The Rhizome method23 November 2010
French tech-heads Feeltune have updated the idea of the groovebox by combining sequencing, editing, sampling, synthesis, mixing and beats in one very handy piece of hardware.
The two brothers behind Feeltune are well-known French DJs Nicolas and Julien Piau, also once members of the band Les Clones, who designed Rhizome as the ‘ideal’ product from their point of view: a convenient, all-in-one bundle that replaces a computer tangled up with a number of disparate, add-on boxes. At the top of the agenda is ergonomics: it had to be an intuitive, creative, hands-on device that could fall under the header ‘groove machine’ without being dismissed as a ghetto alternative but also under the header of pro audio without being sucked into convoluted hi-tech élitism. “You could probably do everything that Rhizome does with a computer and sundry hardware and software,” points out Kevin Walker of UK distributor Unity Audio, “but at the very least you would be pointing and clicking all night long with a mouse. That’s exactly what Nicolas and Julien wanted to avoid. It would take you ages to fathom out all the connections, and even then you’d be left with an extremely non-user friendly setup that, nowadays, people are keen to avoid.” Because of this attention to interface, Feeltune believes that music can be created in a very different way to conventional methods. It is, essentially, a computer-music device, but in all three of its different versions it combines a step sequencer, a real-time sequencer, a digital mixer and a sampler. “It’s also a huge VST ‘bucket’”, adds Walker, “pre-loaded with a whole arsenal of compressors, EQs, sound sources and other signal processing.” The different versions equate fundamentally to the amount of memory and processing power available, according to budget, with dual or quad or processors. The D/A at the output stage is an RME card, and if the whole thing reminds you of the Akai MPC5000 of yore there are no apologies for that: imagine exactly that device updated for 2010 with more power, greater hands-on tactility and newer sounds. “The VST dimension supplies a much wider range of third-party effects and better quality samples,” adds Walker, who also sees applications for the Rhizome that are very much in tune with the current trend towards closing the gap between stage and studio. “It’s not just a recording tool,” he says. “It’s a great piece of equipment for DJs, dance music guys and even bands to use live. For certain types of music from dance to pop and beyond, it can be the real hub of a live performance.” The unit does feature velocity-sensitive pads, but a MIDI keyboard can easily be added for a more Wakeman-style presence, if you will. The six USB ports on board should also supply enough inter-connectivity to keep most people happy. “It’s quite refreshing to see a dedicated hardware unit,” adds Walker, “rather than yet another software package for Mac or PC. I think it’s going to do well.”