Ghosthack has announced its new sample pack Quantum Force – Cinematic Drums, featuring over 800 cinematic and orchestral drums and percussion for movie, music and video game productions. Expect cinematic-inspired hybrid construction kits, epic drum ensemble loops, underscore percussive loops, hundreds of orchestral drum percussion one-shots, huge modern processed layered hits, trailer whoosh effects, sub […]
Splice Sounds has released World Class Percussion, a sample pack that offers over 1,000 loops and one shots of exotic instruments performed by the insanely developed rhythmic chops of Josh Mellinger, and mixed by chart hitting producer AHEE aka Chris Adams. This pack delivers all your worldly percussion needs, from lightning speed Tabla riffs to […]
Karoryfer Samples has launched Gogodze Phu Vol I, a free Sforzando instrument library featuring a percussion collection with five bobobo drums from Ghana and a cajon recorded in Poland. The bobobo drums have one articulation recorded for the bass drum, and two articulations for the others. The volume and pan controls are obvious in their […]
5Pin Media has launched Hybrid Afro-Indian Percussion, a sample pack that offers a cohesive set of percussion parts specifically arranged for use in Contemporary, Ambient, Electronica and Cinematic styles of music. The pack includes nearly 400 kit loops, as well as 119 bonus backing loops and 286 MIDI groove templates derived from selected loops featured […]
It was called “909 day.” It was on the ninth of September. And it included a new 909 product. So far, so good. But Roland’s 909 day stops making sense around there. It launched over 30 products, many of them unrelated, over 24 hours. “909 Day” saw new … accordions. Also, record players that said 909 on them. There were four continents, and a marathon Web stream that would have taken 24 hours to watch, sometimes switching between Japanese and English. In years of covering this business, I’ve never seen anything like it. But before you blow this off, there was some cool stuff in there – depending on whether you play the accordion or sax, for instance. Let’s make sense of it.
The new PLUG-OUT flagship
Roland’s SYSTEM-1 was actually in some way the most interesting of the first AIRA offerings, not so much because of its PLUG-OUT technology, but because its default mode was a genuinely new synth. So, yes, it was built on ACB – their name for their proprietary component modeling techniques – but it was alive and weird and wonderful. The problem is, PLUG-OUT had some growing pains when it shipped with drivers, and the build on the SYSTEM-1 was to me really poor.
I hope the SYSTEM-8, a keyboard version, improves on the original. Roland is promising updated ACB – as with the Boutique line, they’ve been tweaking all their models. It does seem it has a better keybed, which to me was the deal killer on SYSTEM-1.
Because it works with “PLUG-OUT,” you can load different software models of instruments (purchased separately) … a bit like plugging in expansion cards in Roland products of yore. JUPITER-8 and JUNO-106 are included, or add SH-2, SH-101, PROMARS, and others.
The good news: Roland has smartly added more hands-on controls, and the excellent step sequencing from the AIRA TR, plus chord memory. That makes this look like a lot of fun to play, and I do believe they can make interesting ACB-based instruments.
The bad news: it’s still green. And at US$1499, I have to wonder who it’s for. Here’s the thing: this would make loads of sense to people who hate computers, because they can swap whatever model they want on it and play standalone. The only problem is, if this works like the SYSTEM-1, you can only have one model at a time. So you need the computer to swap models. And accordingly, Roland is modeling PLUG-OUT and SYSTEM-8 to people who love computers, but also don’t want to just use a controller and software, except that they also want to buy this a as a controller.
So, it’s a keyboard for people who love but also hate computers. Somehow that describes me, actually, but I still can’t quite make sense of it. More research needed; stay tuned.
For futuristic wind players
By far, the product I expected least is something called the Aerophone. It’s a kind of digital wind instrument with sax fingerings. That puts it in the category of things like the AKAI EWI series and digital brass instruments, but with some important differences.
First, if you’ve played a sax, you can pick this up and play it right away without any new fingerings. Second, it comes with all the sounds ready to go – clarinet, flute, oboe, trumpet, violin, plus all the sax parts, and you can layer those.
I think wind instruments are as natural a match for electronic performance as keyboards are, so to me, this is a great development.
Between the AKAI EWI series and the Aerophone, there’s something that works for you. I think Roland has an edge for built-in sounds and sax players, while the AKAI remains a more flexible controller (especially as it’s wireless). Fingering matters – check out this page for a discussion of all the different ways you can adjust fingering to the EWI (apart from standard woodwind fingering).
A visual inspection will see what I mean: the EWI looks like a clarinet, and the Aerophone looks like a saxophone … from another planet.
That Aerophone also looks freakin’ huge, a bit like a keytar for the mouth, but … I’m still interested to see it.
Oh yeah, and synth heads can make fun of these all they want. There’s a whole world of instrumentalists out there, though, and they’re a lot larger than the synth community.
Meanwhile, in Japan:
Yes, there’s a new V-Accordion – the FR-4x. That’s Roland getting under the $4000 mark. Uh, for everyone who thinks Roland is just cheap stuff made in Asia, this is a flagship accordion of the future built in Castelfidardo, Italy – seriously. There are people in Italy building MIDI accordions. We live in a wonderful age.
Otherwise, it’s a V-Accordion — just a bit cheaper, lighter, and more portable.
Accordions are cool. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Watch – Finnish style accordion rock:
You can actually tell a lot about the traditional side of Roland looking at this thing. There’s a similar philosophy as to other instrument categories: load this with sounds, let it run on batteries, meet different genre needs, and offer things like USB playback to keep up with the Internet.
Ernie Rideout, former editor of Keyboard magazine, is actually an accordion player and reviewed the very first V-Accordion. Again, make fun all you like: there’s a lot of accordion music in the world.
I’ve seen Matmos play Whirpool washing machines in Berghain, so … I’d also like to see someone make techno with a V-Accordion, quite frankly.
It’s available in all black finish, so it won’t get turned away at the door.
The funny thing is, in the midst of something called “909 day,” Roland not-so-quietly made an aggressive play for the home digital piano market – one that pits it head to head with Yamaha.
There are some interesting features here. Roland’s progressive hammer action has improved a lot lately, and SuperNATURAL has upped its sound game. These are premium-priced digital pianos, but you get a compelling offering.
More gee-whiz stuff lately involves Bluetooth MIDI, which allows integration with tablets and hands-free page turning. There are also interactive features for immersive sound, interactive metronomes, and more. I really wonder what the experience of growing up with this stuff is; it’s the one and only case where I really don’t feel digitally native.
The new lineup starts at US$1500.
The latest model V-Drums actually represent a big upgrade. The sound module is all new, and does what Roland is doing elsewhere – from circuits to acoustic instruments – bundling together a bunch of proprietary modeling stuff that’s meant to make things more playable.
What’s nice here is, this isn’t just a black box of presets. You can customize heads and shells, choose mics and ambience, add compressor and EQ, and even save and compare snapshots.
In other words, what the V-Drums represents is the latest attack on computer software. To my mind, I can’t see a whole lot of benefit to a drummer working with soft synths, because they can get similar power in a drum kit – and they need the hardware anyway. (Film composers and whatnot are another matter, more likely to customize the software.)
Oh yeah, and – interesting to CDM readers, you can even load your own samples on SD card for the first time.
New sensors, new snare and ride pads – technologically speaking, the V-Drums might be the most sophisticated of the new Roland announcements, even if it was the one that got the least attention. (Create Drum Music? Dunno… somewhere. Me in an alternate universe, possibly. I hope I also have a goatee there and that I’m totally evil.)
The first BOSS announcement is easy to sum up, because you start with the price – BOSS are making a US$199 version of their GT effects processor. I almost don’t care what it does; I think that’s going to be competitive with other offerings, partly because of the name (and the GT has a lot of sonic experience in it). The looks are nothing to write home about, but on the upside, they’re also not confusing, which may be the key here.
More interesting is the BOSS Katana amps, BOSS’ big new amp play. It’s interesting because the line integrates BOSS effects, which I think is meaningful to a lot of people. And Roland are also playing up on their Japanese-ness using script and name to evoke quality, which I think is smart marketing. Here’s where things get Roland-y, though – you control the head via MIDI? Customize the effects via software? Head-scratcher for me, but, well, different, at least.
For cajon players
Here’s why I love Roland. Their ELCajon EC-10 was an acoustic cajon (a percussion instrument) that layers electronic sounds – basically, the best busking product I’ve seen in years. Now, it’s available as a standalone module, so you can use it with your existing cajon.
Now, there’s just no excuse for anyone not to have some cajones.
Sorry. I’m really sorry for that. There were a lot of announcements. I lost some sleep. Moving on.
It’s still cool, even if I’m lame.
Roland is putting “909” on things
I’ve saved these for last, because… they appear to be bog-standard products that Roland has just rebranded, and are otherwise not worth mentioning. Still, Roland: if you’re doing mixers and turntables, I really would like to buy 909 sneakers and underwear. Consider.
And a video switcher
But I’ll put that in another article. Okay, so not quite everything fits here.
This is of course on top of the Boutique and DJ ranges we’ve already covered.
I’ll say this, though: Roland is coming for the market, in an aggressive way I haven’t seen for a long time. Combine this with their DJ partnership with Serato and the Roland Product Group’s more particular approach to our electronic production market, and Roland seem to be on their game again.
The phrase “music technology” may not naturally go with hand percussion or “plywood” for you. But there are plenty of people wanting to jam and play on the streets. So, what’s the big news for them?
I think it’s this, frankly. It’s the Roland EC-10 EL Cajon. It weighs just 6 kilograms (under 9 lb). It runs on just six AA batteries. And it could sell you on hand percussion – or be the one hand percussion box you covet this year.
Lest you think Roland put me up to this, EL Cajon was literally introduced to me as “something you’re probably not interested in.” And it was my favorite thing in their booth. Also, Roland, I’m refusing to pronounce it “E-L Cajon,” when it’s obviously, in Spanish, “El Cajon.”
But first, let’s back up. The cajon is a Peruvian percussion instrument, originating in the slave trade there and spreading to various forms of Latin music. But Roland isn’t looking to expand heavily in the Peruvian market. The point is that this kind of hand percussion has itself started to grow. Even as more conventional rock instruments have begun to wane, jamming, busking, and mobility in general are growing. The cajon is easier to move around than a drum kit. It’s easier to busk with. It’s easy to pick up – musically as well as physically.
What Roland has done is make a good cajon, then make it do more than a cajon normally would.
In the same size and weight as a conventional cajon, Roland additionally adds a sound module for more sounds. You can layer electronic renditions of acoustic and electronic percussion sounds atop the acoustic sound of the instrument. You can even layer sampled sounds of the cajon on the cajon. (Cue Xzibit: “yo dawg, I hear you liked cajons…”)
EL Cajon has its own amp, too, so those sounds work with the acoustic sounds.
The effect is weirdly natural. It’s a cajon for the one-person band. You get the normal sound of the instrument, but then can rotate through 30 built-in kits, with different sounds based on where you hit (two independent sounds are triggered from the head and edge of the surface).
You can 30 built-in kits, and various controls for playing.
But it’s the battery power that glues this together – with power consumption something Roland has been honing for years. (They claim you can get up to 12 hours of playing time with this.)
The other smart thing Roland has done is to partner with Heidi Joubert. She’s just fantastic on the cajon to begin with – the new face of the instrument, with her own line of boxes. So in place of what could have been just another forgettable, embarrassing video, she shows off why the thing is fun and musical.