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Here’s all the coolest new gear from Messe and Superbooth, in one place

There’s a Eurorack craze on. Synth fever continues to spread. Instrument and software makers keep innovating. And there was reason to time all of this new gear madness to the beginning of this month – with not one but two massive trade shows, each a short Bahn ride away from one another in Germany. It’s almost too much. So, we’ve put our favorites all together, to keep it all straight.

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Gallery: the cool and strange at Germany’s huge Musikmesse show

It hits you at some point. It could be that you find yourself wandering rows upon rows of accordion exhibitors. Or maybe it’s weaving to avoid parades of the 100,000-odd German schoolchildren who come to look at the exhibits. Or maybe it’s seeing a room the size of an airport full of nothing but strange laser and light products for clubs. But Musikmesse remains something exceptional.

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Nord’s Electro 5 Revises A Favorite Stage Piano

Year after year, a lot of what the music instruments industry does is iterative – evolutionary, not revolutionary. But for the day-in, day-out operation of a lot of gigging musicians, some of the less-thrilling announcements are the ones that simply make life better. That means, for example, Clavia’s announcement of a new Nord Electro 5 keyboard matters. The number of stage musicians who rely on the signature red keyboards from Sweden is simply stunning. Nord aren’t cheap, but their attention to detail has earned them a lot of impassioned enthusiasts. I actually had the pleasure of visiting Clavia when I …

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Explore a Hyperactive Explosion of Sound, As Mouse on Mars Turns 21

Musically speaking, Mouse on Mars are like that kid who can’t keep still. In a good way. But perhaps now is a perfect moment for that nervous energy, that quirky, disruptive approach to sounds. It can be refreshing colliding with the duo’s endless, too-much-coffee-when-saying-yes-to-projects collaborations, and anarchic playful love of noise. Because the anxieties of music can leave people creatively constipated. It can drive people to either a chin-stroking disdain for audiences at one extreme, a sort of retreat into abstract sounds with fear that anyone might feel a physical urge when listening, or buttoned-up commercial conformity at another. This …

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A Robotic Machine Worn on the Arm Turns Tattoos into Music

Symbols in on paper can be realized as music, so why not turn a tattoo on your arm into a musical score? That’s what artist Dmitry Morozov (“vtol”), Moscow-based media artist and musician, has done with “reading my body.” It does more than transform his body markings into sounds. He mounts a machine on his arm, as sensors scan the image from a stepper-motor driven path along rails. The strange robotic machine makes him a kind of cyborg photo scanner optical synth. And the results sound like a delicate solo on a violin, playing a lullaby to baby puppies. Kidding. …

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This is Clavia’s New Analog Modeling Synthesizer, the Nord Lead A1 [Pics, Sounds]

We love analog. But for all the talk about analog synths, there are some advantages to modeling analog sounds in digital – like getting a handmade hardware synth that still has 24-voice polyphony. So, the Nord Lead A1 is an analog-modeling synth, not an analog synth. It builds on the Swedish firm’s knowledge of analog modeling, reproducing the sounds of analog synthesizers, but by doing the work in digital form, still delivers up to four parts and 24 voices, for more thickly-layered sounds. New in this Nord Lead: quicker access to a bunch of parameters as consolidated on one knob …

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Nord Drum 2, Playable Drum Synth, Gets More Sound Options, Nord Pad Companion [Photos]

Swedish maker Nord may be known for keyboards, and justly so, but their drum products are perhaps even more distinctive. If it seems like Nord only just released something called “Nord Drum,” it’s true. But they’re already back with a sequel, and Nord Pad as an accessory. The latter’s compact trigger design could appeal to producers and musicians who don’t have room for a whole kit. The original Nord Drum was a four-channel “modeling” virtual analog synth. The new model is six channels, and has more sound options. As before, you can trigger synthesized drum sounds from conventional electronic pads …

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Nord Reveals New Keyboard: Four-Part Polyphonic Nord Lead 4 [Pics, Sound Samples]

The good news: there’s a new Nord, it looks nice enough, and it’s likely to make Clavia fans very happy. The bad news: some of us will have to go on dreaming of a follow-up to the innovative Nord Modular. Instead of that, this is a Nord Lead 4. Despite sharing a name with previous Nords, Clavia says this is an all-new synth. The focus appears to be “performance features” – making layering and sync easier – and focusing on providing more choices in effects and filters. First, the specs: 4-part multi-timbral – not so interesting in itself, but there …

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Piano Lovers: Nord Electro Keyboard Adds Hammer Action in Just 24 Pounds

After years of compromise, it seems like a great time to be in the market for a stage keyboard. I’m biased coming from a piano background, but I’ve always loved hammer-action instruments, even for playing sounds other than acoustic. Earlier this month, I noted that Yamaha’s MOX line offered hammer action in a 32.6-pound keyboard for US$1699. Nord has a hammer action offering of their own: the new Nord Electro 3 HP. It sheds some keys, with a 73-key E-E range keybed, but also some pounds, weighing a very luggable 24.25 pounds. The “handmade,” Swedish-built instrument has some other nice …

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New Au Revoir Simone, and Get All Their Music Cheap

Au Revoir Simone in Austin. (CC) o.J. Lopena. Boys and girls alike can feel free to crush musically on Au Revoir Simone. In a gloomy world of sound-alike synthpop, the Brooklyn trio has forged their own, unique sound, a peerless breed of sensitive synthy goodness. The songs are relentlessly intimate and honest, genuine rock writing instead of overburdened pastiche. I think a lot of us growing up wanted to be able to sound like this, when we picked up that first electronic keyboard. And yes, for keyboard lovers, there‚Äôs something really special about seeing three keyboards, with no guitars, no …

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