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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » 2012 » October » 25

News : Q&A: Vacationer Ready For Iceland Airwaves

Delivered... info@filtermmm.com | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 10:56 pm
Q&A: Vacationer Ready For Iceland Airwaves

Vacationer are the second of two lucky US bands who won this year's Reyka Vodka Breakthrough at Iceland Airwaves contest. We caught up with Kenny Vasoli (of Vacationer) to ask what he hopes to experience next week in Reykjavik.

1.  What was your reaction to finding out you had won Reyka's Breakthrough at Iceland Airwaves contest?

I got the call from our manager that this was going down.  I took it as we got entered into this contest to play Iceland with amazing bands, so my instinctual reaction was to not get my hopes up because it seemed way too good to be true.  When he was done explaining it to me I had already tuned out, disbelieving we'd ever win.  So I signed off with "Ok, man.  Let me know if this happens."  He then said "No, you already won.  This is happening."  I then bombarded him with ecstatic "Oh my god!"s.   I'm still in oh my god mode about it. We actually celebrated that night with some Reyka Vodka Tonic's.

2.  Have you ever travelled to Iceland before? If not, what do you think it will be like?

I've never been.  I picture it to be a poetic, vast landscape with tall grass being blown by a cool breeze.  My only education has been through Bjork and Sigur Ros documentaries.

3.  What are you most looking forward to about performing on the Iceland Airwaves stage?

From what I hear, the hall we are playing is beautiful.  I'm excited to be present during our set time and let the reality of where I am inform the inspiration during our performance.  The spirit of this project has always been to transport the listener's consciousness to a paradise, and I think in this case it won't be a stretch.

4.  What are you most looking forward to doing in Iceland?

I imagine seeing Sigur Ros in their homeland will have a mysticism to it. Getting the chance to see Phantogram and Dirty Projectors for the first time is also very appealing. We will be able to visit the Blue Lagoon natural hot springs as well, I'm brimming with excitement over that.

5.  Other than your gear, name 3 "must pack" items you plan on bringing to Iceland.

I'm going to need my camera, absolutely.  I'll also be bringing my notebook and a pen to document this trip with great detail and hopefully bring back some inspired subject matter for some music and lyrical content.

6.  What have you found to be the best way to keep warm when it's freezing outside?

You can't beat a solid jacket and a good pair of boots, right.  I'll probably have a comfy crew neck going on under there as well.  I'd say whiskey or beverage alike would work too but that hasn't been my things for a while now.  A lovely lady would be the best case scenario if it's an appropriate setting.

7.  What's the strangest food you've ever eaten?

I once had pigeon in a Moroccan restaurant in the UK a while back.  From what I remember it was unexpectedly delicious.

8.  Are any Icelandic bands currently on your iPod?

Both Bjork and Sigur Ros have been permanent installments on my listening devices for the last decade.  I look forward to gathering some new discoveries on this trip.

Check out Vacationer's appropriately titled video "Trip" below.

Media : MP3: Papa Share New Single, “Put Me To Work”

Delivered... info@filtermmm.com | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 10:01 pm
MP3: Papa Share New Single, “Put Me To Work”

After putting out one of 2011's best EP's, A Good Woman Is Hard To Find, Los Angeles' Papa, made up of Darren Weiss and Daniel Present, have been touring non-stop. Whether performing sold out shows in L.A., opening for Girls in the desert, or playing at such festivals as FYF Fest and Outside Lands, the band has only been creating more and more buzz--and this has all happened without a full-length LP.

But we finally have a hint at what their first proper album will hold. Today, Papa released the energetic single, "Put Me To Work." The song is true to their unique sound. It is both explosive and introspective, and its energy will certainly carry over into the live element, which is where the band truly thrives. You can listen to and download "Put Me To Work" below.

Enjoy at FILTERmagazine.com

News : LOOK: Christopher Owens Announces Solo Album, “Lysandre”

Delivered... info@filtermmm.com | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 8:59 pm
LOOK: Christopher Owens Announces Solo Album, “Lysandre”

After announcing his departure from Girls in July, many wondered what frontman Christopher Owens would do next. And only months later, he has announced his debut solo album, Lysandre, which will be released on January 15 via Fat Possum.

Lysandre was named for a girl Owens met in France in while performing at a festival. And the album was written, recorded and placed in order as a complete narrative surrounding this first Girls' tour in the summer of 2008. Owens describes the record as "A coming of age story, a road trip story, a love story.”

Continue reading at FILTERmagazine.com

Apple Radio as A Streaming Radio Music Service Is Really Happening

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 8:30 pm
It's now happening as a real deal ... Apple is indeed working on Apple Radio as an Apple Streaming music service. Long theorized and now confirmed.

Adana Twins’ "Everyday" gets the full deep-house remix treatment

Delivered... Brittany Gaston | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 8:00 pm
Earlier this year, German duo Adana Twins solidified their place amongst their peers with the unexpected success of their single “Everyday.” The release resulted in a worldwide tour, and an onslaught of new remixes. The Everyday Remixes EP is a four-track foray into Europe’s deep house current.

Watch M83 – “Steve McQueen” (video)

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 8:00 pm
It's the next single from M83, due out next month ...

Swanky Tunes hit us with their classic dancefloor dominators

Delivered... Matt Ferry | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 7:00 pm
Fresh off their recent US tour, the Russian electro-house trio Swanky Tunes tell us about some of their favorite tracks in today's Weekend Weapons installment. From Daft Punk to Aphex Twin, the Smolensk-based Vadim, Dmitry, and Stanislav have quite the old-school arsenal to mash up with upcoming tracks from their recently minted electro/progressive label Showland, which is shaping up to have a solid 2013. Read on to check out what they'll be playing at a club or festival near you.

Arca has Manners

Delivered... RA - The Feed | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 6:11 pm
The video by visual artist Jesse Kanda for the weirdo New York producer's "Manners" is as pretty as the song's plaintive synth melodies.

What’s really new in Ableton Live 9, plus behind Boys Noize’s "Ich R U" vid, Todd Edwards on moving to LA, and how to remix without getting sued

Delivered... Ken Taylor | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 4:00 pm
The obvious big news today: Ableton Live 9 is on the verge of going to market, and it's packed with a bunch of new features. Check them out, plus interviews with Todd Edwards and Andy Stott, and much, much more in today's news roundup.

Gain Access to ACL Festival 2013 Early Bird Passes

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 2:00 pm
Find out what you need to do to get in on early bird tickets for Austin City Limits 2013 before the deadline.

Prosumer and Tama Sumo start pub quiz

Delivered... RA - The Feed | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 2:00 pm
The erstwhile Panorama Bar resident talks to fabric about the pair's close working relationship and their new Berlin-based entertainment endeavour.

Noise Pop Festival Announces 2013 Dates

Delivered... Spacelab - Independent Music and Media | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 2:00 pm
The Noise Pop Music Festival is a torch bearer of noisy indie pop that has been around for over a decade. They've just announced the dates for 2013 ... find out more about what's on tap for next year.

Ableton 9 Live: More Tools For Starting – and Finishing – Music [First Hands-On Details]

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 1:20 pm

The new Session View. Yes, it’s a different color. But mostly, look to the bottom of your screen: automation recording in clips, and curves in automation, at last.

Ableton today has revealed the details of Live 9, alongside new hardware called Push. The software update brings new ways of transforming sound into MIDI, new and improved devices for shaping sounds, tools for automation that work inside clips and with curved interpolation, a new Browser, and a number of interface and usability enhancements. There are also some features, conceived for Push, that could benefit people using any hardware controller they choose. And alongside these enhancements, you’ll also find a host of new sounds and preset content with which to work.

First, here’s a quick look at what’s new, before we go into more detail and consider this more musically:

  • Session automation – the “about freakin’ time” feature: Record automation into clips (no dummy clips), move clips between Session and Arrange, and use curved automation in Session and Arrange. Yes, they heard you.
  • Convert audio to MIDI – the “pretty freakin’ awesome” feature: Transform melodic (monophonic), harmonic (polyphonic), and percussion audio content into editable MIDI clips, transcribing pitches, drum parts, and rhythms. It’s not Melodyne, but it’s uniquely fun in the context of Live’s Session View.
  • A new Browser: The browser is now better organized, easier to customize, faster, now makes it possible to audition more presets instantly, and searches all devices and content from one place.
  • More sounds: 3500 sounds in Suite, and a surprising number in Standard, all with easy-to-control Macro controls.
  • Glue Compressor: from Cytomic, a new Compressor modeling a (cough) popular 80s compressor.
  • Improved EQ 8: The flagship included Ableton equalizer now includes more graphical feedback, and newly-modeled filters for better sound and more-precise isolation of frequencies.
  • More MIDI clip editing: Transpose, invert, and reverse MIDI notes inside clips.
  • Max for Live is faster and included in Suite: Max for Live will sync up with the newest version of Max/MSP, bringing reduced load times and other enhancements. It’s also, at last, included as part of Suite (though not Standard).
  • New Max for Live-based devices: A number of oft-requested Devices are now available implemented in Max for Live. The bad news: you need Suite, and they’re not “native” as such. The good news: they’re editable. You get an LFO you can assign to other devices, a whole host of drum synth instruments, MIDI echo, and improved Step Sequencer and Buffer Shuffler.

What it costs: For downloads, Intro is US$99/ 79 €, Standard is US$449/349€, and Suite is US$749/599€. Upgrade pricing is too complex to explain, so, uh, ask Ableton.

When you can get it: Beta testing will begin by next week, but the shipping version will arrive first quarter of 2013, says Ableton. If you buy Live 8 now, though, it’s 25% off and includes a free Live 9 upgrade, meaning the cheapest way to get Live 9 is actually to buy Live 8 before it’s out.

Live attracts a unique level of attention and anticipation because its way of working is different than other tools on the market. So let’s look at it that way: let’s look at what Live 9 means for making music, not just as a set of new features.

A number of partners, press, and artists were invited last week to Ableton’s headquarters for a day-long tour of the new products. I’ve had some opportunity to play around with Live 9 beta builds at Ableton’s offices, as well as talk to developers at Ableton about what they’ve built in Live and Push. In those conversations and some hands-on time, I’ve gotten a bit closer to the tool. There will be more to say over time, but here’s a look at the new software from how it might impact your creative musical process.

Starting Musical Ideas

A number of new features focus on how to get new musical ideas going. It’s subtle, and involves some enhancements that might otherwise seem unrelated, but it’s enough that I’m looking forward to sketching new ideas in the beta.

Ableton’s Dennis DeSantis did a nice demonstration last week in Berlin to first present Live 9, and I think it was dead-on in refocusing this from features to music making. Using the built-in laptop mic, he sang in a melody, then converted it to MIDI and turned it into a clip with an instrument. He beat-boxed a drum loop, then turned that into a MIDI clip – complete with bass, snare, and hats correctly-identified by Ableton’s new algorithm. (Dennis is a classically-trained percussionist, not really a beat boxer, so that means you could do this, too.) He found sounds using the new Browser, auditioning them instantly, and transcribed a single chord from a Bill Evans solo for a harmonic stab, finishing things off with some of the new effects.

Converting audio to MIDI. When Live added MIDI, it was such a boon to the tool that it’s been hard for any upgrade to live up since. This isn’t adding MIDI again, but it might prove to be the next best thing. Ableton isn’t Celemony – you can’t convert audio to MIDI, then edit the MIDI, then change the pitch and rhythm of the original audio. (For that, you’ll still have to run Celemony as a plug-in, and I’m sure this will disappoint some users.) But what Live 9′s new “convert to MIDI” feature can do is “transcribe” melodic, polyphonic, and percussive content to an editable MIDI clip. Some content, of course, works better than others. Clear melodic content works better than polyphonic content. Dry drum loops work better than loops with effects. Kits work better than unusual percussion (because Live generally assumes it’s mapping to a kit, for convenience).

The way the feature works: you select a clip, right click (or control-click), and then choose harmonic, melodic, or drum content. Live spawns a new channel with either a default drum device or synth, and converts melodic/harmonic pitch information to MIDI notes and drums to kick, snare, and the like. (Ableton says they’re planning to eventually allow you to set your own default instruments; in fact, Live 9 includes enhancements to how defaults work in the program generally.) You can also drag audio to a new MIDI track, and a pop-up appears allowing you to select the kind of material you’re dragging. What you can’t do is alter any parameters for how the conversion works; you have to trust the algorithm.

So far, though, it looks like almost any result will be musically useful. In fact, even in early testing, I sometimes found the mistakes more interesting than the correct transcriptions. But whether it’s being precise or – uh, a bit more creative – I think the audio-to-MIDI technique is going to be the biggest draw of the new version, because it can break you out of creative ruts. It’s not so much about stealing ideas as it is generating new musical DNA with which to work.

New clip recording workflow. In previous versions of Live, it could require some extra steps to start a new clip, record into that clip, and then play back what you just recorded. Finding a way to streamline that is significant, because it means you can start ideas faster in production – or more confidently start laying down new clips live onstage as you perform. Now, Live 9 has a new record workflow that allows you to combine these steps, starting a fresh clip, selecting it, recording into it, and being able to quickly play it back once you’re done recording. It’s functionality designed for Push, but it can work with any controller (or keyboard shortcut) you like; we’ll look more in detail at this subtlety as I think it’s really important.

Finding and Designing Sounds

Browsing via search-as-you-type, browsing by type in the new Browser, showing off the newly-flexible, multi-pane interface.

It’s tough to overstate the importance of the new Browser. From the video over the weekend, you may have imagined this was mostly cosmetic, but seen in practice, it could be the Live 9 feature that would make it most painful to return to Live 8.

For one, you can now preview Devices nearly-instantly. Previously, Ableton would dutifully instantiate each Device chain in order to audition its sounds in the Browser. The result: it was painfully slow. Now, it instead plays an audio preview.

It’s also at last possible to add your own folders; gone are the absurd “1,” “2,” and “3″ slots for finding files. You can easily find anything you need, including Max for Live patches, via a convenient multi-pane interface, and search across everything with a speedy “search-as-you-type” facility.

Ableton also emphasizes the amount of work they’ve done on the sound library. The Orchestral Library is improved. There are new hip-hop-themed sounds, and they’re available in Standard. Drums include new sounds from Sonic Couture, and kits played live by skilled session drummers. There are stranger additions, like UK-based artist Hecq and his wild creations with coil pickups. (Hecq is someone I hope we speak to soon here on CDM, unrelated to his work on Live 9.)

It may be some of the bread-and-butter sounds that make the biggest difference for a wide audience, however. Ableton has worked on a new, reasonably compact grand piano that’s also included in Standard, along with new guitar and bass instruments.

With any of these sounds, of course, you can go inside and learn what the sound designer has done with Ableton’s tools, or use the samples as the basis of new sounds.

Finishing Tracks

Live’s Devices sound better, but also give more visual feedback. Note the oversized EQ Eight view, and live feedback on how dynamics effects are impacting sounds.

“Finishing tracks,” one Ableton rep told me last week, was one of the principle needs of users. (Fancy that. I certainly never have any problem finishing anyth…)

I do still routinely hear complaints about Ableton Live’s audio quality. I’m going to leave that discussion until we do a double-blind test. Maybe it’s time for me to go out on a limb here, though: I believe there is no difference between Ableton’s “mix engine” and other tools. From an engineering standpoint, in tests done with phase cancellation, it simply doesn’t matter. I also hear work like Monolake produced entirely in Live, and – whether you love or hate the music – I have to say, the level of audio clarity is beyond compare. I’ll use what he’s using; I’ll have what he’s having for breakfast.

That does raise the question of why people aren’t happy with this or any other tool, though. I think very often this comes down to the included effects, presets, and effect interface for finishing tracks – in any host, with even fairly advanced users.

Enhanced Devices, New Glue. Ableton has worked both on the sound of its effects (in some measurable, quantifiable, non-voodoo ways), and the way in which you visualize their results. In Gate and Compressor, you see live visual feedback that shows you what the effect is doing to the sound. In EQ Eight, there’s a new, expandable visualization that shows you the spectrum. Experienced engineers will tell you to make adjustments by sound, not sight, but I think these visualizations help reinforce what the ear is hearing. And there’s no question they’ll be a boon to those new to sound who are trying to understand what these controls do.

EQ Eight and Compressor sport improved audio operation. EQ Eight has a new filter model that Ableton says sounds better, and allows more precise selections. You can audition individual bands to hear the changes you’re making (back to that hearing, not looking thing). And Ableton says the improvements actually use less CPU, thanks to computational optimization. Compressor features a new alogrithmic slope, making it more precise – for digital-style compression. Interestingly, Ableton also chose fixed ratios on this slope, to make it easier to use. (I tend to agree – a 2.358 compression ratio doesn’t really make any sense.)

For analog-style compression, Ableton has turned to Cytomic to bundle an Ableton-native version of Glue, an already well-loved 80s compressor emulation in software. If you’ve used it before, you already know Glue. What’s new in the Ableton version is improved performance: you get 1 sample latency and less CPU utilization versus the original plug-in, thanks to SSE instruction optimizations. (SSE is a cool way of optimizing computation by parallelizing instructions; it’s been part of Intel chips for some time. But latency improvement is something that tends to benefit from working natively in the host.)

The new Arrangement view, also showing off Devices. Note the curve in Automation – and you can drag Session Automation from Session View to Arrangement view. You’ll also see a tweaked Transport bar.

Session Automation, Curve. Here are the features a lot of you have been waiting for. At last, you can record Session Automation as easily as you do MIDI and audio information; a new toolbar and record workflow makes this quite accessible, and it goes nicely with the new Push controller (or, via mapping, any other controller, for that matter). This lets you create little automation clips for various forms of modulation.

You can also create curved automation in those clips and in the Arrange View, in a long, long-overdue feature. The curves are fairly intuitive; you first create a straight-line automation segment, then drag on it to produce a curve.

Extending Live

Some of the nicest add-ons in Live 9 come in the form of Max for Live plug-ins, including a convolution reverb, mappable LFO, and drum synth collection, seen here.

Max for Live, while a powerful way of extending what Live can do, could sometimes feel disconnected from Ableton. First, you basically needed to be a fan of Max before you got it, since it was a separate add-on. That also meant people who didn’t care much about Max were probably not going to be using the (often amazing) Max patches being produced by the Max for Live community. There were limited examples for what Max for Live might do in Live. And perhaps the biggest deal-killer was that Max for Live made you wait for a painful load time the first time you started it.

I think a lot of people probably won’t notice it about the announcement today, but Max for Live improvements are actually some of what I’m most excited about. Max for Live will now sync up with the newest Max/MSP from Cycling ’74. That brings various improvements, including the insanely-powerful gen, which basically lets you patch together your own high-performance DSP at a low level. Max for Live (and video support, by the way) should at last be 64-bit by ship date, clearing the way for 64-bit Live for everyone.

Load time is something I’ll be testing, but I’m told it’s an area of focus, and one demo I saw was blazingly fast to load Max. (It’s too early to say in beta, but — yes. Working on that is good.)

Then there are the devices: you get 35 new device, ranging from a beautiful-sounding convolution reverb with a lucid, easy-to-understand interface to a whole bunch of drum synths. Mmmmm… drum synths. (Sorry, I may have temporarily lost any sense of journalistic distance.) There are also those aforementioned improved sequencer and buffer shuffler.

Oh, and while you didn’t get the native LFO you’ve been asking for forever, you do get an LFO as a Max for Live device with a handy “map” button that lets you access any other parameter in Live. In fact, it might be better than the native device, because it should work perfectly as an example of how to navigate Max for Live’s API for controlling everything else in Live.

What’s Not in Live 9

This isn’t a review; the software isn’t out yet. But I might as well list some features that could be on your wish list that aren’t there:

Quantization and grids still lack anything beyond the most basic rhythmic units. I’m going to keep complaining about this; hey, they did eventually give us meter changes in Scenes. Until then, Ableton still isn’t going to be able to pass my Music Theory I course. (Whew, that does remind me that I’m glad I’m not teaching Music Theory I any more.) Speaking of Scenes…

Scenes aren’t any smarter. It still seems to me that this feature needs attention; Follow Actions in Scenes, for instance, seem a no brainer.

MIDI mapping could still benefit from some tweaks. (It seems it’s still impossible to enter in Control Changes manually, unless I’ve missed something. For controllers that send several messages at once, that makes MIDI mapping difficult. Maybe Ableton wants to sneak this in before Q1. I’ll buy champagne for the engineers, and we can map until dawn.)

The user interface has mostly subtle improvements, not a complete overhaul – if that’s something you wanted. Actually, I love the light gray theme and the fact that they’ve evened out some borders and made other improvements. I love that Live’s interface has stood the test of time; I still like seeing it on my screen. If they can include a “night vision,” onstage/club-friendly skin by the time they ship, I’m happy.

DJs have long asked for the ability to use cue points inside clips, and to see waveform displays of more than one playing clip; neither those features is available. In fact, there really hasn’t been anything arguably geared directly at DJs in Live other than the crossfader (and, separately, crossfader curves). That hasn’t stopped Live from becoming immensely popular among DJs, but it means Traktor and Serato and the like remain fairly safe. I’ll defend this as a feature request, though, beyond just niche appeal. I can imagine anyone playing live wants the ability to use mappable cues inside clips, and more waveform views would always be nice – particularly given that screens are generally higher-resolution than when Live first shipped.

For those of you buying high-end new Macs, there’s no Retina Display support. (I may have to cue up worldstiniestviolin.als to lament your pain. Okay, seriously, yes, this does make sense to support, and maybe eventually we’ll even be able to afford these machines. Ahem.)

But Yes, We’re Excited to Start Testing

The Futura of Live is coming. Yes, Ableton has changed their logo and switched to a Futura font for their branding typography. And that’s an awfully-nice box – though now the download version includes all the same content as the boxed version, even in Suite.

Because users have had some time to think about it, I expect that means there’s no way this release can please everyone. The “ah-hah, now it finally does this!” moment will invariably be followed by, “but it doesn’t do this thing from my wish list.”

And of course this update brought an unusual degree of impatience, because, following a brisk update pace for much of Live’s life, Ableton slowed down this release, focusing first on stability in the Live 8.x series before continuing on Live 9.

As a long-time Ableton user, though, I’m more excited about this release than I’ve been in a long while. Converting audio to MIDI promises some new creative ideas. Improving the Browser, Compressor, and EQ are important because these are things you tend to touch all the time. Better integrating Max for Live – as a product as well as technically – could finally deliver on some of the promise of that technology. Just being able to record into clips more easily could be a big boon. And all in all, while Live 9 lacks a single “banner” feature, the feeling I got looking at these beta builds was a sense of sophistication. After years of gradually adding the basics (MIDI!), it seems like Live is growing into something more mature. I’ll trade sophistication for getting everything I want. And I’m eager to sit down with the beta and make some music, which is surely what matters. Stay tuned for more details as we test, and a proper review once we have a final, shipping version.


Videos will be added to this story once we get them.

Ableton Push: Integrated, Touch-Sensitive Hardware Control for Live [Details]

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 1:20 pm

Now, Ableton is doing its own hardware. Sure, Ableton’s logo was on the Akai APC40 and Novation Launchpad, and yes, “engineering by Akai” is stamped on the Push. But make no mistake: this is really the first Ableton hardware, and it shows.

Push is a grid controller with extra keys and encoders for navigating features. It shows the influence of devices like the monome (and divides up that grid like the Pages and 7up patches from the community). But it also includes controller features that are specifically integrated with Live, recalling custom controllers used by Monolake.

Ableton pitches this as a hardware “instrument,” but it’s both instrument and controller. And Ableton says it solves the problem of “how to make a song from scratch,” but it also solves the problem of how to perform with Live. In fact, it solves the problem of how to make a song from scratch while performing, coupled with some new Live 9 clip recording enhancements that work with other controllers, too. In typical Ableton fashion, then, it doesn’t really matter whether “live” means “live onstage” or just “working faster in the studio.”

As with Live 9, I got to spend some time playing Push and talking to the developers who worked on it last week at an event with other press, partners, and artists at Ableton’s offices. The hardware is near-final, but software is still in development, so some features are subject to change.

You can read the specs anywhere, so let’s list the biggest surprises (for me, anyway):

  • The pads sense velocity and pressure – no more grids limited to on/off only.
  • A ribbon controller along the side adds additional control and expression.
  • All this light and color runs on bus power. (Awesome feature: plug in external power, and everything gets brighter.)
  • It’s hacker-friendly: USB class-compliant (hello, Linux, iOS), and fully controllable via MIDI. (You can evidently even use the displays via SysEx.)

You get 64 velocity-and pressure-sensitive multi-colored pads, plus eleven touch-sensitive endless encoders.

As an “instrument,” Push maps to an isomorphic pitch layout. It’s I think the first time we’ve seen such a layout in mainstream, non-niche hardware (unless you count iPad apps). That makes the grid map usefully to different keys and harmonic structures, and it’s there by default – no extra work needed. In a feature I hope survives from the prototype to the final version, there’s even feedback on equivalent pitches as you play.

The advantage of isomorphic layouts is, once you learn a pattern, transposition is easy, and chords and harmonies are generally easier to find. (A guitar, for instance, is actually isomorphic; a piano is not. I like pianos, and you can learn to transpose on them, but for learning a new instrument, this is an ideal choice.) At the Ableton demo last week, we got to see “Giant Steps” played in all keys.

And, of course, you get all of this with pressure, mapped to aftertouch. If you can accommodate the grid layout, that could make Push a really expressive instrumental controller, particularly with the ribbon controller. The challenge may be fatigue playing pads; some velocity sensitivity adjustment will be necessary. But the pads felt good even on a prototype unit. Yes, they’re Akai-built pads.

A look at the isomorphic pitch layout, with blue lights indicating equivalent pitches.

As a “controller,” Push does all the business with clips you’d expect. What seemed impressive in early demos was how tightly it could integrate with the production workflow. You can quickly drop into recording a clip or overdub settings, adding to a track as you go.

There are various clever features. For instance, since the color scheme could be potentially confusing, lights pulse to show active clips for playback and recording. A display shows you the remaining time in clips. And crucially, you can navigate Live, and select clips without launching them. The APC and Launchpad for me never quite got to the stage where I could hide the computer and still use Live; it looks like Push just might.

We’ll look closer soon at how these mappings work, but there were already impressive examples in which Push was running step sequencers, triggering and recording clips, and playing instrumental solos, all right out of the box – no fancy Max for Live patching required.

If fancy Max for Live patching is what you want, you can do that, too. You can “hijack” everything Push does as far as Live control and customize it, with complete control over the hardware and the way the software responds. There’s also a “user” mode, as with Launchpad, which you can assign to your own tools (like a plug-in, for instance), then switch between them. Right now, you can’t use more than one Push in controller mode, though you could presumably set the second to “user” mode and map it separately.

Ableton showed off the Push at a private demo event last week, demoing it by pulling it out of a small backpack to illustrate how portable it is. The hardware really looks beautiful and feels luxurious, more so than any of this class of controller we’ve seen previously, on first impression. On pads, it will have to live up to the fantastically-responsive pads on the new Native Instruments Maschine, but of course you get 64 instead of 16, and the Push appears to be more versatile as a Live controller. (One Push, one Maschine may be popular among those who can afford both.)

Weight: 2990g / 6.59 pounds.
Cost: USD 599 / EUR 499, including Ableton Live 9 Intro.

As with Live 9, Push is promised for first quarter of 2013. And you’ll need some version of Live 9 to use it – at least with its native control features, which are kind of the point. (Well, though I do expect some hacker to do something ridiculous with this and Renoise. Let’s get on that.)

(You’ll still need separate hardware for audio, but I’d choose compactness and bus power over that, anyway; I’ve got an audio interface.)

No one controller can suit everyone, but I have to say, Push looks like it makes a reasonable set of compromises. Fortuantely, there’s nothing stopping hackers from doing their own, similar controls in Live 9 if they desire. But for those who do want something off the shelf, Push is a big leap forward. We’ll be testing it as it becomes available, and then can look more closely at how mappings work.

As with Launchpad and APC, there’s a logical mapping of Session View to the controller. (Arrange View is actually not really a focus.) Unlike the past hardware efforts, though, you have enough controls on the device that you should be able to hide your laptop away and still make music or perform.

Images courtesy Ableton.


Copyright Royalty Board Oral Argument on Sirius XM SoundExchange Royalties – A View of the Application of the 801(b) Standard Proposed for Internet Radio

Delivered... David Oxenford | Scene | Thu 25 Oct 2012 1:09 pm

The royalties that Sirius XM will pay to SoundExchange for the next 5 years will be decided by the Copyright Royalty Board ("CRB") in December. To summarize the hearings that have been held over the last year, the CRB held an oral argument last week, where Sirius XM and SoundExchange presented their arguments as to what those royalties should be. Sirius argued that the rates should be decreased, while SoundExchange contended that the rates should go up significantly from the 8% of revenue that the service now pays (see our summary of the current Sirius XM rates here). How can these parties have such different perspectives on the value of music, and what did this argument say about the application of the 801(b) standard that applies to Sirius?  This standard is the standard that webcasters are seeking to apply to Internet Radio services through the Internet Radio Fairness Act which we wrote about here.  If the IRFA is adopted, it would apply when the CRB next reviews webcasting rates in a case that will be decided by the end of 2015.

Sirius XM and cable music provider Music Choice, which was also part of the proceeding, are both governed by the 801(b) standard rather than the “willing buyer, willing seller” standard that applies to Internet Radio. The oral argument made clear that the adoption of the 801(b) standard is not in and of itself a panacea for the concerns about the royalties that have been set by the Copyright Royalty Board. Last week’s argument focused on the value of music in a marketplace – essentially the “willing buyer, willing seller” question. While other 801(b) factors were discussed, they were seemingly passed over quickly, with most of the focus being on the questions of the marketplace value of the music.

XM summarized two arguments that it raised as to the value of music. One argument was based on an economic analysis done by an expert witness who looked at the royalties paid by customized noninteractive webcasting companies (including Slacker and LastFM) for music used in their services, and made adjustments that led to the conclusion that, when you take out the value of the talk programming included in the Sirius package, and the value of the hardware necessary to listen to the station (something that webcasters don’t supply as the “hardware” to listen to a webcast is usually equipment that the listener already has, e.g. a computer or smart phone), the effective rate paid by such webcasters justified a lower royalty rate of between 5 and 7% of revenues.

But perhaps more interesting was their argument that relied on the direct licensing deals that Sirius was able to negotiate with over 90 record labels or artists, which all provided for a royalty at rates less than those at which Sirius currently pays. Sirius argued that these deals showed the true marketplace value of music, as they were negotiated outside of the royalty process by a willing buyer (Sirius XM) and willing sellers (the labels).

SoundExchange of course opposed the Sirius’ conclusions that rates should decease. SoundExchange had its own expert witness who performed the same kind of economic regression analysis that had been used in past webcasting proceedings – taking the royalties paid by interactive digital music services (which are negotiated agreements not subject to a statutory royalty and not governed by the CRB or any other government agency), and doing an economic analysis to determine the value of the interactivity. By subtracting that perceived value of the interactivity, SoundExchange came up with a figure for a substantially higher royalty for Sirius than it currently pays.

SoundExchange argued that the direct licensing deals did not make for an appropriate benchmark as these deals represented a small part of all sound recordings that are available in the marketplace, and did not include deals with any of the major labels. Sirius of course responded that this was because the labels were encouraged not to negotiate with it (see this article on the lawsuit that Sirius has filed against SoundExchange for interfering with the private negotiations that it was having with other labels).

SoundExchange also attacked these deals by contending that they should not affect the CRB royalty decision as the deals were with the copyright holders, where all the royalty payments would go to the copyright holder, unlike the CRB royalties which, by law, half go directly to the artists. This argument seemed to gain some attention from the Judges, even though, were this logic to be followed, SoundExchange’s own evidence as to the rates would have to be rejected, as the royalties paid in the interactive marketplace also go to the labels. It seems to us that, if you are looking at a marketplace, you are looking at what buyers and sellers are agreeing to when they negotiate deals – no matter who those buyers and sellers are. In the real marketplace, the sellers usually are the copyright holders, not the artists, as the copyright holders are the ones authorized to negotiate such deals. If you reject those deals because the artists are not directly paid, you would never be able to find a marketplace deal to use as a benchmark, even though the Copyright Act specifically says that direct licenses should be considered. Moreover, as argued by Sirius XM, in such direct deals, the artists are in fact paid through the contracts that they have with the labels.  We will be very interested to see how the CRB resolves this issue.

Beyond the debate over the marketplace value of the music, there was some discussion of the other 801(b) factors, including the promotional value provided by the plays on Sirius and Music Choice, and on the stability of the industry factor, looking at the financial stability of each of these companies and what impact a change in royalties would have on their businesses. Both Sirius and Music Choice provided studies that showed that their services promoted music - studies that SoundExchange rejected without offering its own studies to the contrary.  SoundExchange argued that, as Sirius was now more economically stable than it was during the last rate proceeding, the rates needed to go up.  The cost of Sirius providing the satellites and hardware to deliver their service was also discussed in the context of the “relative investment” 801(b) factor. But in the oral arguments, these issued seemed to be a sideshow to the principal issue of putting a marketplace value on the music.  We'll see how they are considered in the final decision, as these matters were important in the last satellite royalty proceeding.

Oral arguments are often misleading, so we can't make predictions based on the questions that were asked.  Decisions in this case are supposed to be rendered by mid-December, even though there has been another change in the Board’s composition in recent weeks, as Judge Wisniewski, the economist on the CRB, was forced to retire due to health reasons. So the CRB that will be making the decision in this case will be one where 2 of its 3 members have not previously ruled on a music royalty payment scheme. It should be an interesting decision released in December - one that may give some indication of how the Board will treat webcasting royalties when they come up for adjustment in 2015.

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