skinnerbox4up

Inside Skinnerbox’s live sets, including a song they play backwards

“xobrenniks era ew olleh.” Skinnerbox, the duo of Olaf Hilgenfeld and Iftah Gabbai, are now so comfortable in their roles of playing live that they’re playing backwards to spice things up. (It seems there was some effort involved here – like, learning a song backwards in order that they had composed it the way they desired when reversed. I just find it oddly enchanting watching things defy gravity and roll across cymbals.) Playing with other people can feel like a mind meld. There’s a special discipline to working things out alone, to be sure. But it’s when you play with …

READ MORE →
etc-4pm_1024x1024

ETC video synth is like the love child of Tumblr and MS Paint

We may be at the saturation point for sound synthesis and modular. You know what that means: it’s time for video synthesizers. East Coast American boutique darlings Critter & Guitari are diving into that field headfirst with their ETC video synth. Here’s how it works. Pick a background color. Dial in a mode – from various preset animation styles. Choose to leave accumulation on or not (whether those animations stack atop one another). Add an audio input if you choose for sound reactivity. Then adjust parameters manually, or use MIDI for automation (via scenes and CC automation). That might all …

READ MORE →
ifeellove

Ableton built a free browser playground to teach how music works

I think there’s a common myth that music production tools somehow take away from the need to understand music theory. I’d say exactly the opposite: they’re more demanding. Every musician is now in the position of composer. You have an opportunity to arrange new sounds in new ways without any clear frame from the past. You’re now part of a community of listeners who have more access to traditions across geography and essentially from the dawn of time. In other words, there’s almost no choice too obvious. So I also believe that every musician and producer ought to have access …

READ MORE →
cellf

This cybernetic synth contains a brain grown from the inventor’s cells

Digital? Ha. Analog? Oh, please. Biological? Now you’re talking. The core of this synthesizer was grown in a lab from actual living cells sliced right out of its creator. Skin cells are transformed into stem cells which then form a neural network – one that exists not in code, but in actual living tissue. Now, in comparison to your brain (billions of neurons and a highly sophisticated interactive structure), this handful of petri dish neurons wired into some analog circuits is impossibly crude. It signifies your brain sort of in the way one antenna on an ant signifies the solar …

READ MORE →
spline_00

Robert Henke, finding beauty in ever-iterating work with lasers

Robert Henke in his post-Ableton life has continued to see his stock rise on the media art scene. But in some ways, that’s a funny thing. You’ll very often see Robert in one of two guises – as club act, or large-scale AV event. Yet the very thing that makes his style so distinctive is somehow the opposite of what you normally expect from those arenas. Robert’s approach is meticulous, detail-oriented, compulsive. In some sense, I think that’s what makes it scale. Rather than crank the volume, push emotions, and embrace spectacle (in the AV/concert) and the visceral (in the …

READ MORE →
howtotechno

This dummy’s guide to making techno is oddly compelling to watch

How simple is techno – that genre that seems unstoppable, from Asia to Antarctica? It’s simple enough that it can be reduced to … six steps. No, kind of – seriously. I expected to have my intelligence insulted by this video, and yet … uh, well, I’m an addict, because it just made me want to go make some new percussion samples. The approach is oddly on point and – let’s be honest – looks like fun. You don’t need six steps, even, as I’m not sure what that acappella is about. (The video was evidently created by artist Hobo, …

READ MORE →
premierement_01_cover

With Autist and Rainbow Arabia, pop retro futurism meets the club

Electronic music’s popular future is unquestionably tied up with techno nightclubs – for better and for worse. And that’s perhaps no more true than in Berlin, birthplace of Traktor and Ableton Live, in this nation that birthed major DAWs and modular revivals, then became a beacon for the use of said tools to make dance music. So the question is, where do we go from here? Are clubs about producing effective repetition (literally), or are they also some kind of laboratory for new hybrids of styles? I’m involved in a second time in a Thursday night experiment of sorts at …

READ MORE →
irigrecorder

IK’s solution for recording everything: audio, video, iOS, Android

Cobbling together a rig for documenting your work as a musician/DJ/producer/vocalist is, let’s face it, kind of a nightmare. Sharing your work could be a great pleasure – but it often feels like an extra job you have to work. The iPhone (or more generally smartphone) has been kind of a mixed blessing. The software/sensor combination, while powerful and always in your pocket, are great. But nothing else about a phone is well suited to shooting anything above basic quality stuff – because you’ve got to hold the thing steady and capture audio effectively (sometimes multiple streams of audio). So, …

READ MORE →
generative-video-1200x675

This music video generates landscapes from a wild alien duo’s music

If you haven’t seen it already, Meier & Erdmann absolutely nailed it with their video for the tune “Howler Monkey.” First, it doesn’t hurt that this is a crisp, funky, uncluttered earworm gem. Second, the video is dazzling. Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no reason why sound visualization needs to be so boring and familiar. There’s a lot to learn here. Even just change the colors goes a long way. Here, the familiar spectral view over time is carefully tuned to form fantastical landscapes, the camera panning around lazily. I keep re-watching the video partly because so much was carefully …

READ MORE →
reason95-screenshot-2-dbe3021ad885

Hell freezes over, Reason 9.5 adds VST support

For those who fear we might live in the End Times, I have some really terrible news. Propellerhead is adding VST plug-in support to Reason. Yep, that’s Propellerhead who for years had sworn they’d never add plug-ins because of concerns about stability, compatibility, and even simple features like undo implementation – and because conventional plug-ins don’t integrate the way that native devices in Reason’s trademark rack do. So what happened? Well, first, Propellerhead found they had something of a hit in their own Rack Extension format and accompanying store. Based on conversations I’ve had with developers, the business opportunity there …

READ MORE →