prolific, obstinate

Surprise! I have all the material I need for another album release. All I need to do is master it, make the art and the webpage, and release.

The first half of the material was recorded from March 11 through 14 — spurred by the arrival of Odessa. And the second half was recorded from March 18 through 21, spurred by the arrival of Manis Iteritas and Clep Diaz.

The new (and “new”) gear is good stuff, but it doesn’t get all of the credit for inspiration. There’s the recent read of Monolithic Undertow, and the Stridulation-Yukon-Relay set that I recorded for The Neon Hospice, pushing me toward more of a long form, continuous mix, reaffirmation of “the spirit of drone” sort of thing. There’s a bit of influence from the music I’ve been listening to more lately — the spooky synthy retro-SF/horror (psuedo-)soundtrack stuff, a collection of xenharmonic albums and a few heavy drones. There’s perhaps some influence from the horror podcasts (Old Gods of Appalachia, The Magnus Archive) and paranormal YouTubers my spouse has been listening to and I’ve been half-listening to. There was a technique cribbed from Mylar Melodies, of running vocal samples through Rings for a sort of metallic ringing echo, which reminded me of the Front Line Assembly song “Right Hand of Heaven.”

The use of Odessa, and thinking about letting go of the E520 led me to playing with spectral processing a bit more than usual — and Rings, which is kind of an indirect form of spectral processing. Spontaneous musical phrases and pulsation can happen as a result of the source material passing into and out of processing bands, and on Odessa, through cancellation and reinforcement of partials that have been twisted until their frequencies overlap.

The new album will be called Luminous Phenomena (unless I change my mind). It consists of three tracks, ranging in length from 16:26 to 28:17. Like Stridulation-Yukon-Relay, each track was recorded in two or three shorter sessions and mixed into a continuous piece with transitions.

Even though I record “live” and improvise, before the recording is a lot of not audience-friendly patching, tuning, setting up FX, and planning and practicing maneuvers. After, some editing (cleanup of glitches, taming some harshness, and occasionally more). Extending my editing process a little bit, and adding just a little bit of planning for smooth transitions, fits naturally in this process.

While I probably have the gear to perform longer single-take pieces of, say 20-30 minutes, it would impose limitations that I don’t have with this method. People who perform longer sets with modular tend to have bigger rigs with duplicates of favorite modules, and spend more time patching and planning things out — ironically, live performance can lead to less spontaneous creativity because of a need to prepare more and to manage risk.

And also this method works out creatively. The overall pieces have a sense of scale, with more weight and more time to build up and more time for the listener to settle into it, and offer some continuity while also giving a sense of travel from one scene to another. I’m really happy with how both S-Y-R and Luminous Phenomena have turned out — they give me chills.

Manis Iteritas is not new to me, but it’s been about 3 years since I sold the previous one, so there’s been a bit of a process of rediscovery.

Manis can range from simple “sawtooth through a filter” sounds, to dark, heavy, pulsating drones, to whippy percussion and gritty swarms. While I like a lot of its sonic range, but the raw “chaotic beehive” sound of the Smash parameter is… not my favorite. And the Bash parameter applies the internal envelope to Smash along with the others, so things can feel a bit limited. I think this might have been one of the reasons I let go of the module in the first place.

But this time I know more, and have learned to put every feature of the module to work for me. Subtle use of Smash can be very rewarding. It also works well with heavy processing — such as Rings, SpecOps, or massive dark reverb. The key, as with many other modules, is to not treat it as a self-contained voice in isolation but as part of a whole.

Clep Diaz, or Clepsydra Diazoma, is a nice addition. It primarily generates “stair step” signals — upward, downward, or alternating. The Count control/CV determines how many steps are in the cycle, from 0 to 16 — and like a staircase, fewer steps means a bigger rise per step. The levels can be even or randomized, and there’s also an LFO mode that does smooth random that’s still somehow related to the input clock in a way I haven’t really investigated yet. There’s also a “beginning of cycle” gate output so you can use the module like a clock divider, and a reset input if you want to shake the pattern up some.

I’ve made good use of it and feel like this is a keeper. It’s helped bring some interesting animation to drones, and I’ve used it for pitch both with and without quantization. Using it to play with clock speeds is also fun!

I do wish that it was 6HP rather than 4, and a little less crowded. (And I think the tighter jacks that NE has been using contributes to this cramped feeling somehow.) The LEDs count steps in binary, which isn’t the most intuitive thing even for a nerd like me; it could have had a little one-digit hexadecimal display like some of their other modules. Since there’s no attenuator on board, I think the bipolar output could have been skipped, in favor of a Reverse gate input to flip the step direction. But it’s still a handy little module that is going to get a lot of use.

Drezno arrived in the mail just now — experimenting with that will be my next project. I’ll need to determine what I can and can’t do with it, whether I want to keep or sell Zorlon Cannon, as well as determining what else I might want to accompany Drezno — Jena, Lipsk, CMOS clock divider, CMOS boolean logic, a simple pattern sequencer, some kind of addressable switch, etc. I will have plenty of space to work with here, and want to keep my modulation and processing pretty interesting.

I’m now certain that I want to grab one of the Versio modules — probably Desmodus with its bat logo, or the new Ruina for its beholder logo and DOOM knob. Ruina (distortion/wavefolding) and Elector (clocked delay/reverb based on Desmodus) both sound fantastic, and I no longer believe that waiting for the Desmodus VST plugin is going to be enough for me 😉

Other than that, I’m also still kind of thinking that an Erica Pico BBD and/or a WMD/SSF DPLR could offer a lot of character in a little space for not much money. And I should leave some space for beta testing (they said hopefully) or surprise must-haves.