Richard Devine’s Vimeo account is something special. It’s certainly partly theater – there’s something entirely alien about seeing a nest of gear, tangled in cables and blinking, as if modules have achieved sentience and starting interconnecting themselves. But behind that facade of nerdy chaos is some real thought about how to make sounds by creating unexpected combinations of signal processors. It’s something I’ve been discussing with a lot of people lately – this interplay between stability and instability, automaton and entropy.
We have the technology. We have the capability to play live sets on mainstages. And for a brilliant example of that, look no further than the frenetic, exquisitely hyperactive acid performances of Skinnerbox. Their set at Fusion Festival from this weekend demonstrates that you can command massive mobs of dance lovers outdoors with live sets, too. And maybe you thought such things were confined to chin-scratching handfuls of nerds.
The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …
We already saw some new reasons this week to check out Reaktor 6 and Blocks, the software modular environment. Here’s just one Blocks module that might get you hooked – and it’s free. “Music thinking Machines,” out of Berlin, have built a software rendition of Music Thing’s awesome Turing Machine Eurorack module (created by Tom Whitwell). As that hardware is open source, and because what you can do in wiring you can also do in software, it was possible to build software creations from the Eurorack schematics. The beauty of this is, you get the Turing Machine module in a …
Native Instruments keeps adding to Reaktor Blocks, the patch-and-play toolkit they’ve built atop Reaktor. And… it’s turning into kind of an awesome product in its own right. Reaktor Blocks 1.2 adds a bunch of the sort of stuff I think you or I would add to it were we in charge of the product. It’s suddenly got drums. It’s got a new sequencer that you can power with Maschine. It’s connecting via MIDI and CV to outboard gear and analog modular. In short, it’s something you actually want to play with.
For years, the criticism of laptops has been about their displays – blue light on your face and that sense that a performer is checking email. But what if the problem isn’t the display, but the location of the display? Because being able to output video to your hardware, while you turn knobs and hit pads, could prove pretty darned useful.
Isotonik’s £22 PrEditor is the powerful mapping functionality Ableton forgot. It lets you customize the mappings of a variety of controllers to your music software, opening up custom controller arrangements and tailored interactions to support the way you play. And the latest version does still more. Hackers and patchers will love this – whatever tool they use. If you use Reaktor, that environment is available – doubly useful now because of Reaktor’s beautiful Blocks modular environment. (There are quite a few things I prefer in Reaktor, so being able to map its controls to my Push means I may completely …
This one’s too good to wait. Gustavo Bravetti, the Uruguay-born producer and DJ, is already something of a maximalist. He’s the sort of person who can rock alternative controllers live on a mainstage in front of massive festival crowds – the powerful counter-example to the notion that such high-pressure gigs have to be press-play. And now, he’s been hard at work on a powerful tool for expanding the possibilities of performance on Elektron’s hardware, all using Push for control. I could ramble on, but the best way to follow this is to watch the extensive tutorial video he’s just posted:
“Computer music,” “digital music” – this doesn’t necessarily mean a big laptop. Game Boy musicians had it right to begin with: palm-sized machines can make music, too. And this track is gorgeous – the work of a user named “pselodux”:
At last, the world of modular meets the world of stompboxes. It’s a no brainer: after all, a modular rack already has a lot in common with a crowded pedalboard. I expected that our friends at Bastl Instruments from Czech would come up with something for this week’s Superbooth synth gathering here in Berlin, and sure enough, they’ve got three new modules, with one stompbox-friendly standout.