Chorusing is often heard when a choir sings in unison, flanging experienced as a jet plane soars overhead, and phasing experienced when playing two copies of a record slightly out of time with one another – long before Steve Reich or any number of psychedelic rock acts began exploiting these mesmeric powers in recorded form.
Basic phase-shifting effects (Rhythm and Sound’s “See Mi Ya” or Boards of Canada’s “Ready Let’s Go”) may have originated as an unintentional by-product of speaker placement or circuitry anomalies, yet have migrated into discreet hardware-units and stomp boxes, through bespoke hardware design (the inbuilt ‘Chorus’ on a Roland Juno 60 synthesiser) and well explored in the software domain.
Many REAKTOR library contributors, deploying further tone-sculpting using EQ, saturation, or noise modules, have generated truly original variants. Most recently, the ‘final word’ in chorus / flanger styler deployment seems to rest in contemporary electronic music production – which seeks to continually widen and ‘hype’ mixes for maximum impact across minimum bandwidth.
Artists like Machinedrum (check out “Colour Communicator” for some exceptional stereo widening and chorusing) deftly employ these subtle effects to add brilliance and dimensionality to simple elements, whilst radical exploitation in tracks like Aphex Twin’s | “Windowlicker“, Paul Woolford’s “Erotic Discourse“ or Autechre’s “Gantz Graf“ highlight the exceptional plasticity of radically automated phase shifting treatments.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, here are some of the Reaktor User Library’s most exciting, usable and character-filled tools for adding a chorus of colour to your work – even if it’s just a phase you are going through.
If these don’t satisfy your appetite, then you can also check out the MOD PACK Effects Series. Click here for more information, and a free demo download.
Dollar Store Reverb
Despite, or perhaps in spite of the self-deprecating descriptor, Dollar Store Reverb is a wonderfully usable ensemble, perfect for generating phase-shifting effects with robust immediacy. Light on CPU usage, its six basic knobs are functionally calibrated, lending themselves to hands-on tweakability.
Setting the feedback to 95%, and modulating delay time radically, allows for instant ‘Erotic Discourse’ effects, applied to percussive parts.
The addition of a simple low-pass filter affords easeful tonal tailoring, whilst employing LFO modulation engenders the morphing of this phaser cum flanger into a gratifying ‘proto-reverb’. Sure, this ensemble is not particularly subtle, but, for the price (free!), it’s worth picking up two, or ten and chaining them in serial.
Check out the Dollar Store Reverb here.
As a basic, nuts and bolts stereo expansion tool, Fat Easy deserves special mention here for being ultra-intuitive and immediate – and perfect for adding flam and widening to elements like hi-hats.
Use Fat easy as part of a custom channel-strip, and flam and phase to your heart’s content.
Check out Fat Easy here.
Robert Sigmuntowski’s Henrietta recreates the type of generic ‘ensemble’ effect popularised on numerous string machines of yesteryear.
Perhaps most recognisable in synths like Roland’s Juno 60 (popularised in the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack), this effect adds a lush patina of shimmer to more static sounds.
Henrietta’s organic charm is further fortified with the inclusion of a self-oscillating ‘Noisy Noise’ control – ideal for generating the soothing noise washes popularised by Berlin techno enigmas like Basic Channel (and their multitude disciples). LFO controls labelled ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ allow for further manipulation of parallel phase rates.
Use Henrietta to thicken pads, voice or string elements, or ‘set and forget’ the ‘Noisy Noise’ dial to output instant hardware-style ambiences and washes, ideal for layering with other parts.
Check out Henrietta here.
“If it ain’t broke, you should definitely break it” reads some forgotten adage in a parallel universe. Boards Of Canada are the original sonic hauntologists. The duo have long embraced the sound of ‘failed’ technology and dystopic nostalgia, well pre-dating the current hipster fascination with cassette tape, vinyl degradation and analogue wonkiness.
Vintape lovingly pays homage to the pitchy flam which typifies this sound. User controls offer discreet ‘wow and flutter’ controls for left and right channels (imagine your granny’s old tape-deck, dragged from musty entombement after 25 years), as well as a dedicated ‘Paser & Flanger’ section, whilst user snapshots range from the subtle to demented.
For any interested in the ‘BOC’ sound, or perhaps the deeper hues of EDM/IDM, this ensemble sounds eerily familiar, and instantly gratifying. Dynamically tweaking phase controls to process a drum break (for example) instantly invokes the dankest of funk systopias.
Check out Vintape here.
User comments speak glowingly of their fondness from this ensemble – a unit capable of producing sounds from “rich chorus and flanger swirls through modulated delay spacescapes to extreme interactive sci-fi self oscillation effects”.
Occupying the hinterlands betwixt echo, flanger and curious noise-generator, Echo Grease’s lovingly designed snapshots recall the finer moments Roland RE-201 Space Echo in full flight. Beware however! Unhinged feedback insanity and tinitus-inducing sonic dischord are risks for the uninitiated.
Check out Echo Grease here.
Fans of 80s EBM and industrial music, take note. The DRV 2000 is the passion project you have been waiting for.
Guido Weber’s love for a certain effects unit from 1986 runs so deep that he’s effectively reverse-engineered this digital behemoth within the REAKTOR environment – including emulations of all 96 of its signature patches, and a bundled .pdf document of the unit’s original print advertisement.
Whilst possessing it’s own signature sound, the DRV 2000 does offers fantastic emulations of the digital limited effects of the era – perfect for enthusiasts of EBM, electro and 80s pop permutations.
In contrast to the hardware of the time, the DRV’s software routing options are more extensive, aided by a simple, usable GUI.
Check out DRV 2000 here.
Time Toy 2
Billing itself as the ‘ultimate combination of delay and reverberation effects”, Time Toy 2’s self-aggrandisement is, for the most part, well-earned. Blatantly disregarding retro-fetishism, this ensemble mirrors many of its more ‘transparent’ high-end commercial competitors.
Chorus, flanger, delay and reverb modules interface musically, whilst usable snapshots, and the welcome addition of a ‘random’ button generate randomised parameter variations. The true power of this unusual ensemble shines with its ability to modulate parameters like decay time, generating truly fluctuating and unorthodox output. Be aware, however – without some finesse, artifacts and glitches can result (though our author is rather enamored by this).
Whether offering luscious ‘hi-fi’ treatments to enliven flat recordings, or the potential for experimental chaos, Time Toy 2 cuts loose any retro-flab, presenting instead a ketogenically sculpted sound-design tool from the future. Time Toy 2’s preternatural ability lies in an uncanny ability to enliven and enrich found-sound and atmospheric recordings.
Check out Time Toy 2 here.
*Notable closing mention here goes to the more orthodox Wonder Echo ensemble – another exceptional delay / echo unit in Reaktor’s library, with close to 100 user snapshots, including some gorgeous chorus and flanger presets, all showcased in a demo ‘dub’ of a Dire Straits track…