namm

What to expect from 2017’s first wave of new music gear

Happy New Year? Not yet. In the universe of music gear, the NAMM show in California is a sort of unspoken new year’s holiday – home to the biggest wave of music tech announcements of the year. It doesn’t cover everything, as many music producer-specific makers have fled the pricey trade show booths for more focused events. But there’s still rather a lot. Here’s a look at what to expect. Year of the drum machine The monosynth has made its comeback; now it might be the drum machine’s turn. Behringer and Akai are likely to join recent product launches from …

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amulets

AMULETS shows how to make a tape loop out of a cassette

AMULETS is Randall Taylor, a one-man experimental looping ambient artist out of Austin, Texas who works with tape loops and guitar. And to start off the year, Randall wants to show you a key element of his technique – making tape loops from cassette tapes. Tape loops, as associated with the likes of Steve Reich, began mainly on reel-to-reel decks. Using a cassette means some more precise surgery. There’s the cassette housing to contend with, mainly – which means disassembling and then (importantly) re-assembling a delicate plastic case. And the tape itself is smaller, too – 0.15 inches rather than …

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nycskyline

New tools for free sound powerhouse Pd make it worth a new look

Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max, can still learn some new tricks. And that’s important – because there’s nothing that does quite what it does, with a free, visual desktop interface, permissive license, and embeddable and mobile versions integrated with other software, free and commercial alike. A community of some of its most dedicated developers and artists met late last year in the NYC area. What transpired offers a glimpse of how this twenty-year-old program might enter a new chapter – and some nice tools you can use right now. To walk us through, attendee Max …

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discman

A patchable, circuit bent Sony Discman turns into a glitch instrument

It’s happened: CD players are officially retro/vintage. (Heck, so is the iPod at this point.) But that means it’s time to open them up and glitch them out – at least for some intrepid inventors, that is. Actually, this video is itself vintage, coming from the innocent days of 2012. (Ah – remember then? If only we knew what world awaited us in 2017. We’d… probably have hidden in a basement and all started circuit bending Sony CD players.) Anyway, I digress. Sony Discman. Renamed “Discbitch” – complete with laser-etched name on the case. Patchable. Glitching. Watch: Somehow, it’s trending …

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screenshot_679

Grab 150 vintage and rare drum machines for free

You know the person – collecting weird old music gear, from highly valuable to the near-worthless used prices, as an obsessive hoarder. You open their closet and immediately want to grab a mic and start sampling. Well, that’s the feeling of this totally free library of drum machine sounds. You get a 200MB library, with 150 drum machines. They’re eminently playable, too, with General MIDI mappings so you don’t have to hunt around for the sounds. They’re also grouped (kick, snare, hat, cymbal, tom). And there’s a lot of work here – custom graphics for each kit and custom controls …

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Forte festival - Portugal, 2016. Photo by Dina Brudi-Pascal.

Inside Orphx’s terrific live technique, mixing modular and computer

Orphx are simply enchanting – doubly so live. Veteran experimentalists and master virtuosos of live performance, their music is heavy and industrial, but endlessly imaginative and groovy. Onstage, they genuinely improvise – there’s spontaneity and interplay. And that creative energy plays out both in their imposing live schedule and in their prolific studio output. The duo, consisting of a clever matching of skills of Canada’s Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey, had a devastatingly good year in 2016. There was the masterful full-length Pitch Black Mirror. There were remixes and collaborations (like Eschaton, with Ancient Methods). And there were those face-melting …

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sludge

Celebrate Sludgemas with some free Detroit Underground groove

There are things that make your butt wiggle. There are things that make your brain tickle. There are things that get glitched and grungy. Well, here’s something that does all those things at once – it’s a glitchy good time, and it’s free. Merry Sludgemas. And for anyone bored with overly-shiny, overly-restrained, dark fashion-label sound-alike techno – meet “sludge,” which is totally none of that. Our parade of year-end music queuing continues with some goodness from one of our favorite labels of the year, Detroit Underground. They’ve been experimental and glitchy and groovy and IDM and weirdo and excellent. They’ve …

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screenshot_678

Adult Swim has a free noise album you don’t want to miss

It’s that time of the year again: weeks of hearing Christmas songs on repeat plus the untimely death of George Michael, and your ears are probably oozing peppermint goo while you cry yourself to sleep. This calls for some seriously aggressive noise album. You know – like a palette cleanser. Well, here’s one, and it’s free – from Adult Swim. “Noise” album? Cartoon Network? Okay, the combination sounds unlikely. But if you were expecting some lame hipster compilation that sounds like “noise music” just means someone fell asleep on their guitar pedalboard, think again. It’s actually damned good. And it’s …

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arturia

Right now Arturia is giving away a free sequenced filter plug-in

These days, there are models of the Moog ladder filter everywhere (hardware and software), but it wasn’t always so. 13 years ago, Bob Moog himself partnered with developer Arturia to model his creations in software form. Now, that developer is giving away the latest iteration of their software filtering tech in a powerful plug-in – and it’s free for a couple of days. The MiniFilter V is more than just a drop-in ladder filter. It’s a bit like having a set of Moogerfoogers in your computer, all patched together. So there’s the all-important ladder filter itself, with 24dB/oct curve and …

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gabrielananda

A strikingly honest interview about music and happiness

Does great music come from pain, or should happiness and caring for yourself come first? We don’t talk about that a lot in music. Indeed, from music gear news to dance music lifestyle publications, we peddle fantasies of success. We do that even when it’s clear most of our audience – most of us – will never have that sort of success. But even more so, there’s little consideration of whether that actually makes anyone happy. So I find this interview strikingly refreshing and encouraging. It’s from the documentary collective Blitzkickers, who have a knack for going past the usual …

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