The Roli Seaboard: a new generation of keys

"Increase the bandwidth of interaction between people and technology" is how the London based start-up brand, Roli, likes to describes itself. As a keyboardist I have often struggled with my own personal demons questioning the validity and emotional communication of my performance. Specifically as an organist, humanizing playing through phrasing was key to an emotional translation of the music. With the advent of the ribbon control and pitch bend we have been able to add a little more color to synth performance, especially in the realm of keyboardists like Janne Wirman or Jordan Rudess where the norm is pinched harmonics, flowing sweep picking, and string bending from a guitar--this has often left me questioning the use of modulator wheels and ribbons as "humanizing" and rather consider it the guitarification of keys (blastphemy! *shakes fist dramatically*). This Roli Seaboard has soothed my fears with it's fret-less (pun totally intended) capabilities. This is not your daddy's pitch bend.
Myself with Jordan Rudess at NAMM

The Roli Seaboard is a totally new kind of instrument. A keyboard is the basis for the shape however the keys are formed in waves of silicon and are soft to the touch. It has a ribbon control built into the bottom and the top of the keyboard and the sensitivity in the keys for velocity control as well as dynamic movement of the keys to control vibrato and the intuition to bend individual keys into one another. Jordan Rudess really hit home when he said that it takes the movements that keyboardists have already been expressing with no response and giving the player the feedback that they're already hearing in their minds. The Seaboard manifests the phantom expressions keyboardists crave.

Jordan Rudess, Marco Parisi, and Eren Basbug showed off some of the capabilities of the Seaboard including the velocity control as you can hear in the bass sounds (slapping of strings) or in the saxophone (slightly overblown reeds). I have taken a rough video but many more are available on the Roli website where you can see some of the capabilities of this midi controller.

Playing this keyboard will take a little getting used to. I found rubbing my fingers into the keys to be a touch awkward and also key placement seems to be a little wider than I'm used to so I believe developing speed will take some practice. Despite any initial physical bumbling I found the capabilities of this keyboard to be near endless and definitely worth the time to master. As a midi controller, the possibilities are are immeasurable when you have so many parameters for custom samples to be tweaked into perfection, but it also comes with it's own set of software and synth presets for instant standards and gratification (guitar, piano, strings, sax).

The price point is set between $1999-2999 for the regular edition Roli's with one Special Edition Grand set at $8,888,88 (why that number specifically? I have no clue). A bit pricey for something that could potentially end up as a novelty item in the corner of your studio, yes, but for the right person I think this keyboard could be a main staple in their studio or for live performance.

Have you seen this keyboard around yet? Maybe tested it out yourself? Let me know your initial reaction below in the comments!

Open Dynamic Sennheiser HD 650 Review

I survived NAMM!! I was concerned about my survival especially when it took me about an hour to acclimate to the chaos that was comparable to a SAWesque murder maze of lights, Metal, long-haired men and GWAR'S newly unveiled Pustulus Maximus running around... It was overwhelming. After orienting myself with the massive layout of the Anaheim Convention Center I found myself at the Sennheiser booth testing out headphones where one in particular caught my ear; the Open Dynamic Sennheiser HD 650.

[Album Review] Sigur Rós - Kveikur

Sigur Rós has really matured since I last actively listened to them back when Rimur came out. They have successfully emerged from their neo-alternative-ambient-rock haze into a sound all of their own. Sigur Rós and M83 are two bands that really set the pace for what I like to refer to as "hipster music." This is the stuff you so often hear in your local Urban Outfitters, and usually includes bowed guitars, ambient noise, and someone singing into a megaphone and keeping a beat on their Casio bought at Costco--but I digress. They just keep breaking their own personal records for amazing albums.

[Album Review] Atoms For Peace- Amok

Thom Yorke: according to Wikipedia is immediately followed by the words “English” “artist” and “Philanthropist.”

Without dragging this discussion through the politico-socio mud he may or may not be involved in, Yorke is a very well-respected artist and, in my opinion, has used his music illiteracy to reach new heights in rhythmic and textural innovation.  Back in 2006, Thom came out with his first solo album: "The Eraser." "The Eraser" put Thom’s unique influence on the “Radiohead sound” into perspective for me as a listener. Ir painted a hyper-active despondency that is 100% Thom Yorke.

Atoms for Peace is a brick-house of talent. Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame and Joey
Waronker drummer of Beck and R.E.M. beautifully support the unique percussion and auditory structures presented throughout by Thom. The album also stars Nigel Godrich (producer for Radiohead but now on synths) and Brazilian instrumentalist Mauro Refosco. Much like my initial response to Radiohead regarding live play and sound, I felt myself feeling skeptical, yet excited to see what Atoms for Peace can create in a live venue.

Mothers are Philistines

Back in 2010, I was driving my mother somewhere, and I remember I had Kanye West’s album, My Dark Twisted Fantasy playing, which was hot off the press at that time. My mom is normally pretty open-minded, but at some point through the album she turned to me and said, “What is this crap?”

I was sort of taken aback. At that time, it was my favorite album, one of the best of the year, and to this day, I consider it Kanye’s best album, hands down. There are a lot of things going on with that album. Its technically the most complex he’s produced so far. For Kanye as an artist, everything that had happened to him in the past years, all the lines of symmetry, seemed to have been leading to this album – the pain of fame, a confrontation with his own ego, delusions of grandeur and love both received and given and ultimately what seemed like a constant allusion to the graduation he had been leading up to his entire career. It’s a sad, jagged, megalomaniacal masterpiece. I don’t know, a lot has been written about this album, and I hold my doubts that Kanye will be able to top it. It’s a one-man Abbey Road.

But according to my mother, it was crap. I think she just didn’t understand it.

Witch House: Creepy and Maximally Comfy

What's a boy to do when he's standing alone at a bar, the music is bumping and the girl he's talking to can't even hear what he's saying over the ceaseless wubbing of dubstep, or the incessant raw bass of hip-hop. Let's be honest with ourselves, when we go to a bar or a club, it's maybe one in four songs we recognize, and half of them have been played to death (I swear to god, if that asshole plays Bangarang one more time...). I mean, its sort of the zeitgeist for our generation - hip-hop and dubstep are staples at any bar or club of repute. As much as it irks me, I can understand it. Hey listen, I love me some shoegaze, and if the place I was at started blaring My Bloody Valentine, I think I'd be right at home, in sort of a stoned, absentminded sort of way, the way I always am when I listen to that shit. I guess that's the thing though - I mean when was the last time you walked into a bar and they were playing really mellow, toned down music? I can't remember one for the life of me, and maybe that's the Alzheimer's starting to kick in, or maybe it's done on purpose.