|6:50||This is all software: u-he Hive through Unfiltered Audio SpecOps and ValhallaPlate, but "performed" and recorded in a similar process to how I record modular drones.|
|195||Oct 3||I Hear Your Bells
The length of these songs has little correlation with the time and effort spent making them...|
Voice 1: E352 Cloud+Morph mode, Z Morph modulated by LFO, Chaos by envelope. Into Sputnik LPG & Valhalla Room.
Voice 2: 0-Coast with mixed Slope+Contour controlling its Dynamics, square into mix input. TB Compressor & Permut8.
Voice 3: Rings sympathetic strings, through Freez with pitch CV into sample rate. SpecOps VST with a touch of Threshold Freeze and Smear and a lot of Noisify with the range modulated by envelope follower.
Voice 4: Tides through Sinclastic Empulatrix.
A couple of firsts in this song: the first time I used all six "main" inputs on my audio interface (the other two are dedicated to 0-Coast and Microbrute).|
My first use of Dopfer A-102 VCF9 Diode Low Pass filter, which is a Steiner-Parker design very much like the one in my Microbrute. A bit more open-ended in some ways, which makes it a little less immediate to work with in some ways, but also more flexible. All kinds of feedback options exist. But the Microbrute also has bandpass and highpass modes, and... right now I'm conflicted about whether I want to keep it, replace it with a Reface CS, or find some clever way to fit two small keyboards in this space.
I would say it was my first use of Jones O'Tool Plus, but really that was more last night as I was discovering what sort of things it could reveal and learning the filter's quirks. It's more of a learning and diagnostic tool than something that gets used in songs, except for some tuning and setup use. Very much worth its rack space though, to be able to see the input and output of a module simultaneously, or hunt down troublesome DC offsets or weird voltage ranges or the like.
Voice 1: Tides into A-102 filter. Filter CVs are from pitch, an envelope, and feedback from the filter output through Gerridae vactrol VCA and Freez. Filter output also feeds back to Tides shape, and goes out through DPLPG and a chain of multiple VST delays.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut through Sputnik LPG, with envelope severely attenuated to keep the LPG from opening very far, through ValhallaPlate and SerumFX ensemble/phaser. Layered with both Kermit channels in stereo, through Superfake chorus VST.
Voice 3: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, with both outputs in stereo thru Zlob dual VCA. Basslane and Monomaker to partially merge them, Echobode and ValhallaRoom for a reverb with perpetually falling pitch.
My new Make Noise stuff arrived today -- Dynamix and Contour as first seen on the 0-Coast, as well as Function. The latter two are replacing my Rampage, with snappier and more flexible envelopes controlled in a manner that makes more intuitive sense to me; Dynamix is half the team that will replace my Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA.|
Since I've had WMD Mini Slew for quite some time, Function isn't too much of a surprise -- but it has a couple of different quirks. It seems to be able to cycle while also holding an input level. It triggers on the falling edge of my 2HP LFO for some reason. EOR is on during the "falling" stage and EOC is on otherwise.
Contour is pretty much exactly what I would expect from the 0-Coast, with the extra CVs and outputs. EOC is on during the "onset" stage and EON is on otherwise. Pretty simple.
Dynamix, on the other hand, is quite a step up from the 0-Coast's Dynamics section. It's dual, with a mix output and aux input. Each half has a an incoming signal level control, a CV level control, and a Dynamic input -- so you can affect just the volume, or volume and brightness together, or compress/expand/bias/waveshape in some ways. It's very flexible and I'll be exploring it for a while.
As an LPG its sound isn't quite as "round" as the Sputnik but that's on picky A/B listening tests and staring at the scope. It's still much more interesting and natural sounding than a basic VCA, I find.
Anyway, the song: named by neural network, which just seemed to fit somehow.
Voice 1: E352 in 2-Op FM mode, with Contour and Dynamix. FilterBank3 & Replika VSTs.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut (also doing FM, plus discontinuity) with Function and Dynamix. ValhallaRoom VST.
Voice 3: 0-Coast with DubStation2 VST.
Arranging modules in a rack is an art with many considerations. They're all different widths, and empty space should usually be consolidated if not reserved specifically. It's nice to keep modules from the same maker together just for aesthetics, and to keep similarly colored panels together. Some modules have displays that are easier to see at eye level than below. It can make sense to keep modules with similar functions grouped together, and there are typical flows from one type of module to another. But there could be arguments for separating functions a bit so the patch cables for each voice tangle with each other less.|
Changing the relative placement of modules has an effect on the feel of using the synth, and a subtle one on the music you make with it. Some people think it's good to just shuffle everything every so often, and occasionally leave important modules out, just to break habits and tease out new techniques.
Unlike a computer RPG, there's no auto-sort button and it's not just a matter of dragging things around. With my last few trades, I opted for the least amount of shuffling to fit everything in -- and that's resulted in a bit of chaos. It's been an interesting lesson, but I think I'm going to have to "fix" it soon.
Onto the song:
Voice 1: Three Sisters self-resonating, through Doepfer A-102 adding a little of its own resonance, through Contour-controlled Dynamix. SpecOps and ValhallaPlate VSTs.
Voice 2: MicroBrute, through BX Blue Chorus and Replika VSTs, with SpecOps and ValhallaPlate on an FX send.
Voice 3: Hertz Donut (through Zlob dual VCA controlled by Function) feeding Rings, with ValhallaVintageVerb. This is some pretty fertile ground that I'll be exploring more in the future, I expect, with a chuckle and a shake of the head at people who say Rings is a one-trick pony.
|199||Oct 8||Windows Open
The temperature's nice, time to air out the house (and play some synths).|
Voice 1: Two squares from Hertz Donut with phase offset by LFO, into Function Trigger and Hang. Through both channels of S.P.O. in serial to offset and amplify it into something closer to normal voltages ranges, then Doepfer A-102 and Dynamix (both controlled by Contour). Transient Master and SpecOps VSTs.
Voice 2: Wurlitzer EP emulation in Arturia Analog Lab 2. MTransformer, ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 3: A respectable synth choir on the E352 using Rom B in Cloud+Morph mode with some chaos, through DPLPG, with ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 4: A slow, mellow, soft pad on 0-Coast with a little sub-octave action from its Slope section.
|200||Oct 8||Gentle Correction
For this song -- my 200th so far in 2017, not counting some module demos -- I took a couple of recent patches and bent them slowly but firmly into a different shape.|
Voice 1: 0-Coast with a similar patch to the previous song, but letting the sub-octave get a little dirtier. MTransformer VST to balance the timbre of the main oscillator above the sub a bit, in a different way than the 0C's own balance control does.
Voice 2: Serum VST, using the BenjPad preset but altered a bit and filtered a lot.
Voice 3: A string-like voice from from Hertz Donut feeding Rings, in 4x polyphonic Karplusverb mode and a somewhat different configuration than the similar patch in "Uluunna." ValhallaVintageVerb.
Ring modulation and white noise are things I don't use as much in my music as some folks do, and I was thinking today I should correct that. So here's a bit of both.|
Voice 1: Tides ring-modulated against Rings, through A-102 filter. Contour provides the envelope for Tides level and shape as well as a little bit of filter cutoff; synced LFOs from Kermit modulate Tides slope and Rings brightness. ValhallaRoom VST.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut FMd by filtered crackle noise from the E352, through Function-controlled Dynamix. Layered with filtered white noise from E352, through Mini-Slew controlled Dynamix. ValhallaUbermod VST.
Voice 3: Pads from PlastiCZ VT through SpecOps and ValhallaVintageVerb.
|202||Oct 12||Blinded by Gold
An apparently angry young man opined (immediately before the post was deleted either by himself or a moderator) that I must be blind, new to modular synths, and an idiot, because I did not agree with his (ahem) "unique" interpretation of a standard modular synthesis term he found in a manual for a synth that he didn't understand how to use.|
It was more amusing and sad (for him) than anything. I've seen Randos Who Think They Know Everything attempt to take down much more knowledgeable people than myself many times. It's not a good look.
So I decided that, with my (ahem) "ignorance" of the synth in question, I should make some music that makes use of the exact thing he was asking about.
One could also reinterpret the title as a condemnation of greed. I'm down with that too.
The track has a particular technical wart, entirely unrelated to the young man's argument, which I've chosen to leave partially intact for the reasons of irony, whimsy, laziness, some sort of artistic notion of staying true to form, and experimentation. Namely, is it going to bug me when I listen to this later, or am I hyperfocused on it right now?
Voice 1: 0-Coast, with Slope cycling and feeding into audio via the Overtone knob, with a separately gated VCA allowing the squarewave osc into Slope trig to sync it. Blockfish and ValhallaVintageVerb VSTs.
Voice 2: Microbrute with CamelCrusher VST.
Noise drum: E352 clocked noise (I just like it better that most other kinds of noise, okay?) through Three Sisters and Contour-controlled Dynamix. ValhallaRoom VST.
Kick drum/owl hoot thing: A-102 filter "pinged" with gates at rhythmically appropriate lengths, with a chain of dynamics/enhancement VSTs and ValhallaVintageVerb. (This is also done wrong, but intentionally so from the start.)
|203||Oct 13||we considered ourselves to be a powerful culture
Voice 1: E352 in Morph+Fold mode, with output 1 modulating output 2's fold amount, Hertz Donut (from voice 2) modulating output 1's fold amount, and Kermit LFO modulating the morph. Through Dynamix as a compressor, then ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut, with the primary osc set to LFO rates, the secondary to low audio. The XOR output FMs the primary osc, and the mod bus is set to discontinuity (orange mode). Triangle output is monitored. EchoMelt VST.
Voice 3: Tides into Rings, set to sympathetic strings mode at a low frequency. 2HP LFO stepped triangle into Position, and constant rapid strumming from Hertz Donut's modulation osc. My Rings has a loose FM jack so I intentionally wiggled the cable into it for some pitch jumps. ValhallaRoom VST.
|204||Oct 14||FLlp0oo2dr ST4rr
For what it's worth, my impression now of "Blinded by Gold" isn't "I should have fixed that thing." Instead, "doesn't fit with the kind of music I want to make now and I should have taken it in a completely different direction or dropped it as a failure." Shorter version: "meh."|
But this song is a song of instability, which seems appropriate for the present day. It's in 6/4 time with a reverse swing applied on every 1/2 note in a doggedly mechanical way. The first voice features an analog, almost organic oscillator which has many threshholds of shifting behavior, a certain unwillingness to play the exact note it's asked, and unbalanced output levels. The second voice is a synth with a filter that's jittery at times and growly at others. The third involves two very precise oscillators but also another one of those crazy filters. The fourth is an extra-quirky digital take on a design originally associated with hippies and academia, set up here in an especially atypical way.
The name is by neural network -- but curated by humans. One human made the list that fed it, set the parameters for generation, and chose which results to share. Another picked it from a list, held onto it for the right occasion, and decided this was that occasion. So in a sense, it's almost as much of a collaboration with machines as my music is.
Voice 1: Mannequins Mangrove in Constant Formant mode, with Contour controlling Air and Barrel and Function modulating Formant, running through a Dynamix channel without additional CV. Function is triggered from a division of the incoming gates, and Contour's decay is modulated by another. ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 2: MicroBrute FMd by its own LFO at max rate, with minimal resonance but high Brute Factor, through DubStation VST.
Voice 3: E352 in Morph+Phase mode, with phase modulated by Tides at audio rate. Output 1 modulates A-102 filter which is self-oscillating; that's mixed with Output 2 in Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA
Voice 4: Hertz Donut through Sinclastic Empulatrix. HD's primary osc is set to LFO rates and the modulator is getting through as FM, while also modulating its own phase just a little bit. A little green mode discontinuity is applied.
With modules arranged mostly to my liking and the arrival today of Mannequins Mangrove, my modular system is currently locked down until the release of Rabid Elephant Natural Gate. I've not shared a photo of it since May, so it's quite overdue. (This is not the patch for song 204, but while getting to know the Mangrove a bit.)
|205||Oct 15||Don't The Mountain
Just don't. Not even a little. Because next thing you know, you could accidentally the whole mountain. (And that's what we call a slippery slope argument. Because mountains.)|
Voice 1: Mangrove, with its square output multiplied by A-196 PLL & G8 clock divider and back into its Air CV. Through two channels of Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA (one with Freez on a delayed gate) controlled by System X Envelope. Presswerk, ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 2: Rings in Karplusverb mode, fed by pink noise from the E352 and also Tides, on separate envelopes (Contour and Function).
Voice 3: 0-Coast through Vapor, SpecOps and Replika VSTs.
|206||Oct 15||Command String
Voice 1: Hertz Donut being FM'd by Mangrove, through Contour/Dynamix; layered with Donut's XOR output (with the mod osc synced to Mangrove's square output) through Contour/Sputnik QVCFA. Panned slightly left and right, with BassLane keeping a solid center and IMPEACH and ET-301 delay VST.|
Voice 2: 0-Coast, with synced Slope feeding the audio input, with its time modulated by a RESIGN, TURNIP. Ratshack Reverb and ET-301 VSTs.
Voice 3: E352 in Morph mode, through Function/Sputnik QVCFA. Function's curve knob manually wiggled during recording. AMENDMENT 25 HIS SORRY ASS and ValhallaVintageVerb.
|207||Oct 17||Their Voices, Raised
I was thinking today about those who can't speak up for fear of retribution, and those who are pressured to speak up anyway. Here are four "voices" of modules not meant to make sound, processed in some cases by modules expecting sound and getting something a little different.|
It worked surprisingly (and a bit disturbingly) well and I expect I'll be doing more in this vein.
1: Function cycling at low rates, with positive output into Freez audio in, negative into Freez size, and EOR into Freez trigger. Freez output feeds back into Function's All input, and out through Dynamix (for compression) and Three Sisters highpass filter to remove bass from the clicks. Maschine Maximizer.
2: Function's EOC feeds A-196 PLL signal input. PLL square out clocks G8 clock divider in random mode; output 3 feeds back into PLL's phase comparator input. The PLL's square output goes to uFold Symmetry input while the Phase Comp output goes into its signal input. uFold's output is boosted in Gozinta. Maschine Maximizer.
3: EON in looping envelope mode. Its output feeds back into its own CV, as well as Maschine Maximizer and Transient Master (boosting attack, cutting sustain). As I turn Frames' level control for this channel, it's also creating audible tones picked up by the extreme amplification happening in software. None of these sounds should be happening.
4: Kermit ch1 at LFO rate (well below audio frequencies), with its waveshape modulated by ch2 at an even slower rate. G8 output 7 is feeding ch2 frequency control. Kermit ch1's bipolar output is boosted in Gozinta, and mixed with the unipolar output feeding Rings set to a low, fixed frequency with brightness and damping fully open. Transient Master (cutting attack, boosting sustain).
Entire mix goes through Boscomac Floodverb.
Brief notes for a quickly made and played, unsequenced patch:|
Clocks and clock divider poking at various envelopes, modulating other envelopes that modulate the first envelopes or other things. E352 and Hertz Donut are the sound sources. Eos and EchoMelt are the VST effects. Manual control mainly via Frames.
I'm kind of disproportionately pleased with this one.
|209||Oct 20||Five Farthing Farmhouse
I've traded my idle Rampage for a Make Noise Mysteron, which should arrive Monday. I'll have to set another module aside temporarily to make room for it. It sounds like I'm not going to have to wait too much longer for my planned LPG replacement so I can get things straightened back out again shortly. Meanwhile my Doepfer A-196 PLL will be on standby.|
So I thought, why not use it in feedback with Rings? And then I tried it, and I thought "why not use my clock divider there instead?" So that happened.
Since I was doing some vaguely bell-ish stuff, I thought of the English nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons" but didn't want to use the same title as the XTC album. Modification of the next verse amused me, so that happened too.
Voice 1: Rings in Karplusverb, 4x polyphonic. Feedback through a Dynamix channel as compressor, then through Circuit Abbey G8 in CV mode and back into Rings input. Odd output through other Dynamix channel, Even through Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA, both Contour-controlled, mixed partially in stereo. Replika, ValhallaRoom VSTs.
Voice 2: Mangrove through A-102 filter, with ThrillseekerXTC and MHarmonizerCM VSTs.
Voice 3: Chromaphone 2 VST, which to me is showing how much my modular journey has influenced the way I program software synths now.
Voice 4: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, AM'd and filter-FMd by Hertz Donut. Floodverb, MTransformer and NI Beat Delay VSTs.
Voice 5: My own ByteBeater synth plugin, with ValveFilterCM and ValhallaPlate.
I was going to call this "freight trains cuddling" after my misreading of "colliding" but, eh. It sounds maybe like vibrations along a steel rail, so I'll stick with that.|
This is just Rings in Karplusverb mode, with Function cycling at audio rates, mixed with feedback in 3xMIA (so I can reverse the feedback polarity as well as controlling levels). Feedback also goes into Position CV. No other effects added aside from compression/limiting.
|211||Oct 22||Standard Measure
Voice 1: Hertz Donut, with the pitch CV to its modulator delayed, through uFold. Contour-controlled Dynamix, ValhallaPlate VST.|
Voice 2: Mangrove, with its square output multiplied by A-196/G8 and back into FM. ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 3: 0-Coast and Dubstation VST.
Voice 4: E352 in Morph+Fold mode, through Three Sisters highpass and Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA. ValhallaPlate.
|212||Oct 23||Mosaic Mess
We interrupt our regular musical journey for something that doesn't quite fit but isn't really a module demo either.|
Mutable Instruments Rings is a nice, clean resonator, modal synthesizer, and Karplus-Strong synthesizer capable of super clean plucked string and metallic bar tones on its own. With audio input or feedback it does bowed strings, blown pipes, unearthly howls and odder but still mostly naturalistic timbres, or deep ominous echoes.
Make Noise Mysteron -- a "digital feedback waveguide" rather than a "resonator" -- is like Rings fell into a cyberpunk story, got corrupted, spontaneously became self-aware and immediately turned evil. It's a weird, glitchy mess and it's wonderful for that. Make Noise themselves admit that its designer doesn't really understand what the hell it's doing sometimes.
I got one in a trade for the Rampage I'd replaced, and I think I'm going to hang onto it for a while to see what I can wring out of it. Not the sweet variations on guitar and mallet instruments that Rings does, but clangs and clashes, buzzes and chiptune explosions, unexplained silences and accidental harmonies, crackles and sputters.
This is Mysteron three ways: through ValhallaPlate; through Rings and ValhallaVintageVerb; through Freez and Zlob Dual VCA into Permut8, SpecOps, MTransformer and ET-301 (for extra glitchy weirdness).
Circuit Abbey G8 in random mode pokes at Mysteron, Rings and Freez's various inputs for synchronized mayhem.
Everything here is doubled up in some way. It might not be the most exciting concept but even little guiding principles like that often help the creative process.|
Voice 1: Mysteron and Rings in unison, both duophonic. Some stereo spread. Uhbik-T tremolo, Floodverb and Presswerk.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut, with the secondary voice tracking the primary via PLL. My A-196 is unracked right now until Natural Gate ships and I can make room for it -- so after reading a couple of forum threads I patched one with Disting's ring modulator as phase comparator and Mini Slew as the filter. You can hear it breaking up and groaning a lot more than the A-196 tends to. I have the primary running through uFold, and the secondary through A-102 modulated by the Donut's XOR output.
And now it occurs to me that the XOR output could probably be used as the phase comparator. Something I'll have to try later!
Voice 3: Two instances of Dmitri Sches' new software synthesizer Thorn. One's a percussive variation and the other fades in and overdrives a bit. ValhallaRoom.
Voice 4: Both outputs of E352's Cloud+Morph mode, set to play 4-note clusters, with two different custom wavetables. Morph is animated by Tides. Outputs are through Dynamix, then Repllika and ValhallaPlate.
On the master I'm trying the Unfiltered Audio Zap demo as well as my usual Barricade. In theory it seems like a fantastically flexible compressor and creative effect, but in practice I haven't really gelled with it, and I'm not sure it was very helpful here. Honestly, my favorite compression is the Graphic Dynamics tool in Sound Forge.
|214||Oct 24||Old Oak Doors
I'm breaking my personal rule about generative patches for this one. I didn't create it on purpose, I discovered it unlooked for while experimenting with how trigger delays affect Mysteron's pitch tracking.|
Mysteron has two "excite" trigger inputs; if you use only one it's monophonic, but if you use two, it can let the previously excited waveguide keep going at the previous pitch, while starting up a second one, so notes can ring out as if playing a new string. But then, the strings can be forced to resonate infinitely, at least until some massive offset puts the brakes on the waveguide's audible vibrations, or whatever's going on in that mysterious glitchy otherworld behind the panel. Anyway, with my MIDI-CV converter, I tend to get very "off" notes because the note triggers light up a few milliseconds before the pitch is in the right place. Delaying the triggers fixes that, and delaying them more gives some interesting side effects besides bad timing.
(For what it's worth, Rings does all this with its 1x/2x/4x polyphony modes and a single optional "strum" trigger which it can infer directly from pitch changes, and it automatically stays in tune. It's the good child, and Mysteron is the naughty one.)
As I was messing with that, the MIDI converter crashed (it happens) and I decided I liked the sounds I was hearing and wanted to continue with a pseudo-random LFO and a quantizer. And then I accidentally dialed in this scale on the quantizer when I was trying to change something else, and really liked what I heard.
There's a lot of empty space in this recording. Somebody said something about that once, so I kept most of it, despite an inclination to put in some reverse reverb or low-level noise or something. I won't pretend I wasn't repatching stuff and turning knobs while this was recording, but I didn't plan or edit it aside from shortening a few excessively long silences.
Everything we hear is Mysteron with a touch of ValhallaVintageVerb. Pitch comes from Kermit LFO sampled by Function, through Disting in quantizer mode. Two G8 clock divider outputs into Mysteron excite inputs. Function and G8 are clocked by 2HP LFO, Function itself, Mini-Slew, or sometimes nothing at all as it carried on by itself for a bit. Mysteron Type, Depth and "!!" inputs alternately modulated by 2HP LFO, Kermit, and manual settings.
Octobe s ne o y favorte onths, econd onl t Novembe.|
I was thinking of "Candy Corn Skies" but I really don't like candy corn much. It seems trite to compare those bright-yet-muted (?) sunrises and sunsets to pumpkins or autumn leaves, so let's not.
Voice 1: Hertz Donut in "stupid" tracking mode, with both voices set to triangle, full orange-mode discontinuity on the primary. Secondary voice is modulated a little by Kermit LFO. Mixed in Dynamix (which is also smoothing out the tone a bit), through NI Grain Delay and Beat Delay.
Voice 2: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, in stereo through Zlob Dual VCA. TB Flx and ValhallaPlate VSTs.
Voice 3: Mysteron, with 2HP LFO modulating its mutation depth (and LFO speed modulated by envelope and note pitch) and "!!" stuck in place. Through Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA in VCF mode, through Echobode and ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 4: Thorn VST.
Voice 5: A deep Microbrute drone crunched by heavy Brute Factor on its filter, with TB EQ rolling off most of the squealiness. Valhalla UberMod VST.
Green is often thought of as a universal symbol for "okay" or "go" or "normal." |
However, very little is that simple. I've been told that in power plant control panels you generally want to see red lights, as green means something is below the expected temperature and that could mean a leak or failure somewhere.
I've also read recently that "go" traffic lights in Japan were originally "ao" (blue), and still are out of habit -- the actual color striking a balance between legitimate "ao" and internationally acceptable green.
In comics first and then in other visual media, a green glow indicates something dangerous, eerie and dreaded -- dark magic, mad science, poison, radiation, aliens and their technology, even the unhealthy light of an old-school CRT in a story about hackers or rogue AI. Of course we know that radiation is every color of light (but Cerenkov radiation as in "you don't want to be near this" is blue), poison is often colorless, aliens are grey and magic is an impossible purplish yellow.
Green is also the color of growth and a clean environment, and red can mean vitality, healthy blood and the symbol for medics. This leads to some conflicts in color symbolism in video games, where a green spell could be healing or poison, a green potion is probably poison and a red one probably health, and your health meter might either be red or it might start green and turn red to indicate danger. Somehow it all seems to make sense anyway, except that colorblind players also need clear indications...
But it's the comic book green that the song is referring to, in the sense that it's almost Halloween. It's nice to be able to trivialize existential dread, replace stress from a toxic physical and social enviroment with a cartoonishly glowing witch's brew, and blame our problems on simple monsters rather than human behavior.
Voice 1: 0-Coast with Dubstation VST.
Voice 2: Mysteron through uFold and Sputnik Quad VCF/VCA. Power chords in Mysteron with distortion from the folder keep it heavy. ValhallaRoom VST.
Voice 3: E352 in Morph+Phase mode set to a fixed frequency, phase-modulated by Hertz Donut. The two outputs are mixed, and cancellation keeps it silent until a sine from Donut disturbs the balance. It's cool to watch on the E352's display as the slowly morphing waves shimmer to life and break apart. Uhbik-F flanger, ValhallaPlate, and Ratshack Reverb.
Voice 4: Rings in FM mode through Sinclastic Empulatrix, with JCM900 amp sim VST.
|217||Oct 28||Weighted Blanket
While we enjoyed (sort of) our first cold weather of the season, I read a review this morning about a weighted blanked designed to calm anxiety. I'm not sure if it would make me feel comforted or smothered. I like airflow, and don't like feeling like I'm trapped in my bedding. I think I might rather sleep in zero-G than with extra weight, since I have enough of my own, thanks.|
I still like the idea in theory, though.
Voice 1: Sub-bass from MicroBrute to establish the rhythm and attempt to hold things together. (Without this part, it felt almost random and disconnected. I don't want to make things too easy though...) This is just the Overtone wave and a lot of Brute Factor and resonance; Tides is modulating the Sub input. TB EQ rolls off some of the lowest frequencies to keep it semi-clean, and boosts higher stuff that is just barely there.
Voice 2: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode. A square provides phase cancellation against ROM C which starts as a square and morphs elsewhere. The spread amount is gate-controlled. Output through Three Sisters bandpass. FilterBank3 VST does allpass filtering inside a delay feedback loop. Some sidechain compression against voice 1.
Voice 3: Mysteron, with one normal Excite trigger and Function delaying a second trigger. Output in parallel with A-102 filter, through Dynamix. EOS 2 reverb VST.
Voice 4: 0-Coast groaning through SpecOps (blurring tonal changes, and shifting and stretching harmonics) and Space360 reverb, sidechain compressed vs. voice 1.
I thought about not including this one, but eh, it's short.|
This is something for me to think about when deciding next year's format. My two major decisions are:
1. Keep posting nearly everything as soon as it's done, or hold stuff back and release in a more typical album format?
2. If I do keep posting everything, stick with YouTube as well as my website? SoundCloud isn't really an option with this much material, and I'm unsure about some of the others out there.
Dynamix mixes Hertz Donut's primary and secondary oscillators (triangle waves) in perfect tracking mode, while Function cycles and modulates their phase relationship. EOR from Function triggers G8 clock divider, which (with help from Mini Slew) modulates Function's rhythm, as well as fiting off envelopes to modulate Hertz Donut's pitch and (orange mode) discontinuity.
Rabid Elephant Natural Gate arrived today, and it's frankly awesome. A better sound than other LPGs I've used, and highly controllable. I'm kind of thinking about switching some other modules out to get a second one, but I also like the variety I have in my current set of envelopes, LPGs and VCAs, and NG can't do slow attacks on its own. It's still something I might consider in the future though.|
Voice 1: E352 in Cloud+Morph mode, through Natural Gate. The gate from the sequencer is multed into Hit and Ctrl, which gives NG something like a decay-sustain-decay envelope. Gate output is multed to Mini Slew which acts as an envelope follower, modulating E352's Z morph and spread amount. Transient Master, Frontier compressor and Replika delay.
Voice 2: Mysteron with a single trigger (because despite my previous songs with it, that's fine too), "!!" locked open, and some attempted vibrato from Kermit LFO (it seems to have a minimum pitch modulation resolution), through Natural Gate (with a gate into Ctrl). Floodverb VST.
Voice 3: MicroBrute.
Voice 4: Hertz Donut, with mod osc pitch set by Disting randomizer. Through Function-controlled Dynamix, and ValhallaRoom VST.
|220||Nov 1||Bamboo Between
Natural Gate is just so good, I really suspect it's going to be the first module I have two of.|
When I had that thought before, it was accompanied by puzzling out what to replace with it. (At this point I probably would actually be fine with replacing Dynamix with it. And I *like* Dynamix.) But now? Now I've got a TipTop Mantis case on its way, several months before I expected to expand.
The reason? The E370 beta unit I tested is coming back my way, and I'll get to keep it this time. There's no way I could make space for it in rack #1. With the new case I'll have plenty of room for it, and to mount the Field Kit FX that's coming in March instead of leaving it in its separate little box, and to house the three Bastl modules I won in the KVR charity auction if I choose to keep them, and to pursue the next stage of the journey.
I'm thinking I want to try my hand at some sequencing in the modular, with knobs instead of a virtual piano roll. I've done that to a limited extent using my current gear, but there are better options. It should work as well alongside my DAW as it does on its own. Also I'd like to put a little more manual control in, beyond familiar keyboards. I don't want to jump right into adding more modules right away, so unless there's some massive discount on Make Noise Rene or Pressure Points that's impossible to resist, I'll wait until *after* the Field Kit FX is in place and I've had some time to play with that.
Voice 1: Hertz Donut through Natural Gate. No modulation, just the gate naturally being natural and Donut's FM and waveshaping its natural accomplice. ThrillseekerXTC, ValhallaVintageVerb. And on an FX send, Permut8, SpecOps and ValhallaPlate for some glitchy insect chatter.
Voice 2: Both Kermit VCOs, on separate note sequences but a single gate sequence. Contour, Dynamix. A little bit separated in stereo. EchoMelt and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 3: 0-Coast through Natural Gate, in parallel with 0-Coast through MTransformer VST.
|221||Nov 3||Animal Mnemonics
My guide for this song before sitting down to build it was the following:|
Crocodile emu crocodile
Crocodile emu alligator
Crocodile emu crocodile
Crocodile emu emu
Crocodile emu crocodile
Crocodile emu alligator
Crocodile emu crocodile
Pig... 2. 3. 4.
This is a sort of rhythmic code that assists with rhythms in compound time signatures. In this case it all adds up to 4/4 time anyway, but with slippery syncopation.
I came up with this on the commute to work yesterday morning, and its interpretation and implementation this evening is far from what I had imagined. With no indication of tempo, dynamics, articulation, swing, or whether "crocodile" is three notes and a pause or one note that's three somethings long, nevermind melody, that's what happens -- and what makes it a fun exercise.
I dropped the pig because it just wasn't working. I don't think a pig would be comfortable among all those predatory reptiles and large aggressive birds anyway.
Voice 1: E352 in 2-Op FM mode, with the two outputs crossfaded in Frames according to note velocity and the second output's ratio pushed upward by the gate signal. Through Natural Gate, with an envelope follower on its output feeding the Z morph. Dubstation 2 on an FX send.
Voice 2: Rings in modal mode, through a slappy Disting reverb and Freez to dirty it up a bit.
Voice 3: 0-Coast through Valhalla UberMod.
Voice 4: Tides, with Uni self-modulating Slope, Function modulating Smoothnmess, and a Kermit LFO modulating the Shape, through Natural Gate. Blockfish VST, an FX send with ET-301 delay and MTransformer.
Welcome back, Synthesis Technology E370 Quad VCO Beta Test Unit #002! I don't have my new case yet, so until then you can crash in the temporary skiff and get power through a taped-up flying bus cable from the rack, if that's okay.|
I kind of feel like it's too much VCO for my purposes, given I have other favorites that aren't going anywhere and I use a limited number of voices in my music -- but I'm sure I will find some applications for it. :rubs hands together:
Voice 1: E370 osc 1, through Contour/Dynamix. Osc 2 into osc 1 linear FM, and also through Function/Dynamix into osc 1 sync. SpecOps, Sandman Pro and Floodverb VSTs.
Voice 2: Mysteron with alternating Excite triggers, with Type modulated by Kermit LFO and !! locked open.
2a: Into Rings in inharmonic string mode, with Position modulated by the same LFO. ValhallaPlate VST.
2b: Mysteron into TB EQ (cutting highs and lows) and ET-301 delay VST. High feedback and sudden changes to delay time create some of the warbling toward the middle of the song.
Voice 3: E370 osc 3, in Cloud mode using a wave with lots of high frequency content. Pitch CV goes into Spread CV instead of a V/OCT input. Through Natural Gate.
Inspired by Worwell's "Noise Elements" video, I started messing around with E352 noise into Rings. I found that through Natural Gate, it can make very... well, natural, harp sounds. It's far nicer than the default exciter.|
And then because I'm no harpist, to the natural harp I added a supernatural string-thing with Mysteron.
Voice 1: Mysteron through Freez, Disting reverb and Natural Gate. G8 alternates the trigger inputs into Mysteron and also flips between raising the !! input and toggling Freez. Dubstation delay and Space360 reverb (positioned "behind" the listener).
Voice 2: E352 filtered pink noise through Natural Gate, into Rings in 4x polyphonic chord mode. Space360 reverb (positioned "in front of" the listener).
ValhallaRoom & TB Flx on master.
|224||Nov 5||Shallow Strands
One sequence controls two parts in unison:|
A: E352 at fixed frequency into Rings in 4x polyphonic, inharmonic string mode with Damping knob at max (which means no damping), through Natural Gate.
B: Mysteron with Type, !! and Depth toggled by clock divider, through Sinclastic Empulatrix.
Both through MMultibandRythmizer, Permut8, Vandelay, and Sandman Pro.
|225||Nov 7||Dark Corners of the Earth
"But Starthief," you might protest, "the Earth doesn't have any corners."|
Well, fine then, you name this song.
Voice 1: Microbrute through SerumFX. Once again the Brute Factor kicks in, mostly gently despite its name, at certain thresholds and makes it sound like there's more modulation than there really is.
Voice 2: LuSH-101 VST through ValhallaPlate. This is a software synth I've been thinking about for a while and I finally snagged a license transfer for 1/3 of normal price. It may wind up serving in the same roles as the Reface CS I was thinking about getting, without taking up precious desk space.
Voice 3: Hertz Donut with its two oscillators in stereo using perfect tracking mode, FM'd by Tides, through Natural Gate. ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 4: All 4 voices of the E370 in Cloud mode; two are set to intervals and two to slightly detuned unison, in stereo through Dynamix. MTransformer VST to shave off some of the fundamental pitch and let the rest shine thorugh, and ValhallaPlate and Replika.
While I'm definitely not one of those people who aims to make music without a computer, I recognize some advantages in a hybrid approach to sequencing -- control mostly by the computer, and some variations, disruption, flexibility and an organic "looseness" from analog electronics and logic.|
The first voice in this song is sequenced by the G8 clock divider with the Intermix expander -- the note pitches and their order are set by knobs, some related modulations are triggered by specific steps on the divider, but the rhythmic "clock" driving it is sequenced in Maschine. There are many other ways to do things, though.
Intermix really isn't ideal for this for my purposes -- probably better to have it animating things other than pitch, and it may not have a long-term future in my setup. But it's already taught me a bit about what's likely to be close to my ideal, and I've got a plan in mind for my next two or three modules.
Voice 1: Hertz Donut, sequenced by G8+Intermix, with clock and reset under Maschine control. Mini Slew, Function and Contour all modulate Donut parameters and Natural Gate. ShaperBox on an FX send accents 8th notes to be distorted by CamelCrusher and BlockFish, and fed through ET-301 delay.
Voice 2: E352 in Morph+Fold mode through Sinclastic Empulatrix (which controls the morph and fold amounts). Wow2 filter VST and JCM900 guitar amp sim on an FX send.
Voice 3: 0-Coast with no patch cables, with ChipCrusher VST on an FX send.
Voice... 1 through N: Maschine sequences a clock that triggers Mysteron and also pokes the Ladik S-075 burst generator, which then clocks G8, which plays pitch sequences as well as controlling the number of burst repeats. Other gates from Maschine reset the G8 to the first position, and transpose the pitch sequence up above sub-weirdness levels. G8 gate outputs trigger secondary hits on Mysteron as well as the two E352 (2-Op FM mode) outputs through Natural Gate.|
Voice let's call it 2: E370 in Cloud mode with four squares, using Chord mode. The chord is ROM1, controlled by velocity CV. Chord mode is not my preferred way to use it, but it'll make some people happy and I was asked to test it :) WOW2 VST (highpass filter) and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 3-ish: 0-Coast with Tides, through Space360 VST.
|228||Nov 11||Raining Underwater
The Mantis case I ordered arrived just as I was finishing last night's song, and I spent some time shifting things around. Right now there's cardboard keeping fingers and dog hair away from bus headers and big power supply capacitors inside the case, but I'll post some photos when blank panels arrive from Magpie. Other than that, it's pretty decent, even though gray plastic isn't as attractive as a nice wood case or as mad-sciency as my main rack.|
I moved everything from the bottom left of my rack, which consists of filters and various utility modules, to make space for the E370 so it can sit next to its little brother. The case sits on the right side of my desk and patch cables crisscross in the way a bit, but after experimenting with putting the Maschine controller on the right side, I think this is my best option.
I still have the three Bastl modules to look forward to sometime, and if I'm lucky in the next couple of days I might score a pair of Pressure Points with a Brains at a significant discount. That'll be 8 pressure-sensitive touchplates that can play tunable chords or act as a psuedo-Theremin or many other options, and an expander that turns them into a flexible step sequencer. If I don't get this now, Black Friday is coming... :D
Voice 1: E370 in Morph+Fold mode, with morph and fold both modulated by slow tempo-synced LFOs. Linear FM from self-resonating A-102 filter. Layered with a second E370 voice in 2-Op FM mode, through Mini Slew. Both through Natural Gate, ValhallaPlate.
Voice 2A: Rings in monophonic, inharmonic string mode; Disting envelope tracker modulates the position.
Voice 2B: The Disting pitch tracker on Rings controls self-resonating Three Sisters, through Function+Dynamix. The pitch tracking has a rough time with complex sounds that have varying levels, so it's creating an effect reminiscent of bubbling water.
Echobode on both.
Voice 3: Hertz Donut, with discontinuity modulated by E352 clocked noise. XOR output through Freez, Natural Gate. mda SubSynth VST.
|229||Nov 12||Six Shades
I was going to name this something to do with harvests, just because I'm still in an autumn sort of mood. But I'm not a farmer and does this really sound like harvesting to you? Since there are six parts and the changing of colors is definitely an autumn thing, and "shades" has other connotations as well, I picked this name instead.|
It's a good thing there weren't 50 parts.
Noisy stringy plucks: Hertz Donut, with modulator in Stupid Tracking mode and mod bus set to discontunity. Sine out through A-102 filter, Contour+Dynamix.
"Triangle" percussion/beeps and long resonating drum: Rings in modal mode, with a gate directly into V/OCT. Filtered crackle from E352 into Structure, 2HP LFO into Position. TB EQ and ValhallaRoom.
Not Jarre's laser harp, but not very far from either: 0-Coast, with its square through A-196 PLL, G8/Intermix and Three Sisters. EchoMelt VST.
Chiptuney noise drum with ominous reverb: E370 clocked noise through Sinclastic Empulatrix, ValhallaUberMod.
Grindy organ: both Kermit channels (A modulating B's frequency, B modulating A's shape) through Natural Gate, Syntorus.
Not a sitar, but kind of like that: Thorn VST with ET-301 delay.
|230||Nov 14||Circular Flat
The name could describe either a pizza (or many other food items), or the state of my car tires. I've got a low pressure warning that comes and goes and doesn't seem to be following the weather, about 3 weeks after having a tire repaired. No visible problems. I had pretty bad luck with the tires on my previous car, but this one has been fine up to now. Part of the mermaid curse, I suppose.|
This came about as a result of testing E370's chord mode with a custom table. I started with an "innocent" table that consisted of octaves and fifths that would be pretty safe to play just willy-nilly, but I sneaked a few sixths in there when nobody was looking and it became sort of a melody line thing.
Voice 1: All four E370 voices in MorphXY mode, mixed, in Chord mode stepped through by sequence. Since Chord mode stepping uses the Sync1 input and I still have that assigned to hard sync, there are some extra clicks on the attacks of the root note. Frames modulates some morph parameters, and others are manually wiggled. SysXEnv + Zlob VCA, SerumFX.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut, with primary AM'd by modulator and modulator FM'd by Kermit, mixed, through Natural Gate. The trigger for voice 1 hits its sync too but it's pretty subtle on top of the other voice. Sonitex STX-1260 and ValhallaRoom VSTs.
Voice 3: Tides Bi output through Contour/Dynamix, mixed with its High output through A-196PLL and Natural Gate. SpecOps VST.
Voice 4: MicroBrute with Sub modulated by Tides Uni output, through my own Potty Mouth chorus/dirt VST.
|231||Nov 15||Melting Caves
I've been thinking about the stereotypical phrase "bleeps and bloops" lately and what that actually means. Rarely do the actual sounds in such music consist of anything one would call a "bleep" or a "bloop", while the entire chiptune genre is not typically what people think of when they say that. |
As best as the crowd has determined, it's kind of a mocking description of weird, random, generative, atonal and abstract synthesizer music, often used and often by people who are not connoisseurs of such things. One example given was the Forbidden Planet soundtrack, the inspiration for the "Krell Patch", a common generative technique in modular synthesis.
As a maker of synthesizer music that is frequently weird, often semi-atonal, rarely generative or actually random but often off-kilter, I wouldn't call my own music "bleeps and bloops" but I guess someone else might. If they didn't know what they were talking about. :)
I had some weird dreams last night involving a fancy dinner and ghost-hunting adventures with several pop culture characters and their undead impostors. Captain Janeway and Data more or less took charge, and gifted me with a piece of the neutronium that (Marvel) Thor's hammer is made of, which I promptly dropped on an impostor's head, squishing it cartoonishly and banishing the intruder, after which the captain made a short speech about how it was my dream and the power to determine who and what was in it was mine alone. And then I woke up, thinking I wouldn't have chosen Star Trek characters if I'd been consciously exercising that power. Nor zombies, ewww.
At any rate, along with a fancy dinner setting, there were some melty-ish caves in the dream. I figured a handful of odd, crusty, slightly wobbly, and out of control sounds would help paint a sonic picture.
Voice 1: Rings in chord mode, with infinite sustain, fed through G8/Intermix and A-196 PLL, mixed, through Natural Gate. Neither of them is tracking Rings' complex signal very well so it's kind of going nuts.
1A: through ET-301 delay, SpecOps and DubStation, for the swimmy windchimey stuff.
1B: through RatshackReverb for more of the actual can't-follow-Rings sound.
Voice 2: A sine from E370 voice 1 through Function as a sort of confused LPG modulated by System X Envelope, with Hang modulated by voice 2. Replika, Space360 and Presswerk VSTs.
Voice 3: 0-Coast and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 4: Mysteron trying to hold indefinitely, with Impulse modulated by Kermit at audio rate, through Natural Gate. MDynamicsLimiter to keep it in check, Vapor chorus and ValhallaPlate.
|232||Nov 16||Folk Etymology
Ever since getting into modular synthesis, I've been fascinated and inspired by the many different ways it does FM synthesis -- mostly differently from Chowning FM as I knew it from Yamaha synths and their imitators.|
Trying not to get into technical details, because there are a lot of those and I'd probably get them wrong. But let's just say that my understanding of it increased a little today, mostly by drawing a box around the part of it I don't understand instead of not understanding how much I didn't understand it. Inside that box is "linear thru-zero FM" and why it's predictable and sweet on the Hertz Donut but effing *weird* so often on the E370. Intuitively, I feel like the E370 is acting the way analog thru-zero oscillators act, even though it's digital. That won't necessarily make it easier to tame, but it helps me grasp why and gives me a few techniques to get a range of behaviors from it.
These thoughts are on my mind as I'm considering changing out a couple of my sound sources at some point for a second complex oscillator or FM-oriented oscillator. I just want to have a better handle on the techniques before I make any decisions.
There's room in my music for both the really clean, Yamaha-like FM (and PM and things that sound similar), and for the clang/bonk/growl side of things.
Voice 1: E370 osc 1, through uFold modulated by osc 2 (with Function+Dynamix), through Contour+Dynamix.
Voice 2: E370 osc 3, with (inharmonic) linear TZFM from Tides offset by 3xMIA, through Natural Gate.
Voice 3: Three Sisters self-oscillating and (inharmonically) FMing Hertz Donut, through Sinclastic Empulatrix and Natural Gate as filter.
Voice 4: 0-Coast, FMing itself (inharmonically) with its Slope section.
Voice 5 (percussion, sort of): Rings in modal mode, with Structure modulated by synced LFO.
|233||Nov 18||Scratch and Dent
The first time I saved this song project in Maschine, I found I'd already named something else "Scratch and Dent" but never released anything under that name. Now is the time.|
In the notes for my previous song, I was overthinking things. The key to nice clean FM on the E370 is just to really kill the DC offset, and it turns out Disting's filter algorithms do that nicely.
With a great deal of help from the internet, I converted the FM ratio table from the Yamaha DX-100 into semitone offsets for an E370 chord table, so I can use that to quickly dial in ratios. I'll probably make another set of friendlier fractional divisions for my own purposes as well.
I spent a bit more time on this track than I often do, splitting it into a before-lunch and after-lunch session. The stuttering 5/4 rhythm called for a bit more clarification, especially once I started dropping pieces out of the original melody line, and I wound up putting some time in to construct a beat that was neither too twisted nor too simple in order to pull things back together again. I'm pretty pleased with the results, but at the same time, it's an example of the complications that happen when I don't finish a track in a single session.
With this realization of the E370's FM power, in addition to all its other strengths, I'm dropping any thoughts of replacing some of my other modules with another digital FM-oriented oscillator. I have my mind on an analog complex oscillator though: the Verbos CO (said to be closest to the Buchla 259), Furthrrrr Generator (with a pleasantly furry sound and playful design) or perhaps DPO (a little farther afield, easier to find and a bit cheaper in the US, with a wider range into harsh territory but also reportedly more difficult to work with).
What would give way to make room for that? Likely the E352 at some point; as nice as it is, there's no question it's redundant with the E370 in my setup. Tides and Mysteron are both on trial, but I'm inclined to be lenient until some future time when I find myself running low on space again. Tides has long been my Rick Astley module (never gonna give you up...) but I find myself using it less lately, so I'm going to try putting it front and center again and see how I feel. Mysteron is a bit narrow in its sonic options and not something that goes in every track, but it's still kind of cool; I feel like if I replaced it, it would be with Basimilus Iteritas Alter, and then that goes back to not using percussion very much... yet here I am with percussion parts in this song. Hmm.
Voice 1: E370 oscs 1 and 2 doing an excellent imitation of a West Coast complex oscillator with FM and wavefolding, through Natural Gate. Ratshack Reverb, Spirit Reverb and ValhallaRoom.
Voice 2A: Hertz Donut through Mini Slew+Dynamix into Rings (sympathetic strings mode), with Transient Master. Some modulation from clock divider gates.
Voice 2B: The Dynamix output through Natural Gate, triggered by the Ladik burst generator, which is triggered and modulated by some clock divisions. EQ and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 3: Very simple 0-Coast patch.
Kick drums and some pings: Microbrute through TB Equalizer.
Noise drum 1: E370 crackle noise through Sinclastic Empulatrix and Freez.
Noise drum 2: Mysteron.
Noise drum 3: EON through Zlob VCA.
|234||Nov 18||Bend Copper
Time for something different.|
Voice 1: Tides into Rings (Karplusverb, 4x poly). Tides is self-modulating for busy PWM goodness but only the square outputs are monitored. Tides without Rings is also mixed in for part of the song. Horse chorus VST, ET-301 delay, ValhallaRoom, MTransformer.
Voice 2: Filtered pink noise from E370 through Sinclastic Empulatrix, and through Freez and Natural Gate, mixed in stereo.
Voice 3: 0-Coast groans through Permut8 VST.
Voice 4: Lush-101 VST doubled with E370, with voice 2 modulating voice 1's morph at audio rates, through Natural Gate.
|235||Nov 19||27 Degrees F
No hardware in this one -- just Thorn and LuSH-101 VSTs.|
Thorn is one of those things that seems neat when I'm jamming with it but often feels more difficult to get right in context. LuSH-101 seems to cooperate more, but the roles I've given it so far have been pretty limited.
As I was finishing this one, I felt like there was something odd about the mix. Excessive levels in some frequency ranges? Nope, I tried EQ settings and didn't really improve things. Something about the stereo field? Different parts fighting? I never really identified it, and decided my ears were probably too tired of hearing it to keep trying to mess with it. I've had that happen before, and the problem was between my ears, not what was coming into them. I'm curious to see if I still feel this way on later listens. I find that, whenever I say that, the doubts typically turn out to be unfounded. One of the lessons I'm teaching myself with this project.
To get it out of the way: yes, the stuff I thought might be a problem with the previous song really is just fine.|
After some tense waiting due to miscommunication, the Pressure Points and Brains I bought have arrived. Not quite a matched pair, since the master has nifty amber LEDs and the second has more pedestrian yellow, but hey, it works.
Understanding its use took a little bit of time. Mastering its use in the context of my system and the kind of music I want to make, is going to take more. It certainly has potential. Over time I hope to develop some signature techniques as I have with DAW-based sequencing.
Voice 1: Maschine clocking Brains/Pressure Points, reversing every 3rd pass. Row 1 and 2 control Hertz Donut primary and secondary oscs, row 3 modulates Frames (crossfading between different outputs for secondary/XOR) and Intermix modulates the FM bus. Through Natural Gate, and Echophonic and Floodverb VSTs. Sonitex STX-1260 on an FX send.
Voice 2: Noisy bonks from Mysteron through Freez and Sinclastic Empulatrix, through ValhallaPlate and ET-301 VSTs.
Voice 3: Both Kermit channels, in stereo through Contour/Dynamix. LFOs modulate wavetable position. SerumFX VST as well as Snip, an experimental lo-fi/glitch plugin I wrote.
Some post-processing with MTransformer and EQ to remove a bit of the glitchiness I'd added, both because it was a little too much in retrospect and because the process led to a sound I liked more than a simpler clean version. Also, to mix in a second take through heavy reverb, from a different initial state in Brains/Pressure points.
Played manually on Pressure Points, no sequencing.|
Layer 1: 3 voices in E370 with an attempted Tides-like wavetable I made (it doesn't sound anything like Tides but it's useful). Mixed in Frames (according to pressure level), through Natural Gate (also controlled by pressure). Univibe, Potty Mouth (my own chorus plugin), and ValhallaPlate VSTs.
Layer 2: Mysteron through Contour/Dynamix controlled by PP's T-gate. ValhallaRoom.
Octave shifts at beginning and end were done in post-processing, and the mix was layered with my Elitist plugin (which silences all but the strongest few FFT bands, but also lets you set a decay time to keep them ringing for a while when they are turned off) and PianoVerb.
|238||Nov 22||Where You Step
More experimenting with sequencing via Brains/Pressure Points and G8, this time with the Ladik S-075 Burst Generator to give it something of an Irish jig feel. (Or is that reel feel?)|
I find that this isn't necessarily a faster way to work than sequencing stuff myself in Maschine, but that may come with practice. I also suspect, since this is quite close to generative music, it might be a style I experiment with for a while and back off from for the most part, as I integrate modular sequencing with computer sequencing.
What we hear is E352 Morph in Fold mode, through Natural Gate, with ET-301 delay and ValhallaPlate VSTs. The clever bit is with the sequencing.
2HP LFO is the master clock. It's gated by Frames with PP/Brains T-Gate, so I could toggle it off and on with a touch to PP. Not really important to the sequencing logic or the sound, but a nifty control scheme.
The clock drives G8 in random mode (where the higher the output number, the less likely it is to turn on for any given clock cycle). Output 4 sets off the Burst, which is mixed with output 1 and used to clock PP/Brains. Burst's output is also mixed with the master clock to trigger Natural Gate (so notes repeat even when Brains doesn't step forward). G8 Output 2 goes to Brains' reverse input. The three lines on PP sequence the E352's pitch, Natural Gate decay time, and E352 fold amount. Intermix, driven by the clock into G8, morphs the E352's wave table.
|239||Nov 23||On the Fence
Voice 1: E370 osc1 at a low LFO rate, with phase modulated by osc3 just a little bit at a constant pitch, and linear FM from osc2 through both a VCA and Disting highpass filter. Modulating the filter frequency with an envelope gives me results I wasn't expecting. Through Contour/Dynamix. VST effects chain is Megaphone, BX Opto Pedal, Echobode, Maschine compressor sidechained to voice 2, and Wow2.
Voice 2: Tides sequenced by PP/Brains, clocked and reset in Maschine. Shape is self-modulated from Uni, and Slope is sequenced. Smoothness enveloped by Sinclastic Empulatrix. Stitches (a buffer repeat plugin I wrote) and Valhalla Space Modulator.
Voice 3: Mysteron into Rings, with Rings pitch sequenced in the third PP/BrainWs row.
Voice 4: 0-Coast FMing itself with Slope, with no patch cables. Fault VST.
|240||Nov 23||I Donut Do Techno
After playing with a suggested snare drum patch for Hertz Donut, I found my own variations that could be dialed in with Pressure Points to make the pads into a sort of drum kit. Being monophonic, it messed with finger drumming habits developed on Maschine. But I realized it was a short step from there to sequencing a drum part, so I did this.|
If I *did* aim to make techno (or whatever the appropriate subgenre is) this would be longer, better planned and perhaps more developed, instead of entirely improvised with no practice run.
Hertz Donut with PP/Brains. Function for pitch envelope, Mini Slew for amplitude. Frames gates the clock into the envelopes and Brains. mda SubSynth, ThrillseekerXTC and Barricade VSTs.
I read today that Dolly the Sheep actually didn't suffer from weird health problems due to cloning, as news stories at the time were eager to claim, but that she had the same sort of arthritis her family did, and the lung cancer that did her in is common to sheep generally.|
Speaking of clones... sort of... the Lifeforms Double Helix I snagged at half price (simply for being the last one in stock apparently; it wasn't even a Black Friday sale) arrived today and I spent six solid hours playing with it without a break. It's really not a Buchla 259 complex oscillator clone, but the inspiration is there. There are some extras, and some intelligent differences, and some questionable design decisions. It's got some unexpected and probably wrong behavior, too. Yet none of those really get in the way of its potential, and as a whole, it works nicely.
I don't really refer back to these notes, or my occasional more detailed notes elsewhere, in order to replicate what I did before -- I forge ahead with new stuff, but using what I have learned. I've repatched enough times to be quite familiar with certain categories and patterns, so I'm going to make briefer notes here except when I do something unusual.
Voice 1: Double Helix with ValhallaVintageVerb.
Voice 2: Two E370 cloud voices in FM configuration; Dynamix; Permut8 & ValhallaPlate.
Voice 3: A Hertz Donut FM patch which accidentally became brass-like when feeding it through uFold and modulating Symmetry instead of Folds, through Natural Gate. The Reverser and Replika VSTs.
Voice 4: 0-Coast with Rings pushed into the distance by ValhallaPlate.
|242||Nov 25||Oblique Travel
|7:08||A two-part drone where the two parts influence each other. All four E370 oscs, a Kermit LFO and Disting for FM DC removal, and ValhallaPlate.|
|243||Nov 26||Outside In
I was going to name this one something else, but that didn't really fit. I started thinking about The Upside Down while I was working on it. I have a strict "no Stranger Things covers" rule and decided that applies to names, too. "Inside Out" is a movie I haven't seen but might want to someday, so I turned that name inside-out and here we are.|
I've generally been spending a bit more time per song lately, without really setting out to do so. Maybe that's just because I took Thanksgiving week off work and have the time to spend, or maybe there's something else there.
Voice 1: 0-Coast and feedback into Rings. MTransformer reduces the strongest FFT bands and deharmonizes higher bands downward a little; WaveShaperCM, Horse, ValhallaPlate, Replika.
Voice 2: Double Helix split into high and low bands by Three Sisters and separately enveloped in Dynamix. Ratshack Reverb, ValhallaPlate and Space360.
Voice 3: Two E370 cloud oscs in stereo, WOW2 filter.
Voice 4: E370 filtered noise, Sinclastic Empulatrix, Crumble (a sort of resampling slew limiter plugin I wrote) and ValhallaPlate.
I tend to get into a festive mood at the last minute, or at least the last week. Between Thanksgiving and mid-December I feel more like the holiday season is a thing to endure -- particularly the music. I'm not the Grinch or Ebeneezer Scrooge, and there aspects of the holiday I do appreciate, even if they seem elusive at this particular segment of the season, and especially this year. But if I were to write a Christmas song, it would be about how Christmas is one day, not fifteen percent of the year, and the long buildup of attempted nostalgia and the shrill commercialism erode that peace and goodwill we're supposed to be having, and maybe we should have another holiday a week or two after Thanksgiving with a completely different theme and decor and stories, just to compartmentalize a bit better.|
I suspect wouldn't be a very popular song.
This song won't either, but there aren't any grumpy lyrics.
(I had some dental work today and have been thinking about bills and politics. I'll probably be a lot better in a couple of weeks, unless I have to hear that one Paul McCartney song.)
Voice 1: Double Helix, PLL, Natural Gate
Voice 1A: 1 with Superfake VST
Voice 1B: 1A with SpecOps and Floodverb
Voice 1B: 1 into Rings as reverb effect, into a different Superfake instance
Voice 1C: Kermit through Freez and Sinclastic Empulatrix with MTransformer and ValhallaRoom.
That's a big stack.
Voice 2: Hertz Donut, Contour, Dynamix, through Valhalla FreqEcho.
Voice 3: E370, System X ADSR, Natural Gate, Dubstation, Transverb.
|A note on my 2018 plan||Hey there. November is ending in about 3 hours, and another year will soon be behind us. Time to figure out:|
THE FUTURE future uture uture uture uture .
Before I took up the Starthief name, I released albums every few months or so and then went mostly musically idle in between. 2017 was my second year of posting nearly everything I record as it's finished, without fanfare or promotion and without attempts at perfecting them or judging too much. not working in terms of albums, and going back to listen to what I've made several times over. It's been a very fruitful project, for the most part, but I think it's time to change it up.
I'll continue my intent to record multiple songs per week pretty much as I have -- but I'll be dumping them in a private cloud server for personal review, rather than making them public. This review process has been key for me in finding "my sound" and constantly improving. In 2018, it will continue to do that for me and also help me to choose favorites to compile into albums. Albums will be released on Bandcamp, and perhaps to streaming services. I expect I'll have a mix of themed albums intentionally recorded, and collections of stuff that just works together. I also expect to record 250-300 songs throughout 2018 and therefore release several albums (with a big store of unreleased material for when I get famous, ha) but I'm not going to set any quantity goals in advance.
I thought about releasing stuff and some bonus material on Patreon, but a guide to the service says it really only works out for bands with a strong existing following looking to provide stuff their superfans will pay for, as opposed to getting a pittance for YouTube ad revenue. But perhaps I will share things occasionally through a Facebook band page or the like.
In terms of gear:
1. I am still waiting on those three Bastl modules from the charity auction that ended last month. Or any definite word about their shipping status better than vague promises.
2. A pair of used Pulp Logic Patch Multiples are on their way. These will generally help improve patching QOL and untangle some cable mess between the rack and the Mantis, and between the rack and the audio interface. I'm moving Tides over into the Mantis to make room for it, where it will have a second chance to shine as a modulator near the Double Helix since I haven't been using it as much as a VCO.
3. Acccounting for already-paid-for modules and possible Christmas stuff, there's little to no rack space left. There's just one module I'm sure about selling eventually and no hurry to do so yet. Module trades in 2018 will be slow and there will be no expansion -- I'm firmly committed to not adding another rack or upgrading to a bigger case for at least one year barring a sizeable lottery win. Beyond that, any case upgrades would have to fit in the available space, which limits the likelihood of that happening as well as the scale.
4. Anything else that goes on the desktop is going to have to displace Maschine, Microbrute or 0-Coast. Those are hard fights to win, so it seems pretty unlikely.
5. I feel like my gear, as well as my creative flow, is in a really good state right now. There's still a bit of a mental shift away from researching other modules, especially at work when things are slow. I'll have to find some other content to read online I guess. :)
|245||Dec 1||Left Hand
Unlike the Turnip campaign/administration, there is nothing sinister here.|
Voice 1: Double Helix drone with ValhallaRoom.
Voice 2: Mysteron w/Natural Gate, SpecOps, Transient Master, Space360; layered with Kermit, ValhallaPlate, Dubstation2. Sequenced by Brains/PP, clocked and reset in Maschine, with gates for a VCA on the pitch sequence and transposition.
Voice 3: E370, Contour/Dynamix, Permut8, ET-301 delay.
Voice 4: Microbrute with PWM and Sub modulation from Kermit and Tides.
|246||Dec 2||Stone Word
Voice 1: Lush-101.|
Voice 2: Mysteron, alternating note triggers into the Excite input, with Depth and !! modulated by Tides. Dubstation 2, Vapor, Uhbik-F and ValhallaRoom.
|247||Dec 2||La Vok
Sometimes I just make music for something to do. No purpose, no meaning, no statement, no story, no image, no question, no name... okay, a name chosen from a list of neural network-created names for other things on the basis of "I thought it sounded neat at the time."|
With nothing I was consciously trying to express, my current feelings and attitudes enter into it anyway. And I realize it's a mirror, a divination tool to see into myself. I start finding symbolism in the composition and sound choices I made which I didn't intend to put there. It doesn't matter if it's a kind of apophenia, because noticing that I noticed the thing that wasn't there still tells me something.
On a more mundane level, this is the sort of music I haven't been making much of. Rather than loading up a sampled drum kit, I built this from modular bits and took it in a somewhat different direction; later listening will tell me whether it worked. I expect it'll only be an occasional thing if so, though.
The catalyst for the sound choices was thinking about the noise in the game "Superflight" when you're on the cusp of entering a different little bubble of reality; a wash of descending LFSR noise. For me, it was Atari rather than Nintendo that defined video games in the 80s; this noise is the sound of the 2600 and of Defender, while later on the company put Yamaha FM chips to good use. To me this noise speaks of dense patterns of data sliced through and exposed, of fractals before anyone was really talking about fractals, and is quintesstially cyberpunk. The worlds of Superflight are procedurally generated and shot through with patterns that remind of this same noise.
Note, though, the E352 clocked noise isn't really the same, but it's a close cousin.
Voice 1: E370 filtered clocked noise, Natural Gate.
Voice 2: 0-Coast, Kermit noise, 2HP LFO.
Voice 3: Mysteron excited by Hertz Donut with Type modulated by envelope, Sinclastic Empulatrix; Dubstation, ET-301 and sidechain compression.
Voice 4: Double Helix with Tides envelope, Ratshack Reverb.
Voice 5: E370 FM scream through Dynamix, ValhallaPlate.
Voice 6: 808 kick sample, because it seemed like an inevitable inclusion. EQ, Purp (distortion), ET-301.
|248||Dec 3||Oh Fugue
Not to be taken seriously, but enjoy the sounds. (Or don't, if you'd rather not.)|
I was thinking about the contrast between West Coast synthesis and the more generally familiar East Coast synthesis, and the claim that it was the popularity of Wendy Carlos' "Switched-On Bach" that really put Moog on the map and doomed Buchla to the hippier side of academica. As the story goes, some of the hardcore West Coast types really hated the idea that this new exciting technology was being used to make cheesy recreations of stodgy centuries-old musical forms.
Well, pffft. Here's my dime-store improvised Bach imitation featuring some West Coast sounds, among others. And lots of delays in series because I just felt like doing that.
Somehow, this managed to be exactly the same length as the previous song. That was unintended but amuses me.
Voice 1: Hertz Donut/Natural Gate with three instances of Permut8 delay and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 2: 0-Coast with three instances of Sandman Pro.
Voice 3: Mysteron into Rings with two instances of EchoMelt.
Voice 4: Tides through Double Helix's LPG with Freez, two instances of Ratshack Reverb and Uhbik-D.
Arturia released their "Buchla Easel V" plugin today. Reportedly, it's quite accurate. I've never used the real thing myself, and it's the sort of instrument that I'll never touch without a lottery win, so I can only take those reports at face value.|
So with that... trying the demo was certainly educational. I've thrown around the "West Coast" term plenty over the past year but Buchla is the real thing, and it's something altogether different. Yes, besides the pulser and mini-sequencer and fixed voltage sources, there are the somewhat familiar complex oscillator (one primary with wavefolding, one modulator), and lowpass gates. But that's like saying a VW Beetle is similar to a Tesla in that they both have four wheels and you sit inside them. The FM is much more tame than I'm accustomed to, and the LPGs themselves nowhere near as round and punchy as my favorites. A lot of the plugin's character (and it has tons) seems to emerge from some combination of the wavefolding with distortion, reverb, delay and feedback.
I'm undecided about actually getting the software, but flipping through the presets and trying things out myself served to point out how much untapped potential there is in the Buchla-inspired modules I have, if I approach them differently. The sound design here comes partially from contemplating that.
Voice 1: Hertz Donut mod osc through uFold, layered with the same AM'd by the primary osc, with ValhallaRoom.
Voice 2: Microbrute with filter FM from E370, with ValhallaPlate.
Voice 3: Double Helix through A-102 filter, sequenced in Brains/PP, Tides envelope, with ET-301 and ValhallaRoom.
Voice 4: E370 through Rings through Natural Gate, with ValhallaPlate.
|250||Dec 7||Mmm Hmm
My 250th track of 2017 so far is not a winner, but according to my unwritten rules I'm posting it anyway; if this were next year I doubt it'd qualify for album material, but I'd learn from it and move on.|
After more demoing, Arturia Buchla Easel V won me over with its weird weasely charm and authenticity; it has a flavor I can't get with my modular stuff and that's high praise. Madrona Labs Aalto won me over by having a magazineware monophonic version so I didn't have to choose between two West Coast software synths; it has a more modern take on the type, with strong thru-zero linear FM resembling Hertz Donut and a delay/waveguide in the signal path.
I'd planned to throw both of them plus any other West Coast stuff I could conjure from my modular into one track, but it was a bit too soupy. I recorded a take with a couple of triggers unpatched, and you'll hear just the crackles and pops of the glitchy effects I'd put on those channels.
There are parts I like, and parts I think are just trying too hard and not fitting in. It may take a bit for me to figure out how to make the BEV a good citizen since it's such a different beast. I plan to install both Aalto and BEV on the laptop for holiday travel purposes, and get more comfortable with their brands of weirdness.
Aside from the skeletal remains of the removed parts, we have:
Voice 1: BEV, Transient Master and Camel Crusher.
Voice 2: Double Helix with Tides modulation and Natural Gate, Dubstation.
Voice 3: Percussive bits from 0-Coast with Kermit FM and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 4: Growly FM pads from Aalto.
Voice 5: Rings in FM mode (joining in harmony with Aalto) through Natural Gate, ValhallaPlate, SerumFX.
|251||Dec 8||Wave Gravy
True to form, once again I like the previous song better now than I did when I posted it. You'd think I would just not say anything like that anymore because I'm proven wrong nearly every time. :)|
Still, the three voices in this one do fit together more smoothly. Perhaps using a similar sound design concept for all three was cheating a little. The other strategy I plan to try is leading with other voices and bringing in BEV to join them.
The Buchla Easel V has one advantage its far more expensive and tangible hardware original does not: polyphony. But it asks a lot of your CPU. Mine can handle two voices and still manage to run other effects plugins, but four makes it beg for mercy.
Voice 1: BEV with SerumFX.
Voice 2: E370 TZFM, with Syntorus and ValhallaVintageVerb; then channels are split into left, right and center. L and R have MTransformer with formant shifting in opposite directions; while the center just has EQ that rolls off the high frequencies.
Voice 3: Hertz Donut in center, layered with Kermit panned left and right a bit; ValhallaPlate.
|252||Dec 9||Pax Elastica
Voice 1A: Hertz Donut through Function acting as a pseudo-VCA; the fall time makes it too slow to hear by default, but increasing voltage into the "Both" input shortens it to a rate more or less fast enough to keep up with the incoming audio waves. ET-301 instances on left and right channels.|
Voice 1B: The EOR output of Function, which does what the normal outputs do but distorted into square waves and cutting off early; pitch raised by MTransformer and smoothed out by Dubstation and ValhallaPlate.
Voice 2: E370 through Natural Gate, then distorted through Gozinta. A separate gate controls and envelope that modulates the wavefold amount, so some notes bite harder than others.
Voice 3: Aalto. Goes separately through Rings and ValhallaRoom, with the relative level sequenced so that some notes come through more clearly and others get Rings-ified.
|253||Dec 9||Let People Enjoy Things
"Live" solo improv on Buchla Easel V with SerumFX flanger/chorus/delay.|
Dedicated to the pouty-faced grumps who have decided that the kids are all doing things wrong, nobody should like things, nobody should express happiness, colorful things can't be taken seriously, everybody is a sellout, software can never sound like a real synth, and whatever else they are trying to bring people down with this week.
Any part of it that isn't perfect is *especially* dedicated to them, with the extra special message that I thoroughly enjoyed myself making this. Have a nice day!
Voice 1A: E370, Natural Gate (with trigger into Hit and slow attack envelope from Sinclastic Empulatrix into Ctrl). EchoMelt, CamelCrusher.|
Voice 1B: Same E370 output through Zlob Dual VCA and SincEmp audio path; ValhallaPlate.
Voice 2: Fnord noise VST, Thrillseeker XTC, Floodverb
Voice 3: E370 through Function/Dynamix. 2-Op FM mode with index modulated by an envelope on a clock divider.
Voice 4: Mysteron through Freez, ValhllaVintageVerb and Ratshack Reverb.
|255||Dec 11||41 Days
It feels like BEV and Aalto are starting to make friends with the hardware; the parts are meshing and I don't feel like I'm fighting it anymore.|
Which of those two plugins I prefer is a balance that constantly shifts. Aalto has that lovely waveguide, while BEV is more properly modular and authentically West Coast. They're both good to have around.
Vaguely piano-ish/pluck-like lead: Hertz Donut, uFold, Natural Gate, Valhalla Room.
Bassoon vs. wookie: Double Helix, Tides (as envelope), Valhalla Vintage Verb, Echobode.
Bass/percussion taps and bumps: E370, Natural Gate.
Something reminiscent of mallet instruments: Buchla Easel V.
Somewhat flutish but also tromboney bit: Aalto.
|256||Dec 13||Newt Troll
Sort of a West Coast industrial ambient thing. Not easy listening, anyway.|
Voice 1: Buchla Easel V, EchoMelt.
Voice 2: E350 (two oscs, one exponential FM'ing the other, both being morphed), Natural Gate, Valhalla Room.
Voice 3: Double Helix, uFold, Tides modulation, Natural Gate, Spirit Reverb, Valhalla Plate.
|257||Dec 14||Cat Bells You
More clangy horror soundtrack stuff, because horror seems an entirely appropriate reaction to many news items and year-in-review stories. Improvised using:|
1: Buchla Easel V
2: Double Helix, Pressure Points, Natural Gate, Valhalla Vintage Verb
3: E370, Natural Gate, Valhalla Plate
|258||Dec 15||Calm After the Storm
Still ambient, but a little more relaxed than the last two. There's still an edge, but it's wrapped in a blanket.|
Voice 1: Lush-101, Floodverb
Voice 2: Double Helix with Tides envelope, Echobode, Valhalla Room, Vapor
Voice 3: Microbrute, Valhalla Plate
Voice 4: E370 cloud/morph in stereo, Natural Gate, MTransformer, Valhalla Vintage Verb, Space360
Voice 5: EON as noise generator, Three Sisters, Dynamix, Space360, ET-301