Flesh from Tim Exile transforms sounds into performances [Interview] - Create Digital Music

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Flesh from Tim Exile transforms sounds into performances [Interview] Working with samples is great fun, but there’s a certain sameness to approach. Load a sample. Play back a sample. Slice a sample. FLESH takes a unique angle: it analyzes sound samples and mangles them into new animals. And it’s the latest from Tim Exile, a one-man live performer of madness himself (Warp, Planet Mu), and one of Reaktor’s greatest patching virtuosos on Earth. His first two instruments, THE FINGER and THE MOUTH, were already weird and wonderful tools for performance, but FLESH could be the deepest one yet. (Yes, that’s just Flesh, not The Flesh. So it could be, basically, any flesh. Yours, mine, some random guy’s flesh… you get it.) At the heart of FLESH is a screen on which you can drag and drop loops. It wisely borrows a page from the terrific Loopy on iOS and displays that audio in a circle – a visual that makes sense for loops. You can stick up to 12 samples in there, though once you hear all you can do with them, you may be find with a much smaller number. The ingredients that follow are tools we’ve heard and seen before in some form. What’s novel is packaging them together into a single, live and improvisatory workflow. FLESH analyzes the sounds for both transient and spectral profile, then uses that information to transform the results. There are four engines: 1. Sample Engine is more conventional sample stuff – length, envelopes, modulation. 2. Monosynth turns those samples into wavetables. 3. Polysynth turns them into chords (or can be a multi-voice monosynth with stacked voices). 4. Subsynth produces bass frequencies from an incoming pitch signal. Then, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a whole effects section and additional modulation. There’s a dub delay, itself controlled by modulation from the sound, and a Mod Page. Because you can drive all of this from the sample modulation, you can get really wild effects. Because of these different engines, you could really get different results than the Tim Exile-y ones you hear in the demo videos. You might focus on just one engine, or just one set of parameters. But the other thing that’s important is centralizing sound control. Tim himself works with an enormous table full of gear (including a lot of Behringer controls). This isn’t just about working on sound design as a slow, studio-driven process. It’s about improvisation, which is always what impressed me about Tim’s performances. Now, I’m not Tim, you’re not Tim, but the live control element means a chance to really play with sound. These are integrated into big macros for Spectrum, Character, Length, and Mod, and it’s really fast to play and tweak quickly. FLESH isn’t a sampler – that part may disappoint people. You do need to prepare samples in advance. But there is a major improvement in Reaktor 6 under the hood. New tables for samples make the drag-and-drop ease here possible for the first time. And so while FLESH is great on its own, it’s also the first showcase that really shows what’s possible in Reaktor 6 (apart from those Blocks). This being NI, they’ve also come up with some slick integration with the KOMPLETE KONTROL keyboard line – and I hope, soon, too, the more compact Maschine controller. Watch: The combination of all these elements really does make FLESH into an integrated performance instrument – like, you might not need Ableton Live any more for playing out. Load your samples and parameters, and do it all live. Tim gives a quick demo of what that looks like: Here’s a promo video from NI, proving that Tim is the virtual reality presence we all knew him to be. People are already down-voting it on YouTube, because… well, either there are some angry jealous Cylons subscribed to NI’s channel, or the downward-facing thumb has some meaning in other cultures. (I never understood why people do that on YouTube. Come on, kids. Lighten up.) You can join Tim and me for a live Periscope. Tim asked me to come over while he’s in Berlin, so we’ll be online on the main page in a little while. (7 PM Berlin time, that’s 1 PM in New York and 10 AM in California.) If you miss the live video, it’ll be up for 24 hours. Find that, plus everything on FLESH, on NI’s site: Native Instruments FLESH Runs inside Reaktor 6, or if you don’t have Reaktor, inside the free Reaktor 6 Player. Tim also talks to CDM about what it was like building this instrument. CDM: You’ve for some years used a project called Flow Machine. How does The Flesh relate to that? Tim: Flesh is made to fit into the Flow Machine workflow. The Flow Machine is kind of my R&D playground performance instrument. All the technology in the Flow Machine is optimized for spontaneous electronic music performance. How is it different making something like this for other musicians than when you’ve done something just for yourself? You have to bear a lot more variables in mind. Personally I avoid DAWs like the plague as…

Working with samples is great fun, but there’s a certain sameness to approach. Load a sample. Play back a sample. Slice a sample. FLESH takes a unique angle: it analyzes sound samples and mangles them...

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