Sunday, September 30, 2007
Pitchfork has a fantastic interview with Yuri Landman, Sonic Youth fan turned guitar maker, who builds multi-stringed, multi-bridged instruments for Lee Renaldo and a bunch of other bands I've never heard of. The interview is full of treats like this: "It's basically a two-string guitar with a built-in thumb piano. The strings of the guitar can be bent by a brake cable from a moped, which is connected to a foot pedal. When amplified, the thumb piano, which is mounted to the guitar body, has a very low and impressive sound, almost like a vibraphone.". There's a fantastically in-depth explanation of one of Yuri's guitars here on Wikipedia, and this clip of Yuri's band Avec-A is also very cool. PS: Was anyone in Amsterdam for the the Output Festival to see the Instrument Expo? (Thanks, Ben)
Regular readers might remember the Weltmeister Basset, an extraordinary kind-of-strap-on-Fender-Rhodes thing. Well, Nick found one in Wellington, NZ for $250, and generously made this not entirely conclusive video to show off it's charms.
Here's a great (if slightly over-exuberant for my tastes) weekend project video from Make magazine, which shows you how to turn a bunch of $2 walkmen into a Mellotron (roughly). It was obviously inspired by Mike Walters, and his 14 walkman, 25 note Melloman. (Thanks, James)
Friday, September 28, 2007
Jonas writes from Denmark to tell me that his band Batch Totem have released an album 'Trunkeret & Ikonisk', on a single floppy disk: "The audio is encoded in the GSM 6.10 WAV format [used to compress speech in GSM mobile phones] at various bitrates the disk holds 74 minutes of audio, that can be played on a computer with standard audio-players like Winamp, Windows Media Player and Itunes without any external codec installed." The music has been created specially for the format, (or as he put is "composed directly in the spectral domain") He says: "On certain tracks the amplitude and low bitrates produce 'ghost' frequencies according to the Nyquist theorem, and the algorithm of the audio codec meaning that very high frequencies and white noise can occur at very low bitrates. Using listening equipment with a subwoofer is recommended." There's a free sample track here: A Minor Prism Glow Number (42kb wav file, seems to play better in Windows Media than Quicktime, does cool things to the visualiser). I think it's safe to say that Britney won't be calling on Batch Totem to do her comeback album. Be sure to visit the Batch Totem website (it's just a directory - HTML is so last year). Previously: Dude releases album on NES cartridge
Monday, September 24, 2007
What's the coolest music gear brand in the history of the world? OK, Moog and Gibson and Fender, but then... Fairlight. Since their Nick Rhodes-fuelled '80s moment they've been making a lot of boring high-end media gear, but now there's this: the really absurdly awesome Xynergi Controller. Each key has tiny individual LCD display in it - as you can see in this awesome demo video (or this one). Estimated price? $28,000. It's been done before on the equally expensive Euphonix MC, and it does make the Optimus Maximus
This is quite cute - Vox are doing a range of little headphone amps - one based on the AC30 with top boost, 'Classic Rock' based on a Marshall and 'Metal' based presumably on a Mesa Boogie. The circuitry is analog and runs on 2xAAA batteries. No idea how they sound, but they're quite nice looking. Disappointingly, they all look like AC30s, just with different stickers. £35, further bumpf at Vox website.
Incididentally, what is it with copywriters for music gear companies? They claim: "amPlug perfectly reproduces the complex and warm distortion that is distinctive of a vacuum tube... amPlug delivers full-fledged amp sound that will revolutionize your guitar playing." Both of these claims are clearly lies (the 'perfectly reproduces' and the 'revolutionize your guitar playing' bits). What was wrong with: "Sounds OK, looks OK, costs £35, what's not to like?"
AND ANOTHER THING: If Vox are going to put a Union Jack on their homepage and a London bus on their news page (despite having being owned by Korg since 1992), they should probably learn how to spell 'revolutionise' properly.
Monday, September 17, 2007
OK, this takes a little bit of explaining. Vocaloid is a bit of Yamaha patented software which can sing - input the notes and the lyrics and off it goes. It's not sold by Yamaha, but in various different versions according to the voice. So, PowerFX have a version called Sweet Ann. Now you can buy an anime version where Hatsune Miku (some kind of schoolgirl sexbot) sings the words you've typed in. People have been making singing robot software for ages, but it's always just been a novelty. However, Vocaloid 2 / Hatsune Miku has been a huge hit in Japan (as I write, it's the best selling software on Amazon Japan). There are now tons of Vocaloid clips on Nico Nico Douga, the Japanese YouTube. The sample above is (as I'm sure you're now enjoying) a bonkers high-energy track with vocals from Hatsune Miku.(The original Finnish folk version is Leekspin by Loituma). The singing robots are here, and they're annoying. More on Hatsune at Gamersweb.it and Canned Dogs. Want more videos? this one is awesome, this girl seems to be really into it and this one should be on the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
It looks like BBC Glasgow are auctioning off their entire studio. There are four auctions at the site - 1 and 2 are the most interesting, stuffed with strange old British gear, from patchbays, vectorscopes and sexy outboard (here's an RMX16, and this never-see-one-of-those-before Instant Personality Processor.) The real stars are the serious bits - numerous consoles, Calrec compressors, EMT turntables, and dozens of Rogers/BBC monitor speakers, including several LS5/8 models which are much geeked over by boffins, and come with customised Quad power amps. It does seem tragic that the BBC are losing all this stuff, and presumably the engineers who've kept it in perfect condition for years. Presumably BBC shows are now all made by 15 year-olds on laptops purchased from PC World, and monitored on iPod headphones. The auction ends on 27th Sept. (via Zanf)
Here's something interesting from a big manufacturer. The Korg Kaossilator (that link might have gone dead by the time you read this): It's a (presumably) cheap little box. 100 sounds, controlled by the x-y pad from a Kaoss Pad. Left-right controls pitch, according to one of 31 scales. Up-down controls anything else - cutoff frequency, modulation etc. Presumably it's playing arpeggios locked to MIDI clock. I bet it's fun, although it's rather unfortunate that the babelfish translation of the leaked German page describes it as: "a new cliche Synthesizer in the vest pocket format". No price or date yet. (Via Supermel74 and many other forums)
UPDATE: It's confirmed and real, UK price is £117.
UPDATE: It's confirmed and real, UK price is £117.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I'm selling a few bits and pieces to make space in my room:
DSI Desktop Evolver You know all about it - wonderful, clever 4osc analog/digital synth in a tiny blue steel box. This one is signed by Dave Smith above the logo on the top left and I'm selling it because I'd like a MEK. £275
Drawmer 1960 Compressor Awesome stereo valve compressor/mic pre magic box. Very good condition. SoS review here. Selling for my friend Michael. £650 pickup only from SE London
1963 Silvertone Guitar Built in the US and sold through the Sears Catalogue, I bought this in a record shop in upstate New York many years ago. It's one of these. It's very far from mint condition, it's not a classic vintage guitar, but it does look and sound cool. £120 pickup only (because I'd want you to see it first).
I'll ship and take paypal, but collection (South East London) and cash much preferred. Email me if you have any questions.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Sergio writes to point out that Apple have quietly introduced Logic Studio - a very appealing bundle including Logic Pro 8 (which has had a major redesign and no longer requires a dongle), Main Stage - which is a new app designed for playing live - an instrument and effects rack, and a vast Studio Sound Library. It's $499. Considering you can pay £699 ($1400) for Logic 7 in Britain, that's a bargain. I'm in NYC in October, and suddenly a new Mac and this looks very appealing. First responses from:
GearSlutz: "Is this what we've been waiting for for five years? Not sure, but you can't say it hasn't been Apple-fied""
Analog Industries: "My initial impressions are extremely favorable"
Create Digital Music:"The holy grail of music software right now: make it easier for people to actually play with computers.
EM411:"Insanity. .. is anyone NOT going to buy logic at that price?
Monday, September 10, 2007
Here's Tyler Freeman and his drumpants. It's not the newest idea, but he carries it off with some aplomb. Full details and how-to instructions are on his site, together with this rather alarming manifesto: "I am The New Artist. I paint with switches and resistors, capacitors and transistors. Instead of mixing pigments I combine electrons. My paintings do not have color or form, but rather signal and function." Well, OK there, Tyler. (via Brian and Engadget)
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Dave Green (of the inestimable Snackspot) was at the Tenori On launch last night and captured this picture of how punters were actually using the £600 innovative alternative musical interface. I wonder if Yamaha are regretting launching in the UK... Incedentally, aren't those lights pretty?
Well, I wasn't the Tenori On launch last night (babies!) but fortunately many people with YouTube accounts were. There's this interview with Toshio Iwai and a demo from Yamaha's Peter Peck here, and here's Toshio Iwai jamming on his music box. Over at Create Digital Music, Peter has been going a great job covering the Tenori On saga, as has Chris at Pixel Sumo, reporting a UK launch price of £599, which seems hella expensive, but - at this stage - the Tenori is a boutique, hand-made product. I'm sure if it takes off, they'll be churning them out in China for £69.99...
UPDATE: More interesting video from Sonic State.
Music Thing was born three years (and a couple of weeks) ago with this post about Odd Music.com (the first month's posts are here). Thank you to everyone who's ever sent me ideas, left a comment or clicked on an ad. I don't post here as much as I used to, because doing this blog has helped me get a job I love which keeps me pretty busy. The blog has also inpired me to buy a load of great music gear which I really enjoy playing with. But I'm not going anywhere, so keep sending the ideas and subscribe to the Music Thing RSS feed, if you haven't already.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Can anyone identify the instrument being played in this clip of some hippy dudes. Obviously there's a jaws harp solo at the end, but what's the inside-out steel drum thing? (Thanks Michael)