Some people are addicted to flinging birds at stacks of things until those stacks fall over. Or they use spare moments to flick through thumbnails of single people who they’ll never meet. Or they read random 140-character texts about stuff from angry folks, yelling at each other.
You are addicted to drums. And not just any drums. You want electronic drums, drums you can tweak and dial – genuine synthesizers, grooving. Just playing back the sound of an 808 isn’t going to cut it. If you’re sandwiched in coach class, your knees pressed against the seat in front of you, you at least want to shut out the din of a screaming baby in the next row and start adjusting that granular hat, just so. You want a rave in your head, and you want a fully-equipped cockpit to control it.
Somehow, out of the many, many apps for the App Store, nothing quite did this. Oh, sure, there are elaborate MPC-style grooveboxes and plenty of oddities. But I’ve been watching over the last year as one app gradually involved into what I – and, I suspect you – really want.
And now it’s here. If you can find any compatible iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad, I think you’ll want it.
Elastic Drums is a drum machine built entirely around synthesis. (Under the hood, Pure Data is doing the heavy lifting, via libpd.) There are dedicated engines for different kinds of percussion: kick, snare, hit, clap, and tom, of course, but also FM, and grain. In fact, the percussion engines are good enough that you’re very likely to build basslines out of them, too.
Take those engines, and feed them into six channels, add automatable effects, and you can compose everything you need right in Elastic Drums.
And then there’s the sound. Tame, it isn’t. This is a raunchy beast, full of edgy instruments. That will satisfy people making dark techno, of course, but this is also a perfect machine to bend in the other direction – nothing is stopping you from making abstract soundscapes, either, and in fact the limitations of the grid are oddly encouraging.
Now, no complaints about older iOS devices – this is, of course, CPU heavy. But the generation starting with the iPhone 5 works really well, and with the 5S and 6 out – and iPod touch and iPad as options – the used market is a valid place to look. The combination, even with this one app, rivals a lot of standalone hardware out there.
There are already a lot of rich capabilities:
- Twelve parameters per synth engine
- Four send channels, master effects, with stutter, delay, compressor, reverb – the lot
- X/Y control for effects
- Parameter automation for synth, effects
- 16-step sequencer
- SoundCloud and Audioshare export, plus email (for audio and presets)
16-step sequencers may have some of the more experimental readers yawning, but it’s actually possible to get very polyrhythmic with that grid – each of the six channels has its own tempo multiplier, and its own length, so you can set these machines into motion at different rates. MIDI input is on the agenda, too, if you desire something beyond that via an external sequencing app; for now, though, that’s actually a lot of possibilities once you start doing the maths.
You need iOS 7 or greater to run this (iOS 8 also fully supported), but that’s the only way to require the latest hardware – and on that, it runs beautifully.
CDM is collaborating with developer Oliver Greschke and MoMinstruments, again including Berlin-based Mouse on Mars (along with some other interesting artists) on the creative side. We’ll work more with Oliver in 2015, to find creative ways of using this app and expanding development horizons for libpd as an open source tool across many platforms (not just Apple’s) for people to make new creative software.
Disclosure: we are also embarking on a marketing collaboration with Elastic Drums. I’ll explain more about that as we unveil the ideas we’ve got this month and next.
This will include collaborations as Oliver works on expanding features. Audiobus is working in a test build I got, but required further modification before it got App Store approval. (It’s coming soon – and you’ll like it. I’m already using it with WretchUp, the app I co-developed with Oliver and Mouse on Mars, to add some wild effects to Elastic Drums’ grooves.)
I’m doing that, though, because I’m really excited about what this app represents.
Watch an early full demo review video:
Elastic Drums is a release of MoMinstruments in Berlin, in collaboration with CDM
As noted in comments: for another drum synth app, the best iOS option is really Seek Beats, which focuses a bit more on variation/randomization options. (Mouse on Mars were actually the first to show it to me. This has some new tricks, though, and you might like the more conventional Elastic Drums interface. I’m using both.)