There’s a lot to like about MiMU’s unusually gelatinous take on granular synthesis.
The Jellyfish doesn’t fall neatly into the categories of instrument or effect but incorporates elements of both to provide a novel sound‑design tool based on granular synthesis. This is the first plug‑in from Imogen Heap’s MiMU company and supports all the common plug‑in platforms. The Jellyfish is designed to run on an instrument track, and while it includes modes where it can be played from a keyboard it is just as happy working on an audio sample to produce continuous drones and textures. A library of presets built on samples is included, but you can import your own samples simply by dragging them onto the GUI or by making a live recording via the side‑chain audio input. Note that you can’t process a live signal or audio track, you have to record it into Jellyfish before you can work on it.
Meet The Jellyfish
The top half of the window is taken up with an overview waveform of the currently hosted sample, and hovering over this is a jellyfish graphic, which acts as a cursor. This indicates the section of waveform from which grains are being extracted and it can be dragged left and right to explore the sonic possibilities of different parts of the sample.
There are two main modes: Drone and Event. In Drone mode you get a continuous output whereas in Event mode, you only hear a sound when you trigger the plug‑in by sending an Activate command, which you can do by sending it automation.
The position of the jellyfish can be modulated using one of the Playback Mode options that become available when the Grain Position button is set to Auto rather than Manual. The speed at which the jellyfish moves is set using Playback Speed and it is also possible to reverse the grains using a dedicated button. All the controls that I tried can be used with DAW automation, including the jellyfish position. As careful manual manipulation of the jellyfish position often produces interesting and unexpected results, recording the jellyfish movements as automation when in Manual mode is a great way to get inspiration for new ideas.
Playing from a keyboard is achieved by adding MIDI markers, and there are two modes of behaviour: Re‑pitching and Region Selection. Switch on Learn, press a key on a connected keyboard and a marker appears at the jellyfish location. As long as you stay in Learn mode you can also drag the marker to fine‑tune its position or delete it using the delete key. Switch off Learn and you can now play the sound chromatically relative to the key you assigned during Learn mode. This is Re‑pitching mode. If you choose a key where the note doesn’t match the pitch of the sample you can use the Transpose knob to get things back on track. Should you be in Drone mode when doing this, the sound reverts to the original drone when no keys are being depressed.
The Jellyfish sounds very refined and can go from rhythmic choppiness to sounding extremely smooth. It is easy to create very impressive‑sounding results from virtually any input sample. Some of the more esoteric features found in other granular synths and effects, such as pitch‑shifting individual grains, have been left out to keep the operation simple, though there are a couple of things I would like to see added. For example, basic attack and release envelope controls would be useful, though you can still conjure up a lot of great sounds without them. There’s also no wet/dry mix control.
The Jellyfish sounds very refined and can go from rhythmic choppiness to sounding extremely smooth. It is easy to create very impressive‑sounding results from virtually any input sample.
Despite some limitations, The Jellyfish is capable of producing excellent results, and being able to drag and drop your own samples right into the waveform display makes things very intuitive. The control set is simple, so there’s no crazy learning curve, and Region Selection mode opens up a lot of creative possibilities for building sequences. This is also a fabulous tool for building smooth‑sounding, organically shifting drones.
Despite some limitations, The Jellyfish gives you granular sounds aplenty and sounds great while it’s doing it.
£99 including VAT.