Despite how much crap DJs get these days, there is still something quite alluring about the prospect of being one. The idea of creating epic party bangers – slowly building the music into a grinding, pulsating crescendo of drums and bass – is an intoxicating one. Still sceptical? Go put on Satisfaction by Benny Benassi and tell me you don’t want to be the person spinning that mammoth beat before a crowd of worshipping partiers.
Well, now you can get one step closer to that fantasy with Dropmix – the newest creation from Hasbro and Rock Band developer Harmonix. This toy/game introduces you to the most basic concepts of remixing music, and includes mechanics which make a game out of the method. Although it is an incredibly rudimentary form of remixing, it could be perfect as someone’s first foray into the craft, one that allows them to get a feel for the process and make some pretty cool tracks while doing so.
The Dropmix system itself is a board with five slots on which you place cards representing the four main aspects of a song – the bassline, drum track, main melody and vocal melody. Each slot on the board denotes one or two of these aspects. The game comes with 60 cards, each representing an aspect of a song in a range of genres.
You create tracks in Dropmix by placing cards on the board, progressively building up the song with each additional card. For example, you might start with the thudding drum track of "Barbara Streisand" by Duck Sauce, and then layer in the guitar melody from Run-DMC's "It’s Tricky", and then finally loop in the vocals from "Chandelier" by Sia. That would be a horrific combination, but nevertheless, it is one open for you to discover.
You link your smart device up to the board in order to interface with the cards you are putting on the board, and via its touch screen you can change tempo and key, as well as output the mix you are creating.
The game includes three modes: freestyle, party and clash. Freestyle allows you to experiment in creating mixes with your cards. It is here that you will really get a feel for how remixing functions, and discover what does and doesn’t work when putting a song together.
The 60 cards you get with the board are broken up into four playlists of 15 cards, each representing a different genre. In the base pack you get dance, electronica, pop and rock. Understandably, not all of these genres are going to mix particularly well with each other, which can feel a little limiting at first. But I was surprised to find that once I got a better handle of creating mixes, it became possible to find ways to layer in, say, a rock guitar melody with an electronica bass and drum line. The key is to experiment – most of what you make is going to come out sounding dreadful, but it’s easy to swap cards out until you create something that sounds awesome.
One limiting factor is how few full-track cards you get. These are the cards that include all elements of a song, instead of just one aspect like drums or bass. Each of the four playlists includes one full-track card: you get "24K Magic" by Bruno Mars, "Heartbeat" by Childish Gambino, "Bangarang" by Skrillex, and "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed. These cards are often what you are building your remix around, because as soon as you include them in a mix, the game changes the tempo and key to match that song.
Because you only get four of these cards, it can sometimes feel like you are remixing the same four songs over and over. Well… remixing the same three songs, because whoever can find a way to successfully remix "Down with the Sickness" is an absolute miracle worker.
Dropmix also includes two multiplayer game modes that introduce mechanics around the process of remixing. Clash is a competitive mode in which you attempt to beat another person to a score of 21 by taking turns introducing cards to a remix. It requires you to be strategic with which cards you play and when, with bonus points awarded for introducing the right type of card at the right time.
Though the mechanics of the game are quite shallow, it allows you to create some cool mixes. The game's structure means that you are naturally starting with low intensity loops, and throughout the length of match, introducing more and more intense tracks. By the end of the match, you’ve probably built the remix into something pretty banging.
The party mode allows you to remix cooperatively, with everyone working together to achieve a high score. The app tells the group a type of card it wants you to introduce, and the faster you introduce it, the more points you get for that action. The party mode can be quite fun, but its mechanics do not feel like they support the music in the way the other modes do. With the time pressure, quite often you are not thinking about the cards as music, and you certainly don’t have time to enjoy the mixes you are creating.
Overall, Dropmix is pretty cool tech, and a fun toy to jam around with. Even though what you are doing is simple, you do really start to feel responsible for the mixes you are making because of how seamlessly the app integrates the cards as you loop them in. If someone was really serious about remixing music, I probably wouldn’t recommend this to them unless they literally had zero experience working with music. But for someone who is just keen to have a jam and a play around with remixing, this is a pretty damn fun thing to mess around with, and is made even more fun by the ability to play it with others.