October 17, 2012

Granular Shoot 'n' Loot...

by Chris Randall

Yay, Borderlands Granular for iPad is finally out! Despite my personal opinion that the author may need to re-address his product-naming paradigm (related: watch for my new synth app for the iPad, Fallout 2 Subtractive), this one is right in my wheelhouse, visually. Any iPad audio app that doesn't look like an oscilloscope from 1967 is A-OK in my book, and this app is most assuredly not a skeuomorphic disaster area.

Functionally, it is similar to Curtis, except you can overlay several sounds; it lacks some of the playability of Curtis, but by the same token, it lacks a lot of the questionable control mechanisms, and in my brief relationship with it, it lacks all the bugginess. (Unlike Curtis, which I can freeze in a matter of minutes, I haven't managed to crash Borderlands yet.)

I won't go and give it a one star "ZOMG U CANT LODE URSER SOUNDS FAILZZZZ111ELEVENTY!!" review in the app store, because I'm giving the developer the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he has an update planned in a most ricky-tick fashion to allow me to load my own sounds. (Edit: see below.) As of release, it has four samples, and that's that. Also, there is no way to save a state and recall it later; Borderlands lives very much in the Here, the Now, the Holy Fucking Tide in the Affairs Of Man. Etc. I assume this will be addressed as well.

Why do I assume those two things? Because visually and operationally, this developer knows his shit, and there's no way that he didn't think of those. So he'll get to them eventually, or we're gonna have a problem here.

So, maybe not ready for prime time just yet, chiefly because there is going to be a fundamental sameness to all its output given the fact that everyone is sharing the same source material. (Such is the nature of granular synthesis, after all.) But as an exploration in to a more sophisticated and visually stimulating iteration of the general ideas put forth by Curtis, it merits support, and I would like to see where it goes over time. Provisionally, five star review from me, with the noted caveats.

$3.99 in the iTunes store. I recommend an iPad 2 or 3; I don't really see how this would be any fun on an iPad 1, but you're welcome to try. Overview video on Vimeo here. (I'd embed it, but it's Vimeo, so that'd suck.) Product website here.

EDIT: Apparently, it _does_ load user samples, but not in the normal manner. You can make a playlist called Borderlands in iTunes and it will access those. It actually says this in the second paragraph of the info page, but for some reason I didn't notice it. I just looked in the File Sharing part of the Apps tab, because that's where such things normally go. So, perhaps a bit of a usability fail, but nothing too tragic. I'll try it out later today and report in the comments.


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Oct.17.2012 @ 10:44 AM
Been waiting for that to be ported to iOS. Except for the oddness in loading your own sounds (create an itunes playlist called Borderlands and restart the app) it's a good app.

All the parameter mess prone to pop up in granular synths condensed to a few useful controls, which the tutorial manages to explain well. I did read Road's book, which helped understand what's going on in Borderlands. Not a requirement, though! It's a very clever UI.

Also waiting on the update. Meanwhile, if the app crashes and burns when loading files, you need to reinstall. Yay.

Oct.17.2012 @ 11:13 AM
Oh, those wacky CCRMA kids!

Oct.17.2012 @ 1:25 PM
Granular synthesis is fun to play with, but on every granular box I've used I always want to condense down the parameters to a single More Interesting knob.

Oct.17.2012 @ 2:39 PM
beauty pill
I'm very excited about this app and was waiting breathlessly for its release.

I have a real emotional relationship with the general granular family of alchemy (for lack of a better --- or even a good --- phrase.)

I love the idea of time torn asunder.

Didn't realize I needed an iPad 3 to dig into it, but I've been needing an excuse to get one anyway.

- c

Oct.17.2012 @ 2:48 PM
beauty pill
The way that this thing illustrates/transmogrifies time is pretty ingenious. Instantly understandable to me.

- c

Oct.17.2012 @ 3:28 PM
It sits very poorly with me that he is trading on what is obviously someone else's product name.

Oct.17.2012 @ 3:29 PM
i don't have an ipad but this looks great. i really like the interface.

Oct.17.2012 @ 3:50 PM
beauty pill
@darklordjames: Branding misjudgement. Definitely not a deliberate reference. Dude is a scientist.

- c

Oct.17.2012 @ 4:09 PM
Chris Randall
I agree with Chad. There's actually a clarification about it on CDM a few weeks ago, but my personal opinion is that he was most likely completely unaware of the game. I've done things like that a couple times. So my kidding was also self-deprecating.

His main mistake is probably doing a Google search on the name, thinking "well, that's some old game. Who cares?" Not, of course, realizing it was a franchise with a major upcoming release, and was hugely popular. Not a big deal, and I would be shocked if there was malice aforethought.


Oct.17.2012 @ 4:36 PM
beauty pill
"I got other ideas...like a micro brewery that also serves frozen yogurt. I'm thinking of calling it Microsoft..." - 30 Rock

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