Elf Audio has released Koala Sampler, a sampler app for iOS, which designer Marek Bereza tells us is heavily influenced by the story of how J Dilla made his last album, Donuts, in hospital, using only a box of records, a turntable and a dr sample, all whilst hooked up to a dialysis machine. Here’s the story in Marek’s own words…
The idea behind Koala was to make a sampling workstation with no brake-pedal, no way to stumble down a rabbit-hole of micro-editing, tweaking parameters, undoing, redoing, etc etc - I want to get people to be less precious about their creations and just get on creating. It's like drawing with a permanent marker instead of a pencil.
The music tech world seems to have reached a bit of a zeitgeist with this idea of staying in the flow of music - loopers and modular synthesizers never stop until you turn them off - it's even in the name of Tim Exile's "Flow Machine". With Koala, you make something and there's no way back, you just keep going.
I wanted to create was something as stripped back as it could be, yet have the flexibility to really create sounds no conventional sampler can create with just playback and effects. The easiest and most poetic way to do that was to add the feature of resampling - i.e. plugging the output of the sample back into the input. Another nice quirk is you can turn on headphone monitoring without headphones plugged in, and it'll acoustically self-oscillate - feedback into itself, through effects if you choose.
Some time in 2015-2016 I learnt that the notorious (late) hip-hop producer J Dilla had been the hugely influential driving musical force behind many of the hip-hop tunes I grew up with. I'd always marvelled at the way these tracks were so simple in their construction - but the art was in the expert discovery and curation of a handful of samples that sound like they were born to be together, even if they were from different ends of the musical universe. And it seems J Dilla was the king of that.
Sadly, in 2006, he died after a lengthy battle with a particularly nasty blood disease. During all the time he had to spend in hospital hooked up to a dialysis machine, he would make tracks, which eventually turned into his last album - Donuts. Most of the tracks (29 of 31), he made with a BOSS SP-303, and a bunch of records.
When I heard that he'd made Donuts on an SP-303, my jaw dropped. I'd never used one, but if you look at the front panel, you can see how straight-forward it is - no undo, no sample libraries, no piano roll input, or all the other functionality we're used to these days. Yet it was enough of a vehicle for him to make such a stellar album.
What the SP-303 does have, though, is a workflow that forces you to just get on with it and make some music. This is the essence I wanted to capture in Koala. It has the ability to sample itself, "resampling" - which I love, and have incorporated. Also, you can put effects directly onto the input, so you can really turn sounds from your mic into anything. And of course, once you've recorded with those effects, they're baked in, there's no going back!!
Koala Sampler Features:
Pricing and Availability:
$2.99 at the app store.