Sunday, 27 January 2013

NAMM 2013 - best stuff

So NAMM 2013 has been and gone and there were some nice surprises this time around, alongside some of the expected releases from the big manufacturers. It was also nice to see Bitwig and Android audio codecs covered as well! Full coverage is best left for other sites, but three things in particular really got me going this year and unsurprisingly they were all synthesiser related.

HMV is dead - Part 2

Looking forward in all of this news of doom and gloom, the challenge for me as a blogger and music fan is to try and talk about something that someone else in the world hasn't pointed out about the demise of HMV and sadly, this isn't easy. So perhaps I will go out on a limb and and suggest that smaller specialist outlets will actually weather the storm rather well. According to commenters I have seen on websites, HMV used to be able to use their buying power to identify high selling lines and products in local music stores and undercut them significantly - perhaps now that HMV will be taking a more conservative approach with their new owners having to undoubtedly take on a different approach, the smaller fish in the pond will be able to take advantage of the vacuum.

And speaking of alternative options, there are plenty of those around. Specialist and indie record shops are just about hanging on in there and some of the better ones I go to are a stone's throw from HMV's flagship store. Here are some suggestions for London-based music fans to thumb through the racks.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

State of Bitwig via Sonic State

Fanning the flames of my interest for Bitwig comes a nice 15 minute video with one of the developers at the NAMM 2013 show, courtesy of Nick at Sonic State. In particular it's nice to see that they are quite happy to have one license used across all three platforms they are developing for (Windows, OSX and Linux but no idea what flavour/s) and are really against dongles and other hardware license keys. In the age of Cubase leading the way on this, it's a refreshing change.

The best news? It's slated for a "summer 2013" release for v1.0. I can't wait!

I tried to embed the video but Blogger was having none of it. Never mind - video is available here

Piracy actually good for music sales?

Another day, another article that actually points out that downloading music illegally may be beneficial. From an article on Ars Technica, it suggests that people who download music illegally actually buy 30% more music than those who don't.

And who says Piracy is killing music sales again?

Seriously, music execs: change the fucking record.

Article available at:

Sunday, 20 January 2013

HMV is dead - part 1

This week has seen quite a lot of turmoil in the high street. Following a number of traditional retailers who have unfortunately bowed out of Britain's shopping centers  venerable music and media giant HMV group have thrown in the towel and filed for bankruptcy. And of course I have an opinion on it.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Speedball 2 Theme - Bitmap Brothers

Another day, another Saturday Soundtrack - and another Bitmap Brothers Game. This time, the sequel to the popular Speedball game that saw versions on the Atari ST, Amiga and Commodore 64. Bringing with it the legendary attention to detail that this development house were famous for, Speedball 2 blows the original completely away in every way that counts. The new artwork is stunning and characterful, with lovely metallic surfaces everywhere, whilst the arena and team size has been more than doubled in size to accommodate a much bigger and more brutal sport. I remember my dad bringing this home after borrowing it from one of his workmates and then having to convince him to sell it to me after me and my brother couldn't get enough of the game. It's a simple enough concept that allows for lots of tweaks in your team's statistics and with enough management sense and joystick-destroying action, you too can propel Brutal Deluxe to the top.

The sound effects of throwing, pummelling and crowd sounds do vary between the Atari ST and Amiga versions, especially with the inclusion of an ice-cream seller in the Amiga version, but both versions retain the pumping dance track during the introduction that sets the scene - a sampled version of a professionally produced piece complete with TR 909 drums and sampled horn stabs. It's dark and dirty dance, just right for this kind of game.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Jam with Chrome

Something I've stumbled across recently is the nice little social music tool Jam With Chrome. It's like a web-based Guitar Band with lots of different instruments including guitars, basses, synthesisers, drum kits and drum machines - including nice clones of the Roland TR 800 and 909 and Linndrumm - and a useable classic and Wurlitzer/Rhodes electric piano. Each is pretty straightforward to use, using an "easy" or "pro" mode for each so that you can control the instrument with mouse and preset chords or go full on with playing with your desktop keyboard. I'm used to using Keyjam with Madtracker so this is nothing new to me and while it's a shame that it doesn't recognise USB keyboards, it's not really that developed that it is going to rival any professional suite any time soon. 

The general idea is to get you and three friends (presumably through Google Plus) to share a session together and have a bit of a jam, making up music as you go with the various instruments and tweaking filters, delays, bitcrushers and the like to make sounds. There's a metronome feature to keep everyone in time and it's a hell of a lot of fun though and I encourage people to take a look and use it - if anything it will show Google that we are interested and want to see it developed further!

So what are you waiting for? Get jamming!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Reso - Tangram

Reso / Tangram cover art

After building up the anticipation with several EPs and single releases, the long awaited debut album from this producer finally made its way out of the studio in the form of Tangram. I know this came out in October 2012 but I only just picked up my copy and want to pass on a recommendation.

Mind's Eye - Tempest 2000

Again proving that I have more than just a soft spot for generic, predictable dance music, the next track from Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 hits the spot not only in terms of sparking some furious memories of shoot-em-ups on the beloved Jaguar (back when I wasn't trying to play its cracking port of Doom), but also because it was one of those well crafted games that makes the most of its hardware. Lots of zappy effects, a nice mix of 3D objects and sprites and above all: a simple rule set but hard to master - particularly as the difficulty curve is such that as soon as you have the game under your belt, it throws another enemy at you or ups the number of enemies on screen at once. All this underpinned by a pumping dance beat that keeps things moving along. although the game was famous for dropping everything and favouring more ambient-like drones and breathy sounds during the bonus round. This works well to contrast the frantic shooting action during the levels and for me, is further evidence of Minter's ability to consider sound, gameplay and visuals to construct the appropriate feel of a game.

Of course, following on from Tempest 2000 was the Unity game for the Gamecube; something I would have loved to have seen based on the review Edge magazine gave on a pre-production copy of it, but after all, his career is full of ups and downs and this sort of thing is to be expected. Whilst we have never got to see Unity, at least the Neon engine got added to the Xbox 360 Media player and further games on Steam like Gridrunner+ and Space Giraffe, which are both a trippy experience.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Modulations Documentary

An excellent documentary made at the end of the 1990s covering the genesis of electronic music, with lots of classic talking heads including Moby, Robert Moog, Coldcut and more.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

First and foremost, welcome everyone to 2013! Been doing a lot of other things over the last fortnight, so I thought I'd write a little to set things up for January and hopefully roll on from there.

Namm 2013 winter show coming soon

All eyes will be on Namm for the upcoming show at the end of the month - its always nice to have something to look forward to in the new year to bring us out of the post Xmas slump. Not sure what to expect from this year and the exhibitors but if it is anything like last year there should be some fabulous new kit coming out.