Reworking Caribou's "Sun" with Elektron Octatrack Static Machines

The video shows a light reworking of Caribou’s Sun using only static machines and four source tracks. Flex machines and slicing samples can take you a lot further, but it also takes a lot of time to get set up, so I wanted to show what is possible using some basic techniques. This way of working feels quite “freestyle” in that you can put something together quickly and easily try out different ideas. Since not so much is pre-programmed, it does require practice to develop some kind of a routine.

In the current version of the Octatrack OS (1.11), samples can be played using one of two “machines”: static or flex.

Static is for playing long samples (limited only by the capacity of your compact flash card), and flex is for short samples. Static machines can be used to construct DJ sets by juggling playback of complete tracks between two static machines.

Flex machines are loaded into the Octatrack’s memory and are thus are limited in length (eg, one-shots or a couple of phrases). On the up side, you have very deep, fine-grained control over triggering and the sound itself.

At present (again, v1.11), it is a little convoluted to do extensive sample chopping on the Octatrack itself. It is much easier to prepare and warp samples prior to loading them onto the OT. It can be done, but unfortunately it’s rather tedious. Many OT owners are hoping the situation improves. It really should be a straightforward exercise to load a static sample, find and loop a segment you like, and then grab the loop, saving it as a new sample and assigning to a flex machine slot. But it’s not.

The work flow was as follows:

  1. Distil track stems down into just bass, drums, vocals and instrumentation tracks (4 tracks)
  2. Ensure tracks are warped and locked to the beat
  3. Copy to the Octatrack as WAV files
  4. Load files into static machines spread across 7 available tracks (reserving the 8th as a master track)
  5. Some tracks are interspersed with a “neighbour” machine in order to increase modulation possibilities. Eg, OT track 1 has the bass file loaded in a static machine, and track 2 has a neighbour machine loaded. This way we have four effects slots available
  6. Starting at pattern 1, find sample start points for the different tracks that work well together. In most cases I only had a single trigger per track per pattern, and most patterns ran for 64 steps (@130BPM). You are restricted in doing this since you only have rough control over sample start for static machines (using a 1-127 value).
  7. Continue setting up patterns to build some kind of a progression
  8. Set up effects, LFOs and scenes. In the spirit of keeping it free-form, I don’t use any effects p-locking in this video. All of it is via knob twiddling, the fader or via LFOs.

25 February 2012