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Sample Magic releases Techno Textural Toolkit & MIDI Elements: Berlin Techno Drum Kits

Sample Magic Techno Textural ToolkitSample Magic has released Techno Textural Toolkit, a new sample pack that lets you immerse yourself in the ultimate toolkit for your next Techno production. The pack includes a collection of fat kicks, layered snares, analogue basses, twisted textures, foley sounds, FX and more. Techno Textural Toolkit is designed to be the ultimate beat-making collection […]

There’s a synth symphony for 100 cars coming, based on tuning

100 cars, 100 sound systems, 100 different versions of the pitch A: Ryoji Ikeda has one heck of a polyphonic automobile synthesizer coming.

The project is also the first new hardware from Tatsuya Takahashi after the engineer/designer stepped down from his role heading up the analog gear division at KORG. And so from the man who saw the release of products like the KORG volca series and Minilogue during his tenure, we get something really rather different: a bunch of oscillators connected to cars to produce sound art.

Tats teams up for this project with Maximilian Rest, the man behind boutique maker E-RM, who has proven his obsessive-compulsive engineering chops on their Multiclock.

And wow, that industrial design. From big factories to small run (100 units), Tats has come a long way – and this is the most beautiful design I’ve seen yet from Max and E-RM. It’s a drool-worthy design fetish object recalling Dieter Rams and Braun.

I spoke briefly to Tatsuya to get some background on the project, though the details will be revealed in the performance in Los Angeles and by Red Bull Music Academy.

The original hardware is simple. In almost a throwback to the earliest days of electronic music, the boxes themselves are just tone generators. Those controls you see on the panel determine octave and volume. Before the performance, details on the execution are a bit guarded, but this sounds like just the sort of simple box that would perfectly match Max’s insanely perfectionist approach.

What makes this tone generator special is, there are a hundred of them, each hooked up to one of one hundred cars.

Yeah, you heard right: we’re talking massively polyphonic, art-y ghetto blasting. The organizers say the cars were selected for their unique audio systems. (Now, that’s my way of being a car fan.) Car owners even contributed special cars to the symphony, making this an auto show cum sound happening, evidently both in an installation and performance.

One hundred cars tuned to the same frequency would sound like … well, phase cancellation. So each oscillator is tuned to a different frequency, in a kind of museum of what the note “A” has been over the years. The reality is, we’re probably hearing a whole lot of classical music in the “wrong” key, because the tuning of A was only in standardized in the past century. (Even today, A=440Hz and A=442Hz compete in symphonies, with A=440Hz is the most common in general use, and near-universal in electronic music.)

That huge range is part of why any discussions of the “mathematically pure” or “healing” 432 Hz is, well, nonsense. (I can deal with that some time if you really want, but let’s for now file it under “weird things you can read on the Internet,” alongside the flat Earth.)

Once you get away from the modern blandness of everything being 440 Hz, or the pseudo-science weirdness of the 432 Hz cult, you can discover all sorts of interesting variety. For instance, one of the oscillators in the performance is tuned to this:

A = 376.3Hz
*1700 : Pitch taken by Delezenne from an old dilapidated organ of l’Hospice Comtesse, Lille, France

Hey, who’s to say that particular organ isn’t the one “tuned to the natural frequency of the universe”?

You’ll get all those frequencies in some huge, wondrous cacophony if you’re lucky enough to be in LA for the performance.

It’s presented as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Music Festival, October 15. (I have no idea how you’d evaluate the claim that this is the largest-ever symphony orchestra, though with one hundred cars, it’s probably the heaviest! If anyone has historical ideas on that, I’m all ears.)

And of course, it’s in the perfect place for a piece about cars: Los Angeles. Wish I were there; let us know how it is!

https://la.redbullmusicacademy.com/event/ryoji-ikeda-a-for-100-cars

Photo credit: Carys Huws for RBMA.

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Native Instruments releases Deep Matter for Maschine

Native Instruments Deep MatterNative Instruments has released Deep Matter, its latest Maschine expansion pack that offers found sounds and field recordings that capture the euphoric darkness of Berlin’s ethereal techno. The new expansion features the sound of Berlin’s deep melodic techno, with moody bass, melancholic pads, atmospheric field recordings, and crisp percussion. When the Berlin Wall fell, a […]

Neumann celebrates U 87’s 50-year anniversary with special Rhodium Edition

Neumann U 87 Rhodium Edition featNeumann has announced it is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Neumann U 87 studio legend with the U 87 Rhodium Edition, a spectacular creation that gives the beautiful U 87 an extra special look to celebrate its timeless achievement. The U 87 has gained its cherished status thanks to the incredible universality and versatility […]

Wave Alchemy releases Berlin Techno sample pack

Wave Alchemy Berlin TechnoWave Alchemy has released Berlin Techno, a sample pack that draws influence from Berlin’s underground Techno scene and iconic brands such as Berghain, Tresor and Drumcode. The pack delivers pounding warehouse beats, brutal analogue bass-lines, minimal chords, brooding aggressive synths, abstract percussion and intricate drum hits & sound effects. Loaded with big-room industrial drums, foley-infused […]

KOMA are about to get deep into Eurorack – starting with power

Okay, first, a power product sounds like about the most boring music tech news ever. But the kids at KOMA have found a way to make modular power exciting.

And of course, because anything involving electricity sounds cooler in German than in English, meet STROM.

First, the video – which turns what seems a dull, technical topic into exciting launch video. Seriously, more fun to watch than that iPhone X announcement (uh, for me, anyway). Let’s let KOMA’s Wouter explain – in a lab coat!

KOMA are embarking on a deep dive into the world of modular Eurorack – which I hear the young folks really love at the moment. First, there was a case system. Now, there’s a power system. And both are nicely affordable.

And since power is what gives you noise, power matters.

I asked KOMA’s Wouter what makes this product different. Answer: “The Strom is cleaner than any of the competition for a way lower price with very low ripple, great safety features with the fusing and the short circuit protection!”

We’ll get some of our modular boffins on this to check.

The other important detail here is not what this is, but who it comes from – KOMA’s engineer Robert has been the lead on all digital products, and did the programming work on the epic, legendary Komplex Sequencer.

Looks like KOMA are on their way to another big market hit. Hope to visit them soon – and their growing Common Ground community space.

http://koma-elektronik.com/

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Superbooth 18 Scheduled For May 3-5, 2018 In Berlin

Organizers have announced plans for Superbooth18.… Read More Superbooth 18 Scheduled For May 3-5, 2018 In Berlin

Sounds of Mayday sample pack by Boys Noize available from Splice Sounds

Splice Sounds Boys Noize MaydaySplice Sounds has launched Sounds of Mayday, a sample pack featuring over 200 sounds recorded by Berlin DJ, producer and label owner Alex Ridha aka Boys Noize. “MAYDAY SOUNDS include all the sounds I recorded for my latest album ‘Mayday.’ These are 100% analog recorded sounds, using diverse drum machines, synthesizer & modules, and processed […]

SoundCloud, now Vimeo of Sound, instead of YouTube of Sound?

SoundCloud’s do-or-die moment came Friday – and it seems it’s do, not die. The company now takes on new executives, and a new direction.

First, it’s important to understand just what happened yesterday. Despite some unhinged and misleading blog reports, the situation didn’t involve the site suddenly switching off – following the layoffs, the company said it had enough cash to survive through the end of the fourth quarter. That said, the concern was, without reassurances the company could last past that, SoundCloud could easily have slipped into a death spiral, with its value dropping and top talent fleeing a sinking ship.

What happened: New investment stepped in, with a whopping US$169.5 million, for SoundCloud’s biggest round ever (series F). That follows big past investments from Twitter, early venture funding, and debt financing last year.

This gives the company a new direction, some new leadership and leadership experience, and the stability to keep current talent in the building.

Under new management

What changes: Plenty. When you invest that much money, you can get some changes from the company to ensure you’re more likely to get your investment back.

  • New CEO: Kerry Trainor (formerly CEO of Vimeo)
  • New COO: Mike Weissman (formerly COO of Vimeo)
  • New board members: Trainor joins the board, alongside Fred Davis (a star investor and music attorney), and Joe Puthenveetil (also music-focused), each coming from Raine (the firm that did the deal).
  • A much lower valuation: In order to secure funding, SoundCloud adjusted what had been at one point a $700 million valuation to a pre-investment $150 million. That’s not much above its annual run rate, and it indicates how far they’ve fallen.
  • …but maybe we don’t do this runway thing any more. The good news – TechCrunch reports the company says it has a $100 million annual run-rate. This investment means they’re not in urgent need of cash. They’ve bought themselves time to genuinely become a money making business, instead of constantly needing to go back to investors for money. (“Dad??? Can I borrow $70 million?”)

What stays the same:

  • SoundCloud as you know it keeps running. (Meaning, if you aren’t terribly interested in the business story here, carry on uploading and forget about it!)
  • Eric Wahlforss stays on. The co-founder’s title is adjusted to “Chief Product Officer” instead of CTO, but it appears he’ll retain a hands-on role. That’s important, too, because no one knows the product – or how it’s used by musicians – than Eric does. It’s easy to criticize the executive team, but if you’re a current user, this is good news. (Just bringing in some Vimeo people and dumping the people running the product would have almost been very bad for the service you use.)

Now, most headlines are focusing on the cash lifeline, and that’s absolutely vital. But this is a major talent injection, too. Fred Davis is one of the key figures in New York around music and tech, from his role as an attorney to as an investor. (He was known to float around hackdays, too.) Oh, yeah – he’s also the son of Clive Davis, who started NYU’s music business school. Puthenveetil also represents some significant expertise in the area.

Kerry Trainor is about the single most experienced person you could find to lead SoundCloud – more so, in fact, than the executives who have steered the company before. His streaming experience, as SoundCloud points out in their press release, spans back 20 years. (They leave out the names, because kids don’t like AOL, Yahoo Music, or Launch Media any more, but experience matters.) And he is largely credited with making Vimeo a profitable company.

What’s the future of SoundCloud now?

For all the skepticism, Alex seems to have delivered on exactly the promises he’s been making in past weeks, vague as they may have seemed. SoundCloud does appear ready to re-focus on creators, and the financing means ongoing independence is a real possibility.

Whether it works or not, it’s tough to overstate what a significant shift in direction this represents. For years, people have casually referred to SoundCloud as the “YouTube of audio.” (Oddly, the phrase I first wrote when they started was a “Flickr or audio,” which, uh, dates that story. But it does also indicate creators, not consumers, were initially the focus, so I at least go that bit right.)

It seems SoundCloud aren’t just bringing on former Vimeo executives. They seem poised to follow Vimeo’s example.

We already know that endlessly expanding scale and more streaming is a disastrous business model. The issue is, if listeners aren’t paying, and any royalties are accruing, the more people listen, the more money you lose. Spotify is facing that now and may need a similar change in direction, and the entire music industry is caught up in this black hole. Companies like Google and Apple can absorb the losses if they choose; an independent company can’t.

So scale alone isn’t the answer. And just having more listeners doesn’t necessarily mean the kind of attention that gets you caring fans or lands you gigs.

Vimeo faced a similar challenge, in the face of challenges from YouTube and Facebook’s own video push – each backed by big companies and revenue streams that the creator-focused, smaller company lacked.

What’s unique about Vimeo, under Kerry Trainor in particular, is that they found a way to compete by focusing on the creators uploading to the service rather than just the viewers watching it. While YouTube always tried to encourage uploads, its focus was on scale – and ultimately, the toolset was geared more for advertisers and watchers, and casual content creators, than for serious content makers.

Vimeo offers an alternative that serious uploaders like. Actual streaming quality is higher. The presentation is more focused on your content. There are powerful tools for controlling that presentation and collecting stats – if you’re willing to pay. And there’s not only greater intangible value to those serious uploaders, but greater tangible returns, too. It’s easier to sell your content – and, because there’s a collected community of pro users, easier to get audiences that support paying gigs.

Now, to do that in the face of YouTube’s scale, Vimeo had to make money. And that’s where Trainor did, by encouraging more of its creators to pay.

We already know SoundCloud’s plans to make listeners pay have fallen flat. So, as users have been clamoring for years, now is a chance to refocus on the creators.

I think anyone who knew Vimeo figured this was the best guess as the company’s new strategy the moment they saw Trainor and Weissman rumored to take over executive roles. And sure enough, in an exclusive talk with Billboard, Trainor says point blank that’s his strategy:

SoundCloud’s Pro and Pro Unlimited subscription services provide insights into which tracks are most popular and where. The Pro service, which costs $7 a month, provides basic stats such as play counts and likes, see plays by country, turn on or off public comments and upload up to six hours of audio. The Unlimited offering, for a $15 monthly fee, lifts the cap on the amount of music that can be uploaded and provides more specific analytics.

Trainor hopes to increase the number of creators who pay to use SoundCloud Unlimited’s service by adding an even more robust creative toolkit.

Emphasis mine. And reaction from users I’ve seen is, even a lot of die-hard SoundCloud enthusiasts in my early adopter social feed suggest people found reason to pay for Pro, but not Unlimited. Poor differentiation and stagnant offerings just gave little motivation.

That’s not to knock even SoundCloud’s rocket growth. On the contrary, it’s pretty tough to argue against sharing your sound on a site that’s one of the Internet’s biggest, with one of the world’s most popular mobile apps alongside. But now having grown to a huge audience, SoundCloud needs to fresh its tools for creators.

Translating from video to audio isn’t going to be easy. Part of the reason SoundCloud presumably didn’t push as hard on creator subscriptions is, there’s no clear indication what would make musicians pay for them. Audio is simpler than video – easier to encode, easier to share. Serving video on your own server is a nightmare, but serving audio isn’t. And, sorry to be blunt, but then there’s the issue of whether music producers really earn enough to want to blow cash on expensive subscriptions. Compare a motion graphics firm or design agency using Vimeo, who could make back a couple hundred bucks in subscription fees in, literally, an hour of work.

Even beyond that, I’m not clear what SoundCloud creators want from the service that they aren’t already getting. (Okay, Groups – but those probably aren’t coming back, and I don’t know that people would pay a subscription for them.) The toolchain out of the browser is already powerful and sophisticated, which has always made Web tools a bit less appealing – why use a browser-based mastering tool like Landr when you already have powerful mastering tools in your DAW, for instance? If you’ve invested enough money in gear and software to want to share a track to begin with, what will make you spend a few dollars a month for more?

That said, there’s clearly a passionate and motivated community of people making music. And note that the new talent at SoundCloud has music experience and interest as well as video. Trainor is evidently an avid guitarist (what, you’re not a fan of “Etro Anime,” his band?). He cut his teeth in tech in the area of music. (LAUNCH Media went from CD-ROM-taped-to-a-print-magazine to Internet radio offerings that look a lot like how we listen to music now.) And he’s currently on the board of Fender guitar.

Vimeo also had a long-standing interest in music and the music community in the company’s native New York City.

These are tough problems to solve. But I can think of few better people to tackle them. Basically, Alex and Eric not only saved their company for now, but seem to have gotten what they wanted in the process.

Also, it’s worth pointing out – the music business wants SoundCloud to live, not die. I think it would be unequivocally bad for musicians and labels, in fact, with independent and international artists feeling the worst impact. But it’s also worth noting Fred Davis tells Billboard: “If I could show to you the number of people who have been calling us, expressing fear about it going away, you would be shocked.”

It’s still possible investors will look to sell, but I suspect with the valuation at its low point and the tech world in general losing interest in music’s money-losing propositions and legal mess, independence is probably the safe bet.

If SoundCloud can turn this around, it’ll be a great example of a tech company humbling itself and successfully changing course.

We’ll be watching, and when this team settles in, hopefully will get to talk to the new team.

Background:
SoundCloud saved by emergency funding as CEO steps aside [TechCrunch]

SoundCloud Secures Significant Investment Led by The Raine Group and Temasek [SoundCloud press release]

Exciting news and the future of SoundCloud [Alex on the SoundCloud blog]

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Radical electronics on a grand scale: Berlin Atonal in its fifth reboot year

Berlin’s idea of a summer holiday is a bit different: shroud yourself in black, retreat into a giant concrete bunker, and prepare for an onslaught of experimental sound and light.

But that’s Berlin Atonal Festival in a nutshell. It’s what Tresor entrepreneur Dimitri Hegemann calls “a platform for radical ways in electronic music … in an industrial cathedral,” a packed-solid schedule of music and media art in the hulking abandoned shell of the power plant above the techno club.

This film affords probably the best insight into that

And now, Atonal is at an interesting inflection point. While the festival had its roots in the former West Berlin, 1982-90, it got a fairly significant reboot after a 13-year hiatus. So, sure, Hegemann himself carried over from the festival he first started. But a new curatorial team, a new context, this whole, uh, computer thing that happened, the reunification of Germany, the transformation of Berlin into international capital, the explosion of techno – these are non-trivial changes. That’s to say nothing of the move from a fairly conventional club (SO36) to a DDR-constructed behemoth that is literally used to record reverb impulse responses.

And the festival that once hosted the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten now treats listeners to a brand of experimental music that, while still adventurous, is starting to become commonplace in the festival circuit.

But maybe that’s the state of “radical” electronic music in general, certainly in Europe and the islands of media art chic around the globe. A fifth year festival isn’t going to be a shock that the first-year one is. But more than that, there’s a brand of violently sensory, retina- and eardrum-blasting but intelligent and high-concept experimental festival fare. And it’s grown popular. That popularity also transforms at least a circle of people making it. Their sound may be distorted and aggressive, but now it’s out of the tiny basements and blown-out crap PAs, and onto expensive speaker arrays, surround sound. There are sound technicians, even.

I’m of the opinion this doesn’t make experimental sound less experimental – on the contrary, it ups the acoustic and optical firepower and precision available to artists, which gives them a wider spectrum to exploit. It inarguably makes it less underground, but it also need not destroy underground aesthetics – and I think artists being able to eat is a good thing.

Of course, the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed yet. So I’ve watched curators cherry-pick their favorite acts from past Atonal, then import them to their own festival the following year. But that’s in something of a bubble, centering around Berlin (and London, and Amsterdam, and other capitals) in Europe, and festivals like MUTEK in the Americas (now a kind of pan-American festival franchise, in fact). It’s to the point where I can’t recall which festival discovered whom.

That consistency is easy to criticize, particularly for anyone jealous of Atonal’s grand spectacle (as a curator), cool crowds (as an audience member), or artist opportunities (for music and media art makers). But on the other hand, for this circle, it can begin to allow refinement. Audiovisual works in particular benefit from repetition and iteration, as you rely on multiple media to mature in parallel, collaborations to deepen. And a certain oneupmanship among lineups can drive artists to hone their craft.

This leaves us the question, what makes Atonal special?

Well, the obvious edge is its space. The artists interviewed aren’t kidding: you can’t imagine how big Kraftwerk is until you enter. It’s bigger than cameras can capture, vaster than words can convey. The Atonal organizers have found a way to tune the experience for listeners center stage, amazingly stopping it from turning into mud. And artists are adjusting their sets, too. But I agree with Sam Kerridge – it’s a unique pleasure to wander the space. Festivals are so often a pre-packaged, linear experience, a proscenium blasting a pre-determined significance to a packed crowd. In Kraftwerk, you can explore a set the way you would an art museum after closing. You can stand under the stage. You can find a sweet spot by a wall where reflections transform your perspective. You can find yourself gazing in complete stillness at some installation. And Atonal combines this with Ohm (the former battery room of the power plant, an intimate tile-walled affair) and Tresor (the basement, with its famous metal-bar booth).

That says something about Berlin as it is now, citywide, year-round. It’s too much music, and it’s dark and industrial and sometimes monotonous. But you’re free in that overabundance to chart your own way, to come and go in a music culture that seems to have no beginning, middle, or end.

Photo: Helge Mundt.

And this year, Atonal seems poised to build on what the festival has constructed after four editions. In short:

Back to experimental music’s roots. I always have a historical bias, so this is what I’m excited about. For both Atonal and The Long Now (two Kraftwerk-based festivals sharing some of the same curators), attendees are treated to a mix of historical concert music / new music / historical works and new commissions. In this year’s Atonal, it’s Stockhausen‘s turn. His 8-channel spatial OKTOPHONIE is inspired by the sounds of warfare (a tradition itself with threads back to Italian futurists). Stockhausen collaborator and director of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kathinka Pasveer, leads that recreation, and younger composers will try out the system, too.

Rashad Becker + Ena on those eight channels should be especially good. But it’s nice to be treated to Karlheinz, too – having heard Cage and Reich recalled in this space, I can’t wait.

New stuff. There’s too much here to mention, but it’s fair to say this year’s Atonal promises more emerging artists and premieres, and might be one of the breakthrough festivals in 2017 generally. I’m curious about the “composed live act” of Chinese performance artist and composer Pan Daijing, the collaboration of Renick Bell (live coder) and Fis (sound designer). Sophie Schnell (PYUR) I’ve followed since her first AV show, and she has a unique and sensitive approach to her solo audiovisual work – this seems one to watch. Turkish-born Nene Hatun has a Rumi-inspired work.

I’m keen to see LCC (Ana Quiroga and Uge Pañeda) plus Pedro Maia; these Editions Mego-recorded artists are at the top of their synth game, and it’ll be spectacular to see them on this grander scale.

One sure-to-be-poingnant moment is Argentine-born installation artist, instrument builder and clarinetist Lucio Capace, who will have a trio doing a remembrance of the late experimental legend Mika Vainio.

There are also just a lot of new live shows. There’s a reason curators scout out Atonal for talent; there are few chances to see this many new AV works anywhere. (Another chance this fall will be Prague’s Lunch Meat; I’ll be there, too.)

Another easy bet: go see anyone Japanese. Thanks to collaborating with the New Assembly festival in Tokyo, Atonal is fresh with a bunch of legendary Japanese talent not normally seen in Europe. (I’d like CDM in general to get a little closer to the Japanese scene, and since I can’t always jet over to Japan, this will be a nice shortcut.)

All stars. Okay, and there’s more Puce Mary, more Roly Porter, more Shackleton, more Emptyset, etc. etc.. But with new premieres and such from these artists, there’s a reason to bring the all-star quasi-residents back. Some possible highlights – the combination of Shackleton’s music, Anika‘s voice over, Berlin artist Strawalde, and live visualist Pedro Maia is on my must-see list – partly because that combination sounds like it’ll either be transcendent or a cluttered mess, and that uncertainty ought to be why we go see stuff. Emptyset is doing something with architecture – and architecture is what Kraftwerk is about.

We’re Northern Electronics fans around these parts, so a program by the label’s Jonas Rönnberg aka Varg is a must on Sunday.

I’m skipping the DJ lineup, but it’s also really robust.

Photo: Helge Mundt.

Some free sounds

Can’t fly to Berlin? (or, uh, walk across the river as you don’t work for Ableton or Native Instruments?) Fret not.

The Wire has a special, free download of a number of wonderful live recordings from 2014, 2015, and 2016.

And, okay, basically these are all favorites here – note Peder Mannerfelt, PYUR, Ena, and so on returning in 2017.

It’s their Below The Radar Special Edition

Alessandro Cortini “Perdonare” 0:04:56
A Vision Of Love “Rose Transept” 0:06:49
Marshstepper “When Misfortune Confounds Us” 0:10:23
Felix K + Ena “Live At Berlin Atonal 2016” 0:03:55
Pan Daijing + JASSS “April” 0:05:23
Abdulla Rashim “Live At Berlin Atonal 2014” 0:04:49
SUMS “Budapest” 0:04:52
Peder Mannerfelt “The Theory” 0:04:41
Orphx + JK Flesh “Light Bringer” 0:04:42
Caterina Barbieri “Human Developers” 0:12:41
PYUR + Fis “The Pact”


Below The Radar Special Edition: Berlin Atonal: Force Majeure

https://berlin-atonal.com/

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