Review: Audioutlaw Boots N Kats 2, Powerful Drum Machine For Ableton Live & Push 2

Boots N Kats 2 brings an incredibly powerful drum machine to Live 10 and Push 2. Here's the low down on what this excellent valued Max for Live drum tool will do for your beat making process.  

Audioutlaw have just released an update to their unique Max for Live drum tool: Boots N Kats 2. Incorporating a unique multi-sequencer interface with a powerful Push 2 control mode, it offers an abundance of handy workflow tricks to help you generate beats with ease.

Main Interface

Drum Control

At its core, Boots N Kats 2 features four drum sequencing modules: Kick, Snare, Hihat (including both Open and Closed), and Perc. Each comes with discrete sample Select, Tuning and Level controls, along with individual Swing and Shift amounts. Conventional sequencers include only a master Swing to constrain all parts to the same feel, which can be replicated here by simply setting each individual part to the same Swing value – but the ability to offset them from one another lends itself to all kinds of unusual grooves.

Boots N Kats 2 is contained in an Instrument Rack, which means further controls are mapped to Macro dials for easy access: Decay for each drum part, along with Boom amount, Boom Frequency, and Boom Decay from a Drum Buss instance placed after the included Drum Rack, for added heft. If you open the Drum Rack instance in Device view, you can easily swap your own sounds for those on the pads – just be sure to put them on the same pads Boots N Kats 2 comes loaded with so the sequencer can trigger them (or, adjust the target MIDI notes in the Settings menu, accessible via the Audioutlaw logo, if need be).

However, Boots N Kats 2 has conveniently mapped 128 samples to each of the five drum parts, which can be easily dialled in via the aforementioned sample Select dial, allowing you to easily find a suitable sound for whatever you happen to be working on, in context, without resorting to your browser. Selected sounds can be edited further by opening the Sampler instance contained on the correlating Drum Rack pad and diving into the extensive settings on offer there. For interesting results, try automating the sample Select knob for the Snare or Perc layers.

Main Interface with mapped Macros and enfolded Drum Rack.

Main Interface with mapped Macros and enfolded Drum Rack.

Sequential Entry

In the default Individual Patterns mode, each of the four drum parts comes with its own 16-step sequencer. The length of the sequencer is fixed at 16 steps, but the rate of each individual part can be set to its own per-step note size, from 1/4 to 1/64 notes, via the Rate drop-down menu. The Beat dial for each drum part allows you to move between up to 16 different patterns that can be stored, while the Active/Mute toggle effectively disables a drum part’s sequencer.

Accessed by clicking the Boots N Kats logo at upper right of the device, the pop-out Kick, Snare, and Perc sequencer windows are all comprised of two lanes showing the full 16 steps available, while the Hihat sequencer shows four lanes to edit both Closed and Open hats in the same interface. The two lanes have the same function: programming note-on messages into a sequence – but each lane is assigned its own velocity value. It’s a novel way to program drums and in some ways helps focus the programming process – but also arguably restricts programming to some degree by limiting velocities to only two possible values. That said, each sequencer’s lane velocity values can be automated if you want to change them dynamically over time.

Once your preferred velocities are entered, it’s a simple matter of clicking steps to add or remove them. Patterns can easily be copied and pasted to new sequence slots by clicking Copy, switching the Beat selection dial to one of the other fifteen available sequences, and clicking Paste. This can be done to store multiple completely different sequences for a live performance, or to store more subtle variations in a studio context. Sequences can easily reset to a blank canvas via the Clear button or be handily Saved to and Loaded from disk, where they’re stored as tiny text files.

The Sequencers.

The Sequencers.

Each Sequencer also comes with an Auto button that cycles through generated sequences with each click; forward and back buttons allow you to skip back and forth between a repository of go-to patterns – or, for truly random sequence generation, you can Shift-click the Auto button instead. While each sequencer can be set to different note interval Rates, it would be especially nice to be able to set each sequence to its own discrete step length for polyrhythmic pattern layering.

Automatic Modes

Boots N Kats 2’s default mode is to control each drum part’s selected sequence pattern individually, but this behavior can be altered via the Automatic Mode drop-down menu. With Linked Pattern mode, a single dial scrolls between all 16 possible sequencer slots simultaneously. When clicked, the Get Lucky button selects four different random sequences in Individual Pattern mode, or a single sequence slot number in Linked Pattern mode.

Mode Selector.

Mode Selector.

Incremental modes scroll through the entire set of patterns from 1 to 16 at 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, or 16 bar intervals, which allows for up to 256 bars of composition rolling out automatically. Things get even more interesting with the Random mode, which selects a random set of sequences at the same 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, or 16 bar intervals, which can rapidly generate sprawling, unfolding percussion programming. Just don’t forget to record the results to MIDI (or Audio) if you think you might want to use them in the future. Global Copy and Paste controls easily transfer all sequence patterns from one global slot to another for easy song construction.

Pushing It

Push owners will appreciate Boots N Kats 2’s Push button, which allows control of sequencing parameters on a Push 2. The two rows of separate velocity sequences take up Push’s top 32 pads; the bottom right quadrant of Push 2 pads provide access to switch between the selected pattern, while the bottom left quadrant provides selection and activation toggles for each drum part; colored outlines in the Live device GUI show which part Push 2 is in currently controlling. Each part’s note Rate can be set via corresponding backlit Scene trigger/quantization buttons, while the unique touch strip function delivers cool glitchy drum fills that otherwise remain unaccessible.

Percussive Prowess

The included sounds – 640 in total – all sound excellent, and are optimized at an impressively small file size, yet can easily be swapped out for your own sample content if need be. While it does present some peculiar restrictions, Boots N Kats 2 also provides a unique approach to drum programming that’s sure to yield rapid results, particularly with the Random functions enabled. Live 10 users – particularly those in possession of a Push 2 – seeking a different approach to drum programming at a very affordable price would do well to give Boots N Kats 2 a try.

Price: $29.99 USD

Pros: Fun creative tool for all kinds of beat-makers with a handful of clever features; bundled with great sounds; rapidly generates new material; highly competitive price point.

Cons: No separate sequence lengths for each part; no sequence change launch quantization; no triplet or dotted interval rates.

Noah Pred is a Canadian record producer, sound designer, technologist, DJ, and Ableton Certified Trainer living in Berlin, Germany. Releasing dozens of records and touring extensively since the '90s, he currently teaches a wide variety of techniques for stage and studio at the BIMM Institute. For more information, please visit: http://... Read More


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