There’s a gently pastel-colored hand-drawn interface, a backstory involving extraplanetary mining. It’s a reverb, a degrader and multi-effect, but also a drone maker. But whatever it is, Rymdigare transports everything you do to a warm, happy place. It’s like drizzling stuff with warm chocolate.
We live in dark times, where everything nerdy has become twisted and dystopian. Not so the private inventions of Swedish developer and bedroom producer (proudly) Erik Sigth. Known as Humble, and assembling projects under the Humbletune banner, Erik simply makes music and software with all the things that trigger a nice healthy serotonin response. Seriously, if I had to face the sunless winter of Norrköping, I would want to load up my iPhone with these apps at the very least.
Some of these no doubt confused some users – a minimalistic radio app that is only tuned to a few hand-picked stations from Sweden and the underground. (It’s fun, actually – ström!) But Erik has also churned out a steady stream of ingenious music-making apps with twee retro-tinged minimalistic interfaces. (For the developers among our readers, he’s a heavy user of the open-source Sparrow game engine for iOS.) He’s even made a title for the Pocket Chip, the new chip music platform (and one for original Game Boy).
And there have been some absolute gems – most of them fully compliant with Ableton Link, AUv3, Audiobus, and the like so you can use them as really serious instruments. Voicebot, perhaps his best-known outing, is a surprisingly powerful vocoder app that strikes a balance where most vocoders fail – it’s both deep and intuitive. (It also supports MPE input, which no plug-in I can think of even does.) There’s Nils, a quick game-like sampler/looper/bitcrusher. For a more fleshed-out interface, check out e-l-s-a, a sampler that’s a bit like the love child of the Samplr app and a Teenage Engineering OP-1/OP-Z, with lo-fi bitcrushing elements and other cute twists added. Shapesynth is a draw-able wavetable polysynth with its own tape-style looping. String is a quite elegant, playable Karplus-Strong physically modeled string instrument (but you probably guessed that from the name). Frekvens is a frequency shifter and stereo delay.
And then there’s Tardigrain, the clear must-have, which gives you a granular synth with easy audio sample support.
All of these ooze character. I think unlike the startup-style, general-purpose “everyone can make music” apps, what strikes me is that these have the personality of a game, but with a particular sonic direction that makes them an instrument – and the capability to explore that over a long period of time rather than only a quick fix. That may sum up the paradox of iOS development, really. And Erik is one of the few making apps that can be both at once. Which brings us to one of the smartest ones yet…
Rymdigare doesn’t know what it is, which is good
That first-run, novelty, cute-factor is there in Rymdigare. You’ve probably never seen a reverb represented in cartoon form as the legacy of an off-world expedition:
During a routine mining expedition in the outer regions of the galaxy five mysterious boxes of unknown origin were found. Rumours among the workers spread quickly that there was a strange feeling being around these boxes, as if time flows in a different way, not just forward but sometimes also folding back on itself. The miners nicknamed them, the five boxes of reverberation. After the excavation process, to study them more closely, it was decided to transport them back to earth.
But you still get knobs and parameter names and control. And there’s a lot in here:
It’s a deep reverb, with multimode resonant filter. (And it’s a nice one, at that, already worth the price of admission). You get tons of control – length, ratio, skew, tail, feedback via free or bpm or tuned control. Random variation controls are in there, too.
It’s a noise and drone machine – in addition to using it as an effect, you can just generate textures in the app alone.
It’s a multi-effect degrader / waveshaper. You can add all sorts of lovely fuzz and distortion via level degrader, tape-style speed degrader, and wave shaper.
It’s a frequency shifter and full of modulation. There’s an LFO based on planetary orbits – an increasingly popular technique, as it just sounds good – mappable to any parameter. And there’s octave shifting up and down.
And it’s a studio too. Inter App Audio (IAA), Audiobus, AUv3, full Core MIDI support but also MIDI mapping inside the interface. I think there’s not explicit Ableton Link support if you want to sync up the LFO, but just drop it in a host and you’re set.
Everything sounds good in that combination, but I also appreciate that you can approach this in different ways. Just want a reverb that can be fuzzy or musical? This is that. Want to lie in bed making some drones? That, too. What a quick lo-fi effect? Done. Prefer to get more experimental modulating parameters and sound very unlike the demos? Also possible. So as easy as it is to sound good, it could sound very different in different hands.
It sounds like some very expensive pedals, but doesn’t cost much. And it’s just a different experience – purely software and game and touch app in a way the pedals aren’t. When you want something to stomp on and knobs to twist, you of course still have that option.
Also, if you’re not the sort to do everything on iOS, it’s good enough to merit doing some round-trip processing alongside your computer or hardware tool.
And it’s US$4.99, which is just wild.
Photos for this story by: https://perplexon.com/
I’d say use the money you save and go check out Erik’s back catalog of Bandcamp music, even if it’s up in years.
I need to make some jams with it but – already I’m seeing tons of stuff online, and sounding quite different from one another:
Just one of those things. See, off-world mining does have benefits for human culture!