New Gear, New Sounds, New electronica

Some new electronica in progress,  Nice to start getting back into things. I’ve been kinda down and while that is fuel for some musicians, it’s not for me.  BTW this is a new setup- I am always reinvigorated by redesign of my workspace. Heck I don’t even like calling it a workspace or workflow because it’s about fun right? Still I wonder how many other musicians like to rearrange their creative spaces periodically? At anyrate I have better access to some of my older gear like the Casio VZ-10M the Kawai XD-5 and my trusty old Korg M3R.   Propellerhead’s lastest  version of Reason allows control of External midi Gear so I’m looking to see what mischief I can do there. Yes, I know I have always had the capability in Ableton, but I really like Reason’s layout and it fits right in with the design aesthetic (Rack-mount skeuomorphism and all that )WP_001319

But I love new toys, Who Doesn’t?   (Muzik 4 machines I’m looking squarely at you)

New gear is always a plus so I’m having some fun with a recently acquired M-Audio Venom and Korg Kaossilator. The Venom is very cool sounding synth that I think has been somewhat of an ugly duckling for M-Audio err Avid Umm InMusic whoever they are now .  It’s too bad because it has a lot of promise, good sound and flexible audio  implementation. Having the low latency Audio interface streamlines my setup in some ways, though as a controller it is merely OK (a better way to change programs let alone drum clips would have been awesome as would a phrase looper Oh well that’s what Ableton and Reason are for lol. With some of its feature you would almost think its’ a live performance synth but as it tunrs out changing between Drum patterns its glitchy- and not in a good way.  Still it has a lot to offer and can be had for cheap.  I may do a mini review of it though it seems to be covered fairly well on the Youtubes.

Speaking of the YouTubes here a little snippet of what I’ve got in my head now. Next time I’ll improve the audio

Hmm not so sure about Novation now..

Damn you Guitar Center!  I went there to get an M-audio expression pedal (which I had to special order) so I could try out the Wah-Wah on the Line6 in Propellerhead’s Record.  In the Sale Rack they had a Novation Nocturn for $92.00! thats pretty darn cheap so I figured “why not?”  Installation of Automap and the driver went OK. But Configuring for use with Live was not pretty and Record (and Reason) Locked up up hard when configuring Automap (Yes I did RTFM).

Then the BSOD occured. Bear in mind I am using Windows 7 RC and have have not seen a BSOD even once. I was very unhappy. I rebooted and still could not get Automap to work worth a shit and I gave up on Reason, when it BSOD’d  again. So I figured maybe I should update the software let me check on Novation’s forums.  Well the Sorry excuse for forum was useless as was their non answers about Windows 7. I know I should not be so critical but comapred to the Propellerhead and Ableton forums it was a letdown.  At any rate I downloaded the Automap 3.3 and to make a long story short, it would not install at all. I would get a DOS screen that would pop up an error that I could not read and then it would quit.  I tried the usual compatibility mode tricks without success.   In hindsight I should have used Win7’s Problem Steps recorder to really start troubleshooting the issue and read the pesky error but it was late, I was getting tired and quite frankly I have never had to work this hard to get any of my other other controllers to work.

My Rule of thumb is if it takes more than 15 minutes to install a piece of hardware on my PC, and that time is due to installation /config issues not “clearly” covered in the manual then that hardware is going back.  M-Audio and Akai have really spoiled my in that sense. Their shit just works.  So unless I get some handy tips and tricks to try in the comments section I’m probably going back to GC to return it for a refund.   This experience has made me a little Gunshy about picking up the Launchpad, Which I have to special order since my GC won’t be carrying it in stores.  apparently they already have a lot of Merch, and they don’t want to crimp the sales of the APC 40 which I guess they have a better markup on. (So says my GC Sales guy.)

Novation’s Launchpad Vs Monome Vs APC 40

I was on  http://createdigitalmusic.com looking at a hands on review of the new Novation Launchpad, a dedicated controller for Ableton Live ( http://www.ableton.com/launchpad ). I started going through the comments section and I noticed a lot of emotion being dredged up over the new controller. I’m not at all surprised though, (the MAC vs PC vs Linux Holy Wars rage on still).   But I wanted to put my own spin on this as I think some some people are getting a little overheated.  I mean come on it’s shiny new toy for making music here!  Monome people shouldn’t get so defensive. Though considering the Open Source crowd that supports the Monome, it’s not not surprising about some of the more rabid supporters Anti-Corporate Stance.  I.E.  Novation (and by extension all major gear manufacturers) is the MAN corrupting all that is good and beautiful  about their precious, Open Source Monome and putting out mass consumer crap.   On the other side we have a few folks accusing Monome supporters of being elitist gear snobs, what with their 3 letter programming acronyms and scads of money/time/hookers/booze/yachts/frequent flier miles to spend on going to Monome meet-ups to go slap each other on the back and make fun of the Monomeless proles..

Yes Virginia, I am engaging in a bit of hyperbole.

I think Novation really has something here and that Launchpad’s ability to trigger Drum rack samples, its modular capabilities, and ability to use with other MIDI software, really sets it apart from the APC 40.  It looks fun to play with, easy to use and @ 199.00  is an easy target to save up for than much of the gear out there. Notable exceptions being the Korg Nano and the Akai clones. Which brings up another point. Is it really a clone of you do it better? (Akai’s LPK 25 is far more “playable” comapred to the Korg Nano KEY for instance)

I have an APC 40 and I really like it. It makes playing Live much more fun than mousing around. I also have ProMix I/O, and an M-Audio Axiom 49,  but I don’t mind the redundancy of faders and buttons. (I don’t take the ProMix out of the studio). I have different tools for different situations. As for the Monome, like a Tenori-On or Ohm, that’s been one of those OOOh Shiny, yet out of my price range and more work than I’m willing put in to get some use out of it kind of toy.  Would I like one? Sure. Do I need one? Well no (but I didn’t NEED the APC40 either). If I had one do I have the time and resources and skill to get the most out of compared to something I buy off the shelf? I’m afraid the answer is again no.

Then again, I am not the target audience for a Monome (or Ohm etc ), so my purchasing the Launchpad will not hurt Monome at all. Because of this I don’t think this will cut into Monome’s business. There will always be people willing to pay top dollar for boutique gear, that’s not an insult (far from it) it is a fact.  Just as there are people who want an affordable grid controller with blinky lights that “Just works” out of the box, and don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it (Also not an insult but a fact).

I dont’ feel ‘ripped off” by Ableton for having bought an APC 40 when it came out.  It was the right tool @ the right price and its a blast to play with (Notice I said PLAY not WORK).  Novation brings something a little different to the table, and so will Korg when they get into the game. Maybe Roland will but I doubt it.  They seem kind of stuck in the unimaginative yet expensive gear rut and have all but ignored us “budget” home studio people*.  What some people aren’t getting here is that competition and choice are good things as it brings the ability for musicians of all types and budgets to find what they need @ at price they are willing to pay.   As for me, I’ll be lined up @ Guitar Center to get a Launchpad.

* OK the SH-201  is an exception but the MINIAK and Micro Korg are cheaper alternatives. The new Juno-DI while Budget friendly isn’t exactly a showstopper,  its a 21st C  Korg M-1 IMHO). But I digress as I have all but abandoned most HW synths.