These days, various combinations of faders and touch sensors and grids of pads and buttons and encoders and knobs appear with cyclic regularity. We’re past the point of inventing the automobile – we’re down to tuning particular cars for particular tasks. But what do you want to use if you’re really playing live? Maschine Jam is a combination of software and hardware that focuses on that scenario. We’ve met with the team that built it at Native Instruments and have our own unit in now to test, so here are some first impressions.
While everyone is freaking out about headphone jacks on phones, the news this week musicians should really care about is that a badly needed OS update is on its away. Apple quietly set Tuesday, the 20th of September as the release date for the next major Mac revision – macOS Sierra (10.12). (It’s no longer called “OS X,” so as with Hillary Clinton and techno and Crystal Pepsi in stores, it’s the 90s all over again.)
Native Instruments has been a pioneer in making tools like Reaktor that employ unique synthesis techniques. But more recently, that power has found its way to self-contained instruments. Tucked into the release announcement of Komplete 11 comes some very big news for lovers of creative sound design and synthesis. It’s a new instrument called Form. It’s powered by Reaktor, but it’s been built from the ground up, according to NI. And it lets you drag and drop sounds to manipulate them into playable instruments.
It’s that time of year again – time for a new update to Komplete, the suite of software from Native Instruments. But Komplete 11 is a bit special, in that powerful Reaktor-powered additions meet some especially nice tools for producers.
There are updates, and then there are updates. There are the updates that give you a bunch of new functionality – marketing tends to love these. And then there are the ones that just make a big slog through feature requests. Maschine “2.4.5” is not an exciting sounding update. But wow, does it ever add a long list of improvements users wanted.
Last week stirred up something of a fracas in the DJ community, as Los Angeles club The Cure and the Cause announced a ban on laptops in the DJ booth – the announcement of which then went perdictably viral. That much turned out to be brilliant publicity: club trolls DJs, magazine trolls DJs, “controversy” generates social media traffic. Here’s the problem, though: once you get past the nonsense about “talent” and laptops, I think there should really be no controversy here. What The Club and the Cure said about laptops and controllers I think is dead-on – and hard to …
Ableton’s Link, a collaborative jamming platform that lets you sync without wires, without “masters” or “slaves”, and without a whole lot of pain, continues to grow. It’s just shown up in Native Instruments’ iMaschine, as well as Novation’s Blocs Wave. Blocs Wave is notable because it’s pretty new, but seeing Ableton Link in an NI product is itself a breakthrough. NI could have just declared this “not invented here,” but they didn’t. And now the message from users to Ableton is clear: bring this platform to the desktop, so we can use it with everything.
There’s a Eurorack craze on. Synth fever continues to spread. Instrument and software makers keep innovating. And there was reason to time all of this new gear madness to the beginning of this month – with not one but two massive trade shows, each a short Bahn ride away from one another in Germany. It’s almost too much. So, we’ve put our favorites all together, to keep it all straight.
Last November, I went armed with some LOM label microphones to the Netherlands to find out what sounds you could discover in a space research facility. That exploration produced a lot of sounds, and one way to play with them was to transform them into percussion. Now you can download the drum kit I made for your own use, or to create your own instruments.
Forget about whether anyone is going to listen to that release, let alone whether you’ll make money. Finishing is a beautiful feeling. Something happens when you get to that phase of adjusting the final mix, bouncing for mastering. For many of us, that last step involves a stereo bounce. But I think it’s high time to start thinking in terms of stems (both in the lowercase, and the all-caps STEMS Native Instruments is keen for you to use).