We take a look back at the highs and lows of 2012 in music and gear, pausing to reflect on the value of the end-of-year list and looking ahead to what 2013 has in store.
In virtually every culture around the world, the end of the year is traditionally a time of reflection, a chance to take stock of events which have just passed and look forward to those to come.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the media. We’ll freely admit that for many journalists December is all about end-of-year lists, round-ups and as much free booze as the office party can supply.
We can’t vouch for the rest of the world, but lists and round-ups have been a mainstay of the music press in the UK for as long as we can remember. (We’ve been told that the Dutch are particularly obsessed with lists – can any of our Dutch readers confirm or deny this rumour?) The problem is that they don’t often contribute much, especially in cases where they’re published with little in the way of explanation, justification or discussion.
Despite their prevalence, we can’t be the only ones to have noticed a growing sense of discontent with this year’s round of identikit top 10/100/1000 lists. So, instead of presenting The Top Ten Best Top Tens of 2012 we’d much rather try and put things in context. Music shouldn’t simply be reduced to a series of facts and figures. It shouldn’t be about rankings and competition. Does it really matter if a journalist thinks one album’s better than another?
Either way, there’s certainly a value in looking back and taking stock of the year’s events. It makes a refreshing change for journalists not to try and be the first with every story, but to take a little time to reflect and allow their opinions to form. It’s also a chance to discover a few gems which have slipped under the radar over the course of the year.
Even so, there’s always a right way and a wrong way to do these things. Websites publishing ‘best of 2012’ features in November really should know better. Likewise, if you’re going to get caught up in hype, at least be consistent – how many magazines were going crazy for Lana Del Rey back in January then completely ignored her in their run-down of their favourite albums of 2012?
Hopefully if you’ve been paying attention to the way we work you should realise by now that Attack isn’t about that quick fix. We’re always interested in taking our time to formulate opinions and putting things in context.
So, just before we head out to celebrate the new year, let’s take this opportunity to look back over the last 12 months in music and music tech…
The Year In Gear
2012 was a relatively uneventul year for music production gear. We didn’t see a huge number of completely revolutionary new product releases over the last 12 months. Instead, the theme this year was development, evolution and reinvention.
Korg in particular seemed happy to redevelop existing products, tweaking the microKorg, Kaoss Pad and Kaossilator ranges over the course of the year. We’re still optimistic that we might see a new analogue synth based on the development work put into the Monotrons and Monotribe, but we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if and when that might emerge.
Elsewhere, DSI continued to develop the outstanding Tempest and tweaked the monophonic Mopho sound engine to create the polyphonic Mopho X4. Likewise, Native Instruments updated the Maschine software-hardware hybrid to create the excellent Maschine 2 and Moog’s Minitaur distilled the essence of Moog down to a surprisingly affordable bass module.
The biggest exception to the reinvention rule was undoubtedly the Arturia MiniBrute. Coming totally out of leftfield from a company best known for its software emulations of classic synth hardware, the MiniBrute is an excellent all-analogue monosynth created in partnership with the supremely talented Yves Usson. The most exciting part, though, was the price. At a street price under £400, the Minibrute is truly affordable. We’d love to see a market develop for similar products. For too long the options in the analogue market have been limited to vintage gear or expensive newer options.
In 2013,we’re look forward to getting our hands on the newly released Elektron Analog Four and seeing what the manufacturers have in store for us at the NAMM trade show in January. At this stage, your guess is as good as ours! We’re hoping for more affordable analogue gear and products which try and do something a bit different to the norm.
2012 in Software
In the world of software, the little guys continued to compete with the big boys. The likes of TAL’s U-NO-LX and Cableguys’ Curve 2 were just as impressive as any offering from multi-million-dollar software development companies.
But the biggest news, of course, was saved until the end of the year. The announcements of Ableton Live 9 and Cubase 7 – with the latter being released in December – signaled the next chapter in the stories of two major DAWs. Both stories will surely continue well into 2013, when Live 9 will be released, Steinberg will iron out the bugs in Cubase 7 and we’ll all get to grips with the new features. Don’t forget FL Studio too – it may be a long time since the last update, but we’re expecting version 11 in 2013 and hopefully the Mac beta version might finally turn into a full release.
However, we can’t ignore the fact that one of the biggest news stories of 2012 never actually materialised. The much-delayed announcement of Logic Pro X was widely anticipated this year, but it looks like all the users of Apple’s flagship DAW will have to keep twiddling their thumbs a little longer. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait…
Next, we take a look back at the most important thing of all: the music itself…
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