Just when you think you’ve tired of browser toys, of novel graphical modular sound thing-a-ma-jigs, then — this comes along. It’s called Blokdust. It’s beautiful. And … it’s surprisingly deep. Not only might you get sucked into playing with it, but thanks to some simply but powerful blocks and custom sample loading, you might even make a track with it. And for nerds, this is all fully free and open source and hipster-JavaScript-coder compliant if you want to toy with the stuff under the hood.

Here’s a teaser to give you a taste:

The tasteful, geometric interface recalls trendy indie games, a playful flat world to explore. The actual geometric representations themselves are a bit obtuse – it seems there was perhaps a missed opportunity to say something functional with the shapes and colors – but it’s easy enough to figure out anyway, and makes for a nice aesthetic experience. (And, indeed, some three decades into visual patcher software, why not play around with making them attractive?)

And then there are the modules. These are indeed simple enough for a first-time musician to play around with, but they sound good enough – and have enough necessary features and novelties – that the rest of you will like them, too.

Crucially, it’s not just some basic synths or pre-built samples. There’s a powerful granular and wavetable sound source, for instance. You can load your own samples into the granular source, and the generative wavetables are actually themselves worth giving this a go. (They’re really delightful. Try not to smile while messing about.)

And you can use a microphone. And there are a dozen clever effects, including a convolution reverb (with Teufelsberg impulse, no less).

You can play with MIDI (thanks, Chrome) or a computer keyboard, but there are also a section of automatic triggers the developers call “power.” These include particle emitters and the like, and they seem in fact the best opportunity for open source development, because they could take this all in some new directions.

In fact, really the only disappointment here is that there’s not a whole lot of advantage to running in a browser, apart from this being free. Sure, there’s a share feature, but this is nothing that couldn’t be in a standalone app – and you lose out on touch interactions since it’s built for desktop Chrome, unless you have capable hardware.

As design experiment, though, it’s brilliant. And you could still use a third-party audio recorder to capture sound, thus making this a real sketchpad.

I’m very interested to see where this might go. It’s perhaps the most compelling use of browser audio yet, through sheer force of the intelligence of the interaction design, looks, and sound.

The project is developed by Luke Twyman (Whitevinyl), Luke Phillips (Femur Design) and Ed Silverton. It’s made in the UK – Brighton to be exact – with Tone.js and of course the Web Audio API. And yes, it works best in Chrome. (Come on, Apple and Microsoft.)

Try it yourself:

https://blokdust.com/

That library (good stuff):

https://github.com/Tonejs/Tone.js/

Genius work – congrats, lads.

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