project is going.

A little while ago, CDM kindly posted a piece on our SoundLab project, which aims to help people with learning disabilities make music and collaborate in music creation. That was as we were starting out at the beginning of the project’s 12-month lifespan. Almost five months in, and we have learnt a lot and made more progress than I could have hoped for. However, in doing that, we’ve raised both awareness of the project and expectations of it in a big way.

So what have we been up to? The short answer is quite a lot. But here are the highlights since you last heard from us … Continue reading »


It’s been asked over and over again: can a simpler software tool attract more people to music making? But the next question is, invariably – what’s the right stuff to leave out?

Auxy, released today, is an extreme exercise in app minimalism. It radically reduces what’s in the UI by focusing on making and cueing patterns — and leaving out the rest.

It’s also free.

Built exclusively for iPad, Auxy centers on a grid as its main screen. You’ve got four tracks in which you can create, edit, then trigger different patterns. Tap on one rectangle, and you draw in patterns in a familiar “piano roll” sequencer view. Drag notes to draw, then drag to move or elongate them. It’s even easy for clumsy or large fingers.

Each pattern is one, two, or four bars. There’s a drum kit with three sets of sounds, a bass track with four sounds, and two synth tracks with a choice of five sounds. Tapping a circular icon on the left brings up clever draggable knobs for controlling a filter, volume, and (in all but the drum kit) one sound parameter.

Continue reading »


Musically speaking, Mouse on Mars are like that kid who can’t keep still. In a good way.

But perhaps now is a perfect moment for that nervous energy, that quirky, disruptive approach to sounds. It can be refreshing colliding with the duo’s endless, too-much-coffee-when-saying-yes-to-projects collaborations, and anarchic playful love of noise. Because the anxieties of music can leave people creatively constipated. It can drive people to either a chin-stroking disdain for audiences at one extreme, a sort of retreat into abstract sounds with fear that anyone might feel a physical urge when listening, or buttoned-up commercial conformity at another.

This would all be noise if it didn’t have direction and reflection. But Mouse on Mars manage to be disinhibited with their creativity, while still being thoughtful and focused on what they’re doing. And that’s why it’s been great to get to know them.

In any event, Mouse on Mars are turning their 21st birthday as a duo into a crescendo of activity. It’s an acted-out manifesto of their approach to music and collaboration, culminating in events and releases. In short:

1. The WretchUp app (with myself and others) is out.
2. There’s a compilation, entitled 21 Again (listen below) – marking lots of their collaborations.
3. For fans of their past work, there’s a new box set charting their history, via Monkeytown Records.
4. And, oh yeah, there’s a packed 2-day festival, in collaboration with Berlin’s HAU and CTM Festival. (That’s fitting, because if there’s a city right now that doesn’t believe in the concept of “too much” as far as music, it’s Berlin.)

But if you can spare a short block of time, you can understand what this is all about. In 21 minutes, they make 21 tracks, courtesy a project with FACT Magazine. It’s hyper-kinetic stuff, but it’s also still considered (and at one point Jan chides Andi about something he didn’t like). There’s loads of use of the WretchUp app here, too, for a sense of what that feedback thing was about, plus some unreleased iOS stuff – like the forthcoming Elastic Drums drum machine. See also a lot of action in Apple’s Logic and with AKAI controllers and Nord keyboards and loads of loads of toys.

Continue reading »


It’s a nostalgia trip. It’s a net art piece. It’s a parallel dimension.

It’s also working music apps running (sort of) in your browser. It feels a little bit like playing with an elaborate doll house where you can open the fridge and add tiny food and the oven pretends to work. But in case you haven’t already been infected with the quantum distraction power of the Windows 93 browser yet, it might interest you to know that there are music apps inside. Continue reading »