This month I got the chance to check out a pretty crazy VST instrument called “Loopscape” by Rhythmic Robot – an “Analogue polysynth using variable-length tape loops as oscillators…Inspired by the experimental soundscapes produced by 70s pioneers like Brian Eno”. I’ve never heard of Rhythmic Robot before, so was delighted to have the chance to play around with their latest instrument and being a fan of Brian Eno, was even more happy to try it out.
Its a great time to be a composer right now as there are so many small developers out there right now creating instruments for Kontakt, and some real gems to be found (eg. Music Box by Bad Cat Media). Rhythmic Robot specialize in recreating vintage sounds and gear in Kontakt format, and throwing in some craziness on top for good measure.
Loopscape starts with a simple idea, one that found traction with the musique concrete brigade of the 60s and 70s. Back then, Brian Eno composed “Music for Airports”, a sound installation piece which employed tape loops of different lengths running simultaneously. Although the individual loops cycled round predictably, the combination of sound produced by multiple loops of different lengths running all at once created an “incommensurable” sound that was, to all practical purposes, unlikely ever to repeat. Instead it just continued to evolve, forever, into infinity. Isn’t that just cool?
Installation of Loopscape was easy as pie. Its a Kontakt library, so literally just a case of download it, drag and drop into your Kontakt folder and load it up in Kontakt in your DAW. In the Kontakt folder, there is also a “read me” file which explain exactly how to use the library – very handy as it looks a bit daunting at first, but its actually really simple once you read this file.
Loopscape comes with 10 patches – all with their own unique sound and warmth you’d expect from vintage gear:
- Grundig String Section
- Hot Oxide Bass
- Moog me Up Scotty
- Pool Sdrawkcab
- RR Loopscape template (freewheel)
- RR Loopscape template (keytrigger)
- Shenai Drift
- Solar Solina
- Spooled Brass
- Surf Dude
Each patch is very unique sounding and insanely customizable.
The interface is clean and intuitive with all the controls you would expect to see here. Every patch has a global UI for control of the overall sound, then three separate loop UIs to control how each loop acts and sounds. The loop UI allows you to choose from one of six waveform types (two Sawtooth waves, Triangle, Square, Sine and Noise) with a pinch roller (moveable selector) to change the loop lengths of each tape loop, as well as edit 12 LFOs (4 depth, 4 rate, 4 delay).
Once you’ve selected the length and type of waveform, all sorts of vintage effects and sounds are added to give that warm and “old” sound associated with tape machines from yonks ago, giving you the end product of a vintage looped synthesizer sound. With 3 loops all combined, the result is a lush and dense synthesizer sound, evolving and transforming constantly. There are so many different variations you can get from each patch by changing the loop lengths, waveforms etc. its incredible. I honestly didn’t realize that you could get so much out of a tape loop machine!
I wrote a short track to see what the sounds would be like when mixed with other software in my arsenal – for this demo I used only Loopscape for the synths, Ivory Grand Pianos II for the piano, and Stylus RMX for the beat.
The sound you hear from start is the “RR Loopscape Template (freewheel), with “Moog me up Scotty” coming in at 0:44, and “Hot Oxide Bass” at 0:50 (doubled with a bass guitar). Vintage synths would never have been something I would have chosen to use in my compositions, but Loopscape has definitively opened up my eyes to this type of sound. It ranges from warm, soft and fuzzy, to deep, dark and crisp.
I started writing up this review at around 10am this morning – its now 5pm and I’m still playing around with the sounds in it. I guess thats the best review you can give really – its an inspiring instrument, lots of fun to play and will have a place in the arsenal of composers who write electronica, ambient, new age and vintage music. Its a lot easier to use after reading the instruction manual (takes 5-10 minutes) and not half as difficult to understand as I thought it would be. Its £34.95 and definitely well worth it.