Forever 89’s Visco is an innovative sample-modelling drum machine but still needs some work

Born from masterminds at Teenage Engineering and Ableton, Visco introduces a whole new method of editing and shaping sounds. Will it morph into your new favourite drum sampler?

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Forever 89 Visco

Forever 89 Visco

Review Overview

Our rating

8

Our verdict

Fun and tactile beat creation and mangling
The blob is a unique and intuitive way to edit sounds
Sample conversion is instant and mostly accurate
The plugin code is lightweight and snappy
Useful macros lead to instant sound destruction
Spectral morphing is a superb, easy way to generate new material
Can add life to static samples

Sequencer lacks depth
Tricky to make accurate edits via the blob
No choke groups
Modulation matrix limited to eight slots
Too expensive at its current price

€139, forever89.studio

Visco is the first release of Forever 89, a new outfit with talent borrowed from Teenage Engineering and Ableton, which means there are some big expectations. This drum machine boasts eight voices and the ability to model any sample that you load in, essentially copying its sonic imprint and turning it into a synthesised patch.. This offering way more flexibility to edit and warp beyond what’s possible with audio in other drum machines.

Visco also performs impressive spectral warping between sounds and has a fun, tactile interface for speedy sound design and live performance. Despite a basic sequencer and simple effects editing, it’s a fun and exciting instrument with heaps of potential.

How does Visco work?

You can select one of eight tracks to edit via Visco’s main screen, which then displays a unique three-dimensional blob to represent the currently-loaded sound. With time on the Y-axis, frequency on the X-axis and Energy on the Z-axis, you get a clear picture of sounds like kicks and hi-hats based on their shape. When you trigger the sound, the blob moves as if it’s being excited by sound waves.

But it’s not just for show — you can click, drag, attract or repel the blob to edit sounds. Despite a limitation in accuracy, this is possibly the most visceral and hands-on sound design interface we’ve seen. You can even flip the shape horizontally or vertically, essentially reversing the sound, or mirror frequencies to turn things like kick drums into hi-hats.

Visco mixer
Visco mixer

How do you add and shape samples in Visco?

There’s a healthy sample library, from classic drum machine hits and percussion, to unusual sounds like beatbox and vocal shouts. Where Visco really shines though, is in the ability to load in a sample and have it instantly transformed into an editable patch. You can load in a collection of static audio hits and then add variations that make them more alive and organic. Although it’s been fine-tuned to work with drums and shorter percussive sounds, musical hits and short vocals can work too.

Experimentation is key, with the instant translation from audio to synth sound making it easy to try out new samples. We find Visco to be superior to competitor Synplant 2 for drums and organic sounds, whereas Synplant fares better at synths and pitched hits.

Alongside the blob there are controls to change the Timescale (length), Frequency, Contrast (emphasises prominent components), and Density (adjusts noise component). There are also ways of adding subtle variation, voicing, plus unique, velocity-dependent transformations. These can be tweaked on a per-track basis, but for instant fun and sonic mayhem, there are five macros permanently mapped to key controls across all tracks simultaneously. It’s instant IDM glitch territory, sounding fluid and alive with minimal effort. We only wish there were even more macros to assign parameters to, so we can get even more creative.

Visco preset sounds
Visco preset sounds

How do you morph sounds in Visco?

Each of the eight tracks houses two different sounds and you can morph spectrally between them using a slider. For example, you could take an electronic kick sound and increase the harmonic detail by blending in live kick, or something more out-there like mixing a timpani hit with a dog bark.

Again, everything’s instant so experimenting never feels a chore. To put it to the test, we load in a chopped funk break to the A slots and are able to recreate a live-sounding beat. We then load electronic drums into the accompanying B slots and morph between the two. The aforementioned macro lets you do this across all sounds at once for a dramatic modulation of the whole kit. Vast possibilities for creative transitions between music tracks or sections are opened up, although it’s a shame you can’t easily export your new blended audio hits.

Visco modulation
Visco modulation

How do you program and mix beats using Visco?

Visco has a sequencer with swing, velocity and timing humanisation, plus drag-and-drop MIDI export. It’s useful for quick sketches, but the lack of probability and deeper editing hold it back from being truly effective. There’s a Random button to generate a new pattern, but unfortunately it’s also linked to the Sound page, so it randomises all sounds and settings at the same time. Hopefully an update might allow these randomisations to be separated. It’d also be useful to lock sounds or patterns you’re happy with.

Next up is a modulation page with four ADSR envelopes (with curves), four split-point LFOs and several noise options that can be assigned to a number of destinations. A Scaler such as velocity or modulation wheel control can also be added to further shape the modulation. It’s another way to inject extra movement and interest into your beats, although subtlety can sometimes be a better option unless you want to go full Autechre on the glitchiness.

The only downside here is that there are only eight modulation slots, which is fine for something like a single synth patch, but it would be better to have a few more to control up-to all eight drum tracks in some way.

The final section is the Mix page, which includes a DJ-style high-pass/low-pass filter, clip distortion, amp, pan and width controls for each track, plus sends for the two send and two master effects. Send effects include chorus, an array of reverbs, delay, compressor and fuzz, while master effects include characterful compressors, saturation and a limiter.

Parameters are limited, but thankfully the effects sound great, adding plenty of grit, depth and character to the output. Visco also works as a multi-output plugin, so you can choose to route individual tracks for processing in your DAW.

Visco sequencer
Visco sequencer

Should you buy Visco?

Forever 89’s Visco is a fantastic instrument that takes a unique approach to sound design. It lets you craft complex, mutating, original sounding drum and percussion tracks with ease. Overall, the whole thing feels very snappy and well put together. That said, there’s still space for improvement with the issues already mentioned, plus we’d like to see choke groups to stop busier beats getting messy.

At full price, it’s too expensive until features are fleshed out further, but as there’s a fully-functional demo there’s no excuse not to try this gem out. This is the most fun we’ve had in the studio for a long time.

Key features

  • Windows and macOS, 64-bit VST3 or AU
  • Sample modelling drum machine for beat-making, sound design and live performance
  • 8 tracks and 32 voices
  • Edit sounds visually by grabbing, pushing and pulling blob interface
  • Modify time, frequency, timbre, velocity and create variations
  • Spectral morphing between sounds
  • 5 Performance macros
  • 4 envelopes, 4 LFOs and a 8-slot modulation matrix
  • 16-step sequencer with MIDI export
  • 2 send effects / 2 master effects
  • Multi-output plugin routing
  • Resizable user interface
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