Jarvi in Buffalo.

An underground resource brings house and techno back to its roots

Let’s be clear: electronic music is what it is because of a spirit that emanated from people outside of what was popular, not inside. And underground isn’t just about what’s undiscovered. It’s also about people who are too often purposely sidelined: people of color, queer and trans and gay and bi- and lesbian people, people who don’t look like models, people who other people say are weird, people who don’t fit in for all sorts of reasons. Nerds, even. If you’re reading this site, honestly, you’re probably one of those people, if at least for the reason that you might …

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Platform is finally a desk made for electronic musicians, engineered by an architect

It’s often overlooked, but the one piece of technology that has advanced the least in electronic music making in the past decades might be … the furniture. Output, whom regular readers will know mainly as a software instrument maker, have decided to make something that’s harder – as in a desk. PLATFORM is a simple but elegant design at an affordable price that ticks a lot of boxes of things musicians have tended to miss. It’s a chance to upgrade from IKEA-level studio gear without spending too much more money. And it’s surprisingly sensible. You’ve seen desks that look roughly …

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Photo: Tonje Thilesen.

This free B-side from Machinedrum is the perfect thing for the solstice

Ready to raise your energy level and channel your higher self on the longest day of the year? (Or the shortest day of the year, if you’re in the southern hemisphere?) Machinedrum (the artist, not the Elektron box) has quietly released the track that has the perfect vibe for that – even if you didn’t spot the track name. And it’s now a free download. It’s short, but otherwise sounds as much hit single as b-side, warm, friendly, and uncomplicated – genius. You might put it on repeat as instant anti-depressant. Enjoy! THE HIGHER SELF OF A PERSON IS SEEN …

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Listen to some gorgeous ambient music coming out on tapes

Okay, let’s try to put aside any hipster jokes for a moment. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that cassette tapes are becoming a scene for beautiful ambient and experimental music. It’s gotten to the point that you might find yourself paying to have a tape shipped to you, even if only to thank an artist for a download code. Here are a couple of mixes that might just hook you on the medium all over again. First , there’s Hainbach, whose YouTube channel full of live experiments and mixes is one of my favorite video subscriptions at the …

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The Monolith is a huge synth powered by Teensy, shown at Maker Faire

The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch. And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.) They’ve packed a lot of clever features: Arcade button controls 8-step sequencer with …

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Watch Octave One demonstrate their elaborate, hands-on live rig

We value the new and the young a lot in electronic music. But developing musicianship requires time, patience, and practice. So to see where electronic musicianship might be able to go, it helps to look to the people who have invested years. And that’s why it’s worth repeated visits to Lenny and Lawrence Burden, aka Octave One (also aka Random Noise Generation). Not only are they brothers who have grown up together, and can literally complete each other’s sentences, but they’ve been building the technique of how they play since their first 1989 release. Before we get to that live …

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ETC video synth is like the love child of Tumblr and MS Paint

We may be at the saturation point for sound synthesis and modular. You know what that means: it’s time for video synthesizers. East Coast American boutique darlings Critter & Guitari are diving into that field headfirst with their ETC video synth. Here’s how it works. Pick a background color. Dial in a mode – from various preset animation styles. Choose to leave accumulation on or not (whether those animations stack atop one another). Add an audio input if you choose for sound reactivity. Then adjust parameters manually, or use MIDI for automation (via scenes and CC automation). That might all …

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This dummy’s guide to making techno is oddly compelling to watch

How simple is techno – that genre that seems unstoppable, from Asia to Antarctica? It’s simple enough that it can be reduced to … six steps. No, kind of – seriously. I expected to have my intelligence insulted by this video, and yet … uh, well, I’m an addict, because it just made me want to go make some new percussion samples. The approach is oddly on point and – let’s be honest – looks like fun. You don’t need six steps, even, as I’m not sure what that acappella is about. (The video was evidently created by artist Hobo, …

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With Autist and Rainbow Arabia, pop retro futurism meets the club

Electronic music’s popular future is unquestionably tied up with techno nightclubs – for better and for worse. And that’s perhaps no more true than in Berlin, birthplace of Traktor and Ableton Live, in this nation that birthed major DAWs and modular revivals, then became a beacon for the use of said tools to make dance music. So the question is, where do we go from here? Are clubs about producing effective repetition (literally), or are they also some kind of laboratory for new hybrids of styles? I’m involved in a second time in a Thursday night experiment of sorts at …

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An earnest album, recorded to four-track, as Shamir looks for hope

We often describe quality pop and songwriting as effortless, as easy. But what about when it’s awkward, uncomfortable? Aren’t those the moments that describe longing? When Shamir Bailey says he recorded his album to four track, the first thing I’m obligated to consider is, of course – he might be lying. And ground hum and hiss shouldn’t be accepted as any form of authenticity any more than should an Instagram filter. But there’s no question artists today bear some burden of the polished album, whether in the form of the tools we use and their opportunities for endless obsessive adjustment, …

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