Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Kraftwerk Kling Klang Machine for iPhone/iPad

Product: Kraftwerk Kling Klang Machine
Developer: Fox Mobile Distribution
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Price: $8.99
KRAFTWERK - KLING KLANG MACHINE - No1 - Fox Mobile Distribution

Kraftwerk are a band who need no introduction. With a career spanning over 40 years, they've had an impact on music most bands could only dream of. Spawning countless genres and still influencing new artists today, they truly are the Beatles of electronic music. Given the band's fetish for technology as evident from songs like "Pocket Calculator" and "Home Computer", it seems fitting that the band enter the world of software for handheld devices. Indeed, it's rather easy to imagine the band performing a concert on cell phones. So it was with great interest that I downloaded their first iOS app, appropriately entitled "Kling Klang Machine".

Kling Klang Machine is essentially a generative music app, which means it outputs "improvised" music based on a set of rules. Those rules are selected in this app by selecting a time zone on a map of the world. Although it's unclear how exactly that translates into the results it produces, it does give the app a nice bit of unpredictability. Aside from the world map, there is also an X/Y controller that allows you to alter the results in real time, a Tenori-on style grid that allows you to edit or save the results of the music generator, and a "mixer" screen that allows you to customize settings for Volume, Echo, Reverb, Tuning, EFX level, and tempo.

How you feel about generative music will largely decide on how you feel about this app. Overall, though, it's hard to avoid the feeling that this is going to be a colossal disappointment to most Kraftwerk fans, because aside from the programs stylish graphics (which are very well done), there is little to nothing Kraftwerkian about it. The sounds and sequences it produces more often than not sound like seasick doorbells. Obviously, we don't expect this app to generate the next "Radioactivity", but would it be too much to have it produce sounds that one might expect to actually hear in a Kraftwerk song?

The other major problem with this app is the price. If this were your standard 99 cent app, there would be little to complain about, but when the asking price is $8.99, it's hard to avoid the feeling that this was just a crass attempt to slap the name "Kraftwerk" on something and watch the cash flow in. Make no mistake, you are not getting $8.99 worth of app here.

As I said, the look of the app is very nice and fits the Kraftwerk aesthetic very well, and the program itself is robust and never crashed once on me during the time I tested it. But ultimately, unless you are way into generative music and sad gamelan sounds, you're likely to be sick of this fairly quickly. Save your money and spend it on buying some Kraftwerk songs off iTunes instead. [2/10]