Nightclubs in Northern Ireland will reopen on 31st October, following an Executive meeting on Thursday 7th October.
Music venues in the country have been shuttered for well over 18 months, having locked down in March 2020. This means partygoers in cities such as Belfast and Derry will enjoy their first nightclub experience on Halloween, traditionally one of Northern Ireland’s biggest dates for dance music.
At the time of writing, it is not clear what the rules for reopenings will be, with vaccine passports an ongoing debate among politicians, and pubs, restaurants, and bars currently required to enforce 1metre social distancing. According to BBC NI, it is likely that proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 will be required, and masks may be necessary in some settings. Ministers are apparently concerned that if face coverings are not mandatory, usage could go down by 30%.
“Unlike other sectors, many hospitality businesses have been severely restricted in capacity and nightclubs have remained totally closed for the longest period,” said Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive, Colin Neill. “This means staff were put on and have become reliant on the furlough scheme and owners have had no chance or opportunity to bring them back to full work.”
The Northern Irish Assembly has also passed the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill, effectively allowing some venues to legally remain open until 3AM for the first time. Historically, the country retained the most prohibitive drinking laws in the UK and Europe, leading to the launch of a Free The Night campaign which is ongoing. Last month DJ Mag attended Northern Ireland’s biggest electronic music festival, AVA. Read the full report on what went down as local ravers finally returned to the dancefloor.
Bleu Clair is about to embark on his first-ever North American touring circuit on October 8,—making stops in Orlando’s The Vanguard, New York’s Webster Hall, and Tempe’s Shady Park—but before all of that happens, he decided his already loaded tracklists could use some extra padding. Continuing to validate his placement in Dancing Astronaut‘s Artists To Watch in 2021, Bleu Clair has dipped back into his edit bag for the first time since his retouch of JOYRYDE’s “DAMN” in June of 2020, reworking AlunaGeorge and Kaytranada’s 2013 classic, “Kaleidoscope Love.”
Doing what he does best on his newest update, Bleu Clair overhauls AlunaGeorge and Kaytranada’s Body Music pairing, warming the late-night, R&B original into a sizzling tech-house weapon that cements itself as another must-hear in his sets, especially when he hits EDC Las Vegas’ stereoBLOOM stage on October 22.
This video, via Noisebug, demonstrates a custom Moog format 5U algorithmic analog drum machine.
The drum machine features several modules from Corsynth, including their DR-01 Bass Drum, DR-02 Snare Drum and DR-03 Hi-Hat / Metal. Each module features a complete analog voice, tailored to a different type of drum synthesis.
The drum machine is driven by the FSFX 110 Topographic Drum Sequencer, a 5U adaptation of the Mutable Instruments Grids synthesizer module. Grids is an algorithmic drum sequencer, based on AI-powered machine learning trained on the drum patterns of electronic music and other genres. So, instead of building a pattern, you can select a starting point and use CV or controls to modulate the density of each part of the pattern.
The system adds a Corsynth C111 Multimode Contour Generator for envelopes and a Moon 526 Reversible Mixer in a Moon M500-T10 Case.
The Moog Format Analog Drum System is available via Noisebug for $2,250. All the components are also available individually for creating custom analog drum synthesis solutions.
Björk has announced a series of orchestral concert live streams, raising money in support of a women’s shelter in Reykjavik.
The performances will take place on Monday 11th, Sunday 24th, and Sunday 31st October, with a final show set for Monday 15th November 2021. Broadcast from the spectacular Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik, the electronic, experimental and pop superstar will play alongside a different ensemble each night, with the Hamrahlíð Choir, Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and Viibra flute septet all confirmed.
In a message to fans ahead of the series, Björk said: “Dear friends, I would like to invite you to some concerts to honour folks who got hit hardest in the coronavirus, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and to honour how many Icelandic musicians I have worked with through the years.
“My input into the feminist fight is to brag about that almost all of those arrangements are by me. Unfortunately, this is something that is almost always ignored when women are arrangers,” she added.
In January and February 2021, Björk played the same venue in aid of women’s charities in another series of shows featuring over 100 accompanying musicians. In 2020 she was forced to cancel a run of orchestral dates across Europe. Read up on why Björk’s ‘Debut’ demonstrated the endless possibilities of cross-pollination in music in DJ Mag’s Solid Gold feature on the album.
LFO Store has introduced Arakis, a new sound library for the Korg Prologue 8/16, inspired by the soundtrack to the new movie of Dune.
“We had a huge inspiration after seeing reboot of Dune and put all our effort to this sounds,” note the developers. “Here you will find all what you need for writing your desert soundtrack, electronic song, ambient & cinematic music.”
Kelis has shared a new single, ‘Midnight Snacks’, and unveiled the accompanying video.
It’s the first new music we’ve had from the US singer and songwriter since 2014’s ‘Food’, her sixth album, which was followed by the release of a cookbook, ‘My Life On A Plate’.
Keeping with the gastronomic theme, Kelis — perhaps best known for the single ‘Milkshake’ — also launched a weed-focused Netflix cooking show last year, logically entitled ‘Cooking With Cannabis’.
“The idea is just that food is a very carnal thing. Everyone can relate to it. It’s very human, it’s sensual, it’s something that you crave. And it’s sexy,” said Kelis. “I heard the beat, thought it was dope, and the first thing that came to mind was ‘Midnight Snacks’.
“The FaNaTix were like, what are you talking about? And I was like, it makes you feel like a midnight snack! And that was it. It’s funny to me, but I like the fact that you can take sex and food, and you can put these two things together, and they’re totally interchangeable. I love that,” she continued.
Kelis’ debut album, ‘Kaleidoscope’, was 20 years old in 2020. Last year she also appeared on the new Disclosure album, ‘ENERGY‘, alongside the likes of Fatoumata Diawara.
Kylie Minogue gears up to release a remix album of her 2020 LP, Disco, disseminating a tracklist including the likes of Basement Jaxx, Dua Lipa, Gloria Gaynor, and more. The Australian icon took to Twitter for the release announcement of DISCO: Guest List Edition and also previewed the upcoming LP with its first taste, a collaboration with Years & Years titled “A Second to Midnight.” The remix edition arrives November 12.
The collaboration between Minogue and Years & Years features a soothing disco groove that throws listeners straight back into the ’70s. Swinging violins provide the backdrop for a soundtrack that transports to dance floors colored by dancing lights and glittering red jumpsuits.
Martinic has introduced AX73, an third-party software emulation of the rare Akai AX73, a mid-’80s analog synth.
Here’s what they have to say about it:
“Martinic has taken what was great about the original AX73 and elevated it into a powerful, flexible software instrument that fits right into the modern producer’s lineup of go-to synths.
With four analog oscillators across two synth layers, unique modulation features, extended performance options, and an eight-module effects section, this plugin AX73 (VST/AU) unleashes the full power of the original hardware and more – no menu diving required, and all perfectly modeled through our Advanced Circuitry Emulation technology. And, it includes a generous lineup of 600+ inspiring presets to get you started right away.”
Martinic AX73 features a variety of enhancements over the original:
New Effects Section
Process the synth’s output with eight built-in effects units: Compressor, Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Delay, Reverb, Distortion, and EQ
?These effects can be routed in any order you like – simply rearrange them by dragging and dropping them in the FX Chain.
Expanded architecture – The best elements from other synths in the AX range have been distilled into a feature-rich reinterpretation of the AX73. Notable examples include: extra chorus settings and the arpeggiator from the AX60, a second VCO and sub-oscillator from the AX80, and an extended VCO octave range down to 32’, as seen in both the AX60 and 80.
Expanded modulation options – The AX73 plugin also offers far greater modulation capabilities than the original. It features four envelopes per layer (three of which are assignable), and four assignable LFOs per layer. Taking both layers into account, this gives eight envelopes and eight LFOs.
Split or Stack Layers to build your sound – Uniquely, the AX73 has two layers that can be split across the keyboard – allowing you to play two patches simultaneously – or stacked, providing an extra dimension of sound design. And, each layer has its own independent arpeggiator with 11 built-in modes – including some unusual modes such as Shuffle and Improv – that you can use to quickly create melodies.
Pricing and Availability
Martinic AX73 is available now for macOS & Windows with an intro price of $59.50 USD.
If you love software, if you love the imaginative and compositional choices it affords, at last hardware is embodying that same freedom. Few devices do that more elegantly than the MOD Dwarf.
MOD’s place in the sound galaxy
You know the story as far as need. You like having all those choices of different effects when you’re working on music in “studio” mode. But then you don’t always want to take a laptop everywhere or have to wait for a DAW to load and dig through menus. We know now that embedded computation is capable of doing a lot of what our pricey desktop computer can. The question is what then the hardware looks like as a complete solution – and MOD have nothing if not a complete answer.
MOD Devices’ stuff has been around for a while – to the extent that they might suffer from some of the ahead-of-their-time syndrome for a lot of innovators in embedded hardware. But their offering is a complete solution for custom pedalboards full of effects for instruments, endlessly customizable, with custom development options for making your own effects, a graphical user interface for editing, and all the basic onboard controls and I/O. There’s simply not much you would ask for in this kind of device (at least for line inputs) that isn’t there.
Despite the recent competition, MOD’s stuff still stands alone.
So, sure, you can certainly get polished hardware from big names – some of it quite inexpensive. If you just want a stompbox with different settings, Zoom or recently BOSS has you covered. And these go up to more advanced pedalboards, like on the M-Series from Line 6. For all the added flexibility – and these things are quite affordable – they still feel mostly like fancy versions of digital pedals we had before. They certainly don’t give you the sense of endless customization you get on your computer.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are some wonderful DIY possibilities with the likes of Bela and Raspberry Pi. (For a deluxe version, see elk.audio, which is probably what I’d choose if I had a big budget and wanted to do something kind of MOD-like.) But just like any prototyping platform, these have added cost in terms of physical construction and time. If that process is part of the hobby for you, they’re fantastic – but even then, they aren’t going to save money so much as in the long run give you more to do with customization.
And yeah, you could go with an iPad, but you’re back to the computer problem – one OS update can hose all your stuff, which is not the level of reliability I want working live. (That’s not just me being paranoid, either; the iOS updates in recent days just broke MIDI software function. Yikes.)
MOD Devices, in contrast, give you more or less everything you could possibly want in a single device that’s both endlessly customizable (more on that below) and ready to use out of the box. That means even the cost-performance ratio starts to look really competitive when contrasted with stuff like the Eventide H9 platform, which gets pricey as you pay for add-ons.
Dwarf feature set
MOD Devices now has two devices – the mighty MOD Duo X that began the category, and the svelte MOD Dwarf.
Now, I’m torn. More compact, lower cost? Great! But fewer hands-on controls? Hmm… The trick is, because of the expandability of the Dwarf, including USB host for additional controllers, the tradeoff of having fewer encoders I think will be well worth it on the Dwarf.
And the Dwarf is really appealing – US$499 (EUR499 with VAT), so 50% cheaper than its sibling, with still all the same basic functionality but fewer onboard controls to save space.
What you get:
Reasonably clear and spacious monochrome display
Floor operation if you need it
Three footswitches, which both enable/kill individual effects and let you scroll through pedalboards or presets (key for live performance)
A rugged metal case – all assembled in Germany
Very portable – and comes with a cute little carry-case
Bundled OverTone series effects included / pre-licensed, which cover your basic BOSS-style distortion, chorus, phaser, and wah
Three asignable push buttons, plus menu button
Three assignable endless encoders
2x inputs, 2x outputs – each of which you could configure as a stereo pair or individual mono channels
Single LED audio meters for each input and output
The I/O flexibility is worth its own mention:
2x jack inputs, usable with line-, instrument-, or mic-level signal
MIDI I/O, on now-standard TRS minijack (so you will need the breakout dongles, probably)
Control Chain – this is exlusively for chaining together other MOD gadgets
USB connection to the computer, which lets you manage the device from your browser
USB host port, for connecting USB MIDI devices and USB storage drives and even more exotic stuff like USB game controllers or Bluetooth dongles
2X audio output jack, dedicated minijack headphone out (handy for practicing or checking your rig pre sound check live)
The Dwarf is definitely minimal – even its larger sibling is still designed in a way that figures you’ll do a lot of stuff from the browser interface. And you’ll notice some things missing. For vocalists, there’s no XLR input, no +48V power, and no dedicated mic pre, so you may need an extra gadget (or at least a jack-to-XLR cable, which I tend to keep around). And since I’ve yet to use the Control Chain port (which MOD reminds you is not for use as a standard Ethernet network jack), I wouldn’t mind swapping that for some dedicated MIDI DIN jacks. (Okay, MIDI DIN is huge and so still wouldn’t quite fit, I think.)
Probably the biggest omission is really good level metering, which is a pain on this – a single LED isn’t really ideal. There’s a tuner and metronome onboard, but not a way to meter your levels. Just be sure to memorize this guide:
Off: below -40dB
Green fade in: between -40dB and -6dB
Green fully ON, fading in yellow: between -6dB and -1dB
Red: between -1dB and 0dB
Blinking strong red: 0dB (CLIPPING!)
But otherwise, the controls turn out not to be a big deal. Just expect that this unit works best on the floor – and then configure control the way you want, by plugging additional controllers in via USB. (You can even get an expression pedal that works over USB, which is the other missing controller here.) USB host is a godsend, and it means you can have a standalone device with whichever controls you like – desktop or floor – plus rugged footswitches for hands-free preset navigation, which is useful even for synthesists. (USB Bluetooth and storage gives you a way to wirelessly configure the device or make backups of your presets on a stick.)
It’s also worth noting that you can get effectively two pedalboards here if you’re okay with mono output, which I’ve also done – you just configure two separate signal chains from the two inputs to the two outputs.
But it’s okay if you feel a little underwhelmed at this point. Even though it’s a standalone device, the MOD stuff really shines because of its software and effect ecosystem.
Web editing and multiple use cases
Where the MOD Dwarf becomes really fun is when you plug it into your computer for the first time. Connect USB, point your browser at the device (moddwarf.local), and you have a fully graphical UI for customizing pedalboards, managing banks and presets, browsing for new effects, and so on. It’s plug and play on the Mac and Linux (and worked fine for me in Firefox as well as Chromium-based stuff); on Windows, I did have to futz with a driver installer.
Inside the Constructor, you can choose any effects you want, including delay, distortion, dynamics (like compressors), filters, modulators, reverb, models of classic analog gear, panners, and lots of other stuff.
You can even turn the MOD devices into synths. There are instruments available, for one — a 303 model called the Nekobi, an FM synth, ensemble sounds (like strings), and more, all playable from MIDI input. And these can even make sense standalone, since there are step sequencers available (with some neat external control ideas).
In other words, did you just want an effects box for your guitar or bass? This is that.
You wanted some slick reverb and delay for your synths? Check.
But you also had some MIDI processing needs, like transposition, event delay and filtering, and live quantization? This box is that, too – and there’s no reason it can’t be doubling up duties on MIDI and effects tasks at the same time.
And yeah, it might also be an additional synth.
It’s the very opposite of a unitasker.
Inside the Constructor, you get a graphical interface for patching together effects on the virtual pedalboard. You can also edit effects parameters from this interface, just as you would in software. So one workflow is to do your editing as you would normally on a computer, and save a bunch of presets and banks you can navigate live. (The footswitches let you load up any preset or bank, so that’s feasible.)
I think you probably want hands-on control, so that’s where assignment becomes important. Each parameter has a little icon of some faders; click that, and you get an assignment dialog. You can assign to the onboard encoders and buttons, which have a number of subpages you can navigate quickly on the device. With time, I actually didn’t mind the restriction of having three buttons and three faders per page on the Dwarf, because I just grouped them logically by different effects.
It’s a little slow doing this assignment at first, but I got faster at it with time. (It would be nice, though, MOD, to be able to move from parameter to parameter without clicking out and into this window.)
CV and MIDI assignments are possible, too. MIDI uses MIDI learn. That means you can control these effects really however you like.
The editor also gives you options for saving presets, banks, managing pedalboards, and managing files. That means it’s possible to build up a whole arsenal of tools and keep them at the ready, which is really terrific – and as long as the MOD is plugged in, it’s ready for your sets, as opposed to patching and repatching physical gear. That’s useful enough that we now have it as a dedicated send in the studio and use it even when doing stuff on the computer.
Now, you will need to keep an eye on CPU and memory consumption – there are fixed processing resources on the MOD gizmos. And once you run out of resources, it just stops working. The good news here is you’ll know when that happens, unlike on a general-purpose computer, rather than getting near the end of memory and/or CPU and getting garbled audio (or having that happen because Windows thinks now is a great time to run some sort of deep scan for spyware).
Effects and tools catalog
It’s the effects library that makes or breaks a device like this. It’s honestly those choices that got me hooked – and you can talk to my friend and studio mate Jamaica Suk, who has likewise been working with these for months both with synth hardware/drum machines and her bass, and get the same answer.
So on paper, or before you hear a sound, yeah the MOD stuff has a lot of competition from some known names. But it’s really the effects library that has the depth and quality that you’d know from software effects – and that means this also stands toe to toe with some pricey high-end pedals and effects devices.
In short, I tend to lose interest in the multi-purpose dedicated hardware stuff because of the sound. (Dedicated Eventide or Strymon or something? Sure! But a do-everything box? Those tend to disappoint.) The MOD Dwarf feels way more familiar and rich.
The plugins available here are just expansive. A ton of them are free – and MOD lean heavily on some of what’s coming out of the open-source community. But there are also enough premium, paid options, as well. I like the balance of the two. A lot of the free/open tools are simpler and cover basics. A few of these are a little wild or experimental, but that’s fun sometimes. A lot of them cover bread-and-butter modeling basics really, really well, thanks to ongoing community support – Guitarix stuff, for instance. And since these are community-driven, they are just motivated by what people wanted to use.
MOD has also assembled some commercial stuff that is really top-grade, though, and that’s where you likely would not be able to easily replicate this with some DIY effort of your own. It’s not expensive – think more like iOS App Store pricing.
SHIRO Plugins are just utterly gorgeous, including Shiroverb, ethereal shimmer reverbs, and the excellent warm-and-fuzzy analog tape modeling of the Gaffa Delay. SHIRO alone is practically worth the price of admission here.
Guitarix provides tons of finely-modeled amp cabinets and distortion, great for guitars or bass (or so the people who can play them tell me) but also wonderful on drum machines and synths.
MOD has contributed a lot of their own effects, rounding out the selection and filling in any gaps, and a lot of their creations are great, too – oddly a lot warning you that they’re “simple” but that are nonetheless terrifically useful.
I love the Rakarrack distortion, a fork of the open ZynAddSubFX – gritty, dirty, and brilliant. And yeah, this is the sort of gnarly stuff the big-name pedal devs likely won’t let you have.
Need drones? This is full of drone tools, too, including the infamous stuck sampler… thing, which grabs inputs and makes drones out of them.
There’s just always more stuff to play with – also a vocoder and a simple Autotune rip-off pitch corrector and all the rest, too, plus the time-tested free MDA plug-ins.
Also, just released – I haven’t had the time to test this yet, but it might well become the most essential addition yet. RMPro ReMasterMed is designed to simply act as an overall mastering effect in a pinch. For everyone who has to face complaints that they didn’t sound “loud” enough when their live set was sandwiched between DJs, this effect – plus the other dynamics processing – might well be your master bus solution, used properly. I could even see sticking the Dwarf on the output after a laptop for laptop sets, too.
Part of why MOD has this gorgeous effects library is also a reason you might never really outgrow this hardware – Max/MSP patchers can export directly to the device, using gen~.
This integration has been out for about four years now, and in a way it’s remarkable more people aren’t shouting from the rooftops about it. Yes, there are ways – as I’ve mentioned – of working with other environments like Pd, SuperCollider, and Csound on other devices. But the gen~ export here is seamless and powerful, and means this device takes on added value for people comfortable with Max as their environment. (It also is worth saying – and I’m a long-time Pd user and advocate saying this – none of the free graphical environments can quite match the power of gen~. The closest equivalent is probably something like FAUST and its embedded solutions, but I digress.)
Here’s MOD on how the system works:
And here they are on their LABS initiative to connect the environment with a community of builders:
Also, a ton of resources on the Cycling ’74 side – they also partnered with MOD for the launch of Dwarf on Kickstarter.
I actually hope I find more time to play around with this thing; it’s a great prototyping environment as well as musical tool. But it’s also worth saying, you don’t actually need to use Max to benefit from that Max integration. Playing through those SHIRO effects, you can hear that it’s already born real fruit.
The MOD Dwarf remains the deepest standalone multi-effects device I’ve laid my hands on, ever. It’s quickly become the go-to for adding effects to synths and even (with an adapter cable and maybe a pre) vocal input, just because it can more into whatever I might need. And it’s the closest to being able to do that isn’t a computer – only Maschine+ comes close in the stuff I’ve tried.
On its own, the one real disadvantage is that it lies somewhere between a desktop device and a floor unit. The tradeoff means it’s flexible, but it seems like for serious performance use you would eventually want to add controller hardware. For my part, I found myself getting a bit lazy and making heavy use of the onboard controllers, then mashing the footswitches. But I think I just need to put that USB host to work – and it is at least theoretically desirable to have something to stomp on live.
It’s just that the effects sound so good. On a budget, yes, you could probably make do with some DIY devices, but there’s nothing quite this polished out of the box – the hardware, the Max support, the powerful editor, and most of all this incredible library of effects for free or cheap. The competition really is the computer, and it is nice not to have to sweat that sometimes (“computer” in iPad or notebook PC/Mac form).
It’s also quiet – or it was, at least, once I swapped out what seems to have been a faulty PSU. (It runs happily on a pretty standard connector and power draw.)
Most of all, it’s been musically inspiring – especially those Shiro options. I took it with me to a show at about blank called arch and used it as the effect for a Moog Matriarch and an Arturia MicroBrute – each routed individually to one channel so I could choose effects routings for each. That show will be available soon, but here is a track – recorded live – that is just me jamming on the MicroBrute and effects on the MOD Dwarf. That is a pretty good endorsement, I think, given the Arturia synth goes off into totally new worlds even with just a single voice.
So yes, I do remain a bit uncertain about the controls and it is worth considering other platforms. But it’s tough to beat this one because of its immediacy, polish, and depth.
It’s just a beautiful instrument to use. If you can spare the cash, it can easily become the one effect for everything. I can’t wait to play with it again soon.
Bonobo has announced a new album, ‘Fragments’, which will drop via Ninja Tune on 14th January 2022.
The record features guest appearances from Jordan Rakei, O’Flynn, Kadhja Bonet, Joji, Jamila Woods, and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. As the title suggests, the tracks were born from fragments of ideas, which were then experimented with and fused together.
Touching on UK bass, Detroit house and techno, soul, ambient, and sublime electronic balladry, the first single to be taken from the full length outing, ‘Rosewood’, has already been unveiled. Visual work for both album and single has been created by Neil Krug, who also provided cover art for the previous Bonobo LP, 2017’s ‘Migration’, which took the producer across the globe to play in front of 2million people.
“I remembered all over again how much I loved crowds and movement and people connecting with each other,” said Bonobo — real name Simon Green — of how ‘Fragments’ is really an ode to different dancefloors.
In addition to the LP, the three-time Grammy nominated artist has also confirmed a world tour next year, including three dates at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May. He also plays Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, Leeds, and Nottingham in the UK; and Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Paris, Munich, Cologne, and Zurich in Europe.
An extensive North American leg is also booked in, with shows hitting Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, among several other cities.
This is the latest in a string of major album announcements from Ninja Tune. Most recently label bosses Coldcut unveiled plans for a huge ambient album featuring productions from Ryuichi Sakamoto, Julianna Barwick, Helena Hauff, and Skee Mask. Bonobo’s ‘Black Sands’ made it into DJ Mag’s list of albums that defined the 2010s.
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