The much-anticipated SoundScaper from Igor Vasiliev has arrived this week, and we are all better for it. Okay, that may be a bit over the top, but this app is definitely unique in the iOS environment. There can be no denying that.
SoundScaper is essentially a circuit bending app, but without the wires and soldering irons and potential electrocution. If you're unfamiliar with the world of circuit bending, check out this article explaining it in more detail. Essentially, it is the art of experimentation of manipulating circuit boards, mainly on children's toys and musical instruments. This is mostly a trial-and-error process, which can result in pleasant surprises, or blown circuits.
Thankfully (or frustratingly, depending on your perspective) SoundScaper captures all of this experimentation. While there are elements of the app that will be familiar to those used to synthesizers, many of the controls remain a mystery. I've played with this app for several hours, and really can't explain what many of the controls do. For me, this was an incredibly fun time letting go and just tweaking until I found something I liked.
SoundScaper essentially has two screens - the main interface, and the controls screen for each oscillator. The main screen houses some basic controls for each oscillator, as well as the filters and the LFO controls. There is also a visualizer for each oscillator, in which the icon for each sound sample can be moved forward or back or panned left or right.
The second screen for the oscillator controls is frankly a "black box" to me. There's a whole lot of individual boxes, and I'm not confident what they do. I can assure you that they do "something", but I wouldn't bet my life on explaining accurately what each does. And that's what makes this app special - you need to experiment to find out.
My strategy for learning and playing this app was to work on one oscillator at a time. I turned down the output level on the other two, and just started tapping and tweaking until I found something I liked. Then, repeat with the other two. Eventually, I blended them all together, and made a few additional changes after seeing how the pieces fit together.
The app comes with some presets and samples included. These presets do present a nice starting point, but I quickly decided to try my hand at using my own samples. You can easily bring your own samples into the app using the 'Open In' function in Audioshare, which is what I did. I used three samples from the fun "Kung Fu Sound Effects Volume 1" pack, which can be downloaded here for free. In the demo below, I've included the 'clean' sound of each of these samples for comparison. You'll then hear my demo after that, which I ran through AUFX:Space through Audiobus into Audioshare.
Now, would I call this demo track a masterpiece? Absolutely not? Would I even call it "musical"? Maybe. But it does show how SoundScaper is able to transform three one-shot samples into something completely different. Keep in mind, this is just a few hours after first opening the app, so I'm sure that more practice and experimentation will result in a better understanding and mastery of the app.
SoundScaper is an app that definitely won't appeal to everyone. I don't mean this in a negative way, but you won't write a symphony with this app. It is unabashedly experimental, and the sounds that will be produced will be outside of the norm. I would expect that fans of iVCS3 by apeSoft would feel right at home with this app. And with all of the great effects apps that we have available on iOS, the possibilities of combining SoundScaper with additional delays or reverbs are limitless.
If you're not afraid of flying without a manual, and are comfortable spending some time figuring it out, SoundScaper is an incredible app.
If you're thinking about buying SoundScaper, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks![app 945258583]