New Years’ Eve? What’s that? The music tech year begins and ends at the massive NAMM trade show, across from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. So, as we settle in for a few hours’ rest before the big circus begins, I asked Liz McLean Knight and Mike Una to offer some of their 2007 highlights. And this gives us some great music to listen to while we (invariably) edit the hours of footage of NAMM and my recent Australian visualist tour.

Great music, great tools, and some personal highlights ahead. (Photo: moriza. Ah, sweet 2007.)

Liz – Bestest Music

LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver. Someone great is such a great song.
Burial: Untrue. Emo-dubby-2step, but gorgeous and slightly creepy.
Modeselektor: Happy Birthday!. Ghetto tech glitch crunk, woo-hoo!
I Broke My Robot: Tomorrow Does Not Exist. Dark, crunky IDM breaky good times.
Simian Mobile Disco: Attack Decay Sustain Release. You can’t not dance to this
Justice: t. Irresistable electro funk
Digitalism: Idealism. The track “Idealism” is totally fun and “Zdarlight” and “The Pulse” remind me of Daft Punk at their rockiest
Near the Parenthesis: Of Soft Construction. Really gorgeous crunchy ambient stuff, and it was great to bring him out to Chicago
The Tuss: Rushup Edge. If it really is an Aphex Twin side project, RDJ hasn’t lost his touch
VA: 8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk. Chiptunery + Kraftwerk = Awesome
Par Grindvik: Death is Nothing to Fear 1. Excellent minimal blippy EP. “Casio” is great
Jeff Samuel: Fire. Another great release on Poker Flat
SuperMayer: Two of Us. Superpitcher and Michael Mayer collaborated on this gritty bassy, slightly irrevernt stomper of a 12”

Liz – Neatest Tools

Splice Music
Tenori On
Image Line’s DirectWave

Liz – Musical Highlights

Playing at the Metro (finally!)
DJ Set in a lower East side loft in September, making the crowd go bananas
Having Tycho come play at one of our Ramp Chicago nights (gorgeous music and video… seriously he’s the new Boards of Canada)
Having a track on Black Dog’s label, Dust Science: Mental Ziltch King on Faith is Fear
Demo Swap at Ramp Chicago with special guest CDMlord Peter Kirn
Nerding out as a Dorkbot presenter with Mike Una
NYE warehouse rave in Chicago, dancing until 5am, not remembering how I got home, but glad I did, with all my belongings. Good times.

Mike – Best live electronic shows

1. Simian Mobile Disco. These guys have a ton of energy, a round table full of excellent gear, and superbright (blinding!) LED towers that pulse colors in sync with the music.

2. Cornelius “Sensuous” tour. Cornelius continues to delight and astound in the most well-conceieved, well-executed audiovisual experience I’ve ever seen. The music is a superb blend of traditional instruments and electronics, all intricately synchronized with amazing videos and stage antics. One highlight: They throw a tethered Boss SP-303 into the audience, so the crowd can trigger samples along with the band.

3. Chicago’s Moment Sound crew. At one of their shows recently, a crowdmember told me that they hadn’t understood electronic music until they came and saw these guys play. No laptops, just a table full of drum machines, sequencers, and samplers, with everyone tweaking knobs, tapping pads, and nodding heads. The sounds are fun for your brain and your booty, and they cover a lot of styles and tempos from ambience to krunky get-downs.

4. Dosh. This guy is amazing. He does a lot of live looping, playing synths, a drum kit, glockenspiel, all with an excellent indie/drum ‘n bass vibe. IMHO, a single human could not accomplish more things simultaneously and he does it with rhythm and grace.

Mike – Best gear of 2007

1. Alesis iO/14 firewire audio interface. With Sweetwater selling these babies at $199, this is the best quality-to-price ratio I’ve seen yet, giving the average Joe/Jane a solidly constructed, high bitrate audio/MIDI interface. Plus, it has support for older digital mixers via ADAT Lightpipe.

2. HighlyLiquid’s MIDI decoders. These affordable, simple kits accomplish complex things with a minimum of fuss. A very powerful tool that does much of the heavy lifting for those wanting to explore the intersection of MIDI and the real world.

3. Livid Instrument’s Ohm wins “best use of woodgrain in a MIDI control surface.”

  • Check out this video of Simian Mobile Disco's live setup:

    no secrets!

  • dead_red_eyes

    @ LIz – "Burial: Untrue. Emo-dubby-2step"

    Burial emo? His music is FAR from emo. Why not mention ambient instead? Sorry, I gotta stick up for my man here. (I hate emo btw)

    Near the Parenthesis is great, and it's cool that you brought him out to Chi-town Liz. Mike (Bitcrush) recommended his stuff to me, so I had to check it out.

    Michael, great to see that you mentioned Cornelius!!! Keigo is the man!!!

  • Well Dead Red Eyes, I happen to love the new burial album. And hate emo. But she's right. Its dark music man. But thats what makes it great, in a a similar manner to Radiohead (Speaking of which, liz no In Rainbows?). It's all about the atmosphere.

    But to clarify it certainly is not "My girlfriend hasn't called me in 15 minutes so i'm going to go slit my wrists. But first I'm going to make a 15 song series of whining/screaming/crying ballads to tell you all about it."

    And how the hell could you forget Daft Punks live show??? DISCO SPACE PYRAMID WITH LASERS!!! COME ON!.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Dark music = emo?


    Emo = wussy rock wishing it could be dark. Just like the explanation you wrote out.

    GOTH called about 30+ years ago, but it looks like emo didn't notice.

    Seriously tho, emo is not dark. Goth and death metal are dark, and have way more atmosphere to them … and I don't like that kind of music either. The only emo band I ever liked was "Sunny Day Real Estate", and they were more indie rock than anything. Just because it has a great atmosphere doesn't deem it to be emo, that's pretty wanky if you ask me. It's atmosphere has more in common with dark ambient music than anything. I hear influences by Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Brian Lustmord, ect.

    I'm not a genre nazi by any means, but Burial is not emo. Not even close.

  • Machines

    You got chocolate in my peanut butter!

  • I guess emo the word, as a descriptor has, at least in my experience, has outgrown the genre completely. I've heard it used far more often to describe any music that displays any sort of vulnerability. People could call Elliott smiths music emo, or the newest break up ballad by xyz pop singer emo, or Burial's beats of mourning emo. I wasn't really even really thinking of the word in the sense of the genre, but as the descriptor it has become.

  • I would have listed Daft Punk but I didn't get to see them play on their magical laser pyramid. If I had seen it personally, it would have been at the top of my list.

    I just added Dosh to my list. Forgot about that one.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Nice to see you representing the Anticon scene Michael!

    Lost, I agree with you there. The term "emo" doesn't really seem to have any sort of solid ground, especially these days. I remember in the mid-late 80's when "emo" first appeared in the punk rock scene and thrived with many releases on Dischord Records. Afterwards it quickly bled into indie rock. Then after that scene was over it started again with bands like Dashboard Confessional, AFI, Alexisonfire, Brand New, Coheed and Cambria, Fall Out Boy, From First to Last, Funeral for a Friend, Hawthorne Heights, My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Senses Fail, Something Corporate, The Starting Line, Story of the Year, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday, The Used, and Underoath. If you take Burial and compare them to everything that emo has ever been, you'll see that it's not even close to any of those bands.

    The term has always been used to describe some type of music that carried lots of emotion. And doesn't most of the music out there carry emotion? From Anticon to Merge records, lots of labels have artists that write music that's chock full of emotion. Now you see why I have such distate for the word emo, and what it means. It's a vague term at best that really doesn't explain anything. I just think it's the worst term/genre name that we have … yes, even worse than crunk/hyphy.

  • Downpressor

    Thats the best y'all can come up with for 2007? I'm starting to get the impression that this site has become dorkaroundwithdigitalnoise rather than anything actually practically musical.

    I for one dont see what all the fuss about the Tenori On, chiptunes is about. 2007 saw a bunch of affordable and musically useful plugins from Audio Damage, a proliferation of reasonably priced mixer/audio interface units, a ton of portable recorders, two nifty pocket sized things from Korg, rock dinosaurs leaving the womb of the major labels and who knows what else. I dont even pay close attention and that much comes to mind.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Sure, there's not a HUGE list up here Downpressor … but you don't have to be a jerk to them about it. And if you noticed, it's their own personal list … and not the overall site. Maybe Michael and Liz don't give a shit about Korgs mini synth & KAOSS pad. I sure as hell don't.

  • I was attempting a neologism there under "emo-dubby-2step"– I meant it more along the lines of "emotional dubby etc" rather than in the "constipated, frustrated depressed" singer sense… fyi

    ps: some way cool stuff here at NAMM! Already have added quite a few products to my 2008 xmas wishlist… 😮

  • sunship

    I don't see the Alesis iO/14 firewire audio interface listed at Sweetwater at all (yet) and all the other retailers are at $299 not $199… typo?

  • dead_red_eyes

    It is $299. But maybe Sweetwater had some going for $199 when Michael bought his.

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