Accompanying IDM’s heady, crystalline edits, and granular detailing (from Aphex Twin to Autechre), composers like Vladislav Delay, Tim Exile, Speedy J, Richard Devine, Future Sound of London, and Monolake began gradually sliding off the ‘beat grid’ entirely – forging a new, high-fidelity take on ambient and generative music forms, far removed from the metronomic pulse of its predecessors. Sprawling works like Delay’s “Anima” bridged the sonic divide between found sound and synthetic sources, as previously explored by FSoL in masterworks like “Lifeforms”.
For a brief moment the synergy between “producer” and “coder” radically converged, with many software patches and instruments being both designed and utilised in works by musicians at the forefront of sound design.
REAKTOR Ensembles like Metaphysical Function offer critical snapshots of a generative music evolution – this and many other ‘signature’ tools remaining currently available in the REAKTOR User Library, offering unusual approaches to generate entire ambient landscapes, sound-beds and off world sonic visions.
From the breathtaking to the genuinely curious, Native Instruments selects ten crucial and curious ambient ensembles from the Reaktor User Library, free for you to download and create with.
Early in the 2000s, Metaphysical Function established itself one of the most unique and sonically rich ensembles in the Reaktor User Library. Combining an sizable array of self-oscillating resonators, granular synthesis, reverbs and effects with a stunning visual interface, MF stands alone, generating ‘living’ sound art, pads and rich audio particulate.
Originally including industrial-leaning snapshots from sound-designer Speedy J, tailored variations of the original ensemble have been uploaded by numerous users with specific sonic penchants. Head directly to Metaphysical Fabrications, to witness Christian Kjeldsen’s finest work. Modifying presets with original audio recordings as source material provides hours of immersive reward.
Check out Metaphysical Function here.
From rainforest canopies to haunted cave atmospherics, subway tunnels to drenched suburban streets and aquatic moods, Space Drone is a weaponised atmospheric engine. Included snapshots like ‘Planetary Assault’ and ‘Polar Wind’ lend themselves almost to retro game design.
Space Drone’s interface is simple, elegant and easy to tweak. Press play, and the ensemble hums away without need for any external MIDI input.
Check out Space Drone here.
Part drone engine part noise-floor generator, Contemplative Soundscapes’ strength lies in its usable simplicity. An array of sliders offers mix control over up to six-pitchable drones, and ‘glitch’ and ‘sine’ dials allow for the creation of the sorts of signal flow anomalies (line hum, white noise, DC current buzz) which would make the most ardent of Basic Channel fans beam with pride.
Check out Contemplative Soundscapes here.
Built using Reaktor Blocks, Sylvan is a “melodic ambient” ensemble, well suited for generating patterns of soft, blissed out bleeps and aeriform motifs. Configured around a sequenced array of morph filters, Sylvan cleverly shapes noise oscillators into semi-random, hypnotic space tones. The ensemble sounds strangely reminiscent of the legendary Tenori-On’s cycling tone hypnagogia, with the sensibility of John Cage’s non-linear randomness hard-wired to its virtual circuits.
Check out Sylvan here.
Skrewell’s seeming subtlety belies a savage alien petulance, with included snapshots slowly unveiling the rich DNA of its avant-garde powerhouse.
Leaning toward the highly synthetic, snaps like “Bohr Was Wrong” transmute epic sub-bass clout through larger speakers, whilst “Schluckimpfung” and “Bisk Sins” are best experienced with caution to avoid ear-bleed. Skrewell’s remarkable power comes to the fore when making use of the its randomisation buttons – enabling one or all parameters to be randomised with a single click.
Check out WOVEN INTENSITIES here.
Space and Time Generator
Creator Paul Willocks offers a way to generate ‘the sounds of the universe’ in one basic tool. As lofty as this sounds, Space and Time Generator thrums, pops and bleeps with genuine charisma through its fathoms-deep reverb. It’s not actually self-generating, but it does create beautiful interstellar tones with any note trigger, with the results playable in a pitched fashion if desired.
Utilising simple envelope controls, this ensemble is a great way of generating subtle drones and noises for compositions. Clearly crafted with love, it’s also proof that creative intention can shape user experience in a wonderfully compelling fashion.
Check out Space and Time Generator here.
Spectral fuges? Cosmic jazz? Ancient melodies from buried arks? Fans of Japan’s Tetsu Inou may well find Aero’s unique aesthetic familiar. At over 13 years old, this odd Ensemble has matured well, despite an antiquated GUI which screams for a millennial makeover.
Subtle at first, Aero generates deeply odd, mesmerizingly alien melodic motifs when left ‘alone’ for some time, and these seem to inexorably complexify over time. Randomisation functions bypass deeper interface controls for those too intimidated to customise things more subtly.
Aero possesses an almost mystical ability to generate not only spectral, eastern-hued tones, but also remarkable changes in ‘song form’ over the course of time. The ghost is most certainly evident in this machine, haunting it’s code in perpetuity.
Check out Aero here.
1994 witnessed the Future Sound Of London release the seminal “Lifeforms” album, which may well have influenced creator Rolf Schmuck’s approach to designing this deeply organic ambience generating engine. Snapshots traverse biological climes from earth to space, with mutant birds, gurgling fish and strange insect chirps making textural cameos. A ‘random all’ button offers possibilities for instant genetic mutation.
Check out Lifeforms here.
Sort Of The Rings
If Metaphysical Function is the sound of Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, Sort Of The Rings is Spielberg’s “ET” after half a can of beer and an unexpected run-in with Cheech and Chong. Combining randomly sequenced audio detritus (from short-wave radio to muttered vocals) with odd tonal bleeps, this ensemble generates gently comical ambient relief. A strangely compelling exercise in weirdness and science fiction.
Check out Sort Of The Rings here.
Event Iter’s Gothic Cathedral lies somewhat outside the remit of “ambient classic” in conventional terms. Curious, sinusoidal organ riffs burble away through cathedral reverb, evoking imagery of an earnest young intern at the ivories, noodling away late until the night.
Along with an extensive collection of genuinely idiosyncratic Ensembles (check out the gorgeous Two Dancer In Flow), Gothic Cathedral speaks to an inspired experimental enthusiasm oft missing from contemporary musical discourse. Multitude ensembles like these lie awaiting excavation from the bowels of REAKTOR’s digital crypt, and still resonate with a timeless sense of inspired possibility.
Rather than being beholden to new assumptions of ‘retro-futurist’ legitimacy, works like those offered by Event Iter seem to transcend convention altogether, and in so doing remind us to remember a sonic future which is still ours to imagine.
Check out Gothic Cathedral here.