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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Apple’s computer vision looks backward, as others look forward

It was really hard for me to watch Apple’s “Hello Again” event today. Understanding history is important – to a point. But Apple’s obsessive navel gazing in the Mac event today speaks volumes. This is a company with no real vision for what its most creative users actually do with their most advanced machines. So, instead, they look into the past. And the Mac keynote was full of references to the past. The early 90s PowerBook 100 got a better pitch for its industrial design than the new MacBook Pro. And that’s with good reason: the PowerBook 100 was an …

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leo

Watch Kate Simko mix Classical and club music with her ensemble

A friend of mine joked recently that someone having “classically trained” in their bio probably mean they’d had three months of piano lessons once. I’m sure that’s true for some people, but the fact is, there’s a growing population that mixes experience in electronic music and the club. And Kate Simko is one of the people pushing that boundary – just as she exemplifies some of the best technique in production generally.

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Roland_FR-4xb_Black

Here’s all that new Roland stuff in one place, even accordions

It was called “909 day.” It was on the ninth of September. And it included a new 909 product. So far, so good. But Roland’s 909 day stops making sense around there. It launched over 30 products, many of them unrelated, over 24 hours. “909 Day” saw new … accordions. Also, record players that said 909 on them. There were four continents, and a marathon Web stream that would have taken 24 hours to watch, sometimes switching between Japanese and English. In years of covering this business, I’ve never seen anything like it. But before you blow this off, there …

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Percussa want you to make modular music with cubes, blank knobs

Modular synthesis is everywhere – but there aren’t a lot of new ideas apart from using patch cables to connect them, a concept that dates from the early 1960s and telephone switchboards. Percussa are an outlier – an odd one, to be sure. Their blank, RGB light-up cubes (“AudioCubes”) connect wirelessly, and control associated software. To their credit, while plenty of “tangible” interfaces made the rounds as experiments and research projects, they went as far as commercializing the product. And that’s no mean feat. Anyone with some basic engineering knowledge can snap something into a Eurorack case and be part …

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Pioneer really want to sell you a turntable, with $350 PLX-500

Pioneer clearly seek to own DJing – and they’ve now got a pretty solid play for every piece of that landscape. The latest piece: a direct drive turntable with USB connection, ready to play, scratch, or work with control vinyl (and Pioneer’s increasingly ubiquitous Rekordbox software). Price: US$350 – affordable enough to appeal to even casual DJs as a set of two.

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