When you pick up an instrument someone has designed, without even thinking about it, you absorb a little thinking about how to make sound. And just like singing with other people is different some singing alone, that feeling can be a great one. So why shouldn’t software or hardware instruments give you the same experience?

What I like about Mouse on Mars is that Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma have something to say beyond their own music. They’re fierce advocates for experimenting with sound – in their solo projects, in teaching and lecturing, in their personality. And that’s embedded in their apps.

So fluXpad and WretchUp each beg you to get a little weird.

fluXpad, with its single-screen drawing interface and irreverent percussion and sampling, even with its simplified phrase structure, is ideal for toying around with samples. In contrast to the machine precision of corrected time and pitch elsewhere, its sole purpose is screwing up your samples. It’s unapologetically a finger painting sampler. But someone ought to get that right. Finger painting is underrated. Think back to how visceral that felt as a kid. (Actually, why don’t we do that all the time?)

WretchUp, with its mangled feedback and unruly pitch, I think probably scared some people away. (Disclosure: I worked on its development.) But once you appreciate that it’s an effect instrument and not just an effect, that secrets lurk at some of the extremes of its sample pitch and delay time parameters, you start to use it intuitively rather than intellectually. It can sing.

There’s a definite Mouse on Mars sound to how Andi and Jan pick up these apps. But then part of why I say it’s important to make tools and to teach is that it can have a different sound when someone else picks it up. For instance, it’s really gratifying to watch Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) with it. We learned he uses the app when musicians joined in on the Michelberger Festival at Funkhaus Berlin, so here he shows it to Camilla from The Staves.

It’s an informal, rough video, but you get the idea. It’s also encouraging to see artists playing around with sound see some mainstream success as Bon Iver has. That should inspire some optimism, not jealousy.

Also, for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, both apps are on sale.

fluXpad is now US$5.99 (from $7.99).

WretchUp is $0.99 (from $1.99).

Also, while it’s in a category all its own, Elastic Drums is on sale at US$7.99 (from $9.99).

All through the end of November.