Francesco Novara – Astron [EP] brings evocative, comet-inspired music

On 8th September, Novaro will debut a downtempo album drawn from a single sonification of a comet, in collaboration with the European Space Agency.

After last year’s inaugural four releases, our label Establishment is back in a big way starting this fall. Opening our next season of releases is Italian composer Francesco Novara, with a unique, open Creative Commons-licensed project that was constructed almost entirely from a single sound.

We’ll have more to share about this music soon, as well as the commons-based collaboration with ESA that has made it possible (and how you can benefit from that, too). Stay tuned to CDM, of course.

Here’s a listen:

And you can preorder via Bandcamp (which helps support further open / Creative Commons-licensed projects!) …

Our full announcement:

Grooves From A Comet’s Song, As Franceso Novara Debuts ‘ASTRON’ EP

Out September 8th On Establishment
& In Conjunction With
The European Space Agency

Fresh wonders of space exploration continue to awe and inspire artists. In a fresh downtempo release, Italian composer Francesco Novara delivers an EP fabricated from just two sound samples of a European spacecraft that visited (and landed on) a comet. It marks a unique collaboration between record label Establishment and the multinational European Space Agency ESA.

Novara has honed silky-smooth virtuoso production craft on prolific work for TV and film. He shows off that prodigious talent by weaving every sound in the entire release from a single sample of sonified data from the spacecraft Rosetta. The raw materials for every pad, every drum sound, every melody in the album is derived from the oscillations in the magnetic field of the comet – a kind of comet song found by scientists reviewing the data.

But the music is far from academic. The resulting grooves have the cool, collected self-assurance you’d expect from an astronaut mission commander. The album tells the saga of a mission in four tracks, recalled in chilled out, precise electronic cinema. Far from the drugged-out or dystopian spaceflight music of the past, this is 21st century technology, efficient and dazzling.

Then, Novara delivers a surprise pop single in “Ready to Fly.”

The work also continues ESA’s commitment to Creative Commons, Open Access and Remixing. The original adaptation of the magnetic data from the comet into human audible-sounds was performed by German composer Manuel Senfft, then made available to the public under a Creative Commons license. Establishment’s partner music technology site CDM has been an open advocate of using this data for creative purposes, and label chief Peter Kirn has worked with ESA to deliver talks on the topic at ESA’s science and research center in the Netherlands and in Moscow.

By bringing Establishment, CDM and ESA together, Astron is a small step for sharing science and artistic output around spaceflight, one that heralds more giant leaps to come.

EP Title: Astron
Artist: Francesco Novara
Label: Establishment
Release Date: September 8th 2017
Formats: Digital

1. Ignition
2. S.O.S.
3. Sexy Astronaut
4. Back Home
5. Ready to Fly

Pre-Order: Bandcamp

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Here are some of our favorite MeeBlip triode synth jams

We say “play” music for a reason – synths are meant to be fun. So here are our favorite live jams from the MeeBlip community, with our triode synth.

And, of course, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, this can give you some inspiration for how to set up a live rig – or give you some idea of what triode sounds like if you don’t know already. We picked just a few of our favorites, but if we missed you, let us know! (audio or video welcome!)

First, Olivier Ozoux has churned out some amazing jam sessions with the triode, from unboxing to studio. (He also disassembled our fully-assembled unit to show the innards.)

The amazing Gustavo Bravetti is always full of virtuosity playing live; here, that distinctive triode sound cuts through a table full of gear. Details:

Again ARTURIA’s Beat Step Pro in charge of randomness (accessory percussions and subtle TB303). Practically all sounds generated on the black boxes, thanks Elektron, and at last but no least MeeBlip’s [triode] as supporting melody synth. Advanced controls from Push and Launch Control using Performer , made with Max by Cycling ’74.

Here’s a triode with the Elektron Octatrack as sequencer, plus a Moog Minitaur and Elektron Analog RYTM. That user also walks through the wavetable sounds packed into the triode for extra sonic variety.

Novation’s Circuit and MeeBlip triode pair for an incredible, low power, low cost, ultra-portable, all-in-one rig. We get not one but two examples of that combo, thanks to Pete Mitchell Music and Ken Shorley. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate:

One nice thing about triode is, that sub oscillator can fatten up and round out the one oscillator of a 303. We teamed up with Roland’s Nick de Friez when the lovely little TB-03 came out to show how these two can work together. Just output the distinctive 303-style sequencer to triode’s MIDI in, and have some fun:

Here’s triode as the heart of a rig with KORG’s volca series (percussion) and Roland’s TB-03 (acid bass) – adding some extra bottom. Thank you, Steven Archer, for your hopeful machines:

Get yours:

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DM2 – The Drum Machine also becomes the Drone Machine

It’s a slightly unusual update, but certainly a welcome update. Version 1.6 of this useful drum machine adds something that the developer calls the “DRONE MACHINE”. The developer says …

Introducing the “DRONE MACHINE”. With the brand new “Drone Machine” mode DM2 turns into an instant Ambient machine. All 9 tracks play continuously regardless of what the sequencer plays. Switch it on and drive a powerful Dream Machine at the tips of your fingers. Extremely versatile when used with a MIDI controller and MIDI Learn mode. Dark Ambient admirers, Space Rock lovers, Dream Music adorers, Minimal fetishist are welcome.

I’m interested to see how it works and to try it out. In addition they’ve made some amends and fixes too.

+ AUDIO ENGINE : Improved CPU management when idle in the background
+ Faster loading time

+ Minor Sequencer issue with solo mode
+ Some memory issues after a long use

DM2 is on the app store and costs $4.99:

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Knob Lab 1.6 gives us Audiobus compatibility

Back in the old day I’d say that “Knob Lab was on the bus”! It still seems to fit though. It’s good to know that Knob Lab is finally on the bus now and that the integration has been done in an impressive way. Here’s the detail from Uri, the developer of Knob Lab.

1. Audiobus 3 support with multipeer connectivity! You can now send MIDI messages to other iOS apps through Audiobus.
2. Redesigned menu interface – New UI for layout selection, and connection screens.
3. Performance enhancements and bug fixes.

If you don’t already know Knob Lab then I should probably tell you a few things about the app. It’ll connect via USB to Mac clients, has virtual MIDI for control of other iOS apps. It’ll Connect to a PC or Mac using WiFi, and use bluetooth 4.0 to connect to bluetooth enabled Macs (Bluetooth requires Sonic Logic Central to be running on your mac – download from

One other thing to mention is MIDI layering which gives you the ability to control multiple MIDI destinations from a single knob. Perform complex controls with a single knob rotation.

So it’s an app with some impressive capabilities, and the latest update takes it even further.

Knob Lab is free on the app store, but with IAPs

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Jimmy Smith – Root Down (Jimmy Smith Live!)

Toward the end of his stint with Blue Note, Jimmy Smith’s albums became predictable. Moving to Verve in the mid-’60s helped matters considerably, since he started playing with new musicians (most notably nice duets with Wes Montgomery) and new settings, but he never really got loose, as he did on select early Blue Note sessions. Part of the problem was that Smith’s soul-jazz was organic and laid-back, relaxed and funky instead of down and dirty. For latter-day listeners, aware of his reputation as the godfather of modern soul-jazz organ (and certainly aware of the Beastie Boys’ name drop), that may mean that Smith’s actual albums all seem a bit tame and restrained, classy, not funky. That’s true of the bulk of Smith’s catalog, with the notable exception of Root Down. Not coincidentally, the title track is the song the Beasties sampled on their 1994 song of the same name, since this is one of the only sessions that Smith cut where his playing his raw, vital, and earthy. Recorded live in Los Angeles in February 1972, the album captures a performance Smith gave with a relatively young supporting band who were clearly influenced by modern funk and rock. They push Smith to playing low-down grooves that truly cook: "Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow" and "Root Down (And Get It)" are among the hottest tracks he ever cut, especially in the restored full-length versions showcased on the 2000 Verve By Request reissue. There are times where the pace slows, but the tension never sags, and the result is one of the finest, most exciting records in Smith’s catalog. If you think you know everything about Jimmy Smith, this is the album for you. – by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artist: Jimmy Smith
Album: Root Down (Jommy Smith Live!)
Year: 1972
Label: Verve Records (Remastered, 2000)
Runtime: 67:05
Recorded live at the Bombay Bycicle Club, Los Angeles in February 8, 1972

1.  Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow (Jimmy Smith) 11:47
2.  For Everyone Under The Sun (Peter Chase) 5:54
3.  After Hours (Erskine Hawkins / Avery Parrish) 7:46
4.  Root Down (And Get It) (Jimmy Smith) 12:29
5.  Let’s Stay Together (Al Green / Al Jackson, Jr. / Willie Mitchell) 6:26
6.  Slow Down Sagg (Jimmy Smith) 10:30
7.  Root Down (And Get It) (Previously Unissued Alternative Version) (Jimmy Smith) 12:13

Jimmy Smith (Organ)
Wilton Felder (Double Bass)
Buck Clarke (Congas, Percussion)
Paul Humphrey (Drums)
Arthur Adams (Guitar)
Steve Williams (Harmonica) – 3 Source:

Another new app from Audio Damage, Pumphouse arrives

It seems that Audio Damage are on a complete roll in delivering new apps to the iOS world. Their latest app looks like something that’ll be of great use to a lot of people, and will also solve a problem that may have seemed too hard to fix for some time.

Here’s what Audio Damage says about Pumphouse:

What do you do when you need the sidechain pumping effect in an iOS DAW that doesn’t have sidechaining? Pumphouse to the rescue!

Pumphouse is a simple and excellent compressor (taken straight from our RoughRider 2 codebase) coupled with a step sequencer driving an envelope generator. In this manner, you can sidechain-compress your pads or bassline against a 1-measure pattern, no other inputs required.

With an easy-to-understand interface, Pumphouse is a quick method for getting That Sound.

Pumphouse requires transport information to work. Please note that some iOS AUv3 hosts do not have a transport. (At this time, Auria Pro that we’re aware of.) There is an Inter-App Audio version supplied, but it also requires transport info.

We have tested and approve the AUv3 with AudioBus 3, Cubasis, GarageBand, AUM, ModStep, Zmors Modular, and Beatmaker 3.

So Pumphouse joins Audio Damage’s growing line up of iOS apps. If you haven’t noticed them so far, here’s the current list.

And of course, last but by no means least, Pumphouse.

Pumphouse is available on the app store priced at $2.99:

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Audiobus update with Link and more, plus AB Remote too

Audiobus has been the glue that brought our favourite apps together for some time. With each update it improves and brings us more and more goodness. I’m impressed with this update

Audiobus 3 now has tempo controls, and Ableton Link support! Keep Audio Unit Extensions in sync with your other apps, and control your session tempo right from within Audiobus.

Bypass Audio Unit Extension effects with the press of a button

Other improvements:

Show more detailed progress when clearing big sessions
Fixed launch issues with apps like SynthMaster Player.
Active session did not recover on incoming telephone call or Siri interruption. Fixed!
Fixed endless spinning wheel on MIDI hardware output after loading a preset.
Fixed some stuck note bugs.
Fixed a crash when saving a preset while a filter keyword has been entered into the search field.
Fixed a launch issue when switching between very complex presets.
Fixed a “Tap to Fix” issue when many ports of an app were added to a connection graph
Require user to reboot the device, if intermediate port cannot be connected.
Fixed graphical glitches when switching between presets.
Instances of Audio Unit Extensions were not sorted by alphabet in connection panel. Fixed!
Fixed an audio glitch when ejecting an input app currently emitting sound.
We now automatically remove added pipelines on removing a MIDI output port.

And if that wasn’t enough they’ve updated Audiobus Remote too. It isn’t as extensive an update as for Audiobus itself, but even so it’s worth noting what’s new:


Show On/Off trigger button for Audio Unit Extension effects. Please also update Audiobus 3 to the lastest version.


Instances of Audio Unit Extensions were not sorted by alphabet in connection panel.

If an app was ejected in Audiobus while a resource was loading, loading the resource never finished.

Trigger buttons can be used while progress view is shown.

Corner radius of trigger buttons was too large in split view.

Audiobus 3 on the app store:

Audiobus Remote on the app store:

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Seaquence 1.1 brings better export and sharing options to its musical creatures

Seaquence arrived back in March of this year. It’s an interesting idea and in many ways it reminds me of Electroplankton from way back in the days when the DS platform was starting to show promise in terms of making music. The update to Seaquence brings some fixes and new features, the most important of these being audio and video recording. I can see that being really useful.

Here’s what’s new in 1.1:

• Built-in audio AND video recording/export using Apple Replay-Kit. Export audio and video to other apps.
• Enhanced MIDI support: Sources/Destinations can now be selected individually.
• Settings are now accessible in-app! No more iOS settings panel
• Tweaks to compressor settings resulting in larger dynamic range when lots of voices are playing. Experience greater fidelity in complicated mixes!
• Faster session loading
• Pinch Zoom
• New filter control which allows you to morph between the 4 different filter types dynamically, allowing for more expressive spectral control
• BPM and Transpose are now included in the free download
• Tap Tempo on BPM
• Play Audio in Background (option)
• Max Active voices — set how many voices can play at once (option)
• Showing/hide note names in sequencer (option)
• MIDI Enable/Disable (option)
• More accurate and consistent MIDI clock / note timing
• MIDI latency adjustment
• Improved IAP purchase flow and messaging
• Updated graphics / icons
• UI Tweaks
• Various Bug Fixes

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From Rane and Roland, competing visions of digital DJ gear

Roland and Rane each have products aimed at Pioneer’s offerings in the computer controller market. Both work with Serato software – but each represents a different approach.

If Pioneer’s hegemony in standalone players seems unshakable, there’s at least the computer arena in which to compete. Pioneer for its part has moved to strengthen its Rekordbox software as a computer DJ software rival to Native Instruments’ Traktor, Serato DJ, and others.

For the experienced touring DJ, that strategy may well be meaningless. If you view Rekordbox as a tool for prepping a USB stick that you play on the CDJs already installed in the club, you may not particularly care about what it does in a laptop/controller setup. But, there’s still a large market of people getting into DJing for whom both the Pioneer name and the company’s vertically-integrated offerings hold a lot of appeal.

The challenge for Rane and Roland – hook into the Serato platform instead, and try to be better than Pioneer at similar price points. And there’s some added maneuvering room here. Native Instruments’ Traktor line hasn’t really evolved much lately, hampered in part by aging flagship software. And I agree absolutely with DJ TechTools’ Dan White – it looks like Roland is poised to become Serato’s main hardware vendor while Pioneer and InMusic focus on their own integrated ecosystems. Also, you can often expect a Japanese manufacturer to have more patience to play a long game. Serato remains a big player in a number of markets (notably the USA and southeast Asia), so there’s some market to pursue.

But let’s consider each company’s angle.

Rane: A gimmick-packed battle mixer, a MIDI-only turntable

Rane, formerly independent, is now owned by InMusic. The Rhode Island-based music giant is the one that is gunning directly for Pioneer – not only with computer controller rigs, but also in the standalone player market. The new standalone Denon players are the first with any potential to unseat Pioneer’s ubiquitous DJ, by offering more features for the price. (I’m not going to comment on their odds, though – beating Pioneer’s entrenched position in the club market will be one heck of an uphill battle.)

For computer-based DJs, Rane has two offerings. One is a mixer packed with features, and one is a turntable re-imagined as a MIDI-only device.

Seventy-Two Battle Mixer

This is what happens if you cross Rane’s mixer tech with InMusic’s touchscreens and pads – and then go after Pioneer’s competing “Battle-Ready” DJM-S9.

Indeed, the Seventy-Two is essentially control-for-control a clone of the Pioneer mixer, with the addition of touchscreen, and in a Rane case.

The screen lets you access Serato’s waveforms and use internal effects. Like the Pioneer S9, the Seventy-Two features pads and controls intended for use with Serato effects, digital vinyl, and internal mixing. Unlike the Pioneer, those effects require Serato. (The S9 is more useful when used as a conventional mixer, in that it has internal effects.)

The controller can be assigned to other tools, though I’m unsure how access to the touchscreens works. (It might be hackable; generally these devices treat these displays as external monitors.) One commenter on DJTT notes that other Serato displays have been made to work with the popular Virtual DJ software.

US$1899, fourth quarter

Twelve – the computer-only turntable

This is the most interesting product of the bunch, to me. It’s basically a full-sized (12″!) motorized turntable, minus the tone arm and needle. So you can’t play records on it, but you can use it as a DJ controller. You connect it via USB, and then you have the tactile feedback of an actual turntable, without the hassle and unreliability of digital vinyl control.

Eliminating the tone arm may not please everyone. What you get in its place is what they call the “Strip Search” (which gives me not the most pleasant associations as a phrase, but okay). That touch interface at least has the advantage of hot cues, with access to eight points on a track you can access immediately – something you can’t do quite as easily by physically lifting and moving a tone arm, to be sure.

Full 12” Vinyl with motorized platter to control playback
Traditional, familiar turntable layout, no need to learn something new
Strip Search with 8 hot cue triggers access
5.0 kfcm High torque motor with Hi/Low torque adjust for more traditional setups
4 decks of control so you can use one, two or more (switchable on the top right of the unit)
Extreme precision—3600 ticks of platter resolution for seamless performance
MIDI interface via USB that can be connected to the SEVENTY-TWO or your computer
33 1/3 and 45 rpm platter speeds
8/16/50% pitch with precise dual resolution detented slider
Top Panel rotary and traditional Motor Off switch, allows traditional wind down effects

Of course, this immediately begs the question, why not ditch the laptop and use this interface for a standalone player? I suspect someone will do that soon, whether it’s InMusic (with their Denon or Rane brands) or someone like Pioneer. And a 7″ rendition of this also seems a no-brainer. But this is already interesting.

And I almost totally want one. Almost, because the darned thing is a whopping US$799. I’m trying to figure out the person who will pay twice the price of a normal turntable for something that won’t play records. Wealthy … uh … Serato clinicians? Don’t know. But as technology, it’s interesting, and could be a sign of things to come.

US$799, fourth quarter

Roland: Affordable, low-latency controllers

So, if Rane has some really interesting but high-priced products – more demonstration of where things might go than something to buy right now – Roland brings us back down to Earth.

And that’s in stark contrast to where Roland entered, with the DJ-808 they added to their AIRA line last fall. The DJ-808 was cool, but … weird. It did Serato control, TR drum machine sequencing, and VT vocal transformations, but at a high cost – both in money and size.

But the new controllers from Roland bring price and size in line with competing options – enough that have probably become your best bet if you’re in the market for a Serato controller.

Both also have the same ultra-low-latency performance featured on the DJ-808 (though they lack the high resolution of the 808 platters).

The US$699.99 DJ-505 gives you most of what the DJ-808 did, plus a bundle of Serato DJ and Serato Tool Kit (for most additional features), and can be upgraded to Serato digital vinyl control.

The US$$299.99 still performs most of the controller tricks and TR functionality, with Serato Intro.

Both have TR (808 and 909) drum sounds and hands-on controls for them; the DJ-808 includes the full TR-S sequencer onboard.

The DJ-505 looks like quite a buy. It’s still a standalone mixer. It doesn’t have the VT vocal transformer effects of the DJ-808, but it still includes a mic input and some basic effects. And you get hands-on controls for both Serato and the internal TR sounds.

But as entry-level offering, the DJ-202 is no slouch, either – and it looks to be portable, too. Really, the only reservation you might have is buying into Serato as your DJ tool, depending on your preference. (Then again, if the Roland gear catches on, alternate tools like Virtual DJ may soon see support.)

The DJ-202 could also give Pioneer’s DDJ-SSB2 a run for its money.

In fact, figure that this low end of the market is where most of the sales is. (DJ TechTools observes that the Pioneer SSB2 is the best-selling US controller.)

And Native Instruments, while I’m a fan of Traktor, it really does feel like your offerings have fallen badly behind. Curious what your next move is.

Standalone, anyone?

At the low end of the market, it’s clear why computers aren’t going anywhere.

If people want into a music shop and want a DJ tool that’s flexible and cheap, there’s nothing quite like spending under $300 and getting a full-fledged system. In fact, even for a couple hundred dollars more, you might get something that works with your computer and still functions as a mixer. Even with cheap embedded computing and touchscreens, you can’t change the fact that people already own laptops (or iPads) with lots of internal storage and big displays.

But you also can’t change some of the problems with laptops. Bringing them to gigs and fitting them in a booth is a pain. Audio can be unreliable and tough to configure.

It’s still impressive to me that there are so few standalone options. Denon has its own CDJ rival and even an all-in-one (though massive and expensive) coffin.

But once you see products like AKAI’s new MPCs, which are essentially controllers with their own computer inside, it’s not hard to imagine where things will go. What about a DJ device you can take out of a flight case and plug directly into a mixer? There’s no question that makers like Roland, InMusic, Native Instruments, and others all have the technical capacity to make such a device.

While we wait, though, my prediction is this: when those hit, the whole direction of the market will change fast.

Bets, anyone?

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The Bleeding Twilight

A gray, brooding bit of ambient, drone & glitch – perfect for your favorite pair of headphones/ear-buds…


01 Robert Fripp & Brian Eno – Lyra
02 David Kristian – Dog Dreams of Running
03 The Circular Ruins – Degrees Of Separation
04 Henry Frayne – Saturn’s Rings
05 Brian Eno – A Long Way Down
06 Saul Stokes – Cloud Shaping
07 King Crimson – The Sheltering Sky
08 Krill Minima – Zwischen zwei und einer Sekunde
09 Steve Tibbetts – Black Temple
10 Off the Sky — Her Soft Circumference
11 Christopher Alvarado – Entrance to Mahãyãna
12 Ponton – Brod


bleeding twilight