Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.
Leon Bridges returns to the fold with Gold-Diggers Sound, Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington combine for their second Darkside record, Molly Burch turns from guitar to synths on Romantic Images and Emma-Jean Thackray sounds uplifting as ever on Yellow.
Focusing on a more modern take on R&B, Gold-Diggers Sound is Leon Bridges at his most accessible. This is not a bad word in this instance, it’s just a different exploration of sounds which differers drastically from 2020’s Texas Sun with Khurangbin.
The record oscillates between modern and past with ease. Hell, this record even explores modern trap beats on ‘Magnolias’ which Bridges floats over effortlessly. ‘Born Again’ features Robert Glasper, which is a more modern jazz track with a crunchy drum sound over gorgeous keys from Glasper.
‘Motorbike’ is an elegant R&B track, which shows Leon’s intimate side which you can listen to below.
Darkside – Spiral
Eight years after their first record, Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington return with this stunning prog rock/experimental/krautrock-esc LP. Both parties are seasoned musicians in their own right and this record serves as a continuation of the unique sound they carved out on Psychic.
A touch trippy and a touch funky, the eight and a half minute long ‘Inside Is Out There’ is likely the strongest piece on the record. From its explorative bass line to the interesting sound pallete, this track could soundtrack your walk through the woods or a casual hang out with friends.
Other standouts include singles ‘The Limit’ and ‘Liberty Bell’ which both have catchy but mellowed out hooks and could be low key dance tracks.
Molly Birch – Romantic Images
Austin based singer-songwriter Molly Burch pushes her sound forward on third record, Romantic Images. Moving past the guitar centric releases of her past, Burch sings over more common pop instrumentation with disco and new wave influences.
Listing Blondie as an influence for this record, Burch displays her vocal chops on ‘Took a Minute’, a funky pop track with stacks of catchy melodies. The lead single ‘Emotion’ is a quintessential pop disco track, with plenty of space letting the instrumentation speak with Burch’s vocals as an instrument not a lead.
‘Romantic Images’ is another standout, which displays her vocal range and is reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s first couple records, albeit a little more upbeat and modern.
Check out the grooving ‘Heart of Gold’ below.
Emma-Jean Thackray – Yellow
Yellow is the new modern Jazz record with spacey synths from British based Emma-Jean Thackray. The semi-lofi production grounds the record and adds a comforting feeling, with the mix fairly narrow and mid heavy for modern standards. This also compliments the raw feeling on the record, in which Thackray seems to be singing directly to you.
The stuttering hi hats and beats stand out across the whole record which emanate most on ‘Sun’, which feels like a perfect accompaniment to the euphoric dance floor. ‘Say Something’ is on the same tip, with it’s live energy and positive energy and has a lush music video you can check out below.
With the world continuously evolving, musicians are constantly creating new and imaginative sounds. With the constant supply of new synths, new DAWs, new ways to create our music is evolving faster than ever, but did you know the heritage of Trap rappers started in the mid ’90s in Memphis?
On the other hand, are you aware of where the term ambient music comes from and what record coined it? Today, we’re having a look at seven songs that were, and some still are, ahead of their time.
Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.
Kanye West – ‘Heartless’ (2008)
Producer turned superstar musician, fashion designer and artist Kanye West was going through a tumultuous time around the time 808s and Heartbreak was released. After his breakup with Amber Rose and passing of his mother, Kanye unleashed this robotic, emotional record where his auto-tune laden vocals were front and centre.
Looking back at this record, it doesn’t seem out of place, but at the time it was released, Auto-Tuned vocals for rappers was basically unheard of (bar maybe T-Pain but he is a singer not a rapper). Pair this with the big 808 bass that is also very prevalent in modern Hip-Hop productions and you’ve got a formula for the modern era.
Aside from the production side, this record was emotionally open and created space for topics other than the braggadocios style that was also dominant of the era. Without this record, it’s unlikely that we’d have the modern Trap Rap records that have been dominating the charts for years, and have Kanye to thank for that.
The Beatles – ”Tomorrow Never Knows’ (1966)
The Beatles are one of the most loved bands on earth. Working on the record Revolver with George Martin they experimented with sounds that eventually shaped the future of a few genres.
‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ comes out as a masterpiece of recording engineering, creating techniques we take for granted now. First you can look at the drums, which have been smashed with compression, providing that big rock sounding kit.
Next McCartney utilised Tape loops as a method of adding, in his words, a “solo” to the track. Changing the speeds and running them through the mixing console, pulling the different channels ones in and out, creating texture and interest.
For the second half of the track, they ran John Lennons vocals through a Leslie speaker, most commonly used with Organs, which created a whirly kind of effect on his vocals.
Silver Apples – ‘Lovefingers’ (1968)
A relatively unknown act from the ’60s are Silver Apples who embraced electronic music in its early stages. Starting out playing in a blues-rock band, the duo broke apart from the band, going out on their own with Simeon Cox playing proto synthesisers and Danny Taylor on the drums.
Their music is very hypnotic, with Taylor playing very repetitive, almost looped drum patterns while Cox played his synths. Simeon built his own synthesisers using discarded WW2 oscillators, filters and guitar effects pedals, not unlike basic synths now.
The studio engineer for this album couldn’t stand the sound of Simeon’s makeshift synthesiser so Cox and Taylor engineered the record themselves. This resulted in a kind of lofi sound that wasn’t very common at the time, with the vocals notably under processed.
The kooky sound of ‘Lovefingers’ off their first record is one of Silver Apples’ best tracks which prefaced a lot of artists, influencing Stereolab, Portishead and notably inspired Suicide who in turn influenced the New York punk scene.
The band actually played at the Moon Landing watch party in New York as the Mayor of NY was quite fond of the band!
Three 6 Mafia – ‘Break da Law 95’ (1995)
One of the early examples of Trap music, Three 6 Mafia’s ‘Break da Law 95’ off their debut Mystic Stylez record has left a huge mark on modern hip hop. There were a few artists breaking through at the same time in the Memphis Rap scene but Three 6 Mafia took it mainstream.
Before Trap music was a genre, it was a lifestyle. Three 6 Mafia led the way for modern artists with their hard raps about drug dealing and, well, breaking the law. The 16th note staccato hi hats are bumpin’ on this track, which are a staple in the modern hip hop genre. Hell, even pop country has been utilising this rhythm.
With their debut record, Three 6 Mafia laid the groundwork for artists of the modern era to use and establish Trap as the dominant hip hop sub-genre.
Kraftwerk – ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (1977)
This iconic track led the way for Afrika Bambaata and the whole electro genre. The absolute visionaries created their own gear and were some of the pioneers of electronic dance music.
AfterAutobahn, Kraftwerk went further into their electronic instruments, which encompassed almost all of their sound. This record established what electro would be as a genre and people are still imitating them as you read this.
This song was the basis for ‘Planet Rock’, the song that kickstarted the electro genre into the mainstream of American culture and in turn, the world. With their custom synths and drum machines, Kraftwerk created this record. hear the futuristic chord progressions, metallic beat and plucky bass line. All staples in the genre today.
They had a huge influence on US based Drexciya, which almost everyone looks to as electro legends and are the most prolific sound of the electro underground. They wouldn’t be close to where they are without Kraftwerk.
Donna Summer – ‘I Feel Love’ (1977)
This wouldn’t be a list about music innovators without the legendary producer Giorgio Moroder now would it? ‘I Feel Love’ is one of the most ahead of its time tracks to ever be released. Featuring a pulsing bass line made with a Moog modular rig and long dance floor oriented length, this one was another trendsetter for years to come.
You can hear the arpeggiated bass in a score of tracks even in the current day, with the repetitive loop based arrangement becoming a standard for years to come. Off Summer’s I Remember Yesterday LP, ‘I Feel Love’ set the precedent for electronic music in the pop sphere as well as boogie, house and techno for the years to come.
Brian Eno – ‘1/1’ (1978)
Inventor of the term Ambient Music, Brian Eno is a studio wizard, who helped shape the music we listen to today. He worked with the likes of David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2 but perhaps his most ahead of time feat was Ambient 1: Music for Airports.
‘1/1’ is the first track from this release that created the term ambient music and was created to be played in airports to make the environment feel calm and relaxing. Ambient music puts the composition into the background, instead of the in your face music that rules popular culture.
Fast forward to today and you’ll see the effect this record had on music at large, enabling others to see music from a different perspective. Without Eno, would we have Aphex Twin or the ambient techno genre at large? Maybe not.
Have you ever wanted to patch your LFO to 16 different places but didn’t want to use up your precious buffered multiples rack units? Erica Synths have got you covered, with their new Desktop Matrix Mixer, which makes changing patches a breeze.
What you need to know:
Erica Synths have announced a 16 input/output matrix for use with Eurorack synthesisers.
The controller allows for 256 connections between all inputs and outputs with three volume levels.
Additional features include randomisation, pattern memory and pattern change via MIDI.
Modular is great and all, until you want to show your friend a patch you made a few weeks ago. Having to remember exactly where everything went and how to get it there may not work out as planned, especially if you didn’t take special note of where everything was patched to.
Enter the Desktop Matrix Mixer. Boasting 16 buffered, DC coupled all analogue inputs and outputs, allowing for 256 connections to be made between them. The device has two knobs, one for each axis and lets you scroll through the matrix, creating and removing connections at will.
With clever patching and the ability to save 254 matrix patterns, you can use this unit to arrange different parts of performances, making live play a lot simpler.
As much as possibilities are ‘endless’ with modular setups, using the Desktop Matrix Mixer means less cables and more customisation within your rig.
In addition to all this, there’s randomisation available. You can let the device patch everything, everywhere or define a range for it to randomise patches. No more creative blocks, let the machines create your compositions for you!
The Erica Synths Desktop Matrix Mixer is available for pre-order now through their website and is expected to start shipping July 26, 2021.
Soma Laboratory have returned to the synth game with another interesting instrument. Enner is an FX unit and instrument that responds to human touch by connecting various pads which allow access to a large sound palette. It’s basically a modular synthesiser with humans as patch cables.
What you need to know:
Soma Laboratory have released Enner, an interesting sound tool.
The device has synth engines, effects and even a piezo microphone which is mainly controlled by linking sections of the device with your body.
The device was made in collaboration with Danish sound-artist SiSTOR, who designed the front panel and inscriptions.
Originally teased in 2019, Enner by Soma Laboratory is weird. Definitely not their first endeavour into wacky and out there synths, previously releasing The Pipe which is an out of this world vocal synthesiser that looks like a wind instrument.
Enner is a unique synthesiser in that a lot of the parameters on this device are controlled by human touch. On their website it states “Your hands become the central part of the circuitry. Touching different contact pads with different parts of your fingers and palms with different amounts of pressure, letting signals pass through your body defines the mixing, volume, timbre, feedback and other parameters of synthesis.”
The arrangement of the synth is split with a triangle in the middle and what resembles a human head and torso. These two parts have contact patches where you connect different parts together to create sounds. The triangle consists of stereo filters and effects while the torso has multiple synthesisers you can interact with.
If that wasn’t enough there’s a piezo pickup you can tap or play with which can then run through the other interesting effects on the device in combination with the synthesiser voices.
This complex beast has little in the way of navigating it on the actual device but comes with a diagram outlining what all the parts do.
Check out this spooky demo video below, with all sounds generated by the Enner.
You may have heard of Ocean Way Studios if you use UAD or Waves plugins. Their emulation of the legendary studio is a popular plugin that lets you dial in their studio sound into your productions, but did you know they also make monitors?
What you need to know:
Recording studio turned pro-audio brand Ocean Way Audio have released the Pro3 Reference Monitors.
The speakers are 7″ 2-way monitors and have a bass response which reaches down to 45Hz.
Pro3 are the most affordable speakers Ocean Way have ever brought to the market.
Renowned recording studio and professional level audio brand Ocean Way, return to the fold with the Pro3, a cheaper offering that still delivers that quality sound. The brand, which got started making custom loudspeaker systems for studios and audiophiles, have come a long way since Allan Sides started it in the ’80s.
Opting for a more common square design, the Pro3 reference monitors are a powered loudspeaker solution for professionals. The speakers are rear ported with a 1″ tweeter and 7″ low frequency driver. They can obtain a frequency response of 45Hz to 20kHz with a loud 110 dbB maximum SPL.
OWA have paid special attention to the time alignment between the two drivers and materials to ensure minimal low frequency resonance.
The high frequency driver is made from silk fabric in a dome design while the low frequency driver utilises a reinforced aluminium cone for “high-power linearity”.
The high end monitors feature overload protection to ensure the monitors don’t distort or get damaged after hours of usage.
There’s digital in and out on these monitors, that is common on the Ocean Way monitors, with an ethernet port for servicing. No RCA inputs here either, The professional speakers only feature XLR inputs, very common at this level of equipment.
These Pro3 Reference Monitors are shipping now and will be in stores very soon.
Squier have hit the blocks running, announcing 11 new guitars and basses to the world. The range of electric instruments includes iterations of their iconic Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster and more!
What you need to know:
Fender’s entry level brand Squier has released a range of electric guitars and basses in their new Affinity series.
There’s new iterations of the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Jazzmaster guitars along with Jaguar, Precision and Jazz basses.
These new Affinity range Squier guitars are available now.
A stacked new range of affordable guitars have just made their way onto the market through this new release from Squier. There’s a bunch of classic guitar styles on offer here, described by the brand as ‘a superb gateway into the time-honoured Fender family’.
Affinity Series Stratocaster
Boasting a lightweight body and comfortable C shaped neck, the Affinity Series Stratocaster delivers through the classic triple single coil Strat pickups and 5-way switching. Also featured is a 2-point tremolo bridge and sealed die-cast tuning machines. This model ships in four colour ways, 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black and Lake Placid Blue.
The HH version of an Affinity Strat swaps the classic single coil pickups for a pair of Squier humbucking pickups and 3-way switching. This model is available in Olympic White, Burgundy Mist and Charcoal Frost Metallic.
Next up, the Affinity Series Stratocaster FMT HSS has both a humbucking pickup and two single coil pickups. The best of both worlds? This guitar comes shipped in Sienna Sunburst and Black Burst.
Affinity Series Telecaster
Speaking of iconic guitars, here’s another classic that gets a new Squier Treatment. The classic Telecaster design is paired with the aforementioned C shaped neck and sealed die-cast tuning machines. The guitar has dual Squier single-coil Tele pickups with 3-way switching for classic tone.
There’s a left-handed version which is just an inverse version for all you southpaw guitarists. There’s a Telecaster Deluxe on offer here too, with the key difference being two Squier humbucking pickups with individual volume and tone controls.
Affinity Series Jazzmaster
The last of the new electrics on offer, the Affinity Series Jazzmaster boasts all the fittings of the Strat, bar a different body design and Two Squier single-coil Jazzmaster pickups.
Rounding off the release there’s four new bass guitars all based on their big brothers at Fender. First up is the Jaguar Bass H, loaded with a Squier humbucking pickup, open-gear tuning machines and a 32″ medium scale length.
Next is the precision bass, with its easily recognisable split single-coil P Bass neck pickup and bridge pickup, then the Jazz Bass with its two Squier single coil J Bass pickups. Finally there’s the Jazz Bass V, which is the 5-string variant of the Jazz Bass.
These affordable electric instruments are available now. Check out a video introducing the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster models below.