I’ve been reading a lot of threads (here and elsewhere) about performance setups, or at least setups that are fun/easty for jamming. I’ve bought and sold a lot of software and MIDI controllers over the years and it seem to me that, even after al lthese years of “session view” and other supposedly performance-oriented software features, we’re still in a fairly poor state I think.
What I mean by that is that even the software that is supposedly about live performance is quite lacking. Take Ableton Live for example - you still need to do an awful lot of pre-preparing of your material and sets to really get anything going and starting from a blank slate and trying to do some jamming is still surprisingly difficult as far as I can tell. These devices seem to be geared towards producing music without touching the computer, and that’s great, but they aren’t really jam-friendly. Frankly, it doesn’t seem very “live” at all despite the name.
I’ve read quite a few complaints online (over several years) that people still can’t get away from the computer when using a Push. I also use Bitwig and as much as I like it, it still feels like you need to do a lot of pre-preparation to do any kind of jamming or performance with it. The controller scripts are largely provided by the community (open source) and although people put a lot of effort in they are hit and miss. There is still, in my mind, a considerable level of unwanted abstraction between software and hardware. It never feels seamless or like you aren’t “working around” using a piece of software on a computer.
I had Maschine MK3 and it had great integration with the software - I could pretty much turn off the monitor and still use 90% of the functions. It felt heavily geared towards playing with the pads and the classic MPC hip-hop workflow, and that’s fine, but the step sequencing was pretty poor and it still had some major shortcomings which is why I got rid of it. It has something vaguely similar to a session view but the clips could only be launched legato - you couldn’t launch clips in a synced way like Abelton or Bitwig, only scenes. I have also used Traktor DJing hardware from NI and I feel like they have been so close to a great performance system in many ways. The hardware/software integration is great, it’s very easy to browse loops and samples, the performance FX are great and the ability to suddenly loop, jump around and do other stuff in sync is loads of fun and makes perfect sense for many electronic music genres. It feels like the gap between DJing and producing electronic music is a fine line (and maybe even getting smaller over time) but the hardware being made can’t quite bridge that gap for some reason.
This discussion (among many others) - The improvised techno thread - seems to suggest that a lot of people who want to jam/perform live electronic music actually have quite modest needs. You want a relatively small number of tracks/voices and some fairly minimal FX with the ability to make small variations over time. The NI DJ software seems to be very good at this but they never seem to quite make their mind up who they want to appeal to. They released the S5 and S8 controllers a few years back which didn’t have jog wheels but did have more faders, more loop-oriented features and performance FX for people who want to do multi-track mixing of techno and other electronic “dance” genres. They have been and gone, so perhaps they didn’t do so well. EDIT - S8 looks like it’s still available actually, so that’s my mistake. Don’t read or hear much about it though and it’s only in stock in very few places.
They’ve recently released the Maschine+ standalone for about the £1000 mark. I’ve read a bunch of reviews and aside from software workflow complaints and the usual feature requests that you would expect, it seems that there is plenty enough CPU horsepower in there to use it for producing complete tracks.
So I guess this leads me to my point (finally, thanks for waiting) which is - where is the £1000 techno-oriented standalone box?! I can’t be the only one who wants something halfway between NI Traktor and Maschine. There’s a gap in the market - why isn’t anybody filling it?! I’d even take a dedicated controller and a piece of software if they worked well, but they don’t!
It feels like we had a big leap with “session view” some years ago and then the progress has slowed to a crawl. Is it just me?