Monday, September 16, 2019

Too Much of a Good Thing?

In a few recent photos of my studio rig, people have rightly noticed that I have a row that is almost completely dedicated to Mutable Instruments stuff. And I'll admit it: in most cases, the MI gear speaks to me in a kinda-analog-kinda-digital way, and I can find my muse in the work that Emilie has brought to the table.

But a few weeks ago I ran into a problem. I really, really wanted more voltage control over my envelopes, but the Peaks weren't having it. I started screwing around with multiple envelopes fed into some VCAs, and voltage controlling a different envelope, and a bunch of other stuff. Then I realized something: I needed to reconsider the idea of having two Peaks in my system.

Since I've always been a fan of Make Noise's Math - but didn't have space in this case for one - I figured that I might want to try plopping a Function (one of the envelope channels of a Maths) as a replacement for the Peaks. Two envelopes/LFOs dropped to one, and I was a little concerned, but I spent some time with it this morning and it fits like a nicely worn-in shoe.

So despite my rigorous desire for complete MI-ness across the whole row, it turns out a little flexibility makes for a great neighborhood. In modular terms. In my systems. In my studio...


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Yet Another OMG...

I interviewed him for the podcast, and was fascinated with his modeling of circuitry. And now he's decided to show us how he does it. Unreal.


Saturday, August 31, 2019


Maybe a little hard to tell what's going on there...

So I woke up after a crap night of half-sleep, and wanted to try something crazy - especially if it didn't look like work! So I decided this would be a perfect time to pull the Behringer Model D out of its rack-mount and install it as a Eurorack Uber-module!

As an aside, I really like the Model D - even though it's hip to not admit that it is cool. It fits the center section of my Output Platform desk quite nicely (with the rack ears I imported from England), has some nice additions to the typical Minimoog canon, and really sounds great. Why put it in the Eurorack? I wanted to see if I'd play with it differently, and I also just wanted to see how good of a job Behringer did with their Euro implementation.

It actually took longer to get the old modules out of the way than it did to install the Model D. Once I pulled the eight screws off (easily jeweler's screwdriver-able), it slid out of its case. I put on a 10-to-16 power cable, plugged it in and was flying high in a few minutes. This gave me a chance to see how it integrated with the rest of my studio system.

It was actually quite nice. While the Model D's MIDI implementation has some quirks (who designed that multi-trigger?), having both DIN and USB MIDI input was awesome. I could use the USB for MIDI from the computer, then take the DIN MIDI Thru to route data to the Mutable Yarns. I also quickly learned something fun: having the Model D set to MIDI Channel 1, then having the Yarns listen to channels 1 and 2, I could have channel 1 drive both the Model D and external modules (like one of my Braids).

And it was piping those digital oscillators into the warm-and-bouncy filter of the Model D that was a real payoff. Sounded so cool, I immediately burned off a nice hyper-sequenced track into Ableton Live, and set the stage for a nice releasable track. I also was using those cute Model D envelopes to do some parallel processing, which really drove the Mutable Veils in a nice way.

After all of that, is it going to stay in the rack? Hell no - it's already out of there! It was a fun experiment, but it also suffers from too few patch points and to much HP-hogging to be a long term solution for a small (7u) studio system. But it sure sounded cool, and it helped my get through a whole Saturday without working!



Thursday, August 15, 2019

A (Lack Of) Gold Rush!

Well, here we go. Looks like it's time for a gold rush in podcasting. I've received an astounding number of "we'll help you monetize your podcast - no matter how small the listenership!!!" emails, and new audio-related podcasts are popping up on an almost-daily basis. For example, in the above image, we have Insights From The World of Pro Audio, brought to you by Focusrite (via Tape Op - hey, don't those guys hate digital?).

I doubt that the CEO of Focusrite is going to hang out with dudes from the local Guitar Center, and I'll bet that Jack White will somehow be involved. That's about all I can come up with.

I'm also sure that I'll listen to the first one, scratch my head, and move along. I don't think stuff like this has the 'Long Run' in mind at all: podcasting is the groove of the day, so AdMen say "Let's do it!" Something else tomorrow? "Let's pivot." It's simply not the kind of thing that sustains itself on a purely-commercial basis.

Wanna make a million dollars on a podcast? I don't know if that's even possible, but if it is, it probably involves getting the exclusive story of someone's murder, serializing it in a lurid way, then dripping it out as part of a major publicity campaign, probably somehow including a Kardashian in some way. It's not going to come about by talking about frequency response curves.

Maybe I just love the dusty corners of the internet - and I'm waiting for podcasting to become a dusty corner again. I still read several email newsletters, blogs, online magazine and other No Longer Sexy media. Soon podcasts will become No Longer Sexy as well. Then we will be back to dedicated (maybe obsessed???) people talking about the stuff they love to the small audience that really, really cares.

And the Make-A-Million folks will go back into real estate and cosmetics where they belong.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ode to the Ansible

I'm in the middle of a re-up of all my systems, and I decided to give something a try. See, I've been a monome-fan for a long time, and particularly in love with the Earthsea module, since it performed a sequencing function unlike anything else in my arsenal. I also played with the White Whale module a bit, but would always gravitate back to the Earthsea - until I needed the White Whale again.

In my new updated studio system, I decided to try the Ansible; I thought it was cool that it would allow me to switch between an Earthsea variant and a White Whale variant (the Kria app), and it would also host a MIDI keyboard when I needed it. And it was only 6HP, which was about what I had to offer.

Hooked it up on Friday, and spent some time yesterday getting into it. I started with the Kria/White Whale app, and ran into a lot of problems; it is different enough from the White Whale module that I couldn't transfer much of my previous knowledge, and some of the documentation was a little jibberish-ish, so I was having trouble following. Eventually, I figured out the loop function, the context switching, and yesterday (Saturday) I was doing some fun banjo-like breakdowns with the Mangrove. Fun!

Today (Sunday) I switched over to the Earthsea app and fell in love. First, the implementation is somewhat simplified, but it all feels completely like the Earthsea module. Secondly, they created a "Runes" key that changes the weird fingershapes into button presses, which immediately made me want to use 'em. Finally, the use of the front-panel buttons to move sequence-to-sequence is just plain fun to work, and hit me with the joy stick.

I'm going to keep playing around with this (next up - how does it work with a MIDI keyboard?), but it looks like it has earned its place in the studio system. Whee!


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Digitalis V3 (the Living Room Modular)

Well, today I finished up "Digitalis V3" - the third version of my Living Room Modular. The idea was to make a laptop-comfortable modular that would allow me to do complete compositions - and to be robust enough to survive multiple day's of on-again-off-again attention.

Things are based around a pair of 1010 Music's modules: The Toolbox (in FlipUI mode) and Bitbox (in Normal mode). These two give me an amazing set of options, with tons of LFO's, note and gate sequencers, sampling and synth functions. To add some further modulation sources, I have a Xaoc Zadar with the NIN expander (which is critical, since I can fire off one-shot envelopes with the expander's buttons) and the Intellijel 1U Noise Tools. Mixing and routing are handled by a pair of buffered 1U multiples and a 1U Quadratt, and visualization from a 1U oscilloscope.

But key to this system's sound is the backend. I've always - since V1 - had a WMD Overseer filter, which is now one of my favorite filters in the world. This used to feed into a Grayscale Supercell, but I traded that out for a Microcell, which gave me enough room for a DSI DSM02 (which I continue to love...) and a Pico Input. The whole thing is in my 4Ux104HP case, which fits nicely in my lap.

The above patch is my first full-in composition (called The Catskills), which will be part of my next release. Great fun!


Sunday, July 28, 2019

In Praise of 3HP

OK, I'll admit to being a number-obsessive. I've always preferred even numbers; as a kid, I made sure that I took an even number of steps between cracks in the sidewalk (and still do this occasionally), and like things straight-and-even.

So you can imagine how I felt about the first odd-HP modules that I came across. It was The Harvestman, and I just couldn't wrap my head around the reason that odd-HP would make sense - unless you wanted to get people to get matching pairs of modules (thus leading to an even number of HP). Grumble-grumble, I just avoided them like the plague.

As I got different cases loaded up, I'd always end up with a few HP that needed to be filled. Generally, I'd check out the offerings by 2hp, the makers of the thinnest useful modules in the land. I ended up with a lot of 2hp modules, but I never loved using them. Mostly, it was getting access to the controls - I often felt like I needed to use a tweezers in order to turn knobs or punch buttons.

Recently, I found myself needing a good input module, and nothing 2hp had would work. So I broke down and bought a Erica Synths Pico Input (at 3HP) along with a 1HP blank. Plopped it in the system and kind of fell in love. The extra 1HP made access to the shaft-y knobs a lot more comfortable, and plugging in cables (especially Stackables) was much easier and less ugly.

I've started replacing the 2hp modules with 3HP Pico modules, and I'm kind of loving it. That input module kills it, the dual VCA is simple and clean, and I just ordered an LFO/S&H and Envelope pairing that should also be cool. Takes a little more room (2 modules per 6HP, vs. 3 modules by 2hp), but I find these things a lot more fun to use. It's also opened my mind to other odd-HP modules, like the NIN expander module for the Zadar and that Roland Torcido.

But, you know, I'm going to have to double up on my sidewalk step-counts in order to make up for this!