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27 March 2012

NUCLEUS SOUNDLAB PANTHEON BUNDLE | CAD$99



Equinox, by Matthew Clary, is one of the many demo songs bundled with Pantheon III

REVIEW
There we go, a nice video to kick off a post, just for a change. And we live in changing times indeed. Despite Propellerhead Software’s long-standing reluctance to entertain the notion of introducing plug-ins to the Reason rack, bear in mind this is a company that also abjured multitrack audio recording. Until the launch of Record, that is. In fact, so enthusiastic were they with such new functionality, Reason 6 was developed with audio tracking built in (goodbye Record, then). And there was even a special ‘pay what you like’ upgrade offer for existing Reason owners. Commercial suicide? Not really. It’s claimed that Reason’s userbase ballooned by some 250,000 new users, which must have been music to the ears of Canada-based music-tech wizard Jeremy Janzen, top banana at cutting-edge ReFill specialist Nucleus SoundLab.

Meantime, on this side of the pond (on the other side of the North Sea, from where I’m sitting), further hatchings have been plotted at Propellerhead HQ. Those contrary Swedes now reckon plug-ins are a good thing after all and have lately announced Re. Yes, flying in the face of reason, it’s religious education for all. Ah... Hang on, that’s ‘Rack extension’, in fact, and at the base of this post there’s an address given at this year’s Frankfurt Musikmesse by Props’ über-banana Ernst Nathorst-Böös on such. In short, software developers are being encouraged to create plug-ins for Reason’s rack in readiness for v6.5, due v soon. Thus far, GForce Software, Softube, u-he, SonicCharge, Korg, Sugar Bytes and (something of a Reason ReFill legend) Peff are on board the development wagon and more are sure to flag it down.

There’s also a new, $1 portable app coming up called Figure (Reason? Figure? See what they did there?), so you can compose while on the go. Sort of ‘go-Figure’, which is a phrase that may end up in the pitch of some marketing type someday soon. Anyway, let’s stick with religion and pose a suitably Scandinavian theological question. How many pantheons does it take to house 779 incarnations of Thor?

16 March 2012

GROOVE 3 MASSIVE EXPLAINED &
MASSIVE SOUNDS VOL 1 | $29.99* & $7.99*

REVIEW
There's a great new soft synth you may not have heard of. It's called Massive, is by Native Instruments and has that many bells and whistles you can make bell and whistle sounds with it... Hang on - this is five years out of date...

Massive is a venerable (five years is booted off the ark in software terms) and extremely capable synth that’s used in many a dance genre. It has a lot of power, a lot of options and a vast amount of presets authored by NI and various third-party preset designers. I've done some programming with it and, by comparison to some more modern synths, it's relatively straightforward. So, with all the presets around for a straighforward synth, do we need a series of videos telling us how to use it?

‘Allo Laurence Holcombe, one half of UK V-mix duo Rebel Sonix and the man who'll be guiding you through the highways and byways of Massive by means of Groove 3's Massive Explained. This first tutorial series comprises three hours of videos going from an overview covering such basics as how to load a preset, then moving through the guts in a logical order - oscillators, filters, modulation and finishing on the Global page.

13 March 2012

TOONTRACK EZKEYS GRAND PIANO | £115 (€139)

REVIEW
'Twas on a bleak Tuesday (-ish) in 1698 that Padua resident Bartolomeo Cristofori dropped a hammer on his foot. Seeing it bounce, he was struck not only by said hammer, but with the urge to beat the daylights out of his harpsichord’s innards. And so were born the piano and about a billion crap ballads. Cristofori had figured that hitting stuff was a good way of making it vibrate and set about building precursors to the modern balladeer's ludicrously over-engineered accessory that we recognise as the concert grand.

Cavemen hit on the hitting-stuff ruse several thousand years earlier when stretching skins over hollow logs. However, it took until 2006 for another musical pioneer, Swedish software developer Toontrack, to devise a high-tech means of easily creating percussive grooves with EZdrummer, which encouraged numerous muzos to ditch their wetware percussionists. The advantage of this has been to encourage levels of remorse and self loathing sufficient to inspire new, even drippier ballads as piano-equipped songsmiths wallow in separation anxiety concerning absent drummers.

Last year we saw the introduction of EZmix, a means by which audio engineers and producers can also be fired as deployment of sophisticated signal-processing passes to the hands of the songwriter. And now it’s the turn of the keyboard player, and even the songwriting partner, to be dumped with today’s launch of Toontrack EZkeys Grand Piano, another percussion suite featuring not sampled skins, but tensioned strings. However, it’s rather more than just another virtual Steinway.

11 March 2012

EASTWEST QUANTUM LEAP MINISTRY OF ROCK 2 | €355.81 ($399)

REVIEW
Much has been said of rock and/or roll. It ain’t noise pollution, God gave it to you - put it in the soul of everyone, in fact - and it’s deader than dead. That’s presumably why it now has a ministry. I digress. EastWest Quantum Leap’s Ministry of Rock 2 supplements the original MoR, 2008’s 20GB ROMpler release containing rocking sounds for hit-record and filmscore production.

This latest Ministry draws on a super-sized 57GB sample library which is shoved through a host of virtual signal processors using the power of the Play engine (we’ve encountered this technology before in last October’s MuzoBlog post on The Dark Side, although Play is now at a more robust v3.0.32).

EastWest Studio 1 has an 80-channel
8078 Neve console - nice
In essence, then, MoR2 is a virtual rock band targeted at composers bereft of drummer, bassist and guitarist. To help out such loners, Quantum Leap composer/producer Nick Phoenix, in league with EastWest founder/producer Doug Rogers and producer Rhys Moody, teamed up with some top rock musicians and, armed with nifty bits of kit, set about laying down what is a truly immense core library for an affordable ROMpler. But despite the gear and the talent shaking the walls of EastWest Studios, could the assembled feasibly arrive at a software instrument capable of emulating the grunt of a rock band in all its sweat and lather? Let us investigate.

02 March 2012

SE ELECTRONICS REFLEXION FILTER PRO | £229

REVIEW
Unless you’re endowed with a top-sounding acoustic space in which to record, the last thing you need is ambience. And, let’s face it, most common recording spaces aren’t exactly slopping over with attractive vibes. Project studios typically occupy whichever room of the house can be spared and end up filled with all manner of hardware that reflects sound willy nilly. Then there’s the noise from computer fans burbling away, perhaps buzz from a guitar combo and, of course, the hum of the beer fridge.

Pro studios with well-appointed vocal booths, meanwhile, are expensive to hire, booths can sound boxy and they're none too portable if you’re aiming to record on the road. Then you may have the challenge of miking up various instruments for an ensemble performance and the inevitable difficulty of separating them so they don’t spill overmuch into each other’s mics. What’s needed is something to isolate a microphone from extraneous sound sources and absorb the sound emanating from what is miked so it doesn’t go bouncing around the room. It’s at this point in the reasoning that light bulbs must have appeared over boffins’ heads at SE Electronics.