Last Christmas, in addition to the Recording the Beatles book (coolest gift ever?), my wife gave me a nifty little device called Zoundz from the toy company Zizzle. It's intended for children aged five and up, but my ancient self has been having a lot of fun with it. It's very hypnotic; you can stack looped riffs and manipulate them by moving these little colored sculptural elements around an iPod-white plastic, amoeba-shaped platform. Each chess piece-esque element has three different riffs/sounds associated with it. When you put an element on a "hot spot", a loop starts playing, and the hot spot emits a mini-light show. You can get several of them going at once (the tempos and keys sync up automatically), change sounds by shifting them around to different hot spots, then add effects and adjust the tempo up or down. One of the elements will record up to five seconds of audio and loop it; there's an external mini-plug input as well as a built-in mic. The sound is pretty mid-fi, and strangely there's no output jack, but hey, it's meant for kids. And for short money, it seems perfectly geared toward the thriving circuit-bending scene. ($35 street;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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