NI has retired Absynth soft synth after 22 years; here’s a statement from its creator

Music software instruments are entering something of a mid-life crisis – and one landmark is the cancellation this week of Absynth by NI/Soundwide. Creator Brian Clevinger has recorded a statement.

Native Instruments changes in ownership and leadership have already brought with them significant cuts to key designers and engineers, through layoffs and other attrition. Absynth is now the first major visible product casualty at NI and its new parent Soundwide. (Worst corporate name ever. Best brand name is still Mark of the Unicorn. Try harder, folks.)

Here’s what the product’s original creator, Brian Clevinger, has to say about its demise after 22 years:

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Too Long:Didn’t Read/Watch:

  • Absynth is dead
  • Brian would have been happy to work with NI on a new version/reboot, and NI wasn’t up for it
  • You can still enjoy Brian’s software at Rhizomatic
  • 22 years was a pretty good run (agreed)

I’ll look at Komplete 14 separately; I know for many users their interest won’t hinge on Absynth.

Absynth is a peculiar instrument, and one that was badly in need of an update – no one would argue otherwise. But creator Brian Clevinger, who continues to develop software at Absynth’s original parent Rhizomatic, does confide that he was more than willing to return to NI to reboot his instrument brainchild.

And with Komplete 14, Native Instruments is effectively down one flagship soft synth. Reaktor is still there, and various instruments created on it, but you’ll notice that the K14 marketing doesn’t really mention synthesis at all. That’s, how shall we say, peculiar. The production community goes crazy about obscure modular synths, even as corporate marketing seems to only want to talk about sound packs.

I’m not sure any bundle that includes Reaktor really needs anything else, let alone another soft synth. But it does raise the question of why one of the developers that popularized the software synthesizer seems now to shy away from actually talking about them.

There are a couple of patterns to notice here. One, while it made a big difference in 2000 that Absynth was discovered by Native Instruments, I’m not sure that developers need big publishers to achieve success anymore. Remember that in 2000 people were even still buying software in boxes. Now customers are more than happy to grab independent software from developers a la carte – which also means, NI, they may not much care that there’s an updated version of Native Access that lets them search by genre. (That is, Native Access has to compete with Google and word of mouth for the same task.)

Two, the focus on business cases by big brands seems to eclipse any interest in instruments and personality. Never mind that the production community found Massive and Serum on their own and eagerly exchanged tips on how to use them. Corporate music tech marketing thinks you need a helper app that tells you which sound packs to use to get a particular genre.

Vintage software

And I’d argue there’s another trend to observe: we’ve reached the point in software instruments where, like hardware, older titles might weirdly be set for revival. That’s not just as a business case for people who used them the first time around. Because of how design ideas in technology tend to come in cycles, it means we’re now set to reevaluate software from the 90s and 2000s with fresh eyes.

And it’s weird on some level that software makers haven’t worked out how to capitalize on that. The DAW on some level is its own franchise – Logic, Performer, Reason, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Cubase all now carry the banner of their past releases. But that means a lot of ideas have fallen through the cracks.

Music developers might take a look at games, especially with parts shortages threatening to limit hardware growth. The gaming industry has problems of its own (does it ever), but at least the games business has found it can plumb creations from past decades and make enormous profits, partly because people like the stuff from that era – folks who played it at the time, plus new customers. Heck, you can subscribe to video game channels by key composers and game designers, play 90s titles (Live A Live was a big hit this summer), and buy limited-run physical editions of all kinds of games that already came out years ago. Music isn’t quite like games, but on the other hand – given the appetite for vintage hardware, why has no one figured it out? (See below – Bram Bos did figure it out, re-releasing an instrument he created before Brian, and a bunch of people bought the result.)

At the very least, it may well be time to start to write the history of the soft synth, especially since even the creator of Absynth it appears is forgetting some of that history. He’s right that he was is the creator of one of the longest-running instruments, but I think a little off that only Reaktor and Max share that category. Let’s set the record straight there. Just a few non-NI examples:

1996: Pure Data (no big deal, only runs in your modular and powers a ton of iOS games and apps)

1996: SuperCollider (no big deal, only helped launch a worldwide live coding movement…)

1997: Bram Bos Hammerhead (and now it’s on your iPad! and … brilliant, actually)

2000: Propellerhead (now Reason Studios) Reason

2000: Emagic ES1 (and the UI is exactly the same today in Logic – no, seriously, have a look!)

2000: Emagic EXS (then called the Emagic Xtreme Sampler 24 Bit (EXS24))

2001: Steinberg HALion (someone can probably dig into Steinberg’s history and suggest an earlier version since VST is their invention)

1958: Csound (okay, okay… 1986, I’m being cheeky, though you could make an argument for 1958 if you wanted)

That leaves out trackers and so on, which are directly intertwined with what has happened with gaming hardware and software.

This is not a comprehensive list, but it’s not lost on me that there are two general patterns – either open source, community-developed efforts on one hand or tools that were part of a DAW on the others. (Surge is a youngster from 2005, so that doesn’t count, but it sure has a shot at longevity now!) I think it’s tough to extrapolate what this would look like in 20 years, though. Well… it’s tough to extrapolate how anything looks in 20 years.

Anyway, if anyone wants to get in touch and help me write the Big Book of Soft Synths and/or share a limited-run physical release of your long-lost synthesizer on a golden floppy, I am of course There. For. It.

Probably Gen Z and younger will get the idea of collecting floppies of old instruments even faster than the old folks. I’ll bet you my Kensington trackball.

Go read Sound on Sound’s review of Absynth from 2001:

Native Instruments Absynth

Here’s the music by creator Brian Clevinger from the video, made in Absynth:

And maybe you should just ignore all the above and … we should just focus on Plasmonic. That’s the new Rhizomatic physical modeling synth and a reminder that there are new ideas, plus new features like MPE:

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And here you go – here’s a tutorial for getting started using Absynth from the NI blog. (Uh oh. I hope we didn’t just Mexican Pizza the thing. NI, if you suddenly see surging demand, let’s talk.)

A beginner’s guide to ABSYNTH

Bonobo shares new single and video, ‘ATK’: Watch

Bonobo has shared a new single and video, ‘ATK’, which is out now on his Outlier label in partnership with Ninja Tune. You can watch the clip below.

The first new music from Bonobo since his critically acclaimed album, ‘Fragments’, back in January, the track comes with visuals directed by the McGloughlin Brothers, whose resume includes efforts for the likes of A$AP Rocky and Max Cooper.

“‘ATK’ was made around the same time as ‘Fragments’. Initially a DJ edit of Atakora Manu’s ‘Dada’, it became something fuller and a track of its own. I felt it was a little too bashy to fit on the album and wanted to save it as an Outlier release to be aimed more at the dance floor,” said Bonobo, AKA Simon Green, of the new material, referencing legendary Ghanaian Highlife guitarist, Manu, an acclaimed composer, studio engineer, and founder of Kakaiku No.2 Band with Moses Kweku Oppong. 

“We wanted to create a minimal film embodying ideas of serendipity and perception, allowing the world to reveal itself in unusual ways spontaneously. If you have ever looked out of a train window to see the wires and tiles weave and dance in a magical way, this, in essence, is what we wanted to capture in our film. Our own living ‘zoetrope’,” said the McGloughlin Brothers. 

Bonobois currently on a world tour, including a recent five-night residency at London’s Royal Albert Hall — the longest ever run for a solo artist in the venue’s history. This summer, festival sets have included Glastonbury, Lost Village, Sonar Barcelona and Fuji Rock, with forthcoming shows in the US at Brooklyn Mirage (25th September), and The Greek Theatre in Berkeley (20th October) and Los Angeles (22nd October) before returning to the UK and Europe. A combined global audience of 750,000 will have attended once all dates are finished.

Revisit DJ Mag’s cover feature with Bonobo, ‘The Spaces Between‘, from December 2021.

fabric London announces return of 24+ hour parties

London nightlife institution fabric has announced the return of its 24+ hour party series, Continuum.

After making its debut in 2021, Continuum will return to the EC1 club for another run of marathon parties, kicking off with the 30-hour fabric birthday from the 15th to the 17th October with AFRODEUTSCHE, Dax J, Sonja Moonear and more.

Moving into November, James Ruskin’s Blueprint Records will celebrate its 26th anniversary on the 5th and 6th, with a line-up featuring Ruskin alongside Ben Sims, Dave Clarke, GiGi FM, Nene H and Surgeon.

Elsewhere, in December, Enzo Siragusa‘s London-founded party FUSE will take over the club on the 10th and 11th of the month, before a special weekender with Ricardo Villalobos in February 2023 to celebrate “fabric’s enduring legacy, and Villalobos’ unique and special relationship with the iconic institution”.

You can get tickets for the Continuum parties here.

Premiere: Kelvin T & Takeem ‘Harbor’

Kelvin T & Takeem will release a new collaborative EP, ‘Synthetic’, via Eastern Margins’ label this month. Listen to the opening track, ‘Harbor’, below. 

The Hong Kong DJ/producer and MC link up for five cuts that bridge neon-hued gutter and cloud rap stylings with hyperpop, deconstructed club and brash electro. A scrappy, sugar-rush-inducing mixture of hyped-up sounds and auto-tuned vocals, the EP feels simultaneously tied to the Hong Kong underground rave scene the pair both came up in, and the HD productions of PC Music’s A.G. Cook or  Nikki Minaj. Recorded with minimal equipment – literally just Kelvin T’s laptop – it’s still a devoutly DIY affair, and thrives off the raw, experimental energy that process provides. 

The EP is also an ode to Hong Kong venue XXX, a crucial hub for the city’s underground nightlife scene that was sadly shut in 2018 due to licensing issues and rising rents. The duo’s collaboration on ‘Synthetic’ is a reflection of the community spirit they felt from that venue when it was open, and signals their hope for a new wave of underground talent emerging within Hong Kong’s scene. 

The EP marks the 10th release on Eastern Margins, the London-based collective and label that celebrates East and Southeast Asian artists in club culture around the world. 

‘Synthetic’ will be released on 15th September. Pre-order it here

BBC Radio 1 opens applications for Christmas Takeover presenters

BBC Radio 1 has opened applications for new presenters.

After launching in 2019, this year’s BBC R1 Christmas Takeover is set to welcome a host of new presenters between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day 2022.

Created by Head of BBC Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, the Christmas Takeover invites DJs and presenters with previous radio experience from community, hospital, student or local stations to apply for a chance to broadcast on the station across the festive period.

Applications for this year are open now via the Radio 1 website and close at midnight on Thursday 22nd September. DJs and presenters must submit a demo to the BBC R1 uploader, which will be kept on the BBC Radio servers after the application window closes, allowing the demo to be considered by other BBC radio stations in the future.

A number of the former Christmas Takeover guest presenters have landed permanent slots on Radio 1, most recently 2020’s Dean McCullough and Vicky Hawkesworth, who are now presenters of BBC R1’s 1pm – 3.30pm slot.

Speaking about the takeover, Aled Haydn Jones said: “Since its launch in 2019, Radio 1’s Christmas Takeover has provided a platform for some of the UK’s most exciting, undiscovered radio presenters and has enabled huge successes both within Radio 1 and elsewhere in national radio, which is testament to the importance and power of this initiative. We’re proud to have discovered some incredible talent within the past three years and look forward to seeing what this next round brings.”

You can apply for the BBC Radio 1 Christmas Takeover via the up and coming uploader here.

(Photo via BBC)

Chris Kaba, 23-year-old rapper of drill group 67, shot dead by police in London

Chris Kaba, a 23-year-old rapper who was a member of the drill group 67, has been named as the man who was shot dead by officers from the Metropolitan Police following a police pursuit in London on the evening of Monday, 5th September.

The shooting in Streatham Hill happened at around 10pm, with Kaba being pronounced dead in the early hours of Tuesday, 6th September, a few hours after sustaining his injuries.

The independent police watchdog, which is investigating the incident, said a single round had been fired by armed officers. Officers used the tactic of deliberately crashing the car that Kaba, who was known as Madix or Mad Itch 67, was riding in in order to bring an end to the pursuit, but ultimately shot the man shortly after.

67 have previously been nominated for a MOBO award, and Kim Alleyne, 49, whose daughter Karima Waite was engaged to Mr. Kaba, said he had been due to become a father.

Speaking to press after his death, Alleyne said: “He was so loved. He was so funny. He was super-kind. Crazy. He was always happy. He’d do anything for you.

“He was a fiancé, he was due to get married in five months’ time. He’s got a baby on the way that he’s never going to see. It’s horrible and so shocking and so sad.”

Speaking about the “tremendous amount of pain” that her daughter was in following Kaba’s death, Alleyne alleged that Kaba would have been given a chance to get out of the car had he been white.

Mr Kaba’s cousin, Jefferson Bosela, 27, described the rapper as a “loving, good person” in comments made to the BBC.

He added: “I’ve put it out there he wasn’t perfect, but regardless of that nobody deserves to be killed by the police unless there is an imminent or direct threat to the public, which at that moment in time, from what I’m hearing, he was not.”

Synthesist Mark Shreeve Has Died At 65

British synthesist Mark Shreeve died August 31, 2022, at the age of 65.

Shreeve was part of the first generation of synthesists inspired by the ‘Berlin School’ music of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.  He was prolific as a solo artist, starting with Embryo and Ursa Major in the ’80s, but is probably best known to synthesists for his work in modern Berlin School groups Redshift and Arc.

Redshift (Mark Shreeve, Julian Shreeve, James Goddard, Rob Jenkin, Ian Boddy) built on the late ’70s sound of Tangerine Dream and created its own take on the classic Berlin School sound – less experimental than first generation Berlin School artists, but often more polished and melodic.

The group released over a dozen albums, starting with the self-titled Redshift:

The music was composed and arranged by Mark Shreeve. Redshift’s music owes an obvious debt to ’70s Tangerine Dream, contrasting ambient soundscapes with melodic sections, driven by propulsive sequenced Moog modular basslines. But Shreeve dug deep into the space carved out by TD albums like Phaedra and Rubycon, and demonstrated that there’s a lot more interesting musical territory to be explored.

Shreeve also paired with fellow British synthesist and DiN label founder Ian Boddy, releasing a great series of albums as Arc.

Arc released a series of sophisticated second-generation Berlin School albums, most of which document live performances by the duo. Here’s an excerpt from 2009 from Arc’s live performance on the Stars End radio show, from WXPN Philadelphia:

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Shreeve’s best known work, though, would be as one of the writers for Samantha Fox’s ’86 debut hit, Touch Me (I Want Your Body).

The hit came about as a bizarre stroke of luck.

“It was originally a 13-minute piece of ‘cosmic’ music dating from 1982,” explained Shreeve in a 1995 Sound On Sound interview. He put it together using a Sequential Pro One, Yamaha CS-30 and a Dr Rhythm drum machine.

“I didn’t know anything about the structure of pop music at all. Most of my compositions back then were about 15 minutes long.”

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“When I was doing the Legion album, we started working up this track with all the others, but with the idea that we’d have some vocals on it,” he added. “They called in John Astrop, a producer and writer who had also been in a pop band. He went downstairs and came back with the ‘Touch Me (I Want Your Body)’ words. I thought to myself, ‘No one is going to buy this stuff in a million years’ — boy, was I wrong!”

The song was an international hit, peaking at #4 on the Billboard charts in the US.

“In these days, when so much live electronic music consists of a guy staring into the light of a laptop screen,” notes Echoes host John Diliberto, “It was a joy to watch Mark Shreeve bounding about his large modular synthesizer, throwing switches, moving patch cords, and twisting knobs, shaping and shifting his interlocking cycles of sound in real-time.”

Yamaha MODX+ Introduction & Overview

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The latest Yamaha Synths Tech Talk takes an in-depth look at the new MODX+ synthesizer.

Hosted by Senior Product Specialist Blake Angelos, the session features Yamaha experts from around the world, sharing their take on the new synth.

The MODX+ is powered by the same technologies found in Yamaha’s flagship MONTAGE synthesizer, including the AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory 2) sample and synthesis engine and the FM-X (Frequency Modulation) synth engine. MODX+ Motion Control gives you simultaneous control of up to 128 parameters.

The three new synthesizers in the MODX+ line feature 1.75 GB of internal flash memory, an upgrade of 75 percent compared to the original models, giving you more space for custom samples and synth sound libraries. The MODX+ synths also offer more polyphony, with 128- note stereo AWM2 and 128-note FM-X polyphony.

See the Yamaha site for more info.

Learn more here:

New Roland Store, ‘The Music Store Of The Future’, Opens In London

Roland Corporation has announced the opening of a Roland Store in the heart of London’s Denmark Street, an area known for its connections to the UK music scene.

While previous Roland stores have largely been a store-within-a-store in Guitar Center stores around the US, the London Roland Store is standalone, designed to give customers access to the full range of Roland and BOSS products.

Roland says that they also plan to make classic products available via the Store. 

Regular onsite workshops and masterclasses, along with post sale ‘care sessions’, are available to help customers get the most from their gear.

The store will also feature Roland’s proprietary Audience Specific Experience (ASX) technology, where the store’s lighting, audio and video content are tailored to your individual taste. They say that this is an opportunity to experience the music store of the future.

David Vazquez, CEO of Roland Europe says “We’re delighted to be able to support our customers in central London, and our retail partners nationwide, by showcasing an exciting range of Roland and BOSS products in a brand new Denmark Street showroom.

Denmark Street is often described as the birthplace of the British music industry, where iconic artists such as Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols and David Bowie lived and made music.

The store is now open at 10 Denmark Street, London.

New Music From Brian Eno – ‘We Let It In’

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Brian Eno shared the music video for We Let It In, from his upcoming album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, which is scheduled to be released October 14th, 2022.

FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE is the 22nd solo studio album from Eno and the first since January 2017’s Reflection. The new album sees Eno working in song mode, with singing on the majority of tracks.

With We Let It In, though, Eno seems to finding a middle ground between the approaches he’s used with his ambient music and his vocal albums.

It’s available now to pre-order.