Molten Music Monthly – June 2017

Welcome to the super summer hotness of the June edition of Molten Music Monthly. This is my round-up of everything that I thought was cool this month in the world of computer music, music technology and modular synthesis. So it’s software and hardware – interfaces and synthesizers – Eurorack and virtual studios – knobs and Surfaces the whole lot, in one place. Lots to get through this month so let’s get on with it.

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Surface Pro

If you follow my Twitter feed you may have noticed that something had gone terribly wrong with my preorder of the new Surface Pro. Yes i do have to buy my own, no Microsoft don’t give them away – even to someone as awesome as me. Apparently my order had “hung” and all my moaning and whinging about it highlighted the presence of a bug that they’ve now fixed and subsequently saved the planet – which is nice. Suffice to say it got sorted out and I now have a nice new Surface Pro to play with – no keyboard mind, that’s no available in the UK, neither is the new pen… But i did get a Surface Dial to play with instead and that’s freaking awesome. So season 3 of Surface Sessions will soon be kicking off as i put this new Surface Pro through it’s music making paces.

Thunderbolt 3 and Core i9

Staying with computers for a moment Intel have released their next extreme series of processors and introduced us to the Core i9. What does this mean? It means more cores, more computing, more plugins, more instruments, all at once all over your desktop. The Core i9 takes us up to 18 cores but there’s also 4,6,8,10 and whatever along the way. Of course you’ll need a new X299 chipset motherboard – but isn’t it about time you had a nice new shiny PC? One really cool thing is that they are introducing an i5 processor that will work on this platform. So you could put together a quite cost effective system on an X299 board with a cost effective i5 quad core processor and whack in an 18 core down the line. That really appeals to me. In other news it turns out that Intel are pissed off by the lack of Thunderbolt support and the masses of confusion about it all and the general crappy compatibility. See my March rant all about that. So they are going to bake Thunderbolt into future CPU releases – that means the technology will be there and all the motherboard manufacturers need to do is add the physical ports. This will finally create the standard we’ve all been after! Sadly, it’s not in these new CPU’s, it will be in the next lot in a couple of years.

Endless Smile

The award for the most ridiculous plug-in of the month goes to Dada Life for the Endless Smile epic build-up. It listens to your track, manipulates a load of processors to automatically generate a huge, club EDM build up to send your audience wild. It’s extraordinary.

NI Thrill

With Komplete 12 still refusing to appear NI do still drop the odd new thing from time to time. This new thing is called Thrill and it’s designed to cover that old and massively popular ground of cinematic atmospherics. Everyone’s at it, you can’t throw popcorn without hitting someone designing yet another library of cinematic sounds. Thrill is a massive sound design library of wonderfully spooky and goosebump evoking sounds. With nearly 1000 sound sources it’s designed to create tension, atmosphere and clusters of weirdness. It has a simple XY style interface for morphing between sonic situations. How different it is from all of the other terabytes of cinematic environments is anyone’s guess but i am loving the look and feel of it.




AllFlesh

In the weird world of modular this month we have the alarmingly named AllFlesh – which is really something you shouldn’t ever google. These are conductive pads mounted on the back of patch plugs that invite your fingers (or other extremity) to become the patch cable. Make a connection and you are moving CV from one place to another. This means you can touch and modulate all sorts of things all over the place. Looks like a load of fun to me. They are only $26 for a pack of 10 – but you do have to solder them together yourself.

Audiofuse

What they hell happened to the Audiofuse? It’s a cool looking premium audio interface from Arturia that was revealed in 2015 and has just about managed to get released 2 years later. As far as I can tell nothing has changed about the spec and all we know is that they wanted to get it “perfect”. It’s essentially a 4 channel audio interface where the first two channels have all the controls mounted on the rather nice, console style front panel. They wanted everything accessible on its own control and a nice fat knob in the middle. It also has ADAT in/out which can massively extend the I/O and for €599 that’s no bad thing. 2 years is a long time though in technology. Things have moved on. One thing i would expect in a premium interface these days is DC Coupled inputs and outputs, to allow for connection to modular. 2 years ago, even through Arturia had gear with CV on it, it would not have seemed important – these days it’s vital – so that’s a shame – although with the right module from Expert Sleepers you could use the ADAT port for CV signals. The one thing that concerns me is that they state that they decided to use generic class compliant drivers rather than develop and support proprietary drivers – this is probably why it’s taken so long – they can’t get the drivers right. But usually class compliant, which means WASAPI drivers on Windows, are pretty shite. So their reported 3ms latency is probably on the Mac – but we shall see – i would be stunned if an interface of this price didn’t have ASIO drivers.

Seaboard Block

I try really hard to see ROLI blocks as something more than brightly coloured toys. Recent updates and some cool online demos have looked promising. But now they’ve pushed it over the edge with the Seaboard Block. A small version of their MPE controller keyboard that’s cool enough and cheap enough to be completely desirable – and it’s also made the Blocks look a how lot more interesting.

Folktek Altar

Foltek are obviously a bunch of stoners wiling away their time talking nonsense and designing out-there Eurorack modules. The Altar is such a module – and it’s actually 2 modules, the Altar 1 which is kind of a spacey, delay, granular thing and the Altar 2 which is kind of a granular, delay, spacey thing. Both look spectacular and completely the same. Either would look completely awesome in your rack although i can’t quite decide which to get – i’m not sure why they couldn’t be one module with two banks of effects. In any case, they are very groovy.




Rebirth RB338 is dead

Rebirth has been officially killed off. Roland have decided that after 20 years or so enough is enough and you really can’t use our intellectual property like that – so Propellerhead have killed the app. The desktop version disappeared a few years ago – even the Rebirth museum no longer goes anywhere or has the original for download. I remember when it first arrived. It was the first real virtual synth – this was before ASIO, before VST, when we were still dealing with seconds of audio latency on PC’s – which is why Rebirth was perfect – it didn’t require any realtime operation. It was all step sequencing – two 303s and an 808 followed by a 909 in the next version. A perfect little Acid groovebox of music making bliss. It gave birth to Reason of course, invent Rewire and has been copied ever since. I guess Roland have finally cottoned onto the fact that people really still love their old gear….. Which brings me neatly onto….

Roland SE-02

A new Boutique series synth from Roland that’s completely analogue. It’s made in collaboration with Studio Electronics who have been making analog synths for decades. It looks and sounds an awful lot like a certain Moog monosynth complete with a ladder filter. It’s also got a cool step sequencer and sounds flipping amazing. At $499 it’s the sort of price that will really put the willies up Behringer. This appears to be the first in what may be a number of collaborations with Studio Electronics and that’s very interesting because in their portfolio there’s an ARP 2600 filter, a SEM filter, Minikorg and one from the Yamaha CS-80 along with classic Roland clones. We could be in for a treat of awesome vintage synth clones made by people with a real heritage and synthesis chops. My only concern is that with the Boutique form factor they are really quite small – those knobs are tiny, very much like the forthcoming Behringer D Moog clone. Shame.

Arminator

Following on from the magnificent Deckards Dream that i talked about last month comes the Arminator. It’s a lovingly created Yamaha CS-80 virtual instrument that’s completely free. It was designed by Krakli plugins for sound designer Armin Kujashi who went ahead and designed a stack of fabulously Vangelis style presets for it. All you’ve got to do is join the facebook group and it’s yours.

IK Multimedia Syntronik

Not one to be out done IK Multimedia have released a massive selection of classic synths in a one virtual software synth bundle. They are calling it Syntronik and it has more synths than the Arturia V Collection. It’s got flipping everything – 38 synths, 2000 presets, you’ve got your Moogs, your oberheims, your Jupiters, Prophets, Arps, CS-80s, even a Yamaha SY99 and an Alesis Andromeda. They’ve introduced special drift technology to make the oscillators fall apart a little bit. They did special modelling on all the filters. It’s 100 quid, it’s probably the most fantastic thing ever – just don’t get lost in the presets.

Norwich synth meet

And finally – last month i suggested that it would be cool to have a modular meet in Norwich. Well as luck would have it a bloke called Bill Cerebral was hosting the very first Norwich Synth Meet the following week. He got in touch, i came along with me rack and 4 of us had a marvellous time playing with beeps and noises and drinking beer in the The Birdcage pub. It was far more fun that i imagined it would be and the music seemed to flow really easily. It was like the first time in ages i had sat down and really focused on making sounds – i learned tons! The next one is on the 10th July, same place. Search out the Facebook group called “Norwich Synthesizer Group” and come along – it could become a bit of thing.




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