RetroCade Synth Board Re-programs Itself Into Atari, C64, Amiga [Open Source Hardware]

You know in sci-fi how you’ll see robots and other machines that can transform, re-program themselves on the fly for a new task? (Okay, sometimes they’re evil robots.) Well, imagine a single-board – looking a bit like an ultra-compact computer – that does that for sound, and you have the basic notion of the RetroCade Synth. For lovers of classic computer audio chips, and chip music associated with gaming and the demo scene, it means a single device that can be all those vintage sounds from the moment you switch it on. You can even leave the computer at home. …


Wear Your Visuals: Aurora Dress Sparkles with Swarovski, LEDs

If you were lucky enough to gaze into the northern skies above Earth last week, you might have seen a spectacular light show, as a solar storm bombarded the planet’s atmosphere and lit up the Aurora Borealis. A humble digital reflection of that phenomenon, the Aurora Dress brings sparkling, colored effects in LEDs to something one person can wear. And as live and interactive visuals explore worlds beyond rectangles with techniques like projection mapping, here you glimpse a future in which you can don your electronic imagery as fashion. The work of London-based wearable tech experts CuteCircuit, the Aurora Dress …


Goodies for KORG monotribe, monotron, from Japanese Overlays to MIDI Mods

monotribe, in limited silver and gold. Photo by Marsha Vdovin for CDM. It’s a beautiful thing when music hardware improves with age. And lately, that’s been what’s happening to Korg’s monotribe and monotron. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a major update from Korg for the monotribe that makes its sequencing functions easier and more useful. To save you the trouble of navigating the Korg Japan site – a difficulty for those of us who don’t speak Japanese – here on CDM, we’ve got a number of downloads for saving monotron patches, and the Japan-exclusive overlay for the monotribe …


Tetrafol, Sound Object by monome + machineproject + Fol Chen, in Videos, Sounds, and Interview

LA-based bang Fol Chen (Asthmatic Kitty records) wanted to go beyond the computer as the playback and manipulation device for their music. So they worked with collaborators to invent a solution. In a new video, sounds, and an interview, we can share some of how this came into being. Built with the monome creators (Brian Crabtree and Kelli Cain) and LA research and experimentation center Machine Project, the Tetrafol is a custom, pyramidal sound device. The object warps Fol Chen’s music using gestural manipulation of playback, but can also use your own samples. And with open-source circuit and firmware, the …


Korg Releases monotribe Drum Schematics; Mod and Breadboard Away (Resources, Thoughts)

Photo: Marsha Vdovin. As they did with the monotron synthesizer, Korg has quietly released schematics for its the analog drum synthesis portion of its monotribe synth and step-sequencing rhythm machine. You just see the bits that make the drum sounds, but that’s the interesting and modifiable part. In order to grab the download, you’ll need to fill out a form with your name and address, saying you acknowledge you’re voiding the warranty and that you won’t turn around and sue Korg. That address doesn’t get used for anything, though, so long as you uncheck the “newsletter” box. Once you do, …


Reed Ghazala and Circuit Sound Artists in Videos, as NYC’s Bent Festival Gets Underway

Circuit bending has a reputation as involving far-out, unstructured experimental noise, of real violence and distortion done to instruments. And there’s probably a place for that. But Reed Ghazala, circuit bending’s spiritual father and electronic practitioner, takes a more organic, evolutionary approach. Reed recently told me about his favorite application of his iPad, apart from exploring new experimental soundscapes with tools like the brilliant granular app Curtis. He brings it with him into the forest, using GPS for location, and tracking plants and animals, identifying the sounds of bird and beasts. In our electronic ecosystem, fowl and beast are finding …


Wearables: CuteCircuit Turns Katy Perry into Interactive Digital Scenography; Fashion Visualists

Making Katy Perry extraterrestrial, the work of CuteCircuit. Photo by Digital visual effects need not be limited to projection. CuteCircuit have been one of a select handful of designers pushing the envelope with wearables. Here, Katy Perry becomes their celebrity canvas, in what I expect will be one of the only-ever appearances of American Idol on CDM. The actual costume design, though, is fantastic. Thousands of interactive LEDs are a digital mirror to the countless sparkling Swarovski crystals that festoon the garment, with UK-based sculptor Yasemen Hussein adding her striking Baroque extraterrestrial forms. (She’s not a digital artist, but …


Korg Monotribe: Questions and Answers, More Details

Korg’s Monotribe became the surprise hit of gear announcements at this month’s Messe trade show. It’s little, it’s cute, and it seems entirely focused on synthesis and pattern-making fun. Plenty of videos have circulated, but odds are you haven’t seen the Japanese-language demo above (well, Japanese titles – the video itself speaks the international language of synth). It’s a nice jam on Monotribe and the recently-released Kaoss Pad Quad. Korg’s James Saveja answers some questions for CDM, rapid-fire style. CDM: Can you describe the drum voices? James: Drum voices are all analog. A nice punchy snare, kick and hat part. …


Elegant, Simple Soundmakers Handmade by Brian McNamara

Dead-simple, focused on one task, the Wicks Looper reminds us why we liked looping. And I love the handmade gift case he made to go with it – an idea worth duplicating with other gear. All images courtesy Brian McNamara. For all that latest plug-in may perform every kind of synthesis ever, much of electronic sound boils down to a few basic techniques. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of DIY electronics: it’s a chance to do less. What strikes me about Brian McNamara’s work is how elegant it is: simple boxes interconnect with basic functions. These are digital instruments …


Create Analog Music: All-Analog Kick Percussion Joins Compact Boutique Range

Image courtesy Abstract Data. Rockstar sparkle not included. Operating small runs out of his basement, Justin Owen is on a mission to bring his idiosyncratic, all-analog sounds to musicians in affordable, portable form. “Affordable” and “portable” often aren’t associated with analog, though even players as big as KORG have gotten in on the game recently, with KORG’s monotron. Now that musicians are spoiled for choice in “things making noise with numbers or electricity,” though, I think there’s added pressure. For lack of a better way to put it, you have to be interesting. And Justin’s circuits are indeed interesting. The …