Whilst the sound of the future is as much a product of artistic process and intention, the free ensembles from the REAKTOR User Library continue to inspire and inform genres on the edge of our musical ‘event horizon’. Whether referencing lesser-known modalities like granular or wavetable synthesis, or obscure sequencing ideas, the following selection break from the expected conventions of the past, helping us reimagine possible futures through the bold lense of potentiality.
If a single REAKTOR ensemble could be considered worthy of a “lifetime of futurism” award, the original Newscool synth would be it. Almost 20 years old, this stunning hybrid synth/sequencer remains idiosyncratic and inspiringly musical. The original ensemble included guest patch contributions by artists like Âme, and still sounds like the basis for an entire Thom Yorke-style backing track.
Incorporating a groundbreaking sequencer based on math genius John Conway’s ‘Life’ sequencer from 1970s, the resultant audio patterns are nothing short of fire.
Finessed for generating wide-screen percussive bleeps and bloops, loaded snapshots call to mind modular electronica’s finest. For the Windowlickers amongst us, this ensemble is warped electronic royalty – equally suited for glitched out minimal tech and dystopian trap sound design. User library contributors like Micael Dörfler have added their own spin to this timeless ensemble, with offerings like Tripbox Three adding stylized flavor.
Newscool is part of the REAKTOR Factory Library, find out more here.
Logic Generative Foldbeat
Demetriades Panos’ penchant for sophisticated IDM is obvious with his “generative techno system”. Made in REAKTOR 6, and harnessing the full potential of REAKTOR BLOCKS, an intimidating array of probability machines, oscillators and filters collaborate to offer a vast storehouse of generative future funk.
For those quietly intimidated, his impressive array of user snapshots offer hundreds of tweakable sonic wormholes to the Ultraverse. One patch alone could easily form the bedrock of an entire track.
Check out Logic Generative Foldbeat here.
Presented a few years back at the ADE Native Sessions panel, DevineWavetable Synth reminds us once again, why Richard Devine is one of the most forward-looking and humble sound-designers in the game. His slick creation generates ‘otherworldly’ textures by combining user-library blocks and oscillators. Disregard the techno-babble though; this is contemporary sound-design at its most elegant.
Intuitive knob controls allow the included snapshots to unfurl into sumptuous generative iterations or droid-like menace.
Once again, this ensemble comfortably straddles the scope of cinematic design through to future-beats and soul.
Check out DevineWavetable Synth here.
Another experiment from Richard Devine, DevineAcid is an abstract rhythm and acid percussion machine. By defining only a few parameters, this ensemble growls and pops its way into polyrhythmic techno wizardry – employing some of the finest in the recent Euro Reakt REAKTOR BLOCKS collection. A clear homage to the warehouse pioneers of past, this is nonetheless an acid box from the pHuture.
Check out DevineAcid here.
Grip Cloud Synth
Granular synthesis is certainly having its moment. A lesser-known synthesis system repopularised by EDM’s cyborg vocal treatments, it’s more organic permutations are equally at home in ambient and experimental music.
Grip Cloud Synth is engineered for shimmering, four-dimensional textures and spectral sound-design culled from a Ridley Scott futurescape. Grip’s most recent iteration even includes some adaptations for easy integration with MASCHINE, and can even be used to granularise your own live input.
Korrel is also a worthy addition to the Reaktor User Library, a granular playback sampler, one of only a few with simple ‘drag and drop’ playback options. Simply drag and drop your own source audio into the player, and granularise away. Simple, deadly, and a great pathway into granular synthesis.
Check out Grip Cloud Synth here.
With wavetable synthesis (like that showcased in the freshly-minted Massive X) surging in popularity, it’s no surprise to see the User Library bubbling with its own re-interpretations of classic retro-futurist hardware. MWave by Yerry Feldstein, is inspired by a classic digital/analogue hardware unit made by Waldorf. For those obsessed with the new-aged electronica revival, look no further. Beyond its LCD emulation interface, digital tones shine and phase with reverb-soaked gloss.
Fans of Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress, and Dedekind Cut rejoice, this ensemble balances sparkling digital DNA with eerie, Teflon-coated hypnagogia. Snapshot banks like the “Macrowave” selection here call to mind strange visions of the future as we saw it in 1994.
Check out MWave 2 here.
Given our fixation on ‘retro’ drum and bass sounds, it’s useful to remember that the infamous ‘xox-’ style bass boxes were, in fact, futuristic emulations at the time of their manufacture.
Shaolin Ju-01 is an ensemble made to create “Jump Up Drum and Bass sounds”, but might just well be the crate-diggers ‘xox’ of the future. A character- filled tone throbs with analogue attitude, whilst sounding like the mutant lovechild of an arcade game and dusty transistor synth.
Check out Shaolin Ju-01 here.
Already noted by one user for its use in a major video game soundtrack from 2016, Bleat clearly draws approval from the sound design elite. A deceptively simple interface allows for an insane range of tonal generation – from rhythmic bass rumbles to harmonic screams, cyborg turntablist scratches and more. With controls mapped to a control surface, this future is intuitive and hands-on, and may survive the cultural apocalypse.
Dials with names like “rubber”, “soil” and “glee” speak to creator Colugo’s defiant imagination and clear love of chaotic modular synthesis. With a little tweaking, this ensemble bleats out subterranean future atmospherics and hither-to unfathomably sonic paranoia.
Check out Bleat here.
Honorable mention – Cal Scott and Karl White
Cal Scott doesn’t create musical ensembles as much as almost generative, sentient ‘art projects’, including some notable hacks of classic (now discontinued) ensembles. His Diadem of Alien Wizadry II features an “Alien IKDEA Engine” and is “forged from a rare form of green granite only found on 1 mountain on their mysterious Planet.” We think that Sun Ra would approve.
Combine with an ensemble like Karl White’s vocal Glitch Hop Automator and you have a recipe for futurist chaos.
Whilst often unconventional enough to skirt the boundaries of unusability, Scott and White’s future visions are pertinent reminders to save our future demands we dare to try the ‘impossible’.