randy's Recent Posts

Thanks—I appreciate the feedback. This is a different issue I'm working on: https://madronalabs.com/topics/7914-bug-kaivo-version-1-9-2-sample-graphic-vanishing

by Jason Caffrey
photo: Natasha Kmeto

Natasha Kmeto has been busy.

Since her last full-length album, Inevitable, was released in 2015, the Portland producer-vocalist has been married, divorced, and cut loose by a major Indie label. There have been endings, beginnings, and some tight turns in the road. For an artist whose creative output is anchored in her own personal narrative—Kmeto has been described as “dedicated to the art of emotional engagement”—the upheavals, detours and personal challenges of the past 12 months could perhaps only have led to one thing: fresh material. A new album is in the pipe, which Kmeto hopes will be released later this year.

“Inevitable was hampered by a lot of industry stuff going wrong,” Kmeto explains. “I was signed to a major indie to release that record, and then that label delayed the release for the better part of a year before letting me know their budget had been pulled.” To finally get Inevitable out into the world Kmeto turned to Dropping Gems, the label that released her 2013 album, Crisis.

But the move to a new label for Inevitable was supposed to have been her big break. “Some of my emotions attached to that material were complicated,” she says. “To boot, last year I got divorced, and the majority of my material on Crisis and Inevitable was written about my ex-wife. So I’ve been wanting to feel like I can separate from those phases in my life for a multitude of reasons. I needed to take a break, a little bit of a reset. But then I was actually motivated to get back in and get a full-length (album) written.”

Kmeto has released a single and an EP along the way: Pour Down came out in 2016, and the EP Versus/Versus dropped in April 2019. Plus, as an appetizer to the release of her new work, re-mixes of Last Time and Deeply—both from Kmeto’s Crisis album—appeared in short order at the start of 2020. There are plans for those tracks to be included on re-releases of her first two albums, alongside other re-mixed material.

Emotional space

That work reflects the re-assessment and rejuvenation that have followed the tumult in Kmeto’s personal and professional lives. In a social media post from the end of 2019, Kmeto said she had given up booze, started therapy, connected with ritual—and “explored non-monogamy”.

“Yeah. It's been quite a year,” she says, laughing. “But I can say with full reassurance and sincerity that I got through it, and I think writing this last record was really helpful. It was cathartic, but the reason I'm so excited about it is that it's really reflective of where I'm going as well.” Much of her recent journey, Kmeto says, was difficult, “but a lot of it was really necessary too.” And sometimes, she acknowledges, you have to “slog through your harder stuff to get to good stuff - it's been good from that perspective, for sure.”

For Kmeto, honesty in the creative process is paramount. Track titles like Morning Sex and I Thought You Had a Boyfriend point to an artist ready to reveal her vulnerabilities. And listening to Kmeto’s songs it is apparent that there is little daylight between her creative output and the experiences of her personal life.

“I always need to sense the intention of the artists – and have that intention be sincere and meaningful.”

“I generally write about the moment that I'm in,” she says, explaining that the majority of her output has been written when she felt “urgently pressed” to do so. “I feel like that in and of itself facilitates growth. So it's like the art feeds me and I feed the art.” Kmeto’s solo career “has always been about being really personal and really honest,” she says, “and trying to convey my feelings in a way that makes me feel like I can have a release for myself.” Imaginative starting points are not Kmeto’s way. “I write from a very literal emotional space.”

It’s an approach that Kmeto learned working as a hired musician performing on studio gigs or with different bands – music that was not her own. “That didn't feel right to me,” she says. “It didn't give me any level of satisfaction. In fact, I felt like it was harder for me to do, because there's something to me as a fan of music and a fan of art, I always need to sense the intention of the artists – and have that intention be sincere and meaningful.

photo: Doug Indrick

“I think a lot of art does get created out of trying to follow a fad or copy something – or make money off of it. And for me, art and music – I want it to feel deep. I want it to feel like the intention of the composer, writer, or musician comes from a place of trying to express something meaningful.

“I just got to this place where I need to make music that I really love for me. And as a singer I never felt that I sounded that good unless I was singing like I meant it.”

Eurythmics, Madonna and Prince

Kmeto acknowledges the 80s synth-pop heritage of her music, and its influence on Crisis and Inevitable in particular – two albums that reference much of the music of the '80s and '90s she grew up on. “Synthesizers have always been my favorite sound to play with,” she says. “My strong influences have always been electronic music and RnB, so a lot of synths I call on are both nostalgic and future-leaning—they feel like they run into each other in a kind of cool way. I grew up listening to the Eurythmics and Madonna and Prince – and all that music, it comes through for sure.”

 As a gay woman “hugely into electronic music” Kmeto is also conscious of the musical foundations laid down by LGBTQ+ artists working in electronic genres such as house music. “That's music that started from queer black people in the United States mashing two disco records together. I think it's important to pay homage to that, but also that's just the music that I feel in my soul. I feel connected to it, for whatever reason. That music has had a profound impact on me for my entire life, even before I was out as a gay person.” 

In creating her own music, Kmeto draws strongly on her training as a songwriter. But it was early experiments with sampling that helped her go beyond learned conventions, and became key to Kmeto finding her own voice, as a producer as well as a singer. “After going to music school I think I had a really rigid understanding of how songs ought to go,” she admits. “And so to break free of that, the first stuff I started working on was sample-based.”

Kmeto had fun, side-stepping a theoretical approach and concentrating on the simple pleasure of creating. “I would just put sample-based beats together and then sing over it. Working with samples helped me get into sound design too, which I consider an equal part of my song-writing experience.

“You can write a song with chords and lyrics and obviously that's important. But sound design, and how the song is produced is also a huge part of how music is written today. As I got more comfortable with my workflow, I started songs from melodies and was able to construct and build around that.”

Choosing colors 

Mindful of the “literally millions of sounds” offered by a typical DAW, Kmeto is careful to curate the sounds she works with. “Every release starts with a palette. I choose a selection of sounds I'm going to use so it doesn't get overwhelming,” she explains. “I've always been into the idea of collections, or how some artists will do a show that's all inspired by the same medium. Like fashion designers—they'll pick their textiles and work within that structure. To me that's always been helpful.”

And as a singer who also produces her own work, Kmeto maintains a high degree of control over the aesthetics of her songs—something she particularly values when it comes to treating her own vocals. Not wanting to make the beats “second-hand” to her voice, Kmeto often uses reverb to seat both elements in a common space. “I love a big washy reverb or delay moment in a song,” she laughs. “I've always liked wet vocals, I think they sound cool. And I can sound more like an instrument.”

Like all artists, Kmeto has favorite tools that she reaches for again and again. At the top of the list comes a Peluso P67 microphone. Like a scene out of The Blues Brothers, she sold her car to buy it. “I love it,” she says, “I haven’t regretted it.” A Korg Minilogue “routed through a bunch of guitar pedals” is another firm choice. Then there are the plug-ins.

”Valhalla makes a reverb that I use pretty religiously, and I really like (Waves) Vox for vocal compression – you either love it or you hate it,” she says. “And I have Madrona Labs’ Kaivo, which is their granular synth. It’s just beautiful,” Kmeto continues, “even the presets are amazing.”

Kmeto used Kaivo on the track Eyes, which appeared on her Versus/Versus EP. “The reason I was drawn to it is that you can create a granular synth out of your own samples, and I wanted to create a synth out of my voice. I love it.”

A new single, trust issues, is out on a Future Archive Recordings compilation, and she plans to release her next album in the fall, though she won’t be drawn on the details. “We don't have anything announced just yet—I'm still working on getting it mastered.” But after all that has happened since Inevitable, the prospect of striking fresh ground is animating Kmeto with a new energy. “I’m excited to get it out,” she says, “excited to get it done.”


Hi, Sorry you're having trouble—I'll appreciate any more details if you have them. If there's a specific patch that does it, that will help me the most.

On mac you can record video with cmd-shift-5, it's built into the system. just Google "How to record the screen on your Mac" to find the apple support article.

Hi Erik,

Sorry you're having trouble. I have another report about slow graphics and I'm very interested to track this down ASAP.

What operating system are you using?

Can you confirm you are on the latest version of Aalto, 1.9.2?

Can you give the Aaltoverb demo a try and let me know if it has any of the same issues?

Thanks for the info. This and a thankfully short list of other issues are on my plate for an update coming soon.

Hi there—Kaivo should work like any other plugin in Live. Basically as follows:

Click the arrow in the Kaivo device title bar to unfold the device parameters. Then click "Configure" to enter Configure mode. Then, adjusting a Kaivo parameter will add it to the list for the device. Then the parameter appears in the track automation menu where you can select it.


Thanks for the additional info—I'll take a look.

Ah, maybe you did, that sounds familiar.

To be clear I'm not trying to suggest that Soundplane for Windows should be someone else's job. Just that if someone has the interest to dig in before I can get to it, I'll try to support them.

OK, thanks for the additional info.

From what I understand, Windows 10 should allow the task to be much easier than what I unfortunately had to give up on years ago. However, I haven't been able to get back to it. I'll definitely broadcast any progress—meanwhile I'm happy to support anyone who wants to work on it, if you know anyone who might be interested.

What's MEC?

It's probably not the patch, but some MIDI config thing in Live with that channel, would be my guess. It's possible it's some new bug in Aalto—but MIDI support has been unchanged and solid for a long time and I've not heard of this issue.

If you can reproduce this again, or get more info, please let me know.


It's not too bad—we're all healthy and I'm working. Thanks for your support!

I was hoping to get to this today and get back to you—the day got away from me. I'll look at it soon.

I'll try to reproduce this. If you can demonstrate this in a simple Live project, can you please send me the project to support @ madronalabs? Also please send more info:

  • Live version
  • OS platform
  • Virta version and VST or AU?


We're heading into fall here in the Pacific Northwest, and in the Labs. I'm looking out the window in front of my stand-up desk and I know in a few weeks I'm going to have to think about replacing the insulating film I took down in the summer. It surely was one for the ages and though this turn of the seasons is always a little hard here in rainy Cascadia, I'm looking forward to more focused programming time or what my friend Bob calls code cougaring.

This seems like a good time to mention that Madrona Labs is happy to offer educational discounts of 50% off to any currently registered teacher or student. To get the discount, please email to support@madronalabs.com with some kind of documentation of your academic status, such as a picture of your current university ID, or a link to a dated directory webpage. Then I’ll send you a coupon code for the discount.

I've just released an update for all three instrument plugins: Aalto, Kaivo and Virta. This update brings fixes for stability and compatibility, and brings the version to 1.9.0. To update, just download the all-purpose installers as usual.

version 1.9.0 changes:

  • fixed a crash in the patcher UI after resizing the UI then dragging a patch cable
  • fixed an erratic issue where no drawing would happen in some hosts

Aaltoverb has come out of the gate going strong and to those of you who have supported this work with your purchase, thanks very much. By and large it's working very well for people and I have some cool enhancements in store that I couldn't quite get into the 1.0.0 version. One thing that's not working well is the detection of Metal support on Mac OS by the installer. If your graphics card is not compatible it's supposed to give you a notice, but instead it will install and then the plugin itself just produces a blank window. For those of you with these older Macs, I'm sorry about the confusion and will work to either support them or improve the installer.

Now that Aaltoverb is out I'm working on both software and hardware. In software land it's the long-awaited Sumu, and with the new framework in place demonstrated by Aaltoverb I'm more excited than ever to unveil some exotic new sounds. Hardware-wise, I'm now devoting quality time to finishing the Soundplane-cv module. Soundplane-cv is for directly connecting your Soundplane to the world of Eurorack, or anything else you can control with a voltage.

This particular development stretch has been a long one, and I'm looking forward to more variety ahead. One thing that's kept my enthusiasm up when I need a boost is the occasional clips you nice people send in with some novel or touching or funny sounds you are making with the tools I'm making. Many thanks!

I hope whatever you're cougaring on is fulfilling. If not, remember weird sounds are always there for you. More soon.

I'm very interested to see what modes you have found useful, and any other details!

Thanks for the thoughts. A major version, say Aalto 2 coming up, is when I would have the ability to make this kind of big change. I still think having the instruments be made of fixed modules is a strength. But maybe there's some interesting middle ground between that and fully modular.

What a coincidence, I was just watching Andrew Belt present about VCV Rack last night. I'd love to do this when I can make time. Thanks for the encouragement.

Good to hear!

This thread got hijacked by some different issues! I wish I had a way to split threads. Anyway, I've completely redone MPE support in the 1.9.2 update, so whatever you are running into should be fixed, or at least, different. Please let me know.

Hi and thanks for writing. I'm sorry I don't currently support your DAW of choice. Steinberg has made it clear that VST3 is the future and are pushing very hard for everyone to use it. Most hosts have had decent VST3 support for a while and now that Ableton is on board I can take care of about 95% of my potential customers with a VST3. Time's precious for me here and so when I'm making a whole new generation of code if I can get something out to 95% of the people with less work I'm going to do that.

Hopefully Reason will add VST3 support soon.

Meanwhile there are also ways to wrap a VST3 plugin in a VST2. It's not the ideal solution of course.

Yes, we will definitely finish the module. We made some real progress this year and I'm excited to get back to this and the Soundplane Model B when I can.

What I'm working on now is the next plugin (Sumu). This should provide the income to get back to hardware development this year.

I'm sorry that I set up unrealistic expectations about the date. Because I support the company by making software, hardware progress is going to be slower than the pace you might be used to from most companies. My boundless optimism about ship dates is a useful kind of coping strategy for me, sometimes. I am learning not to say these things out loud until we are much closer to finishing a project.

I do plan to add more models to Kaivo including tubes and so on.

I'm very glad the sound is inspiring to you! Thanks for the good words and i'll be here if you have more questions.

I hear this would be a good thing. There's no real easy way to do it now. The ability to lock any parameter to its current value will be a good fix for this and many other situations. I plan to add that in a future update.

You can always just make a directory with your current favorite scales of course.

I've heard you. But I won't be releasing another Aalto update for a while.

If you choose "Save as..." from the preset menu the file dialog will open into the folder you most recently loaded or saved a file to/from. Hopefully this will help you out.

Thanks for your support, and enjoy! See you around. :-)

Thanks. I stopped adding people for the moment so I can get other things done but, please stay tuned for the next phase.

Warmest holiday wishes to everyone! Though I love the big dinners with family and friends, winter here is also a great time for immersing myself in the lab and researching what's next. This particular image I took the other day captures the Seattle vibe I'm feeling right now—very grey and wet, but futuristic and optimistic. The suspended sculpture by Janet Echelman is called "Impatient Optimist" and you can read more about it here.

From now until January 6 2020, our year-end sale is happening! You can use the code DIY2020 to get 30% off all our software. If you're an Aalto fan but you've been holding out on getting Kaivo or Virta, now's the time. And yes, our simple bundle deal is in effect along with the year-end discount, if you choose to take advantage of them both. This results in some big discounts: adding Aaltoverb to your Kaivo purchase, for example, will set you back only an additional ten dollars or so.

I always think, maybe a silly amount, about the sale code: what word do you type into that little box to get the discount? Maybe because it's like a kind of incantation, and I want it to be a positive one. If there's one thing we can use more of in 2020 it's more DIY, so: DIY2020. Doing It Yourself doesn't necessarily mean just all alone in the comfort of your own Labs, but also and especially with friends, getting together to have fun and make culture. I wish you all the DIY time you can carve out in 2020, and when you have something to transmit, let me know! Hopefully I will be able to buy it on Bandcamp, where I found most of my favorite new music this year.

Finally, if you're looking for a last-minute gift, you should know that it's easy to give a Madrona Labs software license! A gift license can even be part of a simple bundle with one you bought for yourself and I'll be happy to transfer it free of charge (and judgement). Just email me at support@madronalabs.com to let me know. I'm taking Dec 25, Dec 31, and Jan 1 away from the computer but otherwise I'll be available within 24 hours (and almost certainly less) to help make your holiday dreams come true.