Expedition 2017
an ongoing exploration of electronic music


2017 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.


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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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