I’ve got shed loads of stuff to talk about in this month’s Superbooth infused edition so I’m going to dispense with the pithy introductions and let’s just get straight to it.
I’m sure you are all bored silly with Superbooth by now and probably rightly so but I was there for a day and it was fabulous. It was great meeting people; thanks ever so much if you came up and said hello, I hope I wasn’t rude, and that I was as awesome in person as you seem to think I might be over the camera, so I hope I didn’t dispel any of those weird delusions. I saw a lot of stuff, talked to loads of people, saw some music being played, it was great. It has this real festival vibe now.
It used to be this hothouse of powered noise inside the FEZ complex where you felt like you were some kind of extra in a strange 70s sci-fi movie. You were shuffling around from place to place being bombarded by a barrage of sonic-ness. It wasn’t quite like that anymore now they’ve pushed it outside you’re feeling relaxed and groovy, you can chill out with a beer, make music, meet some friends and have a lovely time. That seems to be much more the vibe they’re going for which is great. I think the weather is a huge factor, had it been pouring with rain it might have been a very different experience. But as it was it’s spread out, you’ve got these tented areas, you’ve got food vans, you’ve then got bungalows somewhere else, and you’ve still got some stuff inside. It’s a fabulous thing, if you’ve never been you really should endeavour to do so.
While this monthly will highlight my highlights from Superbooth it’s not going to be exclusively about that because other things happened that weren’t necessarily at Superbooth so I’m going to be tackling those as well, so let’s get on.
The big news was probably Oberheim. I think we knew about this a little bit as there’d been a tease and we thought yeah he’s gonna release an OB-X isn’t he? It’s gonna be some big mother of a synth and yeah that’s absolutely what it was. So Oberheim has done the thing that everybody wanted them to do and has built the evolution of, or the homage to, all of his greatest hits, so we have the OB-X8. In a nutshell, it’s three synths in one: It’s the OB-X the OB-Xa and the OB-8 so it’s got all three architectures from those synthesizers stuffed into one lovely looking Oberheim keyboard synthesizer.
You’ve got seven filters in there, you’ve got sound voices and waveforms, you’ve got all of the presets from all of the synths. It’s like the greatest hits of everything Oberheim have ever done stuffed into a single synth. It’s great, it can’t be anything other than extraordinary. This, of course, is not going to be a casual synthesizer for casual people, this is a collector’s item, this is the synthesizer that all of those people with money to invest in synths have wanted and here it is. It’s going to sell by extremely small bucket loads because not everybody has five grand to drop on a synthesizer but there’s no doubt that the Oberheim OB-X8 is an absolute doozy. What a thing, it’s exactly what everybody wanted I don’t think there’s really anything more to say about that.
Go and check out some of the demos, go and check out what you think it sounds like, but this is a synthesizer for those people who really value this level of workmanship, that historical connection, that legacy and ultimately the quality of the sound that you’re going to be getting out of it. It’s a synthesizer to be enjoyed, a synthesizer to sit in your studio amongst your other collection that just oozes class and sound and fabulousness. It is absolutely a modern classic to go alongside I imagine your Moog One and your Prophet 10 and things like that. It’s a real synth person’s synthesizer.
Roland Aira Compact
Roland was not at Superbooth, who knows why, but leading up to it they’ve released three little Aira Compact synthesizers. What is it with these mini synths at the moment? Everyone’s doing them and you’re going to see more mini synths I think in the very near future from all sorts of places. It’s weird how these trends happen, there must have been something a couple of years ago where everyone was just thinking everybody needs Volcas, the Korg Volca is where it’s all been at all this time and we’ve just not really noticed.
Anyway, Aira Compact is three little synths which are put together as a fabulously Roland-infused little techno acid workstation. It’s brilliant, I mean these are tiny weeny things that annoy me a little bit with tiny weeny controls which are frustrating, but heck man, you get the plug-in version of their absolutely authentically modelled ACB range of virtual versions of their literal legacy in a little box. So yeah in the T8 Beat Machine you get an 808, 909 and 606 drum kit but also a 303, so it has the baseline built-in. This really is the coolest one: It’s a drum machine and acid baseline all built into a tiny little form factor.
Then alongside you’ve got the J6 Chord Synthesizer. This is a Juno-106 kind of thing from which you can create pads and chords, and you’ve got this chord sequencer. So you’ve got your bass line and your drums going on your T8 and then on this you’ve got chords and stabs and that coming in – fantastic!
And then lastly, weirdly, you got the E4 Voice Tweaker. Now, this is one of these weird voice transformation things that makes you sound like an idiot or can add awesome reverb and harmonies and things like that to your voice. So I think what Roland is thinking is that you’ve got your chords you’ve got your drum and your bass and then you sing along with it so it’s a perfect collection of three little modules that you can plug into sync them all together sing through and you are performing at your local electronic open mic night, or gig, or down the park. It’s all battery powered and that kind of thing.
They look great they’re very simple to use and off you go and start making music. They are about 200 quid each so, you know, a little more on the towards the pricier side of these sorts of mini synths, but so more expensive than a Korg Volca for instance but heck, it’s got Roland written all over it.
Cre8audio East Beast
Cre8audio managed to squeeze out a little synthesizer for Superbooth. They’re calling it the East Beast and it’s a fun little subtractive mono synth with Pittsburgh Modular oscillations, filter and bags full of fun and character, sequencing and stuff going on inside as well. I’ve done a full review of this on the channel so do go and check that out.
It’s a great little mono thing, it’s got this fantastic buttery filter from Pittsburgh Modular in there and a fun sequencer, a clackety-clackity keyboard, patch points, you can drop it into your modular if you want or just use it standalone. Fantastic, very affordable, very awesome and I imagine there might be another one just around the corner.
Pittsburgh Modular Scary Safari
Talking of Pittsburgh Modular they are also doing their own thing with their weird Safari collection of modules. Richard Nichol has been demonstrating the increasingly ballooning range of Pittsburgh Modular modules which are designed around strange animals and concepts and ideas. They’ve just put out the Scary Safari and you’ve got a Filter of Crows, a weird unique filter which uses weird unique things it has a crow on the front, you’ve got the Wolf channel strip and VCA, and then the Dynamics Controller Bat or the Bat controller, depending on how you say it.
But anyway, these modules continue to appear in limited numbers and then disappear again. Then in the following month, you get something else. Along with the work with Cre8audio, Pittsburgh seems to be heading towards something big.
Pittsburgh Modular website..
Erica Synths Syntrx II and LXR Eurorack
I ran into Girts almost immediately at Superbooth which was fantastic because he dragged me into the Erica Synths room and pumped me full of this strange purple liquid. It was some kind of weird Latvian liqueur I think which kind of had me hallucinating for the rest of the day. But anyway, Erica Synths had two things, in particular, this year. The first was the Syntrx II which was the second version of their premiere awesome synth.
It’s based a little bit around something like the EMS Synthi and it has that kind of exploration that kind of pedigree, that kind of desire to be something really really special. With version two they’ve moved beyond that kind of creamy white number, they had going on back to where they’re most comfortable in their deep dark blackness. It’s got a wonderful glowy VU meter on the front and it has a couple of oscillators with wave shaping, a filter, fantastic matrix and mixer sitting in the middle, so you can route all of your modulation to all of your bits to all your other places.
In terms of new stuff, they’ve added a delay and a ring modulator as well as recording of the joystick movements as a modulator. It has a new and improved input system including an envelope follower for the first input so you can extract the shape of that incoming signal and use that as modulation elsewhere. They’ve taken out the speakers, thank goodness, and you know just overall it looks like a deep dark awesome synthesizer.
The other thing they had was the LXR. Now, this is the drum section the drum voice that’s been pulled out of the LXR-02 which is something that they made in collaboration with Sonic Potions. It’s a digital-based drum machine and inside it, you’ve got six voices of different forms of digital crunchy noise nastiness, in order to generate six different drum tones. This has all been extracted into CVs, you’ve got CV triggers but also CV accents and modulations. It’s all digital so there’s a lot of menu messing about to route stuff from various places to other places.
Befaco has always got new stuff coming along including the DivKids Stereo Strip of course, and also they’ve ported lots of modules into VCV Rack. That gives a little indication of what their newest module is about, it’s called the AC/DC and it’s nothing to do with those of us who are about to rock. This has everything to do with getting CV and audio into and out of your DAW to your modular, modular-DAW, DAW-to-modular, that kind of thing.
So it’s a DC-coupled audio interface, four channels in four channels out. You can take audio in and out via USB plugged into the front. Or it can be control voltage if you have a control voltage compatible DAW something like Bitwig or Ableton Live or the CV tools extension in it, you can shift modulation or sequencing from one place to another. I’m looking forward to trying this out at some point and Ii’ll report back on what I find, but what it does look like is a very affordable and simple way of just getting your DAW and your modular to play nicely together.
Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field
Teenage Engineering surprised us all a little bit with the OP-1 Field because it’s not an OP-2, which is what would have been less surprising. But no, this is the OP-1 Field. So the original OP-1 is like a decade old now, it’s a fabulous little small form factor synthesizer, sampler, recorder, mixer, effects processor kind of deal, and it’s beloved of hipsters and fashionable people as we know. But a lot of people get a lot of fun out of it. I never really thought much about it until I had one in my hands and then I kind of realized that this is a fabulous piece of gear. I can absolutely see why people really get into this sort of thing. Sure it’s small and compact and that has its challenges, but it’s also bright and creative, and interesting and it has limitations which make it actually quite exciting to use.
Now the OP-1 Field takes all of that loveliness and sort of mutes out the colours a bit, tries to make it just that little bit more sophisticated, and throws in 100 new features. But ultimately what you get is a synthesizer, a sampler, a controller, it’s got built-in sensors, it’s got four-track recording and effects processing. So you can write entire tracks on this little thing or use it as part of what they’re calling a “field system” which includes a fabulously small TX-6 mixer and now the OP-1 Field.
It’s going to costs about $2,000 which feels expensive for a piece of gear that’s a four-track recorder. But I don’t know, I think people just need to chill out. I think we’re allowed to have premium bits of gear that cost a load of money, I think that’s okay. If that’s not for you, it’s not for you, but it doesn’t mean it’s not for everybody. Some people like really nice watches, nice cars, nice gear, nice clothes, labels and brands and stuff; there’s nothing wrong with having a premium brand, there’s nothing wrong we’ve charging a load of money for something which has cost a lot to develop and engineer. That’s fine, go for it.
Some good stuff coming in from Dreadbox. They had on show the new Dysmetria. This is done in the style of the Dysphonia which was great (I did a video on it) where you have to put it together yourself. There’s a little bit but not a huge amount of soldering you have to do to put it together but you end up with a very cool synth voice that can either sit on your desktop on pegs or you can drop it into your Eurorack. Now they’ve done that again with something called the Dysmetria, and this is more of a groove thing, more of a percussive thing, perhaps even a bit like the Moog DFAM.
You’ve got a couple of oscillators bunch of noise and you’ve got a cycle of steps that can run through in order to create and generate rhythms both percussive and melodic. It looks great, it’s like 200 quid I think and they’re probably already sold out, but I ordered one and so in a couple of weeks I’ll have a video on the build of that too.
But perhaps the bigger news is that they are going to do this same format to the original Erebus and the Hades. Now, these are two little synthesizers which have always been very well regarded. I remember the Erebus was one of the first little synths I was thinking of getting. I was tossing up between that, the 0-Coast and the Mother-32 and I thought it was an awesome little synth. And now they’re going to do it in this little DIY kit version that you can drop into Eurorack. Fantastic just fantastic! Hades is a similar idea. I hope this carries on because these are great you could end up with a whole rack full of these little great little synths. The front panels are awesome you know the patching potential is awesome and of course, the quality of the components is great inside so that’s super.
I’m looking forward to all of those and I hope to do videos on the whole lot.
Cherry Audio Minimode and Lowdown
Meanwhile, in Cherry Audio land they keep coming up with their own artificial celebrations of things. The first one was they decided it was Moog month and everyone’s going is it what was it who what who said is there some kind of committee or something? No no apparently, not, it is because Cherry Audio says it is and so to celebrate they released the Minimode which is their emulation of the Minimoog. It’s pretty brilliant. I’ve had a bit of a play on it and I wasn’t planning to spend any time on it and I lost myself in an hour of just playing. Mapping a few MIDI controls because this is software you understand, this is a virtual instrument, this is not a piece of hardware.
It does have a really good sort of a chunky fat gnarly sound to it that was it was really nice, so yeah good job they did on that.
And then they’ve just followed it up by, I think, generating an International Synthesizer Day. I don’t know whether it really was an International Synthesizer Day but Cherry Audio seemed to think it was and they seemed to be in charge of these things, so, on that day they bizarrely released Lowdown. Now the Lowdown is a take on the Taurus Moog floorboard synthesizer that was great for people playing in prog rock bands. They were already playing four synthesizers so they could now get their feet involved in playing bass notes on the Taurus.
You might have seen that Behringer is going to do a clone of it but without the foot pedals which just seems weird. But anyway this is also without foot pedals because it’s virtual, it’s a software synthesizer, but on the screen, on the GUI you do get the floor pedals and more importantly, you get carpet shining through the pedals. You can choose from 14 different carpets. See, there’s an attention to detail that you don’t often find.
Acid Rain Constellation
Acid Rain Constellation is a long-form polymetric pattern generator. What the heck does that mean? Well, we don’t know they weren’t at Superbooth so we weren’t able to ask them, but as far as we know it looks a lot like the maestro LFO, so a similar sort of form factor with loads and loads of buttons on the front. But this one is an eight-channel pattern generator. Very very interesting. It says it can create long and evolving trigger and gate sequences that are being poked around by Euclidean. This euclidean guy gets in everywhere, I mean I hope he copyrighted it or something so that he’s getting some money out of all this malarkey because everybody’s using his algorithms.
It is designed apparently to push these very ordered algorithms into very uncomfortable places. So constellation takes one of your standard Euclidean rhythms and then dwells on it, thinks on it, and farts around with it in order to create very complex outcomes. Apparently, it can generate up to 999 melodically interesting steps of stuff before repeating on itself and honestly that’s quite an extraordinary thing. So yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing more about that.
Acid Rain website.
Soma Labs Terra
Camped over in the upstairs main part of Superbooth was Soma Labs. They were like having their own festival, in like a little cultic gathering with a table and this backdrop of weirdness. The table is covered in electronic strangeness and things and wobbly bits and twangy things connected with an interconnection of cables. People with their minds being broken and reshaped and floating away, it was a mad time but I think we got through it. But what they had to bring with them this time was something called Terra.
Now, Terra is a microtonal algorithmic synthesizer built into a tree. You’ve got a slice of wood a lovely slice of ringed treeness into which you’ve got these buttons at these sensors and this stuff is infused in there somehow, and you explore it with your fingers, with your mind, probably with your tongue and other bits and pieces. It generates sound, it generates noise, and it generates music. It’s much more designed to be an instrument than it is just to be a synthesizer so it’s something that you would inhabit somehow, and play it, and then enjoy it and massage out of it all sorts of different things.
They’ve got a completely mad video which is just extraordinary. Nobody does anything like soma labs they are just a thing unto themselves and it’s glorious. So what can I tell you about it? Well, it’s sort of based on the reflex engine that Vlad has been working on for a little while. We saw it before with a strange transparent controller that he was playing with, wired into some kind of laptop doing weird things between the two. So this is very much a digital engine that’s using algorithms to generate musically interesting stuff. I can’t really tell you any more than that to be honest but it is a beautiful voyage of discovery.
SOMA Labs website.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of these just before Superbooth. It’s called the Kickain from Knobula who you might know from their Poly Cinematic polyphonic synthesizer within a little module. This is not like that although the colour scheme is very similar. But what this is, is a very clever kick drum and side-chain compressor. Why is that clever? Well, because side-chaining is one of those things where the idea is that you take the beat of your kick drum you use that beat to kind of pull in a space for that kick drum in a mix. Because if you’ve got a load of stuff going on you’ve got all your synths you’ve got your kick drum, everything else, your percussion all going on at once sometimes it’s really hard to feel that beat, the urgency of that beat, the immediacy of that beat, and what side chaining does is pull down the mix to allow that kick drum just to come through. We’ve been using it in dance music for years it’s a it’s a very well known tried and tested method of creating a pulsing banging vibe in a techno gig.
Essentially Kickain does that in a module. But while there are other side chain compressors out there which do this, this particular module includes the kick drum making the whole thing less complicated and easy – which is exactly what I like. So what you do is you stick your mix into it and then take that to your speakers. Now this has got your kick drum in it so you throw your kick drum trigger to the module and then you’ve got a knob where you set the side-chain level, and your mix is automatically compressed away every time that kick drum comes through. The kick drum is based on a 909 style drum which I suppose you could say is a little bit restrictive because you’re kind of stuck with that. But you’ve got quite a lot of control over the timbre and feel of that.
What’s important is that you drop the Kickain into your rack and turn it on and it sounds flipping awesome, it just sounds fantastic! I’ve done like a first impressions video of this so do go and check that out. But it’s a great module I just absolutely love it, and that’s going to be a permanent resident within my case.
Look Mum No Computer Kosmo Eurorack
Kosmo is Sam (Look Mum No Computer) Battle’s 5U version of Eurorack. He built it to give him larger knobs and cables for live performance in a rig that would survive the show. I love it, I’ve got a whole load of Kosmo kits that I’m planning to build one day in the next couple of years and the idea is that you have this larger size of modular in order to be able to use it easier in live performance so that you’re not having to deal with tiny little knobs. Now he’s done a complete flip reversal on that and a mate of his is developing the Eurorack sized version of his Kosmo modules.
Ultimately that’s a brilliant idea because his style of modules are great. He’s put them together himself designed the circuits or got them from various places, putting together brilliant artwork on the front panels. It’s really interesting, good, solid, basic stuff for live performance and now there’s going to be eurorack versions of them, fantastic! I think that’s just completely awesome and I hope he sells them by the bucket load. Meanwhile, I will go and build my own proper metric 5U Kosmo modules.
Look Mum No Computer website.
Arturia V Collection 9
Arturia has released an update to their very popular V collection of synthesizers taking it up to 32 instruments. What i like about the Arturia collection is that it’s not just synths, you’ve also got electric pianos in there, acoustic pianos in there, a very interesting range and selection of both digital and analogue and hybrid synthesizers. It’s a great collection and I love the way it continues to build. This time around they’ve added in the Korg MS-20 which sounds pretty phenomenal I have to say. It’s just as gnarly and badly behaved as you imagine it is. They’ve also stuffed in their first bits from their Augmented range.
Now this is a selection of strings and a selection of voices which have a weird mix with synthesizer things and pulsing and rhythms and you know, that thing where you get an orchestral library and you mess it about; that’s what Augmented Strings and Augmented Voices is all about. They’ve also squeezed in the SQ-80 which they had already previously released, and they’ve done a bunch of updates to things like the CS-80, the Piano and they’ve also pulled the Prophet apart into Prophet-5 and Prophet-VS which I think is good rather than having combined in the same synthesizer.
So now, if you run the whole thing together, you’ve got over 14,000 presets which is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
Sonic Planet StarWaves
Coming in from a completely different planet we have StarWaves from Sonic Planet. It’s a beautiful visually-infused weirdo synthesizer that generates sonic architectures within space using your samples, tracks and bits and pieces. You pull your audio into a manipulable 3d space and send it off in gravitational swirls of world-building and this pull and stretching of architecture, and twisting of sound, and all of that applies to the sound both visually and sonically. Rather than actually interacting with the samples themselves you kind of design the conditions upon which they build themselves into these worlds of music. It’s just fascinating.
Korg NTS-2 and Patch & Tweak Korg Edition
The NTS-1 was this little synthesizer with effects processing inside it, the NTS-2 is absolutely nothing like that. It’s an oscilloscope with four channels, very much like the Mordax Data but at not anywhere near the price and it doesn’t take up any room in your Eurorack. But it’s more than that. Inside it actually has a dual waveform generator so it can create its own oscillations and you can use it as an LFO or as an oscillator. It’s also got a tuner built-in which is awesome for tuning your different oscillators. It’s like a multi-functional tool that you can have that’s just USB or battery powered that you can plug things into. It will also do full-colour spectrum analysis so you can see exactly what your frequencies are doing. What a fabulous thing.
But what is also great is that it comes with a brand new Korg edition of Patch & Tweak. This is written by Kim Bjorn, the same guy who wrote all the other patching tweak books, but this one focuses expressly upon Korg and ARP synthesizers. Perhaps even more importantly is that it shows you how to use the NTS-2 correctly. It takes you through step-by-step exactly how to use it, exactly what to set it to and the sort of scenarios you’d be using it in.
The book and the NTS-2 all come together as a bundle.
Qu-Bit wasn’t at Superbooth this year sadly but they had a new thing that was out. Although it’s a new old thing as we’ve seen this knocking around for a couple of years. It’s called the Aurora and it’s finally made it into existence. It’s a strange reverb, strange because it’s a spectral reverb and it does weird things to time. It stretches reverb tails, does strange things with cybernetic metallic effects, blurring and other bits of nonsense. Suffice to say that it’s a very controllable artificial reverb with all sorts of strange granular stuff, bending, warping, and other things you wouldn’t normally associate with reverb which generally just creates a space around you.
So I think it could be a fascinating module and I do hope to get my hands on one at some point.
Herbs & Stones Pathways
We love the earthiness of Herbs & Stones with their Liquid Foam and their Gentle Wham but now they’ve got a new thing coming out. I think it’s still a prototype, it’s still bubbling away under the surface and they’re calling it Pathways because it’s an adventure, it’s a journey, it’s a road down which we are travelling. It’s a matrix mixer, oh yes we love our matrix mixers, there are a lot of those about just at the minute. This is a 4×4 matrix mixer, a desktop one, although it is also Eurorack compatible, but it has all sorts of interesting weird things going on. It’s got drive on every channel, one channel has an envelope follower which you can pull back in, which then cascades into other things. All of the channels can be pushed into self-oscillation which is a little bit unexpected and it sort of does this thing where it transforms itself into a weirdly polyphonic drone machine or something.
But anyway this is definitely one for those earthy cool kids out there who likes their stuff meaty and somehow connected to the world while still being extraordinary and unusually unique and characterful.
Herbs & Stones website.
Finegear Dirt Magnet
This brings us nicely to the Finegear Dirt Magnet. This is a massive desktop analogue effects, it’s a big thing, slap it on your desk and you’ve got noise generation, crackle generation, you’ve got LFOs, Ring Modulator, voltage-controlled Filter and a real-life genuine, there it is you can see it going around, Tape Delay. So it’s like a box of vintage style analogue effects I suppose with its own modulation, with its own noise source. Noise and crackle are slightly two different things that you can mix in either just generating noise itself to be used through the filter for other bits and pieces. Or you can run audio through it to pick up that sound along the way and mix it alongside. The filter itself is based on the MS-20 so it’s a gnarly, spitting, physical bit of a filter. At the bottom, you’ve got this marvellous section of tape and the other things.
They’ve also got a matrix mixer. This one is similarly enormous and it’s going to sit on everything, but this one is more of a matrix mixer with a channel strip. So you’ve got four channels but then you’ve got EQ as well as volume, panning, auxiliary sends so it turns it into sort of a big playhouse of a mixer for your synthesizer bits and pieces.
I saw this before Superbooth but didn’t see it at the show and I haven’t heard anybody talk about it since. I don’t even know if the guy went in the end but what it is, is a wide rack of eight Euclidean (there’s that guy again) pattern generators. So you’ve got eight of them within the complete unit with like a master brain in the middle. So it’s like a drum machine based upon these ever-famous algorithms in order to generate different patterns but you can control them, you can mute them in and out, it’s like having a massive controller for a percussion-based system.
There was also rumoured that he was going to do one as a single module as well, which I thought could be quite interesting in Eurorack form. But all I can do is kind of point this out and say look this looked really interesting, but I don’t really know anything more about it than that go and check it out.
Bastl Instruments Pizza
Meanwhile, at Bastl Instruments they’re having Pizza. What was this about? I don’t know I just loved it! I get caught up in things sometimes, particularly when it’s a digital oscillator that I don’t know anything about and it just goes WOW this is somehow interesting and exciting and I would like to be interesting and exciting too! So I’m going to get one of those and definitely have a fabulous time not getting on with it and then hiding it in a drawer somewhere.
So Pizza has a lot of FM tones in there, a lot of weird stuff going on, but what I loved was this launch video with the animated story of Lizza was it going on some kind of journey and ending up with pizza, pizza in a module. Why pizza? nobody knows, nobody knows but I’m looking forward to getting my fingers into those complex oscillations, crossway forming and folding shaping FM-ing and any other bits and pieces it wants to throw at me.
The Polyend Play was finally revealed at Superbooth. This is some kind of groove box. It comes with 3,000 sounds and 30 drum kits and it’s a sample-based machine. It seemed sort of both simpler and shallower than I thought as well as being more complicated. So I don’t think I’ve really fully wrapped my head around it.
I love the grid array of stuff you’ve got going on. I’ve always appreciated being able to visualize a sequence, but as far as I can work out you kind of put a sample on each step and it plays. I’m not quite sure where the melody stuff comes in. Is it all drum-based, is it all just one hit samples? There’s a lot of talk about randomization and step repeat and action combos whatever that may mean, but is it like a Novation Circuit is it like a Deluge or is it something else? The grid looks great but I haven’t quite grasped what any of it is all about yet. But you can definitely send MIDI out to stuff, and you can definitely stick samples in it, that much I know, and you can press buttons so that they light up.
Endorphin.es has collaborated with Andrew Huang to produce Ghost. Ghost is a module which is packed full of the compression, channel strip and side-chaining that I was talking about. It has elements of distortion, stereo processing, reverb, delay, and I think the idea is that it contains all of the things that Andrew likes to use when he’s processing the final end of his audio. So, sidechaining to let that kick through, some reverb, some delay, some distortion, some grunge, all of these different modules within one module which is certainly interesting. It looks really really busy; you’ve got a lot of stuff packed in here. I’m not quite sure how usable that’s going to be in that small amount of space.
It’s great to see those sorts of collaborations come together because someone like Andrew just has such a depth of experience and grasp of what it is he’s trying to achieve and anything of that brain coming into your Eurorack has got to be a good thing. So, he must have thought about the packed-ness of all that and how that works, so it can’t be as bad as it looks. I haven’t seen any deep demos of it yet but i imagine they will be forthcoming.
One interesting thing he did say though which I really liked in response to the OP-1 Field is that his FLIP sampler app can do all of that and more and it costs like 10 bucks on your iphone. So, you know, it’s just a thought.
Many years ago Eventide released a Eurorack module called the EuroDDL. It was pretty great, it was a good solid delay module with some really interesting things and a few flaws but, you know, good. And I’ve been a long time expecting a nice big fat reverb like their Black Hole reverb or a space delay or something of that nature that Eventide are really good at. So I wasn’t really expecting what their next module would be, and I don’t think anybody is quite sure really. But it’s called Misha and it’s an interval instrument.
What does that mean? It means that rather than having some kind of keyboard you’ve got a row of buttons that define the interval from the last note. So you’ve got +1 so you go up one note, +2 to go up two notes +4 to go up four notes etcetera. And you’ve got + and you’ve got – and so using that you can generate these interval-based moving melodies very easily, simply and quite beautifully. I have to say that the demos coming out of Superbooth just kind of left me underwhelmed. Misha is kind of fascinating, there’s something in here which is awesome, I can feel it in my water, something in that screen in the middle which looks underutilized at the moment, but kind of shows the scale that you’re using and the different notes that are coming up. It has a sequencer inside, it can do multiple channels of stuff which ultimately means chords, three channels of it I believe. Sadly the demo was tied just to a Disting, I think, playing a multi-channel instrument via MIDI. This is not what i think it should be. This should be making beeps and farts massively over an entire rig. It should be doing interesting things, incorporating interlocking and interweaving melodies.
It’s an interesting and ridiculously wide module that’s thought-provoking, and head-scratchingly strangely demoed which just makes you think there has to be more to it.
I stopped by the Jolin Labs booth at Superbooth and they treated me to a bunch of noise in a number of different modules which was interesting. The funny thing was is that I’d written about these modules before I went to Superbooth, and they have some terrible photos on Instagram with them with a pink background and I’m looking at these things thinking what are they? But I thought they were kind of interesting and I like the other things that they’ve done, these weird noise-based car crash modules which look fantastic with weird lights and stuff going on and just sound like some kind of nightmare. And so I thought these could be interesting but I couldn’t really wrap my head around what they were. But when I was actually there they grabbed hold of me, pulled me into their tent and said look at this stuff.
So what they’ve got is four new modules that are the start of a kind of a new format for them which is using a single PCB and panel together. So you haven’t got a separate front panel and PCB that goes onto each other, it’s just a single piece and so that means that all the components, all the hardware components on the front are very much there sort of naked. And that makes it weird but interesting, it feels like it’s sticking out of your Eurorack further than most other things would and I suppose it is because you’ve got these components mounted now on the front panel just so you’ve got one single unit. But then these are all done as kits which makes them super easy to build as you haven’t got to worry about getting things connected together across two different panels, you’re just soldering on the back of one side and on the other you’re sticking on the hardware and off you go. That concept by itself was kind of interesting and sort of fruity but then what they were actually had was also just sort of strange and out there, but also fantastic.
They had this cascading LFO which was like nine LFOs in a row, but you had these strange touch points between them so you touched one and touched the other and that sort of connected them together or it sped them up and slowed them down. So rather than using a knob in order to change the rate you were using these strange touch things which kind of gave this idea that you could be running your fingers across them in order to throw the LFOs all over the place rather than trying to dial something in. You’re just going to get my fingers in there and it starts to go. They also had this filter which was on these naked sliders that you could play with which then also had touchpoints that would make it just go crazy into other places. They had a bunch of stuff like that fascinating and it really brought home to me that looking at a module on paper is never the same as actually seeing it demonstrated properly and talked about properly.
Jolin Lab website.
This is a complex non-linear polyphonic MPE sequencer thingy. It’s got one of those names I’m never quite sure how to pronounce. It has something to do with gestural sequencing although I’m not really sure what that is either but this is designed by the same guy who did the Granularise device – it’s kind of a Max-For-Live sort of thing. It runs beautifully within Ableton Live, within that kind of environment, and does fascinating and interesting things. This one is designed to explore the full potential of MPE because we’ve all got MPE compatible synths and bits and pieces now, it’s just that we don’t necessarily have the controller to generate the data. Perhaps as this piece of software suggests there are other ways of doing that.
So, there seem to be eight channels, you’ve got sliders and you can introduce probability and different things and modulations going on for pressure, for aftertouch, for individual pitch bend, velocity and all those sorts of things built within this beautiful looking interface. I think the gesture side of it is that you can use like track-pad gestures or touch-screen gestures, mouse.
I haven’t had time to look at it in any depth but it’s out there looking awesome. I would recommend going to have a play.
In a different corner of Superbooth somewhere was Quanalog and the Butterfly complex oscillator. I’m never quite sure what’s going on with complex oscillators. They seem just far too complex to me. It seems to be about using one to mess the other one about in really unruly and unnecessary ways using all sorts of FM indexing and cross-modulations, carriers and operators, and all of those kind of weird things when really you just want to get a waveform out so you can filter it and turn it into a banging bass line.
What was particularly special about the Butterfly oscillator is that it has no primary and secondary oscillator, either of them can be anything and anything can be either of them. You’ve got a lot of scope for cross-modulation in both directions rather than one being subservient to the other. They have this ability to go away fold into each other. The interesting thing about the mix output alongside the waveform outputs is that you can sequence through waveforms as part of its modulation. So you can be constantly generating interesting new sounding things with every single step in your sequencer.
And as with all complex oscillators it’s a massive thing covered in knobs and patch points for all sorts of fascinating stuff. This guy just builds all the things by himself so production is a little bit slow but hopefully with the coverage he’s got a Superbooth and with people’s encouragement he can find better ways to produce stuff so he’s not just having to hand solder each module by himself. This is one of the beauties of superbooth it gives an absolute opportunity for very small manufacturers to crash into larger ones and start sharing some of the load and learning from each other and bringing fantastic little ideas from a little company into a much bigger space and to a much wider audience.
ALM Busy Circuits ASQ-1
The ASQ-1 was something that ALM brought along about five years ago but never ended up being produced. But now they have. The ASQ-1 is a little sequencer with two channels of melodic and four channels of percussion. It has a little lovely clacky mechanical keyboard type keyboard thing to make it all happen.
You sequence in an SH-101 style. What that means is you hit a note and every note goes into the sequence and you can press rest and tie instead and that does something slightly different. But you’re not having to play it in or hold something and dial it in no, you just press keys and the sequence appears. You’ve got two channels of CV/Gate and then you’ve got four Gate outputs. You can use the little keys in order to play the drums and you can see them cycle around as it goes through the eight notes. There are 128 steps on the melodic and 64 on the percussive tracks. It’s a great fun, instant off-you-go and there you are type sequencer. I really liked it. It looks to me like the sort of thing I could pop into my rack and it could run the show. It’s got enough I mean you’ve got a bass line and a lead line you’ve got four channels of drums so that’s an entire techno set right there.
ALM Busy Circuits website.
Klavis Grainity Filter
I’m sure they’re awesome right, I’m sure they’re a lovely bunch of guys and I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of people who’d like to sit there and just listen to a filter sweep and go oh yeah yeah yeah man that’s the stuff right there. So this was a granular filter and I couldn’t work it out. I kept watching the videos talking about it but why can’t we hear it doing something musical. I mean okay, I appreciate there’s some kind of granular graininess going on that as it comes down to a certain level it becomes very bitty and scanny and things like that, so okay that’s interesting but why not run a bass line through it or something, make it sound like something.
This is evidently exciting because I’ve seen a lot of people are very excited about it I just don’t quite get it myself yet but it’s okay I don’t have to get it. If everybody else gets it, that’s awesome just seems a little bit too cerebral for me. I’d like something a bit more visceral.
It’s called the Manipulator and it looks like something crazy. I mean have you never felt the need to balance something? It’s got these large buttons over here, it’s got two thumb joysticks over there, it’s got this strange thing in the middle with all the patch points at the top split up by this strange thing that gets in the way and looking at it I’m just thinking well, that’s not real is it? It looks like it’s been photoshopped into something but no, apparently it’s awesome, apparently, it’s a real thing.
So what is it? Well, the Manipulator is a gate and joystick CV controller. It generates control voltage either on those two thumb joysticks or gates on that panel. It’s a fabulous thing really, it’s just it clashes with my idea of design and balance but other people can design things however they want, it doesn’t have to balance, it doesn’t have to give me an ordered feeling of the universe.
12 buttons open Gates which you can use to switch logic gates, turn things on and off, trigger percussion, fire sequences, sequential switching, whatever you want. The joysticks generate CV on the X and Y axis and also a push down as well so that’s an extra button. You can patch them to anything and you can set the range in any way you like, and you can either have them twang back into place or have them stay latched where they are.
It’s an awesome thing to slap into your rig and then stuff it through everything, so you’ve got stabbing finger control over all sorts of things and a bit of joystick stuff. What a great use of space.
And finally, very sadly we lost Vangelis this month which was something that I think a lot of us felt quite deeply. We’re very indebted to Vangelis and the range and awesomeness of music that he produced. Way before anybody else thought it was cool he was making synthesizer music of a certain cinematic nature and that’s amazing. I personally owe him a lot as one of the people who really inspired me into electronic music when I was little. I used to listen to his 1979 China album over and over again. There was one particular track called Chung Kuo which somehow filled my entire soul when I was a little fella. That sequence going around, there’s something about the sequence that was repeated while the massive epic planetary sized pads were moving around and changing underneath it that was deeply affecting for me. I continue to try to capture the awesomeness and majesty of that sound even now I’m still trying to do that.
I think it was extraordinary and of course, you’ve got the Bladerunner soundtracks and Chariots of Fire and all that sort of thing but it was this track off that china album that really blew my mind when I was a kid. So thank you for that mate and your influence on synthesizer music and electronic music will long be remembered.
I know there’s plenty of stuff I left out and I’m sorry if I missed one of your favourite things, but hey let’s get together and talk about it this Sunday 29th May, about eight o’clock-ish something like that and we can chat about all the things we missed.
The other thing I’m doing at the moment is redesigning my website the idea is that I want to produce written versions of my videos (this is the first one!) that could be useful to you to read on the bus rather than having to watch or listen to me doing it. It would allow me to lay out the products a bit better with links, product videos, and all sorts of other bits and pieces alongside and maybe that will bear fruit. The other thing is that it will allow me to make full use of my affiliate links. Affiliate links are where I can direct you to Perfect Circuit or Thomann in order to buy something and then I get like 10p each time you do that which is awesome! Because I need new and exciting ways to fund all of the shenanigans I’m doing on this channel. So things like that would be really helpful. If you want to fund me directly then please do consider joining us on Patreon where you can give me a couple of quid every month and just really come into the community and support my work and for that, you get access to past tracks and previously unreleased bits and pieces, you get access to the discord channel and we can chat about all sorts of stuff and generally feel good about supporting the fine work that I do here on this channel.
Other ways you can support me is simply by subscribing or you could buy a t-shirt or a mug through the merchandising. These are just ridiculous attempts at trying to work out how on earth I can do this for a living rather than just as a part-time hobby. Maybe one day I’ll get there maybe I will but otherwise thanks for watching and in the meantime go make some tunes.