As part of a collaboration with Novation, we spoke with artists Shawn Rudiman and My Panda Shall Fly about how they’re working with Novation’s Circuit. Both artists got their hands on the updates to the Circuit hardware in advance – providing drag-and-drop sample loading and sample editing. They talk a bit about what that’s meant to them – and what they think about working with hardware in general.
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.
When Novation’s little Circuit came out, it was already an appealing, simple box for making music. You got two polysynths and a four-part drum machine built in, coupled with a step sequencer, RGB pads and encoders for control, and MIDI, all for just a hair above $300. At the same time, though, you were restricted to the built-in sounds. Today, Novation are unveiling a bunch of updates that open up the machine to more customization – to personalizing it for your own use.
Creating digital music is all about the business of mucking about with sounds. But somehow, the actual sounds themselves have been tangled up in immense grids and spreadsheets and mixers and things called piano rolls and so on. Blocs Wave is the latest attempt to use mobile apps to get back to basics. Here, whether you’re on an iPhone in your hand or the enormous iPad Pro, the sounds are at the center. Touch your way through the waveforms to make music – whether using soundpacks or adding your own.
Bridging the worlds of bass music and video games, Pixelord is a Siberian-born artist transplanted to Moscow. In a new video from Novation, he takes the English manufacturer on a tour of his sources of inspiration in the Russian capital. This is of course by no means a complete tour of Moscow or its scene – that’s like having one person show you around The Netherlands for nine minutes. (Actually, literally like that.) But you do get a nice little taste of Alexey Devyanin’s personality, in the midst of a new album he’s working on.
For many of us, there’s a special pleasure to seeing someone play live – and dancing to someone playing live. And by “live,” I don’t mean “a bunch of your tracks cued up as scenes in Ableton Live or on an Elektron.” I mean genuinely improvised. Electronic dance music naturally lends itself to on-the-spot creation. A rigid grid, easily-understood conventions around instrumentation and form, and the fact that styles like techno are built around machines all add up to natural experimentation.
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.
Novation are promising something new on the 1st of October. Let’s just say whatever [redacted] may be, we’ll cover [redacted] when the time is right. But what I find interesting is the way they’re introducing the message. Just as Ableton did with Push, the message is about “starting something” – about getting past that initial creative impulse. I think we’re seeing a shift in the way we talk about music technology in general. The old way of selling was to make the process as mysterious as possible. Serious professionals would tell you how they had the killer tool that you …
“It was acceptable in the 80s…” The standard MIDI DIN cable – that’s the big honkin’ connector you use on most of your MIDI gear – has become the bane of music hardware makers. The problem is, as gear has gotten smaller, the standard DIN connector hasn’t. And that’s a big problem, literally. To add a MIDI port to a device, you need to not only have enough clearance for the connector itself, but the whole around the port and the physical assembly that contains it. Speaking as a hardware maker, that takes up space you can’t even see from …
We used to talk about the home studio. Then the bedroom producer. Then laptop music. Now it’s more like the everywhere studio – and the computer may be nowhere to be seen. Tools like Launchpad for iOS tend to exist in some sort of alternate dimension from the world of music tech writing, even when it comes to this site. But quietly, a lot of people are making music with them. (It doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of iPads and iPhones out there, or that the apps are often given away for free.) But just because this is …