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FLUX:FX app review – An amazing effects app from Adrian Belew and Noiise

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few months, you've likely heard about (and been anticipating) the release of FLUX:FX. Brought to us by Noiise, a collaboration between guitarist Adrian Belew, Mobgen, and Elephant Candy, FLUX:FX is proving to be worth the wait.

For all of you rock-dwellers, let me get you up to speed. FLUX:FX is an effects app that packs 31 different effects into one app. You can run up to five of these effects at one time. These effects can go from "normal" effects such as tape echo, distortion, to criminally insane effects such as reverse loop, stutter loop and octave shift. The YouTube playlist below is a great overview of many of the different screens and functions. Take a look (and save me some time writing!).

As you can see, FLUX:FX is an app that needs to be manipulated. On the Performance View, you'll have access to most of your controls. This is where I spent most of my time playing, but I did switch to the other views a bit, which I'll discuss later. As seen in the screen shot below, you can select your effects, drag them to any of the five effects slots, and use the large X/Y pad to control the parameters of some (or all) of them.

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For each effect, you have several options on how you'd like the effect to be used. Each effect can either be in Active Mode or Touch Mode. Active Mode simply means it is on or off. Touch Mode means that the effect will only play when you are touching the X/Y pad. This can be effective if you want to add some delay to the end of a vocal phrase, for example. On top of that, each effect has an X/Y pad on/off option. This means that it either can stay where it is without changing ("off"), or the parameters can be adjusted by the main X/Y pad when moving your finger around ("on").

Also found on the Performance View screen are the Preset banks. I'd would strongly suggest you take a quick run through these. There are loads of them, and they are set up almost as a tutorial for the app itself. Going through these in order give you a great idea of how the different effects can be used, how they can be modulated, etc. This is a really great idea, and these presets themselves are quite good.

The bottom of the page shows the step sequencer (16 steps at a time). More on this later. This leaves the majority of the Performance screen for the X/Y pad. This is where this app excels for live use. As briefly mentioned before, you can choose any number of the five effects to be controlled by this "master" X/Y pad for some dizzying sonic manipulations. If you are using the app live, you can even choose to enlarge the X/Y pad by tapping on the "+" button on the "Performance View" button on top.

But what would a review of an effects app be without a discussion about the effects? Answer: a really poorly written review! Joking aside, FLUX:FX has 31 effects to choose from. Math majors can figure out how many permutations of 31 effects over 5 slots might be, but even a Philosophy major could tell you that this is a big number. The combinations are nearly endless. And when you start adding in the X/Y controls over these effects, it's a one-way trip to Crazy Town.

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As you can see from the Edit View of the effects, each effect has it's own X/Y pad to manipulate the parameters of the effect. You can choose to drench your track in reverb, or add just a bit to the mix. Crank up the delay, or set it to the X axis and move it around as you play. Of course you can just set an effect level and leave it, but what fun is that? As I'm a fool for noisy cacophony, I had a great time adding in some reverse loops, bitcrush, and delay to get some madness. Did it sound good? I thought so. My wife, on the other hand, asked me (again) when I would be writing a "nice" song. Do with it what you will.

One of the other crazy playing options here is the sequencer. This really sets it apart from other similar multi-effects apps. As mentioned before, you can choose to use up to 64 "steps". These steps are essentially snapshots of your effects and how the X/Y parameters are set per step. So you can create some evolving motion with your effects, and then play that sequence, leaving your hands free to play your instrument while your effects do their business. This would obviously benefit guitarists, freeing them to concentrate on their playing. If you take some time to set up a sequence in advance, this can be a moment of magic.

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I've been playing around with FLUX:FX for a while now, and I wanted to create a few sound demos. I didn't want to stay too traditional, as that's not typical of my musical style, but also this app cries out for experimentation and flat-out weirdness. These may seem a bit abstract, but here we go.

For the first, I've taken an a capella singing performance by Kae Furious called "The Graveyard". This is a Creative Commons track that I found on the Internet (info found here). I wanted something that sounded "nice", so I could show how easily you can flip something on its head with FLUX:FX. The original (found here) is actually a very beautiful piece, so my apologies to Ms. Furious for what I've done.

The second piece I've done is mangling a spoken-word piece. That spoken word piece was created on my iPad by using the Voice Dream Reader text-to-speech app. I used the Willy Wonka "boat ride" speech from the 1971 version of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" as the lyrical source, and used the in-app male UK voice. Always a treat. Again, pure mangling, here with more emphasis on the loop slice, chorus and flange, and tape echo effects. I also briefly used the "Fidget Delay" preset for a bit, to get those auto-pan sounds. This was a live, one-take performance, manipulating the parameters on the main X/Y pad. Pretty, it is not.

The final demo I've recorded is a little more musical. As this app was created in part with Adrian Belew, I would be remiss if I didn't use my guitar somewhere in these demos. As FLUX:FX is billed as an "experimental" effects app, I wanted to do something a bit outside the norm. So, I dusted off my old E-bow and my Epiphone Les Paul, and plugged in. For this one, I played a simple four-note pattern, adding in the Phase, Digital Delay, Tape Echo, Auto Pan, and Ring Modulate effects as I went along. Halfway through I just played an open "G" string, and manipulated some of the effects X/Y pads. Got a little Syd Barrett-y.

I've barely scratched the surface with these demos. In the process of creating these, I discovered that each effect has its own presets. There's layers on top of layers within this app. I didn't even have the chance to use the sequencer in my demos, but this would bring the app to a whole new level.

As you can tell from the demo videos and my brief SoundCloud clips, this app is wild. While it does offer "standard" fare such as distortion, chorus, flanger, etc., you really should push this app around some to truly appreciate it. While I've used vocals and guitars in my demos, synths, pianos, or percussion input sources will also work very well here. This is very much an app that transforms what you put in into something totally different. As I'm not a musician that has a road map already in place when starting a new track, having such a great source of inspiration is a big plus for me. There are a lot of happy accidents to be found here. If you've got even the slightest interest in "out of the box" music, FLUX:FX will make a great addition to your iOS music app collection.

If you are thinking about buying FLUX:FX, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks!

[app 943915646]

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