Redux34 by Zabutom

Zabutom released Redux34 today 150918.

Who is Zabutom? What is Ubiktune? What is Redux34? What are chiptunes?

I’ll start with the last. Chiptunes and the chipmusic movement is supported by artists using the sound generation hardware of video game systems and older computers. Compared to modern synthesizers and samplers, the hardware in a game console or older computer like a commodore 64 is fairly simple and designed to provide music and sound effects during game play. The synthesizers in these older systems were often 4 Operator Frequency Modulation (4-OP FM) synths and sample playback was limited to low sample rates and 8-bit dynamic fidelity. Composers writing music for game titles developed a style using these simple electronic instruments that developed it’s own place in music. While simple in generation, composers would pour incredible passion and spirit into their themes and ideas, pushing the raw sounds to their limits. Many of us grew up with this great music playing in the background as we struggled toward the next power up or took down a boss at the end of a level. The sounds are raw and brash with very basic effects like delay and distortion, but these limitations gave composers a chance to showcase their ideas and creativity.

Fast forward a few decades and video game systems have become powerful computers in their own right with professional quality sample playback and effects. But the style of the older systems and the spirit of working with a limited sound palette stayed with some who found these sound ‘chips’ not limiting at all, but inspirational and cool. The Chiptune genre of music has developed of artists bringing these chips and techniques forward as their instruments of choice. The selections are sometimes incredibly authentic paying direct homage to the work of the original composers of popular game titles, but giving a fresh musical take on game classics. As a way of comparison, this is similar to classical musical development where traditional pieces and repertoire are emulated closely in style and orchestration but advancing in specific areas. With chiptunes, the traditional works are the game sound tracks, the period instruments are simple synthesizers and samplers. This is an important step for any musical movement, but very special for electronic music at large which is still young and missing works that artists elect as successes and emulate closely and perfectly for new performances. There are standards in jazz and classical music that are taught, studied and included in new performances for daring virtuosi and musical festivals. But where are these standards in electronic music? It turns out this is an ongoing development but happening in the Chiptune movement that has it’s standards, has it’s ‘classical’ instrumentation, has evolved it’s own musical system and convention using trackers and sequencers. Given these factors, chiptune artists have a special kind of legitimacy and future in electronic music because of this sort of regurgitation and emulation that happens between it’s artists, the hardware and the ‘repertoire’. It is the only form of electronic music that has these things combined and the desire on the part of it’s artists to carry them forward and evolve.

The spirit of this homage and artistic identity can also be found in another creative form; software. New synthetic musical instruments are being made by the wizards at such as their Chipsounds, Chipcrusher, and Chipspeech. These software musical instruments are an incredible functional review and dissertation on the history of chip based musical generation; the classic sounds, effects and voices.

To showcase Chiptunes, there are labels like Ubiktune that put out a steady stream of new releases that range from ‘classical’ chiptune works to experimental and some that are idiomatic of other syles of music altogether. Here is where Zabutom comes in as a master of all three.

Zabutom is a musical artist hailing from Sol system, Planet 3, UTC+2, Gothenburg Sweden. A survey of his releases and stream on soundcloud will treat a listener to a lesson in chiptunes. The music has a strong awareness of game thematic and compositional style, a virtuosic use of chipsounds and the incorporation of other musical styles such as funk, jazz, rock, and dance music. These pieces can be at times immersive and make you feel like you are in a frantic shooter collecting new weapons, or trying to solve a puzzle of some kind as a clock ticks down. But they are also very surprising when you realize what kind of funk and club pounding beats are happening while chipstyle leads shred and soar over the top. Even though the sounds are usually chipstyle authentic, Zabutom throws down some serious grooves, twists, stops, ramps, trills and some of the craziest lead solos over pieces that modulate and shift like jazz and progrock. I have to mention it’s tight. The Zabutom style is highly organized and polished in a way that is exceptional and regarded by his peers. Personally, it is nice to hear a new take on classic game material and then hear it get kicked into another orbit entirely with microscopic detail and chops. Chipsounds are harsh and that is an understatement. Finding pieces that encourage repeated listening that are well mixed and balanced is difficult and part of chiptune mastery. Zabutom seems to get that like Ceephax and other artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, that take the style in unexpected directions but keep a high level of production quality.

Redux34 is Zabutom’s latest release available via digital download and a limited initial run of cd’s. The title is itself clever meaning literally, to bring back. This is in the spirit of great music that brings forward a familiar style with a new twist. Zabutom is stepping out a little with Redux34 however adding to and extending the classic chipsounds with electric guitar and synthesizers. The songs on Redux34 play with formats and don’t follow necessarily the standard idiom algorithms. This is probably because they are written to gel together as an album, in concept, to be heard together as albums of yesterday used to be produced. It runs 39 minutes through 8 tracks.

Starting with ‘Initiate’, Zabutom doesn’t waste any time getting right down to an entirely satisfying groove and the theme comes out gradually in parts. It builds effectively and treats us to a nice round bass and wild syncopated beat. But then all of a sudden we get a fade and in comes electric guitar, droning buzzing bass and analog style arpy pads. What a great track to start with! Initiate does it.

Next up is ‘Jasmin White’, opening with reversed and tape echo style touches that are met with funky dancy bass but don’t let your attention drift for too long because the style might shift at any moment. Such a great mix and nice contrast to the previous that gets right in and then out. Track 3, Noor, goes into a slightly more rock direction with some minor harmonies and solid bass.

‘Resist-Exist’ comes after in a similar key but dives into 7 time and jazz with electric guitar and a tasty outro with alternating minor and major chords that taper away leaving dual guitar tracks and bass to finish.

Right after the nice electric guitar, we have a ‘Escape’ pick up perfectly with a clean synth ostinato followed by the theme that gives way to heavy chunking guitar and chiplead. It is a great combination that puts the guitar lead in front and adds harmonies between guitar and synths. The drums are very chippy and noisy but don’t sound outclassed at all. ‘Escape’ turns beautifully and shows off this new guitar and chipsound combination for Zabutom who layers these analog and chip sources in a personal way ending on a single note.

‘Cutting it close’ breaks away from Escape by immediately driving up the tempo and building a rhythm that is sliced and glitched into sudden bursts and phrases. The leads jump out of tune and shift pitch.

‘Factoid’ comes in with a quieter, older and noisier beat that is a ground for the drones and guitar drifting above it. Then, again, just as you think you feel like you grasp what Zabutom is doing, he hammers down a new bass and beat with beautiful pads that say that isn’t 8-bit rain falling from those radioactive clouds. It expands, pounds and then contracts like a midnight rose as the strings play beautiful chords to the emotional finish through synthetic precipitation.

Finally, the title track plays, Redux34, with dualing leads in harmony and a classic noise kit. He starts classic and then starts substituting instruments including piano. By the second repeat of the theme we feel time flowing by and at midpoint we get another lush drone landscape. The third theme statement hits and builds hard with skillfull layering and fast guitar picking. The theme goes into full piano mode with building polyphony and harmony as the beat fades out leaving wild synths and pads firing away at each other like the faded characters in the coin op games of our past. Redux34 ends perfectly bringing a circle within a circle. What is next? We are left hanging in a romantic way with that youthful imagination wondering if the characters in the simulation keep going, personified and doing their own dance and never ending celebration, peeling away to something else more mature and evolved.

Redux34 is wild to listen to, does not hold back, make apologies or cater to the banalities of conventional electronic blather. Zabutom’s chops are all over this release and should be appealing to those listeners outside of or new to chiptunes. Head over to the Zabutom site, take a listen, grab a copy and then turn it up.

Listen to and purchase Redux34

Read more about this release from Ubiktune

Listen to Zabutom on Soundcloud

Written by Jonathan Adams Leonard 150918

Dilithium Introduction

Dilithium is an experimental drum sequencer for Native Instruments Reaktor. It was designed to experiment with tempo modulation per track. Most drum machines, sequencers or DAWS that feature tempo modulation offer only a global tempo guide or curve that affects everything or all clients at once. Dilithium, named after the crystals in the warp drive of the U.S.S. Enterprise, is currently a 4 track drum sequencer where each track has it’s own clock and tempo curve editor.

The idea for Dilithium was born from personal work done in information theory and communications specifically different clock models and how to combine timing information from many clocks at once, thought experiments modelling contexts of polytemporality, group phase, and the emergence of the direction of what we so often call time. This gave rise to some interesting ideas about time, which is merely another form of information, and that time as we often think of it, is as an implication but also a social convention whose cost of propagation is justified by it’s social utility. The idea of time is often wedded to the idea of a mechanical clock whose position or phase may be reset as necessary. Horology is the study of time and there are many kinds of clocks historically that measure time. One might imagine the simplest possible clock and what any clock might require to measure time but here we are getting lost because our language refers to time as a thing, rather than a form of information. Such an idea might include an energy source, a simple harmonic oscillator, a counter, a readout showing modulos, and an input to reset the counter. A network of these simple clocks would require a topology, and a means of propagating reset signals. The typical topologies are based on the social election of a clock master, and the propagation of it’s position to clock slaves. But this is confusing because the slaves aren’t really clocks, but readouts allowed to freerun until the next reset. In this model, the measurement, propagation and display of time is a cooperative and essentially mechanically deterministic solution. This is to be contrasted with another model(s) that is not cooperative but competitive, is not mechnical, and is not deterministic but statistical. The measurement of time may be performed without any master or slave and present time as information that emerges as a property of the combined phases of a system. This gives rise to algorithms for clocks that may combine many sources from the atomic to the celestial, be accessible to any agent in our physical system, afford better precision at near limnal velocities, have no physical location and be indestructible.

Leaving the context of horology and entering the musical we find some controversy and ambiguity concerning human versus non-human(mechanical) clocks. Time and meter are fundamental aspects of any musical description and performance. The musical context is a great way to explore concepts of time as humans possess non mechanical flexibility and musical ensembles of different configurations are themselves distributed clock topologies. As an example, a human musician can keep it’s own time, an internal reference, can listen to one or more external time references simultaneously, can reset it’s internal reference on demand, and perform an abstraction that combines external references with the internal to create what is a time inference. Going from the individual to the group ensemble, a jazz quartet may exhibit a high degree of timing synchronization between it’s musicians that can be heard and experienced despite; no mechanical assistance, some playing ahead, some playing behind the beat and no one playing the beat and yet they all know where the beat is. This might be called super time as it is a superposition of many individual timing inferences. Musicians can show us ways of how time is emergent rather than deterministic, and how time and it’s direction is supported by the contribution and inference of many components in a system.

Drum Machines versus Human Musicians. We should not be surprised what is considered superior according to humans. It is one of our most notable qualities that we see ourselves as the sole agents of rationality wisdom and judgement…in the entire known universe. Yes, I am a human writing this. Sorry for not pointing that out earlier. We, consider ourselves better than animals and because of this, separate and entitled to special consideration. It should not be underestimated how thoroughly this superiority and entitlement has penetrated human thought and creativity. This distinction of humans from all creation is called Sapience and is ironically part of our own biological designation. Homo Sapien. Erectus, Habilis, Sapien? It turns out this sapience is at work not only concerning animals and humans, but also humans and machines. What are machines? They are things we, humans, make intentionally to perform some task. Which should be distinguished from software processes that are also made intentionally to perform tasks. Things made without intention should be called ‘Natural’ and should apply to software processes as well. Most humans would juxtapose intentional with accidental, rather than natural. It is my suggestion here that many complex systems evolve not through accidental but natural means because of the influence in a system of information itself. Where natural ends and intentional begins will always be a mystery. Humans think they are better than animals, better than machines, better than software and probably better than emergent intelligence or emergent systems. Even though we are those things ourselves and not the artistic brush stroke of any single agent. Which would, after all, make us the machine of another intelligence. Human sapience is present in the evaluation of man machine interfacing and thus, drum machines or mechanical processes for musical performance are considered inferior. But are they in principle inferior or just because we would prefer them that way to support our sapient view of ourselves?

Above, I have described two different ways that time may ‘happen’. It can happen deterministically where one clock drives the displays of many other clocks in a draconian master slave topology that really only has terrestrial applications(implicit time). Time can also happen through emergence or through the combined contributions of many clocks(inferential time). Emergence versus determinism, basically. Is one better than the other? It depends on the context and who you ask but I think they simply have different properties. What is groove, in music? What is beauty, in art? What is love, in life? These three questions all probe the nature of relationship between ourselves and something else. Here, I am curious to disambiguate the first question concerning groove, and how musical performance can be used to understand time itself.

Dilithium is a software process that runs inside an environment called Reaktor. Each track generates midi events and has it’s own clock whose rate may be modulated or warped with a curve editor. Tempo curves are offered as presets with emphasis on symmetrical curves possessing equal parts acceleration to deceleration. Symmetrical curves like sine, triangle, saw and square are above and below the mean tempo axis equally which allows the track sequence playback rate to deviate and return and hit the ‘one’. This initial version of dilithium has been designed to use in a daw as a plugin receiving time position continuously and has a catch feature to periodically sync some variable number of beats. Dilithium also features a swing function that includes swing randomize as well as options to randomize the generated midi note and velocity.

Dilithium for Reaktor 5 can be downloaded here.

Dilithium was used exclusively to sequence the drums in a track called Confuzion available at

Dilithium and Confuzion are both works of Jonathan Adams Leonard.

Casio MT-68 in SFZ 2.0 Format is proud to announce the availability of the Casio MT-68 sample library in SFZ 2.0 format.  Casio MT-68mt68

Casio MT-68 presents, in Kontakt 5 format:

Casio MT-68

Interview with Emagic’s Michael Haydn (2001)

I interviewed Michael Haydn in 2001 at the NAMM show in Anaheim.  Michael at the time was a developer for Emagic and was kind enough to discuss various music technology issues not limited to Logic and SoundDiver.

Interview with Lyle Mays (2001)

I interviewed Lyle Mays in 2001 and published it on which is now offline.  Here is the resurrected interview:


Dilithium Drum Machine for Reaktor

This is a demo of a prototype Drum Machine in Reaktor that features individual tempo curves per track. Sometimes drastic, sometimes subtle the curves allow time warping across and within the beat.

Review: La Petit Mort, POLYFUSE

Review by Jonathan Adams Leonard, 121012

The Chicago based artist Justin McGrath, as Polyfuse, has released a new album this October, La Petit Mort.  Previous releases have traveled down the darker alleys of electronic music taking one into a maze of sizzling grooves and head banging saturated mixes.  The Polyfuse aesthetic, as the name might imply, is one that is charged with current that is trying to escape, crawling across surfaces, arcing, crackling and dangerously building up potential while seeking ground.

In the words of the artist, La Petit Mort has been in development since 2006 and might be itself, polarizing in effect.  Understood to contain an understated yet still provocative mood, listeners can be assured to have a moving experience.

This new release is a departure from the more pulsating themes of the chicago underground.  This kind of album is not without companions in style that eschew a consistent beat, groove or pulse.  Recent releases from Brian Transeau and Amon Tobin tackle the format of electronic music and widen horizons for new sensations and vistas from the cosmic to the microscopic.  Within the abstract and artful La Petit Mort, percussion and beats appear at the right moments but do not dominate.  Like others who are so skilled in design, Justin has created a palette of sounds that sit perfectly in their spaces like framed figures or pieces within an antique diorama.  There is patience and subtlety in the crafting of textures that goes where most Trons can’t.

The aesthetic of Polyfuse in La Petit Mort is still ominously intact, but the development of its’ 14 enigmatic tracks are longer and evolve over arcs that are more dramatic than electric.  There is a successful mix of acoustic and electronic instruments.  Haunting piano, chilling voices and desperate atmospheres evoke a perspective of tremendous isolation as one might look out over a world devastated and evacuated of life.  There is a feeling of death here that is not like a place still bleeding and pink.  It is a world gone grey and eternally drowning in shadow.  The shape and form of the landscapes are present and memorable of a familiar past.  But through La Petit Mort the awareness slowly grows that the world in fact has not been destroyed, but we are, in listening, a ghost now ever apart and transparently ephemeral.  The mortality and diminution we are shown, is our own.

Timed perfectly before All Hallows’ Eve, La Petit Mort is available for preview and purchase at Bandcamp via the link below in mp3 or flac formats.  The album is accompanied with artwork and video that resonate perfectly with the material.

Released 11 October 2012

Bridget Driessen – Physical Artwork, Photography
Jesse Meyer – Photography, Video
Corey Mixter – Video
Justin McGrath – Everything Else
Thanks: Brenton Ryan Nichol, Joe Burke



Danger Maschine

The Danger soundset is now also available in Maschine format.  This soundset includes additional percussion and drumkits designed for the Maschine controller.  Check out the Danger link above for more info and to download.

Danger Renoise

The Danger soundset has now been made available in Renoise format.  To use these instruments, make sure you have Renoise v2.8.1.