Monday, June 30, 2008

Korg Kaoss Pad 3

Ever since the first Kaoss Pad, I knew I wanted one, and the KP3 is the best one yet, in aesthetics and features.  I picked this up for a very good price in Tokyo last year, and it's been in heavy use since. 

Korg Kaoss Pad 3

Build Quality
Quite simply superb.  The metal chasis looks great and feels like it could withstand residency in a nightclub or rigorous touring.  The rubber pads feel solid enough to hit rhythmically, but the slider feels a little weak. 

Sound Quality
The sound quality on the KP3 is hit and miss.  For basic FX like delays and filters, the KP3 sounds great, and the Granular and Distortion FX are definitely useful.  But admittedly alot of the more advanced FX are pretty weak.  The reverb is pretty horrible, and the vocoder is downright unusable. 
One of the FX paramaters is a Synth with one pad-axis for pitch and the other axis for a low-pass filter.  This synth sounds surprisingly good, and the white-noise generator is hugely useful for cymbol crash-type wooshes. 
All FX are in the form of presets, which are essentially untweakable apart from via the pad itself.  This can get a bit frustrating when you're used to being able to delve into paramaters. 
In terms of sheer sound quality, the KP3 can be fairly easily out-shone by many plugins. 

Features
The KP3 is not only an FX unit, but also a very useful MIDI Controller.  By holding down the Shift-key and hitting Pad 8, you enter "Ext.Mode", wherein the FX are bypassed and the pad turns into 8 vertical sliders, with all buttons sending CC messages via the MIDI Out or USB connection. 
Another feature of course is the ability to trigger Samples via the 4 sample trigger pads at the front of the unit.  If you've got an SD Card, load up your samples onto the card from your computer, and assign them to the 4 pads.  Downloading the latest OS is a must here, as you can assign different triggering methods to the 3 pads.

I make use of all these features live, and use my KP3 as a MIDI Controller, vocal FX unit and Sampler. 

Check out this clip, which was made with the Graintable FX on the KP3:
[audio:http://www.thecrystallineeffect.com/KP3_VocalExport_001.mp3]

Incidentally, the vase in-frame is by Zaha Hadid, and of course the mic is a Sure SM58.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Moog Little Phatty

This is my Moog Little Phatty:

Moog Little Phatty

There are many like it but this one is mine!  I must master it as I must master my life!  My Moog and myself are the masters of our enemy!  We are the saviours of industrial! 

It sounds over the top but this is honestly the feeling one gets when one purchases a Moog analogue synth.  It's a feeling of loyalty, like you just bought a real musical instrument, that you will want to keep for the rest of your life.  This beast contains only 2 oscillators and 1 low-pass filter, but it has so much soul, that you would never accuse it of being light on features. 

Check out this demo.  It's a modified excerpt from a Crystalline Effect song about to be released.  It was created by the moog, with FX provided by the Kaoss Pad 3. 
[audio:http://www.thecrystallineeffect.com/Moogdemo001.mp3]

That bassline is so phat, that I could just listen to it oscillating all day.  In fact I've been using the LP for almost all of my basslines.  You'd be missing the point if you expected the LP to create supersaw-type leads and complex FX, but what the LP does is provide foundations you can trust

The tuning is a bit of an issue, with the autotune feature being best described as iffy
I got the Stage Edition.  Moog recently came out with a "version 2" of the LP, that contains among other things a USB slot.  I'm not too disappointed about this new version though, as to me it says that Moog thinks the LP is so strong that they would release a new version rather than forget about it and move on.  There has already been an OS update, offering an Arpeggiator and MIDI Clock Sync, among other things, and the synth can be combined nicely with the Moog range of Moogerfooger FX, so that there is plenty of expandability and upgradability. 

The main thing with this synth is to know what you're getting yourself into.  Unless you're absolutely certain, it's probably not the best first synth.  But when you're ready for a real Moog, you won't regret it. 
If I may continue with the Full Metal Jacket references; may your days of point-n-clicking Arturia-Jane-Rottencrotch through it's purty GUI be over!  Grab a Moog LP and be faithful to your tool of iron and rubber.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Audiophonics seeking reference group

Audiophonics is a small Swedish company currently developing a piece of software that automatically composes music, based on certain user-set paramaters. 

"Imagine everyone having freshly made music, customized to perfectly fit the different moods and situations they might encounter throughout the day - the Soundscape of the Future."


They are currently seeking users to fill a Reference Group pool in order to develop their product.  I signed up!  If you'd like to as well, go here


I'm very interested to hear what they use for instrumentation of these pieces.  It looks to me like the end-product will be a piece of software for small devices such as mobile phones, that generate music based on what you want to listen to, and use some sort of in-built polyphonic soft-synth for the sounds.  This is just an educated guess - they could have something completely different planned! 



The first piece of music software I ever used was a program on the Mac Classic called Band In A Box.  You could enter in a chord progression, select a style from a drop-down list (unfortunately there was no "grunge" much to my chagrin, as this was circa 1994), hit play, and it would output MIDI to an external device (in our case a Yahama MU5).  This made a great little backing track to practice guitar over. 
Similarly, when it comes to video games, I love the ones that automatically generate maps.  This made Diablo so addictive and replayable for me. 


Audiophonics' software is probably an implementation of these basic principles, for a much more commercial and less musical market.  Regardless, let's see how their automatic compositions sound! 

Korg announces a hideous new MIDI controller range

Coming later in 2008 will be Korg's new contribution to the MIDI controller market, the Nano range:



I'm sorry but I find these utterly hideous!  They are the least cool musical accessories I've ever seen.  I generally love white pieces of electronic equipment, such as the Virus Polar and the Waldorf Blofeld, and a combination of white & blue sounds so cyber and futuristic that it really should work.  So why is it that these Korg Nano controllers look so un-cool? 

Maybe it's because I prefer the gritty realism of Blade Runner to the polished white plastic aesthetic of Star Wars.  Maybe it's just that these controllers look so un-musical and hence uninspiring.  Either way, I'm happy with my Novation SLZero. 

More info on the Korg website.

A few PSP mini-reviews

I just finished God of War: Chains of Olympus and I must agree with 90% of the reviews out there that state that this is one of the best games for the PSP.  At so many points I forgot I was playing a handheld.  The cinematic approach to gameplay really sucks you in, and the top notch up-tempo score really keeps things moving along if you play with headphones. 
The quick response of the controls makes gameplay very satisfying.  You feel very much "in control" of your character, "Kratos". 
Initially I wasn't sure about the Ancient Greek theme of this game, which has never been one to float my boat, but the story was so well done and executed with gorgeous cinematics that I was drawn right in.  
The level design and gameplay basically feels like Lego Star Wars with some extra button-matching minigames, not that there's anything wrong with that. 
The only downside to this game is the incredibly short length of the campagn, which took about 2 evenings to get through.  Still, I believe there are now some challenge modes of sorts that I am yet to look into, which may or may not lend some replayability to the game. 

I also saw some good reviews about Monster Hunter Freedom 2, which professed to be as much like an MMO as possible, which apealled to me.  I could seriously imagine sinking hundreds of hours into this game, which is grind-tastic.  However, it feels clunky to play and the graphics are a bit artifacty.  Combat, which comprises most of the grinding I assume, feels horrible.  I guess I shouldn't compare it to the fluidity and responsiveness of God of War but given that I just played it I couldn't help it.  Moving around is frustraring too - the stick is used to move but the d-pad is used to move the camera, making it impossible to manipulate both at once.  It's like going from eating steak to eating cereal, in terms of gameplay and graphics.  I don't think this game is going to get me hooked at all. 

The last game to mention is Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core.  After seeing ads on the London Tube for this game, I knew it had to have a huge production budget.  This game also gets reviewed as favourably as God of War.  I've only had an initial look so far but it looks incredible.  The cinematics are the best I've ever seen on a hand-held, and definitely better than anything from a PS2.  Gameplay initially feels as nice as God of War, but with alot of extra depth and possibilities.  Camera control is done via the L&R bumpers, which feels great.  The levelling system is taken care of via a "lottery" system, which seems a bit in poor taste to give young kids a taste of gambling, but apparantly there is an experience system behind it, so it's not really random.  Visuals are the best I've seen, and the hairstyles, outfits, cityscape settings and trademark giant swords seal the deal.  It really makes me want to start a Japanese Visual Kei band!  I can tell I'm going to play the sh1t out of this game.

London life pt.01

Lloyds Building, London
Lloyds Building, London

This is the Lloyds building in central London.  It was designed by Richard Rogers and the style of architecture is called Technoism, which pertains to the service elements being placed on the exterior of the building.  Apparantly the Londoners hated this building when it came out in the late 70's for this strong aesthetic, but the building is quite amazing to see in reality. 

It sits in a space surrounded by other buildings of similar stature, so the Lloyds building unfortunately doesn't particularly impact upon the London skyline.  There's also nothing in the way of a public space opening up to this building, as opposed to Paris' Pompidou Centre by the same architect and in the same Technoism style, which opens into a large public space. 

Pompidou Centre, Paris
Pompidou Centre, Paris

The Lloyds building gives a futuristic or at least forward-looking feeling because it's not a public attraction, but an example of a functional building in an alternative style of architecture. 

Photo Credit: Virul3nt & Pdeathfaerie