From "Grid Index," Carsten Nicolai catalog, raster-noton.

raster-noton founders on how they found visual inspiration

Few electronic labels or acts have an identity as well defined as raster-noton, and its co-founders Bytone (Olaf Bender) and alva noto (Carsten Nicolai). And I don’t just mean single cycle waveforms or quick bursts of noise, hard-edged projected high contrast geometries or digital aesthetics, though those associations will certainly spring to mind. Even as the label has expanded in its musical scope in recent years, it has retained a sense that aesthetics themselves matter, that its artist roster are capable of painting with sound and exposing the process of using technology. Understanding where that comes from visually is key …


Zont is a futuristic pocket synth that takes snap-in cartridges

Time to start singing about how we’re the operator with our pocket calculator again. The ZONT Synthesizer is an upcoming handheld instrument. And it’s what one designer imagines for the synths of the future. Apart from being tiny, you can change its function by snapping cartridges in and out – Game Boy style. And whereas we think of synths now as big, clunky boxes with wires coming out of them, the ZONT can either plug into a desktop dock for connectivity or connect wirelessly. We’ve had a chat with its designer to see what’s in store.


Watch a beautiful meditation on the function of music

As co-host of the American public radio show Radiolab, Jad Nicholas Abumrad is usually in the business of giving you sounds on their own. You provide the mental images. But in a stimulating new film from director Mac Premo, thoughts become images as well as sounds. It’s a fitting conversation. Abumrad (a Lebanese-American, as I am) comes from a background in music composition. Premo, apart from being a filmmaker and commercial director, is an artist. Both live in New York. So what we get is a counterpoint of two imaginations running at once: sonic and visual, musical and optical. And …


A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …


This cable could let you take all your music gear mobile

It’s about time to solve this power problem on music gear once and for all. Here’s the thing: USB has quietly simplified powering everything else. Look at your phone. Now, a USB cable not only means you can charge from your laptop, but also various travel adapters – and, crucially, from battery power. With mobile batteries getting steadily better, that’s huge. You can just pack a battery and not worry about finding a wall socket, for hours or (with high capacities) even days. And those batteries are getting better as products, too – you can buy some nice looking, nicely …


These headphones will adapt their sound to how you hear

For all the changes in visual appearance, all the extra features and connections, what hasn’t changed much in headphones is how headphones work. That makes Nura, a product launching this week on Kickstarter, all the more interesting. Not only does it introduce a unique design for how the headphones physically deliver sound to your ears, but it’s also a pair of headphones that listens to your ears — even before you start listening to music.


Quick listen – love the new Jimmy Edgar ULTRAMAJIC sound

In the dark, damp swamp that is the stream of dance music that press get in their inbox, Jimmy Edgar has consistently been a rainbow-colored lighthouse. Apart from the tropically-hued surrealist work of Pilar Zeta literally making that true, Jimmy has been an aesthetic compass at the helm of his ULTRAMAJIC label. Basically, stuff this label puts out is worth listening. (Ditto their label showcases… there’s a Friday morning I found myself at Panorama Bar when they were turning the lights on. Thursday is the new… oh never mind.) What I like about the latest direction is, you get pared-down …


Your unconscious meat body plays this online drum machine

I am a damp rag of exposed flesh, my limbs ill-defined blobs drifting in some undetermined direction as I float through space – wet steak in a wormhole. But then there’s a parade of translucent boxes against this surrealist-nightmare distorted planet, and a triumphant series of chime rings out. A clear pattern is articulated from the murk, a rhythm emerging from the disarray. No, no – hold on, don’t stop reading, I’m fine. I am actually describing to the best of my ability the experience of using one #$(&*ing insane browser music toy created by our friend Sam Rolfes. It’s …


We talked to Dave Smith about those Pioneer sampler filters

When news leaked last week that synth legend Dave Smith was collaborating with Pioneer, a few eyebrows were raised. Today, it all made sense: Pioneer wanted the sound of Dave Smith Instruments’ superb analog filters on their new sampler. Since it’s a key selling point, I was curious to know more about those filters.


Inside the making of a wearable metronome

Can the metronome get a new lease on life as a smart wearable device? That’s the gambit of Soundbrenner, a Berlin-based startup that hopes to do for metronomes what the smartwatch and fitness wearables have for those categories.