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MPC Software 1.7: Direct Looping, Better Mixer, Track Automation, Proper Export, and Hybrid Synth

Let’s get one thing straight: now that Akai has made the jump from hardware to hybrid hardware/software, the hardware they make is very, very good. The MPC Studio is slim and messenger bag-friendly, when Native Instruments’ Maschine is big and luggable. The MPC Renaissance is more of a “throw it in your station wagon” affair, but it feels fantastic – the pads are brilliant. The downside has been software. But Akai is making headway there. I’m not convinced the changes are going to make anyone switch, but I can imagine what Akai is delivering here should make existing users very …

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Hey, there's a modular inside my drum machine. Images courtesy Arturia.

Watch Arturia Spark 2, as $129 Drum Machine Adds Modular Sound Design, Song and Loop Powers

For all the wonders of the hardware drum machine, there’s nothing quite like the flexibility of the software drum machine. More than mere groove-makers, beneath the conventional and familiar drum machine paradigm lies some real potential for sample manipulation and sound design. Native Instruments won over users by demonstrating the hybrid hardware/software workflow in Maschine, and various software instruments (FXpansion, anyone?) have put pressure on hardware with the sheer range of what they can do. But somewhere in the shadow of Maschine and Akai’s MPC Renaissance, Arturia’s Spark has been a little-known, compact, inexpensive challenger. And that’s why Spark 2 …

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diachronic2

Diachronic is a Completely Insane Looper Inspired by Turntablism, Free for Max for Live

If loopers have been getting you down by being a bit, well, repetitive, this is for you. It starts as a simple, drag-and-drop looper. Add it to Ableton Live and drop your audio on it. But then things get a little … um … different. Inspired by turntablism, loops in Diachronic cycle continuously. But speeds can be changed spontaneously, as if the hole in the record could be shifted in position. And the results are absolutely nuts. (Underscoring that effect, the promo video for version 1 is narrated by a calm British narrator, intoning parameters solemnly, with names you’d be …

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A Different Synthesis: Julianna Barwick, Colleen Fuse Folk Tradition with Electronics [Videos]

The essential quality of electronic music is, in some sense, collage: drawing from multi-track recording, it is defined by the ability to put things together in records or performances in new ways. The contents of that collage need not always be drum machine beats or synthesized alien sounds. And so, many artists draw from a different well. Mentioning Georgina Brett last week prompted more reader recommendations. Two artists – one from France, one from Louisiana – exemplify the fusion of minimalist and folk traditions with electronic practice. And these two, each with a different spin on aesthetics and composition, also …

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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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Google Glass Ensemble: Viola Composition Made in Glass Videos

Alexander Chen is turning into Google’s resident composer. In his latest experiment, he uses the controversial-but-buzzed-about Google Glass wearable tech as a video source for making music. Layering together a series of loops of his solo viola playing, he weaves a contemplative, modal composition. It’s a sort of overdubbed chamber ensemble in video. (The spare, parallel writing is to me reminiscent of a Copland string quartet.) There’s nothing here that couldn’t be done with a head-mounted camera, but perhaps that’s the lesson. In our camera sensor-filled lives, a big part of the design statement Glass makes is the vision of …

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Push, In-Depth Test: What’s it Like Playing The New Hardware from Ableton?

When Ableton Live was first released over ten years ago, it was labeled a “sequencing instrument.” The radical idea was that you could “play” your production tool, which had (and has) big implications in studios, at home, and onstage. “Playing” with a mouse and keyboard is unsatisfying for most, so even that relatively primitive first version had MIDI controller mapping. In the intervening decade-plus timespan, musicians have found a variety of ways to connect their hands and bodies to the software model of music contained in their laptops. They’ve constructed massive custom hardware (DJ Sasha’s Maven and Robert Henke’s Monodeck …

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With Advanced MIDI Controls, Radial Loopseque App on iPad Gets More Interesting

In a world of $5 apps and no upgrade fees, the fear of abandonware casts its shadow on the otherwise lush gardens of the App Store. (The spectre was raised just yesterday by iMaschine lovers eager for new functionality.) Here’s a terrific counter-example. Loopseque was a compelling app when released; we covered its launch and design in 2010, complete with one of my favorite images from an iOS story on CDM, impromptu ballpoint-pen sketches of its circular interface. Loopseque hasn’t just gotten updates. It’s gotten MIDI functionality so rich that it could be worth a second look, even if you …

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Novation Puts Launchpad in a Keyboard, Makes iPad Apps Part of the Experience [Q+A]

What should a keyboard controller do for you in 2013? Should you plug it into Ableton Live and get colored control of clips? Or leave the laptop at home and use it with an iPad for synths and loops? Novation takes on both those ideas in their latest offering. Back in fall 2009, CDM was the first to get a hands-on with Novation’s Launchpad. At the time, this was big news. Grid controllers had gained popularity in the handcrafted, niche monome community, but hardware built just for Ableton Live with an integrated, light-up grid was something novel. Maschine, Push, and …

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