Deadbeat’s secret sauce Reaktor picks for “weirdo” production

It’s time for another trip into the strange and wonderful world of artist-created Reaktor ensembles. This time, our guide is dub techno maestro Deadbeat.

The Canadian-born, Berlin-based Scott Monteith is an artist whose chops are at peak maturity, from timbre to rhythm, recording to mix. And Scott’s latest, Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve, is both more personal — pulling from inspirational texts from friends — and more sonically intimate. The entire album sounds open and airy and organic, thanks to using acoustic re-recording of electronic elements. Every percussion hit, every synth line was either recorded in real space in the studio or recorded out of the box and into that open space and then miked.

Scott and I got to spend a pleasurably leisurely interview talking about the record, which I wrote up for Native Instruments’ blog:
Deadbeat on a return to hope, sound in real space

With all this focus on acoustic recoridng and re-recording, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to say about software – but you’d be wrong. There’s yet more shade and color around these sounds that’s produced by synthetic processing, a whole lot of it in Reaktor.

“There’s tons and tons of extra stuff that you would normally delete in vocal takes or guitar takes or whatever that ended up as sauce for feeding vocoders or feeding [Reaktor ensemble] grainstates,” says Scott, “or even some of the real classic [ensembles].” You’re hearing some of that in the hyperreal, clear color of the arrangements and mix.

“I think it’s nice to treat that stuff completely independently,” Scott says, “and then you end up with this bank of stuff that you know is going to be in key. And it’s somehow relatable, whether it be melodically or aesthetically – because you’ve fed it this stuff from a particular track. And then you go back to arrangement mode, because then I can take off my sound designer’s hat and put on my arrangers’ hat.”

Scott is confident enough in his skills to give that secret sauce away, so here’s a tour. Some of these are some long-lost gems of the library, too, so don’t expect to find them just by sorting for the latest or most popular ensembles. Some of these were used on this particular record, others represent a related techniques but have been used on other productions.

g-Transcoder
Gabriel Mulzer
Spectral vocoder/delay/reverb

“I’m using that just to add color to things. I love vocoders, period.

It’s like taking the vocals of Gudrun talking or Fatima talking, and using that as the modulator and the carrier signal being the chords in the track. Or it could also be the extra recording of the high hats in the room, and vocoding the vocals with that. So, then you have something rhythmic that’s the same, and in the same air, but then can be free as its own track. Or taking the guitar or the bass…”

GRIP Grain Cloud Synth
Uwe G. Hoenig
Polyphonic granular synth

“This is a playable one – this is one you can play with the keyboard. And you can load the oscillator is whatever you load into it.”

MOLEKULAR
Denis Gökdag / zynaptiq, Native Instruments
Modular multi-effects
KOMPLETE effect; available à la carte or in KOMPLETE ULTIMATE

“It’s fantastic. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful combination of super, super simple granular synth process combined with lovely lush reverb. And it’s just amazing.”

The Swarm
Eduard Telik
Random sound generator

“There goes a few hours of time,” says Scott. “This whole frequency modulation and detune and weird shit that’s going on in these guys is amazing.”

Ultimate Reverb
Guenther Fleischmann
Reverberator

“There’s this preset – ‘Coming Up From Hell.’ I use that a lot – I’ve been using that for years. If you’re rolling along, and you want to create density, it’s like, okay, flip this into the Ultimate Reverb, and all of a sudden you’ve got this underlying loud of ffffoooooosssssh. You’ve made things thick without adding another element.

And that with some sort of distortion, and some sort of sidechain compression to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of anything — all of a sudden, you’ve created raging hell.”

grainstates
Martin Brinkmann
Granular effect processor

Don’t forget the granular Reaktor ensemble that started the craze. Martin’s landmark granular processor has had an influence even outside the Reaktor community on imagining how grain processing effects can be used as instruments.

Hacking together custom ensembles

The biggest advantage of using Reaktor as a modular environment is, you can hack together what you need if a particular tool doesn’t do exactly what you want. Scott long ago made his name as a Reaktor patcher, but don’t feel obligated to achieve mastery — even he doesn’t necessarily go that route now. “The last one that I did … this thing [Deadbeats] 13 years ago.”

The aforementioned Grain Cloud synth, for instance, he used to substitute oscillators inside a drum machine. Or with granular processors, he’s swapped a sample player with a live input, as on The Swarm. These aren’t complicated hacks – you barely need to know how to operate Reaktor to pull them off. But they then open worlds of new performance and sound design possibilities.

In another instance, Scott had a happy accident hacking mmmd1, the “morphing minimal drum machine” by grainstates creator Martin Brinkmann. That ensemble includes a series of assignable X/Y controllers which can modulate the filter, bitcrush, and so on, with step-based sequencing.

Scott tried applying a child ensemble with a crossfader for interpolating between presets – and that’s when he was surprised. “Because this is step-based, morphing between presets on this thing, as you would go across, it would go thththththththththt …. and you would get these totally twisted, glitchy crossfade things.”

Thanks, Scott! Got more favorite Reaktor ensembles, other granular tools, or the like? Let us know in comments.

Deadbeat on a return to hope, sound in real space [NI Blog]

Deadbeat Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve [Review: XLR8R]

https://soundcloud.com/deadbeat

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Maschine adds loop recording, controls Apple Logic, more

Native Instruments quietly stuffed a bunch of little improvements into its Maschine groove production tool today – including the ability to control Apple Logic and at last, to record loops.

It’s only called 2.7.3, but it shows NI are continuing to smooth out workflow and integration in their software.

The big one: loop recording. So, Maschine already had a Sampler device, for recording workflows, and recently added the much-requested ability to play audio via the Audio plug-in. What you couldn’t do – which obviously you want to do – was record into that loop mode. Now, at last, there’s a LOOP recording mode in the Record tab.

It also works the way you need to for live use (or spontaneous use in the studio). Recording is quantized to the start of the pattern, and once you finish recording, the loop automatically starts playing back from the Audio device.

So you can record loops with this thing. It’s about time. The whole point of Maschine from the start was to incorporate the ease of working with hardware. And what do people do with hardware? They sample, and record loops.

Of course, since it’s also a plug-in host, you can grab those loops from plug-ins, Reaktor Blocks patches, whatever – in addition to mic and external inputs.

NI overcame another important limitation of the way they had first implemented their new Audio plug-in. You can now enable and disable playback of the Audio device per Pattern, and enable/disable via the STEP page on hardware. This also means you can put full tracks in your set (if you set the loop length long enough).

That’s a big deal, too: now you can take full tracks and stems and mix them in with a set, essential for hybrid use – without combining Maschine with other software.

I’d like to see more control over how the Audio plug-in works; it’s still sometimes mind-bogglingly primitive. But this is a start.

Maschine MK3 updates

As you might expect, NI are also bringing some additional enhancements to their new MK3 hardware. It now has an Ideas View (a lot like Ableton Live’s Session View, but rooted in the Maschine paradigm). And its 4-wheel encoder can now do some clever event editing – select, nudge, pitch-shift, and change length of notes. That’s another reason not to look at your computer – try hiding it under the stage.

You can also record events directly, and MK3 gets velocity curves, too.

Apple Logic Pro integration

You can access the Logic mixer via the MK3 hardware, too, with a new template, as well as adjust pan, mute, and solo. You can also trigger Logic’s Play / Stop / Record, Quantize, Undo / Redo, Automation Toggle, Tap Tempo, and Loop Toggle General.

This sort of functionality is already on NI’s keyboard line, and it’s hugely useful when you want to track ideas quickly. Plus, with Apple adding some great effects, sequencers, and the like, the one thing they’re lacking is a really good drum machine. So the Maschine – Logic combo I think could be terrific; I’ll be using it to start some new ideas. (Sorry, Ultrabeat and Drummer but … you’re just not really my thing.)

Sculpture techno? Yes.

Having used NI’s Maschine Jam template, I hope we also see enhanced Ableton Live support in the future.

More scales

NI keeps adding more scales to Komplete Kontrol; now those come to Maschine, too.

Other fixes and tweaks abound. This was a lot in just a small update, so I’m curious what’s next.

Note: as with a lot of vendors, NI will drop 32-bit plug-in and standalone support. So if you’re on an old machine, you may want to maintain the last version. 64-bit is the way to go, though: more use of memory, and fewer crashes when you run out of it. It’s time. (You can read what I wrote about Ableton’s move to 64-bit only for an explanation of why it makes sense. The same holds here.)

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine/

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Cakewalk SONAR DAW for Windows is back – and it’s now free

One of Windows’ most powerful, most popular, most native-optimized audio tools is not only back from the dead, it’s available for free. A version of SONAR Platinum will be available free, and finally, it’s just called “Cakewalk.”

We learned back in February that Singapore-based BandLab acquired Cakewalk’s assets from Gibson. And in a sign this was a serious deal, they also got some of Cakewalk’s team, including top engineers Noel Borthwick and Ben Staton. That differs from a lot of ill-fated acquisitions; music technology assets are often fairly meaningless without the humans who worked on them.

An online and mobile DAW called BandLab just acquired Cakewalk’s IP

Now, there’s more. This week, BandLab announced they’re re-releasing the DAW as “Cakewalk by BandLab.” And it is actually SONAR Platinum. You even get tools like the ProChannel modules for signal processing.

So, wait, what’s the catch? Well, you do need to install the BandLab client to download the DAW; this is bait for BandLab’s online services. And BandLab say that while this includes “the entire SONAR Platinum feature set” in a version with “full authentication and unlimited feature-access” for free, some of the bundled tools are evidently missing. Fortunately, at least, that appears limited to selected add-ons, not the core DAW:

Cakewalk by BandLab is a streamlined version of SONAR Platinum – and certain third party products and content bundles will no longer be included. Existing users who have already purchased bundles or individual third party products and plug-ins can still use those products with Cakewalk by BandLab.

This is still big news. Cakewalk was always a leader in support for 64-bit and Windows core technologies. SONAR supports touch, VST3, and other technologies missing from a lot of rival DAWs. And this could in fact reinvigorate the Windows platform for audio at a key moment. Heck, it might be a reason to consider a Surface Book with touch support, or to migrate to a fast laptop. SONAR requires some adjustment if you’re used to another DAW, but it’s got a long history in production.

On the Windows support site, this excerpt including a quote from Pete Brown is telling – Microsoft, lacking something like Apple’s Logic Pro, really need this:

Pete Brown, from Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, said “We’re thrilled that Cakewalk has found a new home with a company that understands the musician community, and that cares sincerely about digital audio production. Cakewalk has been a great partner, working to make their DAW better for their customers by quickly adopting new Windows features like pen, Bluetooth MIDI, multi-touch, Dial, and more. We look forward to working closely with BandLab to continue this innovation.” Cakewalk by BandLab will support pen, touch and Surface Dial throughout the user interface.

And that comes on the heels of a pretty significant reorganization at Microsoft. (It’s a boost of confidence to Windows pro users, too, right when these frequent reorganizations in Redmond are … not confidence boosting.)

Oh yeah, and let’s be honest: even the most die-hard SONAR user tended to refer to their DAW as “Cakewalk.” (That’s true of “Ableton,” too, but it fits this product even better. SONAR’s predecessors for Windows and DOS were all called simply “Cakewalk”; the original vendor name was the geeky “Twelve Tone Systems.”)

So now Cakewalk is Cakewalk. And Cakewalk is free. That counts as some good news. (Now if I can make this run on Linux under WINE, I’ll be even happier still.)

I’ll give this a spin and see if I can offer up a decent beginners’ guide in time for the release.

You can get “early access” now via the site. (Other info is a bit vague, but you can grab the download.)

https://cakewalk.bandlab.com/

More on the DAW and its functionality: https://www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk

Joy rising, Windows users?

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