This month we get very touchy feely with Yeco in my full review. We discover how to create the ultimate synth workstation with Gig Performer. You can build your own MIDI controller with Mine. I have a look at the only soft synth you will ever need with Vengeance Avenger. Cubase reaches version 9 and borrows some cool features. We get our glitch on with Timeshaper and Tim Exile gives us a machine with 5 years worth of loops in it with FLOW. We’ve also got the latest Molten Modular news and a couple of my best things of the year because there was some fun to be had in an otherwise dour and disastrous 2016.
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I’m not going to bang on about this too much as I’ve already done so in my full review which you can find in this channel. But in a nutshell Yeco is a multi-touch overlay and controller for Ableton Live. It works brilliantly and can turn Live into a fully touchable performance rig for your Surface or hybrid touch screen laptop/desktop thingy. It only costs €45 and until the end of the year you can get it half price with the code MOLTENMUSIC that you enter in their store (that’s over now obviously). So, if you have a Windows touch screen and any interest in Ableton Live then you should get a copy right now.
One of the great finds of the year is Gig Performer. It’s billed as a VST host that lets you put together different software synths and effects to create huge multi-synths or layer and range them across a keyboard. You can then create a custom controller panel to give you access to the controls you need while playing. What’s remarkable about this is that the controls are multi-touchable. So if you have a Surface or touch-screen you can get complete hands-on control over your desktop VST instruments and effects. It’s brilliant, here’s a little demo.
Why have a fixed hardware controller when you can have a tray that you can fill with whatever controls you want. That’s the idea behind Mine – it’s a modular controller. You can choose from pads, knobs, encoders, faders and buttons and create your own configuration like a music technology lego set. It’s a cool idea. In many ways that’s what attracts me to multi-touch screens – the ability to reconfigure the controls into anything you want. It looks awesome. It also looks like you are going to lose those pieces all over your studio. I wonder actually how many configurations you are actually likely to use. It’s an 8×8 grid and there’s only so much you can do with that. Many things already exist that cover the 8×8 pads or 4×8 with knobs/faders. It seems to me that it needs to be twice the size. But then how much will it cost. Controllers like the Launchpad, Launch Control or Akai APC are not expensive so can this work out as a cheaper alternative? Seems unlikely. It looks beautifully made though. It should be launching on Kickstarter in the new year when all will be revealed.
I love a bit of self belief and Vengeance have it in spades. The Avenger synth is apparently the only synth you’ll ever need – they are calling it the Alpha and Omega of software synthesis. Wow. It has 8 oscillators which can be any of 7 synthesis types. You can draw your own waveforms and morph within wavetables. You can sample and resample, load up on drums or whatever you need. They say that the mystical group of top sound designers have created 900 presets that cover all genres as long as it’s EDM and electronic. Soooo maybe not quite the be all and end all of all synthesis ever? Anyway. It’s an immense synth packed full of overwhelming sounds and modulation where you can just keep loading more and more stuff so you’ll never know what’s modulating what. I get the impression that you would probably end up clicking through presets, which really isn’t my thing anymore. Make it simpler, make it interesting, make it less so that it can actually be used in something creatively.
Steinberg promised Cubase 9 by Christmas and they delivered. It’s sorted out some of the major annoyances that users have been banging on about for ages. Namely the sometimes unwieldy mixer console – they’ve docked it to the bottom of the screen like Studio One and Sonar – which is awesome because it works really well. This “lower zone” also becomes the editor for whatever you’re editing. It’s far better than having dozens of editor windows open all over the place. Along with that comes undo in the mixer – but not just undo, no no, you get the entire history of every fader and parameter movement so you can step backwards and forwards in time through out your whole mix. It is a wonderful thing. The other key feature is the sampler track – this is pretty cool actually because you can drop a sample from anywhere – from the browser, media bay, desktop or a chunk of an audio track and have it instantly playable in a sampler styli. It’s simple and easy and works and I can see that being more useful than I originally thought. I did a video overview of Cubase 9 that you’ll find on this channel. So go check that out.
A very interesting plug-in from CableGuys that messes with time in your audio. It’s good for creating stutters, tape stops and slow downs and a load of choppy stuff. It’s very much like Gross Beat from ImageLine and FL Studio but there seems to be a bit more to it. It can do clever things like replace hits with another hit from another part of a loop. It has a multi-band function where you can do different things to the high mid and low frequencies. I’m never quite sure how useful glitchy style plug-ins are but this one is a lot of fun to play with and its only €39 to buy. Download the demo and give it a go.
Tim Exile is a master of Reaktor. His latest release is a kind of algorithmic loop sequencer which lets you mix and morph 4 different loops together. There’s all sorts of effects and modulation you can add and in many ways it will simple play itself. The key to it all is the 1GB of loops that Tim has included. He says they represent 5 years of stuff he’s created on his Flow Machine – custom made liver performance rig. So in many ways this is simple a innovative way to release his own material. The interface lets you dial through years and months and days as you explore the library. You can fiddle or you can just let it play – it’s really very interesting. It’s completely free and you can use it to create your own music – you can’t put your own loops in though. Fun to fiddle with.
So, where are we with Molten Modular. Well, I made a start by doing a video setting out the plan. I am at the moment putting together a video on semi-modular synths as I believe them to be a gateway to modular synthesis. I’m also realising that I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s a heck of a lot of fun finding stuff out. Next I’ll be doing a video on Softube Modular and other modular software to demonstrate how helpful they are in showing you how tricky modular can be. If you can’t get something half decent out of Softube Modular then you really should pack it in now. So I imagine it’s going to be mid January before I actually take the plunge and buy a case – lots more goodies to come.
So Best things of 2016
2016 has been a hateful year. Overwhelmed by the people who have died, the wars and terror that’s been waged and the political decisions that have been made. There’s got to be some goodness in there somewhere. Possibly. The most interesting product for me this year is the Make Noise 0-Coast – feeds into my sudden interest in modular of course but also because it’s a mystical, unfathomable, joyous little sound maker. I have no idea what’s going on but it makes some brilliant sounds and you can’t help smiling – we need a bit of bonkers I think.
In software terms Yeco has been the most useful, and workable product that’s exceeded all my expectations. It’s bloody brilliant
2016 is also the year in which the Surface Pro 4 didn’t really work very well for music production. But now I am thrilled to say that my recent testing of Ableton Live on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book have demonstrated that actually it can now work pretty brilliantly. Various updates from Microsoft seem to have improved it’s ability to put CPU cycles into moving audio data successfully and it’s all so much better than it was. Thank fudge for that. Check out my recent testing on SurfaceProAudio.com
So we have another year coming up, I wonder what it’ll bring. It’s only a month to the NAMM show so I imagine that’ll be my next Molten Music Monthly. Last year I gave you my top 5 patronising production tips – have I kept to any of them myself? Er…. Probably not. So here’s my tip and my challenge for 2017 – No more presets. Restrict yourself to a handful of sounds and plug-ins and make them work for you. For me this is all about exploring modular synthesis – to make sounds on purpose from basic building blocks rather than pulling from those 1000’s of presets crafted by someone else. It’s an idea anyway.
Thanks for watching and if you like what I do, if you find these videos helpful then please share them – stick them in your social feed and help me reach a wider audience.
Have a great Xmas and an interesting New Year and try to find the time to make some tunes.