Now Shipping: Bass Station II, Novation’s $500 Synth; New Sound Demo

When we last saw the Bass Station II, Novation’s affordable analog monosynth celebrating the company’s 21st birthday, Novation still had a prototype. Some stuff on that instrument simply didn’t work – or didn’t sound the way we might expect. But there was still reason to anticipate learning more. Novation had something at the $500 street price in America, (529 € is the official price now for Europe), sporting dual filters, two oscillators with a sub oscillator (the “bass” bit), analog effects, patch save, and sequencing and arpeggiation. Even in an increasingly-crowded monosynth landscape, that’s something to note – and here, …

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Multi-Touch with Your Current Keyboard, And How Expressive, Crowd-Funded Keys Stack Up

Augmenting keyboards with additional expression is a tradition that goes back nearly a century. Inventors have tried keys that bend and wiggle, add-ons from pulleys to ribbons, wheels and pressure sensors, and more – anything to extend the piano and organ beyond their on/off playing methods. But now, the Web has accelerated the ability to communicate and develop these ideas. Crowd-funded invention is becoming widespread. And that means we’ve actually seen several polyphonic touch expression schemes this year. Rather than just presenting papers at conferences, instrumental experimenters are going to musicians and trying to fund real products. American-born, London-based composer, …

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Wacky, Wooden Shnth Makes Eerie Sounds, Colors Outside the Lines [Documentary]

Shnth is a digital synth in a wooden box with a surprisingly open-ended programming language. It’s like a lo-fi sonic computer, touched with your fingers via a handmade interface, and with sonic capabilities that can be re-programmed over USB. And there’s a coloring book to go with it, too, with pictures of Max Mathews and microsound for you to sketch in. The drawings there, like the sounds that come out of its outputs, full of rough, digital edges and unexpected swoops and swirls of timbre, seem to encourage coloring outside the lines. Peter Blasser of Baltimore is the synth’s creator …

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You know, a happy-go-lucky party venue for the summer. Um... Berlin style. Photos courtesy Berlin Atonal.

Dark Shadows: A Selection of Sounds and Images from Berlin’s Atonal

Only Berlin would go this dark, musically speaking, in second half of … July. Atonal Festival, an event founded in a very different city way back in 1982, has been resurrected. And the sounds set to echo through the concrete cavern of a former power station represent the cross-currents of an international scene of experimental music. No longer about what happens in Germany (the artists come from every corner of the globe), Atonal – like winter’s CTM Festival – represents an angle in electronic music that is growing in popularity but decidedly anti-commercial, adventurous without necessarily being overly cerebral. It’s …

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Down with Sequencers: The Age of Glass Finger-Drums Through Their Beats, Live [Videos]

For years, drummers have had to look sideways at drum machines — boxes with step sequencers blinking, out to replace them. With acts like The Age of Glass, tables are turned. The sounds are electronic (Access Virus, Machinedrum), but the playing is all live. Drummer Nick Froud plays all those parts without any sequencing, fingers blazing. The band has a self-released (Bandcamp) EP out this week, as well as some videos of them working away at the studio. The results are jammy, trippy, grooving good times. Great to see the studio work and recording, but this must be a lot …

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Hear the Gorgeous, Ethereal Vocal Music of Georgina Brett, and More Live Looping

London’s Georgina Brett is part of a generation of solo artists who use layered loops to build trascendental, rotating textures from repetition. Hardware loopers and effects pedals remain the preferred tool here for Brett as for many such artists. But Brett’s work is worth a particular mention for its ghostly, ethereal quality and thoughtful, delicate compositions. There is for me a continuum connecting to the Minimalists, of course – as a soloist, she’s doing some of the things that the Meredith Monk Ensemble did (minus the loopers), and there’s a feeling of the “discovered folk music” that Monk used in …

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Four Tet Walks Through His Unique Live Rig for Red Bull Music Academy [Video]

Playing with laptops can become performative in conventional ways, just by adding instruments – voice, guitar, live drums, ukelele, or whatever it is you play. But it becomes more mysterious in the hybrid performance media that emerge from “playing” the arrangement directly, manipulating the larger bits of a track in the form of stems and samples. That can be really boring – the “press play” approach – or it can begin to embody an artist’s musical imagination. They can improvise with the composition. You’ll want to make sure you don’t tune out early in this video with Four Tet, shot …

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New Music From Sheffield’s The Black Dog: Focused, Finely-Honed Objects [Stream, Video, Mix]

Out this week is a new full-length from The Black Dog. The Sheffield, England-based trio – Ken Downie, Martin Dust, Richard Dust – have been making smart, non-boring electronic music for ages. (Let’s not utter “IDM” – but “smart” fits.) From Warp to Ostgut Ton, they’ve been an indelible and irreplaceable part of the creative landscape. What strikes me about Tranklements is its effusive economy and clarity. In a time when music is regularly dripping with reverb or smothered in gauzy effects and nostalgia, this is a record that stands apart from any particular time, dry and direct and witty. …

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Peter Cusack, recording sounds at Chernobyl in 2007. All photos courtesy the artist.

“You learn a lot about the city by asking about its sound”: Peter Cusack Interview, Sounds

He calls it “sonic journalism.” From the Chernobyl site to inside London, Peter Cusack has been turning his ear to the world’s most interesting places. A leading practitioner of sound art at the intersection of ecology and music, Peter Cusack is a uniquely inspiring voice in music making. So we’re keen to welcome Czech-born writer Zuzana Friday Prikrylova to bring her conversation with the artist, for the first time in English here on CDM. We bring with that exclusive sounds for you to hear from the artist. -Ed. Peter Cusack is a musician and a sound artist with a long …

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Retro Mobile Music: What Vintage Palm and Windows Mobile Did, How to Use Them Today

Newer, faster, thinner … better? One technology follows another in dizzying cycles. But how is it that something that was once an amazing engineering marvel ceases to be so? If it really works as a musical instrument, how could it be less of a musical instrument than it was before? Palm Sounds’ Ashley Elsdon was talking about music making in the palm of your hand before anyone had ever seen an iPhone. So I had to smile when I saw him connecting an old Palm to our MeeBlip synth. It wasn’t just a novelty – the synth was ticking along …

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