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Get entranced by the strange hypnotic world of Maria Teriaeva

I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought Buchlas. Yes, Moscow, capital of that country that gave the world Theremin and the Polivoks, is now in a fully renewed embrace of the synthesizer. And as that scene develops and gets more closely connected with the international scene, we’re getting the gift of some simply spectacular music and inspiring artists. This summer, the city will host Synthposium – earning a place on the calendar alongside the likes of Germany’s Superbooth or America’s Moogfest. And for an artist embodying the new wonders this brings, look no further …

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How to ditch the computer and use Octatrack for backing tracks

Elektron’s Octatrack has been around since 2010, with Digitakt about to make its launch. But it remains a bedrock of a lot of live rigs. And there’s something that’s still special about it. It’s a sampler, yes, but with eight tracks and a built-in sequencer. It’s got a deep effects section and loads of I/O. In other words, it’s a digital box that assumes a lot of the collection of functions that are the reason to lug along a laptop. It does that job of playing tracks, sequences, and effects in an improvisatory way – whether closer to live playing …

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Roland does for drum pads what stompboxes did for guitar effects

Roland has a simple idea: take digital drum pad hardware, and simplify it. What you get is fun and ready little boxes you can stamp with your foot, play with your hands, or hit with a stick. Instead of one big unit with a bunch of features or a whole electronic kit, the SPD::ONE line is four different compact units with particular sets of sounds. There’s a kick, an “electro” unit, a “percussion” unit, and a “WAV” sample loader. All four also double as MIDI controllers for your computer. I think people who never even thought they wanted a drum …

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Nadia Boulanger has a message for you on music and inspiration

Forget genius – musical devotion is about love. “Can you live without music?” is the question from Nadia Boulanger, the legendary music teacher. When she talks about the fear of encouraging too many people, this is the teacher who taught Daniel Barenboim, Aaron Copland, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Astor Piazzolla — and the list goes on. And this isn’t “those who can’t, teach” — on the contrary, Boulanger broke ground for women at the conductor’s podium, taking the baton in front of a number of the world’s best orchestras and premiering the likes of Stavinsky and Copland. But, for all …

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The Monolith is a huge synth powered by Teensy, shown at Maker Faire

The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch. And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.) They’ve packed a lot of clever features: Arcade button controls 8-step sequencer with …

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Circuit 1.5 adds staccato, patch preview, and MIDI CC stuff you want

Circuit is small. Circuit doesn’t do too much. But what Circuit has been doing is steadily adding little improvements that are exactly what users have been asking for. It’s a uniquely focused tool, and that’s the reason I find myself writing about little firmware updates. They’ve been really important. Now 1.5 continues that trend with three features that, while not flashy, could actually have a huge impact on how you work. Watch, in this clear video: Fractional Gate or “staccato” features let you record up to six different levels of gate length – that’s how long the note will sound. …

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Berghain, by the numbers: data on the relentless Berlin techno club

In the era of fake news and big data for corporations, there’s an obvious antidote: getting actual data for yourself. So, it’s a given that too many words have been spilt over Berlin’s Berghain. But in trying to portray the club’s hype or mystique, I notice that there’s not often much discussion of its consistency. And to understand how techno and in a broader sense electronic music and the various fashions about it are projected into the world, understanding that consistency is key. If a club is repeatedly pushing out long queues every Saturday and Sunday night (yes, Sunday), and …

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Watch Octave One demonstrate their elaborate, hands-on live rig

We value the new and the young a lot in electronic music. But developing musicianship requires time, patience, and practice. So to see where electronic musicianship might be able to go, it helps to look to the people who have invested years. And that’s why it’s worth repeated visits to Lenny and Lawrence Burden, aka Octave One (also aka Random Noise Generation). Not only are they brothers who have grown up together, and can literally complete each other’s sentences, but they’ve been building the technique of how they play since their first 1989 release. Before we get to that live …

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Steps is an iOS sequencer that works in your hand, sequences hardware

This will sound like ad copy, but it’s true: Steps is the handheld iOS sequencer that all your mobile gear has been waiting for. Our MeeBlip line makes MeeBlippy sounds, but it needs a MIDI input for notes – like a step sequencer. (I’m not just plugging our product here – I’ve even pondered writing my own app to fill the void.) The volca series and Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators have their own sequencers, but it’s useful to have a clock source for all of them – and you might outgrow their built-in sequencing functions. Add to that countless other …

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Bastl’s Dude is a €75 mixer in the space of four AA batteries

One of the many clever ideas packed into Bastl Instruments’ show-stealing Superbooth stand last month was a tiny, cheap line mixer. Imagine starting with a battery compartment that holds four AA batteries, and building around that, and you start to get an idea of Dude. It’s tiny. It’s just €75 (slightly more for Europe with VAT). And it’s something a lot of you will likely want. Watch: Dude isn’t without compromises. The big one is, it’s a mono mixer only – not stereo. So you get five inputs, but they’re all mono inputs. Now, a lot of the stuff you …

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