kaossilatorAll Kaoss, All the Time: In a world of endless choices, what happens to the creative power of limitations? Back in November, we saw Norman Fairbanks make an album entirely on Tenori-On, Yamaha’s interactive blinking-lights button pad.

“Ah,” you said. “But that sounds suspiciously like the music of Toshio Iwai, the Tenori-On’s composer-inventor. And it costs a lot of dough. And I have to live in the UK to buy it.”

Enter our friend Gary Kibler. He’s also a huge fan of the Tenori-On — he did cover the UK launch event for us, and then lauded its innovative design. But his creation uses a decidedly more accessible instrument: the Korg Kaossilator, which can be yours for a mere US$200 street — about US$1000 less than the Tenori-On.

Here’s the surprise: the sound-packed Kaossilator can do just as much as the Tenori-On, arguably more. And Gary really didn’t need anything else. The Yellow Album is —

Produced and performed exclusively on the Korg Kaossilator. No other effects, EQ or sounds were added other than those incorporated in the original device. Audio was recorded directly off the unit and the only edits performed externally were simple volume balancing.

The Yellow Album (free MP3 album from Gary Kibler) Updated: New link from ReverbNation, to save Gary’s bandwidth!

There you go. All you need is a Kaossilator. You can now cease lusting after anything else.

Okay, that wore off fast.

grids All Monome, All The Time With Something Else: Meanwhile, while I got distracted by turkey and stuffing and neglected to post this back at Thanksgiving, the Monome got an album of its own. Matthew Davidson, aka Stretta, did an “all-Monome album” called Grids, and made it fully free and Creative Commons-licensed. Like Kibler, Davidson has some significant credits as a composer (Davidson did the only-ever live performance of Switched-On Bach with Wendy Carlos — that being the original and greatest “entirely made on xx” synth album.)

So, what is the sound of one Monome playing?

You got it: silence. Yes, unlike the Korg and Yamaha instruments, the Monome has no sound generation facility of its own, meaning Matthew “limited” himself to a Doepfer modular, Prophet 5, and MOTU’s MachFive 2. In other words, it’s not really an all-Monome album. But it is quite good, and the Max patches used to make it are available free. (Wait, that’s yet another thing that’s not a Monome used on this album, if you’re still bothering to count.) Matthew, to his credit, admits “the notion of an all Monome album is somewhat of a misnomer.” But he does put forward the idea of a Monomist quite effectively.

Grids – The All-Monome Album (also on Audio News Room, LadyC]

I’m waiting for someone to hack some internal sounds into the Monome. Get back to us if you have. In the meantime, yes, the whole appeal of the Monome over something like a Kaossilator is that it’s just a controller, ready to be connected to whatever you desire — even visuals, or robots, or a giant space laser that blasts pretty patterns into the moon.

Monome, Unplugged — Erm, Live: Part of the cult popularity of the Monome phenomenon can be chalked up to the fact that the talented electronic artist Daedalus was playing out with an early prototype before anyone had even heard of a Monome. Daedalus has an album of his own — live at the Low End Theory event in LA. His live show is simply fantastic, so an album version sounds great to me — and it helps bolster the cause of genuine live electronic performance. I’m very much looking forward to this one. It won’t be free, but I like paying for music. On January 22, you can pay for his music, too.

Daedelus Readies Live Album [XLR8R]

Alpha Pup Records

Daedalus + Monome

Daedalus, whom I caught at a show live in New York. He keeps his instrument tilted toward the audience so they can see what he’s doing. And that might be a gimmick — except he plays the thing damned well.
  • Phos…

    I've tried to like it. Really, I have. I've listened to literally hundreds of these bloop-n-bzzt, squirr-n-shownk fests, by the most highly regarded & respected so-called artists recommended.

    I keep reading (this is one of my favorite sites and a daily stop), and I keep listening. I check out as many artists as I can find, recommended by folks whose opinions I respect. Still, I'm not getting it.

    While I'm all about gadgetophilia, and using things in ways that were never imagined, and I'll agree that there are some interesting sounds, 99% of the "music" that gets drooled over by the hard core bit-n-synth heads is unmitigated dreck.

    I understand what it takes to do this sort of thing (started doing it in the early 70's, with crap cassette bouncing, a TEAC TC 388-4, and any kinds of instruments and electronic gadgets/toys/stompboxes/PAIA gear I could get my hands on). Hand editing tape with a razor block. I get the subtle differences between amateuristic constructions and well-considered pieces. (I'm not saying I'm any good at it either, but I DO know what's good.)

    My tastes in music are as broad as anyone else's I've ever met. I hunt it down, and have been on the prowl for good new stuff for 35+ years.

    The technology is a wonderful thing. The prices are better than ever. The means of production (i.e.: computer-based recording and performance) is much more democratized now, and it's all getting better every day. But unless the people behind the gadgets have some underlying vision, it's nothing but soulless chillout droning, or dance-thump looping for the rave-starved kids and the people who miss their clubbing days.

    It seems the attention is more about who can wring the "neatest" sounds out of their gear than who can compose something compelling and emotional.

    Andy Partridge can do it. Rundgren can do it. Eno can do it. Fripp can do it. Most of the other names I see popping up, connected to this sort of experimentation continually fail to grab me by the ears and the guts, and get me to listen for any longer than about 2 minutes. And like I said, I've listened to a boatload of mp3s. They are—for the overwhelming majority—boring-arse crap.

    I know this is going to sound like trolling & flame-baiting, but that's not my intention at all. I'd like to read some well-considered dialogue on what I seem to be missing.

  • @Phos — I'm not sure this is well-considered dialog, but maybe you're not missing anything. Maybe this just isn't music you connect to — and that's certainly fine. (The thread here being "people making albums with one instrument," not necessarily "here is the greatest music on Earth.")

    I never tried to make CDM a music site, just a site about making music — and to me, they're different. So, given that, ahem, a lot of the site is gear lust, it's impossible to really be complete in how we look at the content of the music itself. I think that's okay, just because there are other outlets that have the musical focus — and fewer that deal with the process, and how the technology fits into the process. On the other hand, it's something I'd like to do better.

    I think some of the things you talk about are a real challenge to people working with technology. But then, it's a fairly personal thing, whether you've gotten there or not as an artist — or a listener.

    I've always felt limited as a critic in that I'm also a practitioner, and so sometimes that gives me insight but sometimes it just biases me … because I get distracted by answering artistic questions for myself and my own work, not necessarily for other people. But I do think these are interesting questions.

    Hope that made some sense, as a hastily-written comment.

  • Phos…

    Thanks for the response, Peter. Though short as you admit [yep, we ALL have many parallel lives to live! :o)], your admissions make sense.

    Certainly I realize that CDM is about nothing if not gear lust; I'm sometimes too entrenched in that myself. That said, though, this site has sent me off in many directions exploring all sorts of hardware and software.

    I think a lot of my first post has to do with the ever-widening quest to rectify and balance the left & right sides of my personality—my love for the science and my love for the art. It's a journey all introspective people take, I think.

    Coming from a guitar playing background, and always a little outside, or beyond, most of my music-playing peer group, I always found it a little difficult to explain how it was that I get as much enjoyment out of a brilliantly clamorous one-note guitar solo by Neil Young as I do the intricate modal hops and timing of Frank Zappa, as well as players between and beyond their respective parts of the musical spectrum. And trying to replicate/incorporate the tastiest bits from all of it into my own playing & composition.

    Sure, I want to know exactly WHAT gear those guys used to make their sound, but ultimately, it had to do with the artist, and not the tools.

    While the tools are worth knowing about (that you do such a good job of that is the reason I return here every day), I also want to hear the soul of the artist come through. Maybe the connection I'm missing is the fact that the timbres and beats of many of electronics-based musicians all sound so similar, because they let the gear do so much of the work. I can't connect with what makes one artist's work much different than the bazillion others who can buy, download or pirate the same tools. Sure the loops, and samples can be tweaked, to virtually infinite ends, but that's not what I'm getting at.

    I use loops and synth stuff do flesh out my work as well, but as soon as I can, I like having a real musician [uh-oh, there's gonna be trouble for THAT one, I just know it! ;o) ] come in and replace the generated stuff. A real drummer (even if he's using processed drum sounds). A real keyboardist or electronicist playing at will, bending notes and spinning knobs on the fly. Making mistakes and happy accidents.

    All of this also points to why I could never get into house music, D & B club music, and the like…Because I never really heard an artist. I heard gear.

    And I suspect, from what you've written, that these are the things you wrestle with as well.

  • whistleblower

    postmodern grey goo…

    In a wee yellow box…

    Sounds like fun.

    Or not.

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  • Downpressor

    Oddly enough a week or so ago I tried to do something similar to this but using a Kaossilator, KP Mini and D-4 recorder (all Korg, all the time!). The experiment was a failure in my mind since the control surface of the Kaossilator isnt precise enough to be musically useful for anything thats not loop and gesture based.

    Sure I could dump the recorded tracks into logic, find the best takes, edit/copy/paste, but that kinda defeats the purpose.

    Anyways I'll check out Gary Kibler's thing and see if he fared better than me.

  • bizzaro lord ZOOL!

    well i have the Daedalus album and i must say its a treat a very nicely put together set that i was there to watch

    his skills at the monome are awsome to behold and i wish i could one day reach his level of awsomeness with the monome

  • Phos…

    Oops…before anybody jumps on me…I meant a SONY TC 388. Never owned a TEAC, but worked on a 3440 a good bit.

  • @Phos

    I understand where you're coming from, but in many many cases I'm as interested in the Creating as I am What's Created. I for one am fascinated by process, and like, I suspect, many who read this blog and others, I spend far too much time reading about gear and artists when I could be sitting in front of my own gear actually making something.

    I don't always want my art to be emotional and compelling. A paper airplane isn't gonna fly me to Tahiti, but that fact that I can make one fly at all is still pretty cool to me. An analogy I use is sketchbooks-to-museum art. Sketchbooks to me are usually more interesting than the "finished" stuff. I like beautiful, complete, amazing things as much as the next guy. But I also love that some dude with a $200 yellow squelching thing thought "hmm. this should be an entire album" and then went out and did it. Is it great? Some of it. Most of it feels limited to me and I'll probably never listen to it again. And that's just how I feel. But if someone else out there hears it and is motivated to sit in front of HIS gear and make something, rock!

    There are plenty of places to read about and hear the professional/finished stuff (Keyboard Magazine anyone?). I like my internets raw and surprising. Beep beep squeeek!

  • We believe in gear *love*, not gear lust. 😉

    By the way, for completely different music from Gary Kibler, his Da Vinci Code game score is up at MySpace:

    Whether you like that or not, different end of the spectrum. But you know, it's also valid to realize, maybe a KAOSSilator really *isn't* all you want to make a record.

    On both issues, today or over the weekend we're posting an interview with Hank Shocklee (producer and original member of Public Enemy, among many other things). Hank talked a lot about maturing in use of tools. He also mentions that the first time he heard Bob Marley, he actually didn't like it — some musics do take time to get into, or may be things that you respect without resonating with personally.

  • Oh, and the LinnDrum II aka BoomChik is exempted from the new CDM motto above. I think we can be in love and lust with it at the same time. (The lust part: we haven't, erm, actually seen or heard the real thing yet, yes.)

  • Sizzurp Sippa

    I don't think that the Kaosillator music is bad… it is just that it is VERY limited as a tool of personal expression.

    99 patches? A handful of pre-sequenced beats?

    It isn't that the Yellow Kaosillator album sucks, it is just that anyone else's Kaosillator album is going to sound exactly the same, because there just isn't enough preset patches to go around… and you can't create your own patches.

    Something like the Tenori-On, you can at least copy your own samples to it.

  • I have a Kaossilator, it's definitely a fun little device and this album is a cool experiment. I agree that it's a bit limited for trying to do this sort of thing over and over again though.

    But for what it is the Kaossilator is a neat little instrument. I think it's sorely in need of quantization, but then again I'm spoiled by Live. I'm still playing with the Kaossilator and trying to find how I can use it in my setup. So far it's mostly been an amusing toy. I think that once I put my mind to it though it will have a home with my EMX-1.

  • Richard Lawler

    I don't think Kaossilator sounds like Tenori-On.

  • Sizzurp Sippa

    Kaossilator doesn't sound like Tenori-On, but both are unconventional musical instruments put out by big synth companies in the past year. Both are the cool new toys, so to speak.

    The Kaosillator would be great if it had midi out, and I could drive an external programable synth… or it would be cool if you could program patches on the computer (it uses the radius engine after all), and then copy them to the Kaossilator.

  • Phos…

    Good point, and one I might have made if I wasn't being so cerebral otherwise ;o).

    Again, coming from a guitar background, and interested in all the possibilities offered by computerated assistance—I was really looking forward to trying out the Fender's VG Strat. Then I discovered that they've limited it to just the onboard controls…NO 13 pin out.

    WTF is that all about!? It's compelling, but severely hobbled. I look forward to either v 2.0, or some well crafted hacks to open that sucker up to massive tweaking.

  • @ Phos …

    I could relate to much of what you were saying. We actually have more in common than you may have initially assumed. Talk about growing up in the 70s and Teac 3340s and Sony reel-to-reels

    that was me (I still have the Teac btw) And those names you mentioned – Fripp,

    Eno, Rundgren, Zappa – Gods to me – then and now.

    Brian here may have summed up best how I feel about music as well – both serious and not. The Kaossilator I got for Christmas is the most fun musically I've had for many years and I certainly didn't set out to make an artist statement but just share and celebrate that old fogeys like us are still around to discover and play with these high-tech marvels. Just think of what it would have taken to produce this music back in the day and now I can do it in the palm of my hand. It's all about the democratization of music-making, which by definition is going to churn out alot of crap, much like the internet istself, but will also get more people in the game, and that cannot be a bad thing.

    With this I tried my best to cover more than a couple of genres (and, yes, it does lend itself heavily to the beep-squawk variety) but if this "sampler demo" – and that's what it really is – motivates anyone to pick up one of these and experience this joy with me, then I will have done what I really set out to do. I look forward to being shown up on all the subsequent Kaossillator albums.

  • Unfortunately I was just contacted by my host company and it looks like I may be shut down for a bit because of the increased traffic. The entire album will be up in the next 24 hours at music.download.com and I'll let you know that link when I get it. Any other suggestions where I might post would be welcomed. Thanks again for all your comments and feedback. Cheers -G

  • Todd Fletcher

    Great picture GaryK! That was me too, just a few years later.

    I get what Phos is talking about. I think it's going to take a lot of time to work out what can be done with this plethora of options at our fingertips now. Look at the evolution of piano music from the early instruments through Liszt and Prokofiev and into jazz. We can only advance by little steps at a time, that's the nature of experimentation. We can all indulge in a little gear lust but it has gotten out of hand I think. We have more than enough now to do great stuff, it's up to us. As someone who has been working at electronic music for 25 years, there just can't be any more excuses.

    Well, at least there won't be after I get a LinnDrumII…

  • Phos…


    Heh…I didn't have that much gear back in '78, but I DID have the exact same haircut! 🙂

    OK, let's point the finger back at me, to be fair:

    After getting my first rackmount guitar multieffects unit (ART SGX 2000) I got fired from the band I was in because I couldn't just leave well enough alone. I was always bloody tweaking presets during rehearsals when I should have been writing, learning and just plain playing!

    Still, I want MORE toys and tools. That's why I keep reading and listening and experimenting. But, you wanna know what drives me nuts? Hearing national advert campaigns and top commercial radio hits where you can clearly hear long passages of unaltered OEM GarageBand loops. What are they paying those monkies!?!?

    And speaking of gods and self-imposed limitations: Rundgren and the A Capella album. Nuff said.

  • My webhosting service will be shutting me down any second making even the redirect I had set up not work. For now those still interested, I've just uploaded this to ReverbNation:


    Thanks again for all the great comments.

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  • someguy

    No the kaossilator album sucks ass. I could make a better one with my eyes closed…

    Well mayb enot with my eyes closed

    but seriously

    that kaossilator albums blowwwws

    i love my kaossilator