personalized expeditions in music from a musician who doesn't matter

Archive for December, 2013

FIRST LOOK REVIEW: Syntheogen 0.10.0 for Android

Posted by r on December 16, 2013

Developers of mobile apps for musicians have enough of a challenge set before them without having to consider the evolving nature of mobile-device input. Ten years ago, it was a world of hardware buttons and resistive touchscreens with fine-point styli. Now, of course, the mobile world is all capacitive screens, with no real usable buttons to count on… and if the end user DOES have a stylus, it’ll be fat, sloppy and imprecise at the tip, just like their fingers.

With each new fad in mobile-device input, devs targeting mobile devices have had to change up their approach. Apps like SunVox, originally built around the tighter input precision possible with a resistive stylus, may have scads of power but simply aren’t anywhere near as efficient or fun to use on a small screen in our modern capacitive / fat-fingered world. And while the mobile port of Nanoloop has fared quite well with careful work from its developer, most other well-known Gameboy music apps like LSDj quickly go from “total pleasure” to “total PITA” when the easy-to-locate hard buttons of the originally-intended hardware are forcibly traded in for fussy onscreen softkeys in an emulator.

As for the many music apps built from scratch for iOS and Android, developers are still figuring out the best approach to the interface. Most such apps, especially those built around the usual sequencer-DAW paradigm, are still trying to clone venerable desktop music apps too closely in their design. Speed of creativity and input often suffer noticeably as a result, even in the best-designed mobile music apps.

Maybe we musicians can’t have it all, and are bound to get totally screwed in one way or another as the world continues moving toward simpler / dumber / more portable devices. But I’ve still got to applaud any developer who’s still trying to reinvent this particular wheel in an effort to create a faster shirt-pocket-sized vehicle for musical creation on the go.

I see a great deal of this sort of attempted reinvention in Android semi-newcomer Syntheogen, which is stupidly cheap to purchase as of this writing. While the developer is still working, and big changes / important new features are surely to come down the road, I thought I’d make a case that smart musicians with Android devices should get in on the Syntheogen ground floor right now… or at least sit down for a couple serious days with the demo.

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Some tracker reviews before 2013 is out

Posted by r on December 9, 2013

Earlier– ok, much earlier this year, I of course made a big to-do about the merits of trackers and set out on a huge review set of tracker-style applications. I had a feeling I was potentially biting off more than I could chew, and I was right.

However, in March through May, I did dig sufficiently deep into a good subset of the trackers on my list, and started writing some pretty in-depth reviews thereof. I realized pretty quickly that what I was writing would be well into tl;dr territory and, despite the absurd level of detail I was pursuing, ultimately not helpful to would-be beginner tracker users.

So here are some much shorter reviews– again, oriented toward would-be beginner users– of my basic findings on Jeskola Buzz, LGPT, OpenMPT, Psycle, Schism, and SunVox – roughly half of my original list of trackers I’d planned to take on. I will probably still go back and get a few more of the ones from my 3/13 master list later on; in particular, I’m still interested in digging into FamiTracker, Klystrack, LSDJ and Renoise.

Along with that, I’ll shortly be doing a review of a semi-recent Android app called Syntheogen, which has a lot in common with the “tracker mindset” despite appearing a bit more like a traditional graphic sequencer. Syntheogen is neat stuff and deserves its own look even at this early stage of the game.

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Posted by r on December 6, 2013

ps – I haven’t forgotten about trackers. I have a few more words about that coming soon, at long last.

Top-of-2013 lists are coming in, as always, and making me feel more than ever that the world hears with ears very different from mine. I listened to that Chvrches album a couple times this year and scratched my head at all the hype, since it just seemed like a pedestrian, not-even-particularly-convincing retro-80s effort from end to end. The Arctic Monkeys album on “everyone’s” list was much more boring still (Squeeze at their least enthusiastic meets Nickelback, anyone?); Arcade Fire can go back in time to 2004 and fuck themselves with particularly dull and pretentious swords; etc.

So, without any attempt at ranking, here are some things I thought were worthy of re-mentioning as things that were released in 2013 and should probably be remembered longer than that. Some of them may even be things you haven’t heard of, particularly if you make a habit of ignoring my Twitter output, which is probably wise. note: this not-really-a-best-of list was courtesy the top of my head; I reserve the right to amend, if I think of anything else I’ll post again.

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