Cops on Fire: Crazy Russian Hip-hop-opera Theater, Played Live on Novation Launchpad

Imagine combining sampling, controllerism, opera, hip-hop, rap, cops, live theater, sound effects, school-play cardboard props, and radio plays, and then doing it all in Russian, and you’re getting in the ballpark of what “Cops on Fire” was like. As described in English for the 2010 Moscow trailer (translated by uploader Sasha Pas): The “Cops On Fire” show is a fusion of theater, culture and contemporary urban music. The genre of the show is “hip-hopera” (hip-hop + opera). Hip-hopera = live hip-hop arias + original decorations + stage tricks and choreography by professional artists. Got it? These guys are dedicated to …

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Gorgeous Beats from Philly’s NO SIR E, Ode to monome Love [Live Set, Sounds]

Faptronica? Trapmetal? Glitchfap? Fapdance? Genre labels make a fun muddle of things for Philadelphia’s NO SIR E. But his music is perfect for this time of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, that feeling of diving out of a sweltering heat into the water. It’s refreshing, with the dirty, muddy bits in the bottom you’d want to stick your toes into. And then it glitches in satisfying distortion, a motorboat or jetski racing across the smoo… I’m sorry. It’s hard to write in the summer. (Or … well, you can Google what “fap” means, but that’s a bit less … musical in …

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Finger-Drumming Video EP: Three Tracks, Played Live on MPD24, Zynewave Podium

We live in an age of finger drumming virtuosos, where drum pads are instruments. And so, while much of production is anything but real-time, here it makes perfect sense for three tracks to have accompanying live videos. The songs are each performances, something to be seen as well as heard. Peppered with samples from Bollywood, the EP Sacred Sounds is due out December 23 from Detroit-based producer/rapper JUST Muziq aka Lion. The artist says it’s a “controllerism-inspired” EP release, with music videos for each track showing off the connection of fingers to composition. Lion’s work is notable here, too, in …

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Created: Berlin’s Project Mooncircle is a Label to Watch; Releases Past and Future

If, in my opinion, you want to see how to run a label in 2012, look no further than Project Mooncircle (PMC). It’s based out of Berlin and was originally an offshoot of HipHopVinyl Records – a store I wandered into one summer day in 2004 and left, several hours later, minus a quarter of my summer tour earnings. The label bills itself as “specializing in the conjunction between electronic and organic music.” I could expand on that a little by saying that PMC’s music falls somewhere in the gray intersection between instrumental hip-hop, soul, and jazz, with a particular …

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We Love DJ Kool Herc: Free Compilation for the Father of Hip-Hop

Saturn Never Sleeps, the band and label, released a new free compilation late last night to send love and thanks to DJ Kool Herc, the pioneering Jamaican-born DJ who gave birth to the hip-hop age in the West Bronx, New York City. I’m honored to have been part of the compilation along with a broad range of artists: DaM-Funk, Damon Bennett, Dego, King Britt Presents Sylk 130, Ursula Rucker, Lushlife, ZIN, Hezekiah, Soul Litchfield, Illvibe Collective, Rucyl, Shigeto, Galapagoose (recently seen here on CDM sporting the monome software he co-created), Ras_G, Chuck Treece, Suzi Analogue, and Stef Eye King Britt, …

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Tinchy Stryder and Crew on Ten iPads – No, Actually, It’s Really Good

I’ve begun to dread the appearance of iPad jams in my inbox; you may feel the same way. When affordable digital synths were new in the 80s, there were various embarrassing videos as vendors like Casio showed off the new capabilities. Listen! Who needs a real trumpet when you can use a keyboard that sounds like a trumpet? Sort of! Not really! But – it sure is amazing for what it is! Kind of! It sounds awful, but it is cheap and fake! It took years for people to appreciate those instruments for what they actually were, and then on …

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Record as Record Player: DIY Turntable, Donuts for Serato in New Releases

Record giant Universal Music Group is cutting prices on the CD, as analysts clamor for still-lower prices. But as for actual records – the kind made of vinyl – odder and odder innovations flourish. If the CD is dying, the vinyl record is an undead, sexually-alluring vampire. Two recent releases not only treat the record as “delivery mechanism,” but also tools for playing the record. The late hip hop great J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) gets a well-deserved tribute from his label Stones Throw, complete with some fantastic, unreleased instrumentals (“Safety Dance”, “Sycamore”, “Bars & Twists,” and remastered cuts for …

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Beat Thang Drum Machine: Hands-on Tour with Creators, Rockwilder

Beat Kangz, the upstart drum machine maker out of Nashville, has been cooking up a new device for some time. That creation, the Beat Thang, is finally nearing production. It may not have a nameplate like Akai or Roland, but I can testify that this independently-designed gadget may nonetheless be one to watch. The hardware feels fantastic, appears to have the right pieces falling into place, and promises release soon. The founding team behind it blends backgrounds in areas ranging from hip-hop to computer science, and even production legend Bob Ezrin (that’ll be the Pink Floyd: The Wall Bob Ezrin). …

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Two Garbage Cans and a Microphone

From the suggestion box at CDM, we’re taking a look at DIY party-rocking sound system technology from the birth of Hip-Hop. Ed.: Resident DIY expert and editor-at-large Michael Una returns – and the man has been known to do strange things with speakers himself. Say you’re an up-and-coming crew with a turntable and some mics. You’ve got a gig this Friday at the middle school gym (the janitor has been bribed appropriately) and the boys on the corner have been passing out your flyers to all the lovely ladies. Everything’s set, except you heard that Kool Herc is coming to …

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HTC Touch Pro as a Portable Beat Sequencer, with Windows Mobile, AudioBox

It’s easy enough to dismiss mobile music devices as toys, and I’d add, there’s really nothing wrong with toys. But the test – a personal one – is whether or not you can develop your musical ideas with them. Some of the deepest, most consistently satisfying tools for mobile devices are the ones that shrink down real production capabilities to a handheld size. Look closely at these apps, and you’ll see software that could easily have passed for “advanced” sequencers on computers fifteen years ago. (Indeed, I think arguably we’ve lost some usability with the complexity we’ve added since.) While …

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