Um... excuse me. I'll see you in February or so.

Um… excuse me. I’ll see you in February or so.

Simple, lightweight, minimal.

No, not really.

This is a total monster, the grandest synth yet from plug-in maestro Urs Heckmann, aka u-he. ACE, aka “Any Cable Everywhere,” already introduced us to computer plug-ins with massive tangles of virtual cables – in a good way. Bazille, then, is the plug-in that ate the plug-in that ate Chicago.

And after first making an appearance in 2009, it’s finally here, like a beast foretold in legend.

Its oscillators are digital, with FM (frequency modulation) and phase distortion and the wild-sounding fractal resonance. And then it has analog-style filters. And then it has effects and processors up the wazoo. But, most importantly, it has insane parallel outputs all over the place and the ability to patch anything to anything without ever running out of cables.

It’s not just a bunch of connections and oscillators and effects, though. There are clever wave shapers called mapping generators with drawing tools and the like. There’s a 8x 16-step “morphing” sequencer. When you combine all those oscillators and filters and wave shapers and effects and sequencers, you really have a complete modular sound design environment. There’s not a whole lot of software I want to test at the moment – just being plenty busy with what I’ve got – but this just made the short list. You can test it, too; there’s a free demo download for Mac and Windows.

It’s also on sale for US$89 (before VAT, Europe), which I think is about a third of what users of physical modulars pay for their cabinet, if they’re lucky. (Or, perhaps the IKEA desk it sits on.) Yes, there are advantages to digital and software (ducks). After the intro, it rises to $129.


The specs alone will make your eyes bleed: Continue reading »

It was inspired by Nikolas Tesla’s radical ideas about energy in air – and site-specific opera. It breaks every notion you have of how to mix, how to set volume, and what “panning” or “stereo” means. It’s, specifically, the forest of metal columns filled with omni-directional speakers we’ve come to know as 4DSOUND. And it’s all coming to Amsterdam Dance Event in October in a big way.

But what’s most important about 4DSOUND isn’t just this particular, not-inexpensive and specific installation. It’s the fact that once you start imagining sound as virtually projected into three-dimensional space, you probably won’t really think about sound in the same way.

Taking something like a site-specific spatial audio system and putting it into an online video is a recipe for failure. But the team at Ableton have done a pretty bang-on job of doing just that in two films, one focused more on the system in general and its significance, and one on specifically how the technique works.

Various composers have worked on 4DSOUND; this film focuses on Stimming. That makes an interesting choice, because his set is so live. In his work, Ableton Live is mostly a control interface for the spatialization; its audio duties are limited to mixing in the system and adding some clips. Everything else is outboard, like the MFB Tanzbär drum machine, a Teenage Engineering OP-1, and an acoustic piano.

Just as important, 4DSOUND’s Paul Oomen, a classical composer, talks about the connections to Tesla and theater. See the deeper meaning introduced at top, then the technical – and thoughts for the future – below.

Continue reading »


Now that anything can become an instrument, musicianship can become the practice of finding the spirit in the unexpected. It’s what Matt Moldover championed in the notion of controllerism, what years of DIYers have made evident. It’s not just a matter of finding a novelty or two. It’s really taking those novelties and making them a creative force.

Adriano Clemente, the Italian-born, Brooklyn-based artist (aka Capcom), is a shining light of just that sort of imagination. Regular CDM readers will see some familiar techniques. There’s a laser harp, a circuit-bent toy, mic transducers making objects into triggers, a Numark Orbit controller, a LEAP Motion, a Kinect, an Ableton Push, and I’m fairly sure that’s fellow Italian Marco Donnarumma’s wonderful Xth Sense controller in VICE/Motherboard’s featurette on the artist. But it’s the way Adriano puts it all together that becomes the magic.
To put it simply, it’s hard not to get infected by his enthusiasm. He doesn’t just play these unusual objects – he really plays. He’s exploring the reality around him.

This is in fact the perfect companion to last week’s story by Matt Earp, with Spanish artist Ain TheMachine:
Music That’s All Human Body and Objects, No Instruments: Biotronica with Ain TheMachine [Interview]

The scene for this kind of work, once limited to isolated experiments and academia, is really heating up. It’s actually becoming a realm in which people are outdoing one another, as the world community of experimental performance grows.

I think readers here will also respond to what Adriano says about encountering conservatism – about the people who try to put these different approaches into boxes. (The “that isn’t real music” argument is something we’ve all certainly found.) Continue reading »

Synthesist Chris Stack has had his hands on a lot of gear – and a lot of it with the Moog Music moniker on it. But every chance he gets, he’s bugging me about how in love he is with the Dave Smith Pro 2, the richly-appointed, nicely-overpowered monosynth on steroids as we described it earlier this summer.

And he’s having a lot of fun, transforming it into a hybrid digital/audio “hub” – a sound source, but also a central brain for exceptional soundscapes.

And in Chris’ hands, I’m certainly convinced, as this beast sequences beautiful frontiers of noise and melody. Just like Chris, making us lust after a synth over the weekend. But, as this often comes up in comments, my interest is never in whether you have to have some particular bit of kit. To me, the fusion of musicianship and instrument building is always inspiring – it’s something we can take back to our own work, whatever we’re using. Here’s Chris on his summer fling with this synth: Continue reading »

Music in the Age of Democratization: Gerhard… by SMWBerlin

Music as social medium is perhaps as profound as any connection as we can have between people. And it’s a unique pleasure to get to reflect on that with someone like Gerhard Behles or Matt Black. Yesterday, we got both at the same time. I’ll even listen to this conversation again; there’s plenty of fuel for further thought.

Before apps, Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke shared their Monolake Max/MSP sequencer (by Henke – still available); back when music production offered little in real-time, they had the vision to offer Ableton Live. When “VJ” still meant a host on MTV, Matt Black was building new tools to remix video alongside music, inspired by hip-hop technique to re-conceive digital expression and sampling.

Now, Ableton serves millions of users; Matt Black and Ninja Tune encourage users to remix their artists on their phones with Ninja Jamm.

And it seems anyone, anywhere can produce. Matt and Gerhard reflected with me yesterday on where they’ve come from, where their endeavors are today, and where we’re headed.

They got deep into the philosophy of why we make music, and where their responsibilities lie as tool makers and as individuals, where artists and labels and communities might go.

We have audio on SoundCloud:

And video (top).

Thanks to Social Media Week Berlin and Platoon for hosting us!


Music is all around us, yadda, yadda – we hear these aphorisms all the time, but to most, making music is still about the classical idea of instruments. Not so for this Madrid-based artist, who has transformed his body and all the objects around him into an instrument. The results are mad and magical – and CDM’s Matt Earp talked to the artist to find out just how he put this all together, and what it has to do with music like flamenco.

There’s a noisy, lively spot for co-working in Neukölln, Berlin called Agora – a space full of travelers, coders, entrepreneurs, activists, musicians and even chefs with a lovely kitchen/cafe, light and space, and a welcoming vibe. Sitting down at the communal table in early September and amidst the clutter and rattle of the kitchen and the noise of conversation, I notice a couple busily checking their phones, but the guy was also busily finger-drumming away on the the table, the chairs, himself – everything. Even his texting seemed nuanced and rhythmic and somehow sonic.

Turns out I was watching Ain TheMachine AKA Diego Ain at work. Ain is an artist who makes self-described “Musica Biotronica” – electronic music entirely out of “voice, body and objects”.

Continue reading »

The iPod Classic is dead, sure.

Now it’s really dead. And the cassette player outlasts its shiny Apple hipster-fashion-accessory counterpart with the non-removable battery – by kicking its sorry ass with a giant mecha fist punch to the face.

Hold on… if it seems we may be losing our grip on reality, that’s just because we’re entering the wild world of cassette label / music collective Chrome Brulée.

The retro-electro artists, comprising Tony Johnson, Michael Shredlove, Alex Mayhem, Kid Supreme, Aximus & Club Cannibal, make music that’s intentionally backwards-looking, and then release it on cassettes. And then they make crazy trip-out videos with vintage-styled computer graphics and impossibly-high 80s-ish production values, all in a cranked-up hyperactive fantasy world that looks like you had way too much of one of those nondescript sugary goo/slime concoctions marketed to young Americans as candy.

And they aren’t letting the iPod Classic go quietly into that good night. Cassette mechs triumph.

Through this hallucination, you will learn something about the ability to buy their cassette tapes, too. Happy Cassette Store Day, iPod drones. But if you just haven’t tripped enough, let’s have some more videos. Continue reading »