Expedition 2017
an ongoing exploration of electronic music


2017 Q42017 Q32017 Q22017 Q1Interstitial2016


#DateTitleTimeDescription
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145Jul 1 Cairbow
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:49 We're into the second half of the year now, which means a slight refresh on the logo, new web page, and... really not a lot else except another song.

("Song?" Sure. I've been calling them "tracks" out of habit, but decided that if taiko pieces are "songs" and whales and birds have songs, I can too no matter how abstract they get. So. Song 145.)

Knobcon is still a ways off, but finding myself frequently short of envelopes and unlikely to be able to snag a Just Friends at a price I like, I'm selling off my 2hp LFO for a Frequency Central System X Envelope, and taking advantage of an Independence Day sale to pick up a Befaco Rampage (which rarely seem to be sold by people who have them, which is a good sign). The latter might or might not lead to selling off the Mini-Slew, since it's basically two of those plus some other goodies in one module; or it might also lead to deciding to replace the Ornament & Crime with other envelope modules. We shall see.

Voice 1: 0-Coast, with the slope section (looping at randomized rates per note) gated by Zlob Dual VCA before modulating Overtone. SerumFX, Replika, Presswerk VSTs.

Voice 2: Disting's new wavetable osc mode, with table position and Sputnik LPG modulated by O_C envelopes. WOW2 filter VST with envelope follower.

Voice 3: Tides, with slope modulated by combined Mini-Slew envelope and Kermit LFO; Smoothness from Mini-Slew envelope; Sputnik LPG from O_C envelope. Also through Rings as a delay/reverb octave-shifted by MTransformer.
146Jul 2 Mlem Blar
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:06 This one is 5/4 time (not unusual for me) with weird swing settings (more unusual). I never really feel like I'm missing anything by sequencing stuff in Maschine rather than in modular, other than the opportunity to use up a lot of rack space and spend a lot more to have less flexible results.

Voice 1: Three Sisters self-oscillating and self-FMing, through O_C-controlled Sputnik VCA. Transient Master, REFO-D, TB Equalizer.

Voice 2: Synchrodyne PLL2 Tri through Warps wavefolder and Sputnik LPG. Fold amount and LPG controlled by O_C envelopes.

Voice 3: Serum & ValhallaPlate.

Voice 4: Disting wavetable osc with Mini-Slew for modulation & VCA, through Sputnik VCF with fixed frequency, and MTransformer.

Noise: Fnord VST through FilterBank3, Maschine Freq Shifter & TB Equalizer.

Barricade on the master channel; MTransformer and PianoVerb2 in post-production.
147Jul 4 Trolled by Geese LOL
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:37 Geese, man. They're the worst.

Noise: Detunized Noises Universal "Noise_pulses" through Maschine FM FX, Valhalla Vintage Verb, TB Equalizer.

Chirps/Beeps: Chipsounds VST.

Voice 1: Disting mk4 in wavetable VCO mode, with table position and Sputnik LPG modulated by Frequency Central System X Envelope. (Very snappy and easy to dial in -- I may have to get 2-3 more and replace my Ornament & Crime or actually use other apps besides Piqued.)

Voice 2: Tides into Rings (sympathetic strings mode). Kermit LFOs modulated Tides slope and Rings position. Mini Slew envelope modulates two Sputnik LPGs channel (stereo). Valhalla Vintage Verb & Syntorus.

Voice 3: Microbrute, with filter FM from Synchrodyne PLL2 triangle, through Sputnik LPG controlled by the Microbrute's own envelope. SerumFX for distortion, compression, chorus and EQ.
148Jul 6 Soliloquy
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:30 The title of this song never looks like it's spelled correctly. Thanks a lot, Shakespeare.

This is a few individual bars of improv on the Maschine pads, using a cross-section of the Japanese scale which I always find pleasant for this sort of trilling solo. Then the snippets are repeated and shifted and superimposed a bit.

The main part of the voice is Tides, amplitude modulating a folded Warps sine using Zlob Dual VCA.

A1: Through Sputnik LPG, Thrillseeker, ValhallaRoom.
A2: A1 also through Echobode, sidechain compressed against A, Uhbik tremolo, ValhallaPlate and SerumFX.
B: Through Freez, Dubstation 2 and TB EQ.

Rampage is modulating Tides smoothness and the LPG for A, and gating Freez and the System X envelope which controls the LPG for B.

Disting wavetable mode transposed down 12 octaves into LFO range, with position itself modulated by Kermit LFO, modulates Tides slope. The other Kermit LFO modulates Warps' wavefolding amount.

Recorded twice to get different modulation phases, and mixed them at different stereo positions in post-production.
149Jul 9 Strommish
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:33 As I work on optimizing and focusing my modular system more toward the kind of music I want to make and the way I want to make it, I think about the role of each module and whether I might be better served by something else. Here I'm using Rings, which I keep thinking I might want to let go of sometime (and then keep finding new fun things to do with it) and Kermit, which might seem redundant after Twin Waves especially with Disting's excellent wavetable (but then I get sounds of it that make me value it all the more).

Voice 1: Disting mk4 wavetable VCO through Three Sisters (all filters) and Zlob dual VCA. SystemX Envelope controls VCA, filter cutoff and table position. Transient Master, Barricade, CamelCrusher, EchoMelt, TB EQ.

Voice 2: 0-Coast, with Slope modulated by tempo-synced Tides, clocked by by 0C's square and modulating its balance. MTransformer and ValhallaRoom.

Voice 3: Rings FMing Warps. Disting's sub square output through Freez with minimum sample rate into Rings input. Rampage controls Rings position & brightness and Sputnik VCA. Barricade, TB EQ and ValhallaRoom.

Voice 4: Both Kermit channels, cross-AMing each other, through Sputnik LPGs in stereo. Dubstation 2 and Vapor.
150Jul 9 Gallerine
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:23 This began with what was going to be a quick experiment. Then I was just going to sketch out the basic melody and let it wait for tomorrow to finish. But here it is, done now. I wonder, if I'd gone to bed and finished it early before work, or after getting home, how different it would be in mood and detail? We'll never know.

Main voice: Kermit through DPLPG, into Rings in sympathetic strings mode, duophonic. Rampage modulates DPLPG & Rings position. Through Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA in combo mode, modulated by System X Envelope. Barricade, ET-301 and ValhallaRoom VSTs.

Bass: Microbrute, with its filter allowed to whine and drift a bit.
151Jul 10 Nihilartikel
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:50 A "nihilartikel" is a fictitious entry in a reference work, used to identify unauthorized copying and protect the IP. Sometimes they accidentally wind up in common usage.

The rhythm here really isn't as complicated as it might seem; it's just a matter of accents falling in unusual places. I let it swing some, after having tried it straight, extremely swingy, everything in between and even changing throughout the track.

I've been using Disting's wavetable oscillator mode so much lately and having great success giving the position CV a bit of envelope -- and realized I've never really done that with Kermit. The content and layout of its (just one, alas) table is a bit less suited to it, but still can be fruitful.

Kermit's strength is more in its noisy, aliasing character and its cross-modulation, more so than as a normal wavetable VCO. That's what might save it when it's got both Disting and Twin Waves for competition. We'll see.

Voice 1: Kermit through Sputnik VCF, into Warps wavefolder. System X Envelope modulates all of the above. Permut8, SplitDelay (my own noisy glitchy delay), ValhallaPlate.

Voice 2: Serum.

Voice 3: Rings in 4x polyphony, inharmonic string mode, with Freez used as a noise source. Mini-Slew as envelope and VCA (also modulating Rings position). Barricade VST.

Voice 4: 0-Coast, with Slope EOC giving it a little FM bump. ValhallaRoom.
Jul 13 Bonus/surprise blog entry time! I'm stopping to recognize the musical turning point that I have been navigating. It's not a sudden thing but a serious of realizations and a process spanning several weeks.

I started this year's project as an exploration of unfamiliar synthesis techniques and finding out how that would affect my musical style. I've reached a point now where the survey has been done and I've identified the promising areas I want to settle and develop, and the wastelands and quagmires I'd rather avoid.

The genre of my music will probably forever wander between ambient flavors and "abstract electronica" with various influences, but I have a stronger sense of musical direction than ever before. (Note this has not affected my abysmal navigational/geographical sense...)

I talk about equipment a lot here, because (A) it's easier to articulate the material and technical than aesthetic, artistic and spiritual ideas that elude language, and (B) I want to keep an informal record of what I've used, how I used it, and what I thought about it. So I'll talk about how I'm changing my gear around a bit to better accomodate the music I want to make.

I wasn't completely satisfied with my envelope generators before, but I picked up System X Envelope, then Rampage, then traded my Ornament & Crime for a Sinclastic Empulatrix. The latter is currently in transit, but I already feel happier with the situation. O&C was powerful but not the friendliest thing to use and I couldn't always dial in just the right levels and curves. That's not a problem anymore.

So my focus turns to sound sources. The hallmarks of my sound have tended to be FM (both clean and dirty), AM (ditto), wavefolding, wavetables (of a certain kind), LPGs, and audio-rate use of slope generators. I want to focus on that, but not get too redundant or narrow.

The Synchrodyne & Expand don't quite fit into my model and take up a lot of panel space for the use I've been putting them to, so I've sold it. I'll put the much smaller Doepfer PLL in so I can keep a touch of useful chaos, and the Klavis Twin Waves I'd planned to buy in celebration of an expected pay raise. It caught my eye when it was announced a few months ago, everyone says it's a gem and it gets better with every update.

I've really enjoyed using the Disting mk4's wavetable mode with tables I created in Serum, my favorite VST synth -- it's a great combo with the modulation I can throw at it and running through an LPG. So to take that much, much further, I've pre-ordered a Synth Tech E352 Cloud Terrarium, which will ship in about a month. It flew under my radar until recently because I thought of it as a new version of a module I don't care about much -- but the features on this one seem to have been targetted exactly at what I want. The editing software that comes with it goes well beyond Serum for sophistication and ease, too. I can easily see this becoming the heart of my modular system and brushing other modules aside.

I fully expect that, if the Twin Waves doesn't make my Kermit feel obsolete, the E352 is likely to. I like its sound, but am not a fan of its single, fixed wavetable which usually doesn't take kindly to modulation, and limited FM dexterity. But I might hold on to it anyway, we'll see.

That will leave basically an entire row of space left in my rack. I have a small list of modules I want to try in person at Knobcon in mid-September -- mostly it looks like a Noise Engineering vs. Make Noise battle, with the advantage leaning toward Make Noise simply because Cloud Terrarium is likely to become emperor over the digital space. I expect I might add one or two major modules as a result of Knobcon if I don't acquire them right then, perhaps another filter or LPG, and maybe a "cookie" module (something small, cheap, nonessential but fun and cool) or two. Most likely there'll still be space in the rack as 2017 closes.

I know my musical output has slowed a little. Three whole days between songs? Gasp! But it's summer, which I dislike, and we have a new hot tub, which I *do* like, and I've been organizing and experimenting and plotting and not always recording. Things are generally okay though!
152Jul 13 Soup Generation
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:50 Soup Generation? We overheard an entertaining waiter at our favorite pasta place saying that to another table the other day and made us chortle. Do millenials eat more soup than Gen-Xers or Boomers, instead of "salad days?" Or does it refer to the production of soup? We may never know.

I decided that, since I'm selling Synchrodyne + Expand, I might as well use the bits of it I like while it's still installed. And right as I finished typing that paragraph, I got an offer on that, so hey, swan song!

Also, more *slightly* crazy things to do with Tides, and more Kermit as stereo happiness maker.

Voice 1: Arcsyn VST. I'm still finding stuff in it I didn't realize was there. I'm looking forward to version 2 features that will let me modulate effect settings, coming... real soon now I'm sure.

Voice 2: Synchrodyne Expand's pulse output side by side with its PLL output. PWM, PLL disruption and two Sputnik LPG channels controlled by Rampage. Valhalla Plate.

Voice 3: Tides, with slope modulated at audio rates by Warps with a fixed frequency sawtooth tuned to the root of the scale. Through Freez at low sample rate, with the trigger tickled by random noise from EON.

Voice 4: Phosphor VST.

Voice 5: Both Kermit channels, in stereo, with waveshape modulated slightly by System X Envelope and gate multed directly to thw other two LPG channels. Space360 reverb with virtual speaker positions modulated in wobbly little loops.
153Jul 14 Filled With Numbers
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:53 Whenever I'm feeling glum about my ability to express myself in words, I just think of the dumb things that some famous, widely admired (and frankly kind of overrated but shhh, you didn't here that) musicians have said. For example:

"All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you." That was Prince.

Bob Dylan, on the other hand, complained that records had "sound all over them."

Voice 1: Serum.

Voice 2: 3 Sisters as a sync and FM source for Tides, modulated by System X Envelope. Permut8, G8 Gate, Transient Master, ValhallaVintageVerb.

Voice 3: ArcSyn, Valhalla Plate.

Voice 4: A rhythmic noise sample I made some time ago called "breathe", and ValhallaRoom.

Voice 5: EON as square VCO driving both Rampage channels at audio rates. Mini-Slew envelope modulates one channel's Exp CV and two Sputnik LPG channels. Transient Master, SerumFX (phaser, compressor and reverb), ET-301 and TB Equalizer.

Voice 6: Toms/Kick/noise generated by 0-Coast. Kombinat Dva, ValhallaRoom and Presswerk.
154Jul 15 Doubly Charged, Doubly Charmed
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:28 I have a note here that says "a thing to try: Disting T&H." I have finished three songs now without trying Disting T&H. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This one is dedicated to the physicists at the Large Hadron Collider who recently discovered the doubly-charged doubly-charmed Xi baryon. I actually have very little idea what that means, but hey, good for them! It's probably a mostly boring career punctuated by stuff like this, which the media reports poorly to the likes of us, who still don't get it. But I can relate to that.

It uses the Sinclastic Empulatrix that I got in a trade. It's an AD envelope generator that would be really plain, except (A) it's super clicky at maximum speeds, which is sometimes cool and (B) it has a VCA built in that clips sound or control voltages that run through it, changing their character, and (C) the "gate" input can take other control voltages to control that VCA, including other audio signals. I wouldn't want a bunch of these as my only envelope generators, but it's certainly cool to have *one* in the rack.

It's very clippy.



Voice 1: EON square oscillator triggering Rampage. Comparator output through SincEmp into Dubstation 2, and Max output through Sputnik LPG triggered by SincEmp's envelope, into ShaperBox.

Voice 2: 0-Coast through BX Blue Chorus and EchoMelt (just one note until later in the song).

Voice 3 (noise percussion): ByteBeater.

Voice 4: Microbrute.
155Jul 16 Cordon
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:31 Not much to say here, just more ambient stuff and more Rings-not-sounding-like-Rings.

Let the record show, I had some doubts about this one earlier on, changed a couple of things and still have some minor doubts about it. But honestly, I think it's not bad. Perhaps next year I'll continue this same process for making music, but go back to an album format and release just the best of it. Whether this would make it onto such an album I don't know, but I'm not ashamed of it or anything.

Voice 1: Rings in duophonic, inharmonic string mode, with input from Kermit sawtooth. Position modulated by Kermit LFO. Odd output through Sinclastic Empulatrix; Odd output through Sputnik LPG, mixed in stereo. MTransfomer, SerumFX, TB EQ, ValhallaPlate.

Voice 2: Serum.
156Jul 17 Lazyblink
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:02 Gonna mark this as from 7/17 because I was *almost* done before midnight. Sort of. It's still Monday somewhere west of here anyway.

The new toys that partially replace the Synchrodyne + Expand came in. Neither is quite what I expected, but both are pretty awesome. The Klavis Twin Waves isn't really much like Kermit (despite both being dual digital VCO/LFOs), and is definitely not much like a West Coast complex oscillator. It doesn't do clean, clear FM; it can do noisy subtle FM or in-your-face brutal distortiony FM or weird craziness. Its sync stuff is pretty clever, and the potential to cross-modulate its two sides (given a little extra help from attenuators and VCAs) puts it well into the territory of Noise Engineering's digitally shrieking cybernetic banshees. But it also does basic synth stuff solidly as well as offering me some sounds I didn't have in my rack before that aren't totally skull-melting. It's a win.

The Doepfer A-196 PLL is not much like the ones I (sort of) got used to in Synchrodyne. It doesn't multiply or divide frequencies without some external help. It's more open to patching than the main PLL, *differently* open from the expander's second PLL, and easily generates weird squeaks and bubbles and chirps and drones as well as things that more or less track an incoming signal. Just using the phase comparator to derive a new signal from two others, without the normal PLL function, gives it entirely new uses.

Talking about patching things like the Rampage, the Synchrodyne when I had it, the new PLL and even cross-patching shenanigans and multiple modes with Twin Wave makes me wonder if I should back off on the detail some. I rarely use these notes to try to recreate something exactly, but writing it down helps me remember techniques in general, if not specifically.

Voice 1: Rampage generates multiple envelopes and gates, and triggers Disting in quantized shift register mode to create pitches. The shift register is locked down to repeat its pattern. Pitch goes to EON in square VCO mode, which goes to Warps (vocoder) input 2 and to the A-196 PLL for mangling. The PLL's phase comparator runs through an LPG pinged by Rampage, before returning to control the PLL's pitch.

1A: PLL pulse output into Warps input 1; Warps output through Sputnik LPG.
1B: PLL slewed PC output runs through Sinclastic Empulatrix.

ValhallaPlate and Barricade.

Voice 2: Klavis Twin Waves. Osc1 soft syncs and Osc2 hard syncs to EON. Each is running the self-sync sine algorithm, modulated by a Rampage-triggered System X Envelope, through both channels of Zlob Dual VCA, mixed in stereo, into ValhallaRoom and Barricade.
157Jul 19 Monkey Mind Meld
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:06 "Monkey Mind" is a Buddhist description for what is pretty much the default human state -- jumping from one thought to another, restless, distracted, worried, capricious.

I feel like some modules/synths have natural allies, and some that are a bit uneasy together. 0-Coast and Twin Waves are a bit like that. Personality clashes, you know. Twin Waves wants to cut loose and tear holes in the spacetime continuum, and 0-Coast wants a stable partner while it negotiates its own path between order and chaos. But I teamed them up anyway.

Meanwhile I let Tides warble and go nuts, but it just did not want to sit down and be a comfortable part of the mix. We fought to a draw; it settled down a little bit but I sustained a bloody nose in the process.

Serum is always a good citizen. <3. In fact, Forum People have been bashing Serum again with useless adjectives and accusations of CPU hoggery, and it tempted me to make an extended series of Serum-only tracks. But see: XKCD, "Duty Calls."

Voice 1: 0-Coast interpatched with Twin Waves.
Voice 2: Serum & ValhallaRoom.
Voice 3: Tides modulated by Kermit, through Sinclastic Empulatrix and a little filtering from Sputnik QVCFA. ValhallaPlate, TB EQ, ET-301.
Voice 4: Serum.
158Jul 20 Barking Sphere
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:18 The title I'm using came from the neural network blog, but reminds me of a certain politician who might as well be a mysterious orb emitting incomprehensible, nonsensical noises for no reason other than to capture public attention. So, yeah, there's a bit of my ire in here.

Really, the floating orb thing would be an improvement. It would probably be less out of touch with our reality and thus not make as many terrible decisions, and it would have a better reason than "rich and spoiled" for acting less civilized than humans would.

Voice 1: Tides synced to A-196 driven by EON; FM from Warps; DPLPG w/SysX Env. Transient Master, TB EQ & ValhallaPlate.
Voice 2: 0-Coast with Rings.
Voice 3: Both Twin Waves oscs with 2 FMing 1, and 1 synced to EON. Through Sputnik LPG and then Sinclastic Empulatrix for distortion; Rampage for modulation. ValhallaRoom, TB EQ.
159Jul 20 Oobleck
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:46 There's nothing particularly non-Newtonian about this song. Nor was anyone named Bartholomew involved, although I do have some objection to this weather.

It may not sound particularly twisty, but it's in 15/8 time.

Voice 1: 0-Coast and Disting wavetable osc.
Voice 2: Twin Waves, with quad saw and synced bit saw. SysX Env & Rampage for modulation and Sputnik LPG control. Ratshack Reverb and SerumFX.
Voice 3: Both Kermit channels AMing each other, one through Freez for extra bit reduction, through Sputnik LPG controlled by Rampage. Dubstation 2.
Voice 4: ArcSyn.
160Jul 25 The Face of Time
(MP3) (YouTube)
5:59 Last night I made a track that wound up disappointing me. I think if it's something I'd done last year, I'd have added some drums and polished it into something or other not too different from some of my other tracks at the time. But with this new focus, it just didn't hit me the right way and I did something I've done very little in the last couple of years: I set it aside in a "nope" folder.

There's a second, and more esoteric phase of my musical refocusing: to consistently put purpose and intent into the music, beyond making it for music's sake. I started off my serious music-making in 2005 with albums about and for the gods of ancient Egypt. Over time that shfited to other purposes, then to "because I like making music and I'm pretty okay at it," and to "because I actually like listening to the stuff that I've made and want more of it" with rarer other ideas bouncing around in the ol' brain-meat. Those Other Ideas are taking over. But I won't always, or probably even often, tell those stories in words -- that's what the music is for.

My output might slow down a little. I've missed a few days between a fight with tinnitus and quality control, and I may miss a few more due to an upcoming side project. But that's okay. It's not a race, and I've long since achieved the thing I wanted to acheive when I started pouring music out weekly last year.

I actually thought about changing the format, right here in the middle of 2017. Stopping the finish-in-one-session-and-release-immediately thing, not calling anything else "Expedition", and moving back to an album format. But nah, I like what this is doing for me.

This track was going to be called "The Flavor of Time" -- a dual reference to alleged perceptual/temporal side-effects of a particularly sharp cheese, and an item that amused me in Diablo III. But it got a bit more serious -- those Other Ideas, y'know -- and now it's a face.

Chimes: a couple instances of Korg Wavestation, one with Chipcrusher.
Tentative violin-ish thing: Rhythmic Robot Spark Gap into ValhallaPlate.
Crashing waves: two noise parts from Disting mk4 on separate envelopes, into TB Flx and ValhallaPlate, with an FX send of SerumFX, Decimort, MTransformer, and more ValhallaPlate.
Main voice: 0-Coast and Twin Waves, with unsynced modulation from Rampage. ValhallaPlate and MTransformer for a bit of 7ths doubling.
Bass pad: Tides, Sinclastic Empulatrix and Three Sisters, into Valhalla UberMod.
Inharmonic sparkles: The second Twin Waves voice, synced to 0-Coast but modulated by Kermit envelopes.
161Jul 28 Just One Shenanigan
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:53 Keeping the patch notes minimal this time because I'm beta-testing something and it's unclear how much I should reveal. After a couple of nights spent in intense bug-hunting, testing capabilities, comparisons etc. it's nice to just make some music with it like I normally would. (And that too is an important test.)

So I've got it doing the ... monophonic pluck/bonk...thing...? Monoplonk? I really need a better name for that class of sound. It's become a major feature in my musical style but I don't know what to call it.

Voice 1: The test subject.
Voice 2: Also the test subject, through Echobode.
Voice 3: 0-Coast bass.
Voice 4: Kermit pads.
Thrillseeker XTC, ValhallaRoom and Barricade on the master channel.
162Aug 5 Hit Reset
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:17 Happy New Year!

Since I've been putting demos of it up on SoundCloud, I might as well go ahead and say it's the SynthTech E352 Cloud Terrarium I've been beta testing. I'll need to send this beta unit along to the next tester pretty soon, and it'll be a few weeks before the "real" one ships -- but I know it's going to have a prominent place in my music. Very powerful, capable of all kinds of awesomeness and it fits very well with what I want to do. As I'm showing here.

After several demos (and a lot of general fiddling with it, trying to break the firmware, testing the boundaries, figuring out some cool tricks, and getting a better handle on wavetable design), I'm happy now to return to making music my way. If music is like poetry, then gear demos are like writing code. It's still an essentially creative act and individual style does come through, but there are other priorities that have to come first.

Voice 1: E352 Cloud Terrarium in FM mode. Custom wavetable through enveloped LPG and Valhalla Plate; triangle through triggered LPG, 2hp Comb and ET-301 VST.

Voice 2: 0-Coast with square triggering Rampage, slope into Exp CV. 0C triangle modulates its balance. SerumFX VST.

Voice 3: Kermit into Rings (inharmonic string mode), Valhalla Room.

Voice 4: Microbrute with Tides FMing the filter. Permut8 VST.
---E352 Demos My 2016 project was interrupted in the summer to do a couple of remixes for St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. This year the interruption was much shorter, for beta teesting and demos of the SynthTech E352 Cloud Terrarium. Here are the demos for it which I've posted elsewhere.

E352 Wavefold vs Warps: Probably the least fun of these demos, it compares the Morph+Fold mode of the E352 vs. doing the wavefolding in Mutable Instruments Warps. Mostly the point was to show that the E352's folder is really good, despite some peoples' fears of harshness based on looking at screenshots of scopes. Doing the test actually made me a bit disappointed in Warps, previously one of my favorite modules. It might be voted off the island after my E352 is installed.

Cloud+Morph SelfMod: The E352 in Cloud+Morph mode. The two outputs are set to ROM B and ROM C banks, and panned slightly apart in stereo. There's a moderate amount of oscillator spread and a small amount of chaos with a wide bandwidth. Output2 is mixed at a low level with a slow sweep, morphing both wavetables simultaneously. A light touch of Valhalla Plate.

Foldtri: The closest to the style of music I've been making lately. E352 in Morph+Fold mode. The main voice is ROM C, with the table position modulated by an envelope and a sequence, through an LPG. The extra bits are a wavefolded triangle from the other output, through another LPG and 2hp Freez.

Mayhem: Morph+Phase mode, with medium glitch and no phase interpolation. We're listening to output 2, playing ROM C. Tides is clocked by E352 output 1 (a square) and modulated by Kermit and a gate sequence; it modulates the phase of output 2. Klavis Twin Waves modulates the attenuation at audio rates (AM), and an envelope modulates the wavetable position. Complex stuff! Heavy use of Valhalla Vintage Verb.

Custom Phase: Morph+Phase mode, using a custom wavetable made in SynthTech's WaveEdit software, on both outputs. Output 2's phase is modulated by a sawtooth LFO, and the two outputs are crossfaded in Disting under audio rate control from Tides.

Delirious: Cloud+Morph mode, with two custom wavetables. The spread is set high to play a cluster, and slowly modulated for a bit of drunken detuning. One of the wavetables is a series of harmonically ascending squarewaves. Glitch is set high most of the time, and the pitch sequence is slewed in Rampage.
163Aug 6 Bring It
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:59 "A change to a new type of music is something to beware of as a hazard of all our fortunes. For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling the most fundamental political and social conventions." - Plato

Goals.

This one is similar to the "Queen Slime" patch, where the humble EON drives a bunch of approximate frequency multiplications and divisions. In that case it was Mini Slew and the 0-Coast Slope section doing division, Synchrodyne multiplying, and Tides and Kermit doing both.

This time it's A-196 PLL trying to make the E352 track, despite some disruption from an envelope into the FM input. The A-196's own oscillator and the second output of E352, using a wavetable with higher octave squares, are what we hear. Tides multiplies the E352's first output, and Rampage divides the second. All four go through Sputnik LPG channels. I've got SerumFX on one and mda Subsynth on another, plus Fault, Turnado (not animated even though that's what it's for) and Valhalla Room.
164Aug 8 Step Away
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:40 The last song was a challenge (not as in difficult, as in an invitation). This is the opposite of that.

Sometimes it's best to just step away. Close the browser tab. Leave the beehive alone. Don't explain to that dude why his favorite band sucks. Don't threaten the tinpot dictator who has brand-new nuclear missiles and an itchy trigger finger. That sort of thing.

Voice 1: 0-Coast into 2hp Comb. I'm still kind of getting the hang of Comb and am not sure whether I'll keep it in the long run, because this is kind of one of the only things it does well for me. ThrillseekerXTC, Purp (a harmonic distortion plugin I wrote) and Maximizer. Also, 0-Coast straight into ValhallaPlate.

Voice 2: Fnord (a multi-algorithm digital noise VST I wrote) into CamelCrusher and ValhallaPlate.

Voice 3: E352 Out1 through DPLPG and Out2 through Sinclastic Empulatrix.
165Aug 9 Vehicle
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:45 A vehicle, of course, is a platform that carries other stuff somewhere. Like an song that, abstract or not, carries hidden or not-so-hidden intent, or a carrier wave ridden by a modulating wave as in FM synthesis (or radio... but it's unlikely you're hearing this on a radio).

Voice 1: E352 in Morph+Fold mode. Out 1 saw into FM Aid Carrier input; Out 2 custom wavetable into FM Aid Mod input. Envelopes modulate wavetable morph, out2 fold amount, and FM Aid amount. FM Aid Saw out through Sputnik LPG, ValhallaVintageVerb; FM Aid Sine out through Freez, Sinclastic Empulatrix, Syntorus & ET-301.

Voice 2: Twin Waves, both voices, through Sputnik LPG channels. MHarmonizerCM, JCM900, SerumFX.

Voice 3: Glass Viper VST (possibly the first time I've used it in a recording, though I've had it for years).

Some pitch-shifted reverse reverb (PianoVerb 2) added in in post-production.
166Aug 12 IFF
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:08 Two world "leaders" -- unstable, insecure, egomaniacal and trying to act tough -- are threatening nuclear war. The White House is staffed by conspiracy theorists wailing about "cultural Marxism", while actual Nazis pepper-spray and burn counter-protesters with torches.

I'm making music, praying for peace, sanity, decency, and justice, and keeping despair and horror at bay.

Gear is, again, easier to talk about. The E352 beta unit has gone back to its maker, and it'll be a few weeks before the "real" one arrives with a black panel and a working Sync input jack. In the near future I might be tapped to test a different module -- a giant monolith of awesome that isn't something I ever planned on getting, nearly the size of all my remaining rack space. If I grow attached and decide I must have one, it'd displace a lot of my current modules for reasons of size, budget and function. Not a likely change, but it's got me thinking about how to streamline anyway.

Meanwhile I'm getting to know FM Aid a bit better. It's an analog module that nevertheless gets very close to the "Chowning FM" (or phase modulation, really) of the famous DX7. An X-Acto knife, compared to the hacksaw of linear FM or chainsaw of exponential FM. But conversely, the FM Aid adds its own spikes and dirt and character to the output -- particularly when the input is already full of "character", as with the Kermit.

I have a Circuit Abbey G8 on the way -- a small clock divider and binary counter, with a CV mode that chooses which of its digital outputs to turn on based on the incoming voltage. While I don't need it for sequencing purposes, there are all kinds of other tricks it can pull.

I find I have an increasingly solid idea of what else I want in this rack. The biggest question I hope to answer at Knobcon is about how I get along with Mutable Instruments Frames -- its size excludes some other possibilities, but it's something that many people find underrated and incredible, and others just don't get along with. Other than that, it's mostly trying a few things to see if there's something I've missed or something I can drop from my plan.

The song:

Voice 1: One Kermit channel modulating the other in FM Aid; Rampage envelope for FM amount and System X Envelope for LPG CV. Replika VST.
Voice 2: Microbrute through CamelCrusher VST.
Voice 3: Noise drums generated with extreme FM in Twin Waves, through Sinclastic Empulatrix.
Voice 4: Bass/plucks in 0-Coast, with a gate controlling the triangle/folded balance.
Voice 5: Arcsyn through ValhallaPlate.
167Aug 12 Scratch the Surface
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:33 Some more not-happy, but therapeutic music.

I recorded this one a bit like how NI seems to imagine Maschine, especially Maschine Jam, is used. Patterns already set up, and I switched between them "live" during recording rather than sequencing it all into a predetermined song.

The recent release of Intellijel Plonk has me... not really interested in getting a Plonk to be honest, but playing a bit more with Chromaphone, its plugin predecessor. To me they dropped the ball with the Plonk design, but it's a boon to people who like having one sound source flip through a lot of stuff and create a whole percussion track on its own. I'd rather feed external audio sources through its resonator models -- which are, if less clean and shiny than Rings, varied and detailed and pretty cool -- but they didn't provide for that. I really haven't used Chromaphone much since getting Rings, but it's still got some merit.

And what better reverb to go with those two than a piano resonator model? Resonate all the things!

Voice 1: Rings, 4x polyphony, sympathetic strings mode, into FM Aid with CV over envelope. Brightness, damping, FM and FM CV amounts manually wiggled.

Voice 2: Chromaphone 2 & Valhalla Plate.

Pianoverb added in post.
168Aug 15 Open Eye, Taut String
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:28 The world watches. Not me specifically, but all of us individually and collectively are watchers and watched.

As of tonight I have both a module and a plugin named G8. One is a clock divider, the other a noise gate. Clock dividers are "normally" used for rhythmic variations and synchronizing multiple sequencers, but since I do my sequencing on the computer, I picked it up for harmonic division and more esoteric purposes. Somehow, if you patch it between a PLL's VCO out and its phase comparator, divisions become multiplication. It can also generate slightly weird sync signals from oscillators, flip things on and off and other fun stuff to be discovered.

Voice 1: Twin Waves pulse, PWMd by envelope. Into A-196 PLL with G8 as multiplier, except I'm mixing two of G8's outputs and using G8's "and" trigger mode instead of gate, so things are a little more complicated. TW and PLL outputs through Sputnik LPG. MTransformer (with a triggered envelope adding some spectral jitter), and Ubermod and ET-301 as delays.

Voice 2: Rings in Karplusverb mode, with one output through Freez, mixed with the other. Korvpressor to really put the pinch on and raise the noise floor, yes on purpose. SerumFX to add some deep detuning (mixed in low), Sandman Pro to add some shifted, dirty feedback and ValhallaRoom; a second effects send with MTransformer bringing out noise and suppressing the fundamental, EchoMelt and ValhallaPlate making it droopy like a Dali clock.

Voice 3: 0-Coast, FMd by Kermit, feeding a square through FM Aid and getting a triangle back for its mix input. Ratshack Reverb.
169Aug 16 The Tricycle & the Bicycle
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:66 Thesis, antithesis, and parenthesis.

After playing a bit more with G8, it turns out that modular sequencing can be pretty fun after all -- if much more limited than DAW sequencing. In my experiments I just used 3x MIA to set note pitches, which imposes even more limits -- I'll need either a dedicated small mixer or (probably better) the Intermix expander made for the job, if I'm going to do much of it in the future.

Meanwhile, using the clock divider with MIDI sequences from the DAW isn't a bad thing after all, as I found here.

Voice 1 (A, B, C, & D): Different combinations of Tides, Kermit, Three Sisters through Sputnik LPG, as controlled by G8 divisions of gates from the DAW. Rampage and Mini-Slew envelopes and a direct vactrol ping. Dubstation 2 and Protoverb.

Voice 2: Two Twin Waves quad-saws into FM Aid, sine out. Sinclastic Empulatrix over Param1 and the Out2-FM Mod path, System X envelope over the CV amount and VCA. ValhallaRoom with the predelay set to match the tempo.
170Aug 18 Clearer Skies
(MP3) (YouTube)
5:48 I'm feeling a bit more optimistic today, like there are metaphorically clearer skies to come. Maybe a few wispy clouds and colorful balloons, not too much heat or humidity, a nice breeze and a refreshing glass of iced tea, and all the colors faded around the edges a little bit in a cozy Polaroid way that's hopefully not too hipstery.

I hope for literally clear skies coming too, for the best Great Eclipse experience.

President Turnip losing more white supremacist staffers, predictions that there will be mutual backstabbing between them and chaos and soul-searching among his racist, misogynist, xenophobic, misinformed and frankly embarrassing base, and predictions that Turnip himself will "resign and declare victory" soon plus simply having the day off work have led me to this happy place.

This sort of mellow cheeriness and hope calls for a sort of retro FM sound, the sound of Atari arcade consoles around 1984-1985. I love that stuff for some reason, but then all kinds of FM is pretty spiffy if you ask me.

I had stopped using Warps since the E352 beta, and had already kind of tapered off using it as much as I once did. I was thinking about selling it, but its TZPM has a different, sparkling character than Rings FM mode, FM Aid, actual frequency modulation, the ridiculous versions implemented in Twin Waves, etc. so it stays -- for now. I'll evaluate it again when the real E352 is in place.

Voice 1: Warps, PMd by both Kermit voices (one of them AMing the other) except at the start (though I think the slight noisy fuzz to it is some of that leaking in anyway). Some notes have some wavefolding going on, modulated by Tides. Sputnik LPG, Valhalla Vintage Verb. (This is not the "sparkling" character I was talking about. Kermit's output is dirty, in the best way, and that's why I'm holding onto it.)

Voice 2: Rings in 2-op FM mode, 4x polyphony (which I often forget works in FM mode!), Sputnik LPG. The FM ratio is sequenced by G8/3xMIA. Replika and Valhalla Vintage Verb.
171Aug 18 Speculative Warnings
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:50 It is a sign of our times, perhaps, that every piece of news that seems to be good carries the possibility that it's some clever strategy against us; that the idiot cartoon villains in the driver's seat of this country are secretly some kind of evil geniuses after all and worse is to come. And there have been so many "they don't have long now before justice prevails" stories that hold out false hope, that it is a bit scary to hold out any for more promising news. Our collective trauma makes it increasingly difficult to tell reasonable caution and rational fear apart from paranoia.

See the song notes for 170, though -- I still am more hopeful now. This is just an observation really, and a sort of ward against both paranoia and premature optimism.

Voice 1: Twin Waves square output triggering Tides, which is set to a fixed frequency (so different clock rates will result in different timbres). TW sync-tri output into Tides slope. Low Tide output, gated by the sequence, feeds back to TW hard sync. Through Three Sisters, Sputnik LPG, WOW2 VST and ET-301 delay.

Voice 2: ArcSyn, through Chipcrusher, Diode1, SerumFX.
172Aug 19 Myzori
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:22 Not a pun on Missouri, but a bit of obscure RPG lore. A constellation of five stars with religious significance, each with names and epithets like "the most revered, the most protected," and so on. The one that got my attention was "the most amazed," implying that amazement is a blessing to be valued as much as divine protection and love. Which I agree with, but it's not really a sentiment you see stated very often.

Voice 1: Both sides of Twin Waves, crossfaded via LFO; one is resonant noise and the other unison saw. Through a gentle Sinclastic Empulatrix envelope into Rings input, in Karplusverb mode (which I just learned today actually IS a Karplus-Strong implementation, not the same modal resonator set as the other modes with different frequency groupings). MTransformer and ValhallaPlate VSTs.

Voice 2: Kermit, AMd by Tides. Multed into Sputnik LPG and through Freez into another Sputnik LPG channel. Dubstation, Transient Master, SerumFX, Valhalla UberMod.
173Aug 22 Apex
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:53 We traveled a couple of hours to a winery in a small Missouri town to see the 2017 total solar eclipse. It was a strange, dreamlike, profound, beautiful, wonder-inducing experience. (It was also really hot and humid, and a little awkward trying to view it safely and take decent photographs too.) I was expecting awesomeness but really wasn't prepared for those few moments of totality.

This music really doesn't capture the experience at all, but I accept that some things are not possible and all I can do is hint in that direction.

Voice 1: Microbrute, SerumFX, ValhallaPlate. The wandering nature of the pitch here is caused by the "Brute Factor" filter, which isn't being modulated at all except by the volume and frequency of its input.

Voice 2: 0-Coast, Warps, Rampage and a VCA in a tight little knot.

Voice 3: One Kermit channel AMing the other through Freez; Sputnik LPG.
174Aug 25 Teaw Mos Tilypsronvynkor
(MP3) (YouTube)
7:50 The universe is a deeply weird place. We are equipped to perceive a tiny fraction of it. We filter and process most of what we perceive. We ignore and forget most of what we process. We categorize and generalize and distort what we notice and remember. We make up our own stories and models and theories to explain the few data points we have. The universe probably has a lot less meaning than we credit it with, but his is how we survive, and how we accidentally invented civilization.

Sometimes we perceive, or imagine, what the universe is like backstage. In the dusty corners of the machine rooms, the labyrinths of our own brains, the churning of particles that appear and disappear too quickly to exist in time, the dream-words in unknown languages that we can neither translate nor forget.

...I might be overdoing this.

H.P. Lovecraft wrote of "terrifying vistas of reality" and the comfort of ignorance. But I think regular reminders of how much lies beyond, below, or behind our own limited viewpoint is extremely healthy. Occasional moments of stunned wonderment at the universe are good for the soul. Realization that we are wrong about almost everything can bring humility and make life's difficulties easier to accept. And half-glimpses of things that cannot be seen can lubricate our creativity.

Voice 1: Tides through Three Sisters, with filter FM'd by Kermit. Or perhaps it was Kermit through Sisters FMd by Tides? One of those -- I am making notes from memory after tearing down the patch. Ratshack Reverb, Valhalla Room, Replika VSTs.

Voice 2: The other Kermit channel, through Tides in Karplusverb mode, 4x polyphony. BassLane to allow some stereo panning without pulling it too far off center.
175Aug 26 Bronze Shield
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:10 Protection, for those who need it, against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or actual slings and arrows.

Voice 1: 0-Coast, Uhbik-P phaser VST.
Voice 2: Twin Waves unison saw through Sinclastic Empulatrix, Three Sisters, FMd by 0-Coast final output. ValhallaPlate VST.
Voice 3: Korg Legacy Collection Polysix, ET-301.
Voice 4: Twin Waves ringmod voice through FM Aid, Sputnik LPG, Rings in sympathetic strings mode.
176Aug 31 Inevitables
(MP3) (YouTube)
5:10 Some forces simply carry out that which must happen.

This is their story.

Voice 1: Tides, modulated by Rampage, feeding Grendel Formant Filter which is modulated by synced Kermit LFOs. ET-301 delay VST.

Voice 2: Rings, modulated by 0-Coast slope and fed by Three Sisters self-oscillating. The sequence is from G8/3xMIA clocked by the MIDI clock independent of transport start, so it's a bit loose in both the time and pitch dimensions. ValhallaPlate VST.
177Sep 2 Upon the Grass
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:27 The weather was absolutely lovely this evening for sitting on the grass and watching St. Louis Osuwa Taiko at the Japanese Festival.

That was a pleasant diversion from exploring another pleasant diversion: trying out the Hertz Donut mk2 and Frames which arrived today.

Frames is something every modular synth could benefit from -- controlling, mixing or routing (or a combination) four things from a single source, using keyframe animation concepts. Or sequencing, or other things if I get a bit fancier with it. Mostly, I expect I'll do as I did here: turning one envelope into four related but different controls.

Donut is a flexible and powerful pair of oscillators, but I'm not certain about its character yet. I understood right away why some people don't seem to get along with it. It is, essentially, an FM-centric oscillator but a dirty digital one that doesn't seem to settle down into where I might like, at least at the moment. It calls for more exploration for sure, but I might find a replaciement as early as Knobcon next weekend.

Voice 1 (and what might sound like 1b): ADSR x velocity into Frames' frame input. Ch1 controls Donut's primary sine output through DPLPG (and into ValhallaPlate VST); 2 controls the mod bus (for FM amount and self-phase modulation); 3 acts as a VCA for the modulator triangle output (and into ET-301 VST); 4 modulates waveform discontinuity. Overall, note velocity in the sequence controls how much the deeper voice comes in, whether it sustains or just "bonks" and how much dirt is applied.

Voice 2: 0-Coast, with Overtone modulated by the Donut's modulator square output, through Ratshack Reverb.
178Sep 3 Citrus
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:17 Citrus fruits can be tart and spiky, just like a sore throat can be spiky, and Hertz Donut is spiky. Hopefully the first of these things will help me fight off the second, while I play with the third.

I happened to see something about using Hertz Donut for the sort of weird percussive stuff that Basimilus Iteritas and Loquelic Iteritas Percido are made for, and since I'm getting to know the Donut anyway, I figured I'd give it a shot. A lot of the variation here is happening because of Stupid Mode tracking, and antagonistic cross-FM combined with sync. A fast envelope (sometimes lengthened by G8 into Rampage Fall CV) hits the mod bus for FM and tracking speed, and Rampage's comparator pokes the V/OCT input for the modulator. Discontunity is in orange mode and turned to about 3 o'clock. Modulator sine output through Zlob Dual VCA. Thrillseeker, ValhallaRoom and Presswerk.

The gong/snare/thing is Rings in inharmonic string mode, with a pitch envelope. Slow LFOs into Brightness and Structure to vary the hits. Transient Master VST to emphasize the attack a bit.

The lead is Microbrute, with sub input modulated by Tides. MWaveFolder and SerumFX.
179Sep 4 Lime Pink
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:31 Another one that's short and sweet. A bit tart, too... like artificial candy flavors clashing.

This is a 3-part sequence in Frames Parasite, controlling the two Hertz Donut oscillators and Rings. Triggers are from Maschine, and envelopes and gates generated in Rampage control amplitude as well as Donut FM on the mod bus and Rings position.

There's also an 0-Coast part sequenced in Maschine, mixed with the Donut ringmod output through Grendel Formant Filter, mediated by Mystic Circuits 0HP Vactrol LPG.
180Sep 4 Phasic
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:00 I have two levels of psuedo-polyrhythms happening here, without, technically, any polyrhythms. Frames in sequencer mode is alternating between three steps, varying the sound of the main voice and providing accents every third note regardless of whre in the beat it may fall. The melody itself suggests a four-bar phrase where the fourth bar of one cycle also happens to be the first bar of the next.

This phase slippage suggests the sorts of phases that nature and most aspects of our lives go through, ever-changing.

Voice 1: Hertz Donut, with Frames alternating between its own FM and Three Sisters filter FM as well as varying the discontinuity amount. Ye trusty Sputnik LPG.

Voice 2: Both Kermit channels AMing each other in stereo, through BassLane (to rein in the stereo spread a little in low to mid-low ranges so it sounds wide but not off-center) and ValhallaRoom.

Voice 3: 0-Coast with Tides, delayed and glitched with Dubstation and Permut8 VSTs.

Voice 4: Microbrute on approximate hi-hats, with G8 Gate VST in flipped mode and Space360 providing movement.
181Sep 5 Out of Frame
(MP3) (YouTube)
1:33 Another short one. I can't help it, apparently.

Has anyone else noticed that things are just sort of... askew? Not normal? Since about November 2016. Maybe for a while before that. Yeah. Me too.

Voice 1: Hertz Donut FMd by three Three Sisters sines, with a touch of "red mode" discontinuity on the mod bus, through Sputnik LPG. ValhallaRoom.

Voice 2: 0-Coast through SerumFX and EchoMelt.

Voice 3a: Tides, with Slope and Level modulated by Rampage, through my own Octave Riot plugin.

Voice 3b: Low Tide output through A-196 PLL with G8 clock divider in its loop, through Sputnik LPG and ET-301 delay VST.
182Sep 6 Carapace
(MP3) (YouTube)
5:17 Recently I've been hit, as they say, by the Cosmic 2x4 -- a set of signs, coincidences, clues, and so on that lead to introspection and maybe beyond to change or action. (And if not, sometimes introspection is enough.)

My spouse has recently been keeping some tiny blue shrimp. The only way they can grow is to shed their carapace -- to break out of their shell, quite literally. They have to do it over and over throughout their lives, just to survive.

I think all of us have to do the same, in a metaphorical sense. (Unless actual crustaceans are reading this, in which case, I for one welcome our new crustacean overlords.)

Voice 1: Hertz Donut, Tides, Kermit: Tides syncs the Donut modulator, which FMs the primary. Kermit modulates the discontinuity at audio rate, and Tides' Smoothness at LFO rate. Through Sputnik LPG, and then into Rings as a quasi-reverb, FMd by Donut's modulator.

Voice 2: Kermit's channel 1 through Mini-Slew as envelope/VCA, through MWaveFolder, SerumFX and ValhallaPlate.

I'm getting quite comfortable with Hertz Donut, and am no longer thinking in terms of "look for an alternative at Knobcon" though I'll still check out its major rival out of curiosity. All my modules have to keep proving themselves -- gotta shed that old carapace when it no longer fits, after all.
183Sep 7 Going On An Adventure
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:59 Tomorrow I head to Chicagoland for Knobcon, my first synth meet of any kind. My first exposure to any modular synth gear that isn't my own (aside from the E352 beta), and a whole bunch of people who design and play them.

I'm not a very social animal really, but I hope to try out a bunch of gear, learn a lot, see some awesome performances, have lots of fun, and come home with a little new gear and a clearer plan for future module trades.

My personal history with modular synths has gone through a few stages, marked mostly by absorbing experience with different techniques and kinds of gear. I expect Knobcon will begin another such stage. So unless I record a couple of laptop-only songs in the hotel this weekend, this song probably marks the end of a small era. I thought it fitting to pull in the Microbrute and Rings as well as a software synth as I did in my first few weeks with modular synthesis.

Foolishly, I tore the patch down before I remembered to take notes. But generally:

Voice 1: Microbrute. Max LFO rate and amount with the ramp wave has some weird side effects; I'm playing long steady notes into it, no sort of rhythmic modulation or gating. Valhalla Room and Transient Master.

Voice 2: Serum, into Valhalla UberMod and Plate.

Voice 3: 0-Coast syncing and FMing Hertz Donut, with the Donut modulator affecting 0C's balance. Echobode and EOS 2.

Voice 4: Rings, FMd and AMd by Kermit, with Structure and Position warbled by Rampage. Vapor, Transient Master, Valhalla Vintage Verb.
--Sep 11 Foiled Again
(MP3)
1:01 Back from Knobcon with my E352, plus a Noise Engineering Cursus Iteritas, Intellijel uFold II, a pretty good initial take on several other modules I was curious about, a little wider perspective and some knowledge. And a lot of fatigue!

Knobcon was a milestone I chose in advance because I knew I'd learn some things and was likely to pick up some gear. Now that it has passed, my plan for the next few months is:

1. Really get to know the deep, complex modules I've picked up recently.
2. Explore advanced techniques with more basic building blocks.
3. Don't acquire anything else that will distract from the above two. (This is a bit flexible.)
4. Trim back modules I have that are redundant, little-used, or whose functions are better handled by something else.
5. Keep making music, of course!

So, the track: I'm not counting this one as part of the project, but here's a ditty I put together while getting to know my new Cursus Iteritas.

Separate sequences control the Cursus and Hertz Donut, which is just providing a sync signal. This technique worked pretty well, and I'll make a note to revisit it later.

Fold is sometimes engaged with a gate by the sequence, and Tilt by clock divisions of the note triggers. Edge is envelope-modulated.

The output goes two places: through Sinclastic Empulatrix (the envelope source), and through uFold (with Fold amount set by the same envelope) into pinged Sputnik LPG. Both go through Basslane, ET-301, Thrillseeker XTC and Barricade.
184Sep 12 Swamped
(MP3) (YouTube)
4:58 The title references many things: the political; one that shouldn't political but has been made so because people have made it so for their benefit; one rather literal; one having to do with fatigue and emotions recently; one having to do with our society's collective mental health in these times. So I went for a watery, humid, noisy, slow, swampy feel.

Voice 1: a sample of a wind turbine by Detunized, slowed and processed in several plugins.

Voice 2: another wind turbine sample from the same set, filtered and processed until it's just a collection of clicks, which are further processed.

Voice 3: E352 in Morph+Phase mode with interpolation disabled, using a custom wavetable. The phase and attenuation are slowly wobbled by two interacting Kermit LFOs, while the morph CV is enveloped. Both outputs mixed, run through a VCA and then into Disting CV delay algorithm modulated by 2HP LFO, and then into the DAW. (So effectively, it's running through two very different phaser stages.)
3A: Sonitex STX-1260 to pull out most of the noise and grunge things up a little bit more, Dubstation and Valhalla Plate.
3B: Speaker and TB Equalizer VST to distort the higher frequency noise and mix some back in.

Voice 4: Hertz Donut, with the modulator slightly wiggled by one of the Kermit LFOs, some FM and rather heavy "green mode" discontinuity, through Three Sisters bandpass and Sputnik LPG. Frostbite and TB Equalizer VSTs.

Voice 5: Cursus Iteritas in Fourier mode, with Struct modulated by envelope, through Mini Slew as EG/VCA. SerumFX.

Voice 6: Night Flight VST.

(Watching Suit & Tie Guy's set at the Knobcon reception, and playing with the new Korg Vox Continental remake, has me thinking about 70s string machines and organs. I've been thinking about picking up a Waldorf Streichfett sometime down the road if I can find a used one at a good price, and trying to decide if it makes more sense just to use Night Flight. Something tells me the alternative workflow I crave from playing a hardware poly synth might depend on it having its own keyboard, which would be an interesting space challenge given my setup. A lot more thought is required here. In the meantime, Night Flight is really quite good...)
185Sep 13 A Plan Comes Together
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:26 I might be on a psuedo-retro kick for a while yet, or anyway, a different one from what I often am on.

I had the basic concept for this track figured out last night when I worked out the next several months of my synth plan in more detail. Which I wrote up at some length, but the quick version:

Phase 1: The main push is to master the deep, complex new stuff I have. I'll clear out a couple of modules that don't inspire me, add a Jones O'Tool analyzer (giving me more detailed, convenient and varied insights than the small oscilloscope I've often used to solve signal mysteries) and swap out my current LPG modules for a couple of awesome new ones coming soon. Otherwise, I don't want to pick up any more sound sources or software that'll distract me from current gear.

Phase 2: Try out a couple of retro polysynth emulations if I'm still so inclined. Check out VCV Rack, which could either be a total game-changer (integrating software with hardware modules interchangeably), an extra voice or two, or at least a way to try a couple of modules and possibly get some patch ideas. Most likely, pick up Basimilus Iteritas Alter and a second filter (it's weird that I really just have one filter, but that's the West Coast synthesis influence). Perhaps other control options, or a Mangrove, or I don't know what.

Yep, plan coming together! As for this song:

Voice 1: Each Kermit channel FMs a Hertz Donut oscillator, runs through Sputnik LPG in stereo into TB Equalizer and ValhallaPlate. A little bit of cross-AM in Kermit and mod bus tracking/AM in Donut help to dirty it up.

Voice 2: Arturia Analog Lab 2, Vox Continental, "Just 4' Rev" through Uhbik-Q EQ and (sometimes) Syntorus.

Voice 3: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, doing a simple detuned overdriven sine, chaos increasing with note pitch, through Sputnik LPG. The E352 is an extremely versatile beast, but I'm consciously trying to find ways to use it that aren't the obvious "massive wavetable morph cloud drone beast". Keeping the waves simple and the cloud oscs down to 2 certainly does that while emphasizing the whole retro thing.

Voice 4: 0-Coast, using its Slope generator at audio rates, mediated by a Rampage envelope, to sort of AM/RM the balance. Valhalla Room. Also split to JCM900 amp sim/reverb, and ET-301 delay.
186Sep 14 Let the Rains Come
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:20 Not torrential rain and floods, please, but a nice, gentle, fresh, cleansing, cooling rain.

Although, immediately after naming this track I learned that meteorologists are expecting a better than even chance La Niña will bring a colder, snowier winter. Not quite what I had in mind either.

But at least let's have some metaphorical showers to wash away the dust and gunk and make the world shiny.

...there's probably already a song out there with this title. I didn't check. If so, it's a coincidence. If not: FIRST! :)

Voice 1: Tides through uFold II. Symmetry is intentionally set way off-center so it depends on an envelope increasing the fold amount to let the oscillator through, so there's no separate VCA or LPG. SerumFX (chorus), ValhallaRoom, TB EQ. Another effects send with MHarmonizerCM, ValhallaRoom, Dubstation 2.

Voice 2: 0-Coast with guest Cursus Iteritas. Daubechies mode, which I thought just a couple of days ago was by far my least favorite of its three, but it has its sweet spots for sure. 0C Slope modulates the Center just a little bit. ET-301 delay and TB EQ.

Voice 3: E352 Cloud+Morph mode with two different wavetables stereo panned. A little morphing with the slow envelope.

Voice 4: PPG Wave 2V.

Voice 5: Chipspeech through D-Pole (ring modulation and some filtering), Superfake (chorus), TB EQ, Valhalla Ubermod (fake reverse reverb).

Voices 3, 4, and 5 go together through ValhallaPlate.
187Sep 17 All Together, Separately
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:12 Those with similar goals but different methods should each do what they do best, and not get too distracted criticizing their allies.

Like the three parts in this song, each playing the same melody but in their own unique ways.

Voice 1: Cursus Iteritas, Fourier mode, with Width and Edge envelopes and an LFO over Tilt. Through two Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA channels mixed, one VCF and one VCA. Permut8 and Mangleverb VSTs.

Voice 2: 0-Coast, with that same LFO modulating Overtone. Fault VST.

Voice 3: Tides, with an ADSR into Frames controlling the blend of Bi and Uni outputs as well as Shape and Slope modulation. Through Disting in Stereo Chorus mode.
188Sep 18 Trails
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:45 It's time for another two-part drone! This one's for contemplating the marks our passage leaves on the landscape and the marks the landscape leaves on us.

Part one is E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, with two different attempts I made tonight at translating Kermit's wavetables to WaveEdit, panned in stereo. Cloud+Morph can be used for... not quite chords really but playing an interval or cluster, as long you're patient with tuning by knob. Rampage modulates the Morph parameter as well as slowly wobbling the Spread.

Part two is Cursus Iteritas, with a Rampage envelope slewed more by Mini-Slew into Center, and a Rampage gate driving System X Envelope into Structure. Pitch is manually played via the big Frames knob set to an octave, and also the pitch knob itself.

Valhalla Plate and standard mastering effects.
189Sep 20 A Doubt
(MP3) (YouTube)
6:27 Hooray for creepy apotropaic ambient!

Rings in Karplusverb, duophonic mode. Odd output through Freez to Disting MS reverb model. Left output back into Rings feedback, and both into DAW, with Valhalla Plate.

E352 down at low LFO range, with rate modulated by 2hp LFO, modulates Rings position and Freez sample rate.

Manual wiggling of several parameters, Freez trigger, and occasional notes played.
190Sep 21 Rolling Along
(MP3) (YouTube)
7:02 This started as an experiment with Disting's clocked delay getting irregular note triggers rather than a steady beat... and as things often do, it kept rolling along, gathering no moss but a bunch of other stuff, until it was a song.

Voice 1a: Hertz Donut doing its usual FM/wavefolding goodness, through Sputnik LPG into Disting clocked delay (which is getting note triggers rather than a strictly regular clock). Permut8, Echobode, Basslane VSTs.

Voice 1b: Split from the Sputnik LPG, to Freez for some repeats on one recorded take, and no repeats but sample reduction on the other. The two takes are crossfaded in post-production.

Voice 2: Cursus Iteritas, with Frames as VCA and as modulation programmer driven by System X Envelope. Replika delay, TB EQ and Valhalla Room VSTs.

Voice 3: E352 in morph+phase mode with a custom wavetable. Both outputs mixed, through uFold with symmetry set far enough off-center to be silent until its Fold CV is poke with an envelope. Phase offset and wavetable morph are modulated by Rampage, Kermit noise tickles the amplitude and Kermit LFO gives it a little vibrato. Through EchoMelt, Potty Mouth (my own chorus plugin), ValhallaPlate and SerumFX phaser.
--- E370 Demos Over the last week, I've had the privelege of being the first beta tester of the Synthesis Technology E370 Quad Morphing VCO. It's a monster of a module, almost like four E352s in one with flexible parameter assignment, internal mixer, thru-zero linear FM, and sample playback and chord modes. Not everything was quite ready or fully functional during my test round, but it's mostly there and seriously impressive.



It's a heavyweight: large, expensive, but extremely powerful and a smart choice for a larger scale system, or as the central point of a more focused rack. I thought about replacing a large swath of my rack with one, but decided I'd have to give up too many quirky and unique modules to get there. But I enjoyed being able to play with one for a few days, spot a few bugs, and record some demos in which I hoped to show some of its versatility:

Four Clouds: All four voices are in Cloud mode with just 2 oscs each (options are 2, 4, or 8). Each is set to a different wave bank I created or converted using the free WaveEdit software. Each voice is set to independent frequency, wavetable position control and cloud spread control; cloud chaos and chaos bandwidth are all set to 0.
2 Kermit LFOs, a complex shape from an E352 wavetable, and a 2HP LFO are patched to the four CV X inputs, modulating table positions.
Three Sisters is self-resonating to produce a sine for the FM 1 input, which all four voices are assigned to use in Linear/Medium mode.
E370 outputs are mixed in Frames, with two channels panned a little left and two a little right. Some light Valhalla Room is applied.

Four Samplers: The Synthesis Technology E370 has an unnannounced new mode -- very simple sample playback which can use any wave bank in ROM or loaded from SD card as a buffer. There's live control over start position and length as well as rate/pitch, and an option to play in one-shot or looped mode, retriggered from the voice's assigned SYNC input.
In this quick demo I set up four sampler voices with a 1-second Mellotron choir sample, a NASA public domain recording, an 808-like kick sample, and a wave bank of vowel sounds. All are in looping mode and I'm just manually messing with the rates, start times and lengths. The only effect I added was a 12kHz notch filter to remove some whine caused by the uZeus power supply in my test skiff. (Powered by my main rack, this noise is not present.)

Drumkit:
Clave: E370 Sampler mode, with an 808-like kick drum sample loaded. Sample is triggered through Sync input, and output runs directly into DAW.
Kick: E370 Morph+Wavefold mode, using a custom wavebank that morphs from a clean sine through saturation to a square wave. Envelopes from Rampage into Z morph, FM input and Zlob Dual VCA.
Snare: E370 clocked noise. Mini-Slew envelope into FM & VCA.
Cymbal: E370 2-Op FM mode with wave ROM C, through Sinclastic Empulatrix.
Sequenced in Maschine, manually wiggled. Compression and light reverb added in DAW.

Stereo Resonant Noise:
Lead/rhythm part: SynthTech E370 Voices 1 & 2 in Filtered Noise mode, in stereo through Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA in LPG mode. ValhallaRoom reverb VST.
Glitchy background chimes: E370 Voice 3 in 2-Op FM mode, with ROM bank C. It's playing in unison with the lead part, but the output is set to the modulator, and FM Ratio and wavetable morph are both modulated by velocity CV. Through Sinclastic Empulatrix, then ArcDev ET-301 delay VST.
Pad: SynthTech E352 in Morph+Fold mode. Output 1 (triangle) modulates the wavetable morph of Output 2's custom bank. An envelope modulates output 1's fold amount, and an envelope plus LFO modulate Output 2's fold amount.
16ths part: E370 voice 4 in Cloud mode (4 oscs) with a custom bank, through DPLPG, with an envelope modulating the wavetable morph.

Four Phase Drone: A noisy drone where all four E370 voices are in Morph+Phase mode, running at the same frequency, but where phase modulation and sync fight each other.
We're listening to E370 Voice 1, which is the 808 kick sample I used in the "sampler" mode demo. As its Z morph value increases its amplitude decreases.
Voice 2 (ROM A) modulates voice 1's phase, and its own phase is modulated by an external VCO (which has its own amplitude modulated by a synced LFO).
Voice 3 (square) is patched to voice 2 sync, and its own phase is modulated by a synced external LFO.
Voice 4 (ROM B) has a clock patched to its sync, and modulates voice 1's morph.

Patterned Walk: Self-patching the E370.
Voice 1 is set to Morph+Fold, ROM B, with Glitch high. Its Z morph is modulated by voice 3 (an LFO using ROM B).
Voice 2 is set to 2-Op FM, at the same frequency, but with the output set to Modulator so its ratio can be modulated via CV in harmonic steps. Its Z morph is modulated by voice 4 (a sawtooth LFO), and its ratio is modulated by voice 1.
Voice 1 and 2 outputs mixed in Frames, and a little ET-301 delay VST added.
Where it breaks away from the pattern and gets more random, it's because I'm manually turning voice 1's morph knob and not giving it a chance to just cycle on its own.

.   .   .   .   .


With the module on its way to the next tester, I'll be back to making my own music, and refining my technique and gear. I've traded the FM Aid, Grendel Formant Filter and Twin Waves for a Jones O'Tool Plus (dual oscilloscope, level meter, spectrum analyzer, tuner etc.) which should give me more visual insight into things and a bit more accuracy than the pocket oscilloscope that has helped me figure out some confusing behavior and signals, as well as a Doepfer A-102 Steiner diode VCF much like the one in the Microbrute.

I'll be considering trading my Microbrute for a Yamaha Reface CS sometime, which I found quite charming when I played it. The filter is really the Microbrute's soul, and a modular version will give me better access to that... soul. Not sure this metaphor works.

Maybe sooner than that, I expect I'll switch my Rampage out for a Make Noise's Contour and Function, and my Sputnik QVCFA for a Rabid Elephant Natural Gate and Make Noise Dynamix. With basically half an 0-Coast in the rack, then, I'll consider whether some other small semi-modular might suit better than the 0-Coast (but I'm guessing no; it's pretty special).

Aside from the last corner of space I'll have left in my rack -- perhaps going to a Mangrove and some small utility, or perhaps something else will suggest itself first -- I am going to put any futher gear expansion on hold until at least summer 2018. That's just an arbitrary time choice and I don't really have a plan for more gear. Anything else would still have to fit in the space available, which means I'm not suddenly going to collect a pile of Jupiter 8s or something.
191Sep 29 Palate Cleanser
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:53 I made this one almost exactly the same way I make my drones... except for the bit where it's got rhythm.

No sequencing as such, but Mini-Slew acts as master clock and envelope generator. Circuit Abbey G8 in integer mode divides EOR pulses from the Mini-Slew, affecting the mini-Slew's Fall and FM CVs, which alters the rhythm; it also gates various other CVs including pitch, and triggers an additional envelope.

One voice is Hertz Donut through Sinclastic Empulatrix, with mda SubSynth and my Sawmill waveshaper VST.

The other voice is Cursus Iteritas through Sputnik LPG, multed through Freez, into CamelCrusher and ValhallaPlate VSTs.

Frames controls the mix and Freez's sample rate.
192Sep 29 Increment
(MP3) (YouTube)
2:36 That's one more.

I don't like being angry about things that aren't really worth the energy, including peoples' behavior in traffic. I'm a big fan of arriving at my destination as much as 15 seconds later if it means being civil and safe and not driving like I'm trying to prove my superiority. Not everyone is, though. So in an attempt to detach from that a bit, I got myself a mechanical tally counter. Instead of getting mad, I just click the counter to acknowledge the presence of asshattery and get on with my day. It actually does help make my commute more tolerable, though I admit some people "earn" multiple clicks.

One thing it's made me realize is there aren't *that* many jerks out there. I mean, it seems like my city is full of people who aren't aware their car even has headlights, or what those funny red octagons beside the road are for. And there's always That One Guy (or two or three). But in percentage terms, it's really pretty low.

None of this was really in my mind as I put this song together. I was thinking more in vague terms of marking periodic accomplishments or stages of things. A natural thought when I finished two songs in an evening where i thought about just going to bed early. :)

Voice 1: Cursus Iteritas through uFold (with very subtle settings) and 0-Coast, into Echobode VST. It was originally just Cursus, then I decided to play with the 0-Coast's Contour and Dynamics sections since I'm considering the module versions, then decided to go ahead and have the 0C oscillator join in anyway.

Voice 2: Microbrute being charmingly weird, through Chipcrusher, Dubstation 2 and ValhallaRoom. The things this synth can do make me rethink replacing it, but don't stop me also wanting the Reface CS. A compromise may have to be struck.

Voice 3: E352 in Morph+Phase mode, with output 1 through an enveloped LPG modulating the phase offset, through another LPG. SerumFX and ValhallaPlate.
193Sep 30 Left Justify
(MP3) (YouTube)
3:27 I apologize for the name of the song -- I'm trying to justify either keeping or trading Cursus Iteritas, and it happens to be on the left side of my rack. That's all there is to it.

Cursus has some sweet spots and some cool bits. I also feel like I have to fight with it a bit more than most to get sounds out of it that are both unique and in the range of things I like. I think it deserves some more exploration, but if I don't get more comfortable with it, I'm likely to replace it.

Voice 1: Cursus Iteritas, with Center modulated by Hertz Donut through Sinclastic Empulatrix. EchoMelt, Valhalla Plate.

Voice 2: Three Sisters self-oscillating in crossover mode; All output through uFold and Mini-Slew as envelope/VCA.

Voice 3: Rings in modal mode, FMd by Kermit. Wow2, Syntorus and ValhallaRoom.

Voice 4: Microbrute.
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Check out my older musical projects:
Falls A Star
Lotus Wire

contact: atswhelly@mail.star-thief.net

All music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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