Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rhizomatiks' lovely iPhone clocks

Thanks to Creative Applications blog (definitely worth keeping up with if you're interested in browser, desktop, Processing, and iPhone-based art of the more fringe and digital varieties), I've discovered the lovely iPhone / iPod Touch app maker Rhizomatiks - specifically, their fantastic clocks.

At present, the Japanese artist collective has 12 free clocks apps available in the App Store. Each one has a different spin on telling the time. Clock10, for example, shows the time as virtual electronics knobs, while the recent Clock12 has a timely snowfall theme. Each Clock is elegantly minimal, and they don't take up much space (perhaps upwards of 10 MB for the whole set); personally, I've set up a separate app page for all of them, app glutton that I am.

More about Rhizomatiks and the artists involved at this fantastic site. You can preview short animations of each clock here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My tops of 2009 on Big Shot

As the year winds down, it's been that list time again. A few weeks ago, I had some contributions to PopMatters' best of 2009 feature. Today, a longer personal article is up on Big Shot, featuring my top 25 albums and top 10 singles of the year. You can read the full thing here, but in the mean time, here are the lists:

25. DJ Hell - Teufelswerk (International Deejay Gigolo)
24. White Rainbow - New Clouds (Kranky)
23. Vinyl Life - Vinyl Life (Tape Theory)
22. Basement Jaxx - Scars (Ultra)
21. Tim Exile - Listening Tree (Warp)
20. Ethan Rose - Oaks (Holocene)
19. Gui Boratto - Take My Breath Away (Kompakt)
18. The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me To The Hospital)
17. Clark - Totems Flare (Warp)
16. Falty DL - Love Is A Liability (Planet Mu)
15. Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol. 2 (Raster-Noton)
14. Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
13. Ras G - Brotha From Anotha Planet (Brainfeeder / Alpha Pup)
12. Voodeux - The Paranormal (Mothership)
11. Gus Gus - 24/7 (Kompakt)
10. Babe, Terror - Weekend (Perdizes Dream)
9. Kid606 - Shout At The Döner (Tigerbeat6)
8. Moby - Wait For Me (Mute)
7. Antipop Consortium - Fluorescent Black (Big Dada)
6. Dixon - Temporary Secretary (Innervisions)
5. Meshell Ndegeocello - Devil's Halo (Mercer Street)
5. Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself (BPitch Control)
4. Kikumoto Allstars - House Music (International DJ Gigolo)
3. Syntheme - Lasers 'N' Shit (Planet Mu)
2. SND - Atavism (Raster-Noton)
1. Harmonic 313 - When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp)

10. Moby - "Mistake"
9. Matias Aguayo - "Rollerskate"
8. Neurotic Drum Band - "Robotic Hypnotic Adventure"
7. Marek Hemmann - "Gemini"
6. John Callaghan - "Phylactery"
5. Audion - "Look At The Moon"
4. The Juan Maclean - "Happy House"
3. Speech Debelle - "Searching"
2. Gus Gus - "Add This Song"
1. Fever Ray - "If I Had A Heart"

* - yes, I noticed I have two #5 albums. Whoops. Consider it a tie.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Storm - new track & RjDj scene!

My friend Paul Edwards came up from NJ today to make some music. We'd been meaning to do this for awhile, and now I feel like an even bigger tool for having to delay things so much; if I dosay so myself, the results from today are pretty dope. Listen for yourself:

Click through to the SoundCloud page to download a high-quality AAC version of the track. It's still a work in progress, so don't get mad if you hear some odd things hear and there. But it's pretty, yeah?

There's another way to hear "Snow Storm" - as an RjDj scene! For those who aren't aware, RjDj, a product of Reality Jockey ltd., is a free iPhone/iPod Touch app made up of "scenes" that facilitate playing/making reactive music. Scenes are put together in Pure Data, Miller
Puckette's free, open-source, platform-agnostic environment for modular DSP. Here's a snapshot of the "back end" of the scene, with heavy use of the excellent RjDj-provided developer macro objects:

In this case, I've take a couple stem loops from "Snow Storm" (they come with the scene as packaged wav files) and made it so that incoming sound controls the relative loudness of certain parts, while lowpass and bandpass filters on all parts are controlled by the x/y/z positioning of the accelerometer. You can download it by clicking on the link below, but first, a warning: this is still technically a private share - I have yet to submit it to RjDj for public approval. I haven't noticed any major issues with this revision of the scene, but you're downloading at your own risk. With that out of the way, here it is:

Here it is. Before you download it, you need to first download the RjDj app for free. Then open up that link - - in your iPhone Safari browser, click "install," and RjDj should take care of the rest. The picture above is the artwork for it - original photo is of the kitchen setup where Paul and I recorded the track earlier today. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas from ol' Saint Ranta

My friend and colleague Alan Ranta - some of you might know him by his former penname, Filmore Mescalito Holmes - has unleashed another yearly bounty of mixes designed the make the holidays a bit more interesting.

This time around, there are three Ranta mixes for your holiday enjoyment, all of which can be found at his blog, The FMHole. The cover to the first mix, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sugar Plums? is pictured above; the other two mixes (one with a rather NSFW cover and theme) go the lusty and family routes in exploring this universal North American holiday.

So, ho ho ho, and would this dude sell you short?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

MiniSpillage - free drum synth for Mac OS

Here's a fun little free drum synth courtesy of AudioSpillage - MiniSpillage. Essentially a "lite" version of the upcoming DrumSpillage, it's a great tool for making some interesting percussion sounds. If you've been looking for some more out-there or deeper electronic percussion sounds, this is a good one to try out. Note that it's not modeled off of any classic analog machine, but rather just features parameters that you'd general want to have with a drum synth.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jasuto Pro - new demos

Chris Wolfe, author of the impressive Jasuto app for the iPhone / iTouch, revealed new information about the forthcoming Jasuto Pro today in a post on the Jasuto forum. Here's the first of four demo videos:

There's an impressive laundry list of new and improved options, including a vastly improved sampler, manual patching of wires between nodes, oscillators that Wolfe promises are "nearly alias-free," an ADSR envelope node, granular synthesis (especially excited about this one!), and some other new tweaks and goodies - see the post for the full list.

Wolfe plans to submit Jasuto Pro to the App Store on December 18, though given the sluggish pace of approval these past few months, who knows what that means regarding a public release date. The app will initially cost $5 as an incentive to early adopters, before going up to $10 - steep for the App Store, but steal a huge bargain given Jasuto's capabilities.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2009 Halfway Review [Part 4/5]

Albums 10-6 of my halfway review of 2009. Almost there at #1!

10. Hauschka - Snowflakes and Carwrecks (FatCat)

I can generally handle cold much better than heat, but that doesn’t mean I particularly care for East Coast winters. Still, even in the middle of a beautiful summer’s day, hearing Snowflakes and Carwrecks raises a pang of longing for nights in from the frost. German prepared pianist Volker Bertelmann’s early-2009 EP is a testament to the warmth of good friends and shelter during the harshest season. Bertelmann’s small-town origins are an acknowledged influence on his music, and hearing centerpiece “Tanz” (“Dance”) reach its final crescendo, it’s easy to get swept up in the feeling of a lively, glowing, social gathering in the middle of ice and snow.

My review at Cokemachineglow

9. Clark - Totems Flare (Warp)

With less than a year left, I’ll go ahead and declare Chris Clark to be the defining artist of the decade for Warp Records. His runaway acid, spiked with industrial grit and noir-like levels of reverb have made his albums intensely personal journeys through human emotion. Last year’s Turning Dragon was an angry explosion, leaving Totems Flare to pick up the pieces. It turns out that, for Clark, this involves vocals, more accessible melodies than ever before, and shuffled marching rhythms. Continuing to ride high from the career-peak Body Riddle (2006), this is his most varied record to date.

My review at Cokemachineglow

8. Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself (BPitch Control)

It was only a few days before the release of Immolate Yourself, Telefon Tel Aviv’s third record, that member Charlie Cooper died suddenly and unexpectedly. Surviving member Josh Eustis has since picked up the pieces and toured to support the record, but, even if the name survives, Cooper’s death is the end of an era for TTA. The sadness of Cooper’s young death is only amplified by the triumphant sound of Immolate Yourself, which finds the duo more focused than ever in creating majestic songs, informed by techno, shoegaze, and ambient glitch styles. Still, it’s rare that any artist is heard on the level that TTA has. If nothing else, and even if incomplete, TTA told their stories.

My review at Cokemachineglow

7. Miss Kittin & The Hacker - Two (Nobody’s Bizzness)

“I am not / a silent woman!” declares Caroline Herve on “The Womb,” her second collaborative album with The Hacker. That she is not. Miss Kittin has never been silent, nor timid, having embraced techno, goth, punk, electro, and many other influences over the course of her impressive career. Her greatest marks were made in collaborations with Felix Da Housecat and The Hacker during that early-90s era was electroclash surged, which threatened to make Two a retread (…of what was kind of a retread to begin with). No such deal, as Kittin and The Hacker create a more sensual, full, inviting, yet also challenging record than they have in the past. Eschewing the monotone mistress figure she played on 2001’s First Album, Miss Kittin shows all her dimensions here, with The Hacker’s backing induced with more, welcome, lush tones than before.

My review at PopMatters

6. GusGus - 24/7 (Kompakt)

Technically, this is firmly from the second half of 2009, coming out in the Fall. But having heard the promo stream mix, I can’t help but pop it down here. Unfortunately, it looks like singer Earth has sat out this album, but in her stead in the return of Daniel Agust, the elfin-voiced androgyne whose inimitably playful and sensual vocals have marked the best GusGus tracks, from “Ladyshave” to “Desire.” Signing to Kompakt, GusGus return here with an album of fewer and longer tracks, going for synth-layered techno jams that play off all their strengths. Just wait - it’s gonna be epic.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

2009 Halfway Review [Part 3/5]

Here's part three of my top 25 albums of 2009, halfway through, numbers 15 through 11.

15. Voodeux - The Paranormal (Mothership)

I love horror movies and shows, and I love techno. Imagine the glee when my inbox chimed in with a promo for Voodeux, a new group on Claude Von Stroke’s Mothership label who also love those two things, and made them the impetus behind their work. That’s the great thing about The Paranormal--it’s a gimmick, certainly, but a fantastically entertaining one, that results in some truly spine-tingling minimal beats. With a penchant for empty, reverberated spacey, and wobbly organ and chime sounds, Voodeux have created a solid debut offering with tracks that work great on the dance floor and in the headphones. A recent interview I conducted with one of the duo, Tanner Ross (look for it in the next issue of Big Shot), suggests that Voodeux are looking to expand beyond simply being the “horror techno” group. Regardless, Paranormal delivers fully on the promise within its premise.

14. SND - Atavism (Raster-Noton)

I cannot stop listening to this record, which is not quite what I would have expected upon first hearing about it. SND, veterans of the glitch scene, return from a release hiatus with an album that redefines just how “minimal” minimal techno can get. Every one of the unnamed tracks on Atavism uses the same narrow palette of digital, inorganic sounds: a bouncy bass drum, something like a cymbal hit, another something like a snare hit, and an FM-sounding pad with an icy sheen and little timbral variation. This record is a love letter to the disinfected cleanliness of digital signal processing, using sequencers and computerized sound generation to thoroughly de-humanize the productions, and the product is nothing short of addictive. If the sanitized future-dwellers of THX 1138 made funky techno, you can bet it would have sounded like this.

My review at themilkfactory

13. Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu - 4th Dimension (Puu)

“It’s imperative / to groove.” So goes the lyrical call-to-action at the start of “Aligned Planets,” the opener from 4th Dimension, the latest from versatile Finnish musician Jimi Tenor, in collaboration with afrobeat ensemble Kabu Kabu. This record sees Tenor disrupting the afrobeat formula with jazzy dissonances and a light synthesizer haze, for a result that sounds like a kind of dream group featuring Miles Davis and Fela Kuti, both at the height of their willingness to think outside the box. Admittedly, I know relatively little about afrobeat, and only chanced upon this album because of the involvement of Warp records alumnus Tenor. Good on him, for continuing to challenge the complacency of each segment of his wide audience.

12. Babe, Terror - Weekend (Perdizes Dream)

The phrase “tropical” has become comically overused in 2009, as bands as stale as Vampire Weekend get slapped with misnomer tags like “Balearic” (which, to remind readers, was a general categorization for electronic dance music popular in Ibiza in the late 80s). The Zeitgest record here is Panda Bear’s 2007 album Person Pitch, which has spawned a rash of half-hearted imitators. If there’s any justice, Babe, Terror, will rise above this fray and get proper recognition, a process that has already started, to some extent. Made entirely out of samples and recordings of his own voice through a relatively basic audio editor, Weekend is a dizzyingly psychedelic journey from São Paulo-based artist Claudio Szynkier. Like Bobby McFerrin on hallucinogens staring at a beautiful sky, Babe, Terror’s music is hyperreal, vocal communication on a non-verbal plane. That it’s available for free download means there no excuse for you not to go and get it now.

My review at Cokemachineglow

11. Ras G - Brotha From Another Planet (Brainfeeder / Alpha Pup)

There’s so many hot new beatmakers coming out of LA these days that I’m amazed I didn’t trip over an MPC when I was there in March. But few are as out-there and compelling as Ras G, whose Brotha From Anotha Planet is equal parts J Dilla and Sun Ra. The beats are grounded in the earth and humanity--note the lack of quantization, contributing to a chewy feel on the percussion--but the themes are out of this world by quite some distance. This is George Clinton’s funk in space as seen through, blunted, introspective, information-age glasses. Lose yourself in it.

My review at Cokemachineglow

Monday, August 3, 2009

2009 Halfway Review [Part 2/5]

Here we go with part two of my top albums of 2009 at the halfway mark. Before starting with the next five, here's a quick plug for pitches for a special features section on the 20th anniversary of Warp Records that I'm co-editing for PopMatters. The call for papers is public, so you (yes, you!) should get cracking on a pitch or two! Deadline for pitches is August 14.

Now, without further ado, here's 20-16:

20. Venetian Snares - Filth (Planet Mu)

This is far from the first time Aaron Funk has done something close to pornographic - his Nymphomatriarch collaboration with then-partner Rachel Kozak (aka Hecate) was built entirely out of sampled sounds from the duos “private debaucheries” recorded while on tour. But Filth is much more about the giggles than the (hypothetical) shits, with Funk relying on the syrupy snot of distorted acid to communicate the sounds of darkly absurdist fluid-swapping.

19. Ethan Rose - Oaks (Holocene)

Great year for ambient, part 2. Something serene from Portland-based composer Ethan Rose, who built Oaks out of samples of the ancient organ at the Oaks Park skating rink. Since I have childhood memories of birthday parties and rainy afternoon at the Oaks rink, this one definitely hits me in the nostalgia. It’s to Rose’s credit that Oaks avoids sounding sappy, instead relying on reverb and the digital artifacts of computer processing to invoke the hazy nature of memory.

My review at PopMatters

18. The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me To The Hospital)

When I interviewed Liam Howlett about this one (to be published in full soon, really I swear), he mentioned that recording and touring for this album, The Prodigy has felt more like a solid band unit than ever before. Certainly, we have the opposite of 2004’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, which saw Howlett turning mostly towards guests vocalists, as MC Maxim Reality and singer Keith Flint have a heavy presence on Invaders Must Die. Where Outgunned lagged in parts, Invaders is an abrasive thrill-ride through rave sounds past and present. The trio are clearly more comfortable with their status as rave’s veterans, and as such, it’s nice to hear some call-and-response and hoover-esque stabs back in the mix.

17. Moby - Wait For Me (Mute)

After last year’s disco curveball, Last Night, I had no idea what to expect from Moby. Coming within a year of Last Night, Wait For Me sees Moby going back to his “Little Idiot” persona of the daydreamer with a synthesizer and a bunch of field recordings, only this time things are a bit different. Wait For Me is as soul-baringly naked as Moby’s ever been on record - he truly does sound like he’s about to burst into tears on the New Order-esque “Mistake.” It’s inspiring to see that Moby, two decades into his career, still wrestles so heavily with where to go next. Luckily, his avenue with this record is a rewarding one.

My review at Cokemachineglow

16. Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol. 2 (Raster-Noton)

The second album in a series conceptually exploring the link between the sounds of past and present, Xerrox Vol. 2, like its older brother, Xerrox Vol. 1 (2007), finds Alva Noto glitching out over aching strings. Vol. 2 is even more toward the accessible end of anything Carsten Nicolai’s done, with nary a harsh beat or burst of noise to be found. Instead, we get an entry with a foot in the door for Great Year for Ambient. It’s also, it should be mentioned, a fine jewel in what is shaping up to be an excellent year for Raster-Noton. Well worth seeking out.

My review at Cokemachineglow

Friday, July 31, 2009

2009 Halfway Review [Part 1/5]

I hear a lot of records these days. 2009 is a bit over half over (already? I know - time passes these days, doesn't it?), and I've heard nearly 100 albums; not all as deeply as I'd like to, but enough to have a rough idea of what's really sticking. So, I'll be posting a series of updates, five at a time, counting down what, at the moment, are my top records of 2009 so far. Starting now with 25-21:

25. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion (Paw Tracks)

This one has been a difficult grower on me. Upon first listen, it sounded like a meandering sprawl of beauty in need of some more structure to really gel. I’m still not as sold on it as I am other Animal Collective records, but moments like “Also Frightened” are some of the most beautiful twisted psych-pop this year.

24. Moderat - Moderat (BPitch Control)

The collaboration between Apparat and Modeselektor has fantastic potential, and almost always delivers greatly. It’s interesting to hear Sasha Ring’s glitchy ambience tempered with the fat basses of Modeselektor. “Beatswaysick,” featuring California MC Busdriver, is a clear highlight.

23. Tyondai Braxton - Central Market (Warp)

I’m still getting used to this one, and boy is it something different from Ty Braxton. While previous solo efforts have found Braxton in an insular mode, focusing on the layered structures of his vocals and guitar, the upcoming Central Market sounds like Stravinsky collaborating with Braxton’s post-rock group, Battles. A fully-orchestrated affair, Market still maintains Braxton’s quirks - notice the omnipresent kazoos and whistling.

22. Benjy Ferree - Come Back To The Five And Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee (Domino)

A concept album about child stardom - wait, did Cory Feldman actually get a record deal? Naw, this is just an intriguingly dramatic little tale of the life of Bobby Driscoll, one-time number-one Disney kid actor (he was the voice of Peter Pan in the animated classic), who ended up dead at 31 to an overdose, long forgotten by the shady cast of characters who had supported his pre-pubescent rise to the top. “Fear” and “Pisstopher Chrisstopher” excellently capture the mix of anger, sadness, and crippling paranoia at play.

21. Kyle Bobby Dunn - Fervency (Moodgadget)

It’s been a good year for ambient so far, to say the least. Still a young composer, Kyle Bobby Dunn’s rapid, genre-bending development pauses here to focus on lushly resonant drones. This is music for deep thought and indescribable emotion, icily shiny yet warmly embracing at the same time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

WIR #7

Should I even bother calling these "week in review" posts anymore? I can't seem to get in the pattern of actually posting them weekly. Well, it's Monday, it's been a couple crazy weeks of turnover in my life, and here's some stuff that's gone up:

Score: 8/10
It took almost eight years, but we finally have another collaborative effort from Caroline Herve and Michael Amato. The icily passive sexuality from First Album is still present on a few tracks, but it's no longer the dominant theme. Herve is more emotional and Amato is more lush, for a more naked experience. Also, bangin' chunes.

Score: 70/100
After remaking Play with diminishing returns and then throwing a curveball in last year's NY disco-themed Last Night, Wait for Me is a return to sad, ambient, symphonic Moby. Only this is sadder and more personal and soul-baring than he's ever been, really. For someone who included all those essays in his earlier records (none of that here), that's saying something. A consistent portrait of longing and malaise, plus a lot of tracks that sound kinda like "G-d Moving Over the Face of Waters."

Look - it's a new color! Big Shot Magazine orange! While I'm pretty sure that most of my stuff for Big Shot will only appear in the glossy print form, apparently a few articles get posted to the website over time. So, here's my profile of acid ace Cylob, and his uniquely coded DJ program, the Kombine BeatHarvester.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

WIR #6 - long time coming

Hi everyone. Guess what? I'm alive! And here's some overdue updates of stuff I've written:

Score: 80/100
In a landscape overrun with throwback acts looking for elusive "authenticity" in their nostalgic interpretations of dance music, Kikumoto Allstars manage to rise above and deliver a tight long-player of house grooves. It's all here - squelchy acid lines, ravey sawtooth synths, liberal helpings of TR-808 and TR-909 percussion - and it all pumps.

Score: 4/5
SND return from out of the blue with an intensely sterile take on minimal techno. There's no superfluously delayed percussion or field recordings, and certainly no M-nus- / Basic Channel-esque reverb. No, we get digital percussion pounding away with FM pad stabs, drawing from the same narrow sound palette for the entirety of the release. So why do I like it? Read on!

Score: 55/100
And here I thought that Adventure album was as ridiculous as things could get in the "let's ape Dan Deacon" segment of Carpark. Ear Pwr have something really interesting going for them - namely those wonderful analog toys - but it all gets a shit-smear thanks to unfortunate (and unnecessary) hipster posturing. Did you really need to title a song "Cats Is People Too?" Or how about "Sparkley [sic] Sweater?" Ear Pwr would be so much more likable if they didn't elicit eye-rolls.

Score: 7/10
The man also known as Señor Coconut has some interesting tricks up his sleeve. In this case, said tricks include making a series of tracks based around a motif of rhythmic cell-phone interference, vocoded poetry on the nature of radio signals, and a guest appearance from the godfather of German techno himself, Florian Schneider! Ja.

Score: 8/10
No, I'm not sure why an album from 2008 didn't send out a promo copy until Spring 2009. Be that as it may, this is still a pretty impressive mix from Funke. Requisite 2008 inclusion of that one Nathan Fake track, of course.

That's not quite all for now - if you'll pick up the latest issue of Big Shot Magazine, you'll find a couple articles from yours truly; a discussion with Chris Jeffs (aka Cylob) about his homemade DJ software, the Kombine BeatHarvester, and a review of Ableton Live 8. They aren't online, but I think it's a pretty fantastic issue with some great pieces on The Prodigy, Pet Shop Boys, Peaches and more!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

WIR #5

Been a busy week, particularly with CMG, where it was Kid606 Week™ for me. Check it!

Interview: Kid606
Anticipating the release of Shout At The Döner, I spoke to Miguel De Pedro about a whole host of subjects, for an engaging discussion long enough to warrant publication in two parts. Hear about his perspectives on running a record label, how he makes his tracks, what he thinks of the explosion of the mashup scene he pioneered, how Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart is unexpectedly hilarious, moving to Berlin, and much, much, more.
Part 1 at Cokemachineglow
Part 2 at Cokemachineglow

Kid606 - Shout At The Döner (Tigerbeat6; 2009)
Score: 84/100
The full-length return of Kid606 from his hiatus. Following the the dubstep phatness of last year's Die Soundboy Die, Döner is a return to the rave-obliterating madness of albums like Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You. This time, we also get zombie references. That, and it's one of his most solid releases.
Full review at Cokemachineglow

The Juan Maclean - The Future Will Come (DFA; 2009)
Score: 75/100
Co-authored with Calum Marsh (okay, being honest, he wrote 2/3 of it then asked me to add stuff, and is dude enough to give me co-writing credit). DFA's non-label-owning star returns with a second full-length, following the pure bliss that was "Happy House" (which appears in full form at the end of The Future). You'll wish some of the tracks went longer, but things could certainly be worse than that.
Full review at Cokemachineglow

Mauxuam - Viceversa (Interchill; 2008)
Score: 3/5
Worldly Italian producer returns from three years of traveling with this glitched-out aural document. While it's at times weighted down by its socio-political concerns, we've still got a worthwhile think piece on our hands.
Full review at the milk factory

Friday, April 24, 2009

WIR #4

Been a good week. Enjoy!

Reinventing the Music Box (Again)
Score: 9/10
Don't let the score fool you; this puppy is a feature-length discussiong of FM3's recently-released Buddha Machine II, and what the technological add-ons (in this case, a pitch-wheel) mean for the device's reputation as a tool of simplicity.
Full article at PopMatters

Ras G - Brotha From Anotha Planet (Brainfeeder/Alpha Pup; 2009)
Score: 70/100
Equal parts Sun Ra and J Dilla, Ras G is a promising new beatmaking talent out of the fertile blunted-space-beats garden that is LA. Like contemporary Flying Lotus, only more spaced out (which is most often a good thing).
Full review at Cokemachineglow

Jane's Addiction - "Whores" (self-released; 2009)
Jane's Addiction are back with the original four members in tow - including, for the first time in 1991, bassist Eric Avery. Fittingly, they've laid down some blasting new studio versions of songs from their semi-live debut for inclusion in a free sampler for their "NINJA" tour with Nine Inch Nails and Street Sweeper (if you're unfamiliar with the latter, it's a new collaboration between Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello and The Coup's Boots Riley).
Track review at Cokemachineglow

I'm aware of how lame it is that there's nothing on the milk factory this week. But I'll get something soon - promise!

Lastly, a couple new things. First off, I've started another freelance relationship, this one with Big Shot, a Brooklyn-based DJ magazine with some sweet features, reviews, and charts galore. I've written a review of Ableton Live 8 and a feature about Cylob's homemade DJ software (made in SuperCollider, my coding environment of choice, I might add) for the next issue.

Additionally, though it's not music-related, I've also started doing some writing for New York Magazine; I covered an ASPCA gala honoring Martha Stewart last night. You can read a couple items about it here and here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Hobnox Audiotool Is Now (even more) Unstoppable

Those of you readers with an interest in ACIEED (and the Roland machines that make it) will be well familiar by now with the Hobnox Autiotool, a fantastic environment for making music. Not only does the Audiotool sound incredibly like the classic machines it's charged with emulating (the 303 sounds almost as good as the proprietary AudioRealism Bassline instrument that I use), but it's free!

The Audiotool didn't necessarily need anything new; it already allowed the user to have as many instances of the TR-808 drum machine, TR-909 drum machine, or TB-303 bass synthesizer, as your processor could handle (not to mention 12 neat stompbox-like effects). Plus, you could record! There's still no sequencer, or ability to automate parameters or go back and post-edit anything you record...but seriously, for a free tool? It's some next-level stuff. Prepare to be rocked by the latest addition, the ToneMatrix:

Inspired by Yamaha's Tenori-On, the ToneMatrix is a new synthesizer that plays a pretty chime tone, with notes scaled by a matrix of buttons. While the ToneMatrix doesn't have the sampling capabilities of the Tenori-On, and cannot be used as a controller (nor can different rules be implemented for pattern sequencing), it's still a pretty incredible innovation from the truly brilliant minds at Hobnox. It should really be heard to be best understood:

Got it? Good. Now if you're human, chances are that somewhere, deep inside you, you have the desire to create. ToneMatrix now makes it incredible user-friendly to make beautiful melodies with a few clicks of a mouse. There's even preset modes to start you off. Happy music-making!

Monday, April 20, 2009

RIP J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard passed away yesterday. Ballard is one of my favorite authors, particularly his novel Crash, a look at people who fetishize car crashes. The book is one of many explorations from Ballard into the human (and often sexual nature) of technology; in this case, automobiles.

Ballard's work caught the eye of many musicians, most notably Daniel Miller, who recorded "Warm Leatherette," inspired by Crash. Released under the recording name The Normal, "Leatherette" became the first single on Miller's groundbreaking label, Mute. Here's the original version:

Warm Leatherette - The Normal

And a fantastic cover from Grace Jones:

Warm Leatherette - Grace Jones

Nine Inch Nails also covered it with Peter Murphy (from Bauhaus):

There are others, but I'll let you find them on your own. In the mean time, if you haven't read anything by Ballard, now's a great time! RIP to a visionary author.

Friday, April 10, 2009

WIR #3

Hola amigos. Been a while since I hollered at ya. I moved into a new apartment on Sunday (this one has an elevator, alright!) and have been busy with Pesach most of the week (family's in town). So, only a couple pieces this week, but I've received some interesting feedback about both.

Black Dice - Repo (Paw Tracks; 2009)
Score: 62/100
The veteran Brooklyn noise-makers with messed up beats unleash a record filled with collage pieces, reflecting the din of media in modern life. It's engaging, and as always there are some fascinating sounds, but Black Dice tend to be better when they work on crunchy rhythms and long ambient tracks.
Full review at Cokemachineglow

Eminem - "We Made You" (Shady/Aftermath; 2009)
After an inauspicious resurfacing, Em drops the first single off his upcoming Relapse. It's not surprising that "We Made You" is crap - I've long ago given up hope on Eminem ever being more than a self-pitying bigot with corny jokes - but that it actually sucks more than I could have expected. I know it's been customary to have the first single be the stupid joke track that's passe in two weeks, but cracks at Kim Kardashian and Bret Michaels aren't even remotely funny to begin with.
Track review at Cokemachineglow

Friday, April 3, 2009

WIR #2

Restarting another feature here - Weeking In Review (WIR for short, get it?). I'll run it every Friday, with links and summaries of pieces I've done that have been published that week. Since this is the inaugural one of this relaunch, I'm reaching further back into March for some pieces that I think merit the extra mention.

I'm also introducing a new color-code for pieces to indicate where they're published, as follows:
the milk factory

Here we go:

Babe, Terror - Weekend (Perdizes Dream; 2009)
Score: 78/100
Claudio Szynkier is a fantastic and unique new talent that I've previously blogged about. Weekend is constructed out of samples of his voice put through basic and obvious effects. Pure and primal, yet with a post-modern take. Check out the Babe, Terror Myspace for more.
Full review at Cokemachineglow

Ethan Rose - Oaks (Holocene; 2009)
Score: 7/10
Portland-based creator of ambient electro-acoustics makes an album about memory. All samples are taken from the organ at the Oaks Park Roller Rink, where I attended a number of birthday parties growing up. Needless to say, this review gets a bit personal. See Rose's lovely website for more.
Full review at PopMatters

Interview with Chris Willits
I sat down with ambient/experimental/drone guitarist Chris Willits after a recent show to discuss Ableton 8, his new venture, and what exactly "folding" is. See Willits' site for more background info and music samples.
Interview at the milk factory

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools Gold from Nine Inch Nails

Strobe Light - Trent Reznor's hilarious little April Fools prank. Announced this morning, it's a new album, produced by Timbaland, featuring guests such as Fergie, Sheryl Crow, and, of course, Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Maynard James Keenan of Tool. The package would cost close to $30 total and would arrive as WMA files. Personally, my favorite track title is "Clap Trap Crack Slap." Good move.

It works because last year's release of The Slip was similarly unannounced. That album, notably, is still available for free download in high quality formats. Get it here!

Monday, March 30, 2009

homme du monde - Mark Et Paul

homme du monde - Mark et Paul from Paul Edwards on Vimeo.

From my friend Paul Edwards, a noise piece improvised over a old TWA short film about New York.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Every mumblecore film ever

And this is why mumblecore is ass. Summed better than I could ever rant it. I spot references to The Puffy Chair, Dance Party USA, Old Joy, Baghead, and Juno. Crap gets skewered! Okay, so there were some good parts of Old Joy. But still I just wanted to reach into the screen and tell Will Oldham's character to grow the fuck up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MUR #1

Introducing a new feature here - Music Under Review (MUR), in which I'll be blogging some short quips about the music that is currently under review, often soon to be published elsewhere. This will be a place for my first impressions, or thinking out loud about how to come down on something.

Mark Pritchard - ? / Hologram (Ho-Hum; 2009)

I interviewed Mark for PopMatters yesterday, talking primarily about his latest record as Harmonic 313. He mentioned this new single, released under his given name. The Harmonic 313 LP was dark, but "?" is black hole space of another kind - nary a beat in site. Should be reviewing this one for the milk factory soon.

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me To The Hospital; 2009)

Hello again, old friend(s). Most of you will best remember The Prodigy for its hit singles "Firestarter" and "Breathe," more than a decade (!) old now. After a just-okay come-back album in 2004's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, The Prodigy sound reinvigorated this time around. There's a palpable "blog house" influence on some of these tracks, but luckily its kept to a minimum. Instead, most of Invaders is the rave music that Liam Howlett and co. and best known for, amplified to 11. Plus the return of vocals from Maxim Reality and Keith Flint - good show. Might review this for Coke Machine Glow. In the mean time, I'll be seeing, writing about and photographing The Prodigy live at the Roseland this Thursday for PopMatters. Trying to interview them for PM too, but it looks like I'll be out of town during their scheduled press time.

Atom™ - Liedgut (Raster-Noton; 2009)

Before hearing this latest release, I knew Atom™ best as Señor Coconut, known for his Latin Pop-tinged versions of Kraftwerk. This being a release on Raster-Noton, I knew to expect something rather different. Ostensibly, the theme here is romanticism; according to the press release, Nietzsche is somehow involved. I don't speak German, so both the liner notes and the lyrics here are a mystery. But there's some beautiful and innovative glitch here, including a series of pieces built around polyrhythms of cell phone-speaker interference. I'll be reviewing this one for PopMatters.

Babe, Terror - Weekend (Perdizes Dream; 2009)

Ever since Panda Bear's last record, neo-exotica has flourished - check out El Guincho for another kindred spirit. In a somewhat similar, but decidedly more experimental vein comes Babe, Terror, the alias of Claudio Szynkier from São Paulo, Brazil. Weekend's pieces consist of intimate and engulfing manipulations of Claudio's voice. Rather than lyrics, we get vocalizing, at times appropriately harmonic and atonal. It's the debut work of a truly individual artist. I'll be reviewing it this week for Coke Machine Glow.

Dntel - Early Works For Me If It Works For You II (Plug Research/Phthalo; 2009)

Jimmy Tamborello, best known as the electronic half of The Postal Service, is, it can be argued, responsible for the popularity of "lap-pop" artists in indie circles. Outside of his collaborations with the perpetually whiney Ben Gibbard, however, he's got a lovely repertoire as Dntel, best known for 2001's shimmering Life Is Full Of Possibilities This 3-disc package reissues his first recorded album, Something Always Goes Wrong, along with his first released album, Early Works For Me If It Works For You, and a new successor to Early Works that compiles unreleased material from around the recording of Possibilities. I'll say this - his material from when he was a college student definitely bests anything I could come up with at that point. I'll be reviewing this one for PopMatters.

AGF / Delay - Symptoms (BPitch Control; 2009)

Antye Greie and Sasu Ripatti make intriguing bedfellows - literally, as the two are the pre-eminent power couple of experimental techno. Both have entered this latest collaborate record off strong solo releases; Greie as AGF with the thought-provoking Dance Floor Drachen, and Ripatti as smooth house cat Luomo, with the collaboration-heavy Convivial. The presence of Ripatti seems to mellow Greie out a little bit, while she in turn pushes him to further experimental lengths than he's been in a while. A good match, then. I'll be reviewing this for the milk factory.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

nanoKontrolling my heart

The other day I ventured to a music shop to pick up a new guitar tuner (RIP my last one, but we had a good 10-year run), and ended up with this little piece of gear:Meet the Korg nanoKontrol. It's essentially the controller I wish had existed when I first went shopping for one years ago. Finally, someone has caught up with the desire for increased portability in laptop-based music. At the moment, my main MIDI controller for home production is the MPD24, which I have nothing but good things to say about, but,'s a pain in the butt to schlep it to smaller gigs. Plus I don't really need those pads for DJ gigs.

Those pads are total butter, though.

So, what do we get with the nanoKontrol? Nine faders, nine knobs, and 24 buttons, 18 of which are placed with the faders, and six of which are designed to be transport controls. Korg has also wisely elected to feature four different switchable "scenes" for the controls, giving a total possible 168 assignable parameters.

Right from the get-go, the controls feel surprisingly solid for how tiny the unit is (I'm not sure the precise dimensions, but it's the length of a first-generation Macbook, and the width can't be more than 2-4"). The faders and knobs have decent resistance, and while they certainly don't hold a candle to something like Native Instruments' Kore, for such a cheap and portable controller it's to be expected. The buttons are rubbery and firm - as others have pointed out, it's possible to get the buttons stuck underneath the plastic face, but this is easy to avoid and also to correct.

The real diamond in the rough of this controller is the behavior of those buttons. Using the free Kontrol Editor software, you can change the buttons from momentary to toggle function (useful particularly for turning virtual devices on and off), and also set attack and release times. The adjustable attack and release rates on the buttons make for some dynamite possibilities - set both high up and get an instant filter-sweep, for example. It's a neat feature, and good on Korg for including it.


The nanoKontrol is pretty clearly intended for use with Ableton Live - it even comes with a $50 coupon good for the purchase of Ableton (sadly, not valid for upgrades or educational, and thus useless to me). Even so, I've had no trouble getting it to work with my other setups in SuperCollider and Digital Performer. The unit does feel a bit flimsy - it's slim, shallow, and plastic, and certainly doesn't have the commanding weight of other controllers. I get the feeling it could easily be snapped in half by hand, if I wanted to. But I don't, and for a portable controller at a decent price with lots of options, it's pretty unbeatable.

Note: There are two other controllers in this new nano line - the nanoPad and the nanoKey. The nanoPad features 12 pads plus a kaoss-syle x/y controller that Korg is known for, while the nanoKey features two octaves of tiny keys. I haven't try either in person, so I can't really comment, but they both look at least worth checking out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Warp20 - pick your favorites!

In honor of its 20th (!!) anniversary as a label, Warp Records is asking for fans to submit their 50 favorite tracks. The top 10 (from different artists) will be released as a compilation in August 2009. Vote here!

Each user is allowed to vote up to 50 times, though never more than once for the same track. If you're interested in who I voted for (I've already used up my 50 votes), my page is here.

For Warp's 10-year anniversary in 1999, we were treated to a series of three compilations, the 10+ series, including 10+1: Influences (pictured above), focusing on house and techno classics that were sold in the Warp shop before it became a label, 10+2: Classics, featuring some of the early singles that established the bleep-n-bass sound Warp was known for, and 10+3: Remixes, in which outside artists were invited to have their way with the Warp catalogue.

It'll be interesting to see what ends up on this 20th anniversary disc. In the mean time, here are some classic tracks that I'd love to see included:

Soundtrack Of Space - B12

Second Peng - Autechre

Freeze - LFO

Roygbiv - Boards Of Canada