Thoughts and musings on Kilpatrick Audio's Carbon Sequencer.
Let me just preface this post and state for the record that I AM NOT an employee of Kilpatrick Audio nor affiliated with them in any professional manner other than to give some free feedback on applicable use of the preproduction/development unit. Hi All, I have the all clear from Andrew to post here about Carbon.
Perhaps I can help clarify what it is and what it isn't for a few of you. The development unit has been in my studio for several days. Excellent and solid build quality with a well machined steel body and knobs, flimsy this is not with a lovely and crisp LCD display to boot.
The sequencer does much more than one would expect with six tracks. Any track can access any two outputs at once from a selection of USB Midi, Midi A, Midi B and the CV & Gate outputs. Keep in mind that the software running the machine is not finished yet but it is perfectly useable and I had it on for around 6 hours straight yesterday with no crashing, lock ups or unusual issues with the implemented features as they stand.
To clarify how the sequencer works.
1.You get 64 songs - a song is made up of a single 6 track sequence with a set of six scenes (this is actually an over simplification of how this works but I'll try and give some real world examples here).
2.Each of the Six tracks can be form 1 step to 64 steps long.
3.Each of the tracks can have a step value ranging from 1/32 through to whole notes i.e.: 1/1 per step
4.In realtime record mode that gets over ridden some what. If, for example, you had a track where all 64 steps where used a whole notes there is nothing stopping you holding down a chord for 2 bars or 3 etc for long sustained note intervals over the intended step length for any given track.
5.This means that at a full 64 steps a pattern a 1/2 will play twice over the duration of one set to 1/1, 4 times if it is set to 1/8 and so on and so forth.
6.Sequences on any track can be any length within the 64 step confine but have any given start and/or length point. So you could for example start at step 52 and play through to 64 and back to 1 and through for X number of steps defined by pattern length.
7.Pattern Start Point and/or Length can both be set on a per scene basis.
This allows for some pretty fancy tricks.
A) This simple example is programming a kick drum on track one where every 16 steps you have a totally new pattern. This would mean that any other scenes could start elsewhere and end elsewhere within this one sequence, effectively giving you 4 sets of 4/4 16th note kick drum patterns if you set the start and length parameters in 16 step increments per scene.
B) You could also program say a straight 16th note step kick drum for 32 steps on on other scenes add dead notes to the end of the sequence. For example on scene two you could change the length to 34 steps, start of step 32 get two 16th notes that play nothing and have the same pattern rotate to enter with the kick on the upset and then only play for say 26 steps against a straight up simple 1/8 hit pattern that was playing in the previous sequence.
C) Tracks can be set to either drum or chromatic - when a sequence is playing you can actually changed the key of the entire track, transpose etc via the master midi input and keyboard but drum tracks will retain their original pitch. Want your entire sequence to transpose up a major seventh?, go back down to its root note and then play a minor 3rd lower for a bit, no problem (all done in real time).
D) Sequences can play forwards or backward, will have probability triggers added soon (that is being worked on apparently) and can use the pattern generator (which will be customizable by the end user too via a secondary app). Essentially the pattern generator will only trigger notes that happen to fall on the red squares in any given pattern allowing for a huge amount of flexibility when building up scenes or performing live. Patterns can be saved per scene and also switch in realtime as the pattern plays on any selected track. You can also tweak the start and length parameters in realtime creating stutters, short 3 against four note runs that can then extend out over longer periods and so on and so fourth.
E)The sequencer works bit like the idea of a motif in classical music you build up a motif over six tracks (either all rhythmic, all melodic or any combination of the two). Each track has its unique start point, length and step resolution and the entire sequence can be transposed via a keyboard in realtime, muted, unmated on the fly, pattern modulated, play direction modulated and syncopated in a number of very unique ways.
It excels at doing some very skewed rhythmic work as a super complex fugue generator, for ever evolving melodic passages and counterpoint and just begs to be used as a live instrument. This is really just the tip of the iceberg.
There is a very good balance between ease of use and user interface. It isn't too cluttered, is highly creative and can be used well on the fly as it is dead easy to override the mute, start/length, direction and pattern settings on any scene in realtime and then just hitting the scene the button and the corresponding scene number to have anything you've messed with reset on the next scene cycle to what it was originally.
Lastly ARP & Live Modes override the track settings when activated and can be punched in and out of at will whilst the sequencer is playing allowing you to break away from certain pattern elements and freeform perform parts before going back in to the main motif or sequence on that track for that scene.
Having used it for several days now the name CARBON makes perfect sense. Carbon is the fundamental building block of all things, particularly on a planet like ours that harbours life. And this is indeed a great building block for any creative process.
Some people will use it as an ideas tool, others as a main sequencing solution, others as a live performance sequence or in conjunction with other drum machines and sequencing tools.
It is ridiculously flexible and I am really only scratching the surface with what it can do. Certain concepts on seem hard to verbalize but are obvious in practice. You can get some great tricks going that work and sound like step offset, pattern rotation, variation, randomness, generative processes and so on and so forth. Due to the fact that a single six track sequence can be treated with scenes, arpeggiated, live jammed over, have individual tracks play poly rhythmically, have different start and length points and have realtime transposition over the full range of your keyboard etc all in realtime is a god send.
It really is something completely different to anything else I have used and it certainly gets you out of that linear mindset, working in ways I hadn't initially imagined possible. Hopefully this clarifies somewhat what it actually does and I hope some of what I have put here isn't too confusing.
That said it is a pretty elegant balance of sequencer, performance tool, motif generator, poly rhythmic generator, arpeggio generator and live tool that will sequence over midi, usb and CV/Gate.
More information on the Kickstarter Project and Carbon can be found here - http://store.kilpatrickaudio.com/carbon