Once in a while something comes along that sends you way back to days long gone and you get that Deja-Vu feeling and can even smell and feel how it was at that exact time in the past. Shortwave from Rythmic Robot Audio just did a major time-travel for me.
In the early 80’s I used to be up late at night listening to shortwave radio. Searching, listening, tweaking and recording. I don’t know how many hours I’ve recorded with all kinds of different sounds. Back then I had no real idea as to what to use it for, it was mainly a hobby or a way to let time pass. I have a vague memory of actually using something as a background in a song of some sort but I don’t think I have the recordings any more.
Shortwave is a collection of, that’s right, shortwave radio recordings! Even Russian! I remember that if I put all my cables in a pile in a corner in my room I could easily get Russian voices in the “ground-loop” so to speak. In Shortwave they are much better recorded though.
I like control. No, I really like control. I build customized controller-stuff in Logic Pro and on my iPad with Lemur to give me the control I want, or at least the control I think I need. I also constantly edit my patches to give me the sound I need and so forth. Like I said, I like control.
Enter Shortwave from Rythmic Robot Audio. It kind of scares me a bit because I can’t really grasp how to control it. In this case the “no-control” feeling is actually is good feeling.
So what is it then? You could call it a standard synthesizer with some recorded shortwave radio as oscillators instead of the regular sine, triangle and such. You get three “oscillators” that you can select a variety of different waves for, but the interesting thing is that on top of this you can select one or two so called Interference Generators. This is what makes it really interesting. These generators can have a user selected amount of randomness to them which means that the sounds seem to evolve, for ever.
All the controls just beg to be twisted and tested and if you’re familiar with synths you should have no trouble twisting the right ones. There is also a “backside” of it all where you can edit some echo, reverb and simulated output selection.
Shortwave scares me a bit. It both sounds and looks like something from the first Quake game (remember that one?). It looks as good as it sounds though. I mostly don’t care so much for the interfaces of sample libraries but this one feels just right. You have no idea of the values you change, what is min, what is max? It’s just a knob with two end-points and when you turn it it sounds different. In short, Shortwave is gritty and a bit dark. Shortwave is filthy and very unpredictable. And I like it. I like it a lot!
To use a Shortwave pad together with a regular smooth analog-like synthpad is instant gratification.