Here we have the first fruits of a brand new endeavour by Siren Audio, which has hit the ground running with a suite of wicked audio applications that will have glitch, IDM and experimental musicians singing the developer's praises.
Lorelei is the name, and it comprises three standalone applications designed to import samples and perform peculiar processing upon them. They're available for OS X, Windows XP and Windows 7 (the developer warns that they're not compatible with Vista). We tried them on a Mac and they worked perfectly.
'Sampler' is the no-nonsense name given to the most basic tool of the lot - if the term 'basic' can even be used to describe a program that takes samples, dices them up, filters, modulates, mangles and assigns them to your keyboard, that is. The idea here is to use randomisation as a means to produce and extract interesting sounds that you may not have imagined.
You can load single files or point to a folder full of them. Sampler's GUI is the least intimidating of the set, but it still provides a substantial number of parameters that you can tweak.
You can randomise all of those parameters, or mask the ones you want to leave alone.
In practice, Sampler performs marvellously. We were able to whip up loads of interesting, usable sonic snippets from even the most rudimentary sources.
Based on granular synthesis, Generative analyses a sample (or a folder of them) and spits the sound through four granular devices, the parameters of which are continuously altered depending on the user parameters and various aspects of the incoming signal.
Unlike most granular processors, Generative doesn't give you access to the typical parameters like pitch, time and pan jitter, grain size and density. Instead it allows you to manually control the playheads for each of the four granular devices.
The results are terrific. It's an almost instantaneous system for creating drones and textures. Sound designers are going to eat this up.
Feedback is by far our favourite of the set, though. This massive machine provides a whopping 20 delay lines and a quartet of effects (distortion, static delay, variable delay and filter) to generate ever-changing drones and textures from live audio input or imported samples.
The delays are arranged into banks of four, each with entirely independent delay times (all tied to a global BPM). You can record an individual bank or all ofthem simultaneously. There is, of course, a randomisation function.
Feedback is especially deep, with its features spread across numerous windows. Each is packed with parameters, yet it doesn't take much head-scratching to jump in and start producing interesting sounds.
We were particularly pleased with its ability to facilitate delicate, echoing ambient textures - though it's equally good at crazy cacophonous symphonies!
Now for the downside: can it truly be that these three programs are only available as standalone apps? They seem such obvious candidates for plug-ins.
Alas, this is indeed the case, and the developer has confirmed our fears: no plug-in versions are in development.
Nevertheless, these tools do work well with other programs. Built with Cycling 74's Max/MSP (and without any of the external add-on objects or third-party things that might have made the Lorelei Suite difficult to distribute), they support ReWire connectivity and there is an option to bridge them with Ableton Live.
In use, setup was easy, and MIDI and audio connections were shuttled between master and slave as desired. While ReWire may not be as convenient as a plug-in format, it does at least allow for some degree of integration. What's more, if it's all too much hassle, you can simply export audio straight out of the apps.
All in all, this is a terrific set that defies description and is best experienced for yourself. The price is a bargain, too, and if you don't want 'em all, you can buy them individually.
However, we imagine that any musician impressed by one app will want the rest. We do wish there were plug-in versions, but that isn't going to stop us enjoying these as they are.
In short, this is an excellent debut for Siren Audio.