RANDOM plugin: The Why and the how…
Introducing RANDOM: Unleashing the Potential of AI-Driven Soundscapes
By leveraging the capabilities of artificial intelligence and neural networks, RANDOM generates an infinite variety of unique sounds. It achieves this by seamlessly merging synthesis and resonation, all while responding to the dynamic movements of MATTER as it pulsates on the table. But what does all that mean in a practical sense? Join us on a deep dive into the mechanics and purpose behind the RANDOM plugin.
What is the RANDOM plugins origin story?
We met Phazz about 7 years ago, we were delighted by his work and we connected on a producer/geek level, talking about music production things. When we started creating plugins, we knew we wanted to make something radical with him. As we started gearing up to make our own plugins, our brains began connecting; We met many times at our HQ, sketching and throwing ideas on the whiteboard with Phazz to define the “RANDOM” experience.
Ultimately, we wanted a synth that would take us on exciting new journeys in sound design, resampling, and improvisation.
Building an audio engine to capture the sound Phazz created.
Phazz had a strong sound direction in mind; inharmonic, aliased, resonating, flanging and hard percussive tones. He noted he had a few go-to signal chains he was using when creating that consisted of many layers of processing. He might take a kick, process it with a flanger, grain delay, distortion and more to get a certain feel.
RANDOM relies on many known synthesis techniques, but each of them has a very unique twist. Driven by 8 modulated delay lines and two feedback loops, the resonator has dedicated noise and modulation sources, phase modulation, many filters, and 6 envelopes. It can produce out-of-tune metallic flange harmonics for snare or in-tune Karplus-Strong synthesis for big ass 808s, thanks to the distortion applied in the feedback loop.
When we were experimenting with prototypes, Phazz had a blast playing around with different resonators in his signal chain, like flangers and grain delays.
How do you contain an intricate system into a simple interface?
We combined many blocks to build the audio engine, and felt like each one had parameters that could push the sound in interesting ways. We knew we were making an enormous sound palette, and we had an internal struggle because on one hand, we wanted to offer users the chance to tweak all the parameters, on the other hand, the design direction was to have a very simple UI. So, exposing hundreds of buttons was out of question, but choosing only a few was heart-breaking.
The solution we came up with is both nature-inspired and AI-inspired. We started to think about parameter presets as a sort of matter, a compound made of a unique combination of values. We came up with a way to morph between sets of presets, that sounded like they could be facets of the same source, that they could have been made from the same sound matter, if you will.
After carefully picking these, we assembled them together in tables, and taught a neural network how to morph between them. So, when playing with the XY control, it is like exploring a world of carefully crafted sonic matter. When you hit the random button, you are evolving away from that initial matter, and gradually exploring unique variations of the matter, creating your own new compound.
Adding our twist; Ferrofluid concepts and the Matter.
That idea of a unique chemical compound was then built upon when designing the main animation. Phazz set the direction towards ferrofluids, there are crazy videos of nerds like us working in labs making ferrofluids react to music. That was the initial spark.
We met with Leon Denise, who does insane shader art (check out his work on shadertoy), and he sent us so much great material to hack with that we realized we couldn’t stick to only one type of matter.
This is where it felt like we were not making a plugin anymore but working at a mad scientist’s workbench, coming up with rare metals or gasses that could escape the lab and contaminate your computer. Phazz really pushed this concept, that’s why all parameter names are a bit mysterious, they’re meant for you to experiment with, keeping your ears and intuition open to happy accidents.
So the MATTER is a representation of both the synthesis parameters and the audio output and uses attraction and repulsion of Ferrofluid dynamics to respond to your touch. The MATTER is not only a representation of what’s happening under the hood, but also a playful incentive to go explore different points on the table.
So what do the different RANDOM controls actually do?
We did end up giving control over a few high-level parameters, but as mentioned earlier, we tried to keep them relatively unconventional. Here is a brief rundown of what each does.
Turn DEVIANCE up, and each time you hit the RANDOM wheel, your sound matter will deviate further away, turn it down and the changes will be smaller.
To add an even deeper layer, we added INSTABILITY, which introduced a touch of unpredictability and variance between each note. Find your sound, then crank up INSTABILITY. While repeatedly playing one note you can witness DEVIANCE in real-time as it springs into action, visually embodied in the movement of the wheel and a variation in the sound on each consecutive note.
The more STRESS is applied, the longer the synth will decay. Last we added SPIKE, which adds aggression to the sound. Darker and warmer tones on the left, and harsher sounds to the right.
BLEED gives control over the amount of the resonator you hear. While FLUID alters the timing of many modulation sources in the BLEED.
We worked hard to make it look easy, we hope you enjoy it.
The RANDOM plugin embodies our vision of combining depth with simplicity, allowing users to effortlessly navigate through sounds. The creation of RANDOM has been a journey of invention and imagination for Phazz and us. We were always striving for RANDOM to serve as a catalyst for your next creative endeavor.
We believe RANDOM has the potential to empower producers in creating their own signature sound by uncovering new happy accidents along the way. We really hope you like it.
We talked about RANDOM in a conference
Intro to the Lille Conference