Event Roundup: CNTRL LA

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Richie Hawtin‘s CNTRL tour brought a new kind of event to college students across the country, hitting 8 campuses in 10 days (quite an impressive feat considering the distance between cities). However, this was not your typical “college tour” –  CNTRL featured lectures and equipment demos from the man himself, several other artists, and some of the industry’s leading tech companies (followed, of course, by  amazing afterparties). We were lucky enough to make it to the both the UCLA event and the afterparty this past Saturday, and here’s our comprehensive breakdown of the weekends events.

Co-hosted by UCLA’s EDMC (as well as its extremely helpful and dedicated staff) and Music Industry Program, the UCLA CNTRL event was held in the Jan Popper Theater at the Herb Alpert School Of Music. The room was packed without an empty seat. It was truly amazing to see students lined up all the way around the building for a techno-related event, eager to further explore the intellectual side of techno with some of the genres brightest minds. Across the hall from the theater was the tech marketplace, where some of the top companies in the music tech industry brought an arsenal of gear and software for anybody to use, and naturally we took advantage of this.

Photo Cred - Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

Photo Courtesy Of – Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

Native Instruments came with a number of controllers, most notably the D2 and the S8, along with several laptops running Traktor software. Richie Hawtin has been a long-time public supporter of the Berlin-based company, and over the years Native Instruments has grown from a software company to a dominant force in all sectors of the electronic music technology market, including DAW software, plugins, hardware, DJ gear, controllers, and much more. Point Blank, one of the world’s leading schools for electronic music production made a special appearance at both the tech marketplace and the lecture, participating in Hawtin’s discussions of technique, experimentation, learning, and training. Joined by Victor Calderone, Chris Liebing, Ean Golden, and singer Grimes, Hawtin gave an insightful lecture accompanied by a demonstration of several elements of his live performance setup in a masterclass hosted by Point Blank. All of the other artists got to weigh in as well; after the lecture, they opened the room for questions, and people lined up to say hello afterward.

The Lecture

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CNTRL/Point Blank Masterclass w/ Richie Hawtin

The lecture opened with a discussion of live performance in dance music and injecting human feel into otherwise mechanical grooves. Using a TR-8, Ableton Push, and Traktor with a variety of Native Instruments controllers, Richie Hawtin demonstrated a number of live performance techniques he has developed over the years. He stressed the importance of breaking the monotony of 8 and 16 bar loops over and over again, adding that the best way to get lost in the groove is when it is ambiguous which bar is the beginning of the phrase; Richie does this by using obscure loop lengths, bringing new elements in at unexpected moments, and making endless variations on relatively simple material. His workflow, he explained, does not involve digitally syncing Ableton and Traktor, which he avoids for two reasons: first and foremost, differing latencies between the computer programs can cause the musical elements to get out of time with each other. This can be avoided by “beatmatching” the programs by “nudging.” Additionally, not syncing allows him to be free from the monotony that syncing requires; tempos can be adjusted in one program while the other remains independent.

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“The time you spend in the studio is never wasted time, even those days when you’re uninspired.” – Richie Hawtin, CNTRL LA

While the lecture demonstration featured software and hardware, Richie also discussed the role of playing records in a live set, noting that DJ and Live sets don’t have to be mutually exclusive. He adds that the DJ is responsible for creating what he calls the “third record”; this metaphorical record is created when a DJ assembles a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This can be done by blending records, layering instruments/drum machines, sampling, looping, tweaking FX, and more; he adds that historically, EQ has played an enormous part in the creation of this third record. Often, DJs will crank the highs all the way up for a few bars, creating a sharp, crispy slap, or kill the bass to create a type of low-end vacuum. When the knobs are tweaked, the crowd experiences new musical elements that are not present in the original record.

After the demonstration of live techniques, Richie talked about playing around and figuring out how the gear works since they didn’t have manuals for the used gear they bought back in the day and had no idea how to use it – they had to blaze their own trails with the technology, and that forced them to spend massive amounts of time experimenting with the gear.

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Photo Courtesy Of – Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

Finally, the floor was opened for questions, and virtually every hand was in the air. One student asked about the place of experimentation, and Richie explained that he is driven by what feels right inside of him, and will continue to do so, experimenting when he feels so inclined. However, he emphasized that while experimentation and innovation are important, they should only be done in an authentic manner that doesn’t betray one’s artistic essence and alienate. This led to an intriguing dialog between Richie and friends about authenticity in music; the consensus was that all that matters is making music that feels right to you. As Victor Calderone pointed out, it’s easier and faster to make music that comes from inside your heart.

Another student asked about promoting oneself as an artist and how to find a label; Richie dismissed the notion that you need a label to get started with your career, noting that the most important thing was enthusiasm and support from your friends. As he told us, if one person in the room produced a track and every person in the room shared it on their social media, that would get the ball rolling. Long-hailed as the king of minimal techno, Hawtin comes from a DIY underground culture, and he explained that a lot of whathe did marketing-wise was just trial and error, just it was when he was learning how to use the equipment he has come to master.

Tech Marketplace

Photo Cred - Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

Photo Courtesy Of – Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

The tech marketplace opened at 2:00, 2 hours before the lecture, and remained open during and after the lecture. I began at the Roland booth, where they had set up a number of AIRA instruments, including the TR-8, TB-3, VT-3, MX-1, and System-1. With 5 machines and 5 pairs of headphones, it was evident that a proper jam session was in order – I rounded up a few students and we just started playing around. Next was Subpac, a unique “Tactile Bass System” designed to provide low end enhancement in instances when a subwoofer is unavailable or unpractical, and can either be fastened to a chair or worn on the back. In addition to being well-suited for studio use, this product is an amazing option for DJs as it makes beatmatching a breeze.

 

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Photo Courtesy Of – Nolan Isozaki/UCLA EDMC

Pioneer, a company that needs no introduction, was there in full force to promote their CJDs, controllers, speakers, and new rekordbox update. The booth was packed all day, as dozens of DJs went B2B with friends and strangers alike, and their staff were very helpful, teaching a number of younger students how to use the gear. One of the most iconic brands in the DJ industry, the Pioneer booth was the first stop for many attendees at the tech fair. The last booth we were able to check out was Splice, a free service for artists and producers designed to facilitate musical collaboration; essentially, you sync project files, presets, and samples to a cloud, and they can be shared via the website for collaboration with producers around the world. Projects can be shared as open, public, private, or secret collaborations, and major artists such as Richie Hawtin, Daft Punk, and Skrillex have used the service. Supported DAWs include Ableton, FL Studio, Logic, and Garageband, although they are currently taking requests for new software to include.

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Photo Courtesy Of – LA Times

 The After Party

After the CNTRL event at UCLA was over, we made our way to the afterparty, hosted by Insomniac Events. It had already been a long day of excitement, but we knew things would be getting even more exciting. The Hollywood Palladium was perfect for the event, large enough to comfortably accommodate the crowd and without a bad view in the house. The show, with performances by Lee K, Ean Golden, Victor Calderone, Richie Hawtin, and Chris Liebing was seven hours of techno heaven. Lee K got things started nicely weaving between smooth house cuts, with a highlight being the tropical flows of Supernova’s edit of the classic Beat Me Back.  Ean Golden kept the crowd warmed up on some nice vibey grooves and started picking up the pace with the well known Radio Slave anthem, Don’t Stop No Sleep. For a warm up set the Radio Slave track seemed a bit out of place, but Ean was quick to re-calibrate the vibe setting it up appropriately before Victor threw down some chunky tech-house fire.

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Victor Calderone getting the crowd ready for Richie.

 

As Victor stepped away from the booth, Richie tapped in with some minimal bliss, hypnotizing us in a sea of rolling basslines and glitchy percussion. No real point in attempting to ID any tracks as it was a master-class in beats and technology. Arguably the best part of Richie Hawtin’s set was the final twenty minutes where he slowed the pace down and crafted cerebral minimal textures to a welcoming crowd. To end, Chris Liebing kicked the energy up to a whole new level, delivering a barrage of heavy thumpers all the way to 4AM closing time. Unfortunately it appeared as if tiredness kicked in as the crowd was not as energetic as they could have been during the massive techno display that Liebing put on. That being said, any fan of CLR and techno would have had a great time during his set…perhaps it was just a little much for some of the fresh crowd.

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Photo Courtesy Of – Mappingjuices.com

Looking back on the event and the tour in general, it is safe to say that CNTRL was an enormous success; the UCLA event saw a a tremendous student turnout, although it drew a great deal of fans of all ages. Families, children, students, and adults came together, united by a love of music and technology, and we can only hope that the future will hold more events like this one. Although much of mainstream society doesn’t know it, Techno is and has always been an intellectual phenomenon, and it’s great to see these kinds of innovative presentations embraced by the academic community.

Jeff Mills Debuts His Battle LA Inspired Drum Machine

Jeff Mills, one of techno’s earliest pioneers, is no stranger to this science-fiction aesthetic in techno. From Detroit to Berlin to Chicago, Mills has been a major part in the development of a number of booming dance hubs across the globe. His musical aesthetic is well-defined yet intriguing, and we can always count on him for some heavy grooves. Having held residencies at some of the world’s best nightclubs, such as Tresor, Jeff Mills is one of the most exciting performers in the industry, often sporting a TR-909 as the quintessential focus of his setup. His records are played by countless DJs, although his accomplishments reach far beyond the dance floor and the studio. Somewhat of a tech guru, Jeff Mills is constantly pushing the envelope, always innovating new technologies.

 Recently, Jeff Mills has created a unique interactive exhibition, perhaps the first of its kind. On March 23rd, he debuted his “Weapons” Exhibition in Tokyo; featured as the centerpiece was his own custom-built, UFO-shaped drum machine. This drum machine, known as “The Visitor,” was constructed by gutting a 909, inserting its electronics into a new housing, creating an interface that is both user-friendly and intuitive. Rather than the linear structure typical of many drum machine, “The Visitor” has its buttons laid out in a circular fashion; this, he says, is a far better visual representation of an instrument that is playing a looped sequence. With the help of sound artist and designer, Yuri Suzuki, the two have created a beautiful piece of hardware eloquently combining music and hardware.

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“The Visitor” Drum Machine by Yuri Suzuki & Jeff Mills

Jeff Mills is known to hit the buttons pretty hard on his gear, in the heat of the moment this is common for many artists. He has fitted “The Visitor” with arcade game buttons and knobs designed to withstand a beating. Thus, he has transformed the classic sound of the 909, an instrument that has come to define a large part of his style, into a retro-futuristic innovation far better suited to his performance style and visual aesthetic. Functionality aside, the mere visual appeal of The Visitor Drum Machine is enough to have everyone from the technology fans and art enthusiasts gawking at the sight. You won’t see this in the DJ booth every day.

According to Axis Records, “Jeff’s new project is the exhibition ‘Weapons: a small but potent collection of music affiliated avant-garde objects’ which consists in an immersive scenario paying tribute to the genre of Film Noir from the 40’s and inspired on a conceptual investigation experience based on the strange phenomenon of the infamous American UFO sighting over the city of Los Angeles in the winter of 1942 and famously known as ‘The Battle Of Los Angeles'”

Given his endeavors into music, art, technology, and science fiction, Jeff Mills is clearly a “Jack Of All Trades” (no pun intended!) who has successfully bridged the gap between the digital and analog eras, preserving the sounds of eras past while expanding on them, and embracing any new technology that will facilitate the creation of great art. With one of the brightest intellectual minds in the electronic dance music community, he is a true pioneer who, in years to come, will continue to shape and develop the music we hold so dearly to our hearts.

Roland Unveils AIRA System-1M Modular Synth

Last week Roland teased us with an image of their next product in the AIRA series, with no information other than two captions – “Get Patching” and “Musikmesse Frankfurt 2015.” Recently, there has been much speculation as to what the product might entail, but the wait is over.

Yesterday, at the Musikmesse conference the Roland System-1M, a modular version of the System-1 synthesizer, and four digital FX modules, entitled Bitrazer, Demora, Scooper, and Torcido were revealed. While the original System-1 and the modular reissue (System-1M) are built with the same electronic components, they are different in two ways:

aira-modules-631x718Firstly, the original System-1 includes a keyboard, while the AIRA System-1M modular must be controlled by an external keyboard or sequencer. Secondly, the modular gives you far more versatility with flexible routing and additional FX modules for purchase. The AIRA System-1M and accompanying modules use 3.5mm mini-TRS patch cables, and can be mounted into any standard Eurorack.

The synth is scheduled for a June release, while the FX modules will be hitting stores in the 3rd quarter of 2015. For more info, check out the official Roland AIRA Modular page by clicking here.

Pioneer Launches RM Series

pioneer monitorsPioneer, makers of the industry-standard DJM and CDJ series, is much more than just a company for DJs; they have come to dominate a number of other markets, such as car audio, home theatre, and music production. In the recent years, the company has produced the S-DJ monitors, delivering a great pair of monitors at a bargain.

Musikmesse is upon us, and Pioneer has just announced a new line of studio monitors, the RM series. The RM-05 and RM-07 speakers feature Pioneer’s newly-patented acoustic tube technology, designed to reduce standing waves that are inevitable in small and/or untreated rooms. The coaxial drivers create a far cleaner stereo image, with a 3-band EQ and grooves along the ports for a cleaner bass response. With die-casting aluminum, the RM Series is a highly unique product built to the same quality specifications that Pioneer is famous for.

The speakers are scheduled to be released in May 2015 with a suggested retail price of $585 and $775, respectively – keep checking back here for more updates. In the mean time, take a moment to check out the official product video from Pioneer.


Click here for more info 

 

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Roland AIRA Modular System Announcement

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Roland has seen much success in recent years with the release of their AIRA series, which includes a vocal transformer along with digital reissues of the System-1 Modular, TB-303, TR-808, and TR-909, named AIRA System-1, TB-3 and the TR-8 (the latter of which fuses the 808 and 909). Due to the success of the AIRA product line, there has been much speculation about a new addition to the series. Earlier this week Roland vaguely confirmed the speculation, posting the image above on the AIRA mini-site with the caption “Get Patching”.

The image featured on Roland’s site shows a patchbay, so it’s clear that this release will be a modular unit of some sort. The layout is similar to the System-1, although it is uncertain whether this is just a modular version of the same circuitry, or an entirely new machine altogether. We see four modules in the image and can only make wild speculations.

Roland will be officially announcing more details at the Musikmesse Fair in Frankfurt next weekend. Until then, check out some Roland related videos below. We’ve included a video of A Guy Called Gerald jamming with Roland Gear, our exclusive interview with Kink in the Roland booth at NAMM 2015, as well as a throwback to the old Roland System 700 and 100m.

Gear Review: Exponential Audio R2 Reverb & Excalibur

reverbReverb can easily make or break any record, and electronic dance music tracks are no exception. Michael Carnes, one of the men behind the Lexicon PCM plugins, is somewhat of a digital reverb guru. His company, Exponential Audio, has created software used by major players in the music, film, and gaming industries.

Although they produce some phenomenal software, Exponential Audio is a small company, which allows them to offer professional products at an affordable price. The two reverb units are R2 and PhoenixVerb, both of which are compatible with mono, stereo, and multi-channel audio formats. Both plugins feature a convenient keyword-based preset navigation system, making it easy to explore and recall presets. And while the two plugins sound amazing in their own ways, they are actually quite different from each other sonically.

The first of the Exponential Audio reverb plugins, PhoenixVerb, is the more natural and realistic sounding of the pair. Keep in mind, however, that natural does not mean cold or lifeless; this software can impart warmth and depth into any sound in your productions. This plugin is a phenomenal option for those looking to capture the feel of an acoustic space. All in all, the sound is overall very rich, lush and pleasant to the ear.

R2 Reverb, the younger brother of PhoenixVerb, is designed to be more of an “effect” reverb, meaning that it is supposed to “color” or otherwise change the sound. This reverb has seen some serious mileage, most notably on several games from the Halo series. Try dropping this one in a dub techno track to add a dark industrial tone, a minimal track to fill in some of the gaps, or on a vocal sample with a delay for some trippy, ringing echoes.

Exponential Audio plugins feature streamlined and straightforward graphic user interfaces (GUI), both conserving CPU and providing simple manipulation of controls. In addition to their R2 and PheonixVerb, they have recently released Excalibur, an powerful multi-FX plugin. Excalibur brings you modular control over a plethora of built-in FX, including reverb, delay, flanger, phaser, chorus, pitch shifting and ring modulation. This plugin has already been hailed by big players in the various audio industries, and for a limited time only, you can purchase Excalibur with special introductory pricing. For just $119, you can purchase Excalibur through Friday, April 10, after which the price will return to normal ($199).

For more info, check out the Exponential Audio website by clicking here

 

 

Allen & Heath Release New Analog Mixer

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Allen & Heath introduced the Xone:43, a new mixer to their popular mixer series.

Like their flagship Xone:92, the Xone:43 will feature an analog voltage-controlled filter (VCF) with low, high, and bandpass configurations with resonance control. It boasts all the features one would expect from a high quality mixer. Four phono/line channels with incredibly smooth channel faders make up the Xone:43, with a three band EQ per channel. While a four band EQ would have been nice, it is by no means a deal breaker.

The Allen & Heath Xone:43 is available now with a retail price of approximately $1,300. For more information, take a look at the video below or head over to the Allen & Heath Official Site.

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Traktor Announces New “Stems” Audio File Format

traktorTraktor by Native Instruments, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of software and hardware for DJs/Producers, has just revolutionized the industry with the newest addition to their Traktor DJ software.

On March 27, the company announced in a press release that they would be introducing a new multi-channel audio file format called “Stems.” These files, saved with the extension .stem.mp4, will contain the original stereo file as well as four channels (each with different instruments/vox) which can be mixed and blended to taste within the Traktor software; say hello to instant remixes, edits, and mashups. Stems are an open file format, which means that anybody can create their own stem files; they are set to hit the market this summer, and the folks at Native Instruments would like to see them adopted as a new industry standard; with support from artists like MK and Luciano, and retailers like Beatport and Juno, there is no doubt that Stems will hold a prominent place in the future of DJing. For more info, check out the press release by clicking here.

Beatport Releases Free Mobile Streaming App

 

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Beatport, one of the most prominent electronic music retailers, has graced us with an amazing gift. The company, now owned by dance music mogul Robert Sillerman and his SFX Entertainment, has just released an app for iOS/android. The music streaming app, simply named “Beatport,” can be downloaded for free on your mobile device for on-the-go listening wherever you are. While Pandora and Spotify have always done us well, they are simply not platforms designed for underground dance music; thus, Beatport is filling a large gap in the streaming market.

The mobile app is not the only instance of the company expanding into other areas; Beatport features remix contests, sample packs, and many more resources for fans and artists alike. In the works now is “Beatport Live,” a video streaming site for live DJ sets. It’s an exciting time for the company, and their future will undoubtedly hold innovation and success.

Video: Kevin Saunderson & Matthew Dear Collecting Samples

Kevin Saunderson

“Ford moves people with cars. I move people with music” – Kevin Saunderson

Inspiration can strike in many forms. In the industry rich city of Detroit, Kevin Saunderson grabs his Zoom H4N and ventures into the Ford Assembly Plant to embrace the machines and technology. The process of collecting sounds is complete…the result? Well now we’ll just have to wait and see what the Detroit mastermind comes up with.

Just like Kevin Saunderson in the Ford Assembly Plant, Matthew Dear embarked on a similar sonic journey at one of the General Electric factories. Tuning in to the frequencies and energy of the environment, these artists are able to interpret sounds and translate that into music that is widely appreciated throughout the world.

Take a look at the two videos below to see the process behind two techno visionaries taking the music directly to it’s core.