So, I am a sucker for innovative DS music software. I bought both Electroplankton and Jam Sessions on their release, and I am not ashamed to have played both completely. I’ve pulled out my DS in the car and told friends to play with Electroplankton on road trips, with the DS hooked up to the car’s speakers. After an initial “what the hellfuck?” moment, they’ll figure it out, and the fun begins. I love the fact that the DS has software like this, because it shows that people are taking the idea of handheld video games seriously. This is a good thing. When I first heard about the Korg DS-10 Synthesizer software, a title that has recently released in Japan, I was confused but totally excited. Here was what electroplankton could have been, a bulky piece of sexy music software with a billion knobs and even virtual patch cords you could use. After watching videos of calm Japanese men rock the shit out of their handhelds, I went and got the thing. I want to be that man. If anything, I want to sire his progeny.
Here is a warning, though. I know nothing about actual synth boards. Including the fact that I don’t know exactly if that’s what they’re called. So, when I got my hands on the title, I was as confused as I’ve ever been. There were knobs and keys and buttons and what the fuck how do I make the techno why am I not Daft Punk yet?
Then I decided to do something I never do. I read the little icons on the screen. This is equivalent to reading those signs in Kokiri Village instead of hacking them to bits. It was weird. I went to the icon marked “DRUMS SEQ.” This brought up a grid of squares, like some bizarre puzzle thrown into an action game that you must complete to Hack The Mainframe and Steal The Secret Dossiers. I fiddled with them. Nothing. Then, I used my monkey brain to remember that a small white triangle means “play”. When I pressed that, something wonderful happened.
First, just a steady beat isseud forth from my DS speakers. As I pressed the icons, I realized that this was a stupidly easy drum machine. Let’s make a beat!
From there, things got a little more lively. I was making beats on a tinny little synthetic drumset. I was in control of the oonce. So, back to the main screen, and I saw that there were two Synths: “SYN1 SEQ” and “SYN2 SEQ” Each had the same options:
– I could fiddle around with notes on a giant grid, just like the drumset. “SYN1 SEQ”
– I could fiddle around with notes on a keyboard. This was lame. “SYN1 KBD”
– I had a magic pad that made the music sound amazing. “SYN1 KAOSS”
The third option, the Kaoss pad, was like techno heaven. I could fiddle with this, and it would allow me to, on-the-fly, make pretty sounding techno-ey notes over my beat. (I am re-reading this article, and it already makes me sound like a fifty-three year old white dude named Gary.) The problem was, I couldn’t loop things, so the two synths were a little unnecessary. Then I discovered the red filled circle at the top. Monkey Brain Says: “record.” Sure enough, this allowed me to record little loops.
So, at this point, I was creating a song piece by piece. It didn’t sound super great, but it was kind of fun to be able to do this with such simple software. As I played more, I found that you could alter SYN1 and SYN2 with patches and modulation. It’s all still a mystery exactly what each knob does, but at least they do something to the music, and sometimes it’s pleasing, and sometimes not. I am pretty sure you can save your songs too, and I think that you can even save patterns that you can bring back later on if you want to rock out (is that what you to techno? Do you tech-out? This sounds a little dirty, like those scenes in science fiction films where they show future-prostitution). I played it on a plane for a bit, and if any of the Chilean passengers were watching, I looked like a damn fool. But, as you all know, this is not a difficult thing for me when it comes to video games.
If you want to see me futzing around with it in video format, I’ve uploaded a poor quality video here. I am going to warn you – for most of the video you can see my face in reflection, and you know how people look like morons when they play video games? Well, now I’ve documented this.