These are the breaks.
The DS-10 from X-Seed and Korg raises an interesting dilemma. If you examined its box and contents, it would appear to be just like any other DS title. But while it will function with your DS console, it’s not really a game. What it really is, is a dynamic, though limited, music sequencer in the disguise of a novelty.
[image1]If you’ve ever wanted to be like one of those German guys who spends all his time in his basement making industrial beats, or you have dreams of being the next big DJ on the night club scene, this is the product for you. It provides everything you need to start making electronic music right out the box, including some very clear, though basic, instructions that I suggest you take the time to read. In fact, this may be one of the few times that reading the manual is essential in understanding a DS game's full potential.
However, ;ike I said, this is not a game; it’s not really a toy, either. There are some deceptively versatile tools here. The step sequencer for the drums and synthesizer (all those crazy melodic bleeps and bloops) will look familiar to anyone who’s ever messed with the PC program, Fruity Loops. It’s a very basic and easy-to-comprehend system that even a beginner should be able to pick up quickly. Think of it as a multiple choice quiz: Just fill in the blanks where you think the beat belongs. You have a four piece drum kit (bass, snare, hi-hat, clap) with a four bar sequence that can be shortened for different time signatures and loops.
Once you’ve filled in all the dangling chads you want and you’ve got your electric groove going, you can add effects into the mix. You have the ability to change the shape of your sound waves and mold them like putty to the tones and lengths you desire. To accomplish this task you’re given two interface options: a knob and patch bay screen similar to the real-life Korg Legacy Synth and another screen that resembles the Korg Kaoss pad.
[image2]That is, a friggin' honest to god Kaoss pad on the touch screen of a DS! If you’ve never heard of one, it's essentially an X-Y axis touch pad for you to manipulate sound in real time - as it plays back, you tinker with it in all sorts of crazy ways, changing notes and adding rotary sound effects on the fly. It allows access to every key you can think of in a variety of globe-spanning scales, including Middle Eastern ragas and gypsy modes. I cannot stress enough how completely fantastic and awesome these things are. It’s like getting a puppy and an ice cream cake on your birthday.
Some of you might think I’m going a bit overboard in my adoration for this piece of equipment. But when you consider how much an actual microKorg and Kaoss pad and sequencer cost together, you can’t help but be stoked that this thing only costs $30 and comes loaded with a ton of bells and whistles. Not to mention there’s already a way to make a homebrew vocoder (talk like a robot) using a straw, the mic on the DS, and the Kaoss pad screen, making the “game” even more versatile. It's a serious set-up that would have put you in the poor house quicker than an economic recession.
While the DS version of these virtual hardware pieces aren’t as dynamic as their big brother counterparts, they are still impressive. But that watering down does mean it will take you more time to get your beats to the electric boogaloo greatness of groups like Daft Punk. Be prepared to do a lot of backtracking and tweaking to get everything perfect. While this is nothing new to anyone who’s spent a lot of time in the studio getting a part just right, novices may find themselves a little less patient.
[image3]It’s going to take time to get your mix perfect, but it will be worth it if you can push through it. Trust me. Therein lies the trade off between the variety of tools and the budgetary cost of it all.
Maybe somewhere down the line, you’ll get tired of making tunes by yourself in that dank dungeon of a basement you call a room and want to form a band. Fortunately for you, there’s a Jam mode and a data exchange client. You can download your buddies jams and put your own twist to them, then release it and call it the “dance remix”. You’re sure to be a hit in all the local raves.
While other cartridges have come and gone like Electroplankton and Guitar Jam they were more bursts of experimental petri dishes of music in comparison. With this ingenious little chip you’ll actually have the capability of making something you could be proud of. In fact, I even went as far as making the new theme song to the GR podcast, The Inner Party, using the Korg DS-10 exclusively. Bathe in my musical genius.