02:41 August 29, 2017

Review of the MakeNoise Rene sequencer (uncensored)

I waited for a long time to get a general purpose sequencer. While several of my keyboards (etc) have their own sequencer, I have a very heterogeneous system: keyboards, Eurorack, and other. So I really wanted a CV sequencer that could work with everything. Okay, maybe not everything but as much as possible that is CV controlled.

Equally if not more important, I wanted a sequencer that can be manipulated in real time. Whether I'm playing for a recording or for an audience, improvisation is one of the central tenants of my music, so I need to change all the things whenever I want. There's a sequencer as part of Mutable Instruments yarns as well as pittsburgh modular game system, both of which I own....but they're not exactly fun to tweak in real time.

So after long debate through many choices, I went with the Rene. I am not disappointed. I think it is the closest CV performance-driven sequencer on the market today. To start with the candy, it looks awesome: the lights on top of the pots is not only useful, it's hypnotic. Having unquantized and quantized CV outs offers a lot of flexibility.

The ability to control X vs Y clock is cool, and I'll admit that I use it more than I think, but calling it "the world's first Cartesian sequencer" is a bit much. Most of the time, I do patch (say) X clock into one clock generator and the Y clock into a divide-by-4 clock divider and you're back to a classic (but really awesome) 16 step sequencer. But I'm a tinkerer; I'll probably get more creative (read: crazy) the more I play with it and do some really nutsy things, though I'll still probably never really think of "the first Cartesian sequencer" as some crazy advancement in sequencing. If someone invented a 16 step sample+hold that recorded duration and "note" (CV) that you could snap to clock ... or not! ... or mess with widths between steps with CV, now that would be a nextgen sequencer.

On the other hand, the oh-so-Makenoise pressure pads in the back...now those are Sweet! with a capital WEET!. You want a sequencer you can mess with in real time, now that really opens up the windows for me! Sequencer as a jam session? Sure, why not!

Be warned: this has no internal clock. I probably agree it shouldn't, but I have this in a tiny tiny performance rack with just this (large) sequencer and the (also MakeNoise) telharmonic and I'm still trying to figure out a great way to take just these and a decent keyboard in a togo bag.

The pots for setting CV are critical, of course, too, for live perf. My one complaint: they need "clock ticks" of some variety....it is kinda hard to guess, except by hearing it, what note/CV I'm actually playing. You get used to it....sorta, but it sure would be nice for a future edition. I think they go to 4.5 V, maybe 4 quantized, so it's not like I expect every semi-tone marked. At this point, I'd take every octave.

And, as is often my complaint about newer MakeNoise (just to single them out...certainly other companies fall in this category which I won't mention here), the extra modes (top two pressure pads on the right) are extra confusing. I read manuals; I don't memorize them. I'm not a professional musician who has a great excuse, so let's say at most 1 per cent of my time goes to synthesising (albeit, a very much enjoyed 1 per cent). So I haven't played with all the other cool things the Rene can do. I'm sure I will eventually. But they're less accessible without the manual in front of you unless you have a much better memory than I.