Fairlight Week: Pt 1: Buy Your Own!

In honour of this Fairlight Series III turning up on Austrailan Ebay (currently £814, but it will go up), I've declared this Fairlight Week, a celebration of the biggest, most expensive, cleverest and most over-the-top vintage synth of all.
5 things I didn't know about the Fairlight CMI:
  • The name comes from this boat, a hydrofoil which sails across Sydney Harbour to Manley. Inventors Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie were looking out of the windows of their harbour-front offices, trying to think of a name for their new machine, and there it was.
  • The first synth Kim Ryrie designed was the ETI 4600. ETI stood for Electronics Today International, a magazine founded by Kim which published instructions for the DIY synth. In Britain, it was known as the Maplin 4600.
  • The first digital synth that Ryrie and Vogel developed was the Quasar M8, a vast machine which used 2kw of power, was four feet long, took two hours to boot up, had 4k of waveform RAM and - by all accounts - sounded terrible.
  • Peter Gabriel was the first pop star to use a Fairlight. His brother in law became the UK distributor.
  • Kate Bush was an enormous Fairlight fan, writing 'Running Up That Hill' and 'Hounds of Love' on one. "I took one look at it and said, 'This is what I've been looking all my life.' I couldn't believe the Fairlight. It's called a synthesizer, but many of its sounds are of natural source. To be able to play with strings, waterfalls, anything you want, it's wonderful."

    AES: Good for people with EMU soundcards...

    ... otherwise skip onto the next post. I suspect that EMU have been blown away by the success of their 1212m/1820m soundcards. At AES they announced a whole load of new stuff which is good news for people (like me) who have one. Audiophile cheapskates get better sound from the 0404 card [here]. Emulator X users who (like me) find the sampler totally baffling, get v1.5 of the software, which comes with a simplified "Single View Screen" which will hopefully mean all those great sounds stop gathering dust on my hard drive [here]. There's a much simpler (and cheaper) way to access those Emu-X sounds [here], and finally, a load of cool-sounding vintage sounds for everyone, at $99 a go, [here].

    AES: Tranzport little jog-wheel thingy

    It's got a terrible name, but Frontier Design's Tranzport looks nice and is probably a little bit useful. It's a little wireless box (wireless like your mouse is wireless, not 802.11 wireless) that you can use to control your computer sequencer. So, when you're half way across the room playing your Bazantar, you can still press record without slipping a disk. No word on pricing yet, but with that nice design and a little LCD, it ain't going to be cheap.

    Ten Triple-Neck Guitars

    1. The first ever triple-neck guitar was build by Semie Mosely of Mosrite [click]
    2. British Bass builder Wal made a truly vile triple neck in 1974, which passed through the hands of a couple of prog-rockers [click]
    3. Steve Vai popularised the triple neck with his ridiculous heart-shaped guitar in the David Lee Roth 'Skyscraper' video [click]
    4. A triple ukelele [click]
    5. John Paul Jones had to play everything in Led Zep while Jimmy Page was doing solos. This is how he did it [click]
    6. Cowboys can be as scary as clowns (if they're playing a triple neck guitar) [click] (scroll down)
    7. Rudy has a collection of hideous guitars, including the fire triple neck by Christopher Woods (above) [click]
    8. A hideous 'Career' guitar in Germany [click]
    9. A mingin' Galveston, for sale on Ebay for $799, going tomorrow [click]
    10. Some kind of triple neck violin art thing [click]

    AES: New control surface is vast & bonkers

    The first entertaining thing launched at AES is the Smart Console - a huge, certain-to-be-absurdly-expensive control surface. The big design thing is an enormous curving meterbridge with a virtual touch-sensitive scribble strip. You write on the scribble strip and it appears (hand written) in glowing green beneath the relevant channel strip (No, I'm not sure why the person in the pics seems to be writing in Klingon. Oh, hang on, it's a picture of a guitar!). Best of all, it comes from Australia, home of the Fairlight. It's a bit more impressive than a FaderFox. More

    AES: Edirol's not-too-ugly portable recorder

    I'm not sure how Music Thing turned into Small Mobile Recording Gadget News, but it seems that's what we've become. No doubt inspired by this post from a couple of weeks back, Edirol have launched a battery-powered 40gb multitrack digital hard disk recorder with effects and built-in editing. It would look quite sexy if (once again) you'd never seen this. No price yet, but I think it will be pushing £1k. More details: here.

    AES: Virtual ARP2600 from Arturia

    Next up from Arturia, the Grenoble-based superboffins who make the software version of the Moog Modular, MiniMoog and Yamaha CS80 comes: The ARP 2600, a huge modular synth used by pretty much everyone. No price or downloadable demo yet, but it should be £150-£200. There's utterly tedious and massively over-compressed video of Arturia's not-very glamorous offices (in French) here. More details: here

    AES opens in San Francisco. Woohooo!

    So, as I'm sitting in rainy Liverpool Street, London, and 18,000 proper geeks are in San Francisco at the AES Convention. If you are (for example) someone trying to fill a music-gadgets blog every day, this is very good news, although this is a very, very serious convention for very, very serious audio engineers, so don't expect a blizzard of oddly-shaped guitars. ps: Thanks in advance to Harmony Central who are actually at the show. So if you want your AES news much more comprehensive, and much quicker, I suggest you go there.

    "Available in Silver Sparkle and Pink Sparkle"

    The Yamaha Cocktail Drum System is perfect for the Martini-drinking drummer with limited space - the big drum is a bass drum at the bottom, and a snare drum at the top, with various tinkly bits and toms. Tuxedo optional, but preferred. (Thanks to Scottdru on the SoS forum for spotting it.)

    DIY Week: Pt 5: Build your own synth

    Here's how to build yourself an analog mono synth with £60 and an old cigar box:
  • Visit Ray Wilson at Music from Outer Space
  • Send him $30, and he'll send you a printed circuit board for a tiny battery powered monophonic synth. Details
  • Spend some time at a fantastically geeky site like All Electronics or Maplin buying the other components. The whole thing should cost $30-$60. Apparently pots are the expensive bit. Don't get distracted
  • Find a case. This is the fun bit, judging from the gallery
  • Assemble
  • Play!
  • Couture stereos good. Subwoofers bad.

    Look carefully at this picture. Some chaps messing about in a workshop... But what's that on the workbench? And what are those in the living room? And what in the name of holy flying crap is that? Electron Luv make the most amazing-looking valve hi-fi gear I've ever seen. It's built in Utah by a 26 year-old self-taught metalworker and valve boffin with a sculptor father. Mikey sent me the link just as I was trying to find stuff that's going to be annouced at the AES (Audio Engineering Society) conference in San Franciso at the end of the week. So far this ugly grey cube of a sub-woofer is the most exciting thing that's been announced. Do you think Mackie could learn something from ElectronLuv?

    For the geeks, music is just playing checkers

    Another MIT graduate thesis, but I'm not going to shoehorn this one into my getting-old-fast DIY week. Olli from shinerclay.com (and New Jersey) writes to remind me about Audiopad, a truly amazing music interface that pisses all over Lemur. James and Ben took some 'pucks' containing radio transponders, a matrix of antennae embedded in a flat surface and a video projector, and combined it all with an astonishingly cool interface. It's really too great to try to explain in words, so watch this video: QT High/QT Low. It starts out with a bit of student ravey stuff, but stick with it. That interface really is amazing. At the moment, all James and Ben are doing is winning a bunch of awards with Audiopad, but say they're 'looking at commercialisation'. ps: I wish I'd gone to a college where this counted as work and John Maeda was a teacher.

    The rise and fall of the mighty boombox

    Mikey wonders if Pocket Calculator's Boombox Pages fall under the remit of Music Thing. Well, they're full of geeky information about 80s boomboxes and pictures of hip hop people and old ladies carrying crappy Sanyos. And there's a 'future' page with a mocked up Sony Boodo Khan boombox. So... yes, they do!

    Ebay of the Day: Amazing 50s Drum Kit

    Just a quicky - look at this incredible Trixon Drum Kit, as played by Bill Haley's drummer in the 1950s. Bidding starts at £1750. Seems like Trixon have a slightly alarming cult following. More crazy 1950s pics here.

    DIY Week: Pt 4: Supercharge your sound card

    One of the strangest things I've read for weeks is this post which Gareth sent me about people modifying their EMU 1212m sound cards. The cards are already very well regarded (mine sounds great to me), but these guys remove various components - capacitors and op-amps - replacing them with higher-grade ones, like the semi-mythical Black Gate capacitors (which can cost up to £140 per capacitor, and have a fantastically cool logo). Iron Dreamer, the guy who seems to be the leader of the modders, claims that that the mods - which cost him $140, the same as the price of the card - have given improvements in " in the soundstaging/imaging, speed/slam, treble extension, background blackness, and detail".


    DIY Week: Pt 4.5: Mod your heaphones

    The other thing that Iron Dreamer does is modifying headphones - changing the cables for higher grade wire, and adding 'Woodys" - hand-made wooden shells to replace the plastic shells on top-end headphones like Grados or Sennheiser HD-600's. He charges about $95 for the cable. For the cable and the woody, it depends which wood you have, from $295 (Mahogany) to $370 (Quilted Maple). Apparently Quilted Maple "Provides a richer tonal signature with wider soundstage with it's thickness."

    DIY Week: Pt 3.5: DJ with a :CueCat!

    I'm not totally sure if a guy's MIT Media Lab graduation thesis counts as 'DIY', but respect to Nikita Pashenkov anyway. He took a bunch of spare parts and built something very like Final Scratch (which has just released Version 2), another playing-mp3s-through-your-decks device. See also: Miss Pinky's Interdimensional Wrecked System, which doesn't rely on weird retro CueCat technology. (Thanks to Tommy Walker III and Waxy.org)


    Virtual Synthi Pt 2: Instant Chems!

    Who could not love a piece of software that comes with a safety warning? When you install EMS' Synthi Emulator, a disclaimer comes up warning that it can produce very high and very low frequencies, and to be careful of your speakers. In other words "Watch yer bass bins, I'm tellin' ya". I spent about an hour last night playing with the demo, and it's ace. All those spazz-out synth sounds the Chemical Brothers use - particularly on 'Come With Us' come straight out of the Synthi. Using it is simple: Load up any of the patches (they all sound pretty much the same), tweak out any annoying noises, and start wiggling the joystick. I was using it in Tobybear's Minihost to record a load of pretty-much-random audio, which I then chopped into loops in Ableton Live (avoiding the hisses that the demo version of Synthi inserts every so often). Instant Chems! Still, one thing I forgot to mention yesterday. EMS want €350 for the software. It's awesome, but €350 for one noise seems a little bit steep...

    DIY Week: Pt 3: Build your own MIDI stuff

    Everyone's building their own MIDI controllers these days. This is Richie Hawtin's, this was built for Monolake, who invented Ableton Live, and this is Andrew Neumann's MIDI Grips device, which he uses to improvise live music.
  • The easiest way to build your own is to use Doepfer's Pocket Electronic - a pre-built circuit board which you can attach sliders and pots to. (£59 from EMIS)
  • The next step - if you want to build your own sequencer, full-on control surface, or SID drum machine - is MIDIbox, a free collection of plans, operating systems and ideas. The gallery shows that pretty much anything is possible, given time and phenomenal geek power. The most incredible thing there is this vast control surface with motorised faders, a bit like a home-made Pro Tools Control 24.


  • New Music Thing - Weekly Email

    I'm planning to do a weekly email roundup once I get enough subscriptions. If you're interested, sign-up here. Sorry about the incredibly crappy design on the sign-up page. It looks terrible on a PC, and really, really terrible on Safari.

    Virtual Synthi

    The suitcase-mounted EMS Synthi is one of the coolest synths ever made. Brian Eno used it to create lots of the weird noises on David Bowie's 'Heroes', and the Chemical Brothers use theirs for loads of the big analog noises (full Chems' gear list). Now, a german company called EMS, who seem to use the same logo as the original EMS, are selling a Virtual Synthi. I haven't had a chance to download the windows only demo yet, but it's very unusual to see a VST plugin approved by the original manufacturer, so it might be good. They're not the first with a Synthi emulation: these guys with their really badly designed website will sell you one for $14.95, and I'm sure I downloaded a really cranky one from KVR a while back. EMS are still making and selling original Synthi's Here - selling them for £1600 - £1800, although an original one sold for £2,550 on Ebay two weeks ago. Alternatively, for $2, you can buy a Fridge Magnet, or for $9.99, a slightly rubbish T-Shirt.

    "Torturing! Timbuktu! Slaughtering! Porno!"

    Props to Precision Sound who have just released their 'Demonic Voices from Hell' sample CD, containing "unprocessed performances from professional singers and voice artists in the darker heavy metal genres" for $50. Assuming you've got headphones on and are not of a sensitive nature, I'd recommend you listen to this ace MP3 sample, which appears to say: "Torturing! Timbuktu! Slaughtering! Porno!" (Thanks, Sonic State)

    DIY Week: Pt 2.5: AMD's Third World PC

    It's not strictly music, but Ryan at Engadget reports on AMD's new Personal Internet Communicator. It's a low-cost, self-contained PC designed for the Third World. You can certainly argue that $185 for a 366mhz PC with 10gb hard disk and 128mb ram isn't really cheap (You can pick up a better spec machine for £40 on Ebay), but I love the product design - and the idea that every teenager in every favela in Brazil is about to get themselves a cracked copy of Reason and start making music.

    DIY Week: Pt 2: Homemade robot drummer

    It's currently under attack from a horde of slashdot traffic, but you should still be able to witness P.E.A.R.T, the robotic drumkit inspired by Rush drummer/Ayn Rand enthusiast/travel writer Neil Peart (that's him in the picture, not the robot). The best bit of the site is the video clip showing P.E.A.R.T playing Silverchair's 'Tomorrow' along with a couple of the Uni of Louisiana students who built it. Interestingly, what it proves is that crappy MIDI drum patterns sound as crappy through a real drum kit as they do through your soundcard.

    Dr Rhythm Returns

    Roland have just started shipping the DR-880, a new Dr Rhythm drum machine. It's got some weird features - along with 400+ drum sounds, it has some built in amp models, so you can plug a guitar in and jam along. Best of all, it looks a little bit like a teeny weeny Akai MPC2000 (but without the samples, and the clever Roger Linn design). But it's a bit hard to see who's going to rush out to spend $500 on a Dr Rhythm drum machine. I seem to remember my friend Laurence's big brother had a DR-110 (right), which cost £200 when it was released 1984 - by the time we got it it was probably 1987. It was crap, obviously, but there wasn't anything else. Nowadays, the world (well, Ebay) is full of crap drum machines, and a bunch of extra sounds and a weird guitar amp sim isn't going to do the job. Don't miss the virtual DR-110 at the Keyboard Museum. And if you're wondering how much your old Boss kit is worth, this page will tell you.

    Disturbingly hygenic-looking guitar amp

    I can't help thinking that the whole Apple shiny white thing is starting to get a bit icky. JamPlug is a tiny guitar amp, built into a slightly overgrown jack plug. I haven't heard it, so I don't know how it sounds, but that styling is really worrying me. Something about the shiny, cheap-looking plastic, the bulbous shape and the slightly bizarre pictures of girls in low-cut-tops crouching over guitars makes me wonder if it does more than just amplify your guitar.

    Mingin' Flying V from 'Wind of Change' guy

    Announced today - this delightful Michael Shenker (from the Scorpions) flying V from Dean Guitars, who have a vast range of utterly vile guitars. Enjoy! Deal also promote the Dean Girls, one of whom just got in Maxim USA. (thanks, Harmony Central)

    DIY Week: Pt 1: Naill's computer pedal board

    Niall Moody is a 23 year-old student (and Japanese video game geek) from Glasgow doing a PHD in Music Technology. He's written a bunch of interesting VST plugs - like Particle Fountain and Sine Synth. His new thing is a home-made guitar pedalboard to control all the VSTs in his computer. He made it of wood, a few wires and an old joystick, then wrote a neat host application to make it all work. As he ssys, he couldn't afford NI's 'Guitar Rig', but he could always have bought a Behringer FCB1010 MIDI pedalboard for £99, though they're so baffling to program he was probably better off starting from scratch. The pedalboard instructions come with the free software here.

    Peavey 5150 sandcastle

    I've really nothing to add to this, other than to say: "Thanks Mike!"

    The eternal cycle of robot/human/robot life

    When Kate read this post about a real man playing a robot trumpet, it reminded her of this story about robot people playing real trumpets, and also Captured by Robots, the utterly terrifying real-people-and-robots-jamming-together-with-blood band. Thanks, Kate!
    ps: Hey, look, the tiny robot is serenading the Google ads! "Click them, click them, click them for joy" he parps...

    Ebay of the day: Elka Electric Accordion

    Gareth the accordion expert (he of MIDI polka in underpants) has spotted this fantastic 60s floor-mounted electronic not-quite accordion thingy. Bidding starts at £10. Believe!

    Rick Rubin Day: Pt 4: Gotta have Neve

    For a semi-talentless bedroom studio musician (which is the demographic this site is aimed at), Rick Rubin's recording techniques are pretty much unobtainable. According to this piece about Mars Volta, his technique is this: 1) Get a bunch of competent musicians. 2) Rent a haunted mansion in Hollywood. 3) Install vintage Neve mixing desk, huge Pro-Tools system, lots of vintage microphones. 4) Add 500 watts of monitoring, through ProAc speakers. 5) Record. The clever bit comes in rehearsal, when Rick helps the band to turn their incoherent jams into massive records (before Rubin, most hip hop records were 6-7 minutes long). But, Music Thing's job is to present objects of lust, so here is a vintage Neve mixer, currently at £205 on Ebay. I suspect it's not exactly what Rick uses, but at least it's got a built-in telephone, which you don't see so often these days. Sorry I couldn't be more help.

    Rick Rubin Day: Pt 3: Sir Mix-A-Lot

    Rick Rubin signed Sir Mix-a-Lot to Def American, he told him 'Baby Got Back' was a good song, and he made him speed it up into a hit:
  • Anthony Ray got his hip-hop name when he was sitting programming a drum machine (almost certainly an Oberheim DMX) while watching a film about King Arthur on PBS
  • The idea for 'Baby Got Back' came when he met some models on a video shoot who couldn't get work because of their booty: "It was sad to see these women couldn't get work because of some stupid standard of beauty," he recalls.
  • 'Baby Got Back' was originally a down-tempo number. He only sped it up because Rick liked it and he didn't have any other fast songs on his album.
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot is a huge rock fan, and is now producing a rapper called Outtasite, who does a scary rap-metal version of 'Baby Got Back'. A local writer who's seen the show said: "It was as if his fetish had reached frighteningly pathological dimensions.
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot's last album contains a track called 'Big Johnson': "I had this massive argument with this woman I've known for a long time about 'Baby Got Back.' "She didn't like it at all, and she said, 'If someone did a song called "Baby Got Dick," would you like it?' I said, 'Yeah, that would be cool.'"
  • 'Baby Got Back' sold 2 million copies in America. More

    Rick Rubin Day: Pt 2: License to Ill

    This is Steve Ett, the missing link between The Beastie Boys and Steely Dan. After a decade working with Steely Dan and Rickie Lee Jones, he was hired by Rick to engineer 'License To Ill'. The album took a year of 3am finishes to make, which was unheard of for a hip hop record in 1986. Why so long? It was polished. Ett and Rick recorded 'It's the New Style' by recording 24 tracks of percussion loops from drum machines, then dropping tracks in and out, playing the fader's mute buttons like an instrument (Ett is also a drummer). But the most torturous track was 'Fight For Your Right':
  • The original track had a tape-loop drum track, which was soon replaced by a Oberheim DMX being played by hand by Steve Ett.
  • Rick played guitar himself (the guy from Slayer played on the album, but not this single). The Beasties rapped over the track, left Chung King studios and went home.
  • Rick was totally into the track. He'd been waiting for the Beasties to write him a hit for two years and knew this was it. Trying to create the ultimate 80s rock parody, he stripped off the drum machine and put huge rock drums on, and replayed the guitar with a cheesier sound.
  • The Beasties hated the track when someone bought a tape of the finished mix to their tour bus. But Rick knew it would work, and 'License to Ill' went 9 times platinum.
  • The original working title for 'License to Ill'? "Don't Be A Faggot"

    Thursday is Rick Rubin Day!

    Five good reasons why Rick Rubin is the man:
  • Johnny Cash 'Hurt' [QT Video]: Every day, for the months before Johnny Cash died, he'd call Rick every day to give him communion, saying "And they retired to a large upper room for the Passover feast, and Jesus picked up the bread…" and so on. Have you ever heard anything cooler than that?
  • LL Cool J 'Going Back to Cali' [iTunes link]: Maybe the best ever use of an 808 in a hip hop record?
  • Beastie Boys 'Rhymin' & Stealin' [iTunes link]: When I was 15, this was the coolest thing I'd ever heard. If you're in any doubt about Rick's skills, listen to this cover version by comedy voice-over man turned hip hop 'artist' Penthouse J.
  • Jay-Z '99 Problems' [QT Video]: Rubin says all the music he likes is punk. AC/DC are punk, the Beatles are punk, and hip hop is 'black punk'.
  • Run DMC 'Walk This Way' [Real Video]: When DMC and Run first heard the lyrics on 'Walk This Way', they called it 'hillbilly gibberish'. And yes, that picture is Rick in the studio, recording 'Walk this Way' with Run DMC at the desk and Steven Tyler looming.

    (Another) Massive new virtual-analog synth

    The world is kind of overloaded with computer recreations of old analog synths, but AAS' new Ultra Analog VA-1 could be the best of all of them. AAS have a great reputation - Lounge Lizard is a synthesised recreation of various old electric pianos (Rhodes & Wurlitzer) which sounds more lifelike than most sample-based recreations.

    Surprise! Line6 annouce Variax Bass

    Surprising absolutely nobody, Line6 have announced that they're going to produce a bass version of their amazing-but-boring-looking digital modelling guitar. It's a great idea - flick a switch to go from Musicman Stingray to acoustic double bass to synth bass. No pictures of it on the web yet, but you know it will be boring-looking, probably with a dorky mother-of-pearl scratchplate. The thing in the picture is a Ritter Bass from Ed Roman.(Via Vettaville)

    Yamaha's super-dooper new electro trumpet

    Good to see Yamaha's new virtual trumpet (here) is still taking (subtle) design cues from their legendary WX-7, the MIDI wind controller (kind of a digital saxophone), which was just abou the most high-tech thing I'd ever seen in the late 1987. Craig has a rare red one. Alternatively, you could build your own, even if it looks like you're blowing into a giant cockroach/mallard hybrid. Everything you ever wanted to know about wind controllers is here. And yes, I know that the new Yamaha thing is so much more than a MIDI controller, and will launch us into a bold new era of high-tech brass buskers... (Via Engadget)

    Reader builds his own electronic double bass. From planks.

    Jun, writes from Holland (I think), saying: "Recently, I've built my own electronic upright bass (aka contrabass). If you like you can put it in your page." If I like? Of course I like. Jun's wonderful site is here. Make sure you get to the page with his first prototype bass, made out of a plank, a bridge and some tuning pegs. Thanks, Jun!

    There's always a bigger geek...

    So I was watching Top of the Pops on Friday, and U2 came on to play their awful single. Then I spotted The Edge playing some freaky looking blue Telecaster, with a huge weird lump of metal at the bottom. I was totally mystified, and rewound the Sky+ to have a better look. Then I thought 'someone will know about this on the internet', and today I found U2 Sound. Listings of every bit of kit ever used by U2. 100 guitars, 84 effects... Anyway, obviously someone had spotted the guitar (weeks ago), and the 'weird lump of metal' was just a Bigsby. Ah well.

    Like Cubase SX3... on your phone

    I kind of passed over this when I saw it earlier in the week, just because I don't have the necessary phone, but Syntrax looks amazing - 8 stereo channels, sample playback, a soft synth, a sample editor (!), realtime filters etc etc. ON A MOBILE PHONE! It only costs $20 and was created by Reinier van Vliet, a Dutch programmer who's been doing this kind of thing since Mugician on the Amiga.

    Ebay of the Day: John Bonham drum kit

    If I was a drummer, and I had £3k and nice neighbours, I'd be bidding for this Ludwig Vistalite Amber drum kit, an exact replica of the one John Bonham plays in The Song Remains The Same, although unfortunately you're missing the gong. Bonham's finest moment? This.

    Minimal tune-writing software from Yorkshire

    Coming straight outta North Yorkshire, Jump is a new-ish music composition program. It uses the crappy-sounding Windows XP internal sounds, and doesn't allow any MIDI or Audio recording. Instead, you program chord sequences, drum patterns and melodies. I've just been playing with it for an hour, and it's a bit like using one of those auto-chord, auto-rhythm keyboards, but far more involved. It's perfect if, like me, you can waste hours pissing about with weird noises and effects rather than actually writing a tune, let alone structuring a song. The demo version [download] doesn't let you save, or export your midi files. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'd actually spend £69 on it. UPDATE: Turns out you can send the output from Jump to any MIDI instrument or software synth, if you're using a virtual MIDI cable like Maple. Which is cool, but I like the idea of using the crappy MIDI sounds - it's the digital version writing songs on an acoustic guitar.

    The Dub Reggae Ice Cream Truck

    When I worked at Mixmag, we bought an old ice cream van, painted it up, put in some decks and took it to Creamfields. In LA, two dub DJs have done the same thing, only their chimes machine plays dub, not Energy 52... More and more(Thanks Mikey)

    Gallery Corner: Arabic musicians

    If you're in South East London, try to get to the Horniman Museum, to see Horst A. Friedrichs' very cool photos of Arabic musicians - one shot looks like an Arabic Keith Richards - an old wrinkled guy, wearing lots of rings, playing some kind of four-stringed instrument. The exhibition is free, and it's on until 27th Feb. The Horniman has a permanent collection of exotic musical instruments (and a knackered Encore electric guitar, for some reason).

    Ebay of the day: Dorky badges

    With 1,444 sales under his belt, I'm guessing that Chuck Large makes some kind of living from selling homemade badges (pins) with a pretty broad range of pop-culture references - he appeals to geeks like us (Moog, Roland, 303/808/909, Akai MPC, Brian Eno, Korg), proper geeks (a Carl Sagan pack) and fashion geeks (got to have the Marc Jacobs Fall 2003 collection badges).
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