This album was recorded before I decided on a name or theme. I just ran with my feelings. The results give me the impression of travel — specifically, a kind of peaceful and curious exploration. An advanced alien civilization sending scientists and curious tourists out on a long cruise, starting from orbit around their home planet, just to passively observe whatever is out there, all the physical phenomena and strange lifeforms and struggling young civilizations and unfathomable ancient artifacts. I even pictured the spaceship, and a diagram not far off from the one in the album art which was on their video news representing the start of the voyage. Kind of weird for me, since it’s pretty rare for me to see things in my “mind’s eye.”
Space voyages are such a cliché in electronic music that I am resistant to impose this particular interpretation. But after my first full listen to Stridulation-Yukon-Relay after it came together, my first thought was “well, that was a journey.” I had similar feelings with Luminous Pheonomena.
There is some disagreement and confusion about what “ambient” music is, and questions about whether it’s the right term for most of the music that gets labelled that way. But a common point that people often agree upon is that it feels like it’s about a place. This music, as a longer-form continuous flow from one drone/”ambient” state into another, therefore feels like travelling through several places.
The two “phases” of this album were recorded in 3 and 4 sessions respectively. As usual, each session was patched from scratch, improvised and recorded live, with no multitracking or MIDI sequencing. I used a 516HP Eurorack modular synthesizer, Arturia Microfreak, Polyend+Dreadbox Medusa, Make Noise 0-Ctrl and Bitwig Studio with several plugins. For editing, Sound Forge Pro. For mastering: CraveDSP CraveEQ, Raising Jake Sideminder ZL, DDMF MagicDeathEye, Voxengo TEOTE, Voxengo Elephant. Voxengo Span Plus, Voxengo Correlometer and Youlean Loudness Meter for measurement.
(In the following section I don’t name all the modulation sources, utility modules and controllers, basic EQ and dynamics plugins and noise reduction/repair plugins, etc., just the highlights.)
Protector (0:00 to 7:46)
- “Lush Arp Chord” granulized sample (an arpeggio from the Arturia Microfreak, played on d16 LuSH-101 through AudioThing Miniverb, u-he Twangstrom and Plogue Chipcrusher), through Valhalla Delay.
- Xaoc Odessa through Xaoc Katowice, Rabid Elephant Natural Gate, Noise Engineering Desmodus Versio, Bitwig Dynamics. Sequence is from Make Noise 0-Ctrl, while a rhythm from Monome Teletype gates some audio-rate modulation from The Harvestman Kermit into Katowice’s width.
- SonicLab Fundamental, u-he Runciter, CraveDSP CraveEQ (animated with LFOs).
- Microfreak through Valhalla Delay.
- 4ms Ensemble Oscillator through Runciter, two instances of Arturia Plate-140, Wavesfactory Cassette. The sequence is from 0-Ctrl sampled by Teletype.
- Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas, SoundRadix SurferEQ, Plate-140. Manis’ Saw Mod is modulated by an LFO from Mutable Instruments Stages.
Divisor (7:10 to 13:48)
- Arturia Buchla Easel V through AudioThing Wires.
- ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle through Xaoc Drezno+Jena; one of Drezno’s outputs is filtered by Bitwig XP Filter, with the main/filtered pulse mix controlled by Intellijel Planar; through two instances of Valhalla Delay.
- A drone from Odessa through Mutable Instruments Beads (in delay mode), with delay time and filter modulated by Kermit.
- A sample from Samplephonics Nano Electronics (edited) through AudioThing FogConvolver.
- Medusa through ValhallaDelay.
- Public domain samples of thunder and fireworks, and Detunized “Around Bridges” samples of cars driving over expansion gaps in a bridge, pitch shifted and processed with Valhalla Plate.
Velvet (13:20 to end)
- Noise from a telephone disconnect message granulized in Bitwig Grid, through Valhalla Supermassive and Unfiltered Audio SpecOps.
- A noise patch in Bitwig Grid, where a probability skipper is toggled at high rates and amplitude modulated against white noise, and the result FMs a sine oscillator; through FogCon reverb.
- Odessa through Noise Engineering Ruina Versio, Katowice, Miniverb and Wavesfactory Spectre.
- Manis Iteritas through Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder highpass filter, Happy Nerding FX Aid XL (Reverb Transmitter program).
- Bitwig Organ with the drawbars assigned to faders on the Tesseract Sweet Sixteen, with SpecOps to warp the partial frequencies, the analog wavefolder in Intellijel Shapeshifter, and Valhalla Delay.
- Kermit at audio rate into Drezno+Jena, with an LFO into Jena’s shape parameter, through Wavesfactory Echo Cat.
- A low FM drone synthesized in Sound Forge, mixed quietly near the end during editing.
- Additional treatment of the full mix: ZPlane Peel narrowing down a band to smooth out using SpecOps, Bitwig pitch shifter and ValhallaDelay to smooth out a texture that was rougher than I liked. Wavesfactory Cassette in places to saturate and absorb some of the harsher distortion.
X Axis (0:00 to 5:20)
(This portion was assembled by overlaying sections cut out from a longer session.)
- Mutable Instruments Rings (strummed continuously by the clock output from Make Noise Mimeophon), through Mimeophon.
- Manis Iteritas through Ruina Versio, Noveltech Character, Valhalla Delay.
- Kermit at audio rate, through Tallin, Valhalla Delay, CableGuys Shaperbox 2, and Valhalla Supermassive.
Phoenix Wing (4:37 to 15:00)
- A looped recording of Kermit through Ruina Versio and Valhalla Delay. Manual gating of the signal from Kermit and Ruina’s “Smoosh” input.
- Recording of a Dr. Scholl’s foot spa using an Olympus LS-P2, through Wavesfactory Spectre.
- Bitwig Swarm oscillators AMd with AD envelopes, BPB Dirty Filter, Valhalla Delay
- Eastrock electric kalimba granulized in Bitwig through Sonic Charge Echobode and Valhalla Plate-140.
- Manis Iteritas, Imitor Versio, Inphonik PCM2612, Native Instruments Supercharger GT; sequence is from 0-Ctrl
- Intellijel Shapeshifter through Katowice, Beads, Phonolyth Velvet Machine, also sequenced by 0-Ctrl.
- Kermit through Natural Gate, Drezno/Jena to add some crackly dirt, Bitwig Transient Control, Wavesfactory Cassette.
- 4ms Ensemble Oscillator through Mutable Instruments Blades and FX Aid (chorus+reverb program).
- Heavily EQd sample from Detunized Noise library.
Parallax (14:45 to 21:20)
- Manis Iteritas through Supercharger GT, AudioThing Speakers, mda Subsynth and FogConvolver.
- A drone from Tone2 Warlock, through SpecOps and Valhalla Delay.
- Odessa through Mimeophon.
- Medusa through Beads (with density modulated by an envelope follower) and Echo Cat.
- Clicks and pings are Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder through Imitor Versio.
- Noise from Mystic Circuits Portal into Rings, through Katowice modulated by two LFOs, u-he Runciter and ValhallaDelay.
- A sample of a failing hard disk drive captured and looped in Phonogene, through FX Aid (phaser 12 diffuse program), Puremagnetik Bitfight83.
The Manis, Odessa and Angle Grinder parts were triggered by Drezno+Jena bit outputs, driven by an LFO from Kermit which was synced to the DAW — thus the variation and non-grid-aligned rhythms. Kermit tends to lose sync and go wild every few minutes, so I had to time my recording during a period of relative stability.
Export (20:48 to end)
- Two Bitwig Test Tones in series, through Bitwig Freq Shifter (low band) and Szechuan Saturator (mid band), Sonic Charge Permut8 and Supermassive. This has a very FM-like sound due to the way mixed signals through a waveshaper resemble phase modulation.