Playable 8-bit Game as Promo, and Okkervil River’s Nostalgia-Drenched Wonderlands

The standards for advance promotion of an album may be getting a little … intense. Photos? Track listing? Advance music video? Streaming preview? How about a complete, playable adventure video game in your Web browser, free, with charming graphics and an original chip music soundtrack adapting the songs from the record in 8-bit form? Due out Tuesday, September 3, Okkervil River’s LP “The Silver Gymnasium” isn’t shy about its nostalgia factor. The whole record is a re-imagining of frontman Will Sheff’s 80s childhood. That might be a bit much were the browser game not so beautifully executed. Sheff created the …

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Listen to Albums by Eloui, Lusine, Full of Electronic Craft and Great Songwriting

As electronic musicians craft songs in digital collage, the distinction between “producer” and “writer” has never really made much sense. Samples, synthetic sounds, and the technology used to bring them together are all an extension of compositional imagination. I’m reminded of this when I regularly explain what I do. (This is really fun in crowded, noisy bars.) “I run a site about … music and technology.” “Oh… what?” “Like the technology people use to make music.” [Insert dazed look.] “You know, if you hear music these days, it was all actually produced on computers? So I write about those tools. …

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Bleep Drum, $60 Hackable Drum Machine Based on Arduino, On Sale

Don’t call it “lo-fi.” Call it “rad-fi.” At least, that’s what Austin, Texas-based creator Dr. Bleep says about his latest, the Bleep Drum. We saw the Stone’s Throw Records / Dam-Funk commission Dam-Drum 2.0 last month, but it sold out almost as soon as we mentioned it. The Bleep Drum is a sibling to that drum machine. There are some adjustments to the design, but most significantly, this one isn’t a limited edition – you might actually be able to get one of your own. It’s simple, hackable (with pins onboard), Arduino-based, and grungy enough to be fun. And as …

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RGB color grid? Mais ouis! Here, though, add in velocity-sensitive touch strips, too. Product photos courtesy Livid Instruments.

Livid Base: Colored Pads Meet Touch Faders, $399 [Gallery]

So, other than lots of new analog monosynths, the one thing we now have lots of is grids of RGB pads. Livid is betting you want your touch-sensitive, pressure-sensitive pads paired with some touch faders. So, unlike offerings like KMI’s QuNeo and Ableton’s Push, the grid at the bottom is coupled up with a set of strips for fader control at the top. That opens up some flexibility for expression or as a control surface. Specs: 4×8 grid = 32 pads (so, two groups of 16 pads if you want to think of it that way). Nine touch sliders. Eight …

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Dam-Funk gets his own drum machine + sequencer. Photo courtesy Bleep Labs.

Artist Gear: Dam-Drum 2.0 is a Handheld Drum Machine from Bleep Labs, Stones Throw Records [Listen]

You know those science fiction episodes where someone’s personality gets transferred to the computer? Imagine if an artist could do that with a drum machine, and you get the idea behind Dam-Drum. Bleep Labs’ John-Mike Reed of Austin, Texas has a unique talent for engineering fun music electronics. His work is sonically adventurous – always with enough rough edges to keep things interesting – and simultaneously demonstrates an ability to compact designs to their most basic elements, while wrapping everything in a veneer of quirky personality. Yes, of course, his googly-eyed robots the Thingamagoops are immediately cute and anthropomorphic. But …

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Faders, Pads, Knobs: Livid’s Alias 8 is a Bread-and-Butter Controller With Things You Actually Want

As controllers get wild and creative and integrated with software, here’s one that might be simple and versatile enough to work with anything for some time. Photos courtesy Livid Instruments. Finally: a boring controller. No, that’s a good thing. We’re in an amazing era of controller hardware, witnessing an explosion of kit with fancy features, tight integration with software, and slick oceans of colored LEDs packed with sophisticated sensors. Only… wait a minute. Sometimes, you want something fairly generic that maps easily to a variety of software, not just the new Abletive Tracktletron DJ Studio Pro Scratchly Edition. Something with …

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Happy Halloween, From Bleepy Monster Electronics Everywhere [Time Warp Gallery]

Let’s do the Time Warp again. As far as synthesizers making spooky sounds are concerned, I’m pleased to party every day like it’s Halloween. (After all, what is the point of music electronics if not to scare small children, animals, and… adults?) But I want to take us back to 2007, when our friends at Bleep Labs produced this great series of limited-edition Halloween mods to their fantastic Thingamagoop. It’s an excuse to just point you to Bleep Labs’ site – they remain one of the world’s great vendors for genuinely-fun sonic electronics for everyone. They’re gadgets you can use …

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Create Analog Motion: Infinite Lines Modular Animation Teaser, LZX Visionary Modular

Now that they’re more expressive and more affordable than ever, analog modulars are finding their way into a lot of visualist studios. Here’s a teaser of some work by reader Johnny Woods. He writes: “Nothing digital whatsoever (it’s all rutt-etra style animation and video synthesis), but I thought you might get a kick out of it!” You thought right. Full description: Preview for an upcoming series of audio-visual videos. Also, just a beautiful combination of colors and shapes. Animated using analog techniques on an LZX Visionary modular system. Audio and video by Johnny Woods. The LZX was a huge underground …

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A World of Sounds: Academik’s Francis Preve Shares Label’s Music, Studio Advice, Samples for Live

Francis Prève works the crowd. Photo courtesy the artist. The abundance of music, and the preceived ease of producing it, comes to some as bad news – or even harbinger of apocalypse. But load up a craft with quantity, and quality is what stands out. Francis Prève is a perfect Renaissance producer. With years of experience as a music technology journalist and sound designer, his own, signature flavor of tech-house is uniquely focused on timbre. His label, Academik Records, debuted last year at Austin’s South by Southwest, but it’s just now kicking into high gear. (If you are in Austin …

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That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas: CDM SxSW Picks, Gone Tech-y, Starting Today

Austin comes into view. Photo (CC-BY) David Berkowitz. Okay, I may be in Germany (see you next week, Messe!), but if you’re in Austin, Texas, the CDM radar is picking up some strong blips of things you probably want to be doing, starting today, Do. 15 Mär. (Erm, uh, sorry, Thursday March 15!) Highlights include a Neon Indian show paired with visuals, music, and the good folks of Switched On, fine music from Robot Koch, TYCHO, and Sepalcure, a Saturday night dance party with Academik on a beautiful rooftop in the heart of town, and workshops – much of this …

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