It’s tiny. It’s battery powered. It costs just over US$300 street. But Novation’s Circuit sample/drum/synth groovebox has been squeezing in a whole lot of functionality that makes it into a really serious tool, great for starting ideas or jamming or playing live. And we’ve been testing the latest build, version 1.3, for some days now. It’s available to everyone free right now, and it adds some significant changes that make this tool more flexible than ever. Let’s have a look.
Ableton Live 9.7 is right now in public beta – just days after the latest 9.6 release went final. Most of the functionality announced so far is related to Push and beat making; 9.7 brings features that let you play, record, and slice more easily from Ableton’s hardware. But that shouldn’t mean you should despair if you’re not a Push user; as with each Push release so far, there are parallel improvements in the software itself.
Ableton’s Push hardware is making it onstage, but whether or not it suits that purpose for you, it’s an absolute godsend in the studio. Hands-on control of parameters, always-ready grid access to melodies and percussion, and tools for starting ideas from clips to sequences to playing live make it feel indispensable to those of us it’s won over. So, why not give it a handsome home?
Ableton Live 9.6.2 is here. Apart from a slew of bug fixes and some improvements to how the Link connection indicator works, there are a lot of improvements to Push, via software and firmware – even down to details like making the potentiometers more jitter free. That’s all well and good. But the important thing is that some of these small details could really change the way you work with Push for the better. The big one: you can now copy and paste clips to any slot on the Push, just by touching the pads. It’s a little thing, but …
The iPad (and iPhone) are starting to look like the ultimate jamming devices – mobile, connected, and ready to play. And it’s doing what laptops can, in a less awkward form factor. Back-to-back updates from Novation are bringing their apps closer to that reality, today. Now, Novation are rubbing shoulders with Ableton in some wireless jam sessions set up at Barcelona’s SONAR Festival today. But what we’re talking about opens up possibilities for both use cases – laptops playing with iPads, and iPads replacing laptops.
Well, f*** minimalism, apparently. We’ve seen monophonic/duophonic synths. We’ve seen new analog keyboards. What we haven’t seen is analog keyboards that seemed to be designed when an inventory of pads and knobs exploded – in your face. And that’s what the new Arturia MatrixBrute is. It looks like a fake Photoshop mockup you’d see on a forum, perhaps. But it’s real. All real. Close your eyes for a second and let your retinas recover, and let’s sort out what is actually even happening here.
There may be an Ableton logo splashed on it and integration designed specifically for Live. But one of the nice things about Ableton’s Push and Push 2 hardware are that, at their core, they’re open. Everything sends and receives standard MIDI messages. As we’ve seen, even the display is hackable. And that is admirable not only from an engineering standpoint, but because it means the hardware you invest in has a life beyond just specific drivers and software updates. Now, that extends even to rival software Bitwig Studio – which means you can even use a Push 2 on Linux.
Novation has been doing things with grids and knobs for some time, but those have come in the form of gadgets you plug into a computer and use with software like Ableton Live. Circuit is different: it’s an all-in-one groove workstation with sequencer, drum machine, synth, and arrangement in control, and it doesn’t even need to be plugged into power. We’ve got one of the first Novation Circuit units here, so in advance of our full review, here’s a quick hands-on.
Teletype Studies Part 1 from tehn on Vimeo. We have inherited from the last century a whole language built from the archaic details of office machines. And we use all of these for music. We patch together telephone cords between modules, via the tactile interface once used to connect calls. We type on keyboards and point with devices like mice. We have grids of pixels, constructions that once plotted the trajectory of missiles before they were repurposed for simply games about missiles (and email, and Facebook, and everything else). We use code, and language, and turn dials, and press light-up …
From frets to keys to finger holes, musical instruments in every culture have provided ways to easily access musical ideas quickly. But these are physical, acoustic instruments, so any solution they find is more or less restricted to a single set of choices. Digital hardware can do what digital software can: it can be a blank slate for new ideas. The monome and Tenori-On grid instruments, each in their own way, demonstrated that a radically simple grid can generate a surprising range of possibilities. The monome’s claim to fame, above its other applications, was the way a companion Max patch …