Well, if you’re on a tight deadline for delivering an ambient/experimental/IDM album, and you’re totally out of money (and even possibly ideas), good news. You’re saved. Tim Exile just released S L O W, for free. To those who don’t know him, Mr. Exile is a professional mad scientist specializing in Reaktor engineering, virtuoso laptop musicinator, electronica personality, and man about town. Tim’s exploits are widely known and buzzed about among nerds and sonic weirdos, but since they won’t reach everyone’s ears that way, he also has a mailing list. Signing up for said mailing list is your key to …
Surprise: Elektron’s latest isn’t a drum machine or sampler or sequencer. Analog Heat is instead a box you use with other stuff. And it has two missions. Mission one: add character to other sounds, via distortion, EQ, a filter, and modulation. Mission two: work with your computer, as an audio interface and as a way of adding that same analog business to software signals.
How much do you love that stompbox? Or, more to the point, how long do you expect to love it? Electro-harmonix owners are a rare bunch, apparently tattooing their favorite boxes with some frequency. There are some sophisticated, elaborate tattoos in the bunch, as well. But I have to say, I think my favorite are the circuit diagrams (and there’s more than one – of different models, even). Respect.
In music software, you have things that are modular, and things that aren’t. Modular environments like Reaktor and Max/MSP let you build things from scratch with essentially unlimited flexibility. DAWs tend to lock you into fairly rigid options for how you combine different instruments, effects, and other tools. Well, Reason sits somewhere in between. Every virtual synth, effect, and signal tool can be patched into another in a single, integrated environment – even as it still remains a production tool with a timeline and mixer (or mixers). In a great example of why that’s cool, hard-core Reason expert Marco Raaphorst …
I always figure the measure of a good plug-in is, you want to tell everyone about it, but you don’t want to tell everyone about it, because then they’ll know about it. iZotope’s Möbius is in that category for me – it’s essentially moving filter effect. And it’s delicious, delicious candy.
There have been vocal effects before – your vocoder, your pitch shifter, what have you. But the folks at iZotope set a more ambitious goal: be all the classic vocal effects. Put them a single plug-in full of modules. Then combine them in a way that makes them accessible, whether you’re preset surfing or dialing in your own sound. Encourage exploration without even requiring some advance knowledge. The result of that is called VocalSynth, and it’s out today. And wow, is this thing big – big enough that I imagine I might spend the rest of the year playing with …
You are probably equipped with ears as sharp and precise as the world’s top sound professionals. What you lack, then, is training.
In the latest chapter of “people on the Internet doing cool things for electronic music,” here’s a creation by Polarity. It lets you rapidly trigger effects parameters via MIDI. And if you’re a Bitwig Studio enthusiast, it’s available for free.
Movement is here – and it’s a little scary. The folks at Output have some weird way of dialing directly into the zeitgeist of what we want from production these days, and delivering it in an easy form. They did that with reversed samples (REV), with vocals (EXHALE), and now they’re doing it in an atypically musical multi-effect with loads of rhythmic and side-chaining features. This isn’t just another delay or something like that. It’s an entire effects toolbox built around rhythm and modulation, in a way that’s unusually accessible.
The art of modeling at a handful of the best software shops continues to progress. And so it is that Universal Audio say they’ve simulated every tiny detail, “from speaker paper and heat dissipation, to filter caps and transformers,” of one of the world’s best-known amplifiers – the Fender Tweed. It’s the cranked sound of Neil Young; it’s the clear lead of Larry Carlton. It’s a lot of other things. It’s now on a computer, too.