Rhythmic gating hasn't enjoyed status as a common technique since the progressive trance-fuelled heyday of the late-nineties, but that doesn't mean it can't be used creatively. With Sinevibes' latest update to their Switch device, intricate rhythmic gates and fluid tremolo pulsations are just a few clicks away.
Users of Ableton Live may be familiar with Live's automation envelopes as a method for imposing rhythmic gating patterns onto audio or MIDI clips—albeit a comparatively painstaking one. Switch provides similar functionality, but encourages patterns to grow and evolve far more easily.
With a familiar appearance to Sinevibes' other real-time audio-processing effects, at Switch's core is a host-synchronized audio sequencer that updates a waveform display with incoming audio as it flows through the unit. A grid of 32 steps is then divided between the specified Duration, from one to eight bars, resulting in available sequencer divisions from 1/4 up to 1/32 notes. The Division toggles between triplet and standard timings, while the Swing amount shuffles 1/16 note timing forward or backward by a corresponding degree.
Turning a step on or off in the sequencer grid is as simple as clicking on it: a darkened step is active, while a lighter step is deactivated. Complex gated rhythms are just a few clicks away.
At bottom right are three parameters to fine-tune the results of the pattern. Time determines the length of each step, from 100% of the note value for natural timings down to more clipped results at lower settings. Lag may better be referred to as a fade control, with a millisecond slider determining the onset and release time for each step. With Intensity at 100%, deactivated steps are completely silent, but at lower Intensities—particularly with higher Lag values—Switch's gate patterns begin to more closely resemble intricate tremolo effects; rippling smoothly at rhythmic intervals it's great for pads, atmospheres, and other sounds with high sustain that might benefit from movement.
For rapid pattern creation, the Chaos button generates random gate patterns which can be used as a starting point; for quick variations, the Evolve button makes smaller changes to an existing sequence, rather than randomizing the entire pattern.
The Loop 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 buttons loop correspondingly smaller segments of the gate sequence, while the arrows below them allow you to shift the entire sequence forward or backward in either single beat or full bar intervals.
Patterns can be copied and pasted between eight different automation-enabled Snapshots, perfect for imposing different Switch rhythms during different passages of a composition.
Deceptively simple in purpose yet elegant in execution—with a Retina-ready GUI that's easy on the eyes—Switch is a great tool for squeezing new rhythms out of old patterns. I found myself wanting to automate the Chaos or Evolve toggles for infinitely randomizing patterns, but it's a small complaint for such an affordable tool. Whether you're chopping drum loops, applying smooth waves to glistening pads, or inserting rugged stutter effects, Switch is the perfect tool.
Price: $29 USD
Pros: Sounds great, CPU-efficient, rather cheap, easy to use right away.
Cons: Chaos and Evolve not re-trigger-able or automation-ready; comes in AU version only.