This is the first music app I bought for my phone, and my second Kaoss Pad (the first being the touchscreen on the KORG DS-10). At the time of writing the iKaossilator retails for £6.99: not cheap for an app. But back in the real world this is the same as two pints of beer.
The iKaossilator is a different proposition to the KP on the DS-10: while the DS-10 lets you modify a sound you’ve created in the synthesiser by manipulating the X/Y parameters of the touchscreen, the iK has a bank of different sounds (voices) which can be looped in up to five channels. Each set of loops is called a “groove”. Groovy.
There are 150 voices, split (and colour coded) into Lead (yellow), Acoustic (orange), Bass (blue), Chord (pink), SE/Hit (green) and Drums (red). Additionally you can change the scale and the key, the tempo, and quantize. Each channel can be set to a different length (eg 8/16, 12/16) and individually muted or soloed with a swipe.
Like the rest of the Kaoss Pad family, manipulating the touchscreen with your fingertips creates the sound. On the iKaossilator, the screen also lights up in the colour of your chosen voice and repeats your pattern of movement when you record. It looks very pretty; with all five channels are up and running, almost hypnotic.
Once you’ve built up a groove, you can then mix it up with others in the loop list by simply tapping the different channels on-screen. This is incredibly fun to do, and it’s easy to lose hours just noodling around, recording different loops and building them up into ‘sets’ to play – I was up till the early hours the day I downloaded it.
But is it more than just a plaything? I mean, could you use it to record an original song?
There are a couple of big limitations: you can’t adjust the level of the channels (ie there is a ‘loop mixer’ but no ACTUAL mixer), and you can’t adjust the panning – the voices are pre-panned. The ability to do those two things is a prerequisite recording a song with other instruments. The only way around it is to record each channel as a separate track in the DAW, and then sync them up again, and do the mixing/panning there. Hassle. But there are other features more conducive to recording: loops/grooves can be exported as wavs, and later updates have allowed ‘live’ recording, so it’s possible to record activity in the loop list and export that too. There are also features to facilitate live performance (including WIST).
Technicalities aside, the voices themselves are excellent, especially the drums (unless you are after the sound of a ‘traditional’ rock kit – there are a couple of Rock drum voices, but you could only really use them if you were attempting some kind of 80s cock-rock pastiche. Hmm.). With 5 channels and 50 drums and SE/Hit voices you can quickly build up unique and complex patterns. It’s a fast and intuitive alternative to programming a drum sequencer. I combined three voices (Techno, Hi-Hat and Clap) to build the drum track for my song Let it in.
The other types of voice, particularly the bass and lead voices, could definitely provide the ‘hook’ in a dance track: like my latest song attempt, ÄUTODIDACT. And I think the acoustic voices could combine well with the instruments on ThumbJam. Another one to put on the backburner!
It would be easy to rinse the voices if you were using the app as a standalone instrument, but as one part of a multi-instrument set up I can see myself getting a lot of use out of it – until I upgrade to a Kaossilator Pro. :-)