Not long ago, “portable” was basically a synonym for “toy” when it came to keyboards and synthesizers. Sure, a classic Casio like the VL-1 is not without its charms. But it’s not exactly a serious musical instrument. That’s changed a lot in recent years, partially due to miniaturization and clever engineering but mostly thanks to the relentless march forward of computing power. Perhaps no device is more emblematic of this than Critter & Guitari’s Organelle. It is, at its core, a computer, and I don’t mean that in the same broadly defined way that almost all electronics are computers. I mean that inside there’s a Raspberry Pi running Linux.
It’s this fact that makes the Organelle so unique and flexible. Unlike other portable music gadgets, like the Pocket Operator, that focus on being a drum machine or a sampler, the Organelle tries to be all the things. It’s a synthesizer, a sampler, a sequencer, an effects processor — almost anything someone with the right coding skills can dream up. But there is a danger in trying to be a jack-of-all-trades: You often end up as a master of none.