I have in the last week or so banged my net-riddled head on two programs, the pleasantly sweetening (or other taste moulding) of audio for.

They are Reaper and Audiomulch. The first is a multitrack production program  (or whatever you want to call it –  for mine, since Ableton Live properly broke the real-life-equivalent paradigm that digital audio had been dragging, the adjectives used to describe the recent generation of software have become either unsatisfyingly incomplete or redundantly broad).

The second is a virtual modular audio chop shop (see? Analogies are more pleasingly ephemeral, and can be made to sound tough or brainy: good for marketing…although now that I think about it – Reason, Logic, Garageband, Pro Tools, Cubase (?) SX(?!) – I might do better to just shut this whole argument down. It’s like arguing what is a good band name? Answer: Led Zeppelin, but only afterwards…)

Besides, although I love Audiomulch’s conjuring of dirty (but not muddy, pleez!), insect and worm-riddled sounds, I will admit that what kept them out of the green room that is my full attention were the names. Reaper? I don’t even like Death Metal.Audiomulch? What is this, organic hippy music?

Anyways, I’ve finally been dragged bleating into using these two programs by articles from the Create Digital Music website, which I recommend if only to remind you that some people don’t give a fuck about winning a Grammy. Really don’t. The winning attributes both softwares have are:

1. They give you a free, non-crippled trial period (30 and 60 days respectively). Reaper has a not-so-annoying splash screen that tells you (in the 4 seconds it takes to load the damn thing) that you really out to buy a license  ($60 if yr not raking in 20k a year from yr musical pursuits). Not sure with Audiomulch, but it’s also reasonably cheap (just looked – 189USD, or 189AUD if you live in Oz. The creator’s an Aussie, I believe). Anyways, it’s much cheaper than Reaktor.

2. They are coded lean and mean: Ican get a full band project open on Reaper (the Sheikhs if you must know) with compressors and EQ all over without my Dell mini 9 netbook crapping out, like it does with, say,  Live (I haven’t even bothered to try Nuendo or such). Apart from the actual programs teeny footprint, the great sounding free effects from Cockos Inc.(OK, that name really does suck) that come with Reaper are also suuuuper miserly on the CPU juice. So I can sit on the train in and out of work dialling up a good chunk of a killer mix to then bring home and tweak on the Quadcore machine that night. Sublimey.

Audiomulch, I’m not so sure, but I dialed up a nice beats and synth thing en route home today and the mini dint seem to breathe heavy [full disclosure-thingy: I’ve been using Audiomulch for only a handful of hours, but the fact that I’ve not tripped up, got the shits and abandoned ship is a testament to…]

3. Intuitive, common sense program construction. I tried a crack of Reaktor several times after a friends recommendation (he uses Pro Tools too, which makes me want to eat my eyeballs when I use it), but, having no manual (the pirate’s curse, often enough) I tinkered for 30 or 40 minutes before declaring the thing a piece of crap. I am aware that some things are not easy to learn (I remain monolingual for this reason) but if I can’t get something satisfying out of a program the first time then it’s just not gonna happen (this would be the drummer’s curse I guess).

Reaper and Audiomulch both provide elaborate documentation and help, and the Reaper resources webpage seems almost cult-like (or American sitcom-like, if you prefer) in it’s mind-clearing attractiveness, with it’s army of helpful, smart talking enthusiasts dropping by with free lunch items. But check it: I started fiddling with Reaper alfresco, and every first or second blind leap for a keyboard shortcut was right! And not because they were the same as my ol’ flame Nuendo. No, this was a real live ‘intuitive’ interface, a rare bird, I swear. Audiomulch was similarly well laid out and Lego-like in its easily decipherable potential.

My first foray into ‘indie’ music software was with the well intentioned horse-with-five-legs, Tracktion 2, which I got free with my Mackie sound card (Mackie’s a whole other disabled animal metaphor, a duck mebbe?) This thing was so unwieldy on my plenty powerful quadcore PC, puffing and wheezing and eventually crashing projects that I knew had run just fine on my dodge copy of Nuendo. Even the fancy Mackie plugins that came with the Tracktion 3 upgrade I bought in blind hope would regularly go queer and knock over projects. This all left what tasted very much like the sourness of a hard lesson learnt in my mouth. So much for legit, paid software. It was a shame too, because philosophically and visual design-wise, Tracktion made all the big multitrack programs look paleolithic.

But now I find myself back with the paying-money-for-something-that-doesn’t-physically-exist program. Reaper has taken up Tracktion’s, uh, dropped balls and thrown them at Bob (or whatever his name is) Steinberg’s head. And mine: Clunk! a digital eureka moment. (But why was the bathtub  underneath the apple tree in yr historical analogy? I dunno, and I’m sorry.)

Audiomulch, on the other hand, has given me a new enthusiasm for synthetic sounds. In the past I’ve used drum machines, sequencers and synths as cheap stand ins for real instruments on demos (and with my early hip hop exposure, too… Sheeeeee-it!) But with the possibilities starting to itch in my brain I’m thinking it’s time to put this Mulchy thing to work on that great late-80s ambient music masterpiece I’ve been putting off. Good thing too, my traditional PC based writing approach has been boring me to tears, or at least most of the way through a sixpack, of late. I’m also hoping to coax an indie rap collab out of aforementioned friend, and mebbe this will help – calling you out Blastcorp…

If yr into music production check these programs out. Their spirits are willing, and the weaknesses of flesh you expect are nowhere to be found.