The latest Dillon Baston creation is really special – a do-everything modulated sample player and effect. That green CRT-style display might make you assume it’s just about some glitch – and it definitely does do that if you want. But go deeper, and this is an extraordinarily versatile effect.

data.train functions both as an instrument and an effect, depending on if you drag in a sample or add it to your processing chain. At its core, it’s a sequenced modulator, with each frame triggering different operations. Whether you go full “my cat is tripping on catnip and driving all the parameter operation” or more subtle droney-ambient is up to how you set those parameters and sync timing.

There’s plenty to control:

  • Timing, sync, and glide
  • Randomization
  • Snapshot storage and recall
  • Operands (which can also pass values between frames)
  • Sample playback, recording, input buffers
  • Pitch modulation, which can scale intervals based on a Scala file (so you’re not limited to 12-TET – this should just be a standard feature!)
  • Overdrive, filter, delay, panning, gain

Now I just need to find an Ableton Live theme that matches its color scheme – anyone?

But this is a fantastically flexible sample manipulation tool, and it pairs well with Live’s feature set. I could imagine folks really focusing on even just using data.train for a lot of productions.

I haven’t had time to record a video yet (on something else you’ll hear about later this week). But it’s already beautiful to work with. And, I mean US$15? Heck, yes.

As Dillon summarizes:

data.train is a sampler mangler of sorts that can be used as an audio effect or instrument (works with dropped samples or live audio input). It centers around the modulation of sample playback and FX through a grid of math operators. Each playback and FX parameter has its own modulation source/value and each frame that value changes based on its selected math operator. By changing the operators in a chain of events and the source of their right-hand operand, you can create complex to harmonic oscillations that can be evolving over time or repeating rhythms. This device is great for many uses, especially for rhythmic effects, glitchy/chaotic/stuttering sounds, ambient/generative soundscapes, pretty effects, or adding a bit of weirdness to your sound.

There’s a full walkthrough video so you can see how this all fits together, plus a nicely compact manual. I recommend watching the film first, then keeping the manual handy as you go through the parameters and build up some compositions: