Upon its release in the late 90s, the appeal of REAKTOR laid largely in its ability to recreate analog modular systems in software form. While this led to a good many old-school synth emulations, REAKTOR soon grew to become an unstoppable synthesis beast in its own right, encompassing instrument and sound design possibilities that simply do not exist in the analog domain. What’s more, talented User Library developers discovered REAKTOR to be the perfect playground for letting loose autonomous Ensembles that produce sounds all on their own, with little to no user input.
Musicians would be right to question how such outlandish creations might effectively be integrated into day-to-day music creation. Being based largely on chance, probability and randomness, their output is inherently unpredictable. Those wanting to learn more about how this works can Google for similar real-life techniques such as the stochastic process, and study John Cage’s use of the I Ching and how it injected unpredictability into many of his works. But for the rest of us, it can be as simple as listening to these mad robots do their thing, recording and chopping up the results to make loops and samples for use in the conventional way.
As the movies Alien and Bladerunner demonstrate, however, all synthetic, thinking manifestations inevitably show the fingerprints of their creators. In this third part of our survey of the REAKTOR User Library, we’ll look back at the greatest Ensembles for autonomous sound generation, giving long overdue kudos to the mad scientists who gave them life. All you need do is sit back, listen, and be ready to hit the record button.
OrgaNism (various versions)
Rick Scott (a.k.a. rachMiel) has long been a generous fountain of REAKTOR knowledge, devoting more time than perhaps anyone else to this article’s subject in the form of his orgaNism series. Evoking the crackling of dot matrix printers and dial-up modems, amorphous drone clouds, and the mating calls of more than a few failed evolutionary mutations, the orgaNism series is a virtual ecosystem worthy of David Attenborough’s calm narration.
Check them out now.
GrandNagus and Chimaerachboz V
The mad rabbit Dieter Zobel strikes again with two of the finest efforts from the weird side of the User Library. Each and every click of the ZuPhall pad randomizes the settings, producing endless loops of useable, tempo synced madness. Its close cousin Chimaerachboz V will satisfy those looking for post-apocalyptic textures of the classic industrial and EBM variety.
Check out GrandNagus here.
Check out Chimaerachboz V here.
Forest of K’Maaeitel
All of Cal Scott’s REAKTOR creations are visual and sonic orgies worthy of Caligula – and Forest of K’mmaaeitel may be the weirdest of them all. Useful parameter names be damned! Smash those buttons and the smashing of the minds of all who bear witness to the resulting chaos is practically guaranteed.
Check out Forest of K’Maaeitel here.
The perfect launchpad for your next Stars of the Lid cover album, harmoDrone by rachMiel Schott (a.k.a. Rick Scott) is a now-ancient Ensemble still capable of some of the most uplifting, harmonious drone textures the User Library has to offer. Add reverb, strings, and cough syrup to taste, and launch your career in soundtracking Scandinavian short films.
Check out harmoDrone here.
Molecules and The Swarm
Cinematic drone generators of the highest order, Eduard Telik’s creations are purpose-built for enveloping listeners in a warm blanket of sound by a quietly crackling virtual fire. Molecules provides a near-unending collection of grainy drone textures, perfectly suited to being fed into samplers for further pitch-tracking playback due to its minimal use of modulation. Conversely, The Swarm’s amazing interface unleashes new universes of ever-changing sonics with every micro-movement of the mouse.
Check out Molecules here.
Check out The Swarm here.
The Eternal Drone
Essentially a tambura in generative REAKTOR form, The Eternal Drone by Benjamin Eigner provides all of the soft, blissed-out harmonic collisions one might expect to hear at an ayahuasca ceremony following a particularly large solar flare rendering all electronics null and void.
Check out Eternal Drone here.
A fairly recent contribution from prolific Blocks builder Colugo, YANG is a clocked random noise generator capable of spitting out a miasma of digital errors, vintage dial-up modem shrieks, and high-frequency blasts worthy of your most nightmarish trip to the dentist.
Check out YANG here.
By far the strangest entry in James Clark’s ever-excellent Alien Artifact series, Dziban TV’s various channels provide the soundtrack to the mind-numbing sitcoms of the 80s, broadcast from a distant galaxy and picked up by your granddad’s jimmy-rigged Commodore VIC-20 HAM radio receiver.
Check out Dziban TV here.