Conor McCann has made lots of wonderful digital toys recently. Black Gold was one of them—a game that let you ruminate on life while sipping cold beer with a friend under the stars. The Echo Initiative was another, which had you keep a lost satellite company as it drifted forever through space. There’s also the reel of playful interactions that McCann made for the Pippin Bar ‘GAME IDEA’ Game Jam, the unimposing frolic that is a few ideas in no particular order.
Now McCann has released a small commercial project called Drone Tone for Halloween. It’s an “ominous sound toy,” meaning that it fits in with everything else that McCann has made this year. The idea is to arrange circles onto points around a shape—with each point having its own distinct sound—in order to create a creepy soundscape. You can control which sounds play but not how often they chime in.
Part of me wishes that I could have total control over how these sounds collaborate. But another part of me enjoys the fiction it implies. It seems no accident that some of the shapes appear like a witch’s hex, as if you’re performing a ritual, summoning spirits or something darker using this sound machine. That the sounds seem to decide when to chime gives them a sense of life; as if they’re callings from the other side of the spirit realm or something. The trailer, as you can watch below, feeds into this idea.
Once you’re satisfied or at least finished playing with a certain shape and its sounds, you can hit a button so that another shape warps into view, bringing with it a new set of sounds. The range of sounds on offer should be ample for you to create the sense of dread you’d want from Drone Tone. There’s a decent mix of pulse hits, industrial wails, and low rumbles, and their default bpm is plenty slow enough for the job.
I could easily imagine some of the arrangements I came up with ramping up the tension during a game of hide and seek between killer and victim in a horror movie. Drone Tone seems especially good at invoking slow movements made of terror—Freddy Krueger dragging his razors across the metal sheets of an abandoned factory type shit. If you want to tap into your darker side then it’s a surefire way of doing that.