bastldemo

Go gear crazy with the best synth gear unveiled at Superbooth

In just its second edition, Schneidersladen has turned the Superbooth into the world’s coolest synth gathering and most focused electronic music gear get-together. The Berlin-based event attracted a who’s who of international music gear makers, from modular to desktop, tiny to huge. So that led to the inevitable question: “what have you seen? What’s cool?” Sometimes you got to that topic before, like, “hello, how are you?” Well, while there was a litany of great new stuff, particularly (unsurprisingly) in the modular sphere, here are the prototypes and gear launches that I think represent the best of the best. We’ll …

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qs_3

Eowave’s Quandrantid Swarm is a weird scifi synth like no other

“All synths today just sound the same.” Sure. Fair. Well, but then something comes along that sounds more like it’s ready to produce a trippy soundtrack for a wandering scifi epic about a journey to Jupiter, filmed in early-70s Czechoslovakia.* Meet the Quandrantid Swarm. It’s the latest creation from French boutique Eowave, whose inventions have always tended to the experimental and unique. And while they also do modular now, I can’t help but feel this is Eowave at their best – making desktop instruments and oddball interfaces. These are creations with an eye to the past, but in some sort …

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circuit_monostation_lifestyle1

Novation Circuit Mono Station: paraphonic, feature packed, $499

Take the grid-based workflow of Circuit – and build a sequencer workstation with a paraphonic analog synth. That’s the formula of the Circuit Mono Station, one of two new synth products Novation are showing off this week in Berlin at Superbooth. We got a first look via leaked photos; now here are the full details. Physically, the Circuit Mono Station has the 32 RGB velocity-sensitive pads from the Circuit, plus hands-on controls. But in place of the drum machine / Nova digital polysynth combo (and limited macro encoder controls), what you get is: A three-track sequencer. Yeah, so makers are …

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shamir

An earnest album, recorded to four-track, as Shamir looks for hope

We often describe quality pop and songwriting as effortless, as easy. But what about when it’s awkward, uncomfortable? Aren’t those the moments that describe longing? When Shamir Bailey says he recorded his album to four track, the first thing I’m obligated to consider is, of course – he might be lying. And ground hum and hiss shouldn’t be accepted as any form of authenticity any more than should an Instagram filter. But there’s no question artists today bear some burden of the polished album, whether in the form of the tools we use and their opportunities for endless obsessive adjustment, …

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superbooth - 11

The nerdiest synth meet in the world, plus Tangerine Dream on a boat

Even in the age of the Internet, there’s no substitute for seeing people face to face. It just seems now we want a more concentrated dose – one or two really big international gatherings where we go all-in. And apart from California’s mighty NAMM show, it seems there’s nothing quite like Superbooth. Here’s a preview, some highlights from last year – and don’t worry, if you can’t make it to Berlin, there will be a continuous livestream to the world and coverage we’ll deliver from the various partners covering the event. With just one past edition under its belt, Superbooth …

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Moog talked to The Haxan Cloak about the visceral quality of sound in air

Isn’t it weird how oddly superficial and fashion oriented talking about music can get? Let’s remember what we’re doing: we’re moving sound particles in air and then seeing what happens to our physical body and mood when they disrupt tiny bits inside our ear. To quote Keanu Reaves: whoa. So it’s refreshing that a recent video Moog shot with The Haxan Cloak isn’t really about Moog synthesizers and isn’t really about The Haxan Cloak. It’s about what happens when you hear really low frequencies. It’s about the feeling of motion you get when you arrange melodies into repeating patterns. It’s …

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fieldkitfilm

KOMA’s Field Kit, connecting contacts pickups, and motors, is now reality

So much of the idea of signal and the definition of an audio “mixer” is fixed, we’ve begun to take these concepts for granted. Microphones plus line level, into some faders — that’s what a mixer is. But why does it have to be that way? By creating a new instrument around connecting to contact mics and electromagnetic pickups, and even making output to DC motors and solenoids, KOMA Elektronik leapt out of the mainstream – and turned the concept into a runaway hit. Here’s a beautiful video showing how one artist is making use of the instrument: The artist, …

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blawanmatrix

Watch artist Blawan go hands-on with the monster Arturia MatrixBrute

The term “beast” may be overused in describing synthesizers, but the massive, heavy, feature-packed Arturia MatrixBrute certainly deserves the term. Now, we get to hear and watch as Blawan takes us on a tour. Blawan is one of my favorites in adventurous techno, not least for his unique skills in playing live – because finding great DJs is still considerably easier than finding artists who can produce on the spot. So he’s a smart match to launch a new series pairing artists with gear, run by Electronic Beats and German-language Bonedo. Now’s a good time – the MatrixBrute has been …

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The AS-1 synth from Pioneer and Dave Smith is looking really cool

Here are two quick takeaways about the TORAIZ AS-1 monosynth introduced by Pioneer DJ, in collaboration with Dave Smith. One, it sounds great – but we figured that, given it’s basically a single voice from Dave Smith’s Prophet-6. Two, it’s got a surprisingly powerful sequencer/arpeggiator, with some extras like alternative tunings. And it’s that second point that matters. If you just want to add bass lines to a DJ set, Pioneer has some competition. Roland can sell you not one but two different variations of the classic 303 – either the AIRA TB-3, or the Boutique Series TB-03. As many …

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saxforlive

The best music tech April Fools – and some of them are real

April Fools may have become a wasteland of bad jokes and actually-misleading news items, but our ever-inventive music tech community has come up with some stuff that’s rather clever. And then some of that, in turn, is actually real. Here are our favorites from this year: Ableton Sax for Live easily wins April Fools 2017 – on the quality of its demo video alone. (Those are some well-known Ableton figures delivering these stellar performances, too.) But the best part of Sax for Live is, it is actually a real, free download. And the instrument, designed by Ableton’s ace sound designer …

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