Ever found yourself turning down the radio so you can focus on finding a parking spot? Music didn’t stop you seeing, but it was taking up some tangible mental resources. But what if you had a way to immediately make the music more calming? Or to change that distracting string section? That, effectively, is the promise of Aimi’s interactive music player app. It won’t help you find a parking spot, though, you’re on your own with that.
If the name Aimi sounds familiar, that’s because its self-described “generative music platform” has been available online for a while. What’s new is the mobile app, launching in beta today with 5,000 slots open globally. The mobile experience takes the endless mood-based music feeds from the Aimi website and adds the option to tweak them to your heart’s content. It’s not a full-bore music making app, more of a tailored soundtrack for when you want a certain vibe, or as Aimi calls them: Experiences. The basic app will be free, but unlocking the majority of those controls will cost $10 a month.
The app offers experiences with names such as Serenity, Flow, Electronica and Push. Each gives a clear hint at what the vibe is and there are 10 of them at launch. The slowest, Serenity, starts at 64 BPM and they ratchet up to Push’s time-honored throb of 128 BPM.
As a listener, you could just open one of the experiences, tap play and go about your business. The idea being that if what the app serves you up isn’t quite what you wanted, you can mash the shuffle button and it’ll reconfigure the track with new sounds and energy. Or maybe you liked it, so there’s a thumbs-up option to tell it “more of this please.” That’s the most basic use case, which is also the extent of the free tier – but you can take it a few steps further with a subscription.
For premium users, once you have an experience playing, swiping left will give much more detailed control. The first screen shows a cluster of circles, each one labeled after a musical part (Beats, FX, Bass and so on). Hold down one of these circles and, as long as it’s active, it’ll solo just that part. If you tap a circle, you’ll enter a sub menu where you can adjust the volume of that part along with a shuffle option for just that element and more thumbs up/down.
If you swipe left one more time, you’ll find a selection of sliders which can vary from experience to experience, but tend to include “Intensity,” “Progression,” “Vocals” and “Texture.” It’s here that you can tell the app to do things like add a little intensity, mix things up more often or deliver more/less vocals. The changes are usually quite subtle - it’s more re-adjusting than remixing. These settings are remembered, too, so the next time you fire up that experience it’ll be to your taste. Or, at least the taste you had the last time you listened to it.
All the music on offer here is of the electronic variety. And despite the relatively wide range of BPMs, there’s definitely a thread that runs through them. That’s to say, this isn’t genre-hopping in the sense that you might want a Hip Hop vibe before moving over to some Indie and back to EDM. It’s more like being at a large House club with different areas with different BPMs along with a few well-stocked chill out rooms.
According to the company, the musical loops in Aimi are created by a pool of over 150 artists including some big names like Carl Cox. Once the loops are fed into the platform, AI takes over to match the pitch, BPM and general vibe. Theoretically, you have an endless radio station of music you can interact with, and the library is set to keep growing over time. Let’s hope that includes some other genres. Hip Hop and anything with a breakbeat would instantly provide a shot of different energy here, for example. Likewise, something on the more acoustic side of things would at least provide an option for those less into electronic music.
Generative music has seen an increase of interest in recent years as technology has developed enough to make it more fluid than just burping up clips that are in time and key. Mostly this has been focused on the headspace area, meditative apps, concentration soundtracks and so on. Aimi’s main rivals here would include Endel ($15 a month) and Brain.fm ($7 a month).
While Aimi does occupy this space too, its emphasis on interactivity with its mood-based streams sets it apart. In fact, Aimi CEO, Edward Balassanian, sees it as a gateway for the musically curious. “One of the strengths of generative music is that we can use it to attract casual listeners with continuous music experiences and then introduce them to interactive music by letting them take ownership of their music experience.” he told Engadget.
This hints at a broader plan. Right now there’s the linear player on Aimi.fm and the new interactive app launching today. In the future, there will also be Aimi Studio, which Balassanian says will be released this summer. “Once we get you hooked on interacting with music through our player, we want you to feel inspired to try making music using Aimi studio. Aimi studio will be offered in both basic and pro editions for everyone from aspiring amateurs to professionals.” he added.
I’m uncertain if this will appeal to users that use something like Note by Ableton or Maschine by Native Instruments. The actual amount of impact you can have on the music in Aimi is very limited as your effectively just giving nudges to the AI rather than being directly hands on. Likewise, the section of the app where you can solo parts isn’t immediate, this means if you were hoping to remix on the fly DJ-style by cutting the bass and beats before dropping them back in on the next phrase, it’s not really designed for that.
Likewise, sometimes you can find yourself distracted by the thing that’s meant to help you focus. When I tried the “Flow” stream, the first “idea” it presented was actually a bit irritating to me, so it served the opposite purpose. Of course, I could shuffle it to something more agreeable, but the irony of being taken out of the moment, even if just temporarily, was not wasted on me.
To that end, it’s hard to see where the interactive arm of Aimi excels, at least at launch. The genres, while varied, do overlap quite a bit. The control you have over the music is quite gentle in the scheme of things and feels more like fine-tuning than an actual creator tool. The core experience of listening to chill vibes is a great alternative to your tired Spotify playlist, but that part is free and has been available in some form for a while.
Balassanian says that even more experiences from more artists will be coming after launch and once the Studio app is released anyone will be able to make loops and upload them to the platform for users to enjoy. In the meantime, you can sign up for early beta access here and start configuring your own soundtrack today.