A few days ago, ROLI introduced the BLOCKS modular music system.
Used (wirelessly) in conjunction with the NOISE iOS app, BLOCKs gives you three portable modules for making music. First there’s the Lightpad Block, which lets you arrange virtual pads in several grid configurations for triggering sounds. Then there’s the Live Control Block, which gives you access to performance settings like arpeggiator mode, chord mode, and octave/scale switching. And finally there’s the Loop Control Block that gives you access to typical transport controls.
The heart of the BLOCKS system is the NOISE iOS app, which serves as the sound engine for the block hardware. (The functions of the Live and Loop Blocks are also available in the NOISE app but the Blocks modules give you more immediate, tactile access.)
I’m not sure how much success ROLI will have with BLOCKS. In contrast with the RISE, ROLI’s entry into the mainstream MIDI controller market, BLOCKS is targeted as much, if not more so, at gadget lovers and music enthusiasts as it is musicians. In fact, ROLI has partnered with Apple for distribution, which means you’ll be able to buy BLOCKS hardware at your local Apple store.
Setting aside speculation about target audience, the system gives you a glimpse into how the acquisitions that ROLI’s made over the last year or so are coming together as part of an impressive integrated platform. Back in September ROLI announced the acquisition of plugin developers FXpansion. In October of last year they acquired social music platform Blend, and way back in 2014 they acquired JUCE, a low-level cross-platform audio toolkit. Add this mix of audio and cloud software expertise to ROLI’s hardware development know-how and they appear to be very well-positioned to continue bringing innovative products to the market.
You can order BLOCKS direct from ROLI or take them for a test drive at an Apple store near you.