Archive for July, 2006

Aphex Twin interview in Future Music

July 31st, 2006 Comments off

There’s a typically baffling/silly interview with Aphex Twin in this month’s Future Music magazine. When asked for a kit list, he says: “Sure. Raveolution 309, the Raven Max, MC-909 limited edition, Quasimidi Van Helden, MAM Freebass 383, Roland DJ-70, E-15, SP-808, Akai S3200, Behringer MX602A and all the Behringer effects that copy other things.” When he’s asked which software he uses, he says UPIC by Xenakis puts almost everything else to shame. It’s under 1mb and it shits on everyone.” UPIC was a ’70s experimental French system developed by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, which is based on drawing on a graphics tablet. It’s somehow connected with CCMIX, where they talk about it running on a Windows 98 system. UPIC seems to have developed into Iannix, which you can download from this page. He also talks about liking Ableton Live, but preferring LiveSlice for beat editing/stretching. He uses Etymotic Research headphones. My favourite Aphex Twin track ever is the demo version of Windowlicker, where you can hear that the whole track is put together with samples of him singing.

via Music Thing

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Music Software for Palm = COOL

July 31st, 2006 Comments off

Every few weeks, I get an email from someone saying “You should post something about Bhajis Loops. It’s amazing!” It’s a studio-in-a-box which runs on Palm handhelds. I’ve written about it a couple of times . So, finally inspired by this thread full of more happy users, I emailed Olivier, who told me (roughly) “Get a Tungsten T3. They’ve got a clever memory thing, they’re cheap, and they’re cool”. So I did. Mine came with a Wifi card for £85, some go for £60. The software is $27, and you can buy 1gb SD cards for £10 on the ‘bay.

What does it do? Loads samples and lets you sequence them. Each sample is like an oscillator – you can use a single wave or long sound, loop it, and run it through the filter/effects. You can sample directly from the built-in microphone. You can draw the waveforms from scratch. Most things can be automated. You can download free sample packs – the Fairlight CMI library, old tracker sounds, vintage synths and drum machines, or just dump your own samples onto the SD card. I’ve made this sample pack with Mellotron, Cracklebox and DSI Evolver samples.

Why do people think it’s so cool? Olivier is a genius of interface design. The software is intuitive, logical and really quick to use. Drawing X0X drum patterns right onto the screen is great. Because it’s quick and dirty and fairly lo-fi (like an MPC60 is lo-fi) it’s fun, and I found myself avoiding micro-polishing hell. There’s a very active user community always coming up with new hacks and tricks – three weeks ago, jngpng worked out how to do Ableton-style timestretching (roughly).

What’s bad? Entering tiny little notes with a tiny little pointer on a bus rattling through South London is a bit fiddly. It’s quite tempting to make really bad hardcore records.What does it sound like? There are tonnes of user songs to download here.

via MusicThing

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Boutique effects pedals

July 31st, 2006 Comments off

Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that’s coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

About a year ago, I wrote about boutique synthesizers — fantastically obscure boxes hand-made by freaks (normally Scandinavian). Compared with synths, effects pedals are relatively simple — sometimes just a handful of components, a switch and a couple of knobs in a steel box — so there are loads of people experimenting and making great-looking but expensive pedals for guitarists. Most of the pedals mentioned here are in the $350-$500 range. Sure, that would buy you a dozen Chinese-made Behringer pedals, but would that make you happy?

Zvex Ringtone

Disappointingly, Zachary Vex’s new Ringtone pedal won’t make your vintage strat sound like the Crazy Frog. Instead, it’s a 8-step sequencer driving a ring modulator — the early sound effect used to make the voice of the Daleks, and built into the Commodore 64’s SID sound effects chip. It’s pretty hard to understand what the Ringtone does, or why it’s cool, without watching Zachary’s wonderful demo video. Like all boutique pedals, the Ringtone is crazy expensive at $349, but that gets you a hand-made, hand-painted pedal.

After the break: Kitsch Brazilian pedals, butch American pedals, clever English pedals, and a fuzzbox with a joystick…

MG Pedals

Marcelo Giangrande makes MG pedals (and a cool little range of amps) in Sao Paolo, Brazil. His bright pink “That’s Echo Folks” pedal is an analog delay controlled by a light-sensitive sensor on a tail.


In Bristol, England, Tom Bugs makes a big range of lo-fi sound mangling devices. His Mini-Modular is a little slope-fronted box full of circuits to modify other sounds, or create them from scratch. It’s also a synth, but don’t expect it to play in tune. His Bug Crusher is a stompbox which uses an analog process to roughly reproduce the bit-reduced sound of old samplers and circuit-bent toys.


While MG gear is kitsch and colourful, Trogotronic’s stuff is butch: Huge, custom-modified all-tube signal generators and effects, and the Iron Cross, a bombproof arcade joystick turned into a four-way signal router.

Guyatone Optical

Guyatone pedals are a little less underground than the others featured here – they’re made in Japan in a factory, rather than someone’s garage – but they make up for it through over-engineered complexity and an exuberant number of lights, switches and controls. Their Ultron filter pedal even has old-school DIP switches inside for further tweaking.

Schumann Electronics

In the back room of a music store in Brooklyn, John Schumann builds pedals for bands like Portishead and Radiohead. His pedals are fantastically esoteric, like the PLL: an “analog harmonizer” which plays along with the notes you’re playing.

Effector 13

While most pedals are aimed a guitarists, the Effector 13 Synth Mangler is designed for keyboard players. It’s two channels of ultra-fuzz, controlled by a joystick and a “magic eye” light sensor.

via Engadget

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