The DX7 - one of three instruments in a new library for Ableton Live. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Bernd Sieker.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether. Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound. Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle …


Funklet teaches you your favorite grooves in your browser

You can learn a lot from a drummer. The best grooves of all time are meticulously constructed – and understanding them means understanding a lot about rhythm and form. So these are objects worth study. What your Web browser can do is make that study easier – even if you’ve never touched a drum kit. That comes at the right time, too. Thanks to the power of the computer and electronic music hardware, we’ve all of us become composers or expanded our compositional horizons. We may not imagine that we’re composing drum parts when we mess about with drum machines …


Virginia’s Fierce For The Night brings the heart house needs

Caught in the shadow of lost idols and shaken faith, pop is wanting some new soul. Now, Ostgut Ton might be the last place you’d expect to look for one of 2016’s great songwriting fixes. (“Singing along” and “Berghain” tend not to be uttered together.) And yet, here we are. Virginia, the Panorama Bar resident, as a new record. And it’s an utter triumph.


Listen to how pop hits have evolved over the years

There’s a simple antidote to the endless circular “pop music was better in the old days” debate: actually listen to the songs. A new interactive tool lets you do just that. But warning: it may not be as pleasurable to turn back time as you think.


SX on how they make electronic gospel so good it “Hurts”

SX are the embodiment of just how dynamic DIY music can be. The Belgian duo, now in their second outing, make music that’s unmistakably pop, but with plenty of raw power humming under the hood. And Benjamin and Stefanie are fully invested in their collaboration in every last detail of production, from studio to music video to live. I wanted to talk to them primarily about how that creative process came together.


Music is getting worse, unless of course it isn’t

Complaining about pop music is probably the safest form of musical clickbait imaginable. After all, who isn’t annoyed by at least some earworm, some teeny-bopper celeb? If you long for still more of that, we have another white guy shouting at a camera about it – and, to be fair, some of this is reasonably funny. There’s just one problem: is the argument that music is getting progressively worse actually true – or even asking the most relevant questions?


Glitchy pop and psycho-surreal videos from Hungary’s RUMEX

So, now that summer is over (northern hemisphere), was yours, well, f***ed up? RUMEX understands. Don’t miss the surreal, now award-winning video from this young, now-as-yet-unknown Hungarian artist.


iPhone app for making cover songs, a sign of a changing music world

The music industry is fantastic at hindsight. We’ve obsessed over the spread of online piracy, the death of the CD, then the impact of streams. But every measure of the business model is somehow framed around acquiring records. And it’s about passive consumption. We have to remember, though, that passive consumption is itself really the outlier. Until the dawn of recording, music only existed when you played it. Our current copyright and licensing system was first structured around sheet music. And that world never went away. Precise recordings can give you the experience of listening, but no technology can give …


The Joy of Little Boxes, and Lovely Music by Recue x Jolea

From small boxes, big sound, and enormous fun… Something has happened in the evolution of electronic music production. What was once so often a slow process has become a jam, what was carefully orchestrated on screens finds itself embodied in gear. And small and affordable “toys” can often deliver the greatest “switch-on-and-play” satisfaction. Helsinki’s Recue and Jolea first found their way to their album by playing live, so it’s fitting we start with a live set from them. Their fusion is beat-driven, left-field pop – settling into moody, experimental grooves with effortless hooks over top. It’s melancholy surfaces with sparkling …


Camp America Releases a CD Encased in LEGO Blocks [Album Pick]

A paper cover is one option if you’re looking for ways of making music releases physical and tangible. But Steven Cowley went to something a bit more unusual. A release of his one-man project Camp America comes with a bag containing 125 LEGO pieces, and instructions for building the case. Steven writes us as he sees that paper example to show us some next-level physical release magic. And, oh yeah, importantly, it’s really good music – finely-polished, top-notch, synth-laden pop songs. It’s just darned good music, so the best I can say is, go take a listen. I also think …