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“Dripping in oxide… You can almost taste the wow, flutter and print-through as the recordings faithfully, if perversely, reproduce every blip, hiss and click… example patches like Shenai Drift show off its warmth sos logo tinyadmirably” Sound on Sound magazine

“With three loops combined, the result is a lush and dense synthesiser sound, evolving and transforming constantly… it’s incredible.” Film and Game Composers logoFilm & Game Composers

Rated 4.64 out of 5 based on 11 customer ratings
(11 customer reviews)

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Loopscape (3 of 4)

 

Inspired by the experimental soundscapes produced by 70s pioneers like Brian Eno, Loopscape is a synthesiser that creates endlessly modulating, evolving complexities of sound from raw waveforms recorded onto looped sections of audio tape. It is richly warm, thoroughly analogue, and every sonic inch of it has been printed to oxide and passed across the playback heads of vintage tape gear of the past. This is the sound of science meeting art: the depth of analogue synthesis run through real tape spools. And look – it’s covered in knobs and sliders, too!

Loopscape starts with a simple idea, one that found traction with the musique concrete brigade of the 60s and 70s. Back then, Brian Eno composed “Music for Airports”, a sound installation piece which employed tape loops of different lengths running simultaneously. Although the individual loops cycled round predictably, the combination of sound produced by multiple loops of different lengths running all at once created an “incommensurable” sound that was, to all practical purposes, unlikely ever to repeat. Instead it just continued to evolve, forever, into infinity. Isn’t that just cool?

Loopscape (1 of 4)Loopscape takes that concept and turns it into a synthesiser. We started with loops of tape. Lots of loops of tape. The basic sound-creation panes of Loopscape allow you to select any one of six basic synthesiser waveforms: two Sawtooth waves, Triangle, Square, Sine and Noise. All of these started life as true analogue waveforms from a variety of synthesisers, except for Noise, which we took from atmospheric static.

The raw waves were then recorded onto several old tape machines running at a variety of speeds. Now, for this instrument to make sense, the last thing we needed was clean tape machines. We wanted every mechanical problem under the sun, simply because we wanted our tape loops to show a lot of natural variation in their sound. We invited wow, flutter, wobble, hiss, head bump and print-through into our homes, sat them down and poured them a drink. We made friends with them. Who needs Studer mastering machines at 30ips when you can have cranky old 60s valve sets from the attic instead? The outputs of these vintage tape recorders were then recorded back into the digital domain at 24-bit quality to preserve every wonky detail of their erratic goodness.

Each basic waveform is therefore available within Loopscape at 8 different loop lengths: half a second, two thirds of a second, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and 17 seconds. (Why those particular numbers? Because they’re primes, and we believe they have a special mojo all of their own.) We wanted you to be able to hear those loops, so we deliberately chose sections of tape that failed to loop smoothly, and we did very little to disguise their splice points. If you select a half-second loop, you’re going to hear that thing looping round every half a second like a heartbeat.


 Loop that funky oxide, white boy

A step-by-step guide to loopscaping your patches

EXAMPLE 1: SINGLE 3-SEC LOOP, ONE NOTE

This is the sound of a single loop played for 30 seconds. We selected the “Saw 1” waveform, set it to a 3 second loop length, and just held down the note. You’ll hear it looping round and round rhythmically. There are no other effects or processes going on, just the raw sound of the recording.

Loopscape example 1     

EXAMPLE 2: SINGLE 3-SEC LOOP, TWO NOTES

This is exactly the same set-up as the first example, but instead of holding down just one note, we held two to make a perfect 5th chord. Although there’s still no other processing and only a 3-second loop being used, you can hear how immediately more lush and complex the sound becomes – largely because there are now two 3-second loops in play, not just one.

Loopscape example 2     

EXAMPLE 3: THREE SIMULTANEOUS LOOPS, TWO NOTES

Now we take things one step further, adding the other two tape loops to our sound. To the 3-second loop of “Saw 1”, we add a 13-second loop and a 17-second loop, both also of “Saw 1” (to keep things simple!) We now have a combined loop that won’t repeat for about 13 minutes, although the cyclical beat of the 3-second loop is still discernible.

Loopscape example 3     

EXAMPLE 4: THREE LOOPS PLUS EFFECTS, TWO NOTES

This is starting to sound like a Loopscape patch now! To our three looping waveforms we add effects and LFO magic to create a rich, dense wash of sound. We still haven’t even touched the three envelope generators, and it’s still just two notes playing, but with any luck this is enough to give you a sense of what Loopscape can do.

Loopscape example 4     

 

Loopscape panel 4Now the fun really begins, because that looping segment of tape can now be processed by a resonant high / low pass filter and four dedicated LFOs. One of these is assigned to filter cutoff; two work independently on the amplifier circuit; and one goes to pitch. These LFOs can be chosen freely from five different waves – Sine, Triangle, Sawtooth, Square wave and Random; and each can have its depth, rate and speed set independently. You can also decide whether to have your LFOs retriggered with each key press, or “freewheeling” and therefore synced across all notes (for more obvious periodic beating effects). In practice, this means that an already richly-modulated source wave can be further modulated by multiple LFOs, each bringing their own cyclical variation to the sound. Wild!

What we’ve just described is the contents of one Loop Playback pane of Loopscape. And Loopscape has three of these: that’s where we get our multiple tape loops from, in the spirit of Mr Eno. Three different tape loops, of whatever lengths you choose, playing back whatever waves you choose; modulated by a total of twelve sets of LFOs, either freewheeling away or triggered afresh with each key. In a word, awesome. And it’s not at all complicated: take a look at the screenshot above and you’ll get the hang of what we’re talking about here in no time. Drag that big chunky pinch-roller at the top of the screen to set the loop length. Choose a waveform to play back from the little Loop Select pane. Then go to town with the filter and LFO modulations. And do it all three times over, switching between Loop machines using the tabs at the bottom of the screen, for three times the sonic power. That’s all there is to it.

Loopscape (2 of 4)By setting up the Loop panes you create an astonishingly rich sonic tapestry, warmed with real oxide. You now take control of that sound on the Global pane, which gives individual Level and AHDSR envelopes for each Loop that’s running, plus a set of Global Effects designed to complement Loopscape’s character. The envelopes allow you to, say, start a sound with one loop predominating, and then have another gradually rise in level to take over; they can, if you like, add their own gradual sonic development to your patch. Meanwhile the Effects take in extra tape saturation, to give the sound some real drive; Chorus and Flanger, for classic additional tape effects; and a fully-featured Delay. These last three all incorporate stereo effects to widen the sound.

Loopscape is capable of producing a sound so dense, rich and evolving that one single held note will quite simply not repeat its sonic fingerprint for thousands of years. Seriously: we did the math on this. That’s Brian Eno’s “incommensurability” right there, folks! More importantly, though, by sculpting and tweaking your patches with the filters, and by balancing levels, you can create astonishingly varied pad sounds, evolving soundscapes, textures, beds and washes – Loopscape’s signature sounds; plus a huge variety of “traditional” synthesiser patches with a unique sonic imprint to them, born of Loopscape’s inherent unpredictability and magnetic-oxide heritage.

Loopscape is our most ambitious project to date, and embodies everything we love about old technology: warmth, nonlinearity, valves, solder, heart, static electricity, tolex and tape spools. We love it to bits, and we hope you will too.


(All our Kontakt instruments require a full copy of Native Instruments Kontakt v4.2.3 or higher (including all versions of Kontakt 5). Kontakt Player is not supported: instruments will load, but will time out after 15 minutes. See the FAQ for further information.)

\\\”This month I got the chance to check out a pretty crazy VST instrument called “Loopscape” by Rhythmic Robot – an “Analogue polysynth using variable-length tape loops as oscillators…Inspired by the experimental soundscapes produced by 70s pioneers like Brian Eno”. I’ve never heard of Rhythmic Robot before, so was delighted to have the chance to play around with their latest instrument and being a fan of Brian Eno, was even more happy to try it out.

Its a great time to be a composer right now as there are so many small developers out there right now creating instruments for Kontakt, and some real gems to be found (eg. Music Box by Bad Cat Media). Rhythmic Robot specialize in recreating vintage sounds and gear in Kontakt format, and throwing in some craziness on top for good measure.

Loopscape starts with a simple idea, one that found traction with the musique concrete brigade of the 60s and 70s. Back then, Brian Eno composed “Music for Airports”, a sound installation piece which employed tape loops of different lengths running simultaneously. Although the individual loops cycled round predictably, the combination of sound produced by multiple loops of different lengths running all at once created an “incommensurable” sound that was, to all practical purposes, unlikely ever to repeat. Instead it just continued to evolve, forever, into infinity. Isn’t that just cool?

Installation

Installation of Loopscape was easy as pie. Its a Kontakt library, so literally just a case of download it, drag and drop into your Kontakt folder and load it up in Kontakt in your DAW. In the Kontakt folder, there is also a “read me” file which explain exactly how to use the library – very handy as it looks a bit daunting at first, but its actually really simple once you read this file.

Patches

Loopscape comes with 10 patches – all with their own unique sound and warmth you’d expect from vintage gear:

Grundig String Section
Hot Oxide Bass
Moog me Up Scotty
Pluckfall
Pool Sdrawkcab
RR Loopscape template (freewheel)
RR Loopscape template (keytrigger)
Shenai Drift
Solar Solina
Spooled Brass
Surf Dude
Each patch is very unique sounding and insanely customizable.

Interface

The interface is clean and intuitive with all the controls you would expect to see here. Every patch has a global UI for control of the overall sound, then three separate loop UIs to control how each loop acts and sounds. The loop UI allows you to choose from one of six waveform types (two Sawtooth waves, Triangle, Square, Sine and Noise) with a pinch roller (moveable selector) to change the loop lengths of each tape loop, as well as edit 12 LFOs (4 depth, 4 rate, 4 delay).

Sound

Once you’ve selected the length and type of waveform, all sorts of vintage effects and sounds are added to give that warm and “old” sound associated with tape machines from yonks ago, giving you the end product of a vintage looped synthesizer sound. With 3 loops all combined, the result is a lush and dense synthesizer sound, evolving and transforming constantly. There are so many different variations you can get from each patch by changing the loop lengths, waveforms etc. its incredible. I honestly didn’t realize that you could get so much out of a tape loop machine!

I wrote a short track to see what the sounds would be like when mixed with other software in my arsenal – for this demo I used only Loopscape for the synths, Ivory Grand Pianos II for the piano, and Stylus RMX for the beat.

The sound you hear from start is the “RR Loopscape Template (freewheel), with “Moog me up Scotty” coming in at 0:44, and “Hot Oxide Bass” at 0:50 (doubled with a bass guitar). Vintage synths would never have been something I would have chosen to use in my compositions, but Loopscape has definitively opened up my eyes to this type of sound. It ranges from warm, soft and fuzzy, to deep, dark and crisp.

Conclusion

I started writing up this review at around 10am this morning – its now 5pm and I’m still playing around with the sounds in it. I guess thats the best review you can give really – its an inspiring instrument, lots of fun to play and will have a place in the arsenal of composers who write electronica, ambient, new age and vintage music. Its a lot easier to use after reading the instruction manual (takes 5-10 minutes) and not half as difficult to understand as I thought it would be. Its £34.95 and definitely well worth it.\\\” – Film & Game Composers, June 2012

\\\”I\\\’ve been using Loopscape, Jennings and Tubes & Wires extensively on some remix and film music projects over the last few weeks and I have to say combined I am getting results that really stand out and sound very original thanks to Rhythmic Robot\\\’s unique approach to sampling! I suggest you get on these ASAP!!\\\” – Glenn Nicholls (remixer/producer: The Prodigy, UNKLE, Sia, Kimba, Snow Patrol… )

\\\”Dripping in oxide… You can almost taste the wow, flutter and print-through as the recordings faithfully, if perversely, reproduce every blip, hiss and click… example patches like Shenai Drift show off its warmth admirably\\\” – Sound on Sound magazine, Dec 2012

11 reviews for Loopscape

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Margaret (verified owner)

    This is brilliant for adding a retro feel to your tracks as of many RR vintage instruments. I really like tweaking from the Loopscape templates, working with the different loop waveform lengths. I created this perfect string sound for a vintage super 8 movie.

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Alex (verified owner)

    This is just a sublime way to add this little extra into your music and change the mood completely. Subtle or more in front, works both ways! Superb.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Absolutely love the sounds, well worth the price. The interface is super deep, which does make me wish it shipped with more presets, but I’ve made a bunch of cool patches from scratch. Also have Loopscape Vinyl but I think I prefer the OG.

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    riemain

    Great stuff for droning, intro and ambient music.

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    Jorge David

    Excellent for create atmospheres and textures…

  6. Rated 4 out of 5

    Collin Bragdon

    I used this on my boss’s machine during a past sitcom scoring project. Really dig the tape feel of these sounds. Great for if you want something almost overwhelmingly ethereal but with plenty of analog/tape touch.

  7. Rated 4 out of 5

    Tomasz (verified owner)

    The samples are fantastic and there is almost no way to make this instrument sound dull. It gives you the instant “familiar sound but twisted, but in a familiar way” effect, I guess a bit reminiscent of Mellotron sounds. Oh, and if you stack several instruments in a multi and detune them like organ stops you get a mean electric organ sound. The programming could use a few extra options, like detuning the layers and filter envelope, but otherwise it is a wonderful instrument.

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    Ley

    I remember when tapes loops were a lot of fun but also a lot of fiddly work and too many things to trip over. This development contains three loops in one box (and you can always open more ‘boxes’ on additional tracks.) The interface is clear and enjoyable with all you need for making it easy to ‘hide the seams’ in long evolving loops. I’m sitting in an airport now spinning some cool ambience from a handful of loops and thinking about what I’ve saved in excess baggage fees alone for that many tape machines…

    • The Professor (verified owner)

      You mean you actually used this Music For Airports-inspired instrument to write music… in an airport? That just makes our day 😀

  9. Rated 4 out of 5

    Paul Hammond

    amazing textures

  10. Rated 4 out of 5

    Telex2Texel (verified owner)

    Picked this up during the recent sale, got a great price, and very happy with it. It doesn’t ship with many presets (only 11), and is only 200MB in size, but this thing is responsive, tweaking those buttons makes me think more that I’m working with a VSTi instrument rather than a sample library. I find it especially suited to make long drawn out pads, tweak the pitch to enter the BOC dimensions. The only thing I’m missing is a randomizer button for some instant inspiration when tweaking.

  11. Rated 5 out of 5

    Alister Webb

    For pads and ethereal soundscapes this is hard to beat. Can be very Eno-esque with the interweaving tape loop variations. I used this VERY effectively to approximate a reverse guitar on one track.

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