Maxtone HB - free Ableton Live Pack of a calculator piano
I bought this tiny but horrifying instrument at a flea market in Hamburg in 2001 for 5 Deutsche Mark. It accompanied me on many a summer field trip, much to the horror of my fellow travelers. It simply sounds weird, as the pitch slides from a very short correct tuning time into something far in between. I amended that a bit by introducing attack and sustain settings in the live pack.
The Maxtone is able to produce speech samples, such as all the numbers form zero to 9, as well as mathematical terms like “divided by” and “clear”. These are also included. I added an old school echo section, as befits this ancient and arcane instrument.
Recording was done with a Shure SM7b held close to the piercingly loud internal speaker. Preamplification was handled by a Brent Averill 1272, which ran into an RME Fireface.
Here is a short demo of the Maxtone HB featuring my free Uncreate808 sample set: DEMO
I am downsizing my studio and am selling a few dear synths and pieces of gear. The biggest fish is the pictured Roland JP-8000, my first synth and an awesome piece of gear. For those enjoying weirder stuff, I got a Yamaha TG-33 Vector Synth, which does two things really well: morphing ambiences and cheap early 90ies keyboard sounds. Then, there is Nanoloop, a sequenzer/synth cartridge for the old school Gameboys. If you are into 8BIT sounds, you will love this! Else, a nice and fiery compressor pedal, the MXR Dyna Comp and an add-on pack for Addictive Drums, the Retro.
I did not get much music done during in the last days, mainly because I was occupied walking through the Black Forest and devouring home-made chocolate cookies. Not writing music happens often on holiday, instead I search for new fx, update my sound banks and prepare new instruments for when I am in the mood again. The most recent addition to my arsenal of strangely beautiful fx is ValhallaShimmer, an epic pitch reverb in the vein of Brian Eno’s work. It can create some fairly wide scapes from any input source.
You can hear it here in a snippet of a piece I am working on, which features vocal cuts by this lovely singer/actress:
The track features three instances of the plugin, coming in one after another. The first tuned to +12 notes, the second to +7 and the third to -12 with reverse mode on. I will probably not use the reverb in such an obvious way on the final track, but this way you can get a better impression of its sound.
The ValhallaShimmer rates quiet highly in my special fx box, even though I have yet to get deeper into it.
So here’s a new must-have plugin for bass or kickdrum- Airwindows Floor!
The way it works is, the Floor control sets a ‘frequency floor’ below which frequencies don’t go. It’ll cut out the subsonics, but uses special processing to synthesize harmonics to fill in the gap. So far not that different from ‘mega bass’ plugins that have been around for ages- but wait, there’s more!
The Drive control adds Airwindows saturation and emphasis to the resulting signal, antialiased to produce a really powerful, articulate signal- and then, the dry/wet control lets you blend the raw signal (with its unconstrained low end) with the processed one (with the controlled lows).
I’d been using Density for just this for a long time, and just decided it might be interesting to use the mega-bass routine instead of the simple highpass Density had- and created a monster. This can be used to bring up mids or treble on basses in a very useful way, or just use it to tighten the extreme lows without changing the sound. It beats Density handily at doing that, and Density was already a secret weapon of mine. If you do that Charles Dye ‘MiLaR’ thing and need to throw midrange overdrive on basses to get them to drive the mix and sit with heavy guitars, this is your plugin, in a big way.
A TR-808 sounds great, but sometimes a bit of grit can make it sound more distinct. That’s why I ran the already lovely lofi Goldbaby Cassette 808 samples through a Mattel UCreate Music, a cheap toy sampler/FX unit/loopplayer. It adds a harsh 8bit crunch to all the sounds without loosing punch. I hope you like it!
“Christmas In Harlem” - Kanye West feat. Cam’ron, Jim Jones, CyHi Da Prynce, Pusha T, Big Sean, Teyana Taylor & Musiq Soulchild
Damn. That took forever just to type out the name and artists on this song. It’s basically a GOOD Friday track with all these features but the song is still pretty dope, albeit kind of long. Check it out, see what you think, share with your friends, do what you do. I’m outtie for the day. Peace!
Everywhere I go in Berlin I meet at least one employee of Ableton during the course of the night. I end up pushing the poor guy or girl that they should just “FIX THE DAMN BUGS” and quit doing new shit, but end up liking them a lot.
Anyway, if they ever get rid of the damn bug that crashes live when I click on exit, they should hire this mexican guy. He does Live Packs that make Live your bitch/slave/plaything and you don’t have to get MaxMSP. Simply brilliant!
I posted this on analogindustries but it fits here as well: lots of tech stuff about my live set.
I wanted to fit all gear into a single pedal flightcase (except for Macbook and Launchpad) so I can easily travel by train and be setup in 10min. After two shows my setup looks like this:
x0xb0x - Mopho - EH Memory Boy - Fireface 400
SM58 Beta - power & cables
Alesis 49 Keyboard
problems I ran into:
I incorporated a full size keyboard because I thought I might want to drop an intimate piano only number sometime. The Alesis did not fit so I sawed 1 cm off its right side. After my first gig I decided against any piano numbers, so now I could settle for a small Akai keyboard and add more pedals, especially delays.
The Memory Boy is a bad choice for synths, because some frequencies are not delayed. If you are doing sweeps it simple drops out. I’d love to exchange that for something with more depth.
The Macbook runs Ableton with stems and some synths for tweaking, while the Launchpad user presets are programmed for track FX. The midi clock that fed the x0xb0x and the Mopho was terribly out of sync as soon I hit 30% CPU. After much gnashing of teeth and fruitless talking to Ableton support I exchanged the Echo Audiofire 4 with a Fireface. Problem solved!
For VocFX I bought NIs “The Mouth” and after much trying to love it I do not use it anymore. Its found it useful for creating synth FX with your voice when searching for sounds, but the whole vocoder and choir stuff sounds uninspiring to me. Plus it takes 20% processing power on an Intel Macbook.
I got the x0xb0x prebuilt form x0xsource and during travel 5 screws dropped out. Trying to get Phillips screws in Germany is impossible, so I used gaffer tape and some cut up wood to prevent it from falling to pieces.
The last in the series is a complete and utter nonsense piece. I don’t know why I did it or what for. It would have been locked deep in the vaults if I had not five tracks to post. You should not listen to it.
I was ridiculously excited for Darkstar’s release of North this past October. Although I haven’t ever really stopped listening to it, I realize I haven’t posted anything about it since. Now that we’re finally entering winter, this is the perfect time for checking out North. The album demonstrates maturation from their former dubstep roots into some sort of melancholic, brooding introverted version of pop music. Whatever genre you want to call it, it works, especially with newly added James Buttery’s pained and fractured vocals over the many layers James Young and Aiden Whally submerge into a single track.
Here’s one of my favorite tracks from the new album, “Deadness”, complete with cut-up vocals, XX emotive-style guitar plucking, and subdued synths and drums that slowly push the song forward.
I really enjoy this Ableton Live slowed down sound. Next record on my list!
We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.
PLEASE! You must listen! We cannot maintain the link for long… I will type as fast as I can.
DO NOT USE THE CABLES!
We were fools, fools to develop such a thing! Sound was never meant to be this clear, this pure, this… accurate. For a few short days, we marveled. Then the… whispers… began.
Were they Aramaic? Hyperborean? Some even more ancient tongue, first spoken by elder races under the red light of dying suns far from here? We do not know, but somehow, slowly… we began to UNDERSTAND.
No, no, please! I don’t want to remember! YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME REMEMBER! I saw brave men claw their own eyes out… oh, god, the screaming… the mobs of feral children feasting on corpses, the shadows MOVING, the fires burning in the air! The CHANTING!
WHY CAN’T I FORGET THE WORDS??? w We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.
This ditty is made up of toy instruments which I borrowed from the nice guy at the long gone Reis Plattenladen in Hamburg, Bulgarian folk music and a Latin groove. It did not make its way into the play, as the atmosphere is somewhat add odds with what goes on on stage.
This track is actually the first I wrote in this small series. The template of using exclusivly 8Bit and 78RPM record sounds started here. This is all about nostalgia, a feeling I don’t like much but understand. In the series Mad Men, Don Draper had this to say about it:
Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound”. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards,takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.
The second tune from a recent theatre production (here is the first) I love working in this short soundbyte format, as a track could develop into anything, but doesn’t. So I hit replay again and again, something that does not happen too often with my own music.