Just launched, the new app has an easy-to-use layout, and you can try it out on key tracks from top Ninja Tune artists. The independent label teamed up with arts and technology collective Seeper for their first iOS software release: a free jamming and mixing app designed to be intuitive and fun for all. It features touch and gesture controls with a range of instant effects and remix modes. Matt explained the thinking behind it.
In 1997, Coldcut said “we deliver next generation beatnological manipulation.” We wanted to make and share fun, powerful tools to let everyone play creatively with electronic sound. The Let Us Play CD-Rom offered what could be done using the tech of the time. Ninja Jamm is the remix of those ideas for 21st century technology .
I personally think that interactive audio and visual apps on touchscreen devices are a new artform that is just opening up. As apps are cheap compared to old school software, they are also perhaps the equivalent of 7” records for the digital era…something fun to collect.
The app really lets you get up close to the music and give it a good workout.
Each Tunepack gives the user access to over forty different elements of an original tune: beats, vocals, melodies, effects and more. The jammer can hit play, sit back and listen to the tune, or start using the intuitive interface to re-imagine the song as they desire by mixing, glitching, looping and re-timing, whilst applying effects and firing samples over the top.
Unlike many other music apps, the Jamm experience is very hands-on and immediate - the user’s human feel is their key to enjoying freestyle mix possibilities. You can touch, tilt, shake and use multiple fingers and thumbs to Jamm and record, create a killer version of a favourite Ninja Tune and instantly share it with the world through Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
The app features tracks from Amon Tobin, Bonobo, Mr Scruff, Falty DL and more, all in high-quality lossless audio format. You can buy extra ‘Tunepacks’ too - made in collaboration with the artists. Brand new Ninja Tune tracks will be available, plus guests from other labels. Amon got an early chance to try it out and was impressed.
I’m into anything that invites people in…. I really like the app: it just says ‘Go have fun and if you’re enjoying it… dig deeper’.
Matt is critical of the way the music industry has dealt with digital, and wants to move things forward and innovate.
The music biz has been unable to cope with the digital revolution. It urgently needs to respond by providing some added value to the net-savvy copy-happy modern audience.
Ninja Jamm is an experiment to see if music lovers who probably already have all the old format music they need, will pay for REAL added music value (not just the same music served up in a different format that basically is no different to what they already had). Apple’s App Store system means artists and labels can earn from the Tunepacks format, and fans get something truly new and exciting.
We want to show that a small company like Ninja Tune can come up with something that challenges the complacency and lack of imagination of the majors. We know that people want more from music, because we do too.
We interviewed Matt during the development phase as part of a wider piece about his music career and kit.
Matt says that interactive music software is not a new idea - Coldcut themselves and Hex already helped kick it off in the 90s, with Global Chaos, Playtime and DJamm. He showed us this shot of DJamm, Coldcut’s 4 track audio glitch and loop software that they developed from 1998 for their live shows.
So what does he like most about the end result of many months of work?
That it’s free. That it runs on the iphone so its always with me, and also the fun of making the tunepack remix clips diverse, knowing people will dig the chance to jump around and fuse genres. To enjoy the plasticity of electronic music: that it can take so many forms, and confound those who think it must be one flavour or the other.
Ninja Tune artist Bonobo has also been giving the app a spin and seems pretty impressed.
I should take it to my show tonight and just play this… I’ve not seen anything like it.
Matt told us where he thinks his app sits in the music scene.
The first wave of apps like Romplr and RJDJ were also good efforts. More recently, Bjork’s Biophilia was a cool and beautifully designed music-based interactive app. However, the interaction in it is rather limited, and ‘you cannot rock a party with it’. The same is true of Philip Glass’s Rework. They bear little relation to todays EDM/DJ scene.
Ninja Jamm is a far more exciting proposition for fans wanting to actually play with the music, and rock the house. Just the multiple styles of interaction (touch, shake, tilt, cut, glitch, effect, drill, stab, jump) offer far more to the modern gamified audience. And the content and FX have been curated by Coldcut, acknowledged Ninja grandmasters of the EDM/DJ scene.
Ninja Jamm is not strictly a DJ app, as (so far) you cannot mix from one tune to a different one. However, Bonobo remarked that ‘I could play my set off this tonight’ when trying it. Even within a single Ninja Jamm Tunepack such as his Eyesdown, there’s enough variety to rock out for quite a while as the diverse remix clips let you mix seamlessly between them.
Matt says he solves the problem by just using 2 i-devices each running the app into a mixer, so each Ninja Jamm is like a single deck. The app gives you four channels of stems and touch controlled direct waveform manipulation, and there are other new developments.
Whilst DJ apps are great fun, the lack of headphone cue means proper DJ mixing is impossible, unless expensive extra hardware is added. So limited and train-wreck prone ‘automatic mixing’ must be relied upon. Ninja Jamm is beat perfect but you are in full control of the mix via your human feel…it’s an excellent meeting of DJ aesthetic and studio production power.
Matt says that many apps do very little to benefit artists, and he’s passionate about wanting his app to have a more positive effect.
If artists don’t earn from music, then everyone suffers, because artists need cash to make a career in music viable. Its great that anyone can make a tune in their bedroom, and some great talent comes up that way. But who is going to pay for a session with full strings at Abbey Road, if the resulting classic is never bought by fans, only copied?
This is a big discussion, but the point here is that Ninja Jamm’s use of Apple’s InApp Purchase to sell music breaks this deadlock, and everyone wins. Sure, why should I buy a tune on mp3 when I already bought the vinyl? But, give me something MORE from the music (not just an arguably worse format eg mp3 or CD) and I’m keen again, to get into a new relationship with my music, have some active not passive aural sex with the artists…its far beyond the scope of the DJ app which is really a last millenium concept given a fresh lick of paint. Ninja Jamm is a real step forward.
The launch promotion comes bundled with a free Tunepack, Beats and Pieces by Coldcut, with more Tunepacks available through in-app-purchase priced at £0.69 ($0.99). Tunepack EP bundles are available, featuring 4 songs at an introductory price of £1.99.