Christmas wrap-up

So we did the slightly awkward socially distanced Christmas, and really it wasn’t too bad. Being able to Skype with family isn’t as good as being there in person, but it’s better than nothing!

I have to show off the fantastic synth covers that my mom made for me:

The photo doesn’t really do them justice. Deep purple airbrushy swirls with silver and white stars. The Medusa cover fits perfectly over the top and front/sides. The one for the modular works quite well given its large size and strange shape. The cover for the Microfreak is a little awkward to put on, partially thanks to its awkward stand, which I might decide to replace. But they all do the job and look sharp!

Aside from this, my spouse got me some BoredBrain patch cables which match the length/color scheme of the Modular Addict skinny cables I have, which seem to be unobtanium. They seem like well-made cables and they drape from the cable hanger in tidy lines, which I like. And now I will definitely have enough cables in each length even in more complex patches.

I also got low-profile right-angle MIDI and USB cables so there’s not so much length poking out of the backs of the Microfreak and DAFM, an electric kalimba which should be fun to process with the modular and with plugins, a small but hefty-sounding Bluetooth speaker (which I could use to re-amp parts for natural room reverb, but it’s mostly just for listening), a USB power bank, a Defiant t-shirt (from Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series, in glorious neon 80s style) and several books.

For the cyberpunk album, I made another ill-fated attempt at not doing drone/ambient music. Sort of an electro thing. It did not go particularly well. Individual sounds were cool, snippets of the song were evocative or attention-grabbing, but on the whole it just did not pull together. I may drop this particular cue from my list entirely rather than struggling to interpret it, but first I’m just going to move on and work on other bits.

I grabbed Madrona Labs Kaivo on sale. I’ve been such a fan of Aalto that it’s a little weird I never got into its younger sibling, but I think I must have just browsed some presets and given up quickly. Maybe the color scheme was a turnoff:

It’s a unique semi-modular synth. There’s a granular section, set up in an unusual way with multiple source samples and smoothly modulatable overlap amount which can have all kind of timbral consequences. A polyphonic string/bar/spring resonator, quite different from Rings in its implementation, and a single “body” resonator as well. There’s a lowpass gate a bit different from Aalto’s, a two-dimensional LFO that can be phase-modulated, a “noise” section that can split into multiple Gaussian bands, and Aalto’s familiar ADSR and repeat/delay/attack/release envelopes.

It’s a synth where the presets aren’t necessarily fun, but sound design is both fun and unusual. Much less “pure synthesis” sounds that I tend to favor, and more of a hybrid uncanny valley quasi-acoustic-sounding scary thing — but that has its place too. The resonators have a bit of a “boxy” sound compared to Rings, even without using the body resonator, but it’s not insurmountable.

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