MIDI Fighter $125, DJ Techtools
We saw a guy DJing a party using one of these the other night and were so intrigued that we had to break the not-speaking-to-a-DJ habit of a lifetime and ask him what it was. It turns out that the device in question is a MIDI controller made with the buttons from vintage arcade game machines, which is probably way less useful for the price than a plain old controller — but also way, way cooler.
Slayer Christmas Sweater $79, Backstreet Merch
Hideous Christmas sweaters are as much a part of this wonderful time of the year as turkey and acid indigestion, and this is a suitably rock ‘n’ roll version for the metalhead in your life. Seasons in the abyss, indeed.
William Basinski — The Disintegration Loops (deluxe reissue) $225, Temporary Residence
Music geeks have been quietly beside themselves about The Disintegration Loops for a decade, and rightly so. We’ve discussed its backstory ad infinitum, so let’s just say that it’s a record that comes with both production fascinating enough to satisfy the geekiest of geeks, and a whopping serving of emotional resonance. And the box set reissue is beautiful.
Korg Monotron Duo/Delay $70, Korg>
Also for production geeks — we have one of the original Monotrons from a couple of years back, and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable toy to play with, albeit rather too limited to be a whole lot of use beyond making wacky special effects and using its rather awesome filter. These new models — one comes with two oscillators and the other with an on-board delay effect — add depth and utility at the same price, and we wouldn’t say no to getting one in our stocking on Christmas morning.
Atari Punk Console 2.0 $55, Etsy
On a similar note, sure, you can make one of these yourself, but if you want to present one of the more iconic musical circuits of our time as a pre-made toy for your geeky friend to go crazy with, we rather like this particular interpretation, which we found on Etsy.
Sylvie Simmons — Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man $17, Amazon
Shame on us — despite being certified Cohen fanatics, we’ve not actually read this yet (we’ve been too busy saving our cash for tickets to the great man’s concert at the Barclays Center, to be honest), and so we can’t vouch firsthand for its quality. That said, the lack of a decent Cohen biography has been a curious gap in the music bio market for, well, decades, and Simmons’ book has had excellent reviews. We’re looking forward to devouring it, and we’re sure anyone else with a soft spot for one of the finest songwriters of this or any generation will feel the same.
Various Artists — Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-84 $29, Amazon
We wrote about this earlier in the week, so we won’t go over old ground too much here, save to say that this is a fascinating collection of music from an era where DIY electronic experimentalism was in its infancy, and that it’s far and away our favorite compilation of the year. If you want to impress a music geek, you probably won’t go wrong here.
Scape $6, iTunes
Any self-respecting music geek worships at the altar of Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, and as such, they’ll no doubt enjoy playing around with his newest piece of interactive ambient music software. Scape follows in the footsteps of Bloom, Eno’s first venture into the world of generative music for iOS, and it’s really pretty wonderful.
David Byrne — How Music Works $20, Amazon
An ambitious title, perhaps, and Byrne can be somewhat long-winded, bless him — but still, he gives his subject a fair old shake in this book, which is part memoir and part meditation on the nature of music and art in general. It’s won plenty of acclaim, and again, it’s gonna impress the hell out of any music nerd who doesn’t own it already.
SID Desktop 8-Bit Synthesizer Price TBD, Alkex Instruments
LA company Alkex has plenty of form in making fascinating-looking instruments — last year they released a preview video for something called Ball Beats, a Tenori-On-esque step sequencer that used ball bearings as an interface — but we particularly like the look of this 8-bit synth, which is decked out to look like a miniature Commodore 64 and looks like it’ll be all sorts of fun for SID-ing it up with the best of them. It’s not on the market yet, but we’re hoping it’ll drop in time for Christmas.