Live techno don Saytek waxes lyrical about one of his favourite pieces of hardware...
The Analog Rytm is such a powerful piece of kit. It's an eight-voice analogue drum machine - across 12 tracks, so some of the drums choke out the other drums - that you can also load samples on and mix them with the analogue voices.
It's the perfect mix of analogue and digital, really. In terms of analogue sound it's amazing, but you can do so much more with it than you can with just a drum machine. You can play all the drum sounds chromatically, you can make synth patches out of them, just because it's basically a powerful analogue synth that's been designed for creating drums on. So you can have several instruments - pretty much whole tracks, in fact - coming from this one machine.
It's a deep box, so you can get a hell of lot of stuff in there! With the sequencer, for example, you've got parameter locks and you can lock lots of different things to different steps - so if I wanted to have a different sample on every step, I could lock a different sample to each one and I'd effectively have an analogue drum with a different sound on top of it every 16th step. You've got micro-timing and probability factors as well, so you can make something happen only every several bars, or just randomly. The editing capabilities are also very strong, which makes the sequencer a very powerful tool.
But the thing that makes it really, really powerful for live performance is that it's got pressure-sensitive drum pads, and you can assign up to 12 parameters to one pad - so you can hold that pad down at different pressures and get different effects. I could have one pad where I press it down and it turns down the level of the kickdrum, it adds more delay to the synth lead line, it adds reverb to the clap, and maybe pitches up another drum or pitches down another, and adds more distortion to something… I can have all those things happening on one pad, and the amount it happens by is velocity-sensitive, so I can hold it down at different pressures. It's great for doing live breakdowns and crazy stuff that you could otherwise only do within a DAW. It means you can automate a whole load of different parameters at once, at the touch of one button.
For that reason, the Rytm is something I use in my live sets all the time. In fact, sometimes I get pretty much the bulk of a whole track out of the Elektron, and then maybe I'll trigger some extra elements over the top in Ableton. But the beats, the basslines, the synth leads... they'll all come out of this one box.
It's not cheap, admittedly - I think the current price is a little bit over £1,000. But in terms of versatility it's a pretty unique piece of kit. If you wanted something similar but cheaper, there's the Arturia Drum Brute, but it's not going to give you that depth of control. And with the Analog Rytm, you can make it sound however you sound, because of the sound design and sequencing capabilities, whereas with a cheaper bit of kit, you can maybe get some great sounds out of it but it'll always sound like that bit of kit.
If anyone's starting out with one, my advice would be to make sure you keep the manual close, because the way the Rytm does some things isn't always what you'd call industry standard. Delays and some of the other parameters are measured in strange measurements, for instance, and you'll have to go into the manual to look that stuff up. So just take it easy and have fun with it. Use the built-in sounds to start building your own patterns, then after a while you can start tweaking those sounds. Don't expect to know all the ins and outs straight away, just have fun using what's accessible, and then just kind of build on it as you need to.
That said, I was producing stuff on it that I could take out live within a few days of getting it - yet there's other stuff that I'm still trying to master now, three years down the line. It's definitely a quirky piece of kit... but then that could be said about most of my favourite gear!
Saytek's latest album Live Stories is out now on Detone. For more information on the Analog Rtym, see Elektron's own website.