August 06, 2016  

Weird Gear – From the Pacemaker to the Fretless Fader

Electronic music is generally regarded as pretty cool. Hipsters will argue about the quality of vinyl, vacuous celebrities will upload instagram pictures of themselves ‘DJing’ and everyone you know – and their flatmate, and their flatmate’s ex – regularly goes to festivals.

However once upon a time, electronic music was a fairly niche concern. Whilst there was still a healthy, emergent underground scene, it’s been conveniently forgotten that not so long ago an awful lot of electronic music was hugely, gloriously nerdy. Don’t believe us? Take a trip into some of the most bizarre tech that’s emerged over the last decade or so. Remember, people really used this stuff.

The Pacemaker

Let’s start with a favourite. Named after a device designed to keep your nan alive (useful, but cool..?) the Pacemaker was designed to “remove the inconvenience of having to take DJ kit everywhere”. Because every aspiring DJ just dies with embarrassment when they find themselves at a house party surrounded by decks.

Besides, it looked like a failed flip phone. Whilst allegedly the mixing was fine, people just couldn’t quite adjust to the fact that when used in a club environment it just looked like the DJ was texting his mates. It was released around the time that people start getting heavily into smarphone apps too. That didn’t stop Richie Hawtin gracing the cover of Mixmag holding one while the whole industry went dizzy with excitement for a few months.

ModularGrid Mixers

MODULARGRID

Admittedly this one does get the Point Blank staff here a little tickled. It’s a mixer you can make yourself. The possibilities are endless – all the faders you can eat! Even more knobs than the VIP area! Rows of useless but really cool lights!

The only problem is every single module is pretty pricey, given they’re all self contained in their own boxes. Which means all together your homemade mixer ends up being more expensive than a – let’s be honest – better put together mixer by Pioneer or Xone. They’re so expensive in fact, that when searching on the internet for modular mixers you’ll mostly end up with pictures like the above: yes, that’s photoshopped. We’re not fully convinced anyone ever made one of these.

Alesis AirFX

This writer actually used to own one of these. It’s a 50-odd setting effects unit that you control by waving your hand above it. Which, after eight vodka red bulls, makes you feel like Gandalf at your local bar residency. Unfortunately it wasn’t very practical.

Fretless Fader


At first glance, this is actually pretty badass. A fader that goes up and down, as well as side to side (sorry: that can be realised along both the X and Y axis, simultaneously). It’s the work of an individual named John Beez, who intends to sell it eventually. At first glance it looks incredible, but there’s a few gigantic caveats. The first: you need a turntable with midi pitch, which isn’t cheap. Secondly, we can’t help noticing it’s always the same kind of hip hop with an 8-bit lead that he plays in the demo videos, which makes us suspect that it’s not going to sound great with anything else.

Haken Continuum

It’d be interesting to see how many people bought this on the name alone, only to be infuriated that it wasn’t actually a spaceship. The Haken Continuum is essentially a big red keyboard, albeit the keys appear to be touch sensitive and have some element of 3D interactivity too. It’d probably be cooler if it could play several different instruments at different sides of the keyboard rather than low-key murder music but hey, we don’t make the rules. To add to the suburban murder vibes, you can also buy a stand that looks like it belongs in a sex dungeon. Whoever said music teachers had dull lives?

Prolight Laser Harp

It is beyond us why the EDM world didn’t collectively lose their mind over this one. I mean it’s garish, tacky as hell, and not particularly musical but it would probably look pretty balling to the right kind of crowd. It looks to us like there’s a bit of lag on the actual lasers/midi and we’re not sure if you can get any velocity variation. But that doesn’t matter when you’re 22 and eight shots in.

Theremin

You might not have heard of it, but you’ll have definitely heard it’s sound – most likely in some old school sci-fi or comedy. The Theremin has been around for decades, but despite several flirtations with the mainstream, it never really broke through. Maybe because the idea of playing an instrument just by moving your hands through the air may seem pretty neat, actual performances tend to wind up looking a little… strange.

Midi Flute

Yep. Yamaha made these. We’re not sure what the point of them was, but these could’ve kept tropical house alive, at least by sheer comedy value. Skip to 1:20 when the dude plays guitar on his flute and ask yourself how we live in a world where things like this could happen.

We’re now curious as to how all these weird and wonderful bits of kit would sound if combined? Has a band ever done this?

Yes, they have…

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This post is included in Gear, News