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WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm Review at Sound on Sound

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Founded in 2010, WaveDNA are a Canadian company whose first product is Liquid Rhythm. Designed to generate drum patterns or complete rhythm tracks in MIDI format, Liquid Rhythm is a dense package of unfamiliar terminology, colour-coding and hierarchical beat grouping inspired by Jackendoff and Lerdahl’s Generative Theory of Tonal Music, the aim of which is to help you come up with fresh grooves for your music. Fortunately, for when it all becomes rather mind-bendingly intimidating, there’s a button labelled ‘Surprise Me!’. I guess the question is: does it?

When loaded into Liquid Rhythm, a loop is split into individual instruments, ready for further tweaking. If the kick doesn’t sound quite right, there’s a straightforward mechanism to replace it — or any individual drum — with another from the (short) list, although there’s no equivalent means of replacing the entire kit.  The mixer is a basic level-and-pan affair. Any kind of EQ or effect processing is therefore accomplished at DAW level by means of Liquid Rhythm’s 16 mono outputs or eight stereo outs. Alternatively, the audio export option will deliver loops either in complete mix format or split into tracks. 

The ‘Surprise Me!’ randomiser button is a powerful but simple operation involving four sliders and tick boxes. Until you master its juggling of notes and their timing, each press can lead to a wonderful accident or percussive havoc. When generating notes on multiple simultaneous tracks, ‘collaborate’ reduces clutter at a stroke by blocking the creation of strikes on the same beat. This makes it particularly effective for fills, hi-hat patterns and all kinds of hand percussion.  The remaining tools cover the manipulation of velocities and timings according to the colour-coding already described. I’d be hard pressed to name any software with such a mind-boggling catalogue of options for hurling notes around a bar.

Ultimately, when you get beyond the fancy terminology, Liquid Rhythm is broadly similar in concept to Apple Loops. With one click you summon a kick pattern, with another a snare, then congas, shakers, hi-hats and so on until you have a complete rhythm section. Patterns are easily arranged into longer structures and where Liquid Rhythm scores is by offering in-depth adjustment and easily generated variations. Its most interesting results come from the intelligent randomisation and humanisation tools. However, despite an earnest scientific approach, it isn’t yet the perfect all-rounder for generating MIDI drum loops. With a current limitation to 4/4 time signatures and a tendency to crash occasionally, there’s scope for development. Some aspects seem too complex while, perversely enough, others are too simplistic. The included kits, for example, are probably best taken as placeholders for the patterns you’ll export to your DAW — but if this doesn’t already have a slick drum editor, Liquid Rhythm could make a big impression.

Pros

  • A novel visual way to assemble MIDI beats and loops. 
  • Some genuinely useful randomisation tools.
  • Close integration with Ableton Live 9 Suite and Max for Live 5.

Cons

  • It might be a solution to a problem you didn’t know existed.
  • Suffers from excessive terminology.
  • Currently 4/4 patterns only.

 

Summary

An alternate approach to beat generation suited to newcomers and anyone seeking familiar-sounding drum parts to be easily customised.

 

Original Source - Sound on Sound

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Download Liquid Rhythm trial version for free!

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