Native Instruments Blog

Top 10 IDM REAKTOR Ensembles

As the late ’90s tumbled over into the early ’00s, a new musical movement heavy on sample manipulation and driven almost entirely by purely digital tools began to cement itself, exemplified by the output of artists such as Aphex Twin, and labels Warp and Reflex. As the journalists of the day struggled to pigeonhole these new sounds, a new generation of bedroom polymaths quietly congregated online in places like the .microsound and, IDM email lists, defining the movement’s musical language and aesthetic parameters.

Intelligent dance music, abbreviated to IDM, is truly weird music that by its very nature demanded new journalistic terminology to effectively describe it — and new tools with which to create it. While the likes of visual programming languages such as Max/MSP and PD — which had blossomed out of the American West Coast and European academic circles respectively — offered said tools, there is little doubt that REAKTOR was the first to bring them to the musical mainstream.

Following on from the first article exploring the REAKTOR User Library, Native Instruments look back at some of the greatest ever Ensembles for IDM construction, celebrating the efforts of their talented creators. When it comes to creating the kind of wanton beat destruction, intentional glitches, digital errors, and general wrongness that define the sound of IDM, there are few more potent weapons than these.


El Destrükto

Both a forum moderator and avid contributor to the User Library, Chris List’s contributions to the REAKTOR universe are thoroughly top tier, and El Destrükto is one of his most beloved creations. Combining elegant randomization and modulation possibilities for nearly every parameter, El Destrükto still stands as one of the deepest beat-breakers ever built.

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Drox by Julien Caraz produces the digital detritus so intrinsically linked to IDM better than any other Ensemble. On launch, one is greeted with  a simple X/Y pad offering hours of mouse bashing and glitchy madness. Those looking to impose a little more ego on the proceedings need only switch over to the A view for the full parameter set.

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BoogleBeat 2

The Reflex mafia (Aphex, Luke Vibert, etc) championed the use of decidedly uncool drum machines. But by force feeding them high-speed MIDI data, running the outputs redder than blood, and adding the odd pawn shop distortion pedal for good measure, they created a sound that was entirely their own. Though there are a great many imitators in the Library, Matthew Todman’s BoogleBeat and its sequel BoogleBeat 2 rule the roost for Reflex-esque beats.

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Sowari’s Vectory Remix

While the original Vectory eventually ended up in the REAKTOR Factory Library, Phil Durrant’s remix of this mighty Ensemble still ranks as one of the greatest drum — or drill’n’bass — machines ever conceived, owing to its simple interface and the hours of break-mashing fun that result.

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sampleThrasher v1

Even the most devoted of beat-manglers will tell you that at some point — usually around 45 minutes into a set — everything kind of starts to sound the same. The choice then is to either strike up the ambient outro and bow out gracefully… or employ something that will really and truly melt people’s faces off. In case of the latter, sampleThrasher v1 by veteran sonic experimentalist Rick Scott is your friend.

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Though Andrew Rice’s contributions to the Library appeared over a very short period, they all had the sound of IDM on lock. loGjammer is a beat-slicing beast for dialing in AtomTM- and Akufen- style beats via an elegantly simple user interface. An absolute go-to Ensemble when your drums are in need of razor-sharp edits of the more subtle variety. Table-based randomization of all parameters ensures no two loGjamming bars will ever be quite the same.

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Though perhaps best known for his gorgeous ARP Quadra emulation, Sylvain Stoppani’s second Library upload clearly demonstrates that his talents are not restricted to classic synth recreation. RUIDOZ excels at slow, shifting modulations and Eventide-like reverb and pitch effects applied to a fantastic set of stock IDM sample fodder. While the glitch aesthetic generally leans toward the lo-fi, RUIDOZ v1.1 provides a far more high-end, expensive-sounding palette of weirdness. Carsten Nicolai through Klipschorn speakers, anyone?

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When it comes to the creation of quirky REAKTOR Ensembles, Igor Shilov is a god among men — and Cirklz may be his glitchiest effort of all. It incorporates the same smarter-than-Einstein color-based interface common to many of his creations; however, worrying about what individual parameter tweaks are actually doing quickly becomes irrelevant in light of the sheer madness this gorgeous Ensemble produces.

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If ever there was an Ensemble that’d translate perfectly to the iPad, Florian Erdle’s white_grains is it. Predating Apple’s device by a good many years, this Ensemble uses X/Y pads to record parameter modulations of a granular sample buffer to mind-blowing effect. Though drum loops can get a bit mushy in the process, instrument and vocal reconfiguration are where white_grains truly shines.

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FourTechre Mk II

As the name intrinsically implies, this “loop revitalizer” by Phil Durrant goes a long way towards creating the sort of hoppity, skippity loop tomfoolery associated with Four Tet and Autechre. Though the interface can initially be daunting, the scene-based sequencing concept will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with the creations of Martin Brinkmann. Load your own sample and skip away.

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