Sunday, January 31, 2010

Get Free Music from Amazon

Did you know that Amazon has a pretty decent-sized collection of free MP3 albums?  I assumed it would all be stuff I'd never want to check out, but there's actually some decent stuff there, including a compilation of works by Phillip Glass, some dub comps, a whole ton of different kinds of ethnic music, and tons of label comps including some electronic stuff.  Not everything will be to your taste for sure, but it's hard to lose when it's free. 

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, these are only available in the U.S. Such are the joys of territorial digital rights.

Roland SH-1 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Korg PS-900 on Ebay

These are pretty damn rare.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hollowsun Releases Hammond Novachord Sample Library

If you've been following any of the electronic music blogs lately, you're probably aware that sample developers Hollowsun have been working on a sample library of sounds from a recently restored Hammond Novachord.  What is the Novachord?  Simply put, it was the first polyphonic synthesizer and it came out in the 1930's.  It has a wonderfully spooky sound to it - I get a very "Portishead" kind of vibe from it.

Anyway, after lots of hard work, the library is now available in Kontakt 3 format.  Demos on the page.

Roland RE-201 Space Echo on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Elsita Soviet Analog Drum Synth on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roughing Up Beats with Logic's Grooveshifter

Grooveshifter was one of many new plug-ins included with Logic back when version 8 came out.
Given what a massive update Logic 8 was, Grooveshifter was among many of the minor new introductions that tended to get lost in the shadow of the radical interface overhaul.

Grooveshifter is a plug-in designed to allow you to add some swing and dynamics to rhythmic material that might not have it in the first place. The results it gives are pretty mixed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and frankly, in light of the impressive time-altering features in software like Spectrasonics Stylus RMX, it seems a bit long in the tooth.

So while it may be outdated as far as doing what it's intended to do, few people take the time to try MISusing it. By using some rather extreme settings, Grooveshifter can turn even the most pristine drum loop into a wildly loping, grainy mess. How useful the results are depend on what you feed it and what style of music you do, but if you're into more experimental rhythms, this is well worth exploring.

The first step is to throw a drum loop on an audio track. Assign Grooveshifter as an effect on the inserts for that track. Since we're working with rhythmic material, you'd assume we'd want to use BEAT mode, but we're abusing this thing, so let's change it to TONAL mode. This lets us play with the GRAIN SIZE parameter which decides the size the bits of audio are chopped up into. Let's bring it all the way down to about 1ms for a sort of grainy, mechanical effect.

Below that are your SWING and ACCENT controls. As you'd expect, SWING adds a rhythmic swing feel to the audio and this slider determines the extent of that swing. Extreme values can yield results that are quite different from what you're feeding it. ACCENT exaggerates the difference between quieter and louder hits, making for more dynamic sounding rhythms. Both of these settings are effected by the GRID which can be set to either 16th or 8th notes. 16th notes tend to give you results a bit more like the original, whereas 8th notes can be a lot more unpredictable.

This doesn't always work out in a usable way, but with the right match between original material and extreme settings, you can get tons of variations on the original loop without a lot of effort. Here's an example of the types of effect you can get with this. The sound clip starts with a couple bars of the uneffected source material, and it is followed by two variations made with extreme settings:

Arp Odyssey on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Circuit Bent Yamaha Portasound VSS-30 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple Announces New Tablet Today

So, unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you know that Steve Jobs and co. are supposed to announce a new product today, believed to be a 'tablet' style portable device.  Is there a place in the market for something essentially halfway between an iPhone and a laptop?  It has to bring a lot more to the table than just that, and what that extra something is will be what decides if this is a flop or a hit.

It certainly opens up possibilities for alternate controllers and musical performance tools.  What do you think?

UPDATE:  So, the iPad it is.  Kind of sounds like a feminine hygiene product.  Anyway, it's a 10" touch sensitive screen based around the iPhone OS, which is itself a stripped down version of OSX.  I'm definitely a big Apple fan, but I just don't know about this.  Typing on a flat screen in particular seems like it would be really unpleasant.  I'll reserve judgement until more comes out about it (not even a price announced as I type this), but so far I haven't seen anything about it that makes it a "must have".  

UPDATED UPDATE:  Apparently the price is around $500.

Venetian Snares - Gentleman/Live Drums

Ensoniq SQ-80 on Ebay

Info at the link...

Keyboard Sitar on Ebay

Info at the link...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Try It Out: Go on a Sampling Bender

I don't know about you, but for me, nothing inspires working on new music quite like some new sounds.  Sure, you can buy some, or download some free samples online, but it can be a lot more fun looking for your own samples and building a custom library of sounds.

One great way to do this is to go on what I call a "sampling bender".  I'll set aside a day on the weekend and spend that entire day doing nothing but sampling new sounds.  If you don't have anything interesting laying around the house to sample, no worries.  Scour your CD collection/music library for isolated instruments and sounds that you can easily snag.  Listen to just the sound portion of your favorite movies on DVD and see if you find anything that might be interesting. 

Snagging the samples is just the first step, though.  The real fun comes into customizing the samples you take and turning them into entirely new sounds.  Try layering 3 different snare drums with different qualities, EQ them individually, compress them together, and bounce it out again to create a new, custom sample.  Look for unusual ways you can use ordinary sound.  The squeak of a chair's legs across a wooden floor from your favorite scene in a movie might sound wicked transposed down two octaves and fed through a big reverb.  The gasp of the shocked heroine when she discovers the dead body might make an interesting attack transient when layered over another synth sound.  Loop some breathing underneath a pad sound for some interesting added texture. You get the idea.

I think you'll find these marathon sampling sessions really productive if you give them a chance, mostly because they're a lot of fun.  And as an added benefit, you end up with a nifty new sample library!

Octave The Cat on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weird Sample Fodder: "Backwards Music" Stations

You might recall that I posted about "numbers stations" some time back.  "Backwards music" or "Whalesong" stations are a rarer phenomenon, but are every bit as creepy.  Consisting of nothing but gently rising and descending electronic tones, these mysterious signals really do sound like whale songs.  Not much seems to be known about these other than that they appear to originate from the US and Europe.

Alan Wilder Remixes Nitzer Ebb

For those of you who miss the Alan Wilder days of Depeche Mode as much as I do, this new remix he did for Nitzer Ebb is probably going to be the closest thing you get, as it's very Depeche-y.

PPG Wave 2.3 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Oberheim Matrix 12 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Rob Papen Products on the Way?

Plug-in and preset creator extraordinaire, Rob Papen made a post over on the KVR forum with cryptic mention of his next product which will be called Punch.  He wouldn't share much more than it will be a "speaker stressing" instrument plug-in.

Also planned for later this year is Blue II an apparently huge update to the already great Blue softsynth and the release of the long-awaited sound programming tutorial DVD many believed to be vaporware.

Free Sample Friday: Matrix 6 Bass

This week's free sample pack is a fat bass sound from the Oberheim Matrix 6 (actually a 6r) multisampled on all the C's and F's across the keyboard. All 9 samples are marked with their root key for easy mapping in your sampler of choice. Mono 24-bit/44.1k WAV files. Enjoy!


Korg PS-3100 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Quadimidi Rave-o-lution 309 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Impressive Performance of Steve Reich Piece

One You Might Have Missed: Yohng W1 Limiter

Looking for a good brickwall limiter but can't afford those schmancy Waves plug-ins?  Look no further than the Yohng W1 Limiter, which its creator claims is an exact clone of Waves' famous L1 Limiter for the Mac.  Oh, and did I mention it's free?   

I've never used the L1 before, so I can't compare the two, but W1 definitely sounds great.  It's perhaps not the best choice if you're looking for subtlety, but if you need go into "HULK SMASH" mode, give it a try!

What the...? Electric Kazoo on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Jen SM 2007 String Machine on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: Prime Loops VIP Synths Dubstep & DnB Edition

Library: VIP Synths: Dubstep & DnB Edition
Kontakt, EXS24, Halion, Reason Refill, Sonar SFZ, WAV
Dubstep, Drum n' Bass, Grime, Breaks
Distributed by:
Prime Loops
Audio demos on the product page.

In a sample library market flooded with an endless supply of loops and pre-made songs in "construction kit" format, it seems rare to find a library that features just synth sounds to actually make your own music with. That's not to put down loop-based forms of music, but if you don't make that kind of music, those libraries just aren't that useful. You'd think synth sample libraries would be commonplace, but that just isn't the way it is. So, when a collection comes along that does just that, it really stands out. That's precisely what we have with Prime Loops new library VIP Synths: Dubstep & DnB Edition.

This library consists of 270 synth sounds aimed at the darker, grittier side of electronic music, all available pre-mapped to most popular software samplers. The sounds are divided into separate self-explanatory categories of Bass, Lead, Pad, Reece, SFX, and Stabs. To bring these sounds to light, producer Dimitry Vasilyev tapped into his extensive synth collection including the Nord Modular, Access Virus, Korg MonoPoly, and Roland MKS-30, as well as plentiful effects processing. The result is one of the best collections of this kind I've heard so far.

If you're trying to get into producing your own dubstep or drum n' bass, but you're having trouble nailing the types of sounds that dominate those genres, you owe it to yourself to check this collection out. The programming is extremely well done and nearly every sound is brimming over with grimey, gritty, dark, angry, ugly (the good kind) attitude. Just about every type of sound commonly used in these genres is represented here in several variations, and plenty of original twists are included as well. Everything from gut-rumbling subs, to sinister wobbles, to fizzy FM sounds, to ear-spanking hoovers and reeces, to abrasive leads, to both dissonant and melodic pads and sound FX is represented here. The sounds are aggressively processed (appropriately so) and are pretty much ready to drop in the mix as-is. Some sounds have tempo-dependent elements which might limit their usefulness a bit, but as products like Kontakt 4 and Absynth that have the ability to maintain a tempo across the keyboard become more popular, this is really a minor issue.

Prime Loops have always made high quality products, but until now, I hadn't heard anything that absolutely, positively hit it out of the park. That's changed with this collection. VIP Synths: Dubstep & DnB Edition has found a great balance of reasonable price & a generous selection of very well-programmed sounds. If those genres fit the kinds of sounds you're looking for, look no further. Everything you need to create your next track is here. Just add drums. [10/10]

Arp Pro-Soloist on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Sequential Circuits Prelude on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

4-CD Electronic Music Compilation for Cancer Research Taking Pre-Orders

Jim Semonik is an industrial musician and promoter from Pittsburgh that I've known and worked with for many years now.  In the summer of 2008, he was diagnosed with stage 2B colo-rectal cancer, a disease that took the lives of both his father and his grandfather.

Jim underwent surgery and a battery of chemo treatments that almost killed him via a pancreatic infection.  Happily, he not only pulled through - he beat the cancer.  As a way of giving back to the medical community that saved his life, and the industrial music community that had been such a big part of his life, he decided to put together a massive multi-CD compilation with proceeds to go to the Foundation for Cancer Research and Wellness.  

"Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer" is the result of a lot of hard work on Jim's part and covers the entire spectrum under the umbrella of "industrial" - noise, experimental, EBM, synth-pop, IDM, industrial metal, electro, and more are all on display on this sprawling, limited edition comp.  The 4-CD (plus a bonus 5th digital disc) set features names like Suicide Commando, Chemlab, 16 Volt, Combichrist, Nachtmahr, Leaetherstrip, and... uh... yours truly.

The compilation will be released February 9th on Metropolis Records, but you can pre-order it now directly through Metropolis Records for $25.98.  A lot of great music, a reasonable price, and a worthy cause make this one an essential.  It is limited to 2,500 copies, so don't wait to snag a copy.

New England Digital Synclavier on Ebay

Info at the listing...