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Watch Holly Herndon Talk About Giving Laptops a Voice

American artist Holly Herndon has built an extraordinary musical performance idiom in her live sets and records. She blends deep rhythms with ethereal vocals, interweaving electronic and processed and human sounds with unusual fluidity. Her vocal chords are beautifully present, as are her own custom-made Max patch sound designs. But she can also draw the computer’s electrical vocal chords, harnessing, Nikola Tesla-style, the unseen electro-static and mechanical life of her computer itself. This is not laptop music meant to make the computer invisible. This is laptop music that recognizes that our strange metal devices have become new instruments, machines that …

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Novation’s LaunchControl XL Has the Faders and Knobs You Need for Ableton, MIDI [Obsessive Review]

Sometimes, you just want to grab a fader. Maybe it’s not about elaborate custom parameter assignment, or clip launching, or playing an in-tune Phrygian scale on a colored, light-up grid as you solo on a bowed marimba sample. You know, you just want to fade a track. There are surprisingly few controllers out there tailored to this application. So, that makes the new LaunchControl XL from Novation a potential stand-out. It’s just faders and pots: 8 faders, with three knobs each. Each column also gets two triggers; these are switchable when used with Ableton Live to control mute, solo, and …

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Simple Isn’t Easy: Keezy Drummer is Easy, Free, and – Maybe Too Minimal [iPhone]

Introducing Keezy Drummer from Elepath, Inc. on Vimeo. Here is a plot line we’ve heard before: Musical interfaces are complicated. That makes them unfriendly to beginners. They give you options you don’t need. (So far, no argument.) The solution, of course, is some new product. Each time we hear this plot line, someone talks about it like they’ve discovered it for the first time. This time, it’s Keezy Drummer, a new, simple drum machine app. You can hear them talking to The Verge about why this will change music technology, and why apparently in several decades of drum machines, they’re …

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Auxy Is The Best Piano Roll Editor for iPad Yet – And Not Much Else – By Design [Free]

It’s been asked over and over again: can a simpler software tool attract more people to music making? But the next question is, invariably – what’s the right stuff to leave out? Auxy, released today, is an extreme exercise in app minimalism. It radically reduces what’s in the UI by focusing on making and cueing patterns — and leaving out the rest. It’s also free. Built exclusively for iPad, Auxy centers on a grid as its main screen. You’ve got four tracks in which you can create, edit, then trigger different patterns. Tap on one rectangle, and you draw in …

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Give Yourself a Night at Panorama Bar for Free, with Ryan Elliott

Mixes, like DJs, are everywhere. But the question of how to stand above the crowd has a simple answer: be better. Be consistent, be intelligent, paint a scene. Give humans a reason to listen to you; make algorithms, like unskilled DJs, weep. And, yes, have a soul. Ryan Elliott’s mix on Ostgut Ton is simply one of the best such mixes I’ve downloaded this year, and earns a place on some hard drive round here, stored permanently in all its lossless WAV glory, an hour and a half and gig and a half. Strip away the Panorama Bar label, and …

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Hands-on: How the SH-101 Plug-Out for AIRA SYSTEM-1 Works – And Sounds

Somewhere, some editor has probably already written the headline “Turn On, Tune In, Plug-in, Plug-Out.” After all, back when Roland introduced the AIRAs, the reaction was something like this: “An 808/909 drum machine! A 303! And – some other things!” So, it fell to the SYSTEM-1 – a neon-green, slim-line keyboard synth – to make PLUG-OUT the big draw. You know, like “plug-in,” but … uh … out. The notion is this: load software models onto your computer, then copy that same model to the SYSTEM-1 hardware. While the keyboard is physically connected to your computer, the software makes it …

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Roland AIRA SYSTEM-1 Synth Video Mega-Roundup; SH-101 Due July

It’s the fourth and final piece in the AIRA puzzle: Roland’s AIRA SYSTEM-1 has finally appeared in finished form in the last few weeks, and is starting to arrive in dealer and user hands around the world. Like the other AIRA models, the SYSTEM-1 is build around component modeling, new digital models of analog components. But whereas the TR-8 and TB-3 model the 808/909 and 303, respectively, the SYSTEM-1 initially ships with an all new synthesizer assembled from the sounds of its Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) models. For a Roland classic of yesteryear, we’ll be waiting until the end of …

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The $100 BeatStep Sequencer and Controller: Everything You Want to Know [Review, Resources]

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention. The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed. But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or …

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Build a Classic Synth, Reissued: Hands-on with KORG’s MS-20 Kit [Gallery]

Call it the MS-20 “Biggie.” A year after remaking their classic 1978 MS-20 synthesizer in a hugely-popular “mini” version, KORG surprised everyone by unveiling a second reissue this year, the limited-edition MS-20 Kit. Its innards are entirely identical to the MS-20 mini; component-by-component, the sound circuitry is the same. And since the MS-20 was a fairly convincing replica of the original, inaccurate mostly in that it can’t reproduce the aged components we’re now used to, that’s a good start. Now I’ve had the experience of assembling and playing the kit, following up our debut with the mini last year, and …

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Pushing the Guitar, Sound Further, with Moog Minifooger, Eventide H9 Stompboxes [Videos]

Yes, it’s a good time to be in love with synths and drum machines. But for all the hype around those instruments lately, adventurous guitar effects are also seeing a new renaissance. While guitarists have always had a lovely palette of oddball stompboxes and grungy distortion and effects, they’ve lately been seeing more affordable, more accessible tools for sound design that had been more associated with synths. And, of course, wherever you see the word “guitarists,” any instrumentalists who need stomp form factor will also benefit – bass guitar, electric violin, experimental accordion, whatever. Say the name “Moog,” and most …

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