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Watch how the Ninja Jamm app can turn a track into an instrument

Four years on, Ninja Jamm continues to steam ahead as an app. We covered this app at its creation; I had provided some voluntary guidance as it’s built on libpd. Over those years, it’s built up a base of users and content, added Android support atop iOS, and enabled support on both platforms for Ableton Link. But I myself find myself playing with it again, after contributing a free content pack via the Liquid Sky Berlin series. And I find this remains relevant and addictive. I think it’s always worth listening to the founders of Coldcut and Ninja Tune, in …

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The nerdiest synth meet in the world, plus Tangerine Dream on a boat

Even in the age of the Internet, there’s no substitute for seeing people face to face. It just seems now we want a more concentrated dose – one or two really big international gatherings where we go all-in. And apart from California’s mighty NAMM show, it seems there’s nothing quite like Superbooth. Here’s a preview, some highlights from last year – and don’t worry, if you can’t make it to Berlin, there will be a continuous livestream to the world and coverage we’ll deliver from the various partners covering the event. With just one past edition under its belt, Superbooth …

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Remembering experimental idol and Pan Sonic founder Mika Vainio

Finnish musician Mika Vainio is likely an inspiration to anyone who loves the sensation of electrified sound in its raw form – bare, exposed, vibrating, voltaic. Mika Vainio is a thread running through so much of experimentalism in the past three decades of electronic music – noise to industrial to techno. News reaches us today that he died at the age of 53. If now electronic music’s dark underground vein has become popular, then his fingerprints are all over that transformation. I can see just how many people he’s touched and how deeply moved they’ve been by his work just …

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Moog talked to The Haxan Cloak about the visceral quality of sound in air

Isn’t it weird how oddly superficial and fashion oriented talking about music can get? Let’s remember what we’re doing: we’re moving sound particles in air and then seeing what happens to our physical body and mood when they disrupt tiny bits inside our ear. To quote Keanu Reaves: whoa. So it’s refreshing that a recent video Moog shot with The Haxan Cloak isn’t really about Moog synthesizers and isn’t really about The Haxan Cloak. It’s about what happens when you hear really low frequencies. It’s about the feeling of motion you get when you arrange melodies into repeating patterns. It’s …

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How Dutch archives turned into a Lakker AV show about water

Wade in the water, indeed. Set the Irish duo Lakker loose in a Dutch film archive, and what you get is a dense, heavy experimental techno album and a live show exploring the Netherlands’ ongoing battle with the sea. It’s a 2016 album, but even if you caught it before, now we get some insight into its evolution into a live audiovisual show. Even before you get the sense of the historical narrative behind it, the music itself is evocative, dark, and rich. I actually like that we’re calling all this music “techno” now – this isn’t in the four-in-the-floor …

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KOMA’s Field Kit, connecting contacts pickups, and motors, is now reality

So much of the idea of signal and the definition of an audio “mixer” is fixed, we’ve begun to take these concepts for granted. Microphones plus line level, into some faders — that’s what a mixer is. But why does it have to be that way? By creating a new instrument around connecting to contact mics and electromagnetic pickups, and even making output to DC motors and solenoids, KOMA Elektronik leapt out of the mainstream – and turned the concept into a runaway hit. Here’s a beautiful video showing how one artist is making use of the instrument: The artist, …

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automatonism

This software is like getting a modular inside your computer, for free

Modular synthesizers present some beautiful possibilities for sound design and composition. For constructing certain kinds of sounds, and certain automated rhythmic and melodic structures, they’re beautiful – and endure for a reason. Now, that description could fit both software and hardware modulars. And of course, hardware has some inarguable, irreplaceable advantages. But the same things that make it great to work with can also be limiting. You can’t dynamically change patches without some plugging and replugging, you’re limited by what modules you’ve got bolted into a rack, and … oh yeah, apart from size and weight, these things cost money. …

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In Czech, instruments and music releases are all about extended family

It’s a wonderful thing to find kindred spirits. It doesn’t matter if they look like you, if you share a gender or an age, or if they come from down the street or around the globe. And that’s the experience a lot of people have had when coming in contact with Bastl Instruments and the underground music and instrument enclave of Brno, Czech. Bastl are known for their cute compact desktop synth hardware and quirky modular line. And small builders are themselves tight-knit, but there’s more to it than just what Bastl Instruments as a maker provides. There’s a sense …

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BT’s Phobos is a scifi synthesizer using something called polyconvolution

We’ve reached a new era in software instruments. For years, designers had produced instruments that either relied primarily on sampled sound, reproducing existing acoustic instruments, or worked mainly with synthesized sound and short wavetables, like a typical synth. What’s happening now is we’re getting a bumper crop of hybrid instruments – ones that use extensive multi-gig sample libraries and combine them with synthesis and processing to form sounds that hadn’t existed before. I’ve written at some length about the approach of LA-based Output on these lines – and relied on their instruments when under painfully short deadlines, in particular. Now, …

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Watch a half hour documentary on the sound of Star Wars Rogue One

For lovers of sound design – cinematic or otherwise – Star Wars is always good reason to nerd out. But Rogue One is something different, as the first film to be a standalone or spinoff. On the music side, it meant a new composer who wasn’t John Williams (Michael Giacchino). But perhaps the less known story is that sound, too, got a new direction. Filling the shoes of Ben Burtt is no easy task. There’s probably no Hollywood sound creator better known than Burtt. And as with any Star Wars film, you have the unique challenge of trying to do …

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