Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
April 5, 2016
by Chris Randall
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few whiles, you are perfectly aware of last week's Superbooth 16 in Berlin. Schneidersburo is one of the largest Eurorack retailers (and via their Alex4 subsidiary, the European distributor for almost all North American Euro manufacturers), and every year they've had an Analogue Superbooth at MusikMesse in Frankfurt.
The MusikMesse has, in the last few years, become a hostile environment for boutique manufacturers, and Schneidersburo/Alex4 decided, to their credit, to make their Analogue Superbooth a stand-alone event, and put it in Berlin (where it's cool) instead of Frankfurt (where it's basically Dallas Plus Schnitzel). We'd been dreading the inevitable trip to Messe, so when Schneider's announced this event, we immediately jumped on board, as did virtually everyone else. All the larger North American Euro manufacturers were in attendance, with one notable exception. Essentially all of the European manufacturers were there, as well as many other companies that ran the gamut from one-dude-in-a-basement-with-an-invention on up to U-He, Ableton, Native Instruments, Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Moog, along with several pro-audio companies.
It was, basically, all the cool shit in the music tech business under one roof.
The venue was the splendid former state radio building of the GDR, and while it was a bit run down, having sat idle for some decades now, the Schneiders folks did an amazing job cleaning it up and running the event. I'll admit that the potential for a clusterfuck of massive proportions was a distinct possibility, given the location of the venue (on the corner of the Ass End Of Nowhere and Bumblefuck) and the high cost of attendance. I am personally of the mind that these sorts of events should be free to the attendees, and I give any event that has even a moderate fee the side-eye, but in this case, the stars aligned and all went perfectly.
Schneiders organized it so the first half of the (very long) days were for trade only and the second half were for the public. Since we don't actually have a whole lot of trade to do, being distributed exclusively by Alex4, the first parts of the days were spent hanging with old friends and meeting new ones, seeing the new stuff everyone's working on, and talking about the industry. The public half of the days was outstanding; the people that attended were the best informed I've personally come across at one of these events. I didn't talk to a single "so... what does this... do... exactly?" n00B. (I despise those conversations, as I've worked in this business so long I just assume everyone I talk to has the same knowledge base I do, and when I find myself explaining how an oscillator works, my eyes glaze over immediately.)
All in all, this was the single best event of this sort that I've ever attended. We've been discussing not doing the major trade shows any more (NAMM in particular) because the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad that there's no noticeable return on our investment. This, however, was money and time well spent, and we very much look forward to next year.
Adam was unable to attend, as he had a vacation in Japan planned for the same time period, and due to personal reasons was unable to change the dates. So I took Jeremy Highhouse to work our booth for the public parts. I've been to Frankfurt many times, and spent a couple months in Hamburg and Cologne, but I've never visited Berlin. I only had about a day and a half to explore, but what an outstanding city! I loved every minute I was there, except for the first day. (And this is my fault, not Berlin's. Like some sort of diptard, I left my one and only coat in Phoenix, and arrived to a very cold and wet Berlin at 7AM, unable to get in my rented flat until 3PM, after 21 hours of travel. That was... amusing.)
It was great to see people in real life that I've known for years online and talk to daily, and to make a whole mess of new friends. Well worth the trouble of getting there. Special shout out to the Koma Elektronik boys, who are, quite frankly, the coolest people I've ever met.
March 18, 2016
by Chris Randall
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lax at blogging. Sue me. I'm busy.
Speaking to that, if you're in the PHX area on Saturday, March 26th, we have a synth meet at Phoenix College you should probably attend. I'll be there with the latest and greatest from AD, and Blue Lantern and Synthesis Technology will also be in attendance. It's free to one and all, and runs from 2PM to 6PM, as the picture above implies. Plenty of room, tables, etc. Bring your interesting shit. Nobody cares about your D50, so leave that at home.
Immediately after that, I'll be on the way to Berlin for Superbooth 16. I'll be there from the 29th to the following Monday, April 4th. I'll be at Superbooth with the Audio Damage Road Show all three days of that event, but otherwise, my time is my own, so if you're in that fair city and want to get together for whatever it is they do in Berlin, I'm down. Hit me up on Twitter or email or whatever. (With the following caveat: I plan on spending zero time in nightclubs listening to loud music. If that's your bag, enjoy, but it's not for me.)
In hardware news, DubJr Mk2 is released and shipping. Most of our retailers have it in stock. It is a heavily updated iteration of our first module, DubJr. (Naming conventions: we has them.) Product page is here. Basically, the original shrunk to 6HP, and we added tap tempo, a clock input, a feedback loop, and a switch to defeat the internal filters. All in all a pretty slick little module, and the most live-performance-friendly delay you're gonna find. US$289, but we're totally sold out here at the office, so you'll have to hit up Control or Analogue Haven or one of our other dealers.
In software news, we've updated Sequencer 1's firmware to 1.3.4. A couple of bug fixes, plus "Note" and "Gate" modes for the CV outputs, essentially turning it in to a four-voice sequencer (well, that's a bit of a fib. Three voices is easy. Four is hard, but possible if you're clever.) We also added Actions, which are basically per-pattern directives to control various functions of the transport on a probability basis. (Think: Follow Actions in Live clips. Like that.) This has really extended the reach of Sequencer 1. You can get the new firmware on the Sequencer 1 product page.
I've made a short video to demonstrate both the multi-mode features and the Actions, in the form of a cover of Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th."
March 5, 2016
by Chris Randall
If you're in the Bay Area today, come down to Sync 01, presented by Audio Damage. Free to attend, all ages, at Codeword (917 Folsom St @ 5th). Demo systems from the following manufacturers:
Dave Smith Instruments
Industrial Music Electronics (formerly The Harvestman)
Bay-Area retailers with systems and product:
I/O Music Technology
Live performances by:
It's gonna be a sweet event, and I hope to see you there!
January 30, 2016
by Chris Randall
Audio Damage is sponsoring a manufacturer's event in San Francisco on March 5th, at Codeword (917 Folsom at 5th st). I'll be making a website and promo materials next week, as we finalize who, exactly, is attending.
There will be four live performances, and I think I can safely say that most of the Western US manufacturers will be in attendance. This is shaping up to be a fantastic major West Coast event, and is not to be missed! Codeword has a full bar and attached pizza joint, which covers two of the three major food groups. (it is a satellite of the famous DNA Lounge, and has the same set of facilities). Unfortunately, both the State of California and JWZ are anti-smoking, so the third food group is out of the question.
I'll update this post as information comes in, but I have signed the contract for the venue, so it's a "go" no matter what. For obvious reasons, this will be a Euro-centric affair, but there will be non-Euro synths there from at least one attendee, and I guarantee you'll want to nerd out on 'em. If you're in Central California, be there or be... yeah.
Listen to "stylus" by chris randall.
Also, put up a new track last night. Apparently the genre is "ambstep," something I didn't know existed until it was pointed out to me that this was very much that. (That seems to be the case with micro-genres.)
Anyhow, 100% Euro and found sounds, recorded to, mixed from, and mastered to analog tape. Vocals by Kate Dilemma. Mastered by Wade Alin. I don't have any particular process notes, as this track is very much in line with how I've been working lately: create a bed on the Euro w/ Push2, multi-track it out in to a structured song where the production occurs, stem it to 8-track tape, record the stems back in to the computer, final mix, record to the 2-track, back in to the computer, send it to Wade for the final squish. Download is available on the Octave page. Enjoy!
January 22, 2016
by Chris Randall
Day One of NAMM is in the books, and we've unveiled our four new hardware products. First up is ADM14 BoomTschak (or "BT," as we call it. We're hip to brevity at AD.) This is our first 100% analog product. Not a single line of code. Our motivation was to create a quality high-end analog drum voice, and I think we hit this one out of the park. Accent and choke inputs, a stonking self-resonant multi-mode filter of our own design, three envelopes with curve controls, and a waveshaper give this thing a wide palette. It is a real bruiser, and since it will join Sequencer 1 at the top of our ecosystem, you'll be seeing a lot of it here and in my Instagram feed. We haven't got all the quotes in yet, so we're not 100% on what it's going to cost, but we feel like $450 is attainable, despite the ludicrous parts count. (It has 16 knobs on it, for the love of all that is holy.) We should be shipping these in about 6-8 weeks.
This little fella is DubJr Mk2. It's basically DubJr, at a much higher build quality, and with all the features that people have asked for since the original was released. (Was it 4 years ago? Wow.) Tap tempo, clock input, selectable "free" or "jump" times, and a feedback loop cover all your clocked delay needs, in a 6HP package. Like all of our 6HP effects, this will be $289, and will be shipping in about 3 weeks.
Aaaaand ADP01 Fluid and ADP02 Freqshift. These are stereo guitar pedals. They have true analog bypass, assignable expression pedal destination, and custom laser-cut steel chassis. Having done my time on stage, I know what a bullet-proof pedal needs to be able to take, and these are as tough as they come. ADP01 Fluid is a direct descendant of our super thick 6-delay chorus in our Fluid plugin, with the alterations present in the ADM11 Dimensions Eurorack module. (There already is a Dimensions pedal, so we just named it what it is, Fluid.)
ADP02 Freqshift is a derivation of our original Freqshift module, with alterations for the stereo guitar pedal context. I have never personally really bothered with frequency shifting as an effect in my music, so I was unprepared for what this thing can do. Adam did a hell of a job with the DSP on this one, and it is a super useful and unique effect that can go from the widest, deepest stereo phaser you've ever heard on up to insane screeching and pure industrial craziness. Every guitar player that came to our booth yesterday went "holy shit..." when I kicked that bitch on.
These will be shipping in about 5 weeks, theoretically, but as this is our first foray in to pedal manufacturing, we're approaching it with some caution. I'd rather they took a little more time and we got them absolutely right. So we'll see how that plays out. These will be $290 each.
Anyhow, as for NAMM itself, Eurorack has gone complete honey badger. It seems every company that makes anything is making a Eurorack version of that thing. I haven't really had a chance to wander about aside from our immediate area; hopefully I'll have some more time today to look around. I did have a good long play with the new DSI Obie, and it is a thing of beauty. Very excited to get one of these. Much like the Prophet 6, it is quite easy to get those classic sounds you'd expect to be able to get from an OB-Mx or that ilk, along with all the modern conveniences and some surprises. I'm calling that one a "win." I also had a fiddle with the new MakeNoise desktop synth, the 0coast. I think you should put that in your "must buy" folder. Tony really hit that one out of the park. Simple, inexpensive, and with a tonal range that isn't, to my knowledge, occupied by any other company.
And we soldier on. Day Two starts in an hour.