Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Korg Arp Oddyssey in 2015

Korg's remake of the Arp Oddyssey has suffered a setback, with the release date having been moved back into next year owing to manufacturing issues. It's a shame that we won't get to see how Korg fares with this unit (or an eventual price for that matter), but a bit of quality control usually goes a long way. What is interesting based on information on VintageSynthExplorer is that Korg have multiple models to draw from, so it is anyone's guess as to what the eventual model will sound and look like.

I am certainly looking forward to another updated analogue synth with MIDI and CV/Gate as standard, if only to see what the modular synth people end up doing with it. Plus all the inevitable comparison videos and vitriol that this brings (joy!).


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Three post-ambient glitch-hop albums

I've been listening to a lot of music at work these days, mostly because I don't have the internet at home as I have just moved house. Having recently bought an Orb compilation, I've had a lot of ambient electronic stuff on my phone going to and from work, together with a lot of my newly-found music from going through the suggestions on Youtube. While there are still plenty of ambient soundscapes to be had out there, I do like the current trend of fusing highly polished, glitchy beats with synths and drones, fused with pulsing bass lines.

Here are three out-there albums I'm really enjoying at the moment that fill that niche for very technical electronic music with an ambient bent.

1. OTT / Skylon (2008) [dicogs]
An old album by this list's standards, but no less worthy of inclusion on this list. I've actually had Skylon on my Amazon wishlist for years but it's always been too expensive to buy a CD and seems set to remain so with copies reaching £16 and over. 

Musically it's a strange album whose cover gives nothing away about the music inside, which mutates from straightforward ambient into Orb-like dubby bits and reminds me a little of my experience with the Verbrilli Sound as well.

2. Tipper / Forward Escape (2014) [discogs]

From the old to the very recent, my first experience of Tipper was Pins & Needles on the Keep It Solid Steel, Mr Scruff mix album and the self-titled album it comes from after subsequently tracking it down.

This one is a wholly download only affair, which I think is a shame given the amazing album artwork going on there. The music itself builds perfectly on the foundations laid by previous albums and works really well as a kind of laid-back late evening album.

3. Bluetech / Rainforest Reverberation (2011) [discogs]
Ever since hearing Mr Bill's remix of Unidentified Flying Octopus on Groove Salad, I had to get a copy of this album and fell in love with it. It reminds me a lot of the sort of mid-90s Ultramarine sound that I had grown up with

Either way, this is very catchy stuff indeed, some really technically excellent tracks and a great entry point to the rest of his catalogue.

Got an album you think I would love in the same vein? Hit me up in the comments!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Blog not offline!

Well, a lot of time has passed and there has been a big delay on this blog since the last update. It's not like I have much content to talk about, it's just that I really need the time and I have just moved into my first flat. Of course, no internet means no regular updates until the weekdays when I can sort out blog posts at lunch times.

Normal service to resume shortly, here's the latest track I have a big buzz about!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

CD Haul 28/06/2014

In a change from my usual CD hauls from car boot sales, this one comes from good old HMV. Despite having a lackluster selection of electronic and dance music (no surprises there I guess), there were quite a few gems on offer that I liked the look of.

Friday, 27 June 2014

More Bass in Less Space - the MicroBrute is here!

A while ago I made a big deal out of the MicroBrute that Arturia announced last year. Shoehorning some of the more popular features of the MiniBrute with some other features in a smaller box, there seemed to be enough in this new offering to warrant buying one to compliment my original MiniBrute. Having had store credit with Wunjo burning a hole in my pocket for some time, I finally opted to pony up the difference and get one - the only problem being that I have only had a few days to play with it before going on holiday, so this is kind of a rambling review of my new toy and some comparisons I have found with the MiniBrute.

I got a new toy: it's a bit of a brute

Whatever could it be? Review coming soon!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

CD Haul: 07/06/2014

Another quick look around my local car boot fair and I came away with a few CDs that looked worth having.

Switched On: The Cool Sound of TV Advertising

I'm really pleased with this find, as both the discs and the case are in completely mint condition - almost as if the copy had been given to someone and thrown in a cupboard as an unwanted gift. It's basically a cheap cash-in compilation of tracks used on adverts, but there's a good selection of end-nineties dance, big-beat and electro stuff. Basically a big trip down memory lane, if you like that sort of thing.


Dance Tip 95

Another double CD release and in not amazing condition (though the CDs play fine), the only reason I bought this was to replace the cassette version that I had as a kid. And what an excellent double album of releases, with hits like Coolio/Gangster's Paradise, Outhere Brothers/BoomBoomBoom, Perfecto Allstars/Papa's Got A Brand New Pig Bag...pretty much all the big dance hits of the mid-nineties (check the discogs entry for a full run down). I think I remember playing Doom on my dad's Atari Jaguar listening to this pumping away - especially as the Jag version doesn't have music playing in the background.


Age of Love - Age of Love Remixes

To be honest, I just bought this for the kooky folding cover and the fact that, as a React label release it had to be good. Actually it's a track I remember from Human Traffic and that I have on other late nineties dance mix releases, but either way it's a nice find and some...so-so remixes.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dr Dre sells Beats Audio

Commitstrip got it right
This is less of a music piece and more something to do with music technology and business, but the news has just broken of Apple having agreed to buy Beats Audio for $3 billion pounds. Let that sink in - three BILLION dollars.

Whilst I understand the implications for Apple, in that they can offer Beats Audio headphones and speakers exclusively to their customers who buy iPhones and iPods, I still can't believe the high price tag for a company that makes overpriced headphones with uneven dynamics. Sure, they work really well for hip hop and rap, where the music is usually biased towards the low and high end frequencies but for listening to music that requires full range else they are absolutely rubbish and especially useless for production. It's event worse when you you remember they are simply rebadged Monster Headphones and you're paying for the name badge, something that Apple are no doubt familiar with: Commitstrip were spot on with their recent webcomic.

This poses an interesting question about quality vs popularity, something that often pops up in format wars, where consumers and support from third parties determine which format emerges the winner from competing standards. VHS vs Betamax or Bluray vs HD-DVD are good examples. Here, customers believe they are buying a superior product that delivers "proper" audio and that other products don't offer the same quality of sound. Without getting into the old argument of sound quality through expensive technology, the popularity of these headphones - and no doubt the profits to be had from such a product - might determine how manufacturers design the dynamics of their future headphone products. No doubt some will use them as a reference and copy them to mimic the bass-heavy aspect of the Beats with a similar price tag, meaning that customers will grow up with a skewed expectation of how consumer-grade headphones are supposed to sound, but I remain hopeful that others will continue to offer more balanced options at a reasonable price. 

There is also the question of market saturation, as I am sure that a fair few pairs of these headphones have been sold already and how many pairs do you really need to buy? Though perhaps if iPhone users are as careful with their iPhones as they are with their headphones, maybe having to buy expensive replacements makes this a smart move.*

*Judging by how many smashed iPhones I see on the tube everyday, they must have to replace their headphones and other equipment a lot too. Jeez guys, use cases or be more careful with your expensive smartphones!

Either way, good on Dr Dre as I think he sold this at the right time. As for Apple, no doubt they are looking forward to putting that purchase to good use and get back some cash - iBeats anyone? 

Original Articles

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Kasabian - "rock n roll dying out"

Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno claims that Rock & Roll is dying out and claims his album is an effort to try and inspire another generation of rock bands, according to news articles released everywhere to promote an upcoming album release. 

At first, I viewed Serge's comments with some derision, being that they are less the wild-child rock and roller and more a whiny hippie trying to "keep the spirit alive", no doubt upset that EDM has popped up to steal his fans, their money and chart positions. I suppose it's okay to get a little sour about that sort of thing, but I will also admit that rock and roll doesn't hold the masses like it used to.

There's only a certain amount of the same chords and guitar sounds I can take, but I am also sure that Rock would not have lasted as long had it not had its fans who still enjoyed these aspects of the genre and more, which in turn spawns more bands that may not have the same fan base as, say, Greenday but still...er, rock.

Musical tastes travel in waves, with genres holding sway at a given time based on what is simply popular at the time, with so-called EDM and Bass Music1 making a big impact over the last few years2 to doubt this is at the detriment of the popularity of other genres, but when you consider how long rock has had its place in the sun - as long ago as the late 1940s and early 1950s - it has had a pretty good run. 

To suggest that Rock and Roll is dying and will completely gone is ridiculous, clich├ęd and silly - music won't ever die, it will just become more or less popular. To my mind, rock isn't dying, it's just maturing to a vintage where only the better examples of the form last. 

Perhaps David Byrne sums it up best:

“As I define it, rock and roll is dead. The attitude isn't dead, but the music is no longer vital. It doesn't have the same meaning. The attitude, though, is still very much alive - and it still informs other kinds of music.”

No longer vital, but it's the same message as always: evolve or die.


1. These labels I hate them as much as the catch-all "electronica" genre. What's wrong with "House" "Drum&Bass" "Dance" "Techno" "Dubstep" and so on? Why the need to have a name that encapsulates these?

2. All this despite America's uneasy relationship with electronic music and their rich heritage in house/techno. Shame really!

Original article in NME:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I'm on Discogs now!

I've started adding my CD collection to Discogs, more as a way of trying to keep track of what I actually have and need to rip to my hard drive.

Take a look at what I have on my profile: http://www.discogs.com/user/Southerntrax

Monday, 26 May 2014

CD Haul - 25/05/2014

All mix CDs from the car boot fair this time around and for 50p a double album, I don't think I can complain too much, especially considering that the CDs are in pretty good shape for what they are.

Kiss in Ibiza 95

Two CDs of classic mid-nineties dance tracks, which remind me quite a lot of some of the old tapes I used to have as a kid and listened to a lot. Though there's nothing particularly modern, it's a nice blast from the past and some different remixes that I hadn't heard before

Cream Anthems 2001

A slightly more recent release, but on reflection it's still over 10 years old so nothing recent. There are some pretty dated tracks there and again, not many tracks that I don't already have in other releases on KISS, but still nice to have and in pretty good condition.


Euphoric Chillout Breakdown

Pretty much what I actually wanted from the seller's collection, given that I really like the Euphoria collections and I haven't picked up a chillout album in ages. A pretty nice mix of different records, with some chilled out versions of trance floor-fillers as well.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Piracy on the high internets!

A little story on Sonic State recently debated the age old problem with so called media "pirates". There has been enough ink spilled on this subject already, though sufficed to say I agree with the basic premise that people deserve to get paid for the work they produce.

Monday, 19 May 2014

CD Haul

I suppose this is the whole reason I still dive into CD boxes at car boot sales, it's to find the bits in there that I haven't bought and never got round to buying. I'm talking about clawing past the Westlife singles and Nickelback albums to get the diamonds in the rough - though these days it does seem like the electronic and dance stuff I look for is becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of. Either that or the music itself doesn't date quite so quickly as pop - probably the main reason I started collecting electronic music in the first place.

Anyway, it certainly does train your eyes to recognise and exclude the million copies of Boyzone and Billie so you can find something better - in this case four albums for a couple of quid for the lot.

True Playaz In the Mix Volume Two: Honestly the best of the lot, this is a turn of the century drum and bass mix from DJ Hype, featuring a decent amount of Ganja Kru and Hype tracks plus his excellent scratching over the top. Reminds me of his mix for Darklight that I really enjoyed as a kid and well worth 50p. [Discogs]

Back To Mine with Everything But The Girl: Again a pretty good find given that the likes of Groove Armada and Rae & Christian put out albums for these guys, though the choice of bar room house makes me question whether EBTG got the brief for a chill out / downtempo album. Still enjoyable for the Model 500 and Carl Craig tracks however and for so cheap I can't really complain all too much. [Discogs]

Red Rat - Oh No it's Red Rat: Speaking of Groove Armada, the only reason I picked this up at all was for the fact that this rapper worked as a vocalist on Lovebox and Soundboy Rock, well before they went all indie. However I still haven't had a chance to listen to this, but even if it is a lemon from 1997 - on the legendary Greensleeves label no less - then I think I can spare 50p. [Discogs]

St Germain - Tourist: well I had to pick this up as it is fairly decent condition and the album is synonymous with other chill out albums of the time (Kinobe, Air etc) so I had to really. [Discogs]

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Analogue vs Digital : why can't we just have both?

It's a debate that has raged for as long as there have been people making music: analogue has a warmth and character that is unparalleled, whilst digital synths offer greater possibilities and are cheaper to make - but which one is better? 

This piece was inspired by the story of the TB-3, Roland's attempt to re-release the classic TB-303 after seeing the demand for cheap synth boxes. From the announcements, teasers and various press releases before the official unveiling, it seemed that Roland had finally woken up to the idea that they could make money on their synth heritage and follow up with an analogue bass machine that could rightfully be called the successor to the original.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Latest CD haul

Quality over quantity this time: some early 2000s Drum & Bass from London Elektricity and a double album from Aquasky. 

Billion Dollar Gravy is an excellent album, as with most Hospital Records releases - lots of rare groove samples over breaks and altogether a sort of lounge lizard feel to this album.

Beat The System has some pretty nice breakbeat and bass tracks, though it does sound quite dated. I must have tons of these CDs and most of them sound very very similar.

A quid for both of them and with very few scratches makes for an excellent deal and it's surprising to see these sorts of things at a car boot sale in Thamesmead. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Nektar Controllers

I recently had a chance to join the product manager for Nektar, the guys who make MIDI controllers with specialised, out-of-the-box control mappings for specific music DAWs (including all the usual suspects like Reason, Live, Cubase etc but also Reaper and Bigwig), for a hands on look at the Bigwig Studio software. Of course, one upshot on this little hour and a half run through was that the new Panorama and Impakt controllers did get promoted quite a bit, so I'd like to take a look into these new keyboards.

LEME2014 - just a few days to go

 Just a few days to go before LEME (London Electronic Music Event) takes place in East London at the weekend, looking forward to it!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Messe14 Roundup

Now that the dust is well and truly settled on the Frankfurt Musikmesse 2014, its probably a good time to take stock and see what was interesting during the show. Notably, there was nothing new from Moog, though as they tend to blow their budgets and big announcements at NAMM, this is to be expected.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Bitwig finally here!

It's finally here: the DAW that everyone thought would be vaporware and despite numerous delays into the development schedule and extensive beta testing, version 1.0 of Bitwig will hit the streets. Congratulations to the whole team on finally reaching this release!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Musikmesse 2014

As with every single year, the 2014 Musikmesse in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, has crept up on me again and Sonic State have just made me aware that the show is NEXT WEEK! Of course, with NAMM stealing the early 2014 thunder for product announcements, it's interesting to see what other new products are going to be announced.

In particular, with Bitwig confirmed to attend as exhibitors in their home country ahead of the final release date of the Bitwig DAW in two weeks, it's a good time for them to highlight new features of their software.

Judging from Sonic State, there's plenty of new product announcements from Arturia, Korg and Waldorf, so it's great to hear that there's more products coming out. Perhaps they have purposefully held back a lot of gear from NAMM to present here? Either way, it's good to stoke the rumour mill and I look forward to hearing the news next week!


Sunday, 9 March 2014

New keyboard!

Well, the word "new" is relative...this little bugger is really old, but it's new to me! Picked up for fiver in a local car boot sale with a ropy box and a manual, this was quite a surprise to find. It's a Casio PT-30, described even at the time as a very budget-level digital keyboard, and is an offspring of the original Casio PT-1 (as featured on German one-hit wonder Trio's Da-Da-Da), albeit it with some new and improved features.

Listen along to Trio as we dive deeper to this little box of tricks (the PT-1 can also be seen in the video)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

More recent music: Watergate 15

Sometimes it's nice to get something unexpected. I've been a big fan of Berlin-based club Watergate since I first heard Sebo K's Watergate 4 in Swag Records (RIP) as a place to get really good quality house music that has more emphasis on underground vibes and as few commercial tracks that might feature on a throwaway Ministry of Sound compilation as possible.And in keeping with the rest of the series, the album art is really striking and impressive. It's the sort of artwork that really makes owning a physical copy of the CD worthwhile

So cue Kerri Chandler. Oddly enough, the first track I ever heard from him was the lovely Digital Love Affair from Sebo K's Back Up Volume 1 and this really set the scene for this release. It's deep, American house with some excellent synth bass and lead lines, opening up with a really soulful number from Detroit Swindle and continuing with funky basses, some lovely vocal samples and that Chicago drum shuffle that makes this a catchy little mix. It's at once a nostalgia-infused throwback to older records from the early nineties as much as it is a presentation of more recent productions.

In terms of slotting in with the rest of the series, this really hits all the right notes you would expect from a Watergate mix: an excellent compilation and well worth owning.

Monday, 24 February 2014

CD Haul - 22 / 2 / 2014

A recent trip round a nearby car boot sales yielded some very cheap classic dance singles - I'm really feeling the mid-nineties Baby D / Let Me Be Your Fantasy and Livin' Joy / Dreamer EPs in particular. Both of these have about six or seven tracks EACH: a radio edit, full single version and tons of remixes. Gone are the days when CD Singles were good value, you're lucky to get four or more tracks these days. Sure, some of the remixes are hit and miss, but the more the merrier in my book.

I'll pick up anything by Blue States for the unreleased B-sides, but as of writing I haven't actually got round to listening to it yet. The same is true for Sincere, thought while I bought MJ Cole's classic for the B Sides, it was only when I got home that I realised that it came with the video and a Jazzanova remix that I hadn't heard before - it's a tasty track indeed.

All this for a quid - can't really go wrong there.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Roland Aira

Well it's nice to be proved wrong every now and again, with the new Roland Aira units. Judging from YouTube reviews that have been dropping in from a European DJ show where the Airas have been debuting, there's plenty of new information coming out. Now that the dust has settled, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on these units.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Aira Teasers

So after the release of a couple of extra videos to hype up the tension, there are few new developments in the Aira saga ahead of the official unveiling.

I've been looking at a lot of the coverage online, as this is one of the more interesting hardware launches from Roland, who generally release expensive keyboard workstations that I neither need nor afford. Here's a little roundup...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Kaossilator GONE

It's time to say sayonara to my little Korg Kaossilator, for which I received 50 clams for this morning via Gumtree and has gone to live with another user, much like my MicroKorg and its virtual analogue sound engine.

Of course, I did quite like using the Kaossilator for doing phrases with and also for adding sound effects when playing with my Volcas, but there are quite a few problems with the Korg Kaossilator v1 that I think need to be made clear.

Monday, 27 January 2014

London Electronic Music Event 2014

London-based electronic music heads: the LEME 2014 event has just announced the line up for the weekend of sessions, workshops and seminars looking at the future of electronic music.

Some nice content going on there but there's not much that directly interests me but perhaps there might be someone out there who will find it useful.

£40 for the whole weekend or £15 per day or evening session.

More details and registration:

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Free classical music

Sundays are all about lounging around, so to make yourself seem a little more urbane and intelligent whilst you read Reddit or eat breakfast, why not enjoy some excellent classical music for free? 

Starts off with a great rendition of Beethoven's Fifth and continues in great fashion, with performances of popular classical music that you should know by now. Did I mention that it was free?

Fire up your Google Play account and point it to:


Thursday, 23 January 2014

200th Post - Bitwig release date finally announced!

How about that: two big milestones in one! My 200th post nicely coincides with the announcement from Bitwig that their DAW will be released on 26th March 2014, according to this nice press release. Of course, a demo will be my first port of call once the release date hits, so I will be looking forward to trying it out and hopefully it will be what I'm looking for - Madtracker is starting to show its age!


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

NAMM 2014 is here

It's hard to believe that it's been a whole year since the last NAMM show, but this Wednesday marks the Press Open Day of the National Association of Music Manufaturers show in Anaheim. While there is a smaller event at the end of the year (Winter NAMM), this is THE show for all the big music and instrument manufacturers to bring out their new wares for public inspection. While a lot of the products aren't available immediately, it gives the music community an idea of what toys to expect coming out across 2014 and generally foster some gear acquisition syndrome.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Roland Connect -> Aira

So several days pass and Roland's countdown on Roland Connect finishes and reveals some of their new hardware. Nothing too special so far: BOSS guitar pedals, a few new pianos and analogue modelling synthesiser workstations. So far, so Roland.

However, come to the bottom of the page and there's a curious logo, which brings you back to Roland's site called Aira, with a teaser video about the genesis of the TR-808 drum machine and suddenly a follow up with a mere glimpse of a new machine.

Could it be that Roland have finally woken up to the fact that Korg have been eating their lunch and dinner for so long? According to The Verge, who have an excellent preview photo of the new unit (not sure about the green on black colour scheme!), this is looking to be the successor to the now legendary drum machine and is a real treat to see ahead of NAMM 2014.

Roland are back in the game!


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Roland teasing countdown

Perhaps Roland have woken up to the fact that Korg are eating their lunch and have added the following, teasing count down for about six day's time. No idea what Roland Connect could be announcing this time, but it's nice to get hold of some new things to look forward to ahead of NAMM 2014. Time to add another bookmark and calendar entry!


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Vinyl sales up 101% in UK

According to an article in this morning's Metro (a free London-based newspaper, for all overseas readers), the British Phonographic Industry's sales figures for the last year revealed that vinyl is having something of a resurgence. So much for being a dead format.

I suppose the statistic of 101% growth is slightly misleading, given how the number of vinyl albums sold had been steadily dropping over the past decade, due to the success of other formats (CD, downloads). Apparently it's the younger music fans who are driving this change, possibly because of the unique nature of vinyl records now that everyone uses CDs, and it's not unusual to see DJs still using LPs for live shows: Serato be damned. I even met someone in London who DJs contemporary indie / rock sets using 45 RPM singles, so there is a kitsch factor in the mix..

I understand the reason why people want a physical copy when it comes to music, but I still think the question of superior fidelity is debatable. I would also wager that the higher cost of a vinyl LP also accounts for the added value of this format, thought it's interesting to see that 7.4 billion tracks were streamed in the UK last year - roughly double that of 2012. On the one hand, people are still making physical sales of music but are being more selective in their choices, whilst others are eschewing ownership completely.

I still haven't bought Spotify: Soundcloud keeps me busy enough!


Saturday, 4 January 2014

MicroKorg gone!

Gone but not forgotten
Following in the footsteps of my Akai Miniak, I have finally said goodbye to my MicroKorg after owning it for about a year. It wasn't that anything was wrong with it, only I don't think I was getting the full use of it that I could have done and so out the door it went. I got a quick sale and only got £10 less than what I paid for it, so I'm happy. It actually got sold to a member of band in Brighton called How's Harry so no doubt it will start showing up in gig photos soon!

Having thought about the amount of hardware I had been selling, I have the following to say about hardware these days: if I'm going to own it, I'm going to have to come with a damned good reason to justify it. In more general terms, I don't think that virtual analogue like the MicroKorg is worth going after any more, as there are more flexible and cheaper options available in software as VSTs. When it comes to pads, Synth1 can do more than 4 voice polyphony and can be easily chained with other effects, whilst for leads and basses the Minibrute can beat the MicroKorg hands down. So having analogue gear that does something I can't necessarily do in software or that adds something interesting and unique to the mix is what I'm going after now. 

Another thing is connectivity: both the MicroKorg and the Miniak both were reliant on MIDI only, whilst more modern synths come with USB connections as well. This really simplifies things for me and means that I don't have to fiddle as much getting connections to work.

The fact that NAMM is round the corner and I want something modern and new has nothing to do with it of course...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to all my friends, relatives, neighbours and not least readers of my blog; I hope that 2014 brings you everything you want.

As for music related stuff, I'm already looking forward to NAMM 2014 coverage at the end of January and further news from Frankfurt MuzikMesse in the summer. I'm also looking at changing my computer to be a lot smaller and optimise it for studio use, ahead of Bitwig coming in. 

I've got to get some music finished and stuck on Soundcloud as well!