Four years on, Ninja Jamm continues to steam ahead as an app. We covered this app at its creation; I had provided some voluntary guidance as it’s built on libpd. Over those years, it’s built up a base of users and content, added Android support atop iOS, and enabled support on both platforms for Ableton Link. But I myself find myself playing with it again, after contributing a free content pack via the Liquid Sky Berlin series. And I find this remains relevant and addictive.
I think it’s always worth listening to the founders of Coldcut and Ninja Tune, in that they have led in their use of samples, remixing, and cut-up techniques – they were consistently ahead of where things were going. And they did that not only with their own musical output, but also by building tools for audiovisual / VJ cut-up.
Sometimes it takes some time to wrap your head around that vision. But it’s worth following – particularly with outspoken artist/thinker Matt Black.
It’s turned out to be really tough to describe Ninja Jamm, their touch-based production and remix app. Okay, so it’s an app that lets you live remix your favorite tracks from Ninja Tune artists and friends. And it’s also a production tool, in that you can massively transform those tracks, and can load more basic building blocks in the form of high-quality loop packs from the likes of Loopmasters. And, that’s cool – got it.
But you feel something else entirely when you actually start to dig into the app. You can see that in this video, as demonstrated by creator Matt Black:
You start to realize that it’s a four-channel tool with extensive effects – that it’s not so different from digging into someone’s Ableton Live or FL Studio project in that way.
Then, you start playing with a bunch of ninja-themed glyphs and … things start happening that you kind of haven’t heard even from your arsenal of desktop computer plug-ins and so on.
Basically, what makes Ninja Jamm slightly unmarketable and elusive is the thing that makes it genius. It’s some glimpse of the imagination of Matt Black and his team.
To put it in a more personal, less theoretical/philosophical way, I didn’t really get a complete sense of how this works with Ninja Jamm until it was one of my own tracks in there. I don’t want to sound like this is serving my own vanity. On the contrary, with my own music as the content, I began to understand what the tool could do. In fact, I almost needed to know my track back and forth just to follow the wild and complex combinations of sound mangling possible. Like, “wait, that’s my sound — that’s — where did that come from, even? — wow.”
In other words, I think Ninja Jamm is an instrument. Just in the way sampling can make something genuinely new (whatever copyright courts may say about that), you can really do something with this app. Maybe it’s even more interesting as a way of interacting with artists and the minds of Coldcut than what you get out of loading up a preset or sample in conventional software.
And now, with Android and iOS support, functionality on phones and tablets, and even Ableton Link support for synchronization, there’s no reason you can’t use this in a set. I’m certainly going to take it along when I play live next, later this month. And frankly, it’ll be far more live than a lot of the press-play sets I see people perform (some of which don’t really amount to DJing).
Plus, while you might get a little traction out of downloading an artist’s music and DJing with it, or even going to the four-channel STEMS format from Native Instruments, using something in the format in Ninja Jamm provides essentially limitless variation. (And you could drop it into another set, since it’s all synced with Link.)
Quick tip: I didn’t know this until watching the video, actually. Double tap on Ninja cog icon to turn on this layout with all the various tools visible at once. (MultiScreenLayout)
You might or might not particularly like my track, but there’s a lot of content there. I was presented via the Liquid Sky series, a series rooted deep in the German underground. (Curator and infamous acid legend Dr. Walker instructed me that, no matter what, my track should be dirty. And it gets much, much dirtier from there.)
There are also really wonderful experimental sounds beyond that, both from the best of Ninja’s own catalog, and the likes of the wild music of IRRUPT and sounds from our friends at Bastl Instruments.
It’s actually a fascinating way to explore music. I wouldn’t want to do this with every track I love, but with this collection, it’s like being able to get your hands into a sandbox full of sound toys you love – to touch the tracks yourself.
Grab a few packs you like, and you’ll already have more than enough to do. But if you wish you could load your own tracks, Matt and Ninja Tune tell us they are working on a new tool for that, to be revealed later. In the meantime, Ninja Jamm I think is one of the most overlooked gems on mobile.
The app is free, and my pack (along with a selection of others) is free. Other packs are available as in-app purchases. Check it out: