Tour the Wild, Modular Robotic Percussion of Bastl Instruments

Think of it as the real world interface for your Eurorack modular. The boys from Brno have been busy. After a range of desktop modules (one that continues to grow), they’ve quietly put together a complete modular system this year. With a bunch of new gear announced at the beginning of the year, you might have thought they were getting some much-deserved rest. Not so. Among other introductions this week, they have unveiled three modules that work with motors, and one that takes sensor inputs. Together, these can let your modular make stuff happen in the physical world. And they …

80s Roland engineers never imagined ... this. Welcome to the age of the Real. Photo: Jürgen Lösel.

A Robotic, Physical 808 Machine Advances Weird Science of Music, Tech Alike

So, you’re really hot stuff now that you’ve got a vintage Roland TR-808, huh? Ready to have your pride taken down a few notches? If you haven’t seen it, have a look at this. The MR-808 is a “real-world” replica of the Roland sounds. And when people throw around buzzwords like “post-digital” to try to describe the spirit of the age in which we live, this is what they’re trying to get at. In some sense, this creation is a tribute to the 808’s minimalism and essential design. And this is still a creation of the digital realm. The robots …


Gotye to Queen to Radiohead, The Songs of Hard Drives, Robotics, and Retro Gear

Beyond the viral-ready novelty, listen to the serenades of defunct hard drives, flatbed scanners, and garage sale-rescue computers and you might just hear a sense of urgency. As the discs whir, the chips bleet, and the solenoids ping percussion, this chorus of obsolete electronics seems to plea, save us from landfill doom. The latest breakout hit from repurposed retro machines is Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Here, it’s covered by a set of glockenspiel-playing solenoids and an HP ScanJet as the angst-ridden whine of the now-infamous vocals. An Amiga rounds out the band. Even the robotics can be …


PocoPoco, Kinetic Music Control Gone Whac-a-Mole, and Our Tactile Future

PocoPoco is a delightful, fanciful device that takes music control into the realm of kinetic sculpture. Normally, the relationship of music controller is primarily about the operator making physical actions. With PocoPoco, the hardware itself moves. The essential musical structure is familiar: it’s the grid of light-up buttons, with strong similarity to the ongoing interaction design of Toshio Iwai in the 90s and (Tenori-On) past decade. Even aesthetically, there are similarities – perhaps not coincidentally as this team is also Japan-based. But adding in the element of solenoid-powered cylinders popping out of the grid adds a major element of surprise. …