We’re doing a new video series with Beatport to talk to artists and to you

Today, we’re piloting a new video program in collaboration with Beatport. The mission: explore the latest music machines and stories, live.

You can obviously tune in to loads of YouTube videos and listen to people talking. But some of my favorite memories growing up listening to the radio were about listening as people improvised live on air, or had conversations, or took questions from their audience.

It’s called “Plugged In.” And it starts today, at 6:00 PM Berlin / European time (that’s noon in New York, 9 am in California).

So, we’re going to give a go with video and live streams to begin to do some of that. We’ll talk to artists, and talk to you, about what machines mean to music making. We’re also planning some special visits to studios, makers, and events. And we’ll include our industry heavyweights with their very latest stuff, but also vintage gear, boutique makers, and open source tech and oddities, too – just like you’d expect from CDM – all with visits from our artist friends around Berlin and beyond. Connecting with Beatport allows us to include audiences of lovers of music and electronic sounds. And we hope you’ll have something you can share with your friends, as well.

To kick things off, we’re here with artist Florian Meindl and the artist home of Roland in Berlin, with the latest Boutique modules.

And, oh yeah – you can win an ultra-limited blue Roland SH-01A (the one pictured above) just by sharing the feed. I want it, and I don’t even have it, but you can.

Here’s what to do: to catch our Facebook Live stream, like our page on Facebook, then edit notifications (under the “Following” menu). By default, just liking us will catch the streams, but you can double-check your settings (and hear from us when we post new stuff).

Of course, we’ll share archived programs, and invite discussion of topics and questions in advance in case you can’t tune in. (Bear with us as we pilot this.)

CDM on Facebook

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Finding Fun Outside of Work


It seems like a perfect counterpoint to last month’s topic of burnout that we switch to the opposite: fun. How many times have you taken a step back to think about how much you love your job? How often do find yourself grinning uncontrollably at the absurdity of your daily work life? Hopefully it’s a frequent occurrence to be in the midst of your job and think with glee, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” Hopefully no one takes for granted how lucky we are to do what we do for a living, to follow a passion and exude creativity at every corner.

But rather than wax poetically about the fun we have day-to-day in our work doing goofy things for the sake of sound, I decided to canvass the Twittersphere and see what people did outside of their work lives for fun and how they felt it affected their work. Interestingly most people who replied had answers heavily tied to both burnout and fun. They mentioned a diverse range of hobbies and activities which they found enjoyable but also had the healing effect of diversion from hectic work cycles.

I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that people found solace and fun in audio recording/listening scenarios. Jef Aerts, sound designer, mentioned “field recording and working on [my] ever growing library of personal sounds.” And even non-audio fun took a turn to the audio in, “spending a lot of time with family and visiting places, and keeping track of those places, where, what and when to record if I visit those place[s again].”

His is a common thread for many audio people. We’re generally very passionate about our career choice and it expands into our private lives, so of course we’re going to find fun in recording and discovering new places and sounds to capture. Perhaps more surprising were the people who found physical exertion to be their primary source of extracurricular fun.

Alexandre Saba, Senior Sound Designer at Hangar 13, mentioned he found fun “in long distance running and road cycling [which] eventually led to triathlon.” Joe Marchuk, sound designer, tries “to get at least a few days a week to put in some cardio exercise of any kind. . . It keeps me energized, keeps my mood up, and helps motivate me. It’s also an amazing way to start the day. Nothing feels better than getting the day going with some fresh oxygenated blood to the body and brain!” Robbie Elias, Senior Sound Designer at 343 Industries, also found respite in exercise. “Going to the gym helps me relax for a work day, stress becomes less of an issue and the little things seem to bother me less. Especially when I exercise before work.”

Not everyone finds enjoyment in physical exertion, but beyond the workout and enjoyment, Saba pulled analogies between running and game development. He noted that a “marathon is similar to AAA development, in that you need to pace yourself for the long haul. The final stretch is often the most brutal and if you don’t have gas left in the tank you’re likely to burn out (or cramp up). That usually leads to feeling shitty about your performance/product.”

Another source of fun for people outside of audio lie in hobbies completely disassociated from sound, but even in these activities, people were able to find elements which played back into their work. Jim Fowler, Principal Composer at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, noted, “gardening for me, particularly growing fruit and vegetables. It’s good to do something outside after a week in a dark room and I find digging/weeding/what-have-you a great brain-switcher-offer. Direct help for work: it helps me process behind the scenes– solving problems, coming up with musical ideas etc. Also I get to eat the produce which I guess keeps me alive or at least vaguely healthy?”

What we perceive as fun can have a multitude of benefits beyond enjoyment. It can act not only as stress relief, but also as time to think about pressing issues in a more relaxed environment.

Ben Crossbones, sound designer at Gl33k’s, favorite hobby/release acts not only as a source of fun, but also a way to wind down, process the day, and leave work behind. “I have a really hard time letting the work day go. My mind usually keeps reviewing the day over and over. ‘Did I do my best creative work? Is my technical work the most efficient? Why didn’t X work as planned? etc.’ That stress needs to get out of my system if I’m going to have a good week or even a normal evening. Exorcise the demons! For me, cooking provides enough of a focus on something else that I can leave my day behind to return refreshed the next day.

“If I’m interested in being creative in the evening with sound or music and I’m still stress blocked, it makes fun, personal art time a fucking drag. By preparing a meal, I’m also accomplishing something. If I had a rotten day, I still have to complete dinner. I can’t mark crawfish etouffee as WNF or re-assign, blocked by lack of green onion garnish. It’s kind of like the idea behind making your bed first thing in the morning…but I don’t do that.”

Crossbones even notes how perfecting the art of smoking meat led him to better work practices, “The major advantage of this is checking on my heat and smoke every 30 to 45 minutes. I can get a great burst of work then take a short break and have some water (cause it’s hot, y’all). Side note: gotta remember to take breaks and drink water if you’re sitting all day. If I need to talk with a colleague, I can schedule that time when I’m outside adding small logs or soaked wood chips. Low and slow. Loooow and sloooow.”

Besides working out, Robbie Elias, also finds fun in another art form: photography. Similar to the others, he easily draws analogies between this hobby and his work. “Photography and timelapses help me adjust my mindset when Field Recording. By using different gear and adjusting to their limitations I start to feel more confident in the field when stuff goes wrong gear wise. It also allows me to see that it is not uncommon for folks to travel to extreme places at extreme times to capture a photo or timelapse. It is inspirational in a way and makes it easier for me to justify getting out more to record sounds.”

A final benefit Elias notes from these hobbies is that they, “help me relate better to non audio folks at the studio I work at. We share common interests so it is easier to approach people and discuss issues that might be affecting my ability to put a sound on something.”

People in the audio industry are a diverse lot, with a diverse set of hobbies, diversions and tricks to keep themselves entertained outside of work, refresh themselves from the stresses of their jobs, and also find new techniques for improvement at work via their quest for fun. And how about you? What do you do for fun and how do you find it helps you both in life and in work?



Special thanks to Joe Marchuk, Alexandre Saba, Jef Aerts, Jim Fowler, Ben Crossbones and Robbie Elias for their time and contribution to this article.

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The War On Drugs: September 19, 2017 Terminal 5

[screen capture from this video]

This is what the “next level” looks like. On the heels of the release of their 2017 major-label debut, A Deeper Understanding, The War On Drugs showed up for a two-night stand in New York, first at a packed Terminal 5, to be followed by a sold-out Central Park Summerstage on this Friday night. If the band’s Radio City show in 2015, right after they signed with Atlantic Records, portended what was to come, here we were, in the thick of the actual next step. I won’t retell the story from that 2015 post, but it’s worth a read if this is your first time with a War On Drugs recording from this site.

Being on a major label, or selling out lots of bigger shows, doesn’t signify whether a band is “good” or not, or worthy or not, of course. In fact, this part of the process can be a nasty trap for many musicians — anyone who knows anything about Nirvana or a zillion other bands can tell you that. But in the case of this band, the product of years of hard work, with a wide-open, intricate sound that screams for a bigger stage, it’s the right result, and it’s one that validates Adam Granduciel’s songwriting efforts in particular. Granduciel is the perfect vehicle for big-tent lyrics, writing songs that are both personal and universal, and the sound he has developed is of a piece with that. Beginning with Lost In A Dream, and continuing in a major way with A Deeper Understanding, War On Drugs albums have a precise, densely arranged, melodic sound with an almost otherwordly sheen to it. Of course, what’s funny about that is that it’s so unusual today. If you grew up in the 1980s, or listen to much music from that era, having albums that sounded good was table stakes for even cult-favorite bands. Studio budgets, and album sales, were different then. Many fewer bands show up these days with fourteen instruments credited to a single track — nearly half of them, in many cases, played by Adam Granduciel.

To reference the 1980s, and stalwarts like Tom Petty and Springsteen in particular, is not to malign this band at all. If anything, this show at Terminal 5 underscored that The War On Drugs are rightful heirs to that personal-yet-massive rock style. Like the best of their forebears, The War On Drugs are also able to translate their studio sound to the stage. Perhaps in a nod to many of the newer fans in the audience (one of us got asked if we first heard of the band on NPR Music), this set focused exclusively on the last two albums, and the band was so dialed-in they could very well have been playing the album over the PA. Of course, that would have deprived us of the added guitar pyrotechnics, and the joy of realizing, for the umpteenth time, that even in 2017, a band comprised of talented musicians of limited gimmickry but exceptional live performing skills can still make it big, can still mean something to people who these days are more accustomed to “musical precision” coming from an Ableton Live setup.

In this broad-reaching survey of the band’s last two albums, the band’s other most remarkable quality — consistency — was evident, to the point that it’s almost impossible to focus on a highlight. But for me, The War On Drugs song that will always best-represent this evolution in the band’s journey is “Under the Pressure,” which so elementally captures both Granduciel’s mindset in the making of Lost In A Dream, but also in many ways the enormous weight of the band’s current success. It’s another of those songs with specific meaning to its author that is also able to capture an almost-universal anxiety among its listeners. To see a band that we personally have liked and supported for so long reach this point — not only making it to this proverbial “next level” but thriving against the pressure — is a special and rare thing. To hear, even in the relatively few snippets of stage banter on this night, how they remain the same people who played in tiny bars ten (or even six) years ago, is rarer still. I have to acknowledge, briefly, that I realize this band doesn’t “need” the support of a website like this, but their treatment of us as fans, both in the past and today, says a lot. We appreciate it.

We each recorded this set from our usual location directly at the soundboard, acidjack’s with Schoeps MK41V microphones and nyctaper’s with Neumann KM150s. The sound quality of each is excellent, and both versions are offered here. Enjoy!

Special thanks to The War On Drugs, their management, and the Terminal 5 staff for allowing us to record the show. 

Download the nyctaper version of this show at Archive.org [HERE]

Download acidjack’s Schoeps version: [MP3] | [FLAC]

Stream acidjack’s version here:

The War On Drugs
Terminal 5
New York, NY USA

Hosted at nyctaper.com
Recorded and produced by acidjack

Schoeps MK41V (at SBD, DFC)>KCY>Z-PFA>Sound Devices MixPre6 (24/48)>WAV>Adobe Audition CC>Izotope Ozone 5 (EQ, effects, image)>Audacity 2.0.5 (track, amplify, balance, downsample, dither)>FLAC ( level 8 )

01 In Chains
02 Pain
03 An Ocean Between the Waves
04 Strangest Thing
05 Holding On
06 Red Eyes
07 Knocked Down
08 Nothing To Find
09 Up All Night
10 You Don’t Have To Go
11 Burning
12 Eyes to the Wind
13 [encore break]
14 Under the Pressure
15 Clean Living
16 In Reverse


The War On Drugs
Terminal 5
New York NY

Digital Master Recording
Recorded at Soundboard Booth

Neumann KM-150s > Sound Devices 744t > 24bit 48kHz wav > Soundforge (post-production) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > TLH > flac (320 MP3 and tagging via Foobar)

Recorded and Produced by nyctaper

[Total Time 1:47:30]
01 In Chains
02 Pain
03 An Ocean Between the Waves
04 Strangest Thing
05 Holding On
06 Red Eyes
07 Knocked Down
08 Nothing To Find
09 Up All Night
10 You Don’t Have To Go
11 Burning
12 Eyes to the Wind
13 [encore break]
14 Under the Pressure
15 Clean Living
16 In Reverse

PLEASE SUPPORT THE WAR ON DRUGS: Buy A Deeper Understanding from their website

Source: http://www.nyctaper.com

Artifact Report #37/52a: The Quietened Cosmologists

Featuring audiological explorations by Field Lines Cartographer, Pulselovers, Magpahi, Howlround, Vic Mars, Unit One, A Year In The Country, Keith Seatman, Grey Frequency, Time Attendant, Listening Center, Polypores and David Colohan. Quietened Cosmologists

The Quietened Cosmologists is a reflection on space exploration projects that have been abandoned and/or that were never realised, of connected lost or imagined futures and dreams, the intrigue and sometimes melancholia of related derelict sites and technological remnants that lie scattered and forgotten.

It takes as its initial starting points the shape of the future’s past via the discarded British space program of the 1950s to 1970s; the sometimes statuesque and startling derelict artifacts and infrastructure from the Soviet Union’s once far reaching space projects; the way in which manned spaceflight beyond Earth’s orbit/to the moon and the associated sense of a coming space age came to be largely put to one side after the 1969 to 1972 US Apollo flights.

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News: SpecOps Review by Boom Box Post

News: SpecOps Review by Boom Box Post

The SpecOps plugin has a dark theme with several settings for modulation and morePhoto: SpecOps plugin by Plugin Alliance

Are you looking for a new way to bring out certain sounds in your mix? Or, do you simply wonder how spectral analysis works? If you answered yes, here’s a piece that might interest you: an informative review by Boom Box Post’s Kate Finan about the SpecOps plugin by Plugin Alliance. As always, Kate’s post is educational and straight to the point, so even if you’re not looking to buy a new plugin, you’ll learn how to better control your frequencies the next time you’re feeling a little experimental. Read her review here.


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Humans can mimic machines, too; look out, AutoTune

As machines create more-perfect vocal and instrumental performances, a funny thing is happening: humans are catching up.

The normal assumption about machine learning or “cyborg” technology is, as technology improves, we’ll augment ourselves with more technology. But that misses the fact that humans, both individually and socially, are also smart and adaptable. We start to learn from the tech.

I once met Stewart Copeland (The Police, composer), and he talked about this very phenomenon. A lot of the sound of The Police involved Stewart’s playing routed through various effects. In short, it was something he conceded he couldn’t play on his own. But as the popularity of those tracks grew, he noticed that human drummers were starting to emulate the exact resulting rhythms – possibly even without being aware of the effects routings that produced them.

Drum machines, of course, have had a similar impact. You frequently hear drummers playing with machine-like precision, employing patterns that you simply didn’t hear before. In classical music, we’ve also seen a rise in global musicianship that has produced a level of instrumental virtuosity unheard of in past centuries. Whether the link was intentional or not, even the compositional demands of works like Ligeti’s Continuum have a link to George Antheil’s piano rolls and machine music.

But maybe the best illustration is this: here’s what happens when a vocalist starts to sing like AutoTune.

The singer here is Ukrainian star Aida Nikolaychuk, born in Odessa.

This is an old story. But as discussion of AI and machines learning to emulate humans meets transhumanism, it’s worth flipping the coin to look at human transformation through organic means. It’s not just the machines we add to ourselves, but the way we evolve to adapt to those machines, that may shape that direction.

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Samplebot brings simple and immediate sample fun to your iOS device

A Tasty Pixel is a particular developer of note having delivered the somewhat famous Loopy and Loopy HD apps, and also being the developer behind a rather substantial proportion of Audiobus too. Whilst many of us (myself included to a degree) were expecting the next app from A Tasty Pixel to be Loopy Masterpiece, instead we have Samplebot. I’m not complaining. In fact I’m rather pleased. I have been playing with Samplebot for a while in beta and having a lot of fun with it. It’s very straightforward and very immediate, two qualities I am always looking for in an app. Samplebot certainly has both. You can be up and running and making something with it in seconds. It is intuitive and fun, so what more could you want?

Here’s what Tasty Pixel has to say about it:

Samplebot is a collector of sounds. It’s a crafter of songs. It’s a finger-drummable looping sequencer of rainbow glory, and it wants to be your friend. Come. Play. Robo-boogie.

– Record or import samples, then play them back on beautiful, sproingy rainbow pads!
– Then record or input arrangements using the sequencer, featuring built-in drum patterns, loop record and playback, quantization and copy/paste
– Trim samples, and adjust volume and balance for the perfect mix
– Share your creations to Facebook, or export them to other music apps
– Comprehensive MIDI control with velocity, for play using a grid controller like the Launchpad
– Helpful and fun-loving intro tutorial

Samplebot is available on the app store now for $2.99, which is a 50% off launch price:

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IK Multimedia bring us 17 virtual synths to recreate 38 iconic synths, all in your iPad

IK Multimedia have been a huge supporter in the iOS market since the very early days and have made a significant ecosystem with their apps and iOS focussed hardware. Now they’ve brought Syntronik from the desktop to iOS, and specifically for iPad.

The Syntronik app comprises 17 virtual synths which recreate the legendary sound of 38 of classic analog synths and string machines ever created.

According to IK:

Thanks to IK’s exclusive DRIFT™ technology, which emulates the way real analog circuits behave over time, the astounding circuit-modeled filters and the multi-sampled oscillators, Syntronik is the most authentic sounding analog virtual synthesizer to date and is the one-stop solution for musicians, discerning producers and synth aficionados demanding utmost sound quality and extreme playability both live and in the studio.

Our team of developers and sound designers worked relentlessly to capture each machine’s “DNA” for the most realistic and flexible instruments possible that maintain the real character of the originals while extending their creative potential even further.

Syntronik offers Multis with 4 parts. Each part has its own synth, dynamic arpeggiator and a dedicated 5-slot effect section for unprecedented sound design flexibility, allowing for highly sophisticated sonic palettes.

The instruments available in Syntronik cover an incredibly wide range of sounds, triggering inspiration right from the start with 1200 instrument presets, easily accessible with a smart browser, 200 multis*, 129 arpeggios and much more.

But let’s take a look at the app’s actual features:

There are 17 virtual synths which provide the sound of 38 legendary machines. These are:

(Alesis Andromeda, ARP 2600, ARP String Ensemble (Solina), Elka, Rhapsody 490, Hohner String Performer, Micromoog, Minimoog Model D, Modular Moog, Moog Opus 3, Moog Prodigy, Moog Rogue, Moog Taurus I, Moog Taurus II, Moog Taurus 3, Moog Voyager, Multimoog, Oberheim OB-X, Oberheim OB-Xa, Oberheim SEM, Polymoog, PPG Wave 2.3, Realistic Concertmate MG-1, Roland Juno-60, Roland Jupiter-4, Roland Jupiter-6, Roland Jupiter-8, Roland JX-10, Roland JX-3P, Roland JX-8P, Roland RS-09 Organ/Strings, Roland RS-505 Paraphonic, Roland TB-303 Bassline, Sequential Circuits Prophet-10, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Yamaha CS-01II, Yamaha CS-80, Yamaha GX-1, Yamaha SY99)

The app also has:

  • Dynamic arpeggiators
  • Multis, the ability to combine instruments, easily define ranges, split points, and FX
  • 37 effects: (Black 76, White 2A, Model 670, Parametric EQ, Vintage EQ-1A, Channel Strip, Crusher, Overdrive, Overscream, Lo-Fi, Phonograph, AM Modulation, Ensemble Chorus, Chorus C1, Electric Flanger, FM Modulation, Opto Tremolo, Phaser, Rotary Speaker, Small Phazer, Uni-V, AutoPan, Slicer, LFO Filter, Env Filter, Wah, Multi Filter, Digital Reverb, Digital Delay, Spring Reverb, Tape Echo, Stereo Imager, Amp & Cab Echo, Modern Tube Lead, SVT Classic, Jazz Amp 120)
  • 4 analog-modeled filters: Moog transistor ladder, Roland’s IR3109 chip, Curtis CEM3320 chip, Oberheim SEM state variable filter
  • Inter-App Audio and Audiobus compatible.

Syntronik is available as a free version which includes 25 presets from all 17 synths. Single models are available separately via in-app purchase, or you can buy the whole lot in one go for $39.99.

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WerkBench 3 arrives with an amazing creative workflow

After 3 years with no activity at all WerkBench 3 has surfaced with a massive bunch of new features to bolster any creative sampling workflow. Back in its day WerkBench was a great app for working with sound, but in version 3 this has become an altogether more powerful sampling tool. So let’s get a quick run through of what’s new.

The obligatory essential updates and hygiene factors
This version adds support for iOS11, which is of course nice to see, and we would all have been annoyed if it wasn’t there. There’s also Audiobus 3 (Audio receiver and sender, MIDI receiver), which is a nice combination of AB features.

Version 3 adds More effects
There’s a new Reverb (decay, color, and mix), independent sends for each sample, and also a Bit crusher and high-pass filter in instrument controls.

There are more step-editing/automation parameters
WerkBench now sports Attack, Reverb sends, Bit crusher down-sampling per step and Low-pass filter too. Personally I think that the increased automation on its own is a huge step forward for the app.

New interactions
In version 3 all step-automation parameters can be recorded in real time. Additionally, all step-automation parameters can be randomized, which is always both fun and useful creatively for experimentation and generating new ideas. Also step-automation can be preserved when sampling (letting you pre-program melodies, etc. before sampling).

New file format
This might seem a little dry, but it is in fact very important. The new format allows for easy sharing and importing between devices. Now .werk files can be made by zipping a folder of wavs and renaming the extension, and vice versa, you can unzip .werk files on your computer to get the .wav files that were recorded in Werkbench.

Audio Engine improvements
Now you can use longer sample times, apparently 2x as long as in the previous version. The pitch range is now wider (up to 8 octave range per sample). There’s 64 note max polyphony, which is configurable, and finally the tempo goes up to 999 BPM if that’s what you really need.

So I think you’ll agree it is a massive update, and one that adds to this app’s creative potential.

WerkBench is on the app store now and costs just $9.99:

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Oculus Adds Near Field HRTF & Volumetric Sound Sources

Oculus Adds Near Field HRTF & Volumetric Sound Sources

Oculus just introduced two new features to the Rift SDK. Near Field HRTF, for sound sources closer than 1m & Volumetric Sound Sources which allow to model sounds sources of any size.

For more details on these new features & listening examples visit the oculus blog.

[image credit: oculus blog]

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