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The Soul of Czech DIY, at Noise Kitchen Nerdfest and Party

From gear to music, welcome to the capital of DIY. Music technology makers and musicians from the experimental to the party end of the spectrum are gathering soon in central Europe, and they’re worth a listen and look wherever you may be. Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, was already home to some terrific musical experimentation and the mind-tickling inventions of Bastl Instruments. Now, it’s getting its own shop – NOISE.KITCHEN – and a festival to celebrate, called Synth Fest. This is about as unlikely a place as you’d expect to find such things, but the whole …

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These are the Best Things at Musikmesse: CDM Best of Show Awards

What a week it’s been. Musikmesse in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest gatherings of the music instruments industry, was host to a range of new gear, new technologies, and new revelations. I decided it’s finally time to crown my own picks as the most significant appearances at the show. Not because I have any particular right to do so, but I felt strongly enough about who was deserving. First, some honorable mentions:

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Bastl Have Made Wild-Sounding New Modules, Including Drums

Electronic drums have had a hard time escaping the shadow of Roland’s TR line. But that’s no reason to limit yourself, yet again, to another two scoops of vanilla ice cream in your cone. And so, even with an increasingly crowded Eurorack modular scene, it’s worth applauding the entry of the mad scientists of Bastl Instruments in the Czech Republic. They’ve got a number of new modules that are weird and wonderful, inspired yet again by the legacy of a nearly-forgotten electronic pioneer of the Communist-dominated 70s, Standa Filip. And while you may have spotted their debut in the market, …

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Let Milena Kriegs’ Music Plunge You Into a Beautiful Abyss [Free Downloads]

Grim music is very much in vogue these days – the tell-tale sign being washed-out back and white photos that seem to have escaped from the liner covers of horror movie soundtracks, among other giveaways. But it can get carried away. You might sometimes wonder if producers were being paid by their reverb plug-ins in exchange for lengthening delay times. Milena Kriegs aka Milena Głowacka, however, is some blissfully frightening music I feel is worth listening to. Straddling darker, deeper techno and adventures into more ambient/experimental territory, this Warsaw-based artist is at the center of a growing amount of finely-crafted …

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microGranny 2.0 is a New Handmade Granular Sampler from the Czech Republic

“Bastl” is Czech slang that’s roughly equivalent to the maker culture or DIY. And now, from the makers of the glitchy, odd, and wonderful world of Standuino, comes a new granular sampler, a follow-up to a terrific earlier kit. The Bastl crew are showing off the microGranny 2.0 among lots of other new gear here at Musikmesse. They’ve added some functionality to the instrument (copy/paste, more presets), and put it in a very attractive housing. But as before, you get a hackable, happily lo-fi sample mangler. Load up your sounds on SD card, then manipulate them with hands-on controls or …

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Grains In Your Pocket: microGranny is Compact, Homemade Granular Sampler Hardware

microGranny – pocket-sized handmade granular sampler from standuino on Vimeo. The Czech team of Standuino have been cooking up lots of wonderfully-geeky sonic electronics lately, but the latest might be my favorite. microGranny reads samples from a microSD card (hello, field recorder), and crunches them into granular bits. It’s the musical equivalent of one of those inexpensive compact blenders/juicers. If electronic music had late-night informercials, I’d be telling you what you could do with sound – with this. And just in case you think all this open source hardware stuff is just for the cool kids to use buzzwords, here’s …

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Musical Robots from Refuse, Pyrotechnic Dancers, and More Czech Wizardry: Stanley Povoda

The very word “robot” comes from a Czech author, Karel Čapek and his 1920 sci fi theater work R.U.R.. In terms that resonate today, class, economics, and freedom play into that narrative, as Čapek introduced not only a word but the modern concept of android. So, it’s fitting that the Czech Republic would be the scene for an artist carrying on the author’s legacy. Inventor Stanley Povoda doesn’t just imagine robots; he builds them and makes them into a musical band. Repurposing refuse, the robotic creations have eyes for knobs, and play percussion and other instruments. These are liberated robots, …

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Meet the Little-Known DIY Music Pioneer of the Czech Republic, Standa Filip

From behind the long-gone, so-called “iron curtain,” nearly-lost musical innovation is beginning to become available. But perhaps more than any geo-political change, the power of an Internet-based community hungry to share knowledge is making national borders that once isolated information melt away. Earlier this week, I shared reflections I wrote up for Amsterdam’s STEIM on the significant of DIY Music. But one group of artists, the Standuino team from Brno, Czech Republic, really exemplified that spirit. First off, their hardware is utterly brilliant and eminently practical, an Arduino-based platform on which they’ve made it easy to create and modify designs, …

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