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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » synths


KORG’s minilogue xd is a new 4-voice synth with the best of the rest

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 15 Jan 2019 7:12 am

KORG are introducing the Minilogue xd. It’s not just a Minilogue with some extras: it’s a new polysynth with the best bits of all the KORG analog range, including the prologue flagship, in a compact package.

It’s like the hatchback of synths – the compact, mid-range priced synth that might just wind up being everyone’s favorite. It’s poised to be the Golf GTI of electronic instruments.

It’s in the compact monologue form factor, with a US$649.99 price. And it’s coming soon (this winter, so… at least “before spring”).

To be honest, I loved the original of this series, the minilogue. But then with each new iteration, KORG added something new that made me want a combination of all the other synths.

And now, sure enough, what do we get? A combination of all the other synths.

From the minilogue: the elegant 4-voice polyphonic voice structure and voice modes that made the original so terrific.

From the monologue: the 16-step sequencer and microtuning features (thanks Aphex Twin!), plus that cute little form factor.

From the prologue: the MULTIdigital oscillator, plus new effects.

I’m sure some people will gripe because they wanted the extra keys and size of the minilogue, but otherwise this looks like the perfect KORG synth.

Reverb, delay, and modulation, plus two CV IN jacks complete the package.

Hilariously that “XD” of course also signifies “lol,” which may be how you feel if you just sold off a monologue or minilogue and now can buy up a combination of the two. (As with Windows XP, KORG are using the lowercase xd to de-emphasize that a little…)

Sing along:

Obligatory! Demo! Video!

The post KORG’s minilogue xd is a new 4-voice synth with the best of the rest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Haken’s ContinuuMini is expressive, post-keyboard sound for $899

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 11 Jan 2019 7:20 pm

Want some evidence that the future of expressive digital instruments and MPE is bright? Look to Haken’s ContinuuMini, which emerged over last year, bringing greater portability and a US$899 price to the out-there controller.

Forget anything else, and listen to this gorgeous video (using a clever setup with an Onde acoustic resonator*:

Why does the ContinuuMini matter?

Expression really is a combination of sound and physical control. Say what you will about piano keyboards (and some electronic musicians who hate them certainly do) – the reason an acoustic piano is still expressive has to do with the sound of a piano.

So when we talk about MPE, a scheme for allowing polyphonic expression through MIDI, we’re really talking about allow greater depth in the connection of physical gestures and sound.

If this is going to catch on, it’ll require more than one vendor. I think it’s wrong to assume MPE’s future, then, is tied solely to ROLI as a vendor. From the start, MPE was an initiative of a range of people, from major software developers (Apple, Steinberg) to hardware inventors (ROLI, but also Roger Linn and Randy Jones of Madrona Labs, for instance).

And Haken Audio has been a boutique maker pushing new ways of playing for years – including with MPE on their Continuum. The Continuum may look arcane in photos, but feeling it is a unique experience. The ribbon feels luxurious – it’s actually soft fabric. And the degree of control is something special. But it’s also enormous and expensive – and that means a lot of people can’t buy it, or can’t tour with it since it won’t fit in an overhead.

I believe that what makes an instrument is really finding that handful of people to do stuff even the creators didn’t expect, so if you can lower those barriers for even a run of a few hundred units, you could have a small revolution on your hand.

That’s what Haken have done with ContinuuMini, which closed crowd sourcing late last year and has started shipping of the first hardware.

Here’s what sets it apart:

It’s a Continuum. Well, first, nothing else feels like a Continuum. That feeling may not be for everyone, but it’s still significant as a choice.

It’s continuous. Because you aren’t limited by frets or keys, there’s a continuous range of sound. This is a controller you’ll want to practice, finding intonation with muscle memory and your ear. And there are artists who will want that subtlety.

It has internal sound. Like its larger sibling the ContinuuMini has an internal sound engine. That means that it’s not just a controller. Haken have conceived control and sound in a single, unified design. You can play it without connecting other stuff. And the builders have worked on both the physical and aural experience of what they’ve made. I think that’s significant to anyone making an investment, particularly in an age in which abstract controller hardware tends to stack in our closets.

It’s 8-voice polyphonic, as well. The ContinuuMini isn’t just a controller: it’s a complete, gorgeous polysynth and a controller, for this one price.

It connects to other gear, without software. Bidirectional digital control – MIDI, with MPE, MPE+ – and bidirectional control voltage analog (with converter) are possible. That means you can play the ContinuuMini with gear and software (like recording MIDI and MPE in your DAW for playback), and likewise the ContinuuMini can control your software and gear. There are also two pedal inputs so your feet can get in on the action.

It’s only a quarter kilogram. 9 oz. You can tote the bigger ones with a case but – the ContinuuMini is incredibly portable.

It feels like an extraordinary development.

https://www.hakenaudio.com/continuumini

* Synthtopia has a great, in-depth interview on the Onde and Pyramid, acoustic resonators that make an electronic instrument feel more like an instrument and less like “something disconnected that produces sound through speakers” as with conventional monitors:

La Voix Du Luthier & The New Shape Of Electronic Sound

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This playlist is full of wonderful ARP music – some might surprise you

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 9 Jan 2019 5:46 pm

As we remember Alan R. Pearlman and the impact his instruments had on music, here’s a survey of the many places ARP sounds appeared in music culture. It’s a reminder of just how profound electronic music tools can be in their influence – and of the unique age in which we live.

Perhaps now is the perfect time for an ARP revival. With modular synthesis reaching ever-wider audiences, the ARP creations – the 2500, 2600, and Odyssey featured here – represent something special. Listen across these tracks, and you’re struck by the unique colors of those ARP creations across a range of genres. It’s also significant that each of these designs in their own way struck a balance between modularity and accessibility, sound design and playability. That includes making instruments that had modular patching capability but also produced useful sounds at each patch point by default – that is, you don’t have to wire things up just to make something happen. That in turn also reduces cable spaghetti, because the patch connections you make represent the particular decisions you made deviating from the defaults. On the 2500, this involves a matrix (think Battleship games, kids), which is also a compelling design in the age of digital instruments and software.

And lest we get lost in sound design, it’s also worth noting how much these things get played. In the era of Eurorack, it’s easy to think music is just about tweaking … but sometimes it’s just as useful to have a simple, fresh sound and then just wail on it. (Hello, Herbie Hancock.)

It’s easy to forget just how fast musical sound has moved in a couple of generations. An instrument like the piano or violin evolved over centuries. Alan R. Pearlman literally worked on some of the first amplifiers to head into space – the Mercury and Gemini programs that first sent Americans into space and orbit, prior to Apollo’s journey to the moon. And then he joined the unique club of engineers who have remade music – a group that now includes a lot of you. (All of you, in fact, once you pick up these instruments.)

So I say go for it. Play a preset in a software emulation. Try KORG’s remake of the Odyssey. Turn a knob or re-patch something. Make your own sound design – and don’t worry about whether it’s ingenious or ground-breaking, but see what happens when you play it. (Many of my, uh, friends and colleagues are in the business of creating paid presets, but I have the luxury of making some for my own nefarious music production purposes that no one else has to use, so I’m with you!)

David Abravanel puts together this playlist for CDM:

Some notes on this music:

You know, we keep talking about Close Encounters, but the actual sound of the ARP 2500 is very limited. The clip I embedded Monday left out the ARP sound, as did the soundtrack release of John Williams’ score. The appearance is maybe more notable for the appearance of ARP co-founder David Friend at the instrument – about as much Hollywood screen time as any synth manufacturer has ever gotten. Oh, and … don’t we all want that console in our studio? But yes, following this bit, Williams takes over with some instrumental orchestration – gorgeous, but sans-ARP.

So maybe a better example of a major Hollywood composer is Jerry Goldsmith. The irony here is, I think you could probably get away with releasing this now. Freaky. Family Guy reused it (at the end). We’ll never defeat The Corporation; it’s true.

It’s also about time to acknowledge that Stevie Wonder combined Moog and ARP instruments, not just Moog. As our industry looks at greater accessibility, it’s also worth noting that Wonder was able to do so without sight.

What about U2? Well, that’s The Edge’s guitar routed through the ARP 2600 for filter distortion and spring reverb. That’s a trick you can steal, of course – especially easily now that Arturia has an emulation of the 2600.

Expect our collective reader knowledge exceeds anything we can contribute so – let us know what other artists using ARP inspired you, and if you have any notes on these selections.

The post This playlist is full of wonderful ARP music – some might surprise you appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 7 Jan 2019 6:32 pm

One of the great names in synthesis, founder of a brand that helped define what electronic sound is today, was lost over the weekend. ARP Instruments founder Alan R. Pearlman died Sunday the 6th, and synthesists worldwide remember the legacy he leaves.

Pearlman started ARP and was a principle engineer, specifically of the ground-breaking 2500 and 2600 modular synthesizers.

It may be hard to conceive now, but there was a time when ARP and Moog were major rivals. And it’s worth noting that Pearlman was uniquely advanced in his vision. Even as an engineering student in 1948, he looked forward to a time not so far off “when the electronic instrument may take its place … as a versatile, powerful, and expressive instrument” – provided those engineers paid attention “to the needs of the musician.”

And so in 1977, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind imagined an instrument that was far enough advanced to communicate with aliens, they chose the ARP 2500 that was Pearlman’s first commercial instrument. And Close Encounters were far from alone, as even the Martian voices were ARP 2500 produced in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Other notable 2500 instrumentalists: David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, The Who… and Eliane Radigue:

The 2600 was itself legendary enough to be fairly dubbed a holy grail.

The 2600 was in Ben Burtt’s arsenal for Star Wars and Raiders, even part of the sound of R2-D2. And speaking of space aliens, the one Doctor Who variant that matches Delia Derbyshire’s haunting whoo-whoo sounds with some sparkles and badass bass is also made on an ARP (the Odyssey), by Peter Howell:

And while the Rhodes Chroma originated at ARP was hardly a huge success, it is in many ways a template for the computer-integrated workstation-style instruments to follow.

A legacy in music

The range of musicians using the ARP can be told in the company’s own ads – Herbie, Stevie, Billy, Tommy

Remembering Alan

Richard Boulanger notes the unique musicality of this engineer’s vision and the impact it had – and that leading right up to his illness, he kept dreaming up new instrumental ideas:

.Yes, even at 90 and beyond, Alan R Pearlman was still dreaming of new circuits, modules, and controllers!) Undeniably, Alan R Pearlman was an engineering genius. Everyone recognizes that his synthesizers were beyond brilliant. But I truly believe that the heart and soul in his machines drew their spirit and life from Alan’s musical virtuosity on the piano, his truly deep musical knowledge, his passion and enthusiasm for “all” music, and his nurturing and generous support for young composers and performers, regardless of whether they were into classical, avantgarde, film, fusion, rock or pop. He wanted to make something that we could play with, that we could play on, and maybe even learn about music as we played (check out his “Learning Music Through Synthesizers” book and his MSL boxes). Alan R Pearlman created truly playable electronic musical “instruments”. He made aesthetically and ergonomically beautiful instruments, and beautiful sounding instruments. His synthesizers opened our eyes and ears to new sonic worlds

NAMM has an oral history interview

He recalls first seeing the Buchla, and the impact of Moog’s controller approach. The company was named with his nickname (and initials ) – ARP. And arguably ARP’s approach to matrix switching (ARP 2500) and hard-wired control even with patch cord access (ARP 2600) is still valuable today.

Just how modern can the ARP designs be? That was proven when KORG revived the Odyssey recently, with some input from Pearlman, along with a collaboration with ARP co-founder David Friend.

And while we think of Moog and Buchla, ARP also significantly contributed to a lot of the technological innovations of the modern synth, as evidenced by this list of ARP patents (thanks to Synthtopia for spotting that):

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/patents.html

Various ARP owners have been posting tributes:

And have long sung the magic of these instruments – here’s Marc Doty, giving the instrument extrahuman autonomy:

Surviving daughter Dina Pearlman shared the news yesterday:

ARP employee Rick Parent shares his remembrances, along with ARP’s David A. Frederick:

David Mash remembers:

It’s hard watching as we lose the generation who created the synthesizer – having said goodbye to Bob Moog, Max Mathews, Don Buchla, and others. But it’s also a hopeful position, as we watch new generations around the world take on innovation, and the instruments these pioneers created reaching a wider range of people around the world than I suspect any of us might ever have imagined. The future isn’t what it used to be – it’s growing. And for that, thank you, Alan.

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Turbocharge KORG’s Prologue synth with Sinevibes

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 26 Dec 2018 5:32 pm

Synth hot-rodding? Earlier this year, KORG introduced the notion of their synth as extensible platform, by adding an SDK for their Prologue polysynth. The only question was, what would developers do with it – and now we get one answer.

Sinevibes, the small shop of Ukrainian developer Artemiy Pavlov, has been known for clever, elegant Mac plug-ins (even if there’s a lot more). But Artemiy has decided to embrace hardware as one of the first developers for KORG’s Prologue synth. And the results are unique and lovely, letting you transform the oscillators on KORG’s instrument with new spectrally satisfying waveshaping oscillators.

Basically, it’s a plug-in for your hardware.

Here’s what you get:

Juicy, edgy wavetables are the order of the day. Specs from Sinevibes:

  • Two sine oscillators with variable balance, frequency ratio and beating frequency.
  • Five different waveshaping algorithms with continuously variable curve complexity.
  • Built-in lag filters for noise-free, ultra-smooth parameter adjustment and modulation.
  • Built-in envelope generator with widely adjustable attack and decay times (1 ms to 10 s).

Check it out, or buy it for just US$29, with full manual and example patches:

http://www.sinevibes.com/korgturbo/

It’s interesting – we live in a music tech industry that benefits from small scale and diversity. Now, this model is well known in Apple’s App Store, but sure enough that hasn’t necessarily been a no-brainer for independent music developers. So, instead, we see creative music engineers developing for Eurorack (which frees them of the burden of making complete enclosures and power supplies, and lets them interoperate with an ecology of a bunch of manufacturers). Or we see them continuing to see plug-in development as paying for their time – especially with new opportunities like those afforded by software modular environments. And now KORG are in the game with hardware plug-ins.

What’s changed in part is the expectation of reducing development overhead but targeting more varied platforms. So you might make a plug-in for a software modular (VCV Rack, Cherry Audio Voltage Modular), and port it as a Rack Extension for Reason, and then ship the same algorithm for use on KORG’s hardware – or some other combination.

It’s encouraging, though, that in a world where consolidation rules, music tech remains weird and fragmented. A company like KORG will ship a lot of synths – but it’s great that they might also support a tiny or one-person developer, by letting their users’ customize their instrument to their liking. And it means you get a Prologue that might be different than someone else’s.

Previously:

KORG has a polyphonic Prologue synth – and it’s programmable

KORG are about to unveil their DIY Prologue boards for synth hacking

The post Turbocharge KORG’s Prologue synth with Sinevibes appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Explore sonic inspiration, via this artist’s approach to Novation’s Peak 1.2

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 24 Dec 2018 7:48 pm

Novation packed new sounds – and 43 new wavetables – into an update for their flagship Peak synthesizer. Sound designer Patricia Wolf writes to share how she approached making some of those new sounds.

Peak, in case you missed it, has been one of the more compelling new synths in recent years. Novation designed a unique-sounding 8-voice polysynth, melding digital wavetable oscillators with analog processing, per-voice filtering and all-important distortion all over the place.

As with other Novation products, they’ve also been adding features in frequent firmware updates, listening to users in the process.

The big deal in Peak 1.2, released this month, is 43 additional wavetables (which evidently some of you were asking for). But you also get:

16 tuning tables
Two more LFOs you can assign to anything (not just per-voice)
Pitch bend wheel modulation (if you like)
A quicker interface for the Mod Matrix
A new four-slot FX Matrix – so you can route four LFOs to effects parameters
A hold stage for the envelopes (on top of the existing ADSRs)
An option to initalize with current knob/fader positions (instead of defaults)
New soundpacks from GForce and Patricia Wolf

More info:
https://novationmusic.com/news/peak-v12-firmware-update

The update is free via Novation’s Web-based tools:
https://components.novationmusic.com/

Now, as it happens, Patricia Wolf wrote us on her own to share what she has done with her 50 sounds. Patricia is leading what sounds like a great career working in sound design, and her approach to these sounds is really musical – including sharing these etudes of sorts fo illustrate them, inspired by the likes of BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneering composer Delia Derbyshire. Listen:

Here’s what Patricia has to say:

Hello CDM:) I am a sound designer and electronic musician based in Portland, Oregon. I am one of the official sound designers for the Novation Peak synthesizer and just made a sound pack of 50 patches for their firmware update launch. My soundpack is available for free through Novation’s Components App.

I created a recording demonstrating my patches in a musical/artistic way.

Patricia playing live in Seattle for Further Records. Photo Valerie Ann/DJ Explorateur, framed by video art live by Leo Mayberry.

This recording is a demonstration of the sound design work I did for the Novation Peak. I created 50 patches demonstrating some of the new features that the v1.2 firmware update has to offer. My sound pack is available for free with the update through Novation’s Components App. Select the Novation tab on that app to access them as well as GForce Software’s free patches.

The patches are performed with a mixture of Octatrack sequencing (using sequences from songs I have written) and live performance with a MIDI controller. I was inspired by artists like Delia Derbyshire and wanted to record little vignettes and sonatas using the Peak without other sound sources.

I made this recording so that friends can hear the sounds I made and so that other Peak users can get a closer glimpse into how I envision sound design.

The Novation Peak was recorded directly into a Steinberg UR44 interface. No external effects. Subtle mastering from Tokyo Dawn Labs software to balance recordings of different patches.

More on Patricia:

Patricia Wolf is an electronic musician, sound designer, and gallery curator based in Portland, Oregon. After years of working in the synth pop duo Soft Metals, Wolf became interested in exploring non-linear songwriting and new forms of synthesis. Alongside working with Novation, Wolf co-founded the gallery Variform which focuses on sound design and modern composition. Patricia Wolf is a recipient of the Precipice Fund, a grant funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, to explore synthesis in the contemporary art world.

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Dreadbox Hypnosis: teaser for a dreamy synthwave effects box

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 21 Dec 2018 6:43 pm

From the mint-and-hot-pink labels to the wobbly pitch and effects, make no mistake: Dreadbox are teasing their upcoming Hypnosis with retro synthwave fetishists in mind. And from the sound, we’re okay with that.

In a surprise bit of pre-Christmas marketing, synth and effects maker Dreadbox have revealed this look at their next hardware:

And while it’s a “teaser,” they’re pretty much giving away the plot. Hypnosis is three effects units in one (you bring your own synth to the party):

1. Analog spring reverb, complete with a 3-spring tank and “unique pitch modulation circuit”
2. Stereo delay: analog Bucket Brigade Delay (BBD) for retro delay effects
3. Chorus-flanger with three different waveforms for modulation

It’s a trifecta, Neapolitan ice cream of effects – the three tastiest flavors in one. (Now I have to think about which flavor is chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry in this metaphor.)

And maybe Dreadbox just won the winter NAMM show before it even started. Let’s wait and see.

I mean, the synthwave party sort of happened a while ago, but then … chorus-flanger, delay, reverb, analog, none of these things ever really goes out of style. Waiting on price, want one anyway.

https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/

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Images of KORG volca modular, volca drum appear online

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 21 Dec 2018 5:58 pm

Unconfirmed and unofficial images identified as KORG volca modular and volca drum are circulating across social media channels today, after first appearing on Reddit.

Normally, this site refrains from posting leaks and rumors, but in this case, the images have quickly become ubiquitous – perhaps speaking to the unique appeal of the volca line. (Literally, my inbox and feeds now are clogged with people posting them.)

The images appear to show a drum synth and patchable mini-modular, in the existing volca form factor. We can’t comment on their authenticity.

They’re even becoming the buzz of YouTube:

What do you think? Let us know in comments.

The post Images of KORG volca modular, volca drum appear online appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Animals and Synthesizers is reason to love the Internet again

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 19 Dec 2018 5:13 pm

It was the worst of times, it was … the worst of times. The Internet and social media has doled out hate and trolls, democracy-crushing propaganda and tribalist fragmentation. But then, an Internet Christmas miracle happened.

How to even describe “Animals and Synthesizers”? It’s short videos mostly of wildlife and some house cats set to electronic music. It’s a cross of BBC Planet Earth, retro synthwave, and meme-length videos.

That sounds frankly stupid. But the results are weirdly magical, connecting to some deep, visceral place in your mammalian brain that responds both to the cuteness and/or weirdness of nature as well as the tingling sensation of electronic timbres. The works appear all to be made by submitted videos, with the soundtracks coming from the channel’s creators. But what you get is synesthesia for people who happen to love bugs and sine waves in equal measure.

And that leaves us feeling more or less like we imagine this cat must:

I mean … fish and bass.

IDM insects!

This bee.

And naturally, there’s enough undersea futurism to bring back the spirit of Drexciya:

The creators have even posted a video of how they made the soundtrack for one of these – think Native Instruments Massive (synth) and Reaper (DAW), though what else would you imagine for an Internet meme score?

The result:

Follow this gang on Instagram and Facebook. And if you can do better with your wildlife-meets-wild-synth sounds, do send it to us.

And you thought the Internet could only make you depressed. Behold – the power of the light side of the force endures!

Thanks to the talented Zosia Hołubowska, witch and music producer aka Mala Herba, for sharing and basically turning this week around entirely as a result.

The post Animals and Synthesizers is reason to love the Internet again appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Hands-on: Complex-1 puts West Coast-inspired modular in Reason

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 18 Dec 2018 1:53 pm

Propellerhead has unveiled a modular instrument add-on for Reason, Complex-1. It puts a patchable, West Coast-inspired synth inside the already patchable Reason environment – and it sounds fabulous.

Complex-1 is a monophonic modular synth delivered as a Rack Extension, available now. What you get is a selection of modules, with a combination of Buchla- and Moog-inspired synths, and some twists from Propellerhead. You can patch these right on the front panel – not the back panel as you normally would in Reason – and combine the results with your existing Reason rack. The ensemble is very West Coast-ish, as in Buchla-inspired, but also with some unique character of its own and modern twists and amenities you would expect now.

Propellerhead have also a lot of design decisions that allow you to easily patch anything to anything, which is great for happy mistakes and unusual sounds – for beginners or advanced users alike. The three oscillators each have ranges large enough to act as modulation sources, and to tune paraphonic setups if you so wish.

Prepare to get lost in this: the recent Quad Note Generator is a perfect pairing with Complex-1.

What’s inside:
Complex Osc This is the most directly Buchla-like module – subsonic to ultrasonic range, FM & AM, and lots of choices for shaping its dual oscillators.

Noise source, OSC 3 Noise sources including red, plus an additional oscillator (OSC 3) with a range large enough to double as a modulation source.

Comb delay If the Complex Osc didn’t get you, the comb delay should – you can use this for string models by tuning the delay with feedback, as well as all the usual comb delay business.

Filter Here’s the East Coast ingredient – a Moog-style ladder filter with drive, plus both high pass and low pass outputs you can use simultaneously.

Low Pass Gates Two LPGs (envelope + filter you can trigger) give you more West Coast-style options, including envelope follower functions.

Shaper Distortion, wavefolding, and whatnot.

More modules: LFO, ADSR envelope, output mixer, plus a really handy Mix unit, Lag, Scale & amp, Clock & LFO + Clock 2. There’s also a useful oscilloscope.

Sequencer plus Quant: You can easily use step sequencers from around Reason, but there’s also a step sequencer in Complex-1 itself, useful for storing integrated patches. Quant also lets you tune to a range of scales.

Function: A lot of the hidden power of Complex-1 is here – there’s a function module with various algorithms.

Yes, you can make complex patches with Complex-1.

The dual advantages of Complex-1: one, it’s an integrated instrument all its own, but two, it can live inside the existing Reason environment.

I’ve had my hands on Complex-1 since I visited Propellerhead HQ last week and walked through a late build last week. Full disclosure: I was not immediately convinced this was something I needed personally. The thing is, we’re spoiled for choice, and software lovers are budget-minded. So while a hundred bucks barely buys you one module in the hardware world, in software, it buys a heck of a lot. That’s the entry price for Softube Modular, for VCV Rack and a couple of nice add-ons, and for Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular (at least at its current sale price, with a big bundle of extras).

Not to mention, Reason itself is a modular environment.

But there are a few things that make Complex-1 really special.

It’s a complete, integrated modular rig. This is important – VCV Rack, Softube Modular, Voltage Modular, and Reason itself are all fun because you can mix and match modules.

But it’s creatively inspiring to work with Complex-1 for the opposite reason. You have a fixed selection of modules, with some basic workflows already in mind. It immediately takes me back to the first vintage Buchla system I worked on for that reason. You still have expansive possibilities, but within something that feels like an instrument – modular patching, but not the added step of choosing which modules. The team at Propellerhead talked about their admiration for the Buchla Music Easel. This isn’t an emulation of that – Arturia have a nice Music Easel in software if that’s what you want – but rather takes that same feeling of focusing on a toolkit and provides a modern, Propellerhead-style take on the concept.

It sounds fantastic. This one’s hard to overstate, so it’s better to just go give the trial a spin. In terms of specs, Propellerhead points to their own DSP and 4X oversampling everywhere. In practice, it means even just a stupidly-simple patch with raw oscillators sounds gorgeous and lush. I love digital sounds and aliasing and so on, but… it’s nice to have this end of the spectrum, too. You get a weird, uncanny feeling of lying in bed with a laptop and some studio headphones and hearing your own music as if it’s a long-lost 1970s electronic classic. It’s almost too easy to sound good. Tell your friends you’ll see them in the spring because for now you want to spend some time along pretending you’re Laurie Spiegel.

It lives inside Reason. The other reality is, it’s really fun having this inside Reason, where you can combine your patches into Combinators and work with all the other pattern sequencers and effects and whatnot. You can also make elaborate polysynths by stacking instances of Complex-1.

There’s basic CV and audio interconnectivity with your rack. This may look meager at first, but I found this in addition to the Combinator opens a lot of possibilities, especially for playing live/improvising.

You get loads of presets, of course, which will appeal to those not wanting to get lost in patching. But I also welcome that Propellerhead included a set of basic templates as starting points for those who do want to explore.

Patching is also really easy, though I miss being able to re-patch from both sides of a cable as in a lot of software modulars. Better is the hide/unhide cables functionality, so you can make the patch cables disappear for easier control of the front panel. (Why don’t all software modulars have this feature, actually?)

You don’t get unlimited patchability between Complex-1 and the rest of Reason. For simplicity, you’re limited to note/MIDI input (from other devices as well as externally), basic CV input and output, and input to the sequencer. There’s also a very useful audio input. That may disappoint some people who wanted more options, though it still provides a lot of power.

Mostly I want to buy a really big touch display for Windows and use that. And with this kind of software out there, I may not be looking at hardware so much. I even expect to use this live.

Some sounds for you (while I work on sharing some of my own):

Complex-1 Rack Extension

Complex-1 in the shop

The post Hands-on: Complex-1 puts West Coast-inspired modular in Reason appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Pigments is a new hybrid synth from Arturia, and you can try it free now

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 11 Dec 2018 6:04 pm

Arturia made their name emulating classic synths, and then made their name again in hardware synths and handy hardware accessories. But they’re back with an original synthesizer in software. It’s called Pigments, and it mixes vintage and new together. You know, like colors.

The funny thing is, wavetable synthesis as an idea is as old or older than a lot of the vintage synths that spring to mind – you can trace it back to the 1970s and Wolfgang Palm, before instruments from PPG and Waldorf.

But “new” is about sound, not history. And now it’s possible to make powerful morphing wavetable engines with loads of voice complexity and modulation that certainly only became practical recently – plus now we have computer displays for visualizing what’s going on.

Pigments brings together the full range of possible colors to work with – vintage to modern, analog to advanced digital. And it does so in a way that feels coherent and focused.

I’ve just started playing around with Pigments – expect a real hands-on shortly – and it’s impressive. You get the edgier sounds of wavetable synthesis with all the sonic language you expect from virtual analog, including all those classic and dirty and grimy sounds. (I can continue my ongoing mission to make everyone think I’m using analog hardware when I’m in the box. Fun.)

Arturia’s marketing copy here is clever – like I wish I’d thought of this phrase: “Pigments can sound like other synths, [but] no other synth can sound like Pigments.”

Okay, so what’s under the hood that makes them claim that?

Two engines: one wavetable, one virtual analog, each now the latest stuff from Arturia. The waveshaping side gives you lots of options for sculpting the oscillator and fluidly controlling the amount of aliasing, which determines so much of the sound’s harmonic character.

Advanced pitch modulation which you can quantize to scale – so you can make complex modulations melodic.

From the modeling Arturia has been doing and their V Collection, you get the full range of filters, classic and modern (surgeon and comb). There’s also a bunch of effects, like wavefolder, overdrive, parametric EQ, and delay.

There’s also extensive routing for all those toys – drag and drop effects into inserts or sends, choose series or parallel routings, and so on.

The effects section is as deep as modulation, but somehow everything is neatly organized, visual, and never overwhelming.

You can modulate anything with anything, Arturia says – which sounds about right. And for modulation, you have tons of choices in envelopes, modulation shapes, and even function generators and randomization sources. But all of this is also graphical and neatly organized, so you don’t get lost. Best of all, there are “heads-up” graphical displays that show you what’s happening under the hood of even the most complex patch.

The polyphonic sequencer alone is huge, meaning you could work entirely inside Pigments.


Color-coded and tabbed, the UI is constantly giving you subtle visual feedback of what waveforms of modulation, oscillators, and processors are doing at any given time, which is useful both in building up sounds from scratch or picking apart the extensive presets available. You can build something step by step if you like, with a sense that inside this semi-modular world, you’re free to focus on one thing at a time while doing something more multi-layered.

Then on top of all of that, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Pigments is really a synth combined with a sequencer. The polyphonic sequencer/arpeggiator is full of trigger options and settings that mean it’s totally possible to fire up Pigments in standalone mode and make a whole piece, just as you would with a full synth workstation or modular rig.

Instead of a short trial, you get a full month to enjoy this – a free release for everyone, expiring only on January the 10th. So now you know what to do with any holiday break. During that time, pricing is $149 / 149€, rising to 199 after that.

I’m having a great deal of fun with it already. And we’re clearing at a new generation of advanced soft synths. Stay tuned.

Product page:

https://www.arturia.com/products/analog-classics/pigments/media

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Bass Station II turns 2.5: filter tracking, paraphonic mode, microtuning

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 1 Nov 2018 9:48 pm

Novation’s Bass Station has reached the 25 year mark – and their Bass Station II synth gets a significant set of updates as “2.5” to celebrate. Think new sound design possibilities and architectural wonders, plus microtuning. Let’s look:

Let’s face it – as much as the 90s were a great era for techno and dance music and pop, and even as they saw the gradual rise of computers for audio (which, hey, we like around here), the decade did not produce a lot of classic synths. The Bass Station is one gorgeous exception to that. Hands-on, simple, affordable, friendly, it was an outlier at the time but a sign of what would endure in synths. It had a great lineage – Chris Huggett built on his clever Wasp design. And it was an alternative to the ubiquitous Roland TB-303 for bass lines, as the name implies. You can check out that history in a new Novation blog piece:

The Bass Station Story

But you’re not here to relive the year 1993. (Oh, God … please don’t send me back to high school.) No, you’re here to get some new sounds out of the Bass Station II.

Novation has been giving users a lot of what they want in firmware updates, but this time we’re especially fortunate.

Paraphonic mode. By giving you independent control of the pitch of each of the two oscillators, you can now play two notes at once (via the same single-voice architecture with ring and filter modulation).

Filter tracking. The filter now follows the keyboard pitch if you like.

Envelope retriggering. This opens up various possibilities – rhythmic modulation, you name it. The basic idea: as an envelope reaches the end of its decay, it triggers again.

Oscillator error. Adjust random detune on each note on, for subtle analog-style inconsistencies or wilder extremes.

Edit microtuning. Mmm, microtonal!

You also get new preset packs and the ability to customize the display (“Hello, world!”) when the units boot.

Novation has a user group on Facebook for owners:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/synthowners

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Teenage Engineering OP-Z is here, and it’s full of surprises: video round-up

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Oct 2018 6:25 pm

Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z takes everything the mysterious Swedish maker has done in the past years and packs it into a candy bar-sized hunk of awesome. The first feature reveals and videos of the final creation are inbound, showing it doing some weird and wonderful things.

First, what is the OP-Z? (O-P-Zee for Americans, O-P-Zed for the rest of the world.) It’s an ultra-compact digital synth with loads of sequencing and groove features. It feels terrific in the hand – nicely heavy, but with the width of the beloved iPhone 5 so it’s easy to hold. (I don’t have a review unit yet, but I have gotten to try it.)

The main focus of the instrument: sequencing, so you can create elaborate patterns of synthesized sounds, as part of a rig or on its own, for on-the-go and studio creation or live performance.

What it doesn’t have is a screen; you connect a smartphone or tablet for that on the go. And so the basic idea is, it combines some of the compact game-style ideas of TE products like the Pocket Operators with the powerful synth and sequence workflow of the OP-1. It does more than all those past creations combined, though, and the Teenagers are pushing some unique possibilities for visual creation.

Your iPad or iPhone is the display and multi-touch editor / expanded sequencer for the OP-Z. (No Android support yet, but there are some unique PC visual integrations, too.)

The OP-Z ships worldwide for EUR599, and at the moment it’s sold out. That situation may ease as the Teenagers ramp up production.

But the OP-Z seems to have the most attention at the moment of any digital product, in contrast to sought-after analog instruments like the Moog One.

And sure, while some of this is more predictable – sample packs of drum sounds, effects like delay and reverb, – some of it is decidedly more left-field.

The most surprising features so far

The biggest surprises of the OP-Z:

1. It’s polymetric and does automatic melodic analysis. 1-144-step patterns let you create different rhythms on different tracks, and automatic melodic analysis gives you easier transposition.

2. Wireless display. iOS devices – iPhone, iPad – give you wireless displays and multi-touch input, and they’re remarkably responsive, enough so to play live.

3. The microphone is connected to the accelerometer. Yeah, this thing knows if you hold it up to your mouth.

4. Luxe texture. At first I thought this surface was a process applied after manufacture, but TE say they’ve added glass fibers into the body during injection molding. That makes the OP-Z feel expensive and grippy – so you don’t drop it. It’s not quite like anything you’ve touched before, and they’re promising serious durability.

5. It’s a spiritual successor to the Game Boy Camera. This wouldn’t be a TE product without some nod to the weirder side of Nintendo. This time, you get rapid-fire “photomatic” sequences a bit like on the Game Boy’s camera mode, which you can sync to the music. Of course. Or maybe you should think of it as a GIF creator. Either way, back to the 90s.

6. It’s a VJ instrument and immersive audiovisual tool. This is wild enough that we’ll need a separate story on it, this being CDM. But think Unity 3D integration.

This has relevance not just for the OP-Z but anyone interested in MIDI control of 3D visuals in Unity, since they’ve released the entire toolkit on Github:

https://github.com/teenageengineering/videolab

Plus there’s even a dedicated track for controlling lighting (via the industry standard DMX protocol)? Not sure how you connect this, exactly, but it’s a cool add-on – and someone may want to rig up some DIY solution with light bulbs as in their demo.

7. Tons of expandability is planned. Teenage Engineering are promising new effects, firmware updates, expansion via hardware ports, and more.

Video hands-on

YouTube celebrity Andrew Huang has the highest production values of the first OP-Z videos, and gives you a snapshot review.

More depth comes from Cuckoo, who’s don an extensive mega tutorial (and is just getting started, it seems):

Microwavez shows how you’d combine this with an iPad:

Here’s what it looks like making a beat, via Brandon Guerra:

And NomNomChomsky has a review up, as well:

More:

https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-z

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Teenage Engineering OP-Z has DMX track for lighting, Unity 3D integration

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Oct 2018 6:21 pm

The OP-Z may be the hot digital synth of the moment, but it’s also the first consumer music instrument to have dedicated features for live visuals. And that starts with lighting (DMX) and 3D visuals (Unity 3D).

One of various surprises about the OP-Z launch is this: there’s a dedicated track for controlling DMX. That’s the MIDI-like protocol that’s an industry standard for stage lighting, supported by lighting instruments and light boards.

Not a whole lot revealed here, but you get the sense that Teenage Engineering are committed to live visual applications:

There’s also integration with Unity 3D, for 2D and 3D animations you can sequence. This integration relies on MIDI, but they’ve gone as far as developing a framework for MIDI-controlled animations. Since Unity runs happily both on mobile devices and beefy desktop rigs, it’s a good match both for doing fun things with your iOS display (which the OP-Z uses anyway), and desktop machines with serious GPUs for more advanced AV shows.

Check out the framework so far on their GitHub:

https://github.com/teenageengineering/videolab

We’ll talk to Teenage Engineering to find out more about what they’re planning here, because #createdigitalmotion.

https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-z

The post Teenage Engineering OP-Z has DMX track for lighting, Unity 3D integration appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Two acid-y, space-y, terrific live electronic sets for your Friday

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 26 Oct 2018 9:38 pm

A great live set brews up new musical directions before your ears. It’s a burst of creativity and energy that’s distinct from what happens alone in a studio, with layers of process. From Liverpool (Madeline T Hall) and Moscow (Nikita Zabelin x Xandr.vasiliev), here are two fine examples to take you into the weekend.

Acid-tinged synths unfold over this brilliant half hour from M T Hall (pictured, top), at a party hosted earlier this year by HMT Liverpool x Cartier 4 Everyone:

I love that this set feels so organic and colors outside the lines, without ever losing forward drive or focus. It organically morphs from timbre to timbre, genre to genre. So just when it seems like it’s just going to be a straight-ahead acid set (that’s not actually a 303, by the way, it seems), it proceeds to perpetually surprise.

I think people are afraid to create contrast in live sets, but each shift here feels intentioned and confident, and so the result is – you won’t mistake this for someone else’s set.

Check out her artist site; she’s got a wildly diverse set of creative endeavors, including immersive drawing and sound performances, and work as an artist covering sculpture, sound, video and installation. (Madeleine, if you’re reading this, hope we can feature your work in more depth! I just can’t wait to release this particular set first!)

http://the-royal-standard.com/artists/madeline-hall/

And more music:

Darker (well, and redder, thanks to the lighting), but related in its free-flowing machine explorations, we’ve got another set from Moscow from this month:

It’s the project of Nikita Zabelin x Xandr.vasiliev, at Moscow’s Pluton club, a repurposed factory building giving a suitably raw industrial setting.

This is connected for me, though. Dark as it is, the duo isn’t overly serious – weird and whimsical sounds still bubble out of the shadows. And it shows that grooves and free-form sections can intermix successfully. I got to play after this duo in St. Petersburg and you really do get the sense of open improvisation.

Facing off at Moscow’s Pluton.

xandr aka Alexander has a bunch more here:

That inspires me for the coming days. Have a good weekend, everybody.

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