Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

European Space Agency just gave away a bunch of space media for use

Quick — think about the planet you live on. What does Earth look like from above? Probably, some very clear imagery just popped into your head – iconic Apollo-era photography, or perhaps the more contemporary view of the planet from the orbit of the International Space Station. But our generations – ours, our parents’ and grandparents’ generations – are unique in human history. We’ve been given these images by the radical breakthrough of our species leaving Earth, via our own human spaceflight and myriad machine exploration missions. Earth imagery may well have even saved our species. The Atomic Age gave …

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pc44

68 pots cover this controller so you can go knob crazy

More is more? Now, you can show up at your next gig armed with a box full of pots – 68 of them. Faderfox is a controller maker who works in extremes: either extremely tiny controllers, or massive cases full of faders and knobs. The PC44 is very much in the latter category. The PC44’s sibling is and predecessor is an unassuming 4×6 grid of pots called the PC4. The PC44, though, is maximalist by comparison. You get an 8×8 matrix of potentiometers with rubber knobs. And there’s a single push-button encoder with detents (labeled “value,” at the top). Four …

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Robin Fox talks epic AV performances and rare synthesizer archives

There’s barely a performance medium that Robin Fox hasn’t touched, not a form with which he hasn’t moved us. From laser AV spectacles to exhibitions to work with contemporary dance (including the wonderful Chunky Move), this Australian artist is the kind of multi-faceted mind we adore. And so we sent Anahit Mantarlian for a marathon interview, so we can all geek out accordingly. -Ed. Audiovisual experimentalist Robin Fox has been busy. In 2016, the Australian composer and laser charmer toured Europe, presented his latest show RGB to Atonal Festival, performed at the inaugural MUTEK.JP Tokyo, and opened an organization (alongside …

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namm

What to expect from 2017’s first wave of new music gear

Happy New Year? Not yet. In the universe of music gear, the NAMM show in California is a sort of unspoken new year’s holiday – home to the biggest wave of music tech announcements of the year. It doesn’t cover everything, as many music producer-specific makers have fled the pricey trade show booths for more focused events. But there’s still rather a lot. Here’s a look at what to expect. Year of the drum machine The monosynth has made its comeback; now it might be the drum machine’s turn. Behringer and Akai are likely to join recent product launches from …

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amulets

AMULETS shows how to make a tape loop out of a cassette

AMULETS is Randall Taylor, a one-man experimental looping ambient artist out of Austin, Texas who works with tape loops and guitar. And to start off the year, Randall wants to show you a key element of his technique – making tape loops from cassette tapes. Tape loops, as associated with the likes of Steve Reich, began mainly on reel-to-reel decks. Using a cassette means some more precise surgery. There’s the cassette housing to contend with, mainly – which means disassembling and then (importantly) re-assembling a delicate plastic case. And the tape itself is smaller, too – 0.15 inches rather than …

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nycskyline

New tools for free sound powerhouse Pd make it worth a new look

Pure Data, the free and open source cousin of Max, can still learn some new tricks. And that’s important – because there’s nothing that does quite what it does, with a free, visual desktop interface, permissive license, and embeddable and mobile versions integrated with other software, free and commercial alike. A community of some of its most dedicated developers and artists met late last year in the NYC area. What transpired offers a glimpse of how this twenty-year-old program might enter a new chapter – and some nice tools you can use right now. To walk us through, attendee Max …

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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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outlines

Witness the stunning immersive lasers for a canceled Moscow festival

Russia has a rich history of transmedia work, from the classical to the electronic. And a new generation are building on that legacy, one of the best being St. Petersburg’s Tundra collective. Assembling a team of multimedia artists, Tundra have specialized in visceral combinations of light and sound, especially focused on beams of color arrayed in space. Even conventional theatrical lighting instruments can take on new meaning in immersive, spatial compositions. Their 2016 masterpiece, though, didn’t get a chance to be seen by the public. Slated for Outline Festival in Moscow in July, the work was thwarted when authorities unexpectedly …

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rolandmeeblip

We added MeeBlip to TB-03 and TR-09 for really too much bass

You can now really have a ridiculous amount of fun playing live without a ridiculous amount of gear. That’s certainly the sense I get with Roland’s Boutique series, among other recent entries. In just a fraction of the size of the original AIRA, you can add a synth, a bassline, or a drum machine. And it’s not just Roland. In the under-$500 category, there’s loads of desktop gear from Korg, Waldorf, MFB, Novation, and Arturia, plus even compact modular/semi-modulars like the Make Noise O-Coast and Moog Mother-32. It’s all affordable, and all really easy to port around. What I like …

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blanktape

Look inside the world of cassette tape culture in this short film

The 21st Century is bringing a yearning for physical objects and low fidelity – two threads that perfectly combine in the anachronistic cassette tape. Now, I find talking about cassettes tends to get some chortles, perhaps people mumbling under their breath about hipsters. But as production times and costs rise for producing vinyl, cassettes are a way of producing consumable goods on the cheap, quickly. And that makes them a likely antidote to the ephemeral digital file, in a way that the bland office equipment of a USB stick is unlikely to accomplish. Burn to tape, then, and you’ve got …

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