Decisions: Can’t keep them all (Part 1)(Elektron Octatrack MkI)

I have a tough decision to make in my studio.   I went and did what I always seem to do and overbought on drum machines/samplers.   I have an absolute weakness for these machines, and there have been some NICE machines released recently. Unfortunately, though, this is just too much to have…particularly for someone who’s mainly using software in his workflow these days.   All that and I just don’t have the desk space…so something has to go.

Its a messy work space.

In no particular order, let’s look at each device and what it has to offer.    I’ll break this up over a few posts over the next few days, so if you’re interested in my take on any of the pictured gear, check back in a few days.

Farewell old friend?

I’ve had the Octatrack a LONG time…almost since it was first released.  With the release of the MKII, I’ve not even thought of upgrading.  Why?  Because they didn’t really upgrade it.   It’s got a new coat of paint and a little bit better button layout…but I’m happy with the current unit.

Old, but reliable.

The Octatrack has hung around specifically because it does a lot of things very well.  It does require a certain level of thinking, though, and planning.    In my use, it’s been much better an FX processor / sound looper than it would ever be a drum machine (though, admittedly, I’ve not used it for that much).   Its MIDI sequencing is pretty powerful, though, and I did try once to have it control a bunch of external MIDI synths.   That was…..OK.  I didn’t honestly like the experience much.   Maybe if it had a keyboard connected…

I don’t think I’d get rid of the Octatrack unless I replaced it with a MKII.   It’s made a great simple mixer for live sets and provides FX processing for other gear (which is, actually, my main use for it).   It’s about as close to a DJ Mixer as I think I’d ever get.    Also, familiarity makes it hard to part with.  I *know* what it does and how it works and how I use it.   That counts for something.




Elektron Analog Keys

I got Analog Keys in trade for my V-Synth GT plus some cash. Kind of did it knowing I could always flip the AKeys for a good value.  But, now that I’ve played with it a bit, I think I’ll keep it for a bit.

Having the keyboard attached makes all the difference. And the layout of the controls makes a lot of sense. My only wish, really, were that the display would be larger and that there were a more sophisticated synthesizer engine (if only it had the LFO designer from the Octatrack…). My other grip is the Elektron 4-bar pattern limitation. Conditional triggers help with this a little…but sometimes I like to develop things over an 8 or 16 bar pattern. There are ways to get that, since for my style of music 8th notes is usually sufficient resolution, but still…I’d rather not have the hacks.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not integrated with the rig, but I already have a piece that I started writing on it. I haven’t decided which to move next it first: MPC, DIgitact, Octatrack or the Deluge. All of them would have an interesting place next to it. l’ll detail that decision in a post later today.
I really can’t emphasize enough how much I love the control and button layout.   Having the track selection and mutes on the left with the editing controls on the right is *perfect* for playing (unless you’re left handed…then you may hate it).  The modulation stick is nice, though I wish it wasn’t spring loaded in all directions, though I guess for that kind of modulation there is the performance macros.
Basically, everything about this instrument just makes more sense in this format than the desktop brick format I had before.  She may be a keeper (well, at least until the MKII gets released…if that ever does happen).

Because I’m stupid…

I was at best buy and they had an open box Mac ‘Magic’ keyboard for $89…so I bought it.  Because, yeah…I’m stupid.   Also because I’d spilled soda on the old one and a few of the keys were sticky (also displaying my ‘stupid’).

Truth be told, the keyboard was one of the things I *despised* about my mac computers.   Both the laptop and the desktop felt very…squeezed.  This is much, much better.   And having number keys?  Wow…so fancy…

This blog post is the first (of hopefully many) to be written on this keyboard.

And, truly is ‘magical’.


Hello, 2018. Goodbye, Hardware.

I know a lot of my musician friends have spoken poorly of the Arturia Matrix 12 plugin, but I’d like you all to go stuff it. I’ve been having a ton of fun with it these last few weeks.

At this point, I’m willing to call you guys out and say it’s all in your head if you can’t enjoy the sound of a software synthesizer as much as a hardware one. Your aging ears aren’t so golden as you think.

Yeah, I guess this means I’ve gone to the dark side. The convenience of software is matched by is awesome sound and I’m just tired of maintaining all this infrastructure for hardware synthesizers. It just doesn’t make sense.

So, in the new year, I’m going to be cutting down my keyboard rig to only a few essentials: Modular, Kronos, PEK (sentimental value) and DSI Pro2. I’m not going to sell the other instruments, but mothball them. I want to keep the connected rig down to just what is needed for writing, and that which I can mix using just my MOTU interface (on the fence about selling the 01v96). My goal is to eliminate my patch bays (I’ve always hated the damned things).

physical gear creates the need for infrastructure: Power, midi ports, audio routing, etc. Having gear means you need more gear to make it useful. I am finally seeing the true gift that software give you: if you have a DAW, adding a plugin will not require any more infrastructure than a bit of disk space that you (likely) already have.

I don’t know why it took me so long to come around to it, but there is no going back now.

Happy Hostilidays

I hate the holidays. They max out my schedule, max out my credit cards, and just generally do whatever they can to piss me off for two months a year. Then, my birthday comes and just lays a whole layer of funk on the whole thing.

A facebook discussion on this lead to my development of an idea for an alternative and, I think, more honest version of the Holiday season, I call “the Hostilidays”. Here is my (early) vision for this.

1. Festivities start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when we file frivolous lawsuits against all of our nearest and dearest.
2. Instead of sending xmas cards, we serve papers. Beware carolers.
3. Mediations will be held at all the most inconvenient times between then and xmas eve when we all get together and agree to settle for bottles of alcoholic beverages.
4. Then we drink around a burning xmas tree, while exchanging neuroses.

Symbols of the holiday:
Aside from the tree to be burned, decorations also include a half burned xmas wreath and wine stained carpet.

Who wants to celebrate with me next year?

oh..and instead of “happy holidays” or “merry christmas”, the greeting for hostilidays are either “talk to my lawyer” or simply “fuck you”. I also like “You’ve been served, mother fucker!”. I think you get the point.

Your thoughts?

Weekend update

Lots of little things I’d like to unpack here…

1. Reason 10. I love it. Absolutely love it. I’m digging it to the point that my hardware studio is starting to suddenly feel like a giant white elephant. I’m feeling rather stupid for my recent investments in hardware since I am just *not* using them. The new instruments Propeller heads added, Plus a few of RE’s Ive added recently, have displaced most of my hardware. My modular is still, obviously, relevant as is my Kronos, but my Virus, V-Synth and, yes, even the DSI instruments feel a bit…limited and inconvenient by comparison. I don’t even know why I have the Octatrack, Digitakt or MPC other than for a possibly live setup I may need to put together next year. Its a weird, weird feeling for me, who was always so anti-software for so long.

2. A big part of number one is my iMac. I don’t at all regret paying the extra for that 5k screen. It makes *all* the difference. The screen geometry is Perfect for Reason and other software instruments. Even though this iMac is a few years old already, and its not even fully maxed with RAM, it’s lightyears ahead of anything I’ve ever used. I could easily see it going another 2 or three years as the center of my studio.

3. The EP has a title, and even a possible cover. I’m going to try to do as much as I can myself since I believe that creatives should be paid for their work and I have zero budget for a graphic designer. Yes, my presentation will probably suffer….but for some reason I also feel like I *have* to DIY this one. Just once.

4. I’ve found a place I can do a short run of CD’s at a reasonable price….so I’ll be doing a short run of physical media for the new EP. A few people have asked for physical media of Dust and…maybe. That album is going on 5 years, so it’s probably not something I’d do with an eye of making a profit (and, really, if you’re in this genre of music and you’re looking for profit, you’re a fucking idiot).

5. Guitar. I kinda want a guitar. And some outboard FX to run it through. We know where this goes…

6. Bacon sandwiches are amazing.

7. Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.