We’re checking out what was fab about the Roland 909 day, we have a shed load of pianos from Spectrasonics, an ultimate audio interface from Focusrite, weird vocal noises from Jussi, iZotopes Neutron is doing all our mixing for us, D16 conjure up some vintage delays with some weird bloke, Behringer get their Deep Mind all augmented, Keith McMillen K-Mix is finally released on Windows and Tim Excile tells us to take it slow with reverb for sloths.
But first. I’m going to introduce you to a new thing – I’m never short on ideas, just the time to make them happen. But anyway, since I’ve been writing articles for gearnews.com on hardware synths I have been well and truly bitten by the world of modular synthesis. It’s pulling me in a completely different direction while at the same time feeling totally at home. So I’m going to embark on a little journey of exploration onto the beeping and flashing and patch infused planet modular. And while I’m making these steps I thought I’d blog and make videos about the process. Modular is so hot right now and I get the impression that there’s a lot of people out there like me who are fascinated but don’t know where to begin. Well, hopefully in sharing my journey it might just hope others along the way. I’ll be dropping articles onto the MoltenMusicTech.com blog and videos into this channel – so if that’s interesting to you then please come and join me.
Here’s the video version of this article, text continues below:
Roland 909 Day
Largely a load of fuss over nothing really. What I did enjoy was the yawning gaps of nothing happening at all for hours during the 24 hour live stream marathon. Particularly because soncisstate.com had put on a live chat room to talk about it – there was much rolling tumbleweed. There was a rebirthing of the TR909 drum machine and the TB303 bassline synth in boutique style modelled analogue boxes. They are awesome and everything but not really floating my boat. The other big release was the System-8 keyboard. This is a bit more like it – a decent sized synth with loads of knobs and features and it can also become a Jupiter 8 and a Juno 106 with it’s plug-out ability. I’m still not liking the green but really I’m feeling less than inspired by huge synths these days and far more inspired by little boxes and modules that do interesting but limited things. Anyway, there was nothing very computer musical about any of it. Good toys for people who have always yearned for them but I think we should move on.
A couple of months I wrote an article on the Top 5 rhodes piano emulations and had to scrape around to fill all 5 slots. Since then about a dozen have popped up from all over the place. Each one more painstakingly sampled than the next (what does painstaking entail I wonder). We had one from Waves, then e-instruments, Spitfire got in on the action and now we have Keyscape from Spectrasonics which is no doubt the ultimate of ultimate collections of crappy old pianos. I reckon there’s one guy out there with an authentic electric piano that he keeps hawking round various sample companies – they all fall in love with it and spend years sampling and producing the exact same library. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely adore the sound of a Fender Rhodes – I use it all the time. Riders on the Storm is for me one of the best pieces of music ever and it’s all about the pianos. Keyscape features 36 sampled instruments – there’s stuff in here you really won’t find anywhere else and probably don’t want to. This is a golden age of virtual electric pianos – but has the soul been captured yet?
Focusrite RED 8 Pre
If you don’t have any idea how you want to record or what you should be plugging into then the Focusrite RED 8 Pre is right up your alley. It’s a Thunderbolt 2 interface with 8 mic channels, ADAT, S/PDIF, ethernet for Dante and DigiLink ports for Avid gear. The analogue connections on the back are all D-Sub so there’s no handy socket for plugging in a microphone or your mp3 player. It does however have two instrument inputs on the front. To get mics in you’ll need a D-Sub loom or some such jiggery pokery. The front panel looks amazing and the whole thing is dripping in quality. Focusrite are letting us Windows users down at the moment in their Thunderbolt development – or lack thereof – and so this is currently a MacOS only box. Same goes for the recently released Apogee Element Series and the UAD gear – when is Windows going to get some Thunderbolt loving?
Jussi Vocal Synth
Many years ago there was sort of college project virtual instrument called the Delay Lama. It was awesome – you hit keys and this little budhist fella sang notes. Well, decades later it’s back and reborn as Jussi. It’s designed to emulate male voice vowels and looks like a lot of fun. I’m loving the interface in the style of a piece of scrap paper. It sounds brilliant in a quirky – not-sure-how-im-ever-going-to-use-this-seriously kind of way. But it is only 13 dollars and works on iOS as well as VST and AU on real computers.
Well, they’ve only gone and done it. iZotope have invented auto-mix. Not content with auto mastering in Ozone or auto-repairing in RX they will now analyse your audio and “suggest” a bunch of EQ and effects setting that will make it sound a whole lot better. iZotope go to great lengths to persuade us that it’s taking none of the decisions out of our hands – it’s merely suggesting settings like an annoyingly right-all-the-time studio assistance smart arse. It’s like iZotope – shut up, and take my money – now make my music sound awesome! It detects different instrument types, recommends EQ, compression and saturation – carves out the sonic space for your instruments to live and breathe. It’s not as expensive as you think at £149 and for £369 you can get it in an amazing bundle with a load of other iZotope stuff.
At last – Windows drivers for this the most possibly awesome interface ever. I have one – I plan to do a proper intense review very soon. Enough to say I love the form factor. I love that I can plug in half a dozen external things directly to the computer, mix it and automate directly from the interface without having to get all mousey. It’s all good so far.
D16 do great stuff. Awesome plug-ins, some fabulous instruments that really stand out from the crowd. So I’m always interested when something new comes along. And then – eeeewwwww – it’s that slimey steven slate guy. I don’t know what it is about him but I find him really creepy and kinda sticky. What is he looking at? What’s over there that’s so important. Anyway I struggle to believe anything this man says which is a shame because otherwise it looks like a really cool bunch of delay. It’s not out yet and I’m unsure whether you’ll be able to buy it outside of the Slate Digital $15 a month subscription package – I hope so. I think I need to go and have a wash.
DeepMind 13 and HoloLens
I was at the SynthFest in Sheffield where Behringer unveiled their top secret Augmented Reality interface for the DeepMind 12. Now at the time I completely missed the importance of it. I saw it there, the Microsoft £4000 HoloLens head computer, picked it up, took a photo and chatted to the engineers. They said they were just trying a few things out to see what people thought. To me it looked like the usual arm ache inducing menu nonsense and a laser harp app – but actually there was a lot more going on. All sorts of access to deeper parameters and functions which you couldn’t get to on the keyboard itself. However – are these things useful? You have a heavy and quite unstable thing on your head throwing out large holograms of things you have to wave at whereas a knob or a mouse might actually do the same for a lot less fuss. I am unconvinced by HoloLens – I had a go on one last year and found it uncomfortable and a bit silly – although I was drunk. However – this is the best use of one I’ve seen so far and it has to all come down to the apps.
A beautiful effect for Reaktor created by Tim Excile who has built some really very cool things for Reaktor in the past. This is simply a very very long reverb. It’s free if you sign up for his newsletter so if you have Reaktor then you need to have this. Here’s me playing my Moog Mother-32 through it.
While that’s going I’d like to remind you to watch out for the new off-the-cuff videos I’m doing on the Surface Pro 4 – I’m off to do another one shortly. And coming soon is my review roundup of multi-touch software controllers starting with Yeco for Ableton Live. Also check out our new range of audio PC’s for the best in desktop and laptop music production.
So until next time – go make some tunes!