Ye’s Stem Player has soft skin and all of the lights

At one level in improvement, Kano Computing’s new music creation machine was going to have finger holes. “‘God created man; man is God’s greatest technology,’” defined Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, as Kano CEO and co-founder Alex Klein remembers it. “So when we make technology, maybe it needs to be formed in our image.”

The remaining product, the Stem Player, which Kano made in partnership with Ye, doesn’t have finger holes. But it’s unconventional. It’s a bizarre music gadget that permits you to hearken to music and manipulate it in real-time — and regardless that the holes didn’t come to be, it does match simply in a single of your fingers.

Kano’s machine has no display, which means you pay attention and mess with music utilizing a couple of buttons and 4 touch-sensitive “stems” on the machine. Together, they can be utilized to control the “stems” (totally different elements of a observe like the vocals or the drums) from songs off Ye’s album Donda, which is pre-loaded on the machine. Or, because of machine studying, it may possibly pull off the similar trick with any album you placed on it.


These buttons on one edge have a satisfying give.

Photo by Jay Peters / The Verge

This small speaker will get surprisingly loud.


Photo by Jay Peters / The Verge

The Stem Player got here collectively over a couple of years. Klein says he and Ye first began working collectively forward of the launch of Jesus is King, which got here out in 2019. They apparently hammered out the thought of “what was then called an album device” in Ye’s Lamborghini at some point. (Ye noticed Klein on a stroll to get falafel and instructed him to get in the automobile.) Things coalesced round the launch of Donda in order that they may launch it alongside the album.

Turn the Stem Player on, and you’re greeted with a delicate vibration and 4 coloured lights showing on every of the stems. Press the button in the center to play music — after I did so whereas scripting this, the drum beats on “Hurricane” and The Weeknd’s hovering vocals crammed my workplace. But if I need to hear simply The Weeknd, all I’ve to do is “slide” the lights down three of the stems like I’m pushing sliders on a soundboard to fade out the different elements of the tune.

You’re not restricted to manipulating one stem at a time


You’re not restricted to manipulating one stem at a time, both. I’ve used 4 fingers to regulate all of the stems concurrently, and the Stem Player saved up with all the things I did. (Though I undoubtedly made the tune sound a lot worse.) You also can make loops and add results in real-time.

The machine is sweet to carry and enjoyable to play with. It’s additionally soft to the contact, which makes it stand out from the many different metallic and plastic devices I work together with every single day. Klein tells me the exterior is a “unique blend” made of “many different polymers,” and I consider him — the Stem Player doesn’t really feel like something I’ve ever held. (More than as soon as, I’ve discovered myself idly enjoying with it in a single hand whereas at my desk.)

Since all the things is in attain of your fingers, it’s simple to fiddle with songs as you’re listening to them. Adding results and making loops is much less intuitive — I needed to search for a tutorial on how. But messing with the stems is entertaining sufficient by itself.

“We wanted it to be a device that you pick up, you feel it, you see the lights, you feel the vibrations, and it will give you this sense of well being and control, which I think is missing from a lot of screen-based devices today,” Klein stated.

That stated, I haven’t felt pulled to hearken to a whole album with the Stem Player in hand. Music for me is essentially a background exercise; I’ll typically placed on music whereas doing chores or whereas on a run, which aren’t precisely ultimate instances to even be messing with the Stem Player. But I might by no means declare to be a music producer — my music-playing expertise consists largely of years of marching band — so for somebody who likes to make their very own music, the Stem Player may very well be a mind-blowingly superior device.

“At the end of the day, there were so many directions it could go, and one thing that Ye always prizes and almost coaches me on, gives me good direction on, is to get things finished,” Klein stated. “Finish things, put them out. There’s always things you can do to tweak and change them. A great work of art is never finished. Really, it’s abandoned.”

Photo by Jay Peters / The Verge

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