Thursday, February 12, 2009

IceCream by CosmicBoy

How can you not like Cosmic Boy's IceCream, a free VST with a 8-bit/SID-like chip character. This instrument is just plain fun. It's success is in some clever details. First is the sequencer. The fact is, it's just a programmable LFO, but because it gives IceCream the typical sequencer sound of the SID chip, calling it a that way is fine. Two destinations are available, cutoff and pitch, there's a tempo sync division knob and a list of templates for the pattern. A "smooth" knob round things a bit, makink it more LFO-like. Quick, easy and it does the job. Too bad it doesn't offer to reset the sequence at key press, but it's OK.

Then there's the bit reduction that is at the bottom of the interface. Instead of making it global, you apply it individually to each of the two oscillators ... ahhh! To my knowledge, this is the first time I see a synth with a bitcrusher applied that way. It adds to the character of IceCream a lot. A nice touch.

There's also a nice 8 band EQ that is used to shape the sound, but this one seems out of place here. I mean, everything in the interface is colourful and simple with a minimum of control and then ... 8 bands EQ? I would have preferred a nice 3 or 4 bands EQ, or even treble and bass knobs to go with the spirit. Oh well.

The rest of the specs are more conventional: multi-mode filter, two ADSR envelopes, reverb and delay. Saddly the delay doesn't sync to the tempo, a strange omission. The XY pad and Harmonyx button are a nice touch too. The choice of a standard knob to vary the oscillators waveform is strange, as you don't see which waveform you choose, and the knobs makes you think it's continuously variable, while it's not.

Of course what strikes immediately the user is the not so serious candy-like interface. I like it, but I admit it might make some think this is little more than a joke. Believe me, this one nice VST that you have to try. It doesn't tries to be a faithful emulator of a C-64, Atari or Nintendo chip, it just takes bits form this and that and makes a instrument that is original, easy and fun.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Scordatura ... Mac only

At least once a year I go through the old reflection: do I get a Mac.  It's been like that for years.  And as you already have guessed, I never get a Mac.  First of all, I don't feel like maintaining two platforms.  One is trouble enough.  Then there's the fact that Macs are too expensive for what they offer.  Well, that's true of any Apple product I guess.

It's not the machine, it's the software!  As a musician I don't care about how cute a Mac is, it's the darn software for it that gets me excited.  So, here's a new one that has just popped up.  If you're into microtonal music, you can't ignore it: Scordatura.

Here's how they put it: 

"Get microtonal music out of Finale, Sibelius, Logic, etc.
Use your standard controllers to make microtonal music.
Design your own custom microtonal MIDI control surfaces."

It's made by H-Pi, makers of the Tonal Plexus microtonal keyboards.  I can't talk about the product as I don't have a Mac.  But it sure triggers the dilemma again!  If you do have a mac, be sure to try it, it's a free beta download!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rule #1

A rule made to force creative use of equipment and avoid cliche:

When a piece of equipment appears on the market and seems to be able to do exactly what you were hoping for, then you should refrain from buying it.

If you can't help it and buy it anyway, don't use it for what it was marketed to do. 

PS: When such a piece of gear appears and I feel the G.A.S rise, I turn to my existing gear first and see how I can reproduce a comparable tool with the equipment I already own.  It's usually very stimulating and it's been a driving force to some of my VMC patches.