This week has been Bitwig week.
They originally sent me a free copy when it first came out, in exchange for any technical feedback I could give them, so I dived in and really liked what I found. After a short while, though, it became apparent that it wasn’t entirely finished, so I sent them a couple of long emails detailing what I thought needed fixing [which they thanked me for] and put it away, hoping that the next version would feel a bit more complete.
v1.1 was released this week so I updated and gave it another try.
I’m *very* happy to report that they have most definitely been putting the hours in, because the list of bugfixes is enormous, the list of improvements similarly so, and the new features are superb.
Now, I promise this isn’t some kind of greasy ‘endorsement’ thing, where they give me a free sequencer in exchange for glowing reviews on the internet. All they ever asked me for was technical feedback [which is more than any other software company has ever asked me for: none of the others have ever even answered my fucking emails!] I’m raving about it because I think it is the first genuinely innovative sequencer I’ve used since Ableton Live, thirteen years ago, and they seem genuinely interested in what their potential users think of their software.
The new Note Mod and Audio Mod devices are preposterously brilliant and the overall effect is that of a fully integrated environment, where everything does what you hope it is going to and there are none of the seemingly arbitrary blocks to creativity you find in other programs.
It just seems to suck the music out of you! I keep sitting down with it, to see if I can find its shortcomings and, within 45 minutes, coming up with these absurd musical Heath Robinson devices, where the volume of *this* is modulating the LFO speed of *that* and the midi notes of *this* are modulating the phaser depth of *that*…
Bitwig plainly owes a lot to the design innovations of Ableton Live and no doubt there is an element of them ‘riding on giant’s shoulders’. I’m aware of the connection between the two companies but they way Bitwig have taken the idea and turned it into everything I hoped Live would become, but didn’t, is very gratifying.
Tabbed projects, hybrid tracks, clips AND arrangement on the same screen, totally interconnectable and modular by design [and set to become more so, if their press is to be believed] and no fucking MAX MSP in sight! The arrange window ‘reads’ left to right, with the mixer controls on the left like EVERY other sequencer EVER [Ableton, wtf were you thinking?] and the plugin delay compensation works so well I completely forgot to think about it.
It would appear that Bitwig have been listening more attentively to Ableton Live’s user-base than Ableton have.
If it proves to be as bulletproof stable as Ableton 9 has been [on my system anyway] I can see me using it live, and if they can resist filling it full of pointless DAW bloat [no fucking score editor and multisampled oboes!] and keep it light and focussed, I think it’s going to go on to become a classic, and an incredible tool for the generation of live electronic music.
I also reckon there will have been some pretty terse developer meetings at Ableton Headquarters this week.
It’s New Year’s Eve in Kentucky!
Bring in the new year with me, Bluetech and Aytiko at The Madison Theatre, Covington, Kentucky.
This will be my only US show for 2014 and I’ll be wheeling out all my new songs for the occasion. And I get to hang out with my awesome friend Bluetech. Excited excited excited….
31st December at Madison Theater
w/ Ott, Bluetech, Aytiko
Doors at 8:00PM, Show at 9:00PM
$20 (1st 100 tickets), $25 advance, $30 at door
My merchandise page on Bandcamp is down for a bit while we count up what we have and incorporate some new stock.
We have loads of new t-shirts and the Blumenkraft CDs are nearly ready so I’ll let you know when it’s back up.
Downloads are still available as usual.
Check out my new studio!
I recently came to the conclusion that, while my studio is fantastic for recording, arranging and mixing, it’s not the most inspiring environment for writing songs. It lacks natural light and presents too many technical options for me to maintain focus on just devising patterns of chords and melodies. Sometimes you just need a good set of basic tools and an inspiring location – and after years of searching I finally found a solution.
My laptop has been capable of providing all of the sequencing and synth tools I needed since about 2003 but the problem has always been the speakers. I’ve tried all kinds of portable speakers and headphones but nothing has ever done the trick. Headphones feel too claustrophobic for me: it feels wrong to be sitting in the open, surrounded by lovely ambient sound only to block it all out with a pair of sweaty headphones.
All of the portable speakers I’ve tried sounded crap and needed AC powering so lacked portability – until now.
That groovy little silver box you see in the photo is my Audio Dynamix Atom V2 and it is absolutely incredible. I bought it six months ago on a recommendation from my brother and from the moment I plugged it in I knew it was special.
It has two 5w drivers in a sealed enclosure [this is an important detail, which I’ll get to in a moment] and a passive bass radiator which provides the bottom end. It uses Bluetooth v4 and also has a stereo minijack in which is great if I want to switch off Bluetooth to save battery on the Atom and the laptop. The battery charges quickly and lasts forever – I get two or three days on a single charge – and it will charge from any USB socket, including the laptop itself.
But the real wow is the sound.
I’ve tried every single portable speaker under the sun because I spend a lot of time on tour rattling around in soulless hotel rooms, desperate to avoid switching on the TV, and listening to music is the saviour of my sanity. Nothing I ever tried really hit the spot, sonically speaking, with most suffering from mushy, indistinct transient reproduction and lame attempts to hype the bass. I tried Jawbone, Bose, JBL, Logitec etc etc in airport gadget shops around the world but nothing ever persuaded me to part with the cash.
The Atom, on the other hand, is a revelation.
Whether it is by amazing design or pure dumb luck, Audio Dynamix have created a speaker which rivals my studio monitors in terms of clarity and transient response. The midrange is uncluttered and smooth, the top end is astonishingly clear and the bass is, quite frankly, remarkable. By designing the Atom as a sealed enclosure they have created a tiny box which reproduces bass transients every bit as crisply as my studio monitors, which just happen to be Yamaha NS10m Studio speakers powered by a Bryston 4B SST amp.
Transient response is important in a speaker – more important than anything else in my opinion – because it gives the speaker it’s clarity and ‘truth’. A speaker with fast transient response will give you more information about the true shape of your audio waveform than a speaker which is slower to react. Sealed-enclosure speakers provide a faster bass transient response than their ported equivalents, and this is where the Atom becomes most useful to me.
In practice it means that I now have a rechargeable speaker system no bigger than a generous ham salad sandwich which is capable of reproducing sound as truthfully and reliably as my industry-standard studio monitoring system. I shit you not. The future is truly here.
As a test, I did some mixes of demos for my forthcoming album [no, I’m afraid you can’t hear them – yet…] alternately using my Atom and my NS10s. Anyone who knows how I mix will know I like to work quietly on tiny speakers, switching to the NS10s every hour or so to make sure I haven’t wandered wildly off course. Since 1996 I have relied on my trusty old Sony radio/cassette player with the line-in sockets but for this test I swapped that for the Atom.
I was astonished to discover that, when switching from the Atom to the NS10s and back to the Atom, the character of the sound hardly changed at all. My ears adjusted in seconds rather than the five-or-so minutes they need when switching between the NS10s and my Adam A7-Xs. It sounded like the same mix, only physically smaller and quieter. Mixes I did on the Atom translated perfectly to every system I tried them on.
At Rainbow Serpent festival in Australia this year I spent the time before my set in my hotel room with my laptop and my Atom, creating from scratch some new bits for my DJ set. This involved mixing drum loops and bass parts and filtered parts of old reggae tunes. When it came time to play them loud on the Funktion One rig at the festival I was a little nervous, in case I’d misjudged the bottom end on the Atom’s tiny 5w drivers – but it translated perfectly.
If you’re looking for something which will fill your room with monstrously hyped bass then the Atom isn’t that. It doesn’t have a ’Super-Mega-Quake-Bass-Shit-Your-Pants’ button or a tuned port which makes the bass line sound like it was played on a giant kazoo.
What it delivers, in the entire frequency range, is tight, clear, focussed sound with a ‘just right’ feel to it all the way up and down. I love it for listening to music in the bath, in the kitchen, in the garden and in hotel rooms while I’m on the road, and especially in the studio.
For the next few months, whilst I’m writing new songs, it will be joining me in the woods with my wood stove, my laptop and a backdrop of birdsong.
[And, in case you were wondering, I bought my Atom V2 with my own money.]
I think it’s time I made a new record – and you can help.
Fresh, crisp mountain air, grubby, painted people and massive stacks of bass bins.
It can only be Sonic Bloom.
See you there, Coloradicals.
Skylon CDs are back in stock – properly this time…
My inaugural visit to Florida. First sign of an alligator-eating python and I’m outta there.
Back in the city that never goes to bed: the longest continuous party ever thrown…