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.
Features: Continue reading »
In a new touring piece by an electrified audiovisual band, the musical score is data.
Space F!ght, off to tour London on Sunday, are a multi-media ensemble inspired by the greatest writers in science fiction. But science fact is the source of their latest piece, as they collaborate with the Stockholm Environment Institute and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to turn ozone data into the materials of their performance.
That data has a message, as ozone levels directly impact human health.
See the video at the top for a look at how the whole system works.
Dr. Radek Rudnicki, who mans the Elektron drum machines and works for the Stockholm Environment Institute, writes us with more: Continue reading »
In the long run, iOS 7 should be a step forward for audio. There are some pretty superb new features for routing audio between apps, better selecting from different mics, and other features. But as in many of these sorts of updates, we have to first navigate some compatibility issues first, and get the bugs ironed out. (Inter-app audio is coming to apps now, but there are still some bugs that mean it doesn’t behave perfectly yet – watch for updates from Apple.)
AudioCopy and AudioPaste, the popular technologies for seamlessly “copying” sounds between different iOS apps, requires the use of an updated API in order to function in iOS 7. With over 100 apps supporting this feature over recent years, that’s taking some time. But the updates are gradually coming in (the SDK for the new support is free).
And in the “one step forward” category – not “one step back” – the folks at Retronyms are releasing a free app that makes working with copied sound a lot cooler. AudioCopy is a free iOS 7-only app that allows you to see all your copied sounds on a big grid, a common pasteboard. You may wish you had this on your desktop machine. It’s reminiscent, in fact, of the original pasteboard that shipped with the very first Macs.
In fact, in addition to making it easier to get sounds between apps, AudioCopy really becomes a central repository for lots of samples. For those of us who love the iPhone and so on as portable sampling devices, this is especially beautiful. You can even import from iTunes, and get graphical access to a collection of sounds (with the ability to prune them) for use with all your sound apps. Grab some noises, drop them in drum pads (see the nice iMPC make an appearance), and start sketching out ideas. Watch:
And the price is right – free. Continue reading »
DJ site DJ TechTools continues to create their own hardware, augmented by custom mappings to popular software, with the Midi Fighter Twister. From the early days of their 4×4 arcade button controller Midi Fighter, things have gotten a bit more sophisticated. The Twister keeps the compact housing and 4×4 matrix design, but swaps those on/off buttons with 16 encoders, each with push-button capability, ringed by color LEDs for additional feedback. (You get white LEDs for indicators, plus full-RGB color at the very bottom.)
There’s no pricing yet, but availability is slated for January. Anyone wanting a box of encoders should pay attention – the Twister rivaling higher-end options like Livid’s recently-updated Code v2 MIDI controller.
But while you could use those encoders for anything, DJ TechTools, true to their name, is leading with a solution for users of Traktor. That solution is in turn based on the work of Tomash Ghzegovskyy, who was the first to transform Remix Decks into a step sequencer, and whose ideas are incorporated here. We saw Tomash’s work last week:
DJing with Step Sequenced Traktor: Remix Decks Meet New Hardware
And here’s a demo of what DJ Tech Tools have done integrating that idea with the hardware step sequencer:
Continue reading »
Utter brilliance to wind up our week: Berlin techno legend Ben Klock gets the infamous audio-redub “shreds” treatment on YouTube, normally reserved for rock bands. It helps if you’ve watched the live streams of Boiler Room, the multi-city Internet-broadcast, invite-only dance party that turns the cameras on DJs and audience alike.
But even if you haven’t, well, just watch to the end.
There’s just something about watching people bop along to that steady techno beat.
And … um … did anyone else kind of weirdly enjoy the faux music set? (Yeah, I could see pulling this off. Just need some fans of chip sounds and a good time … it’s … possible I’m weird.) For the record, the actual Ben Klock set was great. See below to check it out. But the sound is distorted, so maybe the Shreds / Boiled set wins.
While we’re at it, let’s destroy the dance floor with lasers, and win the respect of Flo Rida.
Check out a biting, laser-dubbed parody of the BEAMZ by Flo Rida laser harp. And that ain’t easy, with a promotional ad that’s already deep into self-parody territory.
Continue reading »