From an eBay-purchased Atari ST to your phone, you really can make electronic music however you like, wherever you like. Generally, I’ve therefore been skeptical of gimmicks like all-iPad albums, particularly as it seems fairly obvious that such things should be possible. On the other hand, albums produced entirely with less-obvious, less-popular options may lead to more unexpected solutions. And they can both prove my ultimate thesis: you should use whatever makes you happy. If a few extra tools help with that, superb.
Plus, who am I to walk away from potential flame bait?
In this case, an all-Android album from Philadelphia DJ/MC COOLOUT aka Christopher Davis carries another surprise: it’s a damn solid hip-hop album. Some quirky flare from COOLOUT is amplified by the lo-fi aesthetic of the recording technique, making use of the internal mic on an Android phone. With creative sound design, it’s firmly rooted in hip hop, but takes a nicely experimental direction.
I find that it’s fun listening, and whether it’s your musical taste or not, the listof apps the artist has compiled will be a godsend to anyone who’s got an Android phone and is looking for ways to make it more musical.
The album is free, and a no-brainer download – it’s some really good stuff. (See also a non-Android remix of music from the excellent label Stones Throw.
There’s some musical thinking behind these choices here – Android becomes a return to what the artist loved about simple digital samplers of yore. COOLOUT tells CDM:
I used a couple of different workflows. The cool thing about Android is that most of the audio apps aren’t as feature-heavy as iOS. Coming from the days of using mono 12-bit samplers with no effects, it was easy to use all the techniques of layering and chopping I’ve known for years. Most times, the instrumental track was completed fully on the phone and I then tracked the vocals in a standard DAW later using the Android device as a microphone. There were no outside instruments used and I tried to stay away from standard plug-ins. It was hard resisting the temptation, but I wanted to represent the sound of Android as much as possible. I only used outside compression on the vocals, all the other effects like delay and filters were from Android apps. If Froyo didn’t have such huge audio latency I probably could have tracked the vocals all on the device.
Another great thing about recording using an Android device is that I was able to write all my lyrics in Google Docs (shout out to Count Bass D for putting me up on that) and have them directly in front of me while recording vocals.
Technical note – it’s not so much Froyo (the Android OS release) that adds latency as a lack of low-latency performance from handsets. The API also lacks the structure you might like for low-latency applications, though if you’re a developer, check out the AndroidWrapper class Peter Brinkmann wrote for libpd for Android, which presents a useful workaround for any audio app.
COOLOUT music is good stuff; see the full site (including the Android album, via Bandcamp):
The apps (with Android Market links, though there are other ways of getting to them, too):
Electrum Drum Machine
Ethereal Dialpad [see CDM coverage]
Guitar: Solo Lite
Silicon Oxide [retro virtual analog drum machine]
Buddhist Instruments, Tone Dialer (I think that’s this one)
A look at some of those apps…
Our previous round-up of Android apps – well worth doing, I thought, because these apps have been harder to track down than those for iOS:
Useful Music Tools for Your Android Phone, and a New Sketchpad Joins Groovebox
…and earlier this month, a Game Boy (and iOS) favorite making its way to an all-Android release:
Nanoloop Comes to Android, with its Lovely, Minimal Music Idea-Making Interface
And, of course, if it is iOS you’re interested in (or you swing both ways), you can find all our coverage:
Or for all things music mobile – regardless of platform, don’t miss the exceptional, 24/7 online news channel for mobile music apps, the fire hose of news for this growing genre: