It samples. It slices. It mangles. It generates. It mutates. It’s like what happens when a drum machine is invaded by nanobots, and they start improving everything. Let me explain.

Take your favorite iPad samplers. Now, imagine they’re the basis of samples in an analog Elektron drum machine – colourful slicing interface and all. Then imagine this same iPad app does what Elektron themselves seemed unable to do: making an easy, logical way of transferring samples. And then, imagine that this app also can spawn new rhythms for you.

It’s as if you took everything powerful about the Elektron Analog Rytm, and everything powerful about the iPad, and multiplied them together. Normally, we praise drum machines for their limitations. Here, the combo with an iPad kind of puts the laptop computer to shame.

I was already in the midst of finishing a review of the Analog Rytm, and then Strom dropped in my lap. I’ve been using a pre-release version, and … wow. It’s almost a reason to buy the Analog Rytm. (Elektron: you’re welcome.)

And, oddly enough, Elektron didn’t do anything. Instead, the entire app was reverse-engineered from their gear by a passionate user. Developer Jakob Penca sends some screen shots of the three modes – sound mangling kit, pattern generator, sampler:

kit

pattern

sampler

It’s all sort of beyond awesome, I have to say, as a combo, but I won’t say any more until the review is ready. Stay tuned.

Here’s a look in the meanwhile of where this came from:

Jakob already started along these lines before, as seen on CDM.

First, there was a Processing experiment in which he began experimenting with beat mutation:

Molecular Acid from Jakob Penca on Vimeo.

http://molecularacid.netai.net

Then, he started breeding rhythms on the Elektron.

Breeding Beats: Pattern Mutation with Elektron Machinedrum + iPad

And then, this happened:

You know, food on the floo—holy …

Nice stuff, musically as well as technologically.

Jakob explains that the project “was all done by reverse-engineering the Elektron [MIDI] SysEx format.” First, he built an OS X app, with basic UI widgets, like so:

prototype_UI

Then, he moved on to OpenGL and Cocos2D UI elements on iOS. [The latter is an open source framework for UI, graphics, and gaming - and now supports Swift, by the way.]

Here’s an early prototype working with the Analog Four:

A4_UXprototype

Now, it’s on to the finished app. Stay tuned; we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available on the App Store.

Official details:

Twitter: @stromapp
Elektronauts discussion
Strom is an advanced iPad App, providing unprecedented integration with the most powerful drum machine available, the Elektron Analog Rytm.

Strom makes uploading samples from iPad to Rytm easy.
Its quirky monophonic sampler can can also be used stand-alone.

Furthermore, Strom offers a kick-ass interface to enhance your live performance.
The App is designed to quickly and efficiently bend Rytm’s vast sonic space, and to generate and mutate your beats.

Strom will be available at the App Store very soon.

  • michaelmatos

    Did the machinedrum app ever come out? Want that with a fiery passion!

  • Popo Bawa

    If it’s just a prettier version of the above OS X app, how does this put a laptop to shame? It seems nice and all, but the detour into hyperbole pulled me out of the article for a moment.

    • Matt

      Because the point is that it is on a very good touch interface that requires no overhead or setup to work, you just turn the iPad on. The reason is not that it is more powerful or fully featured than the computer, or even arguable that it’s sounds are analog that puts it to shame, but its ease and intuitiveness as well as form factor that in the combination of pads, buttons, knobs AND touch screen, does not deviate from the hardware paradigm but manages to not lose out on any of the features of a computer (because an iPad is one). When it comes down to it the iPad and a laptop are the same thing, and the key difference is form factor.

    • Aaron

      Sure, but people produce while using their computer. It is inconvient and obstructive to have to have yet another device hooked up. That and alot of people dont want an iPad or hate Apple products altogether.
      That said, he doesn’t have to release this to the public at all and it is a cool tool regardless. Any complaint otherwise should really be leveraged @ Elektron for not releasing a software for their products to make things like this a breeze. Kudos to Jakob for doing things Elektron won’t, even if it is limited to a platform I won’t use…I can still express respect for that.
      Honestly, it wouldn’t be a far reach for one to imply that Elektron users are so busy sniffing up Elektron’s rear that they have failed in holding them to task for such things. At a certain point the honeymoon has gotta be over.. enough with the blind romance. This shits expensive.

    • Jakob Penca

      I find the stark contrast between the sleek iPad and the industrial feel of Elektron devices quite interesting. Completely different UI paradigms. It is much more fun using this sort of functionality with a well functioning and responsive touchscreen than with a mouse & keyboard… i.e., this could potentially also be a Max4Live plugin or something, but wouldn’t be the same. not at all.

  • Popo Bawa

    Also, why the hell does anyone need to reverse-engineer MIDI implementations? Does Elektron honestly not publish this information?

    • spoonfeeder

      have you ever worked with sysEX?

    • Popo Bawa

      Yes… So?

      If you are implying that sysEX is difficult to work with, I’d say this is all the more reason to publish the MIDI implementation details. Imagine how much more effort and difficulty it is when each user needs to intercept and interpret it themselves.

      Perhaps my attitude about this is unusual, but if Elektron declined to provide me with this information I would return the unit to them for a refund, on the grounds that they are marketing technology which they expect me not to fully utilize.

    • wiredearp

      Thanks for making this point. The article had me worked up to buy the machine otherwise.

    • Jakob Penca

      documented or not, sysex is not exactly easy to work with.

      imo, you guys are dramatizing this a bit. it was actually quite a fun puzzle to solve :]

      this is a pretty fine drum machine.

  • http://upland.no Knut Andreas Ruud

    Very cool! Only thing that irks me about it is that samples are transferred via SysEx which isn’t exactly blazing fast.. It worked well enough in the 80′s and 90′s I suppose, but there are definitely better ways to go about it now. Shame though if this is due to the fact that Elektron are keeping their implementation details close to their chest.

    • Jakob Penca

      thanks! actually the fact that it’s all MIDI, including sample transfer, makes this possible on iOS via USB. Otherwise you’d need something like WIFI or Bluetooth inside the RYTM I think…

      but yeah it’s not a blazing fast sample transfer I agree :)

    • chap

      By the way, did you reference the MIDI sysex implementation somewhere, so i could experiment ?

    • Jakob Penca

      yeah, if you can read undocumented Objective C:
      https://github.com/jpenca/elektron-ctl

      the MD code is a bit crappy. learned a lot in the last year, the AR stuff is much nicer to use, but not included in this lib :]

    • chap

      Many thanks ! my MD is broken (again) at the moment, but i’ll check it out as soon as it comes back !

  • mckenic

    Looks really cool and a great implementation – but PLEASE Jakob… can you finish the Machine Drum apps? They really looked & sounded inspirational and very exciting! Ive been gagging for them since you teased em :-)

    Great work – almost excuse enough to buy a Rytm (trying to justify it to myself)!

    • Aaron

      maybe hold off on the gagging until you know how much it cost?…don’t wanna do all that gagging for no reason. lol. sorry. just an odd choice of words man :)

  • lala

    Slick :)

  • User 1

    I’d like to know besides sample slicing what other mangling is possible with this app?

    • Jakob Penca

      stay tuned :)
      soon….

    • User 1

      thank you for responding Jakob Penca, it’s very interesting what you are doing here. Will you be releasing a full complete app for the iPad that can be used even if someone like myself does not own an Rytm. I don’t have plans to purchase one any time soon but I do own an iPad and I am very interested in sample mangling apps?

    • Jakob Penca

      yep! the sampler will work without the RYTM, for a fair price.

    • User 1

      wonderful!!! really looking forward to this. I know there’s probably no shortage of folks giving you ideas so without ever using the app I’d only like to ask that you make it possible to audition samples before loading them into the apps editing/performance space, this would really expedite the workflow in sampling apps like this and imho they all should have them. you’re prob familiar with samplr, and audio share… great apps but you can’t audition the samples before you load them into the apps and for sample heavy music this can be tedious, and my sample library would be so happy if your app accepted flac files in addition to the other formats you have planned.

      thank you again for all of your considerations.