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.
It’s the end of an era – but maybe not such a golden era. Once upon a time, ACID and Sound Forge were each industry-leading software tools, originally developed by Sonic Foundry. Now, languishing alongside their stablemate, video editor Vegas, they’re seeing ownership pass from Sony (via its creative software division) to German software house and holding company MAGIX.
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 …
There have been vocal effects before – your vocoder, your pitch shifter, what have you. But the folks at iZotope set a more ambitious goal: be all the classic vocal effects. Put them a single plug-in full of modules. Then combine them in a way that makes them accessible, whether you’re preset surfing or dialing in your own sound. Encourage exploration without even requiring some advance knowledge. The result of that is called VocalSynth, and it’s out today. And wow, is this thing big – big enough that I imagine I might spend the rest of the year playing with …
Movement is here – and it’s a little scary. The folks at Output have some weird way of dialing directly into the zeitgeist of what we want from production these days, and delivering it in an easy form. They did that with reversed samples (REV), with vocals (EXHALE), and now they’re doing it in an atypically musical multi-effect with loads of rhythmic and side-chaining features. This isn’t just another delay or something like that. It’s an entire effects toolbox built around rhythm and modulation, in a way that’s unusually accessible.
Move over, collecting stickers off your Coke to try to win Monopoly. Dutch McDonald’s customers can DJ using a combination of their phone and a placemat.
The art of modeling at a handful of the best software shops continues to progress. And so it is that Universal Audio say they’ve simulated every tiny detail, “from speaker paper and heat dissipation, to filter caps and transformers,” of one of the world’s best-known amplifiers – the Fender Tweed. It’s the cranked sound of Neil Young; it’s the clear lead of Larry Carlton. It’s a lot of other things. It’s now on a computer, too.
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:
Steve Reich’s musical etudes are already a kind of self-contained lesson in rhythm. Inspired by drumming traditions, Reich distills in his music essential principles of rhythmic construction, introducing Western Classical musicians to cyclic forms. That makes them a natural for visual scoring – doubly so something interactive, which is what an iPhone can provide. And so one percussion ensemble has made an app that both reveals Reich’s techniques and opens up a toy you can use to make your own musical experiments. Plus – it’s free.
Modstep, the step sequencer on steroids on iOS, just got a huge pile of new features. It hosts AU plug-ins (yes, iOS plug-ins). It adds per-track MIDI, for hardware and apps. It has loads of new features for clips and arranging. It is, basically, a MIDI daw with built-in instruments that’s unlike nearly anything on desktop – only it was designed from the ground-up for the iPad. In fact, it does so much that it’s a bit overwhelming. So, let’s take a birds-eye view of what’s new – and then turn to the singular educational force that s Jakob Haq …