Remember when apps were novel toys for experimentation? Now, an app could give your drum machine a run for its money.

It’s the third wave of iOS apps. We’re now onto a moment where, cresting the wave of tools, a few are becoming simply invaluable to the right users. They can make an iPad feel a bit like dedicated hardware, perhaps even in a way that a computer can’t. And that to me makes them worth examining, even if you have no desire to use an iPad.

Elastic Drums has that feeling to me. On its surface, it’s just another drum machine app with a sequencer. But by tying together features you need for production and performance, it’s one of the few apps where I feel like I can really produce something serious. And its sound engine is unusual enough that it actually has personality.

When desktop and iOS software alike often sounds too clean, this gets dirty.

1.6 is a significant update, even despite the “point” release in the name, because of its focus on jamming. On the main screen – or on a MIDI controller, or even using another iOS gizmo as a “remote” – you get loads of options that aid in live improvisation (whether that’s how you want to work in the studio or in front of other people). With this functionality, it’s not hard to imagine an iPad nuzzled in with other synths and drum machines onstage. I covered this before, so it’s worth seeing again now that 1.6 is out:
Pads and triggers turn Elastic Drums into a killer performance tool

There’s more: 1.6 also includes two new synth engines – one for bass, one for drones.

And there are new swing settings. Watch the video, because that doesn’t mean what I initially thought it meant. You can actually use swing for rhythmic variations live – rather than a set it once and forget it option, it’s also a live performance tool.

And since it’s easy to combine apps on modern iPads, I think it’s worth noting again that Patterning, another drum machine app, makes an excellent generative sequencer. I could easily see combining its sequencing features with Elastic Drums’ unique synthesis engine (especially as Patterning focuses more on samples). That gives you conventional kits if you want to augment the further-out sounds of Elastic Drums, and it provides another way of thinking about the sequence that lends itself nicely to more complex polyrhythms.

And to celebrate, the app is on sale for US$7.99. Find it on iTunes or at MoM Instruments, the app “label” founded by Mouse on Mars. (Disclosure: an app I co-developed is also part of that label. But… yeah, I just want to play with Elastic Drums and WretchUp in my own music and when I’m in bed. It’s better than sleeping.)