Molten Music Monthly March 2023

Molten Music Monthly March 2023 (written version)

Molten Music Monthly

Well, the clocks have just gone forward, and I already feel the impact of losing an hour. Time is pulling us inexorably towards Superbooth in May, with perhaps a little stop-off in NAMM in April. Things are starting to flower; products, gear, and bits and pieces are popping up all over the place. Who knows what is going to come at us in the future? What does all that mean? Oh, I have no idea. Let’s get on with this month’s awesomeness.

This is an AI-corrected and manually improved transcript of the auto-generated subtitles taken from the video.

  • Telmatronics makes music with fluorescent tubes.
  • Behringer has a tsunami of synths poised to roll over us.
  • Klevguard twinkles with Marbles
  • Midiphy LoopA gets a song mode
  • Patching Panda pumps out particles
  • Soma Labs gets pulsey with Andrew Huang
  • Winterbloom has an epic sequel
  • The Flight of Harmony is birthing aliens
  • Noise Engineering has a Versio that I might actually understand
  • This is Not Rocket Science pulls drums out of a Wobbler
  • Let’s All Join the Chompy Club
  • Logue does posh MIDI control
  • Cosmos has a melodic quencer
  • Cherry Audio takes on the Jupiter six
  • Reliq is everything everywhere all at once controller
  • Expert Sleepers designs an envelope just for me
  • GForce makes a monster out of a mini Moog
  • Intellijel has a flurry of utilities and Shakmat releases some modules
  • Korg comes up with an Odyssey kit.
  • Waves goes full-on subscription

For the video version of this Molten Music Monthly go here:

Synth East

But first, Synth East, of course, I must speak of Synth East. I feel like I’ve spoken about nothing else for a long time, but just a few weeks ago, we had this show, Synth East 2023, in Norwich on March the 4th. It was spectacular, awesome, and wonderful. I’m not going to say too much about it because I have an awesome video you can watch which tells you everything you need to know. Suffice to say; it was an amazing day. How thrilling can synthesizers get?

The manufacturers seem to have enjoyed themselves, people who came seem to have enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed ourselves performing, milling about, having conversations, and generally getting our synth nerds on. It could not have gone better. Perhaps I could have performed better, been riskier, and put myself out there a little bit more during my performances, but it went well. I think everyone was pleased, and I think everyone will be back again next year, so that’s very exciting.

If you’re interested in what that was all about, go and check out the videos that I’ve made about it, and save the date for next year.

Telmatronics Groove Tube

I meant to mention this last month, but I completely forgot. It doesn’t seem to matter because they’ve achieved their Kickstarter goal anyway, so I don’t think I could have actually been of any help. What’s it all about? This is the Groove Synth, I think, by Telmatronics. You take the fluorescent tube, the sort of thing you have up in your kitchen, and you stuff it into a synthesizer. Then you somehow extract oscillations and sound from that. That’s the idea. It’s like contained lightning within a tube that you’re trying to make sense out of. You’re trying to find a waveform or something with which you can extract, shape, and use that to create sound and music. It’s kind of exciting.

The Groove Tube is what they’re calling it. I mean, it looks stunning because you’ve got this fluorescent tube being all fluorescent and lighting up and stuff. You’ve got all these valves sitting around it, you’ve got controls trying to pull things in, take things out. They kind of threw themselves on Kickstarter in order to attract people who would want to get interested in the prototyping and checking it out, working it out and working with them to produce some kind of product down the line. Because they believe that they have something of an idea, that’s going to result in the awesome production of some kind of sound, some kind of controllable, manipulable, wave-shapable sound. And so that’s the plan. I mean, it looks like a synth. It’s got dials and sliders and knobs and bits and pieces on it, but ultimately it’s an experiment that they’re just seeing where it goes. So, hopefully, after hitting their Kickstarter target, it means that they can get on with the process of boiling it down to something approaching a product. So, that’s definitely one to watch. Sorry that I couldn’t help out with the Kickstarter last month, but hey, you got there anyway, so well done! Looking forward to hearing more about it.

Behringer synths and stuff

Behringer is making moves at the moment on the old socials – they are Facebooking themselves all over the place. Every five minutes, you get another photo of a green anti-static mat with another prototype synth on it, with them going, ‘Hey, hey! Would you like this?’ This harks back to those old days when we used to believe everything that they said, and when we saw something on a bench of that nature, we’d go, ‘Wow, that’s going to be around in a minute. That would be awesome. Let’s have a play on that.’ We’re not so convinced anymore. I mean, they’ve obviously suffered very hard during the chip shortage over the pandemic, and that has hit them, and it’s hit them in both their physical product, but also their philosophy. The whole ideology behind Behringer is they’ve been very hot on supplying a product, and they haven’t been able to. And it’s come to the point where we all just go, ‘Oh well, you know until there’s actually something in the shops, it’s really hard to get excited about it,’ because otherwise, we’ll be on this perpetual level of excitement.

But recently, the wheels have started churning through on the Behringer marketing machine. And a lot of that has come to the point where they’ve suddenly slashed a whole lot of money off all their prices, which is interesting. I mean, you can suddenly get something like the WASP or the CAT for less than ever, like 150 quid. These days are Crave prices, which is kind of crazy.

Behringer Space FX ready to go?
Behringer Space FX ready to go?

The most they’ve taken off is 60% off the big modular systems, the complete System 15, 35, and 55 Moog modular clones. I don’t feel that it’s that surprising because when that all first came out, I thought it was an interesting choice of thing to clone. But I wasn’t convinced that it really added anything to the Eurorack community because you kind of have to buy the whole thing if you’re buying into a Moog modular. Even though it’s Eurorack compatible it still has all the weirdness of the originals. You have to embrace the whole S-Trig V-Trig thing and lots of other quirkiness that comes with the whole modular affair. To me, that meant it was a difficult range of modules to get into as a casual Eurorack person because you like one of those and one of those, and that was difficult to do with those Moog clones. I imagine Behringer found themselves with warehouses full of the stuff, so they’re knocking it out super cheap. I mean, it’s a heck of a way to get into modular. You can get yourself an entire two rows, a big case worth of modular for a grand, which is really quite extraordinary.

Behringer System 55
Behringer System 55

Regarding other stuff, most of which we’ve seen before, there have been updates to the Brains where they’ve added in a bit of the DX7 business that was added to the Plats just before Christmas. Of the actual new things that Behringer has been revealing, they’ve got the Juno 60 or Neptune 80, I think they’re calling it. They’re going all the way on that, and they’re also planning to do an Oberheim drum machine. You can feel the desperation to release a product, to actually get something to the shops. They are beside themselves. “We must get something out the door.” So, you know, I think perhaps this year is going to be the year that we are going to drown in Behringer product, which should be fun.

Behringer Neptune 80
Behringer Neptune 80

Klevgrand Speldosa

Klevgrand has got together with Wintergatan, and you think, “What is that about?” Now, you may remember a few years ago, there was this fabulous video of this guy with a big machine with a big handle on the side and a bunch of marbles. This thing started spewing marbles all over the place, hitting things and a bass guitar and some drums, and it made this marvellous sound. Essentially, it was this big analogue hand-cranked sequencer this guy had built to play this particular song, and it’s like an enormous music box, and it was fantastic.

Well, they’ve got together with Klevgrand, who makes interesting, quirky software synthesizers, effects, instruments, and that kind of thing, and they’ve come up with something called “Speldosa” which is probably Swedish for “Starlight” or something of that nature. It’s like a music box. You get the row of tines, I guess you would call them, twangy, twangy bits, and you play it, and it’s beautiful. It is simply beautiful, the sound of tingly, tangly tines, and electric piano-style vibraphone kinda sounds like the marbles hitting on them. It’s beautiful and very, very simple. There are four different models with different flavours. One of them is everything in reverse, which is just very sweet, as it sucks stars back into itself. It only costs about a tenor.

I confess I was expecting a bit more. I was expecting something along the lines of a sequencer and virtual marbles in some kind of machine. So I was initially disappointed, but that’s not to take anything away from this beautiful little instrument.

Patching Panda Particles

Particles looks like a very interesting thing. It’s a trigger sequencer with four sliders which seems to have baked into itself a whole load of algorithmic patterns, probability, and interesting randomness. It sort of has reflections of the Stochastic Inspiration Generator where you just put sliders up, which dictates how often something will trigger. I have used the SIG for triggering the Zaps as I did during my Synth East gig. So, it’s an idea that I’m already into.

There seem to be lots of other stuff going on that’s not yet suitably explained. There are all sorts of scaling and slopes and pattern generating something or others. Jeremy at Red Means Recording has done a video on it where you have absolutely no idea what it is doing within the video. Still, there’s an extraordinary amount of music and stuff going on, which you have to attribute to this module in some way, but you don’t really know how or why. But it’s extraordinary nonetheless, and is definitely floating my boat. I like randomization and percussion and I’m working on building a case of that at the moment. I’ve got a lot of percussion modules that I’m doing reviews of, things like the Wobbler 2, the Zaps, the Modbap Trinity, and other bits and pieces. So, I’m trigger-heavy, trigger-happy right now.

Oh – I’ve just bought it from – excellent!

SOMA Labs Pulsar-23 Andrew Huang Edition

This is SOMA Labs getting together with Perfect Circuit and Andrew Wang to produce a customized Pulsar 23. Pulsar 23 is an awesome, weird, organic, somehow flowing, modulatable drum machine. It’s not like any other drum machine. You don’t program patterns. You involve yourself in the generation of loops through finger interaction, control voltage, and other means. It’s like the most exciting drum machine I’ve never had a go on.

I’ve tried really hard to have a go on it, and it just doesn’t seem to become available to me. I’ve seen it a couple of shows, and I’ve stood around near it for a while hoping for whoever it is that’s making a beat to stop, but they don’t. So, I have to wander off and do something else. It was even at Synth East, my own show, and I still didn’t have time to go and play on it because I was too busy talking to people. But as I say, it’s not a new thing. All Andrew has done has suggested that they paint it yellow and put some different knobs on, but if that brings the Pulsar-23 back to people’s attention again then that’s great! Nice one Andrew.

Anyway, this is an exclusive limited edition machine available via Perfect Circuit. Regular versions are still available in a range of colours via other means.

Or buy the original from Thomann:

Winterbloom Castor & Pollux II

Castor & Pollux is a juicy, fat oscillator from Winterbloom. It’s really interesting in that it uses two oscillators within one package. But, rather than complexifying itself into each other to create FM clangy tones, this oscillator runs the two oscillators together in a more synced, detuned, phasing, chorusing kind of way. This gives you a really fat and juicy sound with multiple wave shapes out, either together or separately, or synced or not. It’s the sort of oscillator that’s just massive or can be a massive bass line in your system. It looks beautiful too. I confess that I did add some extra knob caps over the top because I found the knobs a little bit fiddly. But hey, it seems that Winterbloom have been listening to that kind of critique, and have produced the Castor and Pollux II.

The II has more epicness, more legendaryness within it. It has reworked the LFO inside for its own self-modulation in different sorts of waveforms. I believe it now has hard sync within itself, to itself, and with itself. They’ve also reworked the interface to actually give you some decent size knobs, which I’m very grateful for. At the expense, though, of having to kick all the waveform outputs to a separate expander. So you’ve got your main mix waveform output directly there, as well as your CV control. But then, what you can do is waveform mixing, each waveform has a knob for it, so you can bring its level in and out. So having an expander for those individual outputs I think is a great idea. It should probably come as standard with it.

Castor & Pollus II
Castor & Pollux II

Castor & Pollux II should be coming in May, apparently. Looking forward to hearing that in action.

Flight of Harmony Facehugger

The Facehugger is a great name. It’s from Flight of Harmony, who do other weird stuff. I mean, they’re kind of into their horror-themed, terrifying modules, I think you would say. But this is an eight-channel voltage generator. It’s a bit like a Varigate. You’ve got eight sliders, each of which produces a certain amount of voltage. And then you can sequence it or chain it together in such a way that it becomes a sequencer, becomes an arpeggiator, it becomes an envelope, it becomes a modulator, an LFO, and all sorts of other bits and pieces. It’s a solid idea, I think, of an interesting way of putting an eight-step modulator into your system that can act as all sorts of different functions.

At the moment, it’s a bit of a prototype. And what they’ve decided to do, wisely or unwisely, is to throw it onto Kickstarter. Now, I say “wisely” or “unwisely” because they’re asking for 20 grand, which seems like a lot of money for a slightly exploratory, not-yet-quite-made module. So, the idea is that the money will help fund the development, which is good, obviously. But you know, you’ve got to get like 150-200 people to sign up for a quite niche Eurorack module, which is a very niche business in the first place. So it just seems like a bit of an ask to me.

However, I’ve come up with $200 for a kit version – because I think it’s a fascinating idea. I like the name, I like the concept. If they can put it together and make it work, I’m sure it’s going to do a lot more than it says it will at the moment. If they can only get enough people interested in it, then perhaps it’ll become a bit of a goer. They plan to deliver by September, but if you’re interested in something which is fascinating – fabulous eight sliders, envelopes, LFOs, arpeggiations – oh yes, yes, I think so, you should get along down there and pledge yourself one.

Flight of Harmony Facehugger
Flight of Harmony Facehugger

Noise Engineering Yester Versio

The Noise Engineering Yester Versio is the latest in their Versio collection of DSP-based Eurorack modules. All of them are essentially the same; they just have different front panels and firmware. All the firmware is loadable onto the other one, so whichever Versio you buy, you can load up all of the firmware from the whole range of Versio modules. It’s quite awesome, really. I’ve tended to find them a little bit complicated – I mean, it’s Noise Engineering, so it’s always going to be slightly weird, slightly strange, complicated, interesting, digital, those sorts of things are what Noise Engineering likes to do, and the Versio range absolutely play to their type.

With the Yester, it’s supposed to be a simple delay. Apparently, it’s a three-tap delay that you’ve got control of delay time, feedback, panning, on whether it’s dotted or triplets, so it’s already getting complicated. You can clock it, it can be synchronized, and then, oh, look, there’s a filter, a wave folder, and a chorus all packed in as well. Yeah, yeah, simple, simple. You’ve got ten knobs on the front and ten patch points, and you’ve got to fill those up with something, so regardless of how simple they think it may be, they can’t help themselves. They’ve got to pad it out with useful stuff. But, it does sound like it’s the sort of Versio that I would be able to use without too much trouble, so hurray for that. So, maybe finally, I could get into the Versio lifestyle.

This is Not Rocket Science Wobbler2

This is Not Rocket Science, Wobbler two, or perhaps Wobbler squared – Wobbler to the power of two, I think that might be it. Now, Wobbler is their very interesting phasing dual LFO. It’s a good solid module that’s been around a little while, and they ran out. When they attempted to make some more they discovered that the microcontroller they wanted to use to make it was just unavailable. So they thought, “Well, heck, let’s use something else.” So they did. They put that in and got it all working. They discovered that their code was running in this little weeny corner of this new microprocessor, and they’ve got all this yawning space. Why not do something with that? So they did.

Wobbler Squared has an entire drum synthesizer packed into it. That’s not the sort of thing you’d usually associate with an LFO, but hey, what the heck. This is Not Rocket Science – they do whatever they like. Now, I’m working on this at the moment, and it’s a lot of fun, I have to say. So the LFO side, yeah, phasing interesting LFOs. It’s got a twang in it, as well as a pendulum, which is based on physical modelling. And it’s that coding that sort of brought them towards the idea of doing some sort of physical modelling drums as well. The code already has it in, so they could utilize it in order to expand the possibilities of the module. The LFO side is great. I’m not going to spend any more time talking about that. It’s the drums inside which is the interesting bit.

So what you get is seven drum sounds based on wobbly physical modelling. There are seven sounds around the dial, each of which has two controls to modulate it. This produces different timbres, ideas, lengths, and other variations. A couple of knobs that would normally control the LFO are now fiddling with the nature of the modelling inside the module. To get across what it does, you plug in a bunch of triggers, a pattern from somewhere, it could just be a clock, and for each trigger you can start manipulating and have a different sound on every one. So it’s essentially a linear drum machine. You put your trigger pattern in, just one channel of  trigger patterns, and you get this wonderful percussive line out. It’s a little bit like the Basimilus Ilteritas Alter, I suppose, like a digital model that you modulate a lot as you trigger it. It’s a little bit like Zaps, which I’ll talk about more at a later date. And it’s a little bit like the DFAM as a sound source, which I’ve never really understood. I try to play with it, but now I think I can probably go back and work it better because I’ve grasped the nature of a linear drum sound source that you can modulate and change the sound of.

You end up with these really interesting evolving and randomized percussion lines, which are fantastic. That is absolutely what the Wobbler Squared is. It’s fantastic, but not only that, it also has hidden away in it a bunch of sample drum kits, which is a massive surprise. So, happily playing along with the synthesized stuff, yeah, this is great. I’m really enjoying that, but with a shift tap, it’s suddenly got like a rock kit, some 80s snares, a chiptune, arcade kit, and some vocal wobbly kits. Fantastic. But again, you have to be able to hit those notes individually because within the kit, you’ve got seven sounds that you’re triggering. You have to be able to modulate between them, and that was a little bit more tricky. You’ve got to do a little bit of thinking on that, but I will explain and expand upon this completely and fully in a video review, which is coming very soon.

Midiphy LoopA Song Mode update

LoopA has a new firmware update which builds in a long-awaited song mode. Now, the LoopA – if you’ve never seen it – is quite a nice-looking, nuanced box of MIDI looping and sequencing, or re-quantizing, as they like to call it. It’s very fast, very quick, and very meaty desktop MIDI sequencing, and it’s based around this lovely interface of a clacky mechanical keyboard, but one that has LEDs that can shine through it. You may be more familiar with a big Matrix frame thing that they have – you can do proper Matrix sequencing on it.

But the LoopA is a fully-featured six-channel MIDI sequencer, with everything available at your fingertips and a gorgeous OLED screen in order to make everything happen. So, if you’ve not seen it before, do go and check it out.

Chompi Club Sampler

Let’s all join the Chompi Club! You can imagine there’s probably a theme tune to this. What the heck is this? Well, it’s a synthesizer made by Twilight Sparkle out of My Little Pony or Fisher-Price, those sorts of ideas come to mind. It’s an adorable, cute, wonderful briefcase of a little keyboard with sampling, looping, and sound-on-sound stuff built directly in. What could be better than that? Well, something which is a little bit cheaper than the $600 I think. Good Lord, how much?

I love the idea, I love the intention. The fact that you’re trying to take something which is often more than likely complicated if you consider something like the Roland SP-404 or the Sonicwear SmplTrk. They’ve got horrible user interfaces where everything is just difficult, but you fight on through and eventually you become a master of sampling and looping. But with this, you just hit the smiley face, and it starts sampling. Hit the other smiley face, and it loops. It’s brilliant. It throws it across the keyboard and does all the things that you expect and would probably do anyway, which is always the flaw with these sampling machines. They assume that you’re going to do something really interesting, and you’re not. You’re going to do the same thing every time. You’re going to slice it up across the keyboard; that’s it. Why should you need to go through steps and menus in order to achieve that? That’s just… Anyway, join the Chompi Club, and you could just do it. It’s just there; off you go!

The crazy thing is that it’s been on Kickstarter for about two days and it’s already raised over three-quarters of a million pounds from over 1700 backers. That’s nuts! Evidently, there’s a market for a cute, easy-to-use sampler/looper with a cool handle and a smiley face.

  • Chompi Kickstarter page.

Logue CL-1

The Logue CL-1 is another one of those magical MIDI controllers, as all MIDI controllers tend to promise to be. And they always end up just being the same, really – a MIDI controller. You’ve got a knob, you’ve got to map it, and then off you go. But no, apparently this one is going to do that all for you or something – automatic mapping with Ableton Live. I think we’ve heard it all before, many, many, many times. But how is this one different? Well, this one looks rather lovely and has individual displays for every single knob.

So it has this lovely silver panel with 28 knobs and 28 displays. The display sucks information out of Ableton Live and sticks it up on the knobs. You don’t have to look at the screen as you’re controlling things; you can see it on the device. So the hardware becomes the hardware interface for the software. I think that’s the idea, and it takes it to the point where you can actually see on the hardware what it is. Because that’s always been the flaw, having a blank controller is fine, but you need to look at the screen as you move the knobs, which is okay, you know, we’re happy with that to some degree. But once you actually have a piece of real hardware that has labels on it and the one knob actually controls the thing that it’s labelled for, that elevates it to a whole different hardware experience. And because it’s got these little screens which you can change, you can absolutely show you on the device what it is you’re controlling without you having to look at the screen, and without having to pick up your mouse. And that’s interesting. I think that could be unique. And golly, does that sound expensive?

Well, apparently, the price is going to be about 600 euros, and they are looking to raise about €150,000 on Kickstarter. At the time of writing the campaign has been going a week and they still need ten times the amount of pledges to reach their goal.

Hmmm. That seems a lot. I mean, it’s a MIDI controller, so there’s a far larger market for it than there was for Eurorack and the 20 grand I was talking about earlier, but still, 150k? That’s a lot. And it’s 600 pounds for a MIDI controller. See, that’s synthesizer money, isn’t it?

I love the concept, love the idea, love what they’re doing. I’m not sure that there’s really a market for it but we’ll see.

  • Logue Kickstarter page.

Centrevillage Cosmos Quencer

Out of Japan comes the Cosmos Quencer. It’s a Eurorack module with a big flower on the front that aims to be a phrase generator. So, there seems to be a lot of manipulation involved. There are these eight petals, I think, that are involved in the production of phrases that you can then pump into your oscillators to create interesting melodies and tunes from. It’s bound to involve scaling and some kind of quantizable sequence, which you can then manipulate through randomization and modulation until you ultimately get some kind of interesting output.

It seems to have an oscillator inside as well, so you can generate its own sounds as well as controlling other things, and we’re talking about CV and gate patterns too. So, it sort of could be the idea of building together a sequencer with a Euclidean pattern generator in order to have something that generates its own tunes. Very interesting! I don’t think we’ve really gone to the bottom of what this is about, but one to watch.

Cherry Audio Mercury 6

From that most reliable software instrument emulator, Cherry Audio, we get a go on the Jupiter 6. They’re calling it the Mercury 6, which is kind of a nice name, although it sounds like the name of something else. For some reason. Apparently, the Jupiter-6 is the unloved or underappreciated synthesizer that appeared between the Jupiter-4 and the Jupiter-8. But according to the blurb on the website, it’s just always been the best one, and the only one that we should ever have cared about. So, here they are with their own Jupiter-6 emulation that you should take note of, and the Mercury 6 totally captures it in all its glorious analogue glory.

Apparently, its main special feature was a multi-mode filter, and that you had multiple simultaneous waveforms. On the downside, it was mono, which I don’t think anybody really cares about these days. It only had 6 voices, but heck, the Mercury 6 is going to be in software, so it’s going to have a gazillion outputs and a gazillion notes of polyphony. So, we’re not to worry about those sorts of things. The important thing is that Cherry Audio has captured that sound, has captured that interface, and is delivering it to you for probably thirty dollars.

GForce Minimonsta 2

While we’re talking about emulations, let’s talk about the Minimonsta 2 from GForce. I mean, Cherry Audio is the best at software emulation instruments at the moment, but GForce has been doing it for longer and arguably has the edge on actual sound quality. They just don’t seem to have the prolificness of Cherry Audio. Cherry Audio seems to be able to pump them out like nobody’s business. GeForce likes to take a good 10 years over putting together an emulated synthesizer, and the Minimonsta is one of those.

Minimonsta has been around for a long time; it’s their Mini Moog, but this version 2 just seems to blow it apart. So, its top new feature is, of course, it has a fully scalable UI. It’s very exciting, so rather than having the tiny Minimonsta on your screen, you can now enlarge it to any size. And then you’ve got a new browser. These are all kind of, I don’t know, the most irrelevant updates, so why is it the top new feature? You can resize it. Oh, great. Really, I don’t even look at the interface when I’m playing it, for heaven’s sake. Oh, look, it’s a browser. Really? I can categorize my sounds? Well, that’s awesome. Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude about it, but let’s try to find something that’s actually good?

Programmable macros? Okay, so you’ve got a knob which you can assign to control different things at once. That’s interesting. I always like that sort of thing. It makes for a very powerful way to modulate your synthesizer sound. It’s got a four-stage envelope and an alternative filter. Oh, an alternative to the ladder filter? No, no, no. Can we really be doing that? Apparently, it’s a bit bass-preserving. Does that mean the other one was a bass-destroying filter? And they’ve put in a reverb and a bit of extra playability with performance controls, aftertouch, that kind of thing. And it’s got a vintage knob for adding in those vintage imperfections to make it sound more vintage.

So, I know I’m being a little bit facetious. I’m not quite sure where that came from because it’s a beautiful synth. I mean, you can’t get a better Minimoog emulation than the Minimonsta, and what they’ve done is they’ve reached back into the past, grabbed this poor tired old emulation of theirs, which has been, you know, a bit dog-eared and not really working right on modern computers, I imagine, and they’ve brought it back up to date. They’ve made the interface work properly, put in a browser so people can find where the heck their sounds are, added vintage imperfections to make it sound more crappy, and just beefed it up in other places. Great job.

Reliq Hybrid

This is a little bit Space Age. It has the vibe of the Push 2 and a Deluge about it, I would say. Maybe a little bit of Polyend as well.  It’s a massive 16 by 16 matrix of light-up buttons with this really interesting strip screen above it, and then a whole shedload of buttons and knobs. It does everything. The idea is that the Reliq is a matrix sequencer, a regular sequencer, a polyphonic synthesis sequencer, a matrix mixer, and it also has modulation. You can use this 16 by 16 matrix as a scribble pad for anything you like. You can draw in waveforms, you can draw in modulations, and envelopes, you can then light it up like a Yamaha Tenori-On. I mean, I’ve always liked those sorts of grid sequences. I think they’re fantastic. Once you’ve got it set to some kind of scale just pump in a bunch of notes, and it could be a beautifully tinkly thing. Combine it up with the Klavgrand Speldosa and it could be awesome.

Now, this looks very expensive in what is probably a render of this wooden-sided cabinet box. The screen, which is going to change and show everything and show your routing and show your modulations, everything you’re doing, does look very interesting, beautifully animated, and beautifully coloured. It’s almost too extraordinary. It’s like a fever dream of control. And then on the back, you’ve got a couple of MIDI outs, sure, but hey, why don’t we add a complete patch bay that works as a Eurorack module you can drop into your system? So we can patch it directly to that, and then that spills out 16 channels of CV in and out and Gates and such like, so you can really run your whole system from it. Wow, I mean, this is pretty epic.

With this beautiful screen that’s showing you what to do, you can mix with it. It’s like a Novation Launchpad, which is 8 by 8. You’ve got this very low-resolution sort of usage of it to show you digits and mixing and panning.  This just ups that massively to 16 by 16. It gives you such a higher resolution of stuff that it really could act as a mixer, panner, sends, sequencer, envelope generator, LFO modulator, router, and so on. It really could. But apparently, it’s going to be launching soon for about 1700 euros.

Expert Sleepers Amelia

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I tend to moan about envelopes. I know what to do with them, they just never seem to do exactly what I think they should half the time. I get all muddled up between my sustains and my releases and my decays, and what’s that about? Is it triggered or gated or is it, you know, I just, uh, envelope, so just do my head in anyway.

Expert Sleepers obviously heard me moaning and said, ‘I know what we’ll do. We’ll introduce an envelope which will sort him out and he’ll be able to happily use envelopes for the rest of his life without having to worry about it anymore.’ So that’s what they did, and it’s called Amelia, which is rather nice.

So this is an envelope just for me. And is this the answer to enveloping? Yes, I rather think that it is. It’s totally brilliant. Why is it brilliant? It’s because it has a break in it, a break rather than sustain. So the break is the point at which the release happens, I think. So you’ve got attack and decay. I can understand rise, and fall things like that. So you put the attack at nothing, and you have the decay fall away after that. Great, that’s all I really want. But it puts this break point in that decay so you can hit that point, and that’s when it starts to release. And what that means in reality is that when you’re using it with a filter, it just works. It is working all the time, and you can adjust the break point, and that changes the way that filter is opening and closing a little bit, just enough to give you a variation in sound. And then you can choose to add release onto that afterwards to make it sort of fade away nicely, depending on what you’re doing.

Os at Expert Sleepers says that this is designed primarily for sequencing for stuff that will be a little bit faster rather than long-evolving things, and that’s exactly what I want. That’s what I want envelopes to do. Simple, straightforward. I don’t want all that ADSR business necessarily. This is just changed enough to make it fast, responsive, to really tickle that filter in the ways that you expect to hear it and how you would expect to find it in a hardware synthesizer. And that’s been a struggle of mine in trying to find a filter envelope combination that works in a simple enough way just to be able to dial it in and off you go. This is it. I’m very pleased with this.

Intellijel and Shakmat

Just a quick one from Intellijel. They are poised to release a couple of modules. I got wind of them this morning. One of them is called Flurry. I believe it’s a collection of utilities within a module, things like a modulator, clock noise source, and other bits and pieces. Flurry is a really great name for a module, I think. The other one’s called Amp or Amps, which is a two-channel VCA on sliders which just looks quite nice. So, I thought I’d tell you about that.

Intellijel Flurry and Amps
Intellijel Flurry and Amps

I thought I’d also mention that Shakmat have just dropped a couple of modules, as I was starting to film this. They’re called Banshee Reach, which is an analogue VCO with wave shaping, which is interesting. It reminds me of the Pony VCO from Befaco. I think there’s a lot of wave shaping going on at the moment. So, that’s looking pretty tidy. The other one is called Jeweler Cast and appears to be a wave-folding, wave-shaping kind of thing all by itself as well. I don’t have all the details yet, but do go and check those out because they do look interesting.

Korg ARP Odyssey Kit

Korg keeps managing to do interesting things. They have apparently released the NTS2 now, that’s the little oscilloscope in a box. They did promise to send me one, but I haven’t seen it yet. But I might get one soon, which would be nice to go along with a Patch and Tweak Korg book. My Korg insiders tell me that there are plenty more goodies to come. One thing they came up with this month is the DIY synthesizer kit for the ARP Odyssey. It’s a gorgeous little synthesizer.

I think if it’s a kit, it should involve soldering. I think it should involve a little bit of danger – the possibility that you’re either going to suffocate in the smell of resin, or you’re going to hurt yourself somehow. But that’s not what we’ve got. What we’ve got is a kit version of the Odyssey where you kind of snap it together. It’s a limited edition and costs an absolute fortune for reasons that can’t really be explained. But there you go.

If you’re scared of soldering, you don’t really want to do any DIY, you like the idea of having a synth which is just a slightly bit cheaper than getting the one fully built, then that’s for you, if they’ve got any left, because, as I say, there’s only a limited run of them, so they’re probably gone already. But good fun. Is it a trend that I’d like to see continue? Well, it’s slightly cheaper, and it gives people a sense that they might have something to do with the build of their synthesizer? Then that’s no bad thing. But don’t tell me it’s a kit, man. It’s not a kit. It’s not DIY, not truly. It’s a snap-together. It’s a Lego version. It’s not Airfix. Let’s not get ourselves confused.

Waves Subscription horror

And this just in, Waves plugins. They’ve decided to go all in on the subscription module, all of it, the whole lot, all at once. No options, no alternatives, no upgrades to anyone except if you’re signed up to the subscription service. What does the world think of that?

The old discussion about subscriptions – is it good, is it bad, is it helpful, does it help people, does it not? Paying for content upgrades and maintenance, or should you be able to buy something once and use it forever? I mean, that’s a novel concept in itself. I don’t know what the answer is. I used to have a Waves dongle many, many years ago. It was a parallel port one. You had to do all sorts of shenanigans on Windows to get that to work. So at least those days are behind us, although you know there were some good things about dongles. They enabled you to run your plugins wherever you like; you connect the thing that you purchased, a bit like an iLok. But who knows what sort of thing you’re gonna have to use now in order to prove that you’ve got the plugins that you were using? And of course, if you use one plugin on a project somewhere and then decided, ‘I don’t want to subscribe to this anymore,’ you’re not going to be able to go back to that project and load it up because that plugin won’t work. This is the thing.

I subscribe to Adobe Photoshop, you know, it cost me eight pounds or something a month, I can’t remember exactly, and that seems fine because I could never come up with the hundreds and hundreds of pounds required to buy the software, but I’ve been quite happy paying probably that much and more over time because it’s a small amount and that’s something that I use absolutely every day. The problem I always see with plugins and musical gear generally is that unless you are a professional, in which case it doesn’t matter, you don’t tend to use it all the time. You may use it on one project, and then six months later, you’ll use it again, and you end up having to maintain a subscription and payment for something that you’ll use once in a blue moon, and that seems a shame. Whereas, 30 quid on a plugin that I’ll use once in a while, is fantastic.

It’s called “Waves Creative Access.” You can start for free. Not sure how that works, but it’s total freedom from the world’s largest catalogue of industry-leading plugins and powerful AI mixing tools. So there are 220 plugins, future updates, and new plugins added regularly. It’s a whole studio in one handy subscription. What could possibly be wrong with that? I don’t know, but lots of people are talking about it. And I would just say that the places where it’s worked well, I think, are places where they offer a subscription, but they also give you the opportunity just to buy stuff flat out, and I think that’s important. It gives people an option because a subscription doesn’t work for everybody. And there’s nothing worse than thinking that if I stop this subscription, then all my software will stop working. That’s a horrible state of affairs to be in.

So having the option to purchase something, a lifetime license for, is always a really, really good thing. But it appears that we’re just going to go straight to subscription. So we’ll see what happens with that. There might be so much of a backlash that they just can’t continue with it. I don’t know. That is the way it’s been going, particularly with plugins, particularly with instruments, which is why something like Cherry Audio I spoke about a little while ago, you know, 30 quid for one of their synthesizers is fantastic. Buy it, use it, don’t use it, brilliant. You don’t want to have to go through the stress of having to update it every year. But heck, on the flip side, pay one fee, and get everything. There is something in that, you know, and it’s far more cost effective than buying them all individually. Not that you would ever, ever use all of them individually. You choose one or two compressors, one or two of this, that, and the other, an occasional plug-in. Hey, what do I know? I can’t possibly comment on what you would use and how you would use it. But there you go. That’s the news. Waves have gone subscription-only. Have fun.

A couple of days later and Waves caved into the pressure of shouty plugin owners. In light of the backlash we all knew was coming they have agreed to continue with the perpetual license renewals and updates to existing plugins.

Molten News

And finally, you may be aware that I’ve worked for many years as a writer on the website, and I continue to do so. It’s a happy, happy place. However, Gearnews has kind of pivoted towards magazine articles recently, and that’s meant that I’ve not been able to write as much of the news about the little bits and pieces that I really enjoy. So, I’ve sort of made a decision to start releasing my own news articles on my own website – all the bits and pieces that I think are perhaps being missed or not being looked at, or things I would just like to share my opinion on. Partly, this is to build my own enormous media empire, and some of it is because when I sit down to write Molten Music Monthlies, as I have the past few months, I’ve been sitting there going, “I don’t actually know what any of the news is because I’m no longer really covering all of the stuff that I’d like to talk about.” And so, it seems right to me that as I have to research this video anyway, I might as well be writing up and sending it out to you good people.

So, if you’d like to hear what it is that I’ve got to say about various news things, it will always be laden and dripping full of my opinion, then go and visit the Molten Music Technology website. I’m just posting stuff up there, hopefully on a daily basis, that should be a good source of interesting news, interesting thought about new products and stuff that’s coming along, and anything that tickles my fancy. You’ll also find on there reviews of all the stuff that I’ve done, links to all the videos I’ve done. I’m also going to retry developing written versions of the reviews and the Molten Monthly that I do so that you can sit there and read it rather than having to watch it, if that makes sense.

And so, hopefully, there’s room out there for yet another source of news and interesting opinion on stuff, and I’m going to keep that flowing provided that it’s interesting to people, and hopefully, it will be helpful. And so, that also means that if you’re a manufacturer out there who has news, let me know. Even better, if you have a leak, you want to leak something before it’s news, then I’ll have that. That would be great.

Coming Up…

So that’ll do for now. I’ve got a lot of stuff coming along, a lot of videos to make at the moment. A lot of DIY, a bit of Deckard’s Dream, just to finish that off. But proper full-on reviews, I’ve got coming up: the Wobbler 2, ; Modbab Trinity, the Plankton Zaps. All of those are scheduled for proper in-depth video-type reviews. And then, following on from that, I’ve got the Maelstrom Mandrake, which I’ve got doing an awesome Kick Drum in my system here at the moment. I’ve got the Schlappi Engineering Three Bodies, which I haven’t quite unwrapped yet, which scares the life out of me. What am I going to do with three oscillators in a thing? And then, of course, I’ve got the OxiInstruments Coral, which I’m also working on at the moment, at the same time as the Wobbler. It’s going to take a little bit of time, I think, because there are complexities involved and a depth to a multi-synthesizer engine module that I need to spend time with, really before I can make a video on it. Similarly, I’ve still got the Chord Pilot from Nebulae to work on, which will go well with the Coral, I think. So, I need to wrap my head around that as well.

I’d like to do something on the Amelia envelope. Does it need its own video? Well, I mean, that’s one of those questions, isn’t it? And I’ve still got the 2500 over there to do. Wherever I look, I can see a thing that I need to talk about. It’d be really great to do a video on. Very excited about doing videos. I love the thing, and I’ve still got some brilliant ideas I want to share with you very soon, which are just so exciting. I do have other modules  bubbling along of my own thought and design, which is going to be very exciting. Got some new something rather cool coming from Befaco very soon as well.

There’s just no end to it. It’s just terribly exciting, terribly exciting. So, please, if you’d like to support my channel, do consider signing up on Patreon, where you get special access to me and everything that’s wonderful about it. And otherwise, pop over to the website, check out the news. Follow along on that. Join us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, those sorts of places, and I’ll keep you updated on what the heck is going on in my usual fabulously jovial, humorous, and opinionated fashion. Well, so I hope that was all useful and helpful. And in the meantime, go make some tunes.

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