Mega-Bass 2020 – Teaser Performance from Icebreaker Audio on Vimeo.

Look through that VHS fuzz, and listen as a Casio VL-Tone and synth go ultra-retro – they even play a cover of Jan Hammer. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about using more simple grid techniques to create something that lets you improvise using your hands, to play music freely without looking at the screen.

And Mega-Bass 2020, while still building on the grid ideas of monome et al, is a very sharp user-created marriage of software and hardware. With electric-pink and grape-on-gray retro graphics, the accompanying Reaktor patch is perfectly integrated with the hardware (the ubiquitous, inexpensive Novation Launchpad) to keep you focused on live performance. And it’s simple in a way that perhaps bigger commercial products wouldn’t be. It’s just kick, snare, pitch sequence, bass – building a simple framework that assumes the musician user will do the creative bits.


Mega-Bass 2020 is now out, following that faux-vintage VHS teaser, and and available as downloadable donationware.

It’s easier to watch than show you, and it looks great. Apart from the demo above, you can check out a complete tutorial:

Mega-Bass 2020 – Tutorial from Icebreaker Audio on Vimeo.

And listen to what it sounds like:

It’s built in Reaktor, so you can edit the underlying structure. And it communicates via MIDI, which means an enterprising user could adapt to something other than the Novation Launchpad – though the Launchpad remains a great bargain.

Grab it here:

It’s the work of Icebreaker Audio, creator of other lovely stuff for Reaktor, Battery, and Kontakt – lots of it free:

  • jmej

    Am I the only one driven crazy by fake/digital emulations of VHS static? It always patterns in this predictable way that I find incredibly distracting. A real VHS deck is basically free these days… and dirt is free. Cool looking app though.

  • r4dian

    If you (I) don’t have a launchpad, is it any good “out of the box” ?

  • Icebreaker Audio

    That was a really nice post. I’m glad you understood (and even enjoyed) what I was going for with this.

    @r4dian:disqus – it probably isn’t of much use as a performance tool without a Launchpad…but it is donationware, so you can download it and try it for free anyway.

    @jmej:disqus – I agree that real tape would have been better, but “basically free” isn’t actually free. This VHS effect cost nothing, which is a little more than the profit I make from creating things like this. The point was the performance – the VHS effect was just to set your mind back in time 20 years. I was watching a lot of 80s/90s cyberpunk anime at the time, so I wanted to translate that feeling as best I could.

    If you like real VHS grime, you should watch this video I found during my research: