bitwig2

Bitwig Studio 2 lets you modulate and control like a bandit

Bitwig gets its first blockbuster upgrade since launch, in beta now. And the first look at this software suggests it’s continuing to deliver what an enthusiast audience wants – even if some of the revolutionary promise of the tool remains over the horizon. So, first, what it isn’t: it isn’t a complete modular environment. Underneath all the goodies Bitwig offers is a set of modules that provide its functionality. Bitwig’s developers have said eventually they’ll open that up to users, not just for their own development. And that’s be exciting indeed. But forget about big ambitions for a moment. The …

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namm

What to expect from 2017’s first wave of new music gear

Happy New Year? Not yet. In the universe of music gear, the NAMM show in California is a sort of unspoken new year’s holiday – home to the biggest wave of music tech announcements of the year. It doesn’t cover everything, as many music producer-specific makers have fled the pricey trade show booths for more focused events. But there’s still rather a lot. Here’s a look at what to expect. Year of the drum machine The monosynth has made its comeback; now it might be the drum machine’s turn. Behringer and Akai are likely to join recent product launches from …

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Forte festival - Portugal, 2016. Photo by Dina Brudi-Pascal.

Inside Orphx’s terrific live technique, mixing modular and computer

Orphx are simply enchanting – doubly so live. Veteran experimentalists and master virtuosos of live performance, their music is heavy and industrial, but endlessly imaginative and groovy. Onstage, they genuinely improvise – there’s spontaneity and interplay. And that creative energy plays out both in their imposing live schedule and in their prolific studio output. The duo, consisting of a clever matching of skills of Canada’s Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey, had a devastatingly good year in 2016. There was the masterful full-length Pitch Black Mirror. There were remixes and collaborations (like Eschaton, with Ancient Methods). And there were those face-melting …

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sludge

Celebrate Sludgemas with some free Detroit Underground groove

There are things that make your butt wiggle. There are things that make your brain tickle. There are things that get glitched and grungy. Well, here’s something that does all those things at once – it’s a glitchy good time, and it’s free. Merry Sludgemas. And for anyone bored with overly-shiny, overly-restrained, dark fashion-label sound-alike techno – meet “sludge,” which is totally none of that. Our parade of year-end music queuing continues with some goodness from one of our favorite labels of the year, Detroit Underground. They’ve been experimental and glitchy and groovy and IDM and weirdo and excellent. They’ve …

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0-coast

Two videos show why the Make Noise 0-COAST modular is cool

2016 was the year when people said, hey, I want to get in on some of that modular goodness, but … maybe I don’t want to buy a rack and spend thousands of dollars to do that. So it’s great to finally see desktop semi-modular becoming a thing – and an affordable thing at that. There’s the best note entrant, Moog’s excellent Mother 32. But I also like the much odder, but still affordable Make Noise 0-COAST (that’s a zero, not the letter o). It’s got a far more idiosyncratic front panel, but that shouldn’t put you off: it’s still …

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Reaktor adds Ableton Link, for software patches or hardware modular

Native Instruments’ Reaktor is the latest tool to add Ableton Link support – and as before, each time you add a new tool, Link gets way more useful. Ableton Link is already opening up jams in DIY software, including Max/MSP, Max for Live, and Pure Data. Reaktor joining the party means not only will DIY patchers reap the benefits, but anyone exploring Reaktor Blocks or fun toys they downloaded from the User Library or anything else can have fun, too. And this essentially brings Link into the virtual modular world. Reaktor Blocks is fun to use for just about anyone, …

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domino-in-case

Eowave made a complete synth voice for Eurorack module

The brief: take up a nice little slot in Eurorack, pack a whole synth voice, but still provide enough patching to stay interesting. That’s the new Domino Eurorack module from the folks at Eowave. So, you get a saw/square oscillator, ladder-style filter, decay envelope, and VCA. It’s vanilla stuff, but well executed. And most importantly, they’ve nicely balanced the controls and patch points, so you have something that’s accessible and versatile. Frankly, I think it solves a lot of problems for people. Rather than piece together everything you need one module at a time, this gives you the sorts of …

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Kastle is a 65€ micro modular that’s the size of three AA batteries

It runs on three AA batteries. It’s not really much bigger than those three AA batteries. And yet somehow, it’s a modular. You can use it like a synth, or even plug it into other gear. It’s the Kastle, from Bastl Instruments, those wizards from Brno, Czech. And at 65€ (79€ fully assembled), it’s going to sell like hotcakes. (Makes me hungry for hotcakes, even.)

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buchla1960s

Electronic music pioneer Don Buchla has died

We all have a short time on this planet, and some of us are lucky enough to get to work on tools that people use to make music. You can count on your fingers the number of people who had the kind of influence that Don Buchla had on electronic music in the last century. And this week, at age 79, he’s left us.

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Percussa want you to make modular music with cubes, blank knobs

Modular synthesis is everywhere – but there aren’t a lot of new ideas apart from using patch cables to connect them, a concept that dates from the early 1960s and telephone switchboards. Percussa are an outlier – an odd one, to be sure. Their blank, RGB light-up cubes (“AudioCubes”) connect wirelessly, and control associated software. To their credit, while plenty of “tangible” interfaces made the rounds as experiments and research projects, they went as far as commercializing the product. And that’s no mean feat. Anyone with some basic engineering knowledge can snap something into a Eurorack case and be part …

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