Enough of the Web teaser campaigns, the press conferences with bottles of beer at exhibition centers, the trade show booths … let’s party instead.
That’s how Elektron, the makers of Machinedrum, will celebrate their next launch. November the 23rd is the date, and, naturally, CDM will be there. Elektron are even coming down from Sweden to Berlin, where they’ll no doubt enjoy our extra couple of hours of … um … daylight. Whatever the new box may be, it’s nice to see some lovely artists in the lineup.
A “Very Special Guest” from Köln, Germany’s famed Kompakt label is headlining, followed by some other great folks:
TM404 – aka Andreas Tilliander (Kontra-Musik)
Andre Kronert (Stockholm LTD, Neurotron)
…all playing live. (Yes, hope they brought their Machinedrums.) I’m particularly excited for TM404 – whether he’s shilling for fine electronic instruments or not. He had a wonderful set at CTM Festival at the beginning of the year:
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If James Bond had a DJ controller, it might look like this.
Faderfox, known primarily for ultra-small-form factor controllers, this time has something that looks more like a full-featured, two-deck (or four-deck), two-channel DJ controller. And that’s good news for people wanting a general-purpose, all-in-one DJ control surface with the Faderfox feel and features. The new “Solid Control” DJ44 sports the the usual selling points Faderfox has championed – high-end controls, an aluminum body, and unique hardware/software mapping integration features – but now in a single unit you can tote that does more or less everything.
That’s all well and good. But it’s the fact that all of this fits into an aluminum briefcase that might really set it apart from other options.
While other people struggle in the luggage section of their local store to find something that fits their gear, the DJ44 integrates its own case for easy use on the go. The case and faceplate are spacious and all-aluminum. Click open the top of the briefcase-style form factor, and you get an ample array of controls for looping, mixing, and effects. Continue reading »
New York startup littleBits and founder Ayah Bdeir helped pioneer the modern definition of open source hardware. But they also put it into action, getting even young kids snapping together their own hardware ideas. The process is addictively simple: whereas platforms like Arduino require breadboards and wires, littleBits’ tiny circuits are already pre-made and snap together with magnets.
It’s an idea that screams out for sound applications. And now – in a collaboration that leaked earlier this week – that’s happened. The surprise is, the collaborator is none other than KORG.
The price: US$159 (direct, and at some retailers).
Shipping: Beginning of December.
That buys you a box full of miniature circuit boards containing the basic elements of a synthesizer: a keyboard, a sequencer, oscillators and filter and envelope, and even a delay. (We have full details of the modules below.) The oscillators and filter and delay were derived from the KORG monotron, meaning the filter circuit is the latest adaptation of the MS-20′s filter design. (This one uses the second-generation MS-20 filter, not the original filter as found on the monotron, though the character isn’t entirely different.) They’ve undergone some modifications to make them work in the littleBits set, but they still retain their distinctive sound. And that means what you get is perhaps best described as a build-your-own monotron prototype.
Where this gets interesting is that you can mix and match the synth kit with other littleBits projects, adding motors or blinking lights or sensors. It’s definitely pricier and more limited than using something like Arduino, but you don’t have to muck about with breadboards, wires, code, and soldering irons. Almost everything just works. And it could easily be a gateway – or rapid prototyping solution – to those other systems, especially for kids (or anyone in a hurry).
The best way to see what this means is to watch Reggie Watts’ cute demo video. It happens fast, but take particular note of the moment when he adds motor-driven animated figures – something you can’t easily do with a conventional sound modular.
littleBits Synth Kit from littleBits on Vimeo.
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Yes, Rolling Stone brought in heavy hitters on this spot, which is either parody, self-parody, trying to get you to read Rolling Stone for its rock coverage, trying to get you to read Rolling Stone for its EDM coverage, or just generally trying to make Rolling Stone seem hip and relevant. At least the creative – DLV BBDO in Milan and copywriter Matteo Maggiore – were creative.
Or they’re all just trying to troll dance music fans.
Full credits for this spot on adsoftheworld.com
And the track: Kisk & Francesco Zani / Rolling Dj’s (now, that’s funny, on a number of levels)
But hang on, they had me at:
“The day will come when your vocoders explode –”
Wait. They will?
Please, please let us be recording audio when that happens. First one out with an exploding vocoder Ableton Rack wins. (Scratch that; I think Richard Devine already released that sound library.)
If your software interface is bursting into flames, though, you may have jumped the gun on that Mavericks upgrade.
Alternatively, someone needs to make a video for Luigi Russolo. Continue reading »
Our digital world tends to accumulate layers of detritus, much of it banal remains – orphaned cords and power adapters. And then there are cheap computer speakers, which you might think have achieved some sort of means of asexual reproduction. They’re everywhere: on shelves, in closets, given away, left on the street.
It’s time to look at them another way. Grab that cord dangling from the back, and plug it into the front. Result: instant feedback loop, a zero-input sound system. Okay, yes, a simple idea – but that’s the beauty of sound, making noise with simple ideas.
Moscow-based Alexander Lakein sends us the quick video he made to inspire his studios. I love all the glitchy rhythms. Enough careful listening and twisting of that volume knob, and even this basic feedback can yield entire tracks.
Now, in the video, we wind up at a store buying a speaker, but see the opening sentence — this is a perfect chance to instead rescue some refuse.
And, of course, this idea can lead you to plenty of others. And to think, we keep spending all this money on computers… hmmm…
Patchblocks’ creator says he wanted this hardware sound construction set to be like a combination of Max, Arduino, Moog, and LEGO.
And in a novel, crowd-funded project, you get a set of units that seem very much like that. “Modular” is the angle, like a variety of hardware we’ve seen lately. And the Patchblocks satisfyingly snap together via puzzle piece-shaped interlocks in acrylic. But perhaps the real story here is that each of these “blocks” can be programmed to do what you want, not in code, but using a Max/Pd-style visual patching interface.
With just one block, in fact, Patchblocks are modular. Maybe you want a simple synth. Maybe you want to add effects (delays, filters, distortion). Maybe you want a sequencer. Even before you combine those blocks, you can reimagine the Patchblocks’ purpose. They’re lo-fi, but good fun, covering a range of chippy, classic timbres.
Put them together, and the blocks seamlessly stream audio and control, combining sequencers with synths with drums. The video is very, very impressive – little wonder that, even with over-saturated crowd funding projects these days, it’s getting wide support.
You might have heard about another project having something to do with modular. All I can say is, you know, CDM is typically in touch directly with manufacturers, so I imagine if there were such a project, we would probably cover it in detail as soon as we were allowed to do publicly. Just speculating. I might also speculate that Patchblocks is unlike anything else I’ve seen going into production, rumored or otherwise, so worth looking at individually. -Ed.
The Belfast, Northern Ireland-based Heinz is only in the second day of the announcement, but aiming for a 1000-unit run – and well on his way.
Have a look at what these can do:
I’ve just received a set of Patchblocks for review, so stay tuned for some hands-on. We have some additional images and specs in the meantime. Continue reading »
If we’re living in a golden age of resurgent synthesizers, we’re also in the midst of a renaissance in step sequencers.
Faced with the challenge of making machines make musical sense, the lowly step sequencer – a kind of relic from the days of more primitive hardware – is getting renewed. The latest example is Mark Eats Sequencer, a labor of love for the monome platform.
And just as we’ve seen with Tomash Ghzegovskyy and Traktor or Julien Fayard and his MTRX-8, this is not so much about reinventing the sequencer so much as getting as much mileage as possible from an economical set of controls. It’s refinement, not revolution.
But what Mark Eats Sequencer isn’t is a Max patch or a cobbled-together rapid prototype. Its creator, Mark Wheeler, says he wanted a robust, native, feature-complete app. And he’s packed a lot of functionality into the app, as well as keeping to the tradition of the monome’s emphasis on live improvisation, not only tinkering.
“There’s also a unique focus on jamming and performing with loops as soon as you’ve made them, to hopefully encourage a bit more experimenting in the studio,” he tells CDM. “Personally I find that the most fun!”
Mark Eats Sequencer trailer from Mark Wheeler on Vimeo.
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