By FRANCIS PRÈVE
FOR SOME DJS AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC PERFORMERS, THERE’S MORE TO rockin’ the house than beat-matching two tracks. Korg Kaoss fans twist their music with realtime effects, and Ableton users are well acquainted with the power of incorporating loops, adding drums or percussion, and playing synth riffs over existing mixes. This is why I’ve fallen in love with Meta.DJ for iPad. It blends real music production tools with tempo-synced track players, delivering a truckload of fun and creativity.
The basic concept is simple: You see four quadrants, each of which can contain one of the following musical devices: Track Decks, an iTunes-integrated track player; Drumtron, a drum machine; the One Shot sample trigger pads; Looptastic, a loop player with up to eight custom loops; Riser for adding rises and whooshes; or Sampl3r, a sample-based synth/arpeggiator. If you want two Track Decks, a One Shot, and a Looptastic, no problem. Want two Looptastics, a Sampl3r, and a One Shot? Go for it. Full configurations can be saved and recalled for different parts of your performance.
Once you’ve selected your devices, picked a track or two from your iTunes library, and dialed in some presets for Looptastic or Drumtron, you’re ready to play. Everything is synced to your master tempo, including the Track Decks (in the +/- 10bpm range, their time-stretching algorithms sound especially clean), so improvising is absolutely painless. In Drumtron, you can add preset rhythms and individual drum patterns by simply tapping one or more buttons. Looptastic includes multiple faders, so you can add drum, synth, or sound effects loops to a track with simple gestures. One Shot is great for tapping out drums or triggering sound effects, and Sampl3r comes with a bunch of useful arpeggios for adding flourishes to drum-heavy compositions.
Alone, these tools would be fun for days, but SoundTrends also includes up to three simultaneous touchpad effects for each device. Tap the FX button on any device channel and it flips to reveal an X/Y pad with a massive selection of effects including filters, rhythmic gates, four different stutter/glitch effects, bit-crusher, delay, reverb, and several others. All of these effects have useful X/Y assignments and sound great in context.
While several of the devices let you customize your sounds and (in some cases) load your own loops and samples, there’s also in-app purchasing of new loop packs and device presets from an expanding range of providers, including Beatport. Nicely done.
Meta.DJ goes far beyond beat-matching and “hitting play,” venturing into musical performance territory. While a trifle sluggish on a firstgen iPad, it works well enough to get the hang of it without too much instability. On an iPad 2 or better, the experience is like buttah. If you’ve been looking for an Ableton-like experience from an iOS DJ app, Meta.DJ is the ticket.
PROS Elegantly combines DJing and instrument-based live performance. Integrated X/Y pad effects. Intuitive user interface.
CONS Requires an iPad 2 or better for the full experience.
BOTTOM LINE An addictive mix of realtime DJ and musical performance tools.