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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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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Two videos show why the Make Noise 0-COAST modular is cool

2016 was the year when people said, hey, I want to get in on some of that modular goodness, but … maybe I don’t want to buy a rack and spend thousands of dollars to do that. So it’s great to finally see desktop semi-modular becoming a thing – and an affordable thing at that. There’s the best note entrant, Moog’s excellent Mother 32. But I also like the much odder, but still affordable Make Noise 0-COAST (that’s a zero, not the letter o). It’s got a far more idiosyncratic front panel, but that shouldn’t put you off: it’s still …

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Explore harmonies in your browser with this free arpeggiator

Ever wondered what it would be like if the spirit of Philip Glass inhabited one of your web browser tabs? Well, now he can. Sort of. “Musical Chord Progression Arpeggiator” is a browser-based, JavaScript-powered harmonic exploration tool. Punch in a chord progression, then a root key and Church mode and go to town. The audio plays back in your browser with some fixed bpm choices. The real gem here is the array of arpeggiator shapes, which are copious and endlessly amusing. Music! Theory! Nerds! Go! But it’s also fun that, this being in the browser, you can click the ‘view’ …

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djay Pro on iPhone is an afterhours gem – and a serious DJ, VJ tool

Could a DJ/VJ app on your phone be a serious tool? Absolutely. Not just could be – is. Algoriddim’s djay Pro is here on the iPhone, and after playing around with it, I think it’s a must-have for DJs and VJs alike. Are you going to do a serious DJ set with this? Probably not. You’re just going to use it for everything else. It’s there if you need to play a mix while a party is warming up. It’s there when you’re at a friend’s place, or at an afterhours/afterparty in the drowsy hours of the morning. It’s there …

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Reaktor adds Ableton Link, for software patches or hardware modular

Native Instruments’ Reaktor is the latest tool to add Ableton Link support – and as before, each time you add a new tool, Link gets way more useful. Ableton Link is already opening up jams in DIY software, including Max/MSP, Max for Live, and Pure Data. Reaktor joining the party means not only will DIY patchers reap the benefits, but anyone exploring Reaktor Blocks or fun toys they downloaded from the User Library or anything else can have fun, too. And this essentially brings Link into the virtual modular world. Reaktor Blocks is fun to use for just about anyone, …

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Spaceship Delay is an insane free plug-in inspired by hardware

Spaceship Delay is a free modeling plug-in for Mac and Windows with some wild effects. And it’s made possible partly thanks to the openness of hardware from KORG (and us). The plug-in itself you shouldn’t miss, and if you’re interested in how it’s made, there’s a story there, too. First, the plug-in — it’s really cool, and really out there, not so much a tame modeling effect as a crazy bundle of extreme sonic possibilities. In fact, it’s as much a multi-effects processor as it is a delay. Here it is in action, just quickly applying some of the sounds …

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Here’s how MOTU says they’re improving latency on their new interfaces

You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but the top audio interfaces are one of the things that have been steadily getting better. That is, the handful of makers really focused on service musicians (and other audio and audiovisual applications) have improved interface quality, added a lot of features and connectivity, and improved driver performance. MOTU is one of those makers on a short list that I hear good experiences with. But this fall when a press release crossed my desk saying they had more low latency performance, I wanted a bit more detail than the marketing language was offering. So …

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FEEDBOXES are autonomous sound toys that play along with you

We live in an age when we can jam along with machines as well as with humans. And maybe it’s about time that they fed us some clever grooves instead of, you know, fake news and stuff. Our friend Krzysztof Cybulski of Warsaw, PL’s panGenerator shares his FEEDBOXES. They’re “autonomous” sound objects, capable of responding to audio inputs with perpetually-transforming responses. It’s all thanks to elegant use of feedback loops – meaning you can toy with these techniques yourself. Now that’s a better kind of echo chamber. It also makes use of the awesome, free PdDroidParty by Chris Mccormick, which …

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A piano, played by clouds and sky

We can reinvent the instruments we already have; we can try to steer a pathway to something new. Or we can sometimes imagine a known instrument in a new context. This new short film covers a robotic piano that’s got an unusual angle. Using image analysis, those mechanical fingers transpose patterns of cloud and sky onto the keys. This poetic take on cloud gazing comes from media artist David Bowen. It’s a nice take, I think, on sonification, in that it isn’t just about a stream of data that’s abstracted from its source. It’s really as though the drifting clouds …

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