With the world on lockdown, online collaboration has never been more necessary. The live improvised jamming fostered by Endlesss can help you fill the void.
Price Free or £4.49 p/m for Endlesss Infinite
You may know Tim Exile for his innovative Native Instruments performance tools such as Flesh and The Mouth. His new venture distils more than 10 years of live electronic improvisation into the riveting collaborative music-making platform Endlesss. Available on iOS, the app allows you to create fluid jams with users around the world from the comfort of your home studio – or, just as likely, your sofa.
To infinity and beyond
Endlesss features an eight-track looper with bass, synth and drum instruments, plus a performance effects section and microphone input. Once you’ve started a new jam session, you create ideas by performing the instruments into the Looper Bar. When you’re happy, just tap to commit the pattern to a Rifff.
If you have an interface or connection kit, you can also record hardware synths, microphones or live samples from any source. You can then add other patterns on top or remix the existing idea using the effects. As you build up layers, each Rifff appears as a circular waveform, with more complex ideas boasting more colours.
Essentially, each Rifff is a stack of audio files, the balance of which can be adjusted in the Mixer page. In an especially welcome touch, there’s some clever volume balancing going on in the background, which prevents you from running out of headroom. You get 12 drum kits, 12 synth sounds, 12 bass sounds and 11 effects to play with, all of which sound good and sport an electronic flavours. There are also eight dials for basic sound editing.
All these features exist as part of the free iOS app but, if that’s not enough, you can opt for the expanded option, Endlesss Infinite. For £4.49 a month, you’ll get access to a more substantial app with a growing library of additional sounds for all the instruments, plus extra effects and a live sampler that can be used for more arresting remixes. Both versions of Endlesss store your jams online, with the free version allowing up to 100 Rifffs per jam, and the Infinite variant permitting limitless creative expression.
Even solo jam sessions can lead to engaging and inspirational ideas. Endlesss is an intuitive app, and the way it encourages you to experiment and commit to your audio is liberating for anyone used to the unlimited freedoms and undos offered by modern DAWs, which are a help and a hindrance. That said, it takes a while to get used to the notion that you can’t go back and tweak your synth or drum settings after the fact.
Other features include three looper modes, Ableton Link, live quantise, metronome, tempo and key selection. There’s no time-stretch function, so changing the tempo will change the pitch. This is to make sure the experience remains fluid; time-stretching would likely prove too processor-hungry for mobile platforms. There are some obvious limitations to having just eight layers – once these layers are full, the app will begin to merge them.
They’re grouped by instrument where possible but you’ll sometimes end up with random placements so it’s better to do some planning and layer management in advance. Importantly, once you’ve made a Rifff you’re happy with, you can export the separate parts as audio to flesh out more fully in your DAW. You can also export a movie version that’s ready to be shared via your social channels.
Around the world
The assets we’ve covered thus far are all well and good but not exactly revolutionary. What sets Endlesss apart, however, are its integrated social elements and the flexible online collaboration it fosters. Once you’ve created a jam, you can generate a link that allows anyone to join in. A jam is essentially a live chat room, from which you can send text messages and generate new Rifffs by remixing or adding layers to existing ones.
This encourages ever-evolving compositions, as creative ideas develop in real time as you bat patterns back and forth. If things start getting out of hand, you can always resort to earlier Rifffs or simply mute a bunch of layers and take the composition in a new direction.
In practice, there’s some performance latency when trying to play notes in but not enough to sabotage the experience. Though the layout has been finely tuned to function smartly on small screens, it would be useful if it had an area to display messages – currently you have to flick back and forth between the jam and chat pages, which is a little clunky. It might also be helpful to know when other players are experimenting and playing notes so that you know when to hold back and when you’re free to let rip.
Keep it local
It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the package, including the social aspects that exist outside of Endlesss. There’s a Discord forum dedicated to showcasing Rifffs of the week, sharing jam invites, tutorials and tricks, and discussing feature requests with the developers. Exile also hosts a weekly Twitch stream that showcases a live international jam and includes big-name guests, and talks about upcoming features.
Endlesss hasn’t been around for long but it already boasts an active community that jams together and discusses creative ways to bend the app to their whims. Plenty of amazing content has already been created via Exile’s app, including electronic and ambient Rifffs, live instrumentation and vocals.
Slated to hit the App Store in 2021, the Studio edition of Endlesss will offer users the opportunity to jam live using a plug-in from within their DAW, which will make it much easier to get your software and hardware instruments, and beats directly into the platform. There will also be the option to build your own sample instruments so you can take your studio jams on the road. Which brings us on to another potential facet for this platform down the line: the monetisation of musical content and sample packs. As Endlesss grows, it might well offer a whole new way for artists to communicate with their fans – and generate income.
The Endlesss app and the myriad levels of social interaction that exist alongside it form a complex ecosystem that’s still in its infancy. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s underbaked. Endlesss is already sensationally slick and fun to use. There are areas for improvement, sure, but its scope for new features is so vast that we’re excited to monitor its progression. There was no way Exile could’ve known how 2020 would pan out but it just so happens that his app might be the perfect way to make the best of a bad situation – by kickstarting your creativity and connecting with a world on lockdown.
Do I really need this?
There are many more-established collaborative platforms on the market, which boast increased features and are perhaps better for songwriting. But Endlesss stands out purely for the speed with which it lets you trade ideas back and forth, and the feeling it offers of being present as part of a real-time jam session.
If you’re stuck in a rut as a result of writing music alone, this is a fantastic way to get a direct injection of inspiration and connect with other producers and musicians. There’s no excuse not to check out the free version, and there’s a demo for Infinite, which will let you audition its extra sounds, storage and sampler.
- iOS live-collaboration app
- 8-track looper
- Drum, bass and synth instruments
- Record from built-in mic or interface
- Live sampler (Infinite only)
- Performance effects
A frontrunning alternative for collaborative working and composing on both mobile and desktop platforms, this iOS and desktop app doesn’t allow the instant back-and-forth jamming of Endlesss but, given that it’s essentially an in-browser DAW, it’s much more powerful.
While it lacks the social and collaborative aspects of Endlesss and BandLab, this iOS app is a fantastic mobile sketchpad. Designed by Coldcut’s Matt Black, it comes with artist sounds and the ability to load samples and slice them using advanced sequencers and live effects.
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