frankieknuckles

The picture of old-school DJing is someone hauling around a crate of records. Frankie Knuckles, the house pioneer, was playing The Warehouse in Chicago and touring with reels of tapes. Remixing was something done with a razor blade.

The saddening news has arrived that “godfather of house” Frankie Knuckles has died at the age of 59. His friend and collaborator David Morales shared the news via Twitter late Tuesday. (See Ben Rogerson’s report in MusicRadar, which comments a bit on the origins of Jamie Principle’s Your Love.) The man most associated with Chicago house music actually was born in the Bronx and cut his teeth DJing in New York City. But it was his instrumental role in the the evolution of Chicago house – the DJ scene, the records that were released, the connections between people at The Warehouse (hence, “house music”), and later his own venue Power Plant – that secured a place in history. And then, there was a second act that topped even that. In the 90s, his Def Classic Mixes and (with Morales) Def Mix Productions turned out still more hits. Knuckles is the rare dance music creator with both a Grammy and a Chicago street to his name.

Frankie Knuckles plays ADE 2012 at the Sugar Factory. Photo (CC-BY) Ukrainian house music producer deepstereo (Sergey) - another artist inspired by Knuckles.

Frankie Knuckles plays ADE 2012 at the Sugar Factory. Photo (CC-BY) Ukrainian house music producer deepstereo (Sergey) – another artist inspired by Knuckles.

While he will be remembered today surely for his legacy in vinyl records, today’s entire dance music and electronic music scene owes some debt to the way Knuckles has influenced the practice of music making. What he first accomplished with a razor blade and tape has led to techniques in edits and remixes that have become second nature today, and his use of the drum machine is part of the origin of today’s rush for new boxes.

Greg Rule wrote about that for Keyboard Magazine in 1997. Here are some brief excerpts of that chapter from Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music, the book I edited for Keyboard and Hal Leonard/Backbeat in 2011: Continue reading »

Analog-Rytm-By-Elektron-Top-View

Elektron’s upcoming hardware drum machine, the Analog Rytm, is silent no more.

The Swedish maker has posted audio samples of this 8-voice box, covering a range of styles. And you can see some specs now on the product page:

http://www.elektron.se/products/analog-rytm

What you can’t do is order the Analog Rytm – not yet. There’s a waiting list so you can be notified when it goes on sale (not really a waiting list for the preorder, so much as a “now you can buy it” list):

http://www.elektron.se/content/analog-rytm

We expect to be on top of a review before the beginning of summer. In the meantime, let’s have a listen. Continue reading »

ms20kit_letter

ms20kit18

Call it the MS-20 “Biggie.”

A year after remaking their classic 1978 MS-20 synthesizer in a hugely-popular “mini” version, KORG surprised everyone by unveiling a second reissue this year, the limited-edition MS-20 Kit. Its innards are entirely identical to the MS-20 mini; component-by-component, the sound circuitry is the same. And since the MS-20 was a fairly convincing replica of the original, inaccurate mostly in that it can’t reproduce the aged components we’re now used to, that’s a good start.

Now I’ve had the experience of assembling and playing the kit, following up our debut with the mini last year, and can share what I’ve learned.

Photos: Benjamin Weiss, aka NERK (mostly), of DE:BUG Magazine.

The differences in the special edition this year are mostly to do with size. Instead of the miniaturized keybed, enclosure, and jacks on the mini, you get an MS-20 that is physically indistinguishable from the original – full-sized keyboard, full-sized audio jacks. (Oddly, I read people complaining about the plastic sides. Sorry, everything old did not use Moog-style wooden endcaps; that is authentic.) There are only two things that are a giveaway this isn’t a vintage MS: one is the USB and MIDI port conspicuously added to the back, and the other, more telling sign, is that the thing is physically so darned clean, as it is a 2014 creation rather than late 70s / early 80s. Just as before, though, you even get a copy of the vintage manual and patching examples.

There was also one subtle change: you can switch between two analog filter circuits, choosing either the more unruly original MS-20 filter, or the cleaner, revised design included on later units. You select the different filters using a DIP switch inside the hardware. That means unscrewing the back panel – easily done, but still necessitating a screwdriver. Fortunately, KORG has also enabled a three-key startup sequence: depress those keys on the keyboard as you power on, and you can swap filter models on the fly. This appears not to be possible on the mini – certainly not without voiding the warranty.

Also changed is how the MS-20 Kit is delivered: as the name implies, you assemble it yourself. In fact, fully-assembled, it doesn’t quite fit in the box in which it’s packed. Continue reading »

flappybird

If Brian Eno were scoring the dreams of a gaming addiction, it might go something like this.

Yes, we already told you previously that Lemur 5 adding a canvas object would mean anything could be a controller. It makes the iPad controller app as much a blank, well, canvas, as your Web browser window, more or less.

But with relatively scant documentation, Lemur 5 assumed a lot of its users. I mean, it seems like you’d almost need some ingenious coder/hacker to turn this into something completely ridiculous, right?

Okay, that didn’t take long.

Someone going by the name “saveas909″ (Panagiotis) has appeared on the Liine Lemur forums, with some quick hacks that already demonstrate the possibilities. Flappy Bird, the nail-biting addiction, is transformed into zen-like ambient beauty. Riffing on the familiar ball physics seen in a traditional Lemur control (one going back to the original hardware), a billiard ball collision simulation both makes those circles bounce off one another and, in turn, generate lovely music.

Watch: Continue reading »

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 »