I reviewed the rather wonderful Fugue Machine from developer Alexandernaut when it was launched back in October 2015. The app has gained a dedicated following amongst iOS musicians, especially if you like to be occasionally surprised and delighted by the compositional assistance your apps can offer.
The app is something familiar – in this case, a fairly simple piano-roll-based MIDI sequencer – but delivered with a considerable twist; multiple playheads. If you have not yet seen the app in action, then read the full review and watch the video below. Once you have seen it, you wonder why nobody had offered it up before; it’s a simple idea but, like so many simple ideas that nobody thought of before, it’s also brilliant (and not a million miles away from what Living Memory have now done with the very clever arpeggiator function in Layr). Ableton Link support and per-playhead MIDI routing was subsequently added to the feature set in an update.
Things have been a bit quite of late though but, thankfully, the app received its first update in about 12 months yesterday taking it to v.1.2. There are some fixes provided (as might be expected) but also some new features. Top of the list are improvements to that per-playhead MIDI routing. To make things easier, as well as being able to specify the MIDI channel each playhead will send on, you are now also able to specify a specific MIDI port. Having given this a quick try out this morning it seems to be working well and it certainly makes it easier to configure Fugue machine with your other iOS synth apps.
The app now also has a dedicated switch to enable/disable the internal synth engine. This is great for just noodling around with some sequence ideas but it is also good to be sure it is switched off (and save some CPU cycles) when you are ready to get Fugue machine driving some more high-powered external synths. Oh, and the app is also now ahead of the game with Audiobus 3 as it is ready for the AB3 launch and also includes Audiobus 3 MIDI support.
Fugue Machine is a brilliant concept that has been beautifully realised and is based upon such a simple and novel idea. As a musician, it is engaging to use – and you feel like you are actually having a musical input – but the app could also be classed as generative in nature.
Oh, and if you want to see Fugue machine in action alongside some other Ableton Link enabled apps, Oliver Greschke has posted a couple of example videos featuring Elastic Drums and triqtraq – plus Fugue Machine – and I’ve embedded one of them below. Check it out – impressive stuff.