LiveSlice ($64) from Danish software developer Jacob Carstens is a beat slicer and audio file munger for Windows that's both powerful and easy to use. You choose an audio file or pipe audio into its Slicer in real time, specify how you want the audio sliced, then click on a button to transfer the slices to a track in its built-in Arranger for further processing and playback. The Slicer holds up to 64 loops, and each of LiveSlice's 64 arrangements holds as many as 32 tracks. You play MIDI notes to trigger whole arrangements or individual slices.
LiveSlice offers both fixed-length and threshold slicing. Fixed-length slicing, in which all slices have the same length (say, beats or 16th notes), is great when you want to rearrange the elements of a loop, because every slice fits in every slot. Each track has a randomize button that will rearrange its slices in random order. Threshold slicing is best for capturing individual events and preserving timing, and you can even import REX files directly. For example, you might transfer the content of one loop into slices obtained by threshold slicing from another loop.
Once you've added some tracks to an arrangement, you have a variety of tools for munging their slices. You can reverse, pitch-shift, and stretch any slice. You can alter its volume, volume envelope, and pan settings. Possibly most interesting, you can set the probability that the slice will play. You can randomize each of those parameters independently, and you can set the range of randomization. For instance, you could randomize the probability of each slice within a range of 90 to 100 percent to give you occasional dropouts with little likelihood of long gaps. Stretch is one of my favorite parameters to randomize because it adds an echoing quality to some slices (see Web Clip 1).
You can purchase LiveSlice or download a demo complete with examples from the LiveLab Web site (www.livelab.dk). While there, have a look at the free Touchpad 2, which turns the touch pad on your laptop into a MIDI x-y controller. If you enjoy messing with loops, LiveSlice is for you.