The UK based music identification company Shazam has announced that the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on February 12 will be Shazamable, meaning that viewers of the show will be able to use their smartphone application during the entire event to receive exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes and artist information. This, after successfully allowing the same live-broadcast features during the Super Bowl XLVI 2012 event, which allowed the users to receive engaging content in real-time during the entire football game and also during nearly half of the advertisements.
The social experience with Shazam for the Grammy Awards will be in the form of images from the red carpet as well as artist integration to purchase their songs and receiving intuitive content related to their music videos, tour dates and other relevant content that the application supports. Shazam has been featured on several TV shows and advertisements (Old Navy being one of them). Similar song discovery applications such as Soundhound, Gracenote, Midomi and SoundTracking have been around on both Apple iOS and Google’s Android platform, although most of the applications lacking the vast audio fingerprint database that Shazam is accessing to identify songs. Midomi is a competing app with the advantage of analyzing a person’s voice (humming or whistling) and returning a song that is closest to the user’s voice, also known as the input query.
Shazam currently has 175 million users in 200 countries, and has gone through several iterations of their application, with social features for publicizing your analyzed content to Facebook and Twitter, while reenacting the experience with YouTube videos and artist recommendations based on your audio search query. A close relationship is kept to the iTunes ecosystem, and most recently they added Spotify as another way for music discovery from within their application. These features collectively help selling 350,000 songs daily, based on 6 million song identifications through their app. That means every 17th input query leads to a purchase, which make them a prominent Apple affiliate, if not the number one.
Win a VIP TRIP To The 55th GRAMMYs in 2013
Worth mentioning is that everybody that makes a search query (also known as tagging) on Shazam from now until March 15, will be entered into a contest to win a VIP trip for two to next year’s 55th Grammy Awards. Visit their website for more details.
At this year’s NAMM show, barely a year after Tsutomu Katoh’s passing (Korg founder and chairman), his company presented a few new products. Korg Inc., a company once started by this man and his fellow companion and visionary friend, Tadashi Osanai, is the almost 50 year-old consumer electronic instrument corporation (founded 1963) that has introduced a series of revolutionary technologies while maintaining and satisfying a strong customer base in the entire world.
While many hardcore fans believe this was the worst NAMM in history, others believed that it was hands down the best show. In my opinion, it seemed that something is utterly wrong in the development of new innovative products in these companies. Maybe did the economy make the R&D in the companies to dry out, or perhaps they are working on major product releases for 2013. The product trend seemed to be either some kind of instrument tuner, or reverse keys (read below), or some tiny black box. And this was seen across most major companies this year. Roland seemed to be following the same path with pianos and pedals. I believe guitarists and engineers were the happiest. Their categories had a blessed year with many new product lines.
Other interesting products that impressed were Nord C2D, Arturia MINIBrute (website), Waldorf Pulse 2 and Moog Minitaur. I would rather like to avoid this, but the Casio XW-P1 and XV-G1 performance synthesizers were pretty cool by the looks. Kind of low-cost budget, like always. A Casio rep officially said “it is the first professional synthesizer in 20 years – a whole new beginning for Casio in professional synthesis”. He also noted the sound as “fat”, and was excited about the step synthesizer (!). The XV-G1 is told to have 19 seconds of sample looping memory. I am not sure how they were thinking, really. I didn’t realize that Casio is still living in the toy bubble.
Korg Monotribe 2
At NAMM 2012 in Anaheim, CA, Korg introduced yet a follow of the -mono, -micro and-nano equipment that has been introduced the past few years with the Korg Monotribe Analog Drums & Synthesizer Analog Ribbon Station (basically a re-invented Electribe and Groovebox) with enhanced sequencer and synthesizer features such as increased synth resolution, drum roll feature, Gate Time Hold feature and adjustable active sequencer steps. This is the 2.0 system upgrade. Pretty exciting and promising!
Using classic analog components (VCO, VCF, EG, LFO), the Monotribe brings back the vintage sound of the analog synthesizer. In addition to the analog synthesizer voice, the Monotribe provides a three-part rhythm section (bass drum, snare, and hi-hat) powered by discrete analog circuitry. These sounds were key elements in a generation of analog beat making and are still in demand today. Monotribe incorporates the popular Electribe step-key interface, with a dedicated button for each of eight steps. This allows real-time, hands-on step editing of drum parts as well as any synth part sequence played on the ribbon keyboard.
SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano
New body, old soul. One of the coolest additions to their catalogue has in my opinion been the revamped SV-1 Vintage Piano that comes in two models; the SV-1-73 Black and SV-1-88 Black Stage Vintage Piano. 73-key piano includes both a Japanese and a German Grand Piano sound, plus 34 additional piano, sounds. The core technology is based on KORG RX (Real eXperience) with an authentic and full-range expression and dynamic sampling. The four plus one great features of the SV-1, citing a Sweetwater product specialist: accurate sampling, accurate effects, accurate amps and finally style… and a real tube (see picture below). Yes, a real tube resides inside the SV-1!
The piano will also be released in a special edition model with reversed keys. Below is a statement from the Korg UK website:
Stage Vintage Piano (Available May 2012)
Limited Edition; bold and curvaceous, with an impressive red body and a retro reverse keyboard!
The rich, red body and reverse-colored keys instantly calls to mind the image of the dream combo organs of the 1960s. Packed with the retro sounds that defined an era and remain in demand today, the SV-1 Reverse Key is sure to complete any keyboard set-up, while captivating the ears and eyes of the audience. Only 500 pieces of each model are available in this strictly Limited Edition.
There is also an ongoing battle between the Oasys vs. Kronos, where both are having great capabilities in which the Open Architecture Synthesis Studio has been incorporated, although the Kronos will most likely be the “future” for their advanced music workstations. An assumption is that the KORG engineers are in the making of the Kronos upgrade, possibly ready for launch next year. While the Oasys still has great potential, several factors tip the scale towards the Kronos as their flagship model. The core technology boils down to an Atom Dual Core (Kronos) vs. Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (Oasys), SSD vs. HDD, 12 GB of sound samples vs. 1 GB. The Kronos also has a higher sequencing resolution, and the whole machine has half the power consumption of the Oasys.
Bits & Bops
There were a few other releases that I am not going to cover. The MicroArranger is one of the arrangers that was announced. The AW2G Clip-On Guitar Tuner is another one. The header photo is a Nektar Panorama P4 by the Californian company Nektar Technology. The P4 is a MIDI controller for the music production software Reason and has a few neat features such as motorized fader and a custom designed communication protocol for interaction with the DAW.
The next music tradeshow will be Musikmesse which is held in Frankfurt, Germany on 21-24 March.
Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) is the French-Canadian Electrofunk duo named Chromeo. Probably the only constellation where two in-real-world hating nations meet to collaborate; or quoting themselves: “the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture.” Growing up as childhood friends, they truly nurtured their talents into what now has become a worldwide success, with their latest tour in 2010 followed by 2011, lasting for more than 18 months. Dave 1, which is the older brother of turntablist DJ A-Trak (Alain Macklovitch), has come a long way since the single “She’s in Control” and the hit song “Needy Girl” which I clearly remember listening to back in 2005. Their actual true exposure to music production came in 2002 when they started the band. It’s actually notable that Dave 1 has worked with Tiga in a record store in Montreal, where he later was asked to work on a project on his label Turbo. (Note: Tiga, as in Tiga & Zyntherius – I Wear My Sunglasses At Night)
Their music has that grungy analog sound to it (which P later has explained is partly arranged on his collection of vintage synthesizers). I recall from a studio tour where they had an old x486 computer loaded with old beats and mixes. These guys are definitely old-school in the sense of studio equipment, but they are also seen with newer synthesizers and vocoders (P-Thugg once explained in an interview on Studio Q (hosted by the Persian broadcaster/musician Jian Ghomeshi) that they [Chromeo] are constantly looking for new additions to their studio equipment, and his [P-Thugg’s] vintage collection is an ongoing project).
Business Casual (album cover art to the left) has been their most recent album that was released on 14 September 2010, on which the tour was based on. They seemed to have been working a lot more on the depth of the tracks as well as the lyrics, making it lighthearted, yet rich, with cool guitar riffs and solos combined with really funky synths and vocoder choruses. I now understand why their hit track is named “Hot Mess”. It’s most likely an inventive reflection of all the years of tacky 80’s songs. Not to forget their very first french lament “J’ai claqué la porte” that really shows off Dave 1’s talent for linguistics (he’s working towards a Ph.D in French Literature).
Chromeo ended their 18 month-long world tour with 4 gigs (London, New York and Los Angeles). Listen to their album ‘Business Casual’ above by clicking on the play button (you need a Spotify account), and watch the ‘Thank You’ video below.
Listen to Chromeo’s album Business Casual before you buy it
It’s quite interesting and fun to see that Karl Bartos is back on stage after a decade of absence (well, not really a decade). Karl is the former Kraftwerk member of the renowned line-up of Kraftwerkians: Hütter-Schneider-Bartos-Flür that used to plink the little electronic gadget in the song “Pocket Calculator” (Taschenrechner in German, Mini Calculateur in French, and Dentaku (電卓) in Japanese and Mini Calcolatore in Italian) with that awkwardly awesome hip movement back in the early 1980’s. Yes, THAT Karl Bartos. I never really understood the context of the lyrics in the song “Life” that was released in the early years of the millennia:
So glad we made it! Time will never change it! But, finally, I have to get on with my life.
I would assume that Karl was over with Kraftwerk, and realized that a new era was to arise from the fallen pioneers of electronic music. After all, he left the band in 1990 after the secret tour in Italy where he later got replaced by Fernando Abrantes, which in fact never really filled his shoes other than being a douchebaggy personality that not even couldn’t replace Karl’s talent for the Deagan Vibraphone. Let alone all other aptitude Karl possessed.
Karl has been an inspiration for many musicians, me included. I saw him live at Kulturbolaget in Malmoe on May 19th 2001. Even though I was followed by an adult [my dad] (I was under 18, so it was a requirement) to this once-in-a-lifetime venue, it couldn’t have turned out any better. My idol was performing live on stage, and I was right there surrounded by likeminded people with a burning heart for this odd old weirdo that was playing electronic music and singing with a robotic voice.
His recent performances are more nostalgic and entertaining rather than unique and musical. We’ve seen and heard his entire performances either through Kraftwerk, or through him as Karl Bartos himself. Do you remember 15 Minutes of Fame? (with the classic lyrics “all you need is another hit’go, oh celebrities”). Most people would consider it as 3:40 minutes of torture – but it’s still nostalgic to us, the hardcore fans. Nearly all the electronic music and sub-genres of electronica is derived from this guys’ musical creations, as well as Kraftwerk’s – so he certainly deserve all the props he can get for his legacy of being the innovator of synthesizer music, which I later referred as “Sonido Electronico”.
At an age of 60, Karl Bartos still is an outstanding performer and artist and I hope that he will continue doing what he does best; revive Kraftwerk and all their classic tunes. This kids, is what I used to call electronic music when everybody else was listening to Alarma.