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


Teenage Engineering to ship their OP-Z, a handheld game-like synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 17 Sep 2018 8:38 pm

In a sea of synths that embrace retro vibes or big form factors, futurists and minimalist design lovers have eagerly awaited the Teenage Engineering OP-Z. And that wait is nearly over.

The new thing from Sweden now at last starts preorders now, with a ship date in mid October. The first batch are already gone, but at least we know these things are making their way into the world.

It’ll even come with a cute case bundle. (Cables and grippy knobs sold separately.)

There’s even an atypical apology from the Teenagers:

– let us start by apologizing for the long delay.* to develop new products can at times be quite hard and when you work on things that have never been done before,

it’s even harder. over the last year we have re-worked and re-thought in absurdum, but now when three long years of development have finally come to an end, we feel quite confident that you will actually thank us for that extra long wait. why? you might ask…– because the result is just pretty, pretty great.

Hands-on sessions at Moscow’s Synthposium – the surprise in-event this year for synth lovers – in fact confirmed the pretty-greatness of the OP-Z.

So instead of Stockholm, we got the really proper view of the OP-Z in the Russian capital, as documented here. The “Z” stands for “depth”:

And that’s also how Cuckoo, YouTube personality, suddenly shows up on Russian Music Mag’s channel and not only his own:

The jumbo candybar form factor of this synth recalls the Teenagers’ other flagship, the OP-1. But it’s safer to say that the OP-Z brings together a lot of what the design shop have been about over the years. There’s the lineage from the machinedrum and the early Elektron days, and its emphasis on design, rectangular corners, minimal controls, and grooves embedded into hardware. There’s the reduced calculator-style layout and key controls as we saw on the Pocket Operators. You have the unmistakable design aesthetics, introduced on the OP-1 but continually improved with collaborations with the likes of IKEA. So the OP-Z looks more stylish and design-conscious than anything else on the market.

But that’s not nearly as important I think as the way Teenage Engineering have increasingly mixed gaming metaphors, particularly from the Nintendo legacy, with music.

The OP-Z looks like a portable gaming console, and one that’s simultaneously both futuristic and kind of 1980s. (It’s a future for people who spent part of their past in the 80s.)

It plugs into a bigger display, in a throwback to old consoles and PCs.

And it suggests that an electronic musical instrument is a game and a tool at the same time.

The best way to follow how it works is to catch up with some of the best hands-on videos coming out of the YouTubers who were seeded beta units. Tutorial:

Jam session:

Do you speak German? Do you speak English but prefer the way synthesizer talk sounds in German? (Really, sounds way more … intelligent, somehow.)

The visual possibilities, meanwhile, are captured more clearly in Japan, and … those features sound better in Japanese, I think.

And here’s Cuckoo playing the thing live:

Check out the preorder:

https://teenage.engineering/products/op-z/pre-order

Or in person, Teenage Engineering is showing this and their other recent stuff in King’s Cross London:

https://teenage.engineering/now

https://teenage.engineering/

* Side note: once upon a time, I projected a graph of awesomeness vs. shippingness, specifically regarding the OP-1. Seems it’s still a curve you have to fight – but it can be defeated even with awesome stuff.

The post Teenage Engineering to ship their OP-Z, a handheld game-like synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roland’s latest keytar is more 80s than ever: AX-Edge

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 14 Sep 2018 4:49 pm

“Shoulder synthesizer”? “Strap-on keyboard?” No, Roland is calling their latest keytar a keytar – and giving into 80s retro vibes. And it’s a vocoder. And… you might kinda want one.

Roland says the new AX-Edge is built on “decades of refinement and input from artists around the world.” Apparently, that “refinement” came when the keytarists said: “give it blades.” “All black keys.” “I want to look like I could play in Jem and the Misfits.” “Please stop calling it a strap-on. It’s a keytar. That sounds really dirty.”

Well, who are we to argue with any of that?

The AX-Edge comes in red and black or white. What’s onboard:
49 keys with velocity and channel aftertouch
Bluetooth MIDI wireless connections – which even allows wireless use of the editor
MIDI DIN in and out
USB and a USB-B slot for a memory stick
Mic input
Stereo out
Headphone out
The paddle-style modulation bar, plus a touch strip (both of those designed to be accessible under your thumb)
One assignable control knob, next to the volume knob (though that one looks tricky to reach)
More sounds: lead, bass, poly, pad, brass, keys, “other”, FX
Vocoder sounds (you knew that mic input was for something, right?)
Performance controls, which Roland says are easy to reach: portamento, hold, octave, and program change buttons, plus 7 assignable buttons
Effects: EQ (per part), 79 types of per-part multi-effects, chorus (8 types), reverb (6 types), master compressor, master EQ

The sound engine is divided into 4 parts + the vocoder part.

You can also “favorite” sounds. And there are more performance features: an arpeggiator (thank you), two displays for more visual feedback, and a song mode with backing tracks.

Roland promises four hours of mobile playing time on Ni-MH batteries, or you can tether to power with an AC adaptor.

This is a pretty similar arrangement to the previous AX-Synth, so I’ll need to talk to Roland to find out what exactly has changed. The obvious omission: the D-Beam wireless controller. But that was awkward to use on a keytar, since it was designed to be aimed up from a keyboard in front of you on a stand, and you still get control modulation.

Clever placement of buttons under your fingers on the neck, in combination with the existing paddle and ribbon controller plus a lot of additional assignable buttons and one assignable knob, open up more serious performance options. The engine promises to back that up, too.

Other than that, on specs: the AX-Edge has roughly twice the number of sound presets, presumably using a more up-to-date Roland engine, and a whole bumper crop of effects you can apply to each part. That suggests there’s way more horsepower under the hood. The AX-Edge has also gotten ever so slightly heavier – 4.2 kg instead of 3.9 kg – and has shifted its dimensions around if in roughly the same space.

But mostly what I notice is, this looks a hell of a lot better. It at least embraces the ridiculousness of a keytar with something that looks badass. And that’s what’s likely to make it move better in stores, whereas the AX-Synth looked weirdly toy-like for a product with a four-figure price tag.

For an added gimmick, you can swap out different-colored blades to customize the appearance. (The white comes with gold, the black with silver, and you can customize blades.)

Normally at this point, people start griping in comments about how most people will look horribly dorky playing a keytar, which is true, but you’ll look horribly dorky playing anything unless you clean up your appearance and practice your chops, so there’s that.

We’ll keep an eye out for price (critical), and some details on sound engine.

But if this is affordable and sounds great and looks as good in person, you might have to start an electro band.

More:

https://www.roland.com/global/products/ax-edge/

Oh dear. Yes, this is happening.

The post Roland’s latest keytar is more 80s than ever: AX-Edge appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Novation’s latest videos “hack” advanced features out of their synths

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 12 Sep 2018 5:26 pm

I know a lot of the folks at Novation on a personal level well enough to say – they’re synth lovers, day job and after hours. What’s great about their latest video series is, some of that comes out.

Of course, yesterday we saw at least one user really hacking a Novation product, the Launchpad Pro, by modding the hardware using a firmware release from the company. And as one frustrated developer shouted at us in comments, that requires a bit of effort. (Not so much for you – you can download a file and use this easily – but modifying real-time firmware of hardware takes some practice!)

Hack a Launchpad Pro into a 16-channel step sequencer, free

This isn’t quite that. These “hacks” have more to do with creatively abusing some features to push the hardware synths to the limit – Circuit, Circuit Mono Station, and Peak. The Circuit in particular has a user community that proved surprisingly advanced, squeezing everything they can out of this budget-priced hardware. But lately the more recent Mono Station and Peak are finding an equally devoted following.

Here’s the whole playlist, which covers sound design techniques (like oscillator sync – okay, that’s more a conventional technique than a ‘hack’), approaches to performance (patch change), working with clock and CV, and other features.

This raises a question, though – these are recent Novation products, so it’s pretty easy to get the manufacturer to do some hot tips.

But which instruments would you like to see covered – new or old – and in what way? What’s missing in tutorials? Let us know in comments. (I realize I just self-selected the answers to that with people who own these Novation synths, so I’ll keep asking this … but also curious what other stuff you Novation lovers own, too!)

The post Novation’s latest videos “hack” advanced features out of their synths appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

7 Bob Moog images that say a lot about electronic music history

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 8 Sep 2018 4:13 pm

The story of electronic music making is ultimately a human one, even as those humans work with machines. So as the Bob Moog Foundation plans a Moog museum and expanded education, we share seven images from the archives that follow a thread through that history.

The Bob Moog Foundation is a non-profit American organization dedicated to continue the legacy of its namesake. And now they’re expanding their educational project for kids, the Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, which uses sound technology to teach engineering and science as well as culture. Plus they’re raising funds to create a physical Moogseum. And to do that, they’ve got some classic instruments to give away as fundraising items in a raffle (details below).

There are tons of amazing images and artifacts now in the foundation archives. But let’s examine a few that capture a set of moments across that history. Thanks to Bob’s daughter and Moog Foundation Executive Director, Michelle Moog-Koussa, for sending these to CDM. (Captions also courtesy Michelle.)

1974.

Roger Powell and Bob Moog with custom modular controller designed by Bob for Roger, at Radio City Music Hall.

Roger donated this controller to the Bob Moog Foundation, and it is now part of their archives and will be present at the Moogseum.

1975.

Bob Moog fixing Patrick Moraz’s Polymoog in Switzerland.

1978.

Bob Moog and Less Paul with the LAB Series Amp.

1984.

Bob Moog, Suzanne Ciani, Roger Powell, UIW.

1988.
(date unconfirmed)

Bob Moog, Herbie Hancock, Will Alexander, NAMM.

1989.

Bob Moog lecturing at University of Michigan about Alwin Nikolias’ first commercially available Moog synthesizer.

1992.

Chick Corea and Bob Moog, Asheville Civic Center.

About that raffle:

A Memorymoog, Moog Source, and Moog Rogue will be offered as first, second, and third prizes, respectively. The Moog Trifecta Raffle marks the first time in the Foundation’s history that it is offering more than one raffle prize.

The raffle begins on August 27, 2018 at 12:01am EDT, and ends on September 24, 2018 at 11:59pm EDT, or when all 5500 tickets sell out, whichever comes first. Tickets are $25 each or five for $100, and can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/MoogTrifectaRaffle
Funding raised from the raffle will be used to expand the Foundation’s hallmark educational project, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, and to help fund its newest project, the Moogseum, which was announced last week. The Moogseum, a planned interactive, immersive facility that will bring Bob Moog’s legacy and the science of sound and synthesis alive for people of all ages, will be located in downtown Asheville, NC. It is expected to open in April 2019, with an online Moogseum to follow later that year.

All three synthesizers were built in Moog Music’s Buffalo, NY factory in the early 1980s, have been fully restored, and are in excellent technical and cosmetic condition with minor flaws typical with vintage instruments.

The Memorymoog, serial number 1460, has an estimated value of $7,500. It combines six voice polyphony to create a unique polysynth with three voltage controlled, articulated oscillators. Each voice has its own 24dB voltage controlled filter. It is often referred to architecturally as six Minimoogs, and is renowned for its rich sound.

The Memorymoog being offered has been retrofitted with a sequencer and MIDI capabilities, normally found only in Memorymoog Plus models. It has been meticulously serviced by vintage synth specialist Wes Taggart, a lauded technician for Memorymoog restoration.

The Moog Source is a 37 key, two oscillator synthesizer with unique features such as patch memory storage, flat-panel membrane buttons, single data wheel assignment, and more. It has two voltage controlled analog oscillators and the legendary 24 dB Moog filter. The unit being offered is serial number 2221 and has an estimated value of $2,400. The Source has been used by such legends as Tangerine Dream, Jan Hammer, Depeche Mode, Devo, and Vince Clarke.

The Moog Rogue is a compact, two oscillator monophonic synthesizer often referred to as “small but mighty” for its legendary powerful bass sounds. Versatile and user-friendly enough to be used as the Taurus II Bass Pedal synth, the Rogue has been used by Will Butler of Arcade Fire, Vince Clarke, Peter Gabriel, Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Howard Jones, and more. The unit being offered, serial number 4462, has been restored by acclaimed restoration house Tone Tweakers, and is valued at $2,000.

https://moogfoundation.org/

The post 7 Bob Moog images that say a lot about electronic music history appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

New Massive, cheaper cost of entry, and all today’s NI news, explained

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 6 Sep 2018 4:14 pm

Native Instruments just dumped a whole bunch of product news today – almost too much to follow. Here’s all of it in a nutshell. Spoiler: a new Massive synth is coming, TRAKTOR 3 is here, and it’ll cost less to get into their DJ, Maschine, and keyboard ranges.

There are two things coming that are really, really cool. One is the Massive synth, the power plug-in that sort of accidentally helped launched EDM, is back. And maybe to make up for EDM, now there’s a bunch of new features everyone will love. (Please, please try not to make another giant American/European dance genre with them.)

And on the DJ side, as I wrote separately, you get a new version of TRAKTOR plus a controller with moving, “haptic” wheels that’s more fun to play.

Other than that, this is mostly just about refreshing the product range and adding some more cost-effective entry points. Let’s follow along:

The products

MASSIVE X: Roughly a decade later, we get an all new flagship NI synth. Massive X has a new sound engine that takes advantage of today’s CPUs, new subtractive filters, lots of new effects, and a big modular engine for routing everything together. We should get more of the grimy, analog-modeled sound Reaktor Blocks and Monark and their ilk have given us, but despite “Monark” appearing on the filters, NI’s engineers tell me they wrote new code. Massive X is interesting, though: it seems both simpler and more understandable on first glance, but deeper and more modular under the hood.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait to see more – Massive X is due in February, and the screenshots I’ve seen aren’t yet available to the public.

It’ll lead Komplete 12, though, across all editions. The existing Massive remains bundled with Maschine, and will continue to see updates – as it’s far lighter on CPU usage.

KONTAKT’s new Creator Tools promise to be a major boon to sound library developers and power users.

Same UI, but new effects in the new KONTAKT 6.

Wavetable module.

New KONTAKT. Kontakt 6 is another long-awaited update. For end users, there are new instruments: Analog Dreams (retro synths), Ethereal Earth (hybrid traditional/synthesized instruments), and Hybrid Keys (digital/keyboard combos).

But it’s really the behind-the scenes stuff that matters here. You can add three new reverbs, Replika delay, wah-wah, and a new wavetable engine to your instrument creations. There’s also a powerful Creator Tools app for people building sound libraries for their ecosystem, including instrument editing and debugging.

In other words, what you’ll really want to do with Kontakt 6 is play around with that wavetable module and make your own instruments.

KOMPLETE KONTROL A-Series – the cheaper ones. Like the NI keyboards and their easy navigation / mapping, but don’t like the higher price and don’t need (or want) those light-up colors? The A-Series is for you. The display is tiny, but the encoders are still usable and touch sensitivity means you can see which parameters are mapped to each encoder. NI have also developed their own semi-weighted keyboard action – and it feels pretty good. In return, prices are way lower – US$/EUR 149 (25-key), 199 (49-key), and 249 (61-key). Seems like it’ll be a huge hit.

KOMPLETE KONTROL S88 – the hammer one. The fully-weighted, hammer-action S88 gets an overdue MK2 refresh (it was one generation behind all the other sizes), so with the new displays and control features, plus wheels and not just touchpads. Also, while it’s a Fatar keybed, they’ve chosen a different one with a slightly faster action. I like this one better, for sure – it’s on par with some of the better liked hammer keys in recent years (feeling to me indistinguishable from the Kawaii keyboards, for instance). USD/EUR 999.

MASCHINE MIKRO The new MIKRO lets you access Maschine without hooking up a larger controller. That seems ideal for tight spaces and tight budgets. It doesn’t have exactly the same pads as the MK3, and losing those big displays is definitely a tradeoff. But I’ve got one in to test to see how the pads compare, and I personally relish the idea of keeping the MIKRO hooked up at all times in my shared studio rather than constantly swapping the larger controller with other machines.

The software bundle is where this gets really nice: Maschine Factory Selection (still a full 1.6G of sounds), Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism, and of course a MIDI mode for use with other software. Price for all of this is US$/EUR 249, with all that software no one else has.

TRAKTOR 3. The latest Traktor Pro 3 is a major rebuild, with a slick, flat new look, and a much easier, more powerful interface. Mixer FX are more direct one-knob effect and filter controls that are made ready for live jamming. Audio quality is improved, too, with the ability to route mixer audio entirely externally and a new time stretching algorithm. More on this soon.

TRAKTOR S4. Haptic wheels, an updated controller setup, dirt-resistant faders, and full inputs and outputs for $899 makes this the flagship controller to beat. Full preview:

TRAKTOR S2. The S2 looks and feels a lot like the S4. Sure, it lacks the S4’s fancy haptic wheels, but at least the build is similar. The S2 is still a capable entry-level controller, though it will have to go up against Pioneer offerings that work with their CDJ and Rekordbox ecosystems (aka “pack only USB sticks and go to the club” ecossytems). I’m also curious how it compares to Roland’s new controllers, which work with Serato and feature low-latency operation and some 808-inspired drum extras. But it looks like it brings a lot of what was great about the Z1, only with the ability to beat match on wheels.

Note that this promises future iOS compatibility, though. Time for an updated mobile TRAKTOR, no doubt. US$/EUR 299.

Online platforms. Sounds.com itself looks largely as we’ve seen it – so we’re still waiting on how this will integrate with NI’s products or what other features it will bring. But it is expanding internationally to more countries and adding new content. The Loop Loft soundware site and Metapop online collaboration/community hub meanwhile, each recent NI acquisitions, see their own updates. I hope to talk to Mate Gallic from NI about how this is all fitting together.

KOMPLETE 12. A lot of these products center around the new Komplete bundle. This year’s edition includes the all-new Kontakt 6 and electric sunburst Session Guitarist, Massive X (later on, when it’s done), and TRK-01, the Reaktor-powered kick/bass synth. (TRK-01 came out this summer and is stupidly cool, like dangerously so. More on that another time.)

When they’re available

NI don’t normally announce products this far ahead of shipping, so it’s worth just putting this on a timeline.

Now: Sounds.com, Loop Loft, Metapop updates (Web services)

Fall: Traktor Control S2 (vague on that date at the moment)

September 18: Maschine MIKRO

September 27: S88 keyboard

October 1: Kontakt 6, Komplete 12

October 18: Traktor Pro 3

October 23: Komplete Kontrol A-series keyboards

November 1: Traktor S4

February 2019: Massive X

And you get this video now, of course:

The post New Massive, cheaper cost of entry, and all today’s NI news, explained appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Nerd cup: here are some top electronic music makers from Russia’s Synthposium

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 4 Sep 2018 9:01 pm

Russia is today as always a nation packed with engineers – one distinctive upside of the long shadow cast by the Soviet Union. Russian electronic inventors’ creations increasingly flourish worldwide, so now is a great time to check in with some leaders of the growing Russian maker scene.

Synthposium this week demonstrated again that Moscow can be a hub for electronic instrumental technology. A crowded expo room featured alongside talks and a full festival lineup in this land of Theremin and ANS. How engineering savvy is Russia? Literally, one builder told me in a discussion (recording coming soon) that his dad gave him spare parts from the radio equipment factory as toys. (I have an image of a toddler with a pile of diodes and resistors, which I know is … wrong yet somehow not far off.)

Now, part of the point of Synthposium was again mixing and mashing the Russian scene with builders from Europe and beyond, not to mention the consumers of all this wonderful gadgetry. (The lion’s share of the output of most of these makers goes to markets in places like Europe and the USA, more than to Russian customers, as a rule.)

But it was also a chance to give deserved recognition to the growing scene inside Russia – a scene that’s proud about its closeness and supportive atmosphere. Synthposium organized awards for top makers again. I got to give some input, as well as awkwardly handing out a couple of the trophies. (They were 3D-printed logos, and I think I mostly managed to bumble my way through passing them out and muttering “here is your … uh … letter S … enjoy it….”)

Last year already saw Polivoks and the spectacular Blade Runner-esque Yamaha CS-80-inspired Deckard’s Dream walk away with honors. Now, the class of 2018.

Поздравляем!

SAMSUNG CSC

Best synth: SOMA’s Lyra-8 / Pipe

Even in the middle of the analog renaissance, SOMA Laboratory is an outlier. SOMA’s Lyra-8 for instance is not only analog, but “organismic” – creator Vlad Kreimer taking a spiritual approach to its design and manufacture, born out in the futuristic soul that cries out from its circuits. (He describes three points to SOMA’s philosophy – “Instruments that invite you to listen to yourself, balance and interaction instead of linearity and control,” and “deep nature instead of imitation.”

Lyra began its life as a performance instrument just for Vlad, before he opened it up to interested customers. Lyra-8 is an eight-voice (hence the name) instrument with FM modulation and various new synthesis algorithms and extras applied to the original design, plus a doubled delay that gives it its unique alien sound. There’s no MIDI – this is truly an analog-centric design – but you can input external audio.

And specs don’t do it justice. Just listen:

The Lyra has gotten some attention, but just as interesting is the Pipe, a breath-controlled effects/synth instrument. If you’ve ever wondered what the love child of a didgeridoo and a talkbox born on a mining vessel on the outer rim would sound like, wonder no more:

Best Module – Keen Association

Four oscillators with controls for visually producing wave shapes. A tape player simulation. All in one module. Yeah, the visual look of the Buchla-inspired Graphic Waveform Generator Model 268e from Keen draws from classic Buchla tradition, but this Moscow-made module is a unique sound studio all its own.

Little surprise then that the Graphic Waveform Generator Model 268e got a nod in modules (though there are some other builders to talk about, too – stay tuned).

Here’s a nice tour of the module and a look at how it fits into a larger Buchla context:

There’s more Buchla goodness where that came from:

https://www.facebook.com/KeenAssociation/

Best FX/processing: Zvukofor

I’ve already shouted out Zvukofor Sound Labs from St. Petersburg as one of my favorite makers of grimy sound processing. Now this artist/engineer got attention at Synthposium for his C1 and Tahnx.

He wasn’t just showing some new kit, either – he also shared thoughts on the meaning and history of distortion.

Tanhx is all about saturation and how to control it musically:

Best DIY – Playtronica

We’ve followed Playtronica for some time now. Their TouchMe approach to musical interaction we’ve seen before, but they continue refining design and manufacture of their full series of products and the workshops around it.

And people never get tired of getting to make music by touching pineapples, as their booth proved again.

You can play with their instrument right from in your browser (with MIDI even, if you have supported hardware and browser software):

http://play.playtronica.com/

It’s really tough to describe just how much Playtronica have done in the scene in Russia – an agency, an interactive design collective, a set of artists doing interesting work on their own, and a force for education that’s spreading electronics interest again to kids. If you want a look at how engaging younger generations might reboot in this century in the post-communist period, this is one clue.

It’s worth checking their work:

http://www.playtronica.com/

Original design – VG-Line

Hey, even as a keyboardist myself, I’ll be the first to concede: it’s guitarists’ turn on modular now.

And that’s why VG-Line’s Gui2lar matters. It’s a modular system designed around the guitar. And it’s stupidly fun and practical all at once. Video here is in Russian, but is reasonably easy to follow even without the language:

Popularization – Fedor Vetkalov

If the likes of Andreas Schneider and Dieter Doepfer brought modular back and evangelized synthesis in Berlin, then look no further than Fedor Vetkalov when it comes to the east. Fedor not only is a cornerstone of the synth and modular scene in Russia from his Moscow shop, but has also worked the other way – introducing the best Russian builders to the world, whether it’s via artists touring through the Russian capital or online or at international events. There are few people who can be a better guide to the scene in Russia, and well, it’s also kind of hard to imagine the synth community without Fedor in it even outside of Russia, too.

Martin Gore from Depeche Mode at Synthman.

A post shared by Fedor Vetkalov (@fedorvetkalov) on

It’s been a pleasure to be back here in Moscow and St. Petersburg as always – more to come. And for all the other complaints we might have about current politics, I think we’re pretty fortunate today – crossing these borders, both for our humans and machines, is easier than ever. That makes our extended synth and music family feel close even as we come together across nations and languages.

For that I’m especially grateful for the cooperation of the Synthposium organization and the Goethe-Institut and other partners that allow this exchange to happen (and to live up to that “cultural exchange” business describes on my latest visa sticker).

This time last year:

New Russian music electronics you’ve never heard of, from Synthposium

(Okay, you’ve heard of them now!) Plus:

Balalaikas to synths, the Russians at Musikmesse cover the gamut

The post Nerd cup: here are some top electronic music makers from Russia’s Synthposium appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Learn synth basics live with Novation – and more synth-y resources

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 23 Aug 2018 6:39 pm

Novation are hosting live video to teach you synthesis using their range of gear today. And they’ve got some other useful resources and artist interviews (Orbital!), so let’s have a look.

First up, Novation are broadcasting their Beats and Bytes series to their YouTube channel on a range of topics using their in-house specialists – the folks who make the gear, telling you how to use it. (Not bad: it used to be manufacturers would go to your retail to do trainings, and then you’d go to the retailer and … well, hopefully get something useful, though in lesser stores, people would just sort of stare at you from across the room.)

That starts afternoon time in the Americas, evening in Europe and Africa, and … weird hours elsewhere.

Technology Evangelist Enrique Martinez will be hosting the live stream. Novation tell CDM this will be “very basic sound design techniques” – so beginners (up to intermediate users), feel welcome!

It’s for Novation hardware, but they also say you’ll be able to apply this to other instruments, like your soft synth plug-in you’re trying to learn.

4PM Pacific (9PM NYC / 3AM Berlin) you can tune into the broadcast live, or catch the replay whenever you like. On the menu – this looks like a very useful episode:

(00:00 – 10:00) Making Drum Sounds w/ Circuit Mono Station

(10:00 – 20:00) Making Bass Sounds w/ Bass Station II

(20:00 – 30:00) Making Pad Sounds w/ Peak

(30:00 – 35:00) Putting it all Together

(35:00 – 40:00) Q & A

Wait… drums and bass and pads — I don’t know. It could be too much. Make sure you’re sitting down.

But Novation have been busy with a lot of resources. The timing is good – instruments like Peak have made an impression across the whole synth world. Two written artist interviews worth checking:

Orbital On Peak

The Horrors’ Tom Furse talks Bass Station II

And here’s more in the way of videos.

Circuit users, they’ve crammed another update in the form of version 1.7 – pattern chain being one especially handy feature if Circuit is at the center of your performance:

On Circuit Mono Station, here’s a useful guide to extending parameter changes across multiple steps:

Peak, the flagship, gets really deep. The Mod Matrix is one extensive place to start:

And here’s a complete technical overview of Peak:

Or, in an especially beautiful artist pairing, Hauschka taking Peak into dreamy soundscapes:

That’s a lot of technical information. So where do you start? Let’s look to artist Érica Alves, in the “Start Something” series Novation did a couple years back, with a Novation synth alongside the first Roland AIRA TR-8.

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Techno symphonies: Watch Carl Craig make synthesis an ensemble art

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 20 Aug 2018 2:57 pm

Detroit’s founders of techno aren’t just cashing in on their old hits; they continue to lead the form in new directions. And watching Carl Craig, you can learn a lot about the potential of electronic music in scores and ensembles.

The Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble combines the collective talent of leading musicians and composer Francesco Tristano with Craig’s own imagination and musical output. Or, to put it another way, you get a whole lot of keyboards going on. The rig:

2x Dave Smith Instruments Prophet-6
2x Oberheim OB-6
Arturia MatrixBrute
Native Instrumente Maschine
2x Pioneer CDJ
Allen&Heath Xone mixer
Grand piano

I got to talk to Carl over the phone – which is, by the way, wonderful, I think the hardest part was stopping chatting! – in an interview for Native Instruments. (Maschine is a centerpiece of his rig.)

Carl Craig on humanness, improvisation, and his Synthesizer Ensemble

Carl connects these new ideas with the roots of his musical performance idiom. A highlight of that thinking:

“I was always inflecting this humanness to what I do, with the sequencing, with playing the solos on top, from using the mixing board as an instrument, and from combining mixes together.”

He also talks about the process behind this collaboration, and why it’s necessary to him to have both ensemble and solo playing in his life. I think that’s an important contrast to a world of electronic music that often focuses just on DJing, with live improvisation left out (solo or ensemble). (And, in turn, even DJing or back-to-back DJ sets might be better understood if we have that frame of improvisation at the ready.)

More to watch here:

A behind-the-scenes by Vinyl Factory from this fall:

An extended RA Live session from last year:

The stellar set at Berlin’s Funkhaus this year, from Electronic Beats:

And here’s a kid’s take – Lucie has a spot-on review as part of Barbican Centre’s Young Reviewers program – nice idea!

Check out the full interview on the NI Blog:

Carl Craig on humanness, improvisation, and his Synthesizer Ensemble

Carl’s official site:

http://carlcraig.net/

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A soft synth that’s made to be played with futuristic, expressive control

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 9 Aug 2018 5:36 pm

We’ve seen lots of new controllers that are designed to be more responsive to gestures. But can they actually make new sounds, to match? ROLI and FXpansion have a new soft synth that’s designed for that.

It’s called Cypher2, and it builds on the past (award-winning, no less) software instruments from FXpansion, but now built from scratch so that you can access all those deep sound parameters just by moving your hands – not only by messing around with on-screen parameters.

And it sounds lovely:

ROLI have joined smaller makers like Madrona Labs, Roger Linn Instruments, and others in making new controllers that respond to more than just plucking keys or hitting drum pads. But the London-based company sets itself apart with something else – funding. So they’ve got Pharell Williams as a creative office, partnerships with the likes of Apple retail, and they bought up some of the unique, weird talent that makes music technology – including plug-in developer FXpansion, who also call London home. (That buyout took place in 2016.)

Now, when Apple go buy a plug-in maker, you can bet you’ll watch its products become exclusives for Logic and GarageBand. But when ROLI buy someone, you instead get interoperable software that takes advantage of ROLI’s forward-thinking instruments.

Translation: now when you prod and slide about the squishy keys of a ROLI Seaboard RISE or Seaboard Block, you can make fabulous sounds. Dig into your computer screen, and you can shape those sounds yourself.

And now that expressive control is part of MIDI (in the form of a protocol called MPE), this software sees both host support (Bitwig Studio, Cubase) and hardware support beyond just what ROLI make (like the Linnstrument, if you like).

ROLI and FXpansion call these sounds “5D,” but that is to say, many aspects of the sound are there underneath your hands. And that’s of course the way of things with acoustic instruments – even the acoustic piano responds with nuanced sound to the ways you press and release keys, even if this has been grossly simplified in the piano as represented in digital form.

This isn’t the first ROLI synth, but if you weren’t won over by Strobe2 and Equator, Cypher2 offers a bunch of new sound horizons and what ROLI say are the largest-ever bank of MPE-specific sounds. And you get a rich set of physically modeled and analog modeled sounds, producing lots of organic sounding instruments that are both familiar and futuristic.

I mean, it just sounds great. It’s been a while since I was this interested in a soft synth – and to me it’s the first new soft synth to really get excited about using MPE.

Promo video:

And if you want a cheaper / more portable solution, yes it works with the Blocks line, too:

Sounds:

Specs: VST, AAX, AU, Mac, Windows, 64-bit.

Cost: “$199 (£159, €179) on fxpansion.com. Existing owners of DCAM Synth Squad, Strobe2, a ROLI Seaboard or BLOCKS can purchase Cypher2 at a discounted price of $79 on fxpansion.com until 7th September 2018, or for $99 thereafter.”

https://www.fxpansion.com/products/cypher2/

What’s inside? Modeled analog circuitry and FM, deep modular-style synthesis capabilities, and loads and loads of modulation – again, normally stuff you’d find only on big modular rigs, but here with all the conveniences and powers of digital.

It’s kind of an in-the-box producer’s dream, only now made more accessible to actually playing that depth with controllers.

Modulation powers: audio-rate wave-modulation, sample & hold, ring-mod, variable-depth sync and tempo-synced beat-detune. Oh, yes.

Also:

Modulate the master sequencer with 3 mod sequencers and an expanded control matrix
Improved interface with real-time animated modulation, full signal flow visuals and preset descriptions
Default MIDI CC mappings for both 2D and 5D controller types
6 circuit-modelled filter types, each with a varied set of responses, including a comb filter model with 8 comb types
Scalable interface for 4K/retina screens with a variety of themes
LFOs are expanded with clock-divided sub-LFOs for synchronisation or free-running modulation
Updated envelope shapes for precise control
Feed your creativity with preset morphing and randomisation
Support for microtonal Scala .TUN files

Full hands-on coming soon, as well as a chat with FXpansion guru Angus Hewlett.

Previously:

Yep, you can go virtuoso with ROLI – DiViNCi, Alluxe show you how

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No new products, but Roland celebrates #808day with free gear updates

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 8 Aug 2018 2:33 pm

Roland now routinely enjoy the fact that August 8 is “808” day. But we aren’t seeing new product announcements today as in some past years. What you get instead is a bunch of updates for existing gear. Here they are in one place so you can see what’s relevant to you.

All AIRA products – a new Web resource with free sounds. Roland have a newly redesigned AIRA website. Instead of splashy promotional things being thrown at you, you get a tidy selection of news and updates – and, importantly, a Sound Library with free patches and sound content. For now, that includes the TR-8S drum machine and SYSTEM-8 synth, but Roland tells us the site will cover the whole AIRA lineup over time. And there are some gems in there already, like polymeter stuff from live virtuoso and producer KiNK, and FM and percussion sounds that use the synth engine in the SYSTEM-8.

TR-8S / TR-8 – STEP LOOP. Firmware update 1.10 adds STEP LOOP to the TR-8S flagship (808-inspired) drum machine, plus the earlier (and more neon green) TR-8. What does it do? It repeats steps as you hold them down, including repeating multiple steps if you hold multiple steps down, and then returns to the pattern when you release the buttons. Simple feature, big results – because you can jam with variations over top of a pattern, without losing your place. (Some other drum machines have had a similar feature, so it’ll be even more welcome to those users on the TR-8/8S.) It’s easier to show than describe, so we’ll have a video hands-on later.

https://aira.roland.com/newsandtopics/new_step_loop_function_for_tr-8s/

SYSTEM-8 – JX-3P add-on. SYSTEM-8 synth owners get a nice freebie: a complete model of Roland’s 80s classic, the JX-3P, in “PLUG-OUT” form (meaning the model can be loaded directly onto the hardware).

https://aira.roland.com/newsandtopics/jx-3p_plug-out_for_system-8_now_available/

Oh yeah, and the SYSTEM-8 has been coming into its own this summer. It got an FM oscillator for a wider range of timbres, plus new filters. Now, you get a model of a great polyphonic synth for free, too. (Remember when Roland was charging for PLUG-OUT add-ons for hardware owners? Seems they’ve gotten away from that.)

It’s all in the latest update.

Speaking of the SYSTEM-8, that platform also got a boost with the US$19.99 Synthwave library, designed by our friend Francis Preve along with Jim Stout, showing off some of the retro Roland sounds you can get out of this engine. And in case you didn’t get the 80s / 90s nostalgia flowing yet, their promo video will do it for sure:

It covers the Juno-106 and Jupiter-8 engines as well the SYSTEM-8’s own original modeled synth engine. Of course, what’s nice about this is you then have access to the sounds in both software (Roland Cloud) and hardware, and then you get hands-on tweakability on the hardware – so you can start with one of these presets and then shape it a bit.

Synthwave for Roland System-8

All of this says something about value in 2018 instruments. It’s not just about the new gear when you take it out of the box, but the value over time. (See also major firmware updates lately from Novation and Elektron, among othes.) Add in the JX-3P, and maybe that sound library, and the SYSTEM-8 is really maturing into a lovely bit of kit.

The SYSTEM-8, now with JX-3P sounds on top of Juno-106 and Jupiter-8 (plus its own original engine).

And yeah, maybe some people will be disappointed about no new gear, but… that STEP LOOP. That JX-3P. Not paying for either. So, hey, like:

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Try a free Minimoog Voyager – and get the Minimoog Bob wanted

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 Aug 2018 5:50 pm

“What would Bob Moog do” is normally a tough question to answer – but not so with the Minimoog. We know exactly what Dr. Moog thought would improve the Minimoog – and that’s all the more reason to try it for free on your Mac or Windows machine.

Robert Moog was principle designer of the 2002 Minimoog Voyager, the instrument that brought the Moog name back to life. And here’s the thing: while the original was a classic, and maybe is worth experiencing in its “pure” form, it’s possible to recommend the Voyager as a genuine improvement.

Apart from preset storage (you wimps), the Voyager maintains the original Minimoog architecture but allows deeper access to sound design. So there’s a dedicated LFO, so you have a modulation source. There are two dedicated modulation buses, allowing you to shape the sound. You get separate envelopes for filter and amplitude.

And all of these features are recreated on Blamsoft’s VK-1 Viking synth. (Available as a VST2 plug-in, compatible with macOS 10.11 or newer and 64-bit Windows XP or newer.) Now, whether this is the best Minimoog emulation ever is perhaps besides the point. It sounds great – enough so that I don’t mind just saving time doing an elaborate A/B comparison, and would get straight to music. It adds all the Voyager features. And, oh yeah, they let you set the price you want to pay.

That’s great. You can actually try this as an instrument, then support the developer with the amount of money you’ve got, not the amount of money they think you should have.

Synth Anatomy just went through a nice video tour:

You get 228 presets, but honestly, this thing is really fun to program – thanks to the LFO and two modulation buses. You can choose drive modes for the filter, which escalates the ladder filter from kinda normal to kinda awesome. An there’s enough modeling of instability to make this thing feel alive.

Now, someone needs to make a nice iPad touch template for it – Bob unintentionally predicted the iPad with the Voyager’s X/Y modulation panel, right?

Here are a bunch of sound examples from the developer:

But if those don’t appeal to you musically, a nice little community has formed around the VK-1 with tons of other music made just with this one synth.

I’d been often returning to Native Instruments’ Minimoog-inspired synth Monark – especially now that it has a Reaktor Blocks edition, so you can break it apart and use it as modules. But it’s really nice having the architectural additions of the Voyager, and the pay-what-you-will nature of the VK-1 makes it ideal for exchanging projects with others.

http://blamsoft.com/vst/vk-1-viking-synthesizer/

And raise a glass to Dr. Moog’s various accomplishments – but also to the Voyager, the synth that made the Moog renaissance possible, and all the great Moog Music stuff that has followed since.

The Voyager, in electric blue.

The post Try a free Minimoog Voyager – and get the Minimoog Bob wanted appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 18 Jul 2018 11:37 pm

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.

Listen/watch:

Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

http://www.legowelt.org/

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From Japan, an ambient musician on solitude and views of the sea

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 11:28 pm

As haunting, oceanic wells of sound sing achingly in the background, Tokyo-based ambient musician Chihei Hatakeyama talks in a new documentary about what inspires him.

The creative series toco toco follows the musician to the places and views that inspired the images of his music – including gazing into the sea. Of that view, he says:

“There wasn’t any gap in space, it was translating directly into music.”

Filmmaker Anne Ferrero writes to share her work, as she follows the artist “to the roots of his universe, in the Kamakura and Enoshima areas, where he grew up.”

And he speaks of the beauty in ambient music, and its connection to nature. And while solitude in computer music is often seen as something of a liability, here he talks about its importance – as he uses that laptop as a box for editing improvisations.

Being able to create music alone made it more personal. The music that I wanted to make could now express my mind – what I felt inside.

The film is subtitled in English, with Japanese audio. (Don’t forget to turn CC on.)

It’s a deeply personal film all over, and even talks about the journey from electronic sounds on dancefloors to the quieter, more contemplative world of ambient music. And he finds that moment of liberating himself from the beat – not by trying to copy what people would call ambient music on a superficial level, but by fumbling his way to this solution after eliminating obstacles to expression.

Hey, I love both modes of music, myself, so I can appreciate that balance. It’s just rained here in Berlin, and I’m reminded of that feeling of relief when it rains after long periods of sun … and visa versa. Maybe music is the same way.

Have a watch, and I’m sure you’ll want to pick up a guitar or laptop, or go to a beach, or take a personal field trip to the museum and stare at paintings.

Painting with colors in sound … filling the world with oceans of your own expression. What could be more lovely?

Now, an insane amount of beautiful music:

http://www.chihei.org

https://www.discogs.com/artist/440866-Chihei-Hatakeyama

https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com

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Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 10 Jul 2018 2:00 pm

Just because everyone you talk to may know Ableton Live in and out doesn’t mean you do. Ableton have quietly posted an official series of videos that covers the basics, quickly.

And yeah, it’s actually a bit funny that we’ve gotten to 2018 without an official set of Ableton videos like this. But here we are – and yes, the quality is a lot better than most of what you’ll find online. Paid training products may still do better on going in depth, but … for the essentials, you’d expect Ableton as the developer to come up with something fast, direct, and free, and that’s what you get here.

If you’re not a Live owner, there’s a fully functioning demo version you can try out so you can follow along with these without spending money.

I’m going to guess for some of you readers, this really is your chance to see how Live works – and for others, this will be an easy reference to point to so you don’t have to personally tutor all your friends.

The full playlist is some 59 videos:

But let’s work through some highlights. Note: you do not need white walls and IKEA furniture to use Ableton Live. 😉

First, I know the stumbling block for many people is just getting sound working and hooking up keyboards and controllers, so you can start there:

And there’s the requisite interface tour:

The soul of Ableton Live, and a big clue to its popularity, is Session View. This screen lets you try out ideas by combining loops, samples, and patterns in various combinations, which is useful for exploring musical materials and for live performance.

This also means you should understand warping – mastering this view will help you manipulate audio “The Ableton Way” – and the interface may not be immediately obvious:

Personally, I like using Simpler (a basic sample instrument), because it lets you quickly move to playing sounds, so don’t miss the tutorial about warping inside Simpler:

Session View is what Live is arguably about. But since the beginning, some Live users have stuck to Arrangement View, a more traditional, linear layout. And some even use this view for live performance. Understanding it together with Session View is the main task in getting comfortable with Ableton’s workflow.

Happily, after some years of users demanding the feature, you can use the two side by side. (I have to confess to not doing this as much as I probably should, partly because I got in the habit of switching as an early adopter of the software.)

There’s a lot more in there for you to explore depending on where your interests lie, but let’s highlight some of the Live 10-specific stuff, as well:

New in Live 10

Live 10’s changes to Arrangement View are really most useful if you learn the keyboard shortcuts, which can now allow you to edit ideas more quickly:

It’s also significant that Live 10 added multi-clip editing, which brings Arrangement View pattern editing more in line with some of Live’s competition:

There are a lot of sound capabilities tucked into the new Live 10 devices, but check out some of these in particular:

Oscillator effects in Wavetable are really cool.

Having Echo in Live 10 is a little like having a hybrid-Roland Space Echo toy with you at all times. But the far-out modulation of delay time is where things go wild:

Live 9 and Live 10, but let’s close out with a reminder that you can use Ableton Link to make it easy to sync other software and mobile apps and jam with your friends:

Got more stuff that confuses you? Software or hardware you’d like CDM to help you learn? Let us know.

The post Don’t know how to use Ableton Live? These videos can teach you appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Go inside Berlin’s synth heaven – and one of its top modular makers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 9 Jul 2018 6:07 pm

Electronic music is understood by the general public mostly through artists – tech is just something in the background with knobs. But there’s more to the story than that.

And while it’s certainly well known in synth loving circles, Berlin has accordingly been techno capital and club capital, but is finally getting recognition as a mecca for technology.

These two films take you inside one retailer and one manufacturer that have each championed the return to boutique sonic electronics, to patch cables and modular synthesis, and that have resisted anything like mass market mentalities or commodification.

They could have easily been mistaken as throwbacks, but there’s some futurism to the visions of both Mark Verbos and Andreas Schneider. Schneider’s name is associated with Berlin, having established his shop as the hangout, wallet emptier, and community pillar of the synth scene. Verbos, who was himself once a Berlin resident, has only recently brought the modular business he established in New York City across the Atlantic. And even though their wares are unmistakably fetish objects, I’d say both brands make their value proposition through a commitment to adventurous sound. So yes, you get vintage-looking knobs and slightly anachronistic telephone switchboard interfaces. But the investment, their message says, is in exploring strange new worlds and undiscovered sounds.

Schneidersladen, toured by Synth Anatomy, is a clinic and community hub as well as a place to surrender to gear acquisition syndrome. And it retains the same personality and idiosyncracies that mark the larger synth loving scene.

Mapping the Schneider empire is getting tricky these days, but the short version: Schneidersladen in Kreuzberg is the new retail iteration of what was once Schneidersbüro (at Alexanderplatz, the old location)). ALEX4 is a distribution company. Superbooth, while once just an actual booth at the Musikmesse, is now an event series with its own production company.

At Verbos Electronics, Mark – who cut his teeth as a Buchla expert and repairperson – walks through the passion that drives his business in high-end modules. Side note: Mark is also a consummate live techno musician on his own instruments, having fired up these boxes in the likes of Berghain (and, back in the day, the old Ostgut and Tresor). Hearing him play should leave little doubt that these machines are for dancing, not just chin scratching. (You can, of course, attempt doing both at once. Full support.)

Check out the online presence of each:

http://www.verboselectronics.com/

https://www.schneidersladen.de/

Photo: Verbos Electronics.

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