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ROLI now make a $299, ultra-compact expressive keyboard

ROLI are filling out their mobile line of controllers, Blocks, with a two-octave keyboard – and that could change a lot. In addition to the wireless Bluetooth, battery-powered light-up X/Y pad and touch shortcuts, now you get something that looks like an instrument. The Seaboard Block is an ultra-mobile, expressive keyboard for your iOS gadget or computer, and it’s available for $299, including in Apple Stores. If you wanted a new-fangled “expressive” keyboard – a controller on which you can move your fingers into and around the keys for extra expression – ROLI already had one strong candidate. The Seaboard …

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Arturia AudioFuse: all the connections, none of the hidden settings

After a long wait, Arturia’s AudioFuse interface has arrived. And on paper, at least, it’s like audio interface wish fulfillment. What do you want in an interface? You want really reliable, low-latency audio. You want all the connections you need. (Emphasis on what you need, because that’s tricky – not everyone needs the same thing.) And you want to be able to access the settings without having to dive through menus or load an application. That last one has often been a sticking point. Even when you do find an interface with the right connections and solid driver reliability and …

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Andrew knows how to YouTube, makes fidget spinner music

It happens. You get older. Slower. You wake up one day, and you’re definitely not a YouTube star with your own Patreon account and free sound pack downloads to go with it. You didn’t even figure out that there was a big trend involving something called fidget toys, “spinners” and “cubes” that kids use to … fidget … with. And already that trend is big enough that someone is making music with them. This story might be about me. It might be about you. But it’s okay – because Andrew Huang is there. His followers are telling him about the …

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Exclusive: Ableton acquires Max maker Cycling ’74; what you need to know

Ableton is announcing today they have fully acquired Cycling ’74, the California-based company best known for producing Max and Max for Live. It’s perhaps an auspicious moment for Cycling ’74 as the company reaches its 20th anniversary – and 20 years of availability of the MSP tools for synthesis and sound processing. But if acquisitions would normally make you nervous, the close existing relationship of the two companies, and the plans as they’re describing them, should put those concerns to ease. Gerhard Behles and David Zicarelli, founders and CEOs of Ableton and Cycling ’74, respectively, tell CDM that the deal …

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Founders David Zicarelli (left) and Gerhard Behles (right).

A conversation with David Zicarelli and Gerhard Behles

Today’s Ableton have announced they’re acquiring Cycling ’74. There’s no two better people to talk to about what that means than the founders and CEOs of the two companies, Ableton’s Gerhard Behles and David Zicarelli of Cycling ’74. That’s big news. But it’s also a long time coming, based on a relationship that has evolved over three decades. And the history of these two companies is deeply intertwined – not just because of Max for Live. Without Max, it’s almost certain there would be no Ableton. Behles says Max was the first music software to really inspire him. Max was …

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Unlocking unimaginable sounds with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop now has its own cover band. Arturia have done a new documentary on England’s proudest home for electronic sound, the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Founded in 1958, the laboratory had the wildly ambitious mission of producing any sound any BBC program might ask for – foley to sci-fi. That of course took on especially unusual possibilities thanks to this trippy show for kids about an eccentric time traveler, Doctor Who – and the inventiveness of the likes of Delia Derbyshire made sounds with brute-force tape manipulations that seem futuristic even today. Derbyshire and Daphne Oram may …

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Watch Space Dimension Controller tear up his live set

Jack Hamill, aka Space Dimension Controller, is another of those stand-out live electronic instrumental performers, able to involve lots of improvisation while still maintaining control and composure. No press play sets here – this is all perfectly conducted live performance. Note that that still doesn’t necessarily mean playing absolutely everything – it’s more about this hybrid of controlling elements from a compositional sense, maintaining some balance between what’s pre-composed and what’s made on the fly. Resident Advisor shot a lovely extended film with him: In the rig, Maschine Jam controls Ableton Live (and is handy for just such integration). I …

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Here’s what a cassette tape rig could look like

With cassette labels making a comeback, there’s the question – how do you play the things? And the answers have gotten more creative than ever, with liberal use of effects, DIY tape loops, hacked hardware, and other techniques. Hainbach, who I featured in our tape music round-up earlier this week, wrote with more details of his rig. Have a look: Mixer/control: Koma Elektronik Field Kit Player 1: Siemens portable cassette player, modded by Dutch music hacker/builder Gijs Gieskes. (Here’s another tape mod idea from him!) Player 2: (umodded) Marantz PMD 222. Recording: Fostex X-28 four track Effects: Strymon Timeline effects …

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Bonobo has turned a track into a tranquil, trippy VR journey

If virtual reality is for anything, surely going on a musical trip is what it’s for. So it’s fitting that Ninja Tune artist Bonobo is making a step into the world of virtual reality. And stepping into “Outlier” (off the album Migration) in virtual reality form is really like taking a trip – the song itself becoming a pathway. Built for Google’s Daydream platform, the “Outlier” VR app first prompts you to steer through a landscape with your controller, the song advancing toward you as glowing space-y, misty abstract hills and portals. You then summon a flock of birds, which …

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Can the MPC X win over some die-hard German MPC hardware users?

The MPC 2000. The 2000XL. The 500. These old Akai boxes inspired countless live sets – and many devoted fans still make them the centerpiece of their rigs. But Akai abandoned the standalone hardware market for years. Native Instruments came along with Maschine, making the hardware just a controller for software running on a computer. And the MPC lost its place as the machine synonymous with the drum machine/sampler device. Now, that looks set to change. Akai is back in the standalone hardware business with a new angle – get all the capabilities of a computer, running the same software, …

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