bastldemo

Go gear crazy with the best synth gear unveiled at Superbooth

In just its second edition, Schneidersladen has turned the Superbooth into the world’s coolest synth gathering and most focused electronic music gear get-together. The Berlin-based event attracted a who’s who of international music gear makers, from modular to desktop, tiny to huge. So that led to the inevitable question: “what have you seen? What’s cool?” Sometimes you got to that topic before, like, “hello, how are you?” Well, while there was a litany of great new stuff, particularly (unsurprisingly) in the modular sphere, here are the prototypes and gear launches that I think represent the best of the best. We’ll …

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thyme_angle

Bastl’s Thyme is an advanced digital effect inspired by tape

What if you had an effect in hardware that acted like tape – with tape heads, adjustable speed, and so on? But what if that tape were … digital, instead of analog? And what if it were run by a … robot? And sequenced? Wait, huh? Well, step again into the wacky imagination of Bastl Instruments. They showed off an early prototype of this concept back in 2015, only to have the hardware go off the radar for a while. Now, it’s back in a more or less completed instrument, one that delivers on that early potential. It’s called Thyme. …

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peak-plus-stand_3quart-left_v2-hr

Here’s a video tour of Novation’s drool-worthy Peak polysynth

The fine folks of Sound on Sound took a tour of the new Novation Peak polysynth in their UK offices. There’s a lot that can be said about the Peak, but here are the two obvious advantages. First, those digital oscillators are quite clever. It maybe tripped up marketing and some press initially, but the point here is that these should really be indistinguishable from analog equivalents – while with the flexibility (and cost, and power draw) of digital oscillators. Second, while there is a display, it seems there’s almost no menu diving involved. Each section of the instrument is …

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qs_3

Eowave’s Quandrantid Swarm is a weird scifi synth like no other

“All synths today just sound the same.” Sure. Fair. Well, but then something comes along that sounds more like it’s ready to produce a trippy soundtrack for a wandering scifi epic about a journey to Jupiter, filmed in early-70s Czechoslovakia.* Meet the Quandrantid Swarm. It’s the latest creation from French boutique Eowave, whose inventions have always tended to the experimental and unique. And while they also do modular now, I can’t help but feel this is Eowave at their best – making desktop instruments and oddball interfaces. These are creations with an eye to the past, but in some sort …

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peak

Peak is the new polysynth from the creator of Novation’s classics

Novation the synth manufacturer looks to be back with a vengeance. In addition to the new Circuit Bass Station as its mono/paraphonic synth offering, the company has a new polysynth flagship. The UK company says they brought in Chris Huggett, the creator of the Bass Station, Supernova, and OSCar. What you get is sort of an 8-voice synth inspired by the Bass Station II. You get eight full-featured new Oxford voices with a hybrid analog/digital sound – numerically-controlled oscillators that behave like analog oscillators, plus 17 digital wavetables for the full palette of digital sound. You can also use these …

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circuit_monostation_lifestyle1

Novation Circuit Mono Station: paraphonic, feature packed, $499

Take the grid-based workflow of Circuit – and build a sequencer workstation with a paraphonic analog synth. That’s the formula of the Circuit Mono Station, one of two new synth products Novation are showing off this week in Berlin at Superbooth. We got a first look via leaked photos; now here are the full details. Physically, the Circuit Mono Station has the 32 RGB velocity-sensitive pads from the Circuit, plus hands-on controls. But in place of the drum machine / Nova digital polysynth combo (and limited macro encoder controls), what you get is: A three-track sequencer. Yeah, so makers are …

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novation-circuit-mono-station

Novation Mono Station synth sequencer just leaked via retail

Novation’s Circuit drum machine/synth/sequencer combo already found a lot of fans. Now it looks like they’ve got another all-in-one grid instrument – this time, a mono/paraphonic synth with sequencer. And whereas the Nova polysynth in the Circuit is hidden behind controls, here you get loads of hands-on control. The Novation Mono Station has leaked via retailers like Dutch prodjstore and are already making rounds on social media. Most interesting I’d say, apart from combining the grid sequencer with a hands-on synth, is that modulation matrix. (It’s not bad having distortion plus a multi-mode filter with overdrive, either.) In a nod …

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shamir

An earnest album, recorded to four-track, as Shamir looks for hope

We often describe quality pop and songwriting as effortless, as easy. But what about when it’s awkward, uncomfortable? Aren’t those the moments that describe longing? When Shamir Bailey says he recorded his album to four track, the first thing I’m obligated to consider is, of course – he might be lying. And ground hum and hiss shouldn’t be accepted as any form of authenticity any more than should an Instagram filter. But there’s no question artists today bear some burden of the polished album, whether in the form of the tools we use and their opportunities for endless obsessive adjustment, …

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ninja-jamm-android

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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throat

Playing with this model of the human voice is weirdly addictive

Anyone who’s ever had a voice instructor has been treated to long attempted explanations of what’s going on in the physical mechanisms associated with singing. But even though that’s inside your mouth and throat, it can be tough to visualize. This Web simulator is doubly interesting. One, it demonstrates how synthesized vocal sounds can mimic the real thing. But two, and maybe more interesting, it gives you a sense of how each physical component in your body impacts the sound of singing. And that could make your next karaoke session somehow deeply enlightening. Oh yeah, it’s also weirdly fun to …

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