Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Incredible Free VSTs and AUs: Togu Audio Line

Togu Audio Line is a free, donation based VST and AU plugin collection from the awesome Patrick Kunz.  These great plugins got my attention a couple months back when some guests mentioned that they used them, and more recently I've seen that even the mighty Fred Falke is a fan.

I strongly encourage you to donate to this guy if you get some of his plugins, because they're way too much of a steal.  I'll list off a few that he has up for grabs:

The TAL-U-No-62, which is based off of a Roland Juno 60, is great for polyphonic sounds.  Seen above, it's a great way to get an idea of a Juno 60 without breaking your bank.  There's also the TAL-Chorus-60, which is what Fred Falke used in one of his tracks.  This is a great way to add the very famous vintage chorus to any synth, let alone a Juno imitator.

The TAL-Bassline is based off of the Roland SH-101, another classic synth.  Off the top of my head, both guests Frankmusik and Starsmith used the real deal.  This is perfect to put together a great low end, or even a lead on your track.

The TAL-NoiseMaker is another synth plugin.  Not based on a retro synth, but plenty of options to mess around with too, especially if you're trying to go more "modern" and don't want the limitations of the classics.

There's even more on the site, including an EQ, a Reverb, a Vocoder, and more.  This is the PERFECT place to start if you want some free plugins straight away on your new DAW (or even something like Garageband!)  Part of the reason these types of plugins are so desirable is they limit you in the way the classic synths did-- that's why the programmers of the 80s were so awesome.  They invented ways to get great sounds out of some synths that weren't easily programmed or didn't have a ton of options.

Check out the site here and be sure to donate if you download!  I'm sure the programmer appreciates any little bit he can get for his time.

Marina and the Diamonds - Radioactive [Starsmith Rework]

Apologies for being out of the posting loop the past couple days... I'll be on my best to get more posts up soon!

So this track isn't even going to be released, which is a shame, because it's some of Starsmith's best remix work.  The track is Marina and the Diamonds' "Radioactive" off of her next record, Electra Heart.  I haven't heard the original (not sure if it's even out) but this remix really nails a great groove and gets the feet shuffling.  Starsmith's really developed into an excellent producer.  Why isn't this being released you ask?  At this point, there has to be some greater evil working against Starsmith.  I wouldn't  rule out the Illuminati or Freemasons.  There's been a few of his mixes rejected, and the greatest crime of all was his label dropping support for his solo record, which I discussed with him in his interview here.  Hopefully that will be properly released within the next year or two, and not become his equivalent to Weezer's Songs from the Black Hole.

Fin, if you're listening, never stop making great music.

Check back for more posts soon!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From the desk of the Sympathizer...

So we've just cracked 70 posts, and hit 10,000 visits a week or two ago, so it's been a really exciting time for me as the writer of this site.  When I started this site in May, I didn't think it would be where it is right now-- I've gotten to interview many great artists, some of whom I even consider favorites, and others that are soon to be favorites as they release more music.

Something I've noticed with many of the guests is that there's now a blurred line in music production that didn't exist 20 years ago.  It used to be common for artists to only write their music and perform it, and the producer would record them, and make their records click and sound well on the radio.  Hiring a good producer and recording in a good studio costed thousands of dollars, so in order to get to that point, unless you were rich, you needed to impress a fair amount of people.  Now, with the advancement of computers, artists are doing almost everything outside of selling their music-- they're writing it, recording it, mixing it, programming it, using all the effects.

It's this sort of production that makes me wonder where the real talent lies in some of the more mainstream cultures of music.  Watching American Idol and the X-Factor shows off a ton of people who have "good" voices (I use quotes because it's really about taste at the end of the day) but many of them-- even most of them-- don't know the first thing about writing songs, or playing an instrument, let alone recording outside of their own voice.

I find it alarming that you can look up the producers of the top ten songs on iTunes and elsewhere and realize that the producers who craft those tracks are the real talent and yet go unnoticed by most of the public.  Would you have guessed that one of the producers who's made Katy Perry's Teenage Dream (the record) such a hit also did Britney Spears, Pink, and even some of N'Sync's hits back in the 90s?  That's all the work of Max Martin, who you've probably never heard of but is consistently selling millions.  What is the value of those singers, besides "good" voices and looks?  As American Idol and X-Factor show us, there's plenty of "good" singers, and with autotune, you don't even need a good singer.

I think part of the reason I'm so drawn to electronic music is the fact that you can usually trust who made it is who made it.  There's no disconnect-- generally the "demos" are what you hear as the final finished record, albiet a bit fatter or better produced in the purely "clean and big" sounding way.  There is, of course, many different levels between the singers who are their producer's marionettes and the producers who are the artists.  Visitor, who were guests a couple months back, send off their demos to Diamond Cut who re-records some synth parts for them.  Starsmith and Ellie Goulding sit in a room together and write, and while Ellie is certainly a talented singer, without her and Starsmith working together, probably wouldn't be quite the hit they were (although it's technically the Ellie Goulding record).

So what does this all mean, really?  I hope there's more acts that work like Ellie and Starsmith, or Visitor and Diamond Cut in the future, or just Producer-Artists.  The producers who work in the shadows on the hits feel so misleading to me.  There's a ton of people (most likely younger people) who probably think someone like Katy Perry is a hit because of her talent-- I won't say she's a bad singer (how can you tell anymore?  Is she auto-tuned, is she even singing live?) but she's certainly not only reason her music sells so well.

A little food for thought on a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The DSI Tempest is almost here...

All you lovers of drum beats and Analog/ Digital combos can rejoice that the much sought after Dave Smith Instruments Tempest is almost here!

The release date of this soon to be legend has been clicked back a few times, but it looks as though we've just about made it-- I've most recently heard it should be just about ready in another week.  If you haven't heard about this thing, be prepared to be talking about it for the next twenty years-- this is just about as classic as it's going to get.  Dave Smith, who helped pioneer polyphony in synths and created the Prophet 5 and Pro One, teamed up with Roger Linn, who created the LinnDrum and other classic drum machines.  Mixing these two together is a recipe for awesome, as they're both incredible innovators in music technology.  Great drum machines seem to be dying down, and analog drum sounds are becoming even rarer, but the Tempest is going to change all that.  Not only does it feature analog oscillators and the warm Curtis filter found in the other DSI products, but it also includes 2 digital oscillators per voice as well.  Not only that, but it also has samples of Roger Linn's older drum machine creations.  This represents such an important step in music tech because of the beautiful marriage of analog and digital sounds, which compliment each other so nicely, as we could see in the DSI Evolver and PolyEvolver.  This is pretty much the perfect piece of equipment if you're looking for a high end drum machine of today-- but enough gushing, watch the video below.

Hopefully we'll see this thing shipping in another week or so-- I'm sure the last little bits are just tiny software issues ironing out and are worth the wait.  After this, who knows what's next for DSI?  They have synths in pretty much every price bracket... perhaps we'll see a keyboard version of Tetra, or something even grander...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Frankmusik Interview: On Do It In The A.M., Erasure, and the perfect Pop Record

Frankmusik is a really exciting artist for me to be able to interview.  His music helped kick start my initial interest in electronic music and the 80s revival.  His track "3 Little Words" off his record Complete Me, along with its awesome retro-feel video was the start of my own personal music evolution.  Not only was "3 Little Words" great, but the rest of the record was an awesome collection of beautifully mixed vintage and new elements, as it featured old-school chip tune style sounds, as well as borderline show-tune piano all expertly crafted. To this date, Frankmusik has inspired many, but no one else has come close to his unique style of beautiful vocals over warm synths, catchy hooks, and classic piano.

Of course, when I heard FM had moved to L.A. for his next record (if I recall correctly, I remember him tweeting in 2009 how if Complete Me wasn't a hit, he wanted to move to L.A. and make a pop record) I was a little concerned.  In my opinion, he'd have to change drastically for US radio.  Was the singer selling out?  My concerns grew when his collaborations with Far East Movement, who are very much in the rap/pop realm of the US currently, landed him on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Was FM trying to be the next US pop star? Would he trade his awesome original niche for a taste of some stateside fame and boring electropop?  I voiced these concerns via Twitter and that's when FM first got in contact with me.

A little over a month ago, I chatted with Frankmusik about his new record, Do It In The A.M., but didn't get enough information at the time for a proper interview.  After seeing him in Philadelphia, he promised to finish up some follow up questions I had sent him via email.  The first set below are from our chat over Skype, and the second half is from our email correspondance.  I've edited the Skype chat a bit to make it more readable and taken out some dialogue, but there was no edits to the words.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Sanfernando Sound remixes Kites & Starlings

The Sanfernando Sound, a guest on the blog a month or so ago, has been recently been keeping his hands full with some awesome remix work.  The most recent is "The Disappearance of Becky Sharp" by Kites, released just a couple days ago.  I'm not familiar with Kites, but they seem to have a great nostalgic feel to them-- a perfect coupling for the talents of The Sanfernando Sound.  This is his second remix for Kites, the first being "A Flower Is All That Remains" shown below.

My personal favorite of the new remixes is of Starlings' "Dark Arts" which is, again, a great retro-sounding track with a whirlwind of classic synths that makes my feet want to shuffle in my chair.  Check out all the great remixes and be sure to watch out for the official release of the remix to "Dark Arts" on October 10th.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Synth Magic's LUCEifer: Awesome Free Poly Moog Emulation for PC

Synth Magic has just showed off a new freebee for all you PC users out there-- sadly I'm a mac user, so I can't be playing with this, but this demo sounds so good I HAVE to show it off.

Judging by the sounds of the YouTube clip above, this one is going to be a hit-- it offers a great emulation of the very famous PolyMoog-- all the sounds are straight Gary Numan and other 80s classics.  Much of the clip even reminds me of Blade Runner and Terminator.  I'd love to hear what you guys think, so be sure to give a shout to me or praise Synth Magic on Twitter for his awesome work.

You can download this VST for free here.  Be sure to check it out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Mix

Below are some recent great tracks that have come through in the past few weeks.  Check them out, and be sure to check out the artist's SoundClouds by clicking their usernames.  Some of the tracks are FREE as well, so be sure to download!

AIMES - 'Sorry Bout Ur Fame' 2011 Summer Promo Mix by Aimes

+ AIMES's record on Beatport and iTunes

Friday, September 9, 2011

Frankmusik Live at the Theater of the Living Arts, Sept 8th 2011

It's been just about 2 years since I last saw Frankmusik live-- the first time FM played as a last minute guest for the Perez Hilton tour and opened the show for 3 other artists.  At that time, Complete Me, his first record, had only been out for a month or so.  The performance was a stellar track by track type set, featuring some beat-boxing.  Much has changed since that show.  FM now lives in LA, and has his upcoming sophomore release Do It In The A.M.. So how did last night's performance compare to 2009's?  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Synthesizer Exhibit in Berlin

Got a very cool email a couple days ago from Germany about a synthesizer exhibition.  I don't know much about the event, but I've read it's actually ending tomorrow, but if you're in Berlin I highly recommend checking it out while you can it ends the 10th, so make sure you check it out!  You can see some pictures here.  There's also more information at that link.

The synths come from the mighty Synthesizer Studio in Hamburg.  You can view their website here.  The site lists some records done at the studio (which I'll now have to check out) as well as all the awesome gear-- I'd love to hang out at that studio.  Be sure to check out that site for more information.  Why can't we have more great synthesizer institutions in the US?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Zenhiser's 80s Drum Collection

A couple weeks ago, I got a copy of Zenhiser's recent sample multi-pack, The 80s Drum Collection. This set consists of 10 of Zenhiser's other sample selections, so not only am I reviewing this entire collection but the individual parts-- three sets of 80s Electro Beats, the Pure 80's Kick Drums, Hi Hats, and Snares & Claps, three sets of Ultra 80's Drum Beats, and the Ultra 80s Drum Kit. All this totals to 885 samples and it's just over a gig in size!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Choosing your first Synth

Korg MicroKorg

One of the questions I see most on the net about synthesizers is everyone asking what they should buy first as a beginner. After looking around, everyone pretty much turns up on one of two-- the MicroKorg and the Alesis Micron. More recently the Akai Miniak  has also become potential first synth, too, but it's supposedly the same sound engine as the Micron. After demoing the MicroKorg  and the Micron years ago to buy my first, I settled on the Micron because it had regular size keys, and I had liked the look of it. I used it for a few shows, using only the presets, and never managed to actually learn how to program it well. It now sits in my bedroom and I've hardly touched it, especially since moving on to bigger and better synths.