The modular craze just won’t stop. But why should keyboardists and sound tweakers have all the fun? Pittsburgh Modular wants to bring the revolution to guitar stompbox effects.
The Patch Box, teased over Twitter and due at April’s Musikmesse in Frankfurt, Germany, is an attempt at that solution. Basically, instead of being a Eurorack bay for your shelf or desk, this is one designed for the floor, to be played by a guitarist or bass player.
At the bottom, you get the usual switches. But apart from accommodating Eurorack modules (on their side) on the floor, the key appears to be loads of patch points. So you have, on the top, 14 additional connections for modular control from your feet. They’ve also released some teaser shots with some of their own modules in the bay, but it appears you can use anything you want.
It looks like a huge boon to any instrumentalist who needs their hands free. The only problem, of course, is that live patching is more or less out of the question – unless you can plug and unplug a spaghetti of wires with your feet. On the other hand, it can sit on a tabletop while you design sounds, and then be road-worthy when you want to play with what you’ve created.
It actually makes me wonder what a digital take on this might look like – neither better nor worse, I think, but a different animal. Then the question is what the interface looks like.
But this looks to me like the right product at the right time. All-steel construction, they say, and open to whatever modules you like – the latter, for me, being the winner.
So, see you in Frankfurt, Pittsburgh Modular! Word I’m hearing is, even if you were impressed by the flurry of news from NAMM, this year’s Musikmesse will be a big show for lovers of sound design and synths. And we’ll be there, of course.
We all know the problem: DJing with computers isn’t terribly practical without looking at the computer – a lot. Native Instruments’ Traktor S8, like Maschine before it, promised to liberate laptop users from that vacant computer stare. But it, and rival offerings, have a big problem: they’re back-breaking, checked luggage-triggering, tech rider-rewriting huge.
Well, you probably already worked out the S8 “flagship” wasn’t going to be the only hardware from NI to play with this concept. The question was, what would a “half-S8″ / “S8 mikro” / “S8 deck” look like.
If you happen to be a big fan of the artist Uner, and were staring at your screen to watch the NI live stream, you just got a glimpse of exactly what it’ll look like. Native Instruments handed over the new hardware to some of their artists with the cameras rolling live to the Web.
NI has also provided us, and a “handful” of outlets (TMZ, maybe?), with some details. What we know:
Portable, advanced touch-and-see control over TRAKTOR decks
Bright, full-color display reveals pop-up displays, views, and panels for track browsing, effect monitoring, live tweaking without reaching for the laptop
4 touch-sensitive Remix Deck faders and knobs for full, 4-channel control over a Remix Deck
8 color-coded pads to trigger samples, cue points, loops, or beat jumps
14 touch-sensitive knobs and faders provide instant visual feedback on deck displays while browsing tracks, controlling effects, loops, and Remix Decks
Multi-purpose, LED-guided touch strip provides precision control over track position, pitch bend and more
Quick access to track BPM and Key as well as FX, Filter, and Remix Deck parameters
Customizable FX unit with over 30 studio quality effects plus Macro FX
4 foldable rubber-padded feet elevate the unit to standard DJ hardware height
Integrated USB ports allow controller chaining and free up computer ports
Chain units with included NI Power Supply splitter cable and integrated USB ports
Portable, road-worthy construction ideal for long touring
The Kontrol S8, introduced in fall. Now, once again – but smaller. Photo courtesy Native Instruments.
I’ve been playing with the S8, and while I was skeptical about some aspects of it, using it has really impressed me. You can absolutely play without ever seeing the computer, certainly – and it is spectacularly good when it comes to things like playing with loops and sampling, even if you don’t get deep into Remix Decks. Now, having been looking at it and pondering what would come next, it’s also clear that you can’t just lop off a part of it and make usable hardware. NI also tells me that whatever they’re working on here is more sophisticated than just taking a hacksaw to an S8 prototype – and that’s a good thing.
So they’ve built something at least slightly different. Let’s read between the lines to work out what it might be. Some key takeaways here:
Mainly, you do get a display – so the key advantage of the S8, without an S8.
You also get all of the mixing, effects, cueing, looping, sampling, and Remix Deck controls. This also eliminates the need for the F1/Z1 combo I talked about earlier this week. That’s great. What will require careful observation of the spy photography is determining how they combined the deck controls of the S8 with the mixing controls while fitting a more compact space.
Also, note “decks,” plural. That makes sense: once you have a display, there’s no need for dedicated controls for each deck – meaning the S8′s big size is redundant for most of us, and this works just as well.
However, no mention of an audio interface. That’s okay, although I will say it’s one of the best unexpected features of the S8.
And it does sound like it’ll require an external power supply, although no complaints about that given you have a nice, bright display.
So, we know we’re getting a more portable unit. I’m surprised with how much I love the S8 – I’ll talk next week a bit about why it’s great if you’re in the studio or playing back to back.
But this is, of course, what a lot of us were waiting for: basically, a portable, control-everything device with a screen that frees us from the computer’s eerie glowing rectangle.
We’ll watch for pricing and availability, of course, and report back once we have one to test.
Now, the remaining questions are what updated Traktor software might go along with the hardware release, and if we’ll see things like tighter Traktor/Maschine integration – which would be a huge boon to hybrid live/DJ sets. Below, you can see the polite and measured way that NI customers typically ask for such things.
Hand-built in the Czech Republic, Bastl Instruments are something special.
And tonight in Berlin, the Bastl Instruments creators showed their new modulars in public for the first time, in advance of showing them at Musikmesse. At an informal demo event hosted by legendary synth boutique Schneidersladen, the creators gave us a window into what they’ve made.
Fans of increasingly-popular Euclidean generative rhythms will appreciate this demo on their sequencer module:
And it’s really compelling how nice a jam can be on the whole ensemble of modules:
There were also some interesting takeaways from the event:
The hardware is open source. Code for the digital modules is on GitHub, and schematics of the circuits will be published soon.
If you love the smell of solder in the morning, the modules are all through hole and kit versions are coming soon.
The granular Grandpa module is especially interesting: an SD card inside can load up to 35 wav files of your own choosing. And then you can route that sample to any CV out – meaning you can load simple wavetables or entire samples and use them as an analog routing source. Ah ha – yes, that makes it meaningful that this is modular.
The wood panels were themselves a particular challenge to get right – normally, these things are metal. They’re made of oak.
Even the knob caps are themselves handmade.
Can’t wait to play with some of these. And Bastl’s desktop tools remain compelling, as well. Check them all out:
It’s the motorized rotating pillar of Eurorack modular synthesizers from Berlin’s Schneidersladen, which served this evening as backdrop to an excellent workshop from the boys of Bastl Instruments of the Czech Republic.
And, well, we’re not sure what happens to your brain if you keep watching this. Here, seen at twelve times normal rotation speed, thanks to Hyperlapse and my iPhone. This being Berlin, you can get this and falafel within a fairly short walk.
Can you design a drum machine that does more than simply hide its workings inside an invisible box?
XOXX Composer does just that. A project by Axel Bluhme, it turns the inner functions of sampling, looping, and sequencing, into tangible, kinetic, sculptural form. Wheels turn. Magnets trigger sounds. And in what looks like the love child of a 606 and a player piano, you get a mechanical take on patterned sound.
A drum machine that is fun and easy to use
This project started with a curiosity to understand when, why and how people take their first steps into producing music. The goal is to inspire and allow this exploration even though there might be lack of confidence or knowledge.
A tangible sound arranger that uses magnets to activate sound samples and that is very easy to engage with. Capture sounds from your surroundings or sample records, simply let curiosity and creativity lead the way to quickly create unique beats.
The physical interface is made up from eight rotating discs allowing the user to layer up to eight different sounds.
Each set of eight discs are colour coded and each individual disc in the set has its own pattern so as to allow the user to create their own mental system and means of organising their sounds.
Every disc is quantised into four bars, which is indicated by the coloured lines on their faces, and each bar is divided into four steps. That means every disc has sixteen steps which allows the user to explore a variety of different music styles and degrees of complexity.
The project will be shown at Ugly Duck in Bermondsey (London), as part of a collaboration between Sonos and the Royal College of Art.
Several major figures in synthesizer history have lost control of their names over the years. Robert Moog sued in 1998 to get his name back on synths; that court battle, with Don Martin, was won in 2002 and allowed the modern Moog Music to supplant the former Big Briar. While Dave Smith never lost access to his personal name, he gave up his original brand name Sequential. Yamaha voluntarily surrendered the Sequential badge earlier this year.
First, Buchla (the brand) is unusually dependent on Don Buchla’s legacy. Don’s mug shot appears the moment you open the site, with a long history that talks about him (by first name) before ever mentioning the product. There are top-level menu items on the site for “History of Buchla” and “Don Buchla.” And the products themselves are high-end, boutique devices, sold with the expectation that you see a Buchla synth as worth more than someone else’s synth.
What you won’t see on that site is the fact that Don Buchla himself was terminated from the company that bears his name, back in April 2014. And you definitely won’t learn that Don Buchla is now suing this new company and its parent, Audio Supermarket Pty. Ltd. of Australia, for breach of contract.
And that legal battle seems likely to get very ugly indeed, uglier than anything I can recall in the time I’ve been covering electronic instruments.
The legal dramatics begin right in the introduction, including the suggestion that Don Buchla may have invented the synthesizer: “In 1962, he began work on one of the first, if not the first, music synthesizer: the Buchla Series 100.” (Emphasis theirs. But I can answer that: no, not the first.) It also describes his battle with cancer and calls his buyer tortuous and malicious. At one point, the complaint includes a claim by Don Buchla that the new buyers cause a stroke he suffered in 2014.
But moving as those arguments may be, they’re not the substance of the case. Let’s cut to the material specifics. The suit claims:
Buchla allegedly was pressure into unfair terms. Don Buchla signed a Memorandum of Understanding – not yet an explicit purchase agreemement – in November 2011, according to the suit. At this point, he didn’t yet have legal counsel. Those same terms did find their way into an Asset Purchase Agreement and an Employment Agreement (after which Don Buchla did engage counsel).
The new owners allegedly breached the purchase terms. There are three parts to this: first, that the defendants paid under $110,000 instead of the $550,000 the suit says they were obligated to pay (regardless of sales); two, that they failed to pay a $30,000 closing cost; three, that they failed “to use reasonable business efforts to reach sales targets.” That final charge seems harder to prove, but the former two would seem to depend on a reasonably straightforward reading of the agreements. (Without seeing them, it’s impossible to know.)
The new owners allegedly fired Don Buchla without cause, breaching the employment terms. The plaintiffs allege that Don Buchla was terminated without cause.
The key to how the plaintiffs might try to defend this is in the complaint, in the “bad faith” portion:
“Defendants responded by intentionally seeking to trigger the reduction in purchase price tied to Mr. Buchla’s “unavailability” by, inter alia, making unreasonable, unfair, and/or impossible demands of Mr. Buchla under the Employment Agreement.”
In other words, it appears that both Buchla’s termination and the lower payment price will be connected by the defendants to his “unavailability” under the contract, just as the plaintiffs claim this was the fault of the new owners.
It also appears that sales targets at Buchla aren’t what the parties expected – and that the company may be unable to fill orders or pay suppliers: “On information and belief, Defendants lack sufficient funds to pay Mr. Buchla what he is owed under the Agreements. Defendants have not regularly paid their suppliers and have not fulfilled product orders that were made and paid for in full more than one year ago. ”
The suit names three defendants: Victoria, Australia-based Audio Supermarket Pty. Ltd., the Oregon-based Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments, LLC, and directors and managers of BEMI and Audio Supermarket in both Australia and the USA. The case’s jurisdictional statement, though, acknowledges that the case relies on business conducted in the US, and there’s reference in the document to attempts to shield assets of the Australian side of things by removing that company from the MOU.
The suit seeks to declare the contract void and return Buchla’s name, intellectual property, assets, and even purchase orders to Don Buchla, plus damages – or provide $500,000 in damages or more for breach of contract.
Whatever the claim, it’s unclear whether the Buchla brand will survive the legal proceedings here.
How can you get the most hands-on control of a laptop DJ set when you don’t have a lot of room?
With so many of us called upon to DJ in a pinch – even as producers or live acts, onstage or in mixes – it’s relevant to almost anyone making electronic music.
And finding a way to stay mobile a worthy question – but one you might miss if following DJ blogs and music store displays. Imagine if you were making a generic DJ controller prop for a bedroom display at IKEA. You know exactly what it’d look like. It’d be the size of a coffee table (Lack!) and have a couple of giant wheels. Let’s call such things the Plastic Coffins.
That’s all fine and well – until you try to fit your controller into your backpack on easyJet. Or until you show up at a club and there’s barely enough room for your 13″ MacBook Pro.
Now, if you’re using CDJs or digital vinyl for control, you’ll presumably be okay; you mainly need only an audio interface. But if you want a self-contained setup, you’ll definitely need some controls.
There’s also the use case of being at home or on the road and needing to finish a mix or podcast. It’s nice to do this with proper controls, too.
So, I’ve selected a handful of DJ controllers I think stand out for these cases, partly because I’m surprised how often they’re eclipsed by the army of Plastic Coffins.
And I’m curious if Winter Music Conference shakes up this list.
Hrm. One of these looks … sort of … more viable outside the home. Photo CC-BY) DeeJay Jones.
I’ll focus here on Native Instruments’ Traktor, because it’s the software I see most in these situations. (Serato may rival Traktor for users, especially in the USA and Asia, but its inflexibility with controller mappings means you’re more likely to see Traktor in tight quarters.)
That said, if you are using one of the other DJ tools that isn’t Serato, most can be easily mapped to these controllers.
And if you think I’m an armchair DJ calling this without, say, racking up massive bookings at Ibiza alongside Richie Hawtin you are … absolutely right. So I’d better get these opinions themselves right.
I am largely ignoring the question of cueing. We can come up with various explanations: space is at a premium and you have to make sacrifices, you’d really rather beatmatch with actual turntables anyway, the sync button works pretty well for a lot of music, you’ve done some prep with cue points in advance… and so on. There’s a case for the touch strips, but we have to make some choices here.
This is, as far as I’m concerned, the single best hardware creation for mobile DJs ever.
It’s a controller for Traktor, as the name implies. It covers just the basics, but all the basics are covered: EQ, filter, cueing, 2-channel mixing controls (internal to the computer), and crossfader. With Traktor, you even get cute level meter indicators.
It’s also a controller for Traktor on the iPad, with the addition of a handy effects control (which I really wish also worked in the desktop version).
It’s an audio interface. Phono out, separate headphone out for cueing. And that audio interface, by the way, works for everything (it’s class-compliant). It works with the iPad – including cueing in Traktor for the iPad.
It’s a class-compliant MIDI controller. My Z1 has actually become my go-to controller for a lot of my Pure Data patches. (There are, I imagine, not many people on Earth swapping between Pd and Traktor Scratch Pro, but – yes, I’m sure all of you are reading this now. Get in touch, we should form some sort of secret society.)
If you need a two-channel audio interface headphone cueing or a controller with a slim two-channel DJ controller layout, the Z1 is for you, in other words – on any application, on any operating system, anywhere.
And if you’re using Traktor, it’s all an easy affair right out of the box. Everything feels perfectly solid for a piece of gear that costs nearly nothing.
Native Instruments Kontrol F1
NI is about to take second place, too – but not for the reason they intended. The F1 is a cute sidecar to the Z1, and helped Native Instruments launch the Remix Decks. Read the manual: it’s kind of adorable, in that it just about pleads with you to please try to sample sounds into those decks. (At the time, the idea was new, and NI wasn’t yet selling its own packs.)
If you are a heavy Remix Deck user, the F1 will certainly make this list.
But lots of custom mappings mean the F1 will make the list even if you could care less about Remix Decks.
Ignore the silkscreened labels on the controller, and what the F1 is is impressively useful: RGB LEDs, faders, four knobs.
That’s an appealing layout for custom mappings. And if you can’t be bothered to set up one yourself, there are about a dozen reasonable mappings for this floating around forums for Traktor.
Here are my favorite pre-built mappings. They allow you to use the F1 alongside the Z1, or as an all-in-one, ultra-compact controller. And they will cover the gamut from basic mix controls to getting fancy with Remix Decks and live-style remix performances.
989 Records has a free download that transforms the F1 into a two-deck controller. Using an F1 and Z1 alongside one another, it’s a bit redundant, but then is a good starting place. Keep the effects controls, browse functions, and looping and cupping, and remap the redundant cue toggles and volume faders. (I might even share my own take on that.)
Michael Henderson aka DJ Endo is essentially the smartest Traktor user on the planet – clever enough that he’s the one training all the superstars, and that he made this powerful F1 mapping live at a gig and then played for hours. He’s the reason you ought to be afraid of Paris Hilton: with Endo working with Paris, the rest of us are the ones who will wind up looking clueless.
Endo’s approach with the F1 is basically to make it do everything. With faders grouped into four, it’s a four-deck controller, plus playing, looping, and hotcues. It also does beatjump and live-remix tools that may, frankly, be overkill for a lot of DJs. But you retain Remix Deck control.
It’s so fancy that it can be a little intimidating if your DJing is mainly about cueing and mixing, rather than live remixing. But the controls for navigating tracks are already useful; so long as you’re interested in four decks, it’s worth a look, and it’s just five bucks.
To get a sense of how someone who isn’t Endo uses this, there’s a great review:
If you like this all-in-one approach, the Tekken Ultimate Mapping organizes everything into multiple pages and likewise covers more or less everything Traktor can do – Remix Decks stick around, but you get a lot of other functions, too. Added bonus here is a whole lot of instant effects, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a free download, but donations are suggested (and deserved).
It’s sort of the latest iteration of Endo’s approach, out just beginning of February.
Also, for would-be MIDI hackers: the F1, like the Z1, is a useful general-purpose MIDI controller. Not only will every control send MIDI to a computer (or tablet), but you can send MIDI back to the device to set RGB values for the pads. The pads aren’t velocity-sensitive, but that’s the only limitation. This means everyone from VJs to Max/Pd/Reaktor patchers can create powerful solutions with this device.
Runner up: Allen & Heath’s Xone:K1 is also a lovely controller. In fact, if I were judging purely on the basis of being a MIDI controller, it would probably edge out the F1. But it doesn’t have the larger grid of pads on the F1, which feel terrific, and the F1 is better suited to Traktor – both out of the box and in terms of community support. The K1 is worth considering if you’re mainly VJing or working with other DJ tools.
Honorable mention: I left out the Traktor Kontrol X1, even with the mk2 revision in the running. It’s nice, but I think its trackpads for cueing aren’t strictly necessary, and the F1 is more versatile if you have to choose – both in onboard control complement and user support.
If you do want to see someone who’s really good with the X1, though, turn to none other than Sarah Farina, as spotted here at Boiler Room:
It makes even the ultra-slim Z1 and F1 look huge. It’s nice looking – people will know you bought a boutique piece of gear. The controls are obsessive-compulsive German quality. It uses USB, and it’s class-compliant. And, oh, my, does the DJ3 fit a lot of controls into a small space.
Everything you really need is there. You get two-channel fader and crossfader, EQs, filters, effects, loops, pitch, key, cues. It does transport. It controls the browser.
In fact, you get everything the Z1 and F1 combined would do, meaning if you replace the Z1 with another audio interface, you have an even more compact setup.
Also, even with all of these capabilities, a lot is accessible even before you touch the shift key.
All of this is possible before any custom layouts, so I think given the complexity of some of those, this is a strong contender.
I dearly hope Faderfox keeps making these, as I think they’re utterly brilliant.
Runner up: If the DJ3 feels actually too cramped, trade up to Faderfox’s DJ44. It is tiny in all the ways Native Instruments’ own hardware isn’t. And it does away with any kind of touchpads or pad controller or giant wheels. As a result, it gives you dedicated controls for everything without being coffee table-sized.
And you still get four decks’ worth of controls, more mixing controls than anything else I’ve seen, loads of effects, and sophisticated dedicated loop controls.
In other words, the DJ44 is a no-gimmick embodiment of how a lot of average users actually DJ. And it all comes in a nice metal briefcase, James Bond style.
It’s even smaller than you think: 290x220x55 mm – that’s only slightly larger than the size of an American sheet of paper.
It’s not cheap, at 500€, but it’s a beautiful investment at that price – and works neatly with Ableton and Traktor alike, plus anything that supports MIDI. Even if you don’t own it forever, it won’t be because it broke or got outdated.
And it almost made this list, but for that price and the fact that it’s landscape orientation means you can’t sandwich it into a corner as easily as the other options here.
The iPad can make this list for a number of reasons:
Traktor for iPad is a beautiful piece of software, with touch access to slicing up loops that still bests the desktop software – even with the introduction of some of its functionality on the pricey, enormous Traktor Kontrol S8 hardware.
The Z1 and iPad make for an absurdly-mobile DJ solution, so long as you’ve an iPad with lots of internal storage and you don’t mind someone snickering at you for DJing on a tablet.
Here, though, to force myself to make one decision, I’m going to limit the iPad to running TKFX.
TKFX controls only the effects in Traktor. But by focusing on that use case, it’s better for effects control than anything else I’ve seen. For one thing, you can swap in different effects easily to your different decks and slots.
And TKFX takes everything you love about a KORG KAOSS Pad – X/Y control, gesture recording, freeze mode – and adds it to Traktor.
TKFX works over a cable, too, so you don’t have to rely on WiFi. It’s also compatible with midimux, the powerful MIDI solution we’ve covered here.
I didn’t actually even know about this hardware until it showed up in the studio one day. It makes this list in honorable mention position for one simple reason: it represents a different approach from the other options here. It relies so heavily on an external mixer that it actually packs an 8-channel audio interface in the box, and an optional rack mount lets you easily put it above a mixer.
With the mixer doing all the actual mixing, the MC-1000 handles effects and filter controls, and, primarily, cue and transport – up to four deck’s worth.
I like the approach, and it’s stupidly cheap – the price has cut down to 100€, meaning it’s almost hard to resist buying just to try out. But I’m obligated to take points off here because what it lacks is meaningful documentation. And unlike the other options here, it doesn’t fit the self-contained setup brief. But it’d be interesting to see other hardware go this route.
And it’s brought friends. Sure, they’re called “hip hop, house, electro, techno, and acoustic” but – you’re not fooling anyone. (Least of all because some of those genres use the other machines.) That’s an acoustic kit, plus the Roland TR-808 and TR-909, Elektron Machinedrum, and Roger Linn’s Linndrum.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen drum machines emulated in a browser. But coding for the rich Web, and browsers in general, have each gotten a lot better, so the experience has improved. And, crucially, this isn’t just a time waster. You can export loops as WAV files.
Or, edit — this is a time waster for your employer, if you have a day job. It’s just an investment for your life as a producer. I do hope people make actual music with this.
Apparently, this is just the first of more things to come. There’s absolutely no information from the creators – like who they are, for instance, so do chime in. But he/she/them/it/the Collective/some entity want us know that more fun stuff is coming soon if you like their page. So there you have it, Like them or the terrorists win.
Electronic drums have had a hard time escaping the shadow of Roland’s TR line. But that’s no reason to limit yourself, yet again, to another two scoops of vanilla ice cream in your cone.
And so, even with an increasingly crowded Eurorack modular scene, it’s worth applauding the entry of the mad scientists of Bastl Instruments in the Czech Republic. They’ve got a number of new modules that are weird and wonderful, inspired yet again by the legacy of a nearly-forgotten electronic pioneer of the Communist-dominated 70s, Standa Filip. And while you may have spotted their debut in the market, I think the drum modules steal the show.
First, let’s enjoy some actual, beautiful music.
HRTL got his hands on a 95HP rack of Bastl goodies, rustic wooden panels and all. The music is dynamic and live, urgent in a way that can only come from not-too-perfect improvisation, lush and lo-fi all at once. It’s also a nice antidote to “look how much gear I bought” rigs and (uh, yes, I’ve gotten into this trap) modular patches that loop endlessly and don’t stop augh make that bleeping pattern quit it’s going to drive my head out of my skull.
Ahem. No, it’s nice, recorded live with no post-processing:
Some back story: the boys of Bastl have been roaming Europe giving workshops, making odd orchestras of electronic sounds (often with first-timers soldering and playing along), and championing Filip’s work. They began with their open source Standuino line, then followed up with a new line of standalone instruments and kits, now adding modular to the mix. I first met them when they hitchhiked from their hometown Brno, Czech to Amsterdam and STEIM at an event we were hosting there.
That was all before the Eurorack fever had reached full pitch. Now seems a perfect time for their offbeat, hand-built electronics.
Some of the modules will seem familiar. There’s some granular sampler action – definite highlight. There are loads of useful modules for routing. All come a la carte.
But these three, in a video they released over the weekend, are worth highlighting:
Tea Kick (5HP) – kick drum and more
Noise Square (5HP) – analog, digital and square signal generator
Skis (5HP) – dual decay and vca
Why? Well, because you’ll immediately hear some sounds you might use instrumentally. Tea Kick is a unique-sounding kick with loads of modulation. Add in the other two, and you’ve got some bass lines and drums in no time, in ways that appeal to human beings. See video at top.
I love that Mr. Filip’s schematics were “quite conceptual.” But this is the essence of how you can fight boredom in electronic musical instrument design: learn from the past in a way that makes new sounds. (Ironically, sometimes a blank sheet of paper is the worst enemy to this process – but that’s why mining oddities of the past can be liberating.)
See video, top. (Man, YouTubers will downvote freakin’ anything. I blame cats.)
Quattro Figaro is a “spaghetti”-inspired patch that does mixing and control and panning and … well, it’s easiest to just watch. This is stuff that only makes sense in modular, and it’s terrifically musical:
Okay, and here they get weird and wacky and … spaghetti.
It’s all beautiful stuff, though. We’ll get to see them in person at Musikmesse in Frankfurt – and hopefully can visit Brno soon.
Prices are … ridiculously low, starting at 25€ and maxing out at 230€. Quattro Figaro is a very reasonable 164€ and Tea Kick will set you back just 90€. Do the conversion rate, America; you’ll be happy at the moment.
Grim music is very much in vogue these days – the tell-tale sign being washed-out back and white photos that seem to have escaped from the liner covers of horror movie soundtracks, among other giveaways. But it can get carried away. You might sometimes wonder if producers were being paid by their reverb plug-ins in exchange for lengthening delay times.
Milena Kriegs aka Milena Głowacka, however, is some blissfully frightening music I feel is worth listening to. Straddling darker, deeper techno and adventures into more ambient/experimental territory, this Warsaw-based artist is at the center of a growing amount of finely-crafted electronic shadows.
And she’s a particular aptitude playing live. What I’ve come to appreciate about Milena’s work is its economy and extraordinary restraint. Each move is subtle and slow, each sound – and yes, each reverb tail – necessary. As such, I think she’s a nice introduction to a network of European artists making these sorts of sounds.
Głowacka is a relative newcomer to many of the parties she plays, having begun playing only in 2012. But she has quickly established herself on some high-quality lineups. Her October set from about blank is a standout of recent live PA sets that have crossed my way. (That event included resident Silva Rymd in her wonderful ZEROIZE series alongside long-time electronic music mainstay Heiko Laux.) Fluid, each sound a consistent thread, it’s worth the full free download:
Głowacka tells me she’s an Ableton Live performer, and here there’s minimalism that to me even nicely echoes even early Monolake, though with a gentle, cool-headed sensibility entirely of this music.
The live set is good stuff, but if your oxygen supply doesn’t run out, you should take a deeper dive into her recent soundscape for the aptly-named Abyssal Podcast. This is truly a journey in a submersible onto the yawning chasm of an abyssal plain – you know, in kind of a fun way.
Chilled-out ping-pong rhythms do eventually emerge with some sense of relief, but there’s a delightfully long expedition to get there.
If you like that, also worth checking out from the same podcast is Manchester’s Stephanie Sykes, for more murky, hypnotic techno:
Głowacka’s work is out on Semantica Records, and she organizes Poland’s Behind The Stage series, which last weekend saw her playing with Italy’s terrific mod21 aka Manuele Chiaravalloti (not a household name, maybe, but watch Prologue Records.) She’s also recently played alongside Headless Horseman and Ancient Methods. It’s also worth noting that audiences seem to be slowly but surely growing in places like Warsaw, whereas once those communities might have headed elsewhere, leaving only more predictable parties behind.
Here’s Manuele’s music:
Well, I guess my tastes are much in line with Silva Rymd’s and ZEROIZE on this. The next program, set for this weekend, features Czech-born Tigerhead aka Tereza Rabenkrähe. Her live techno is also meticulous, full of nicely bleak grooves – fashioned over time into live sets like this one from December:
On that same program is yes-you’ll-see-her-again-on-CDM Electric Indigo – her Morpheme AV work didn’t disappoint at CTM, and she continues to play techno for discriminating dancers.
If a lot of this programming does tend to revolve around Berlin, I do think that the style itself is international – and that gradually, audiences are starting to flourish elsewhere. It also represents a pathway forward for techno, in that the musicians here are finding new ways to be inventive – restrained as I said, but imaginative. I also think it’s non-coincidental that the music is live. By playing these sets live, there’s still more opportunity to find new templates, rather than play a predictable record crate on endless repeat.
Appropriately, Milena is involved in live gigs that look beyond only the club experience – for instance, next up in Warsaw I hear is the series Why So Silent?, a live-only electronic event that pairs musicians with silent films. Below, from a previous installment, Blazej Malinowski, pictured by Jagna Szaykowska.