I hesitate to give teaser/hype campaigns extra words, but there’s simply too much anticipation about whatever Swedish hardware maker Elektron is doing to ignore it. The makers of Machinedrum, Monomachine, and Octatrack have a minisite through which they’re gradually trickling out teasers for whatever they’re doing next. The safest bet – particularly given the samples, the background image, and “tradition & future” moniker – is some kind of hardware combining the Octatrack and older drum machine design threads in some new gear. And given the Octatrack’s focus on sampling, a new generation on the synthesis side seems a no-brainer. Update: it’s even more of a no-brainer when the image clearly shows it’s a four-voice synth with CV. Ahem.

One reason it matters: even as music making matures, the ways to go about it remain diverse – even within widely-perceived genres.

Tradition, at least. Elektron’s team isn’t the same one that produced the Machinedrum, but the legacy leaves on. (CC-BY) Acid Pix.

Today’s edition is, charmingly, just a set of music samples. There’s something rather pure about that to me: it’s just about the sounds, the reason we buy gear in the first place. Well, or perhaps they’re starting to make portable turntables or starting a record label, I don’t know.

Also notable to me is the conversations I’ve had about the Elektron campaign. For many people, the arrival of a new Elektron device is an alternative to software like Ableton Live 9. That really suggests that we don’t live in a musical monoculture. People producing music in the same genre could use radically different tools. (Sure, you can get the same output from Live or a machine, but the way to get there can be physically and musically quite different.) Or, two people can use the same tools and produce radically different music – one person, acid techno, another an experimental noise score for modern dance.

All of this flies in the face of the general anxiety about technology you hear, which would instead propose people would become more the same. And that’s good news. So, if we’re comparing apples to oranges, Maschine to Monomachine to DIY machine, I’m all for it.


The Field. Photo: Sonia Alvarez 2009.

Let’s use all of this as an excuse to point to one of my favorite artists – The Field gets the full interview treatment in Elektron’s blog.
Talk | The Field

In the interview, we really get at the heart of what I’m talking about. The use of drum machines in this case partly comes from the music that inspired the artist – from wanting to continue a musical tradition. But what then defines the musical content – the other half of the culture here – it’s about ingredients. Axel describes “softness” (worth reading the whole interview), but also uses cooking as a metaphor:

Co­ok­ing is, apart from music, one of my bi­ggest in­terests. In fact, al­most the bi­ggest one. That is one of the rea­sons why I liked work­ing at Sys­tembolaget, as I got to learn a lot about wine and beer. Music is ac­tual­ly rath­er similar to food and co­ok­ing. Add­ing one lit­tle in­gredient can make a big dif­fer­ence when co­ok­ing and the same appl­ies when mak­ing music. Mak­ing a the Field song is a bit like mak­ing a risot­to. You stir and stir and stir and after a while you are done.

Appetites, whetted.