What is it that makes something a live performance go-to – that rare piece of gear or software that encourages improvisation and elevates a standard show into something special? For us, it’s a combination of things, but the tools we’d take on tour tend to fit into a very particular usability sweet spot – you don’t want to be overloaded with options, but a lack of control can be equally constrictive. And of course, they’ve got to sound the part; if you wouldn’t accept subpar sound in the studio, why settle for less on stage?
That’s a tall order, but our latest trawl of the REAKTOR User Library has netted seven standout sequencers, synths, and effects that are up to the task and free to download. And, as ever, they’re all free for REAKTOR users. Read on to see which ensembles we’re saving for the stage, hear what they’re capable of, and then try them out for yourself.
Yes, it’ll do what you think it does. Thankfully, for you and your audience, this four-oscillator tone generator is far better suited to droney, detuned, and dissonant pads and atmospheres. Dieter Zobel’s a certified veteran of the REAKTOR-building scene, and we’re happy to report that this release is up to his usual high standards. Be sure to check out the randomization options for sequencing and modulation.
Download Flatulenzia here.
PAL twins 2.0
We know what we said about needing control, but Paule’s PAL twins are perhaps better thought of as bandmates than a pair of sequenced sound generators. This ensemble is perfect for live sound installations and experimental settings – just load it up, dial in a starting point, and let the twins do their thing.
Download PAL twins 2.0 here.
Inject some controlled chaos into your next show with Poul Vestergaard’s turquoise drum toolkit. ProbabilityDrum’s interface is dominated by a 16-step-per-voice sequencer with a probability slider for each. Combined with ‘random’ buttons, a library of vintage drum machine sounds, and dedicated effects, it’s perfect for peppering your sets with surprising – but not too surprising – percussion parts.
Download ProbabilityDrum here.
This wavetable synth by mosaic_ hides some serious power under its slick, minimalist interface. Drag in a .wav or .aiff, and let LAVA work its magic, melting your sounds into stunning pads, leads, and basses. Be warned though, the process of creating wavetables in LAVA can push some systems to their limits, so you’d be well advised to load up your sounds before showtime.
Download LAVA here.
At first glance, this one’s a little more complicated than the rest of this list, but don’t let that put you off. Bakkan’s techno-tuned sequencer/synth rewards a deep dive, but still delivers great-sounding results with a minimum of effort. Its rhythmic melodies and metallic drum sounds are also worth a listen if you’re into the abstract hip-hop or wonky beats that characterize FlyLo’s early releases.
Download Tantra Interfenser2M here.
Studio10c has created a seriously fat-sounding drum machine with some seriously advanced processing ability – and somehow it’s free. Niji Tracks comes loaded with 808-style sounds, but it’s flexible enough to take you all the way from hip hop to noise if you so choose. The seven drum voices do need to be triggered with a separate sequencer, but the User Library has you covered there too. The demo track below was sequenced with the MJ-G Drumseq, available here, but there are plenty of other free options to choose from.
Download Niji Tracks here.
Purform Granular Delay
So we’ve already covered a whole load of ways to generate new sounds and rhythms on the fly. But what if your tracks are all ready to go, and you’re just looking to put a fresh spin on them for a live audience? Peter Dines has just the thing: His stereo delay splits your sound in two and allows individual modulation of each side. This one’s ideal for stereo-field experimentation or creating lush, Terry Riley-esque loops that slip slowly in and out of sync.
Download Purform Granular Delay here.