Influential funk artist Edwin Birdsong passes away. SoundCloud’s co-founder resigns. Article 13 is in trouble. Native Instruments has plenty of new gear.
RIP Edwin Birdsong. Influential funk artist Edwin Birdsong has passed away at the age of 77. Though not particularly well-known globally, Birdsong was sampled in many hit songs by artists like Daft Punk, Kanye West, De La Soul and Gang Starr. His 1979 song “Cola Bottle Baby” was heavily sampled in Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” And his 1980 single “Rapper Dapper Snapper” was sampled by De La Soul and Gang Starr in “Me Myself and I” and “Skills.” Birdsong released five albums during his career, from 1972 to 1981, and worked alongside Stevie Wonder, Roy Ayers and Funkghost. Birdsong’s son confirmed his father’s passing on Instagram.
SoundCloud co-founder resigns. After 11 years, SoundCloud co-founder Eric Wahlforss is resigning from day-to-day operations as the company’s chief product officer as of March 1st. Wahlforss started SoundCloud with Alexander Ljung in 2007, and said while the decision to step back wasn’t an easy one, he’s come to the realisation that it’s the right time to “reflect and think about what to create next.” The past few years have been rocky for SoundCloud, with mass layoffs and reports of budget issues, followed by a $170 million cash injection. What happens next for the streaming company remains to be seen. Read Wahlforss’ full statement below.
Trouble for 13. On January 18th, eleven countries voted against the latest draft version of the Copyright Directive, including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia. Many cited concerns over Article 13, making adoption of the Copyright Directive before the European elections in May “less likely”, according to European Parliament Member Julia Reda, who is a vocal opponent of Article 13. YouTube has been pushing strongly against 13, and Reda said “public attention to the copyright reform is having an effect.” What happens next is anyone’s guess. Read more here.
Pocket modular. For those who want to go modular on a budget, Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator might be the right choice. The Swedish company has introduced three self-assembly kits, each for a under $500. There’s the 170, an analog monophonic synth with step sequencer; the 400, a three-oscillator synth with modules including noise, random generator, envelope, VCA, LFO, filter, mixer, speaker, power pack and 16-step sequencer; and the 16 keyboard, which is designed for use with the 400 and has tuneable keys and a step sequencer. Prices are $349 for the 170—including a chassis, nine modules and eight patch cables; $499 for the 400; and $149 for the 16 keyboard. No word on release date, but preorder has begun.
Aussie festival crackdowns. Following the deaths of five partygoers—including two at September’s Defqon.1 festival—the NSW government is enacting new rules for music festivals. Organizers will now need a special licence, similar to those for pubs and clubs, and apply with a panel of experts who will ensure events meet “high safety standards” before a licence is granted. Standards include the inclusion of “chill-out zones” staffed with doctors, nurses and paramedics to help festival goers who feel unwell, and free water stations for guest hydration. Read more here.
London gets new radio. A new radio station, based in Tottenham club The Cause, launched in on January 21st. Called Threads Radio, it promises a “unique selection of upcoming, cutting edge music,” and will also feature conversations on social and political topics. There will also be a sister station called Threads* based out of Berlin, which will engage and participate in issues facing the local community, launching on Friday, January 25th. Connect here.
Auto sync. It just got way easier to program beats into your DJ sets, as Roland drum machines now automatically sync with Serato’s DJ software via the Serato x Roland TR-SYNC update, which simplifies the process for Serato and Roland users. Just plug a TR-8S, TR-8, TR-08 or TR-09 into your setup via USB and you’re good to go—no MIDI configuring necessary. The update is available free in Serato DJ Pro and through the firmware on the Roland drum machines. Find out more here.
Putting out the Fyre. After two Fyre Festival documentaries landed on Netflix and Hulu last week, detailing the greatest disaster in festival history, one woman caught the internet’s attention as particularly victimised by the festival founder’s fraudulent ways. Bahamian bar owner Maryann Rolle used $50,000 of her own money to pay off local workers when founders skipped town. She was visibly and financially broken by the experience. However, Rolle set up a GoFundMe page just before the Netflix film was released, and donations surpassed her $123,000 target, proving it’s not all bad news out there.
New Eurorack. Just in time for NAMM, Make Noise has debuted new Eurorack module called QPAS, a four-core, stereo, analogue filter allowing for four resonant peaks and filter types simultaneously. It also provides a “smile-pass” filter, which changes response depending on the cutoff frequency and other settings. There’s also two Radiate controls for spreading two of the four peaks to different frequencies, and the two parameters can also be modulated. QPAS also provides the ability to route the sound in various mono to stereo combinations, and by placing a VCA before the filter circuitry, QPAS allows the filter peaks to continue ringing after the initial sound has stopped. QPAS is available now for $379. Head here for more info.
Going Native. Native Instruments has launched four new products, including the Komplete Kontrol M32—NI’s cheapest keyboard yet—a 32-key MIDI keyboard with OLED screen, eight knobs and a variety of transport controls. There’s also new interfaces with Komplete Audio 1 and 2; Komplete Start, a free suite of 15 instruments, 2 effects, and nearly 1,500 sounds; and Traktor DJ 2, which features integration with SoundCloud’s streaming service, SoundCloud Go+, for DJing with the SoundCloud’s expansive song catalogue. But that’s not all. Head to the Native Instruments website for more details.
Affordable groove. Swedish gear company Elektron is releasing a new groovebox for €460. Program rhythms and sequences in Elektron’s six tracks using either user-uploaded sounds or 300 preset digital samples, or program beats with its six velocity-sensitive pads. The 64-step sequencer allows access to Elektron’s signature parameter locking feature, and there’s a new function called Chance, which looks like a variation on Elektron’s probability-based sequencing found on earlier devices. But that’s not all. Check out a video of Model:Samples below.