The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest

After years of somewhat similar wheels and pads and keys that wiggle, we’re finally seeing the ability to get physically expressive with sound in new ways. The Expression E Touché is one of the most compelling cases of that – but to understand, you have to watch, and listen.

So the French company and its fearless young leader Arthur Bouflet have cleverly taken Moogfest as a chance to do just that.

You’ll spot the wooden paddle-looking device beneath Arthur’s hand. It’s something that looks simultaneously vintage and historical and futuristic – a design object whose origin and time can’t quite be placed. And your first reaction, probably, is some skepticism – until you watch just how sensitive and intuitively gestural it is. You may or may not be taken with Arthur’s musical sensibilities – hey, I find it rather cheery and groovy, myself – but pay close attention to the gestures that are possible with it, and I think you’ll be impressed.

There’s more than one connection here to Moogfest, the festival-cum-technology meetup coming to North Carolina this week. There’s the custom, limited edition overlay for festival goers, yes, and the fact that Expressive E are going to the festival themselves. But the company have also made great effort to make custom presets for loads of gear, Moog’s equipment included. So that includes apps (Moog Model D for iOS), and hardware (DFAM, Subsequent 37, just to name two in the video).

It’d be hard to demo an expression or sustain pedal, but there’s no need. And it’s easy enough to map those two inputs to any synth. Open-ended, gestural expression is something else – there’s some prep work involved. Hats off, then, to Expressive E for both making an exhaustive library of presets and producing lovely-looking video demos to show why this all matters. (They’ve even mapped our MeeBlip synth.)

With USB, CV, and, MIDI connections, there are all sorts of possibilities for connecting to instruments – hardware and software, digital and analog. And all of these connect to the high-resolution sensing data from the Touché.

I’ll do a full review of this hardware soon, with some advice for DIYers and musicians. But in the meanwhile, these videos really get the point across.

In the age of MIDI Polyphonic Expression, you’ll see a lot of new controllers adding dimension to the inputs they read. And that makes it clearer than ever that part of what was holding back more expressive electronic musicianship was simply the common standard to describe a wider range of human performance.

But this particular hardware is special, in that it suddenly opens up sound where it had once been static. Uh… well, the name fits. Touché.

Let’s watch some more, featuring Dave Smith and Ableton and Mutable and Novation and more:

The post The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Loopmasters releases Cloud Rap Serum Presets from Patchworx

Loopmasters Patchworx Cloud Rap Serum PresetsLoopmasters has launched the 104th Patchworx series pack Cloud Rap, a royalty free collection of 64 sounds for the Serum synthesizer. The pack includes rich and full basses, devastating kicks, deep and wide pads, lo-fi leads and mystical FX for your next Cloud Rap & Trillwave music production. This is an unmissable collection of aesthetic […]

Get Down Samples releases Tribal & Tech Grooves Vol 2 at Loopmasters

Get Down Samples Tribal & Tech Grooves Vol 2Get Down Samples has released the second volume in its Tribal & Tech Grooves sample pack series, representing the new wave of underground House Music with driving construction kits, tight beat loops, jacking bass lines and inspiring vocals. Tech & Tribal Grooves Volume 2 contains 1.02 GB of content with 302 individual 24 bit Wav […]

Late Night Deep House, On Da Radio & Georgia Got Game at Future Loops

Future Loops Late Night Deep HouseFuture Loops has launched its latest sample pack Late Night Deep House, a royalty-free sample pack in WAV, REX and MIDI formats. Late Night Deep House features over 410 samples and loops for House, Deep House and Bass House producers. Late Night Deep House brings you immersive , inspirational and sexy house sounds organized into […]

ADSR Sounds releases Welcome to EDM – 6 For $15 by Catalyst Samples

Catalyst Samples Welcome To EDMADSR Sounds has launched Welcome to EDM – 6 For $15 USD, Catalyst Samples’ biggest valued pack to date, available for a limited time only! 6 of our best selling packs focusing on the realm of EDM – Progressive, Groove, Melodic, Dark, Uplifting, Phat. We pretty much cover all the bases of EDM in this […]

RetroKits MIDI Solutions At Superbooth 2018

?At Superbooth 2018, RetroKits gave us a quick overview of their line of MIDI solutions, which include cable, hub and hosts for connecting a variety of MIDI devices. … Read More RetroKits MIDI Solutions At Superbooth 2018

Polyend’s Medusa is an expressive grid, powerful sequencer, and synth

Polish maker Polyend has one special grid – expressive sensing meets powerful sequencing and recording. And now, combined with a dedicated synth made with Dreadbox, it starts to really come alive.

The first impression of Medusa, the new instrument shown last week at Superbooth, is a little bit of a Dreadbox synth tacked into a case with the grid sequencer from Polyend’s SEQ. But that’s really not what you’re getting here. For one thing, Polyend had a hand in the synth portion of this instrument, too, suggesting new architectural features. And for another, because every single parameter on the synth side can be played live and sequenced from the grid, you really get the sense of a complete, integrated instrument.

That’s not to say that SEQ, Polyend’s expansive sequencer product, doesn’t work well at these features, too. In fact, Medusa acts as a nice calling card / advertisement for what SEQ can do. But there’s something about immediately getting sound when you press into a space on the grid that makes a big difference.

And even before you start up the step sequencer, Medusa’s grid is irresistible to play. Each pad responds to x/y/z input, not just pressure. It’s sort of the opposite of the lifeless, on/off digital feeling of the monome – every continuous variation of the finger, every movement around the pad controls the sound. (Apologies to the monome, but that to me is a significant evolution – now that we’re accustomed to the once-radical grid interactions of the monome, we might well expect this kind of expressive dimension.)

Polyend have equipped that grid with a dedicated display, and mapped every parameter from the synth. So you can play live, you can record those performances, or you can increment through steps and play or program detailed changes as steps, then play back and jam.

This is what it’s all about – deep control of parameters, which you can then assign to individual pads and automate step-by-step.

Of course, the other advantage of an integrated instrument is, you don’t have the bandwidth problems of MIDI. The internal architecture is there both for synth and sequencer, so you can modulate everything as fast as you like. (Richard Devine was on hand to turn up the bpm knob really high to test that.)

The Medusa is planned for availability August/September 2018 at 999€.

That’s 999 including VAT and shipping, so figure even a bit less in USD.

And yeah, if you want to know my favorite thing from Superbooth – this is it. It seemed to be a crowd favorite, as well.

Here are the full planned, confirmed specs as provided to CDM – though Polyend hinted there may be more in the works by launch, too. (Dreadbox may have more to say about this, too; I only had time to talk to Polyend!)

Grid/sequencer/controller:
64 customizable three-dimension-expressive pads for a controller/sequencer
Step, live, and incremental sequence modes
256 independent sequences and voice presets
Per-step sequencing of notes, parameter locks, or even entire synth voice presets
Assign X and Y pressure axis to any modulation parameter, per pad
Randomization of voice and sequence
OLED display with customizable user menus

The synth is a nice digital-analog hybrid – 3 + 3, analog + digital wavetable (and comes with its own separate OLED display):

This synth end of Medusa means business, too.

Synth:

Three analog oscillators with sync, four wave types per oscillator
Three wavetable oscillators
24dB Dreadbox analog multimode filter (2- or 4-pole lowpass, highpass)
Play modes: monophonic, paraphonic x 3, paraphonic x 6 (so you can route the digital oscillators through the analog filter, yes)
Frequency modulation for oscillators and filter
Audio input
Noise generator with color shaping

Powerful, assignable envelopes and LFOs let you shape the 3 analog + 3 digital oscillators… and all of this is accessible from the grid/sequencer, too.

Modulation + control:
5 independent LFOs, which you can route into almost anything
5 independent DADSR envelopes with looping and its own parameter assignment
Mixer for all seven analog/digital/noise voices
Separate volume control for headphone and main audio out
USB MIDI in + out and DIN MIDI in + out + thru

Here’s Piotr talking about it in a couple minutes to FACT:

Sound demo, from Bonedo:

http://polyend.com/

https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/

The post Polyend’s Medusa is an expressive grid, powerful sequencer, and synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MIDI Polyphonic Expression is now a thing, with new gear and software

MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) is now an official part of the MIDI standard. And Superbooth Berlin shows it’s catching on everywhere from granular synths to modular gear.

For decades now, it’s been easy enough to add expression to a single, monophonic line, via various additional controls. But humans have more than one finger. And with MIDI, there was until recently no standard way of adding additional expressiveness for multiple notes/fingers at the same time. All of that changed with the adoption of the MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) specification.

“Oh, fine,” naysayers were able to say, “but is that really for very many people?” And sure enough, there haven’t been so many instruments that knew what to do with the MPE data from a controller. So while you can pick up a controller like the ROLI Seaboard (or more boutique items from Roger Linn and Madrona Labs), and see support in major DAWs like Logic, Cubase, Reaper, GarageBand, and Bitwig Studio, mostly what you’d play would be specialized instruments made for them.

But that’s changing. It’s changing fast enough that you could spot the theme even at an analog-focused show like Superbooth.

Here’s a round-up of what was shown just at that show – and that isn’t even a complete list of the hardware and software support available now.

Thanks to Konstantin Hess from ROLI who helped me compile this list and provided some photos.

Polyend/Dreadbox Medusa. This all-in-one sequencer/synth is one I’ll write up separately. That grid has dedicated X/Y/Z movement on it, and it’s terrifically expressive. What’s great is, it uses MPE so you can record and play that data in supported hosts – or presumably use the same to sequence oteher MPE-compatible gear. And that also means:

Polyend SEQ. The Polish builder’s standalone sequencer also works with SEQ. As on the Medusa, you can play that live, or increment through, or step sequence control input.

Tasty Chips GR-1 Granular Synthesizer. Granular instruments have always posed a challenge when it comes to live performance, because they require manipulating multiple parameters at once. That of course makes them a natural for MPE – and sure enough, when Tasty Chips crowd-funded their GR-1 grain synth, they made MPE one of the selling points. Connect something like a Seaboard, and you have a granular instrument at your command. (An ultra-mobile, affordable Seaboard BLOCK was there for the demo in Berlin.)

The singular Gaz Williams recently gave this a go:

Audio Damage Granular. The newest iOS app/desktop plug-in from Audio Damage isn’t ready to use yet, but an early build was already at Superbooth connected to both a Linnstrument and a ROLI Seaboard for control. Set an iPad with your controller, and you have a mobile grain instrument solution.

Expert Sleepers FH-1. The FH-1 is a unique MIDI-to-CV modular interface, with both onboard USB host capabilities and polyphonic support. But what would polyphonic input be if you couldn’t also add polyphonic expression? And sure enough, the FH-1 is adding support for that natively. I’m hopeful that Bastl Instruments will choose to do the same with their own 1983 MIDI module.

Polyend Poly module. Also from Polyend, the Poly is designed around polyphony – note the eight-row matrix of CV out jacks, which makes it a sophisticated gateway from MIDI and USB MIDI to voltage. But this digital-to-analog gateway also has native support for MPE, meaning the moment you connect an MPE-sending controller, you can patch that expression into whatever you like.

Endorphin.es Shuttle Control. Shuttle Control is both a (high res) 12-bit MIDI-to-CV converter and practically a little computer-in-a-module all its own. It’s got MPE support, and was showing off that capability at Superbooth.

Once you have that MIDI bridge to voltage, of course, MPE gives you additional powers over a modular rig, so this opens up a lot more than just the stuff mentioned here.

I even know some people switching from Ableton Live to Bitwig Studio just for the added convenience of native MPE support. (That’s a niche, for sure, but it’s real.) I guess the key here is, it takes just one instrument or one controller you love to get you hooked – and then sophisticated modular and software environments can connect to still more possibilities.

It’s not something you’re going to need for every bassline or use all the time, but for some instruments, it adds another dimension to sound and playability.

Got some MPE-supporting picks of your own, or your own creations? Do let us know.

The post MIDI Polyphonic Expression is now a thing, with new gear and software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Future House Buzz + New Progressive House, Trap and Future Pop & Vocals at Audentity Records

Audentity Records Future House BuzzAudentity Records has launched Future House Buzz, a collection of construction kits for Future House music production, inspired by artists such as Mike Hawkins, Mesto, Lucas & Steve, Pep & Rash, Martin Garrix, Mike Williams and more. Future House is still growing and evolving, every week several great new records are being released and it’s […]

Why MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) Matters

The official specification is now available as a download from the MIDI Association site. … Read More Why MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) Matters