Features I by I 04.12.19

FACT gift guide 2019

27 great gift ideas for music lovers, from synths and gadgets to books and box sets.

The end of the year is fast approaching, so once again we’ve researched gift ideas for all types of music lover so you don’t have to. From a Rick & Morty synth and wireless headphones to books about bleep techno and sound system culture, we’ve assembled our pick of the year’s best music loot for all ages, whether you need ideas for friends, relatives or just suggestions for your own gift list.


Bass, Mids, Tops: An Oral History of Sound System Culture by Joe Muggs

Joe Muggs and photographer Brian David Stevens‘ new book details the rich history of UK sound system culture. Features interviews with Smith & Mighty, Mala, Shy One, DJ Storm and more. Price: $30/£25

Join The Future: Bleep Techno & the Birth of British Bass Music by Matt Anniss

Matt Anniss’ Join The Future is an in-depth exploration of Yorkshire’s ’80s bleep techno scene and its lasting effects on UK club culture, featuring profiles of forgotten legends and the story of the early years of Warp Records. Price: $20/£13

Pedal Crush: Stompbox Effects For Creative Music Making by Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper

The latest book from the team that brought us comprehensive guides to interface design in electronic music and modular synthesis is a jam-packed tome on how all musicians can get more out of the humble guitar effects pedal. Price: $66/£52

The 33 1/3 B-sides: New Essays by 33 1/3 Authors on Beloved and Underrated Albums

While the 33 1/3 series typically gives a whole book over to on album, this collection takes a shortform approach, with essays on Haruomi Hosono, De La Soul, Sinead O’Connor and more. Price: $20/£16

On Tour With DJ Rashad by Ashes57

Ashes57’s poignant photo book is a must for footwork fans. It captures late icon DJ Rashad between 2011 and 2014, “from the shows that he invited me to and the time we spent hanging out in between.” Price: $49/£40

Step By Step: Adventures in Sequencing with Max/MSP by Gregory Taylor

If you need a gift for the producer who can seemingly already do it all, this deep dive into building sequencers with the Max/MSP programming language could open up a new world of possibilities. Price: $25/£15

Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot by Vivien Goldman

Journalist and former Flying Lizards vocalist Vivien Goldman’s brilliant and wide-ranging book explores feminist punk through key themes of identity, money, love and protest with interviews, history and her own personal experience. Price: $18/£14

Synths and studio gear

ALM Squid Salmple

No module sums up British company ALM’s idiosyncratic take on Eurorack quite like the Squid Salmple. It’s basically a fun, flexible drum machine you can patch how you like, and it includes sounds from Lauren Flax, Dungeon Acid and Solid Blake. Price: $499/£399

Sonarworks Reference 4 bundle

Sonarworks’ studio bundle, which includes a microphone to calibrate your monitors for challenging acoustic environments, is an ideal gift for home producers. This Chirstmas pack also includes a few mixing plugins. Price €299

Elektron Model:Samples

While Elektron’s latest all-in-one sampler features the company’s famous sequencer with parameter locks, it’s also its most affordable and accessible device yet. It coms with 300 presets from Splice including kicks, snares, hi-hats and “exotic, never-before-heard” sounds. Price: $399/£349

Korg Volca Modular

Do you know someone who wants to get into modular synthesis but don’t have the space to store a full system? Korg’s small and affordable Volca Modular is enough to scratch the modular itch without needing to take out a small business loan. Better still, it comes with its own set of patch cables. Price: $199/£159

Arturia MicroFreak

The analog revival has meant a wilderness period for digital synths, but Arturia’s Microfreak is a great reminder that the fabled ’warmth’ of analog gear isn’t everything. With 11 digital oscillator modes, this affordable synth can create almost any otherworldly timbre you can imagine. Price: $299/£259

Roland MC-101 Groovebox

Roland’s pint-sized revival of its classic Groovebox gives you four-tracks and the sounds of the classic TR-808, TR-909, JUNO-106 and SH-101 instruments to play with. It’s all any budding producer needs to get started with hardware, and it even runs off four AA batteries. $499/£399

Teenage Engineering PO-137 Rick and Morty Edition

Taking the concept of the soundboard to frankly ridiculous extremes, this tiny synthesizer and sequencer combo allows diehard Rick & Morty fans to make techno out of real sound effects from the show. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Price: $89/£85

Headphones and gadgets

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s new AirPods Pro look better than the original model, and with noise cancelling also sound significantly better too. They also come with a wireless charging case so you can use them for up to 24 hours on the go. Price: $249/£249 

IKEA Symfonisk table lamp with wi-fi speaker

IKEA and Sonos’s first collaboration isn’t just a wi-fi speaker – it’s also a table lamp. Perfect for anyone who doesn’t have space for any more gadgets or enough money for a standard Sonos speaker – it’s significantly less expensive than a Sonos One. Price: $179/£150

Sega Genesis Mini

Nintendo’s mini console classics have been some of the most popular gaming gifts of the past few years, and Sega’s Genesis Mini (or Mega Drive Mini if you’re in the UK) is just as good. If you need a crowd-pleasing dose of nostalgia, the 40 games inside will provide fun for years. Price: $79/£60

AIAIAI TMA-2 HD wireless headphones

The latest addition to AIAIAI’s modular headphone range is a “high-definition” wireless model aimed at audiophiles. If you know someone that already has an earlier pair of TMA-2s, you can order individual parts to give them an upgrade. Price: $350/£310

UE Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth speaker

For portability, battery life and sound, UE’s Boom range is almost unmatched. Anyone who needs a compact Bluetooth speaker will love the Boom 3, which comes in plenty of bright colors and even floats in water. Price: $79/£60

Vinyl, CDs and box sets

WXAXRXP box set

Warp celebrates its 30th birthday in style with a 10LP box set of radio sets from the label’s three-decade history. Peel Sessions from Aphex Twin Boards of Canada and LFO make up some of the highlights, along with NTS sessions from Kelly Moran and Mount Kimbie. Price: £120

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Thousand Knives Of LP/CD

One of the best albums in Japanese electronic music history gets the reissue treatment thanks to We Want Sounds. Ideal for Yellow Magic Orchestra superfans, or indeed anyone who has a pair of ears. Price: €17/€12

Burial – Tunes 2011-2019 CD

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Burial release, and this year we’ve been treated to a CD collection of the past eight years of EPs and singles. It’s not a proper third album, but it’ll do. Price: $15/£15

Arthur Russell – Iowa Dream LP/CD

A collection of demos, home recordings and folk songs rescued from Arthur Russell’s archives by his partner Tom Lee and Steve Knutson of Audika Records, Iowa Dream is a posthumous collection of Russell songs that feel almost like a complete album. Vinyl price: $29, CD price: $12

Joe Hisaishi – Studio Ghibli 7″ Boxset

There is probably no greater gift you could give to the Studio Ghibli fan in your life than this exquisite box set of 7″ singles, featuring music from My Neighbor TotoroNausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle In The Sky. Price: £90

Partisan tape pack from Circadian Rhythms

This compilation from London’s Circadian Rhythms features club tracks from Hyph11E, Flora Yin-Wong and Sully. It comes as a tape pack constructed from military surplus materials containing a sewing kit to encourage listeners to repair and reuse. Price: £23

Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 box set

Compiled by Visible Cloaks’ Spencer Doran, Kankyō Ongaku is the definitive survey the “environmental music” that came from Japan’s ambient and new age movements during the 1980s. In case the ambient fan in your life isn’t sold by the concept alone, it’s Grammy-nominated. Price: $65/£63

Dark Entries 10th anniversary compilation Tens Across The Board

Dark Entries’ 10th anniversary compilation features 10 remastered tracks, seven of which are being released for the first time. Featuring music from Severed Heads’ Tom Ellard, Lena Platonos and X-Ray Pop, it also includes a two-sided poster that includes every artist the label has released in its first 10 years. Price: $18/£23



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