recursive reverb

The Mosky spring reverb pedal arrived Thursday. It’s small, basic and it does the job. A guitarist who reviewed it said the settings get pretty extreme for his tastes and he keeps both knobs at 9 o’clock, but I cranked them fully and still wanted it in a feedback loop to make it go further. The blue LED on it was blinding, but after seeing some suggestions I tried a silver Sharpie I had to hand, and that dimmed it to reasonable levels.

Adineko arrived Saturday. It’s got a nice sound, especially with a bit of the “Viscosity” setting to make it all swirly… but unfortunately the “Reverb” knob (delay repeats) does nothing. Since I’m using it with a modular synth and Bitwig anyway, I can patch my own feedback loop to get repeats — and in fact, use that along with other processing such as the Mosky, which sounds pretty nice. But its own internal feedback is supposed to be part of its character (and why not combine both internal and external feedback loops), and anyway I paid for a fully working pedal.

The seller says it was 100% working when he shipped it, so he considers it damaged in shipping — and had shipped it through “Reverb Safe Shipping.” (That is, Reverb the online marketplace, not reverb the type of effect, nor “Reverb” the knob that isn’t working!) After some confusion and support emails on both our parts, a “Resolution Agent” is going to get back to me about it. I’d accept either a full refund and return, or partial refund to cover repairs. Probably the former is simpler.

Anyway, after my experiments I have decided I’m selling the Paradox Arquitecto, and will keep an Adineko and the Mosky in their own effect chain. I tried imitating it with Mimeophon by modulating the delay time and it wasn’t even close. It’s funny how many variations there can be on woozy, pitch-shifted echoes without them sounding very similar to each other.

Once this is settles, I am leaning toward Walrus Slö (a reverb made specifically for ambient music) and perhaps OBNE Dweller (a phaser/vibrato/tremolo/delay) to finish off the pedals. Keeping 4-5 mono pedals in two chains is easy enough to manage.

I haven’t really dived into my Akemie’s Castle study yet, but I have been pondering replacing it with Xaoc Odessa or 4ms Ensemble Oscillator. Those are both additive synthesis oscillators with different approaches. Odessa is pure brute force additive with thousands of partials, spectral tilt and comb filtering, a means of splitting partials in groups between two separate outputs (and harmonically multiplying or dividing one of those outputs), and detuning it into inharmonicity; it will do both linear and expo FM. EO is a 16-partial oscillator with banks of different scale combinations and programmable scales, putting it somewhere between chords/music theory and harmonic additive synthesis, and the oscillators can be shaped and have “cross FM” applied but not regular FM. EO is smaller and cheaper. Odessa is much less likely to ever have firmware updates (for good or ill) due to its FPGA nature. I’m sure both of them can produce a wide range of sounds but they’re both outside my normal experience so it’s hard to judge. Neither of them seem particularly difficult to use, though Odessa may be a little more straightforward. There are few demos of EO yet, and no really great comprehensive DivKid (or similar) demo of Odessa yet.

I’m also strongly considering switching out Supercell for one of the “micro expanded Clouds” variants and keeping it in Clouds mode forever, rather than messing with a cheat sheet and different modes. Right now I have 7 browser tabs open and am about to compare the different variants on features, layout, size and price.

thanks I hate it

What the hecking heck is this?

It’s the Roland TAIKO-1 and it is about 10% brilliant and 90% bullshit.

I was a taiko performer for a couple of years, so let me first mention the things I like about this before I tear it to shreds:

  • It looks kinda cool (if you’re unconcerned with tradition)
  • It’s light-ish and it disassembles for transport.
  • You can use it for practice with headphones, IF you want to practice katsugi okedo.
  • Built-in ji is better than a metronome… if you want to be backed up by a robot playing a horse beat, you can.
  • The shime-daiko sample set sounds okayish.
  • Could be neat for one or two performers during an interlude, or for parades or Eisa performances I guess, or for a single novelty piece by a taiko group. IF the volume and battery situation is up to the task.

And now the hatey bits:

  • This is a katsugi okedo in style. It is useless if you want to practice or perform chu-daiko, shime-daiko, or oodaiko parts or technique.
  • Each type of drum, type of stand, and style of playing requires different physical technique. Each taiko piece has its own choreography which is a vital part of the art form (some even say it’s more important than rhythm and sound). This is one drum played in one style, which happens to sound sort of like other drums. The way this is designed, I’m not even sure it can be placed on any kind of stand.
  • Would you like to watch a symphony orchestra where everyone is playing electric violins, except some of them sound more or less like cellos or oboes or French horns or timpani?
  • Would you rather go to a Japanese festival and watch a bunch of people in traditional costume playing a variety of beautiful, full-sized polished wooden drums, hand-built in the traditional manner, with fancy metal kan (the medallion handles) and proper horsehide heads tacked on in that distinctive pattern, where one of the drums is a 250-800 pound monstrosity that looms over its performer… or a bunch of electronic instruments with lightweight metal frames and fabric heads?
  • The chu-daiko sound in the video sounds synthetic to me. The shime-daiko is okay. The chappa samples are a disgrace, and there is no way all the varied techniques of chappa playing can be done with a drum.
  • Real taiko is like thunder. It’s extremely physical. You feel it throughout your body, especially in your chest cavity. In person or in a really good recording, you hear the crack of the hinoki (cypress, awesomely fragrant) bachi on the drum head as well as the deep boom. When in group rehearsals you’re supposed to wear hearing protection. I’m going to guess the sound of these is a relative disappointment in terms of physical presence.
  • Likewise, the feel can’t possibly be right for anything that’s not a katsugi part. There is a very physical feel to the movement and the way the bachi rebounds from the skin, which is different for different styles of drums and bachi, and it deeply affects the player’s expressive playing as well as dynamics and timing. It may even feel wrong compared to a real katsugi as far as that goes.

Now, I’m more of an electronic music nerd than I am a former taiko player, so I still think it’s kind of got neat aspects. And if someone gave me one, I would play it. But I don’t want to see a taiko group performing with just these things, ugh ugh ugh gah no.

an individual note

Lately there have been some threads on various forums that have tried to ascribe a little more to the design of particular modules, and the intent and motivation of people in the community, than is actually there.

As in: [these modules] are for beginners. [These modules] sound like plugins.* [These modules] are overhyped by uninformed fanboys. [These modules] are for generative ambient noodling, while [these other modules] are for techno. The real nature of modular synthesis is [such and such] and [these modules] aren’t good for that.

Or more generally, disappointment in some perceived lack in the tools: too little innovation in the technology, too little creativity in the products, no future ahead for novel synthesis methods. As if it’s the instruments, not the musicians, which are expected to be creative…

Well. I’ve been reading Daphne Oram’s An Individual Note: of Music, Sound and Electronics. She floats some esoteric ideas and metaphors extrapolated from the science behind electronic music… some of it is frankly a little crazy, but some of that is illuminating in a poetic sort of way.

What really struck me though, particularly in the context of those other discussions, was this section:

It seems as relevant to the tools of music-making as it is to a performance or recording. Perhaps even more so; music is the product (in a vague mathematical sense) of the instrument AND the musician.

And yeah, I’m saying if a module sounds bad, maybe it’s the person using it who is not good with it, either through incompatible style or lack of understanding or practice. And if it seems like it’s “for beginners,” maybe the person trying it lacks the experience to get more out of it.

(*) This of course implies that plugins have a characteristic “sound” which is deficient in some way, which is also a pretty questionable assumption in 2020.

it’s not the best choice, it’s Spacer’s Choice

I was talking about my search for an RPG I could get into, and my spouse mentioned watching a Let’s Play video of The Outer Worlds which she thought might amuse me. And she was right.

I was going to wait for a discount, but then I found out XBox Game Pass for PC (is that an awkward name or what?) includes it, and that there’s a $1 for 3 months promotion going on right now. After that, it’s $15 for each block of 3 months. Um, yes.

Without taking too much space explaining the story, it’s a space colony as the ultimate company town, a capitalist dystopia taken to extremes. It’s presented as dark humor with occasional more serious streaks, and there are a few earnest and caring people among both the downtrodden and the oppressor class. The overall style is very Fallout and Borderlands — goofy mascots, ironically retrofuturistic ranging from the Flash Gordon era through 50s and 80s styles — with more than a touch of Firefly.

As far as gameplay goes, it is primarily a shooting RPG, with melee as an option (if not a wise one in more open areas or against some enemies). In some situations you can smooth-talk or sneak your way around violence, but killer robots and alien monsters and marauders tend not to listen to reason. Dialogue choices, and choice of who to help against whom, seem to be meaningful and it’s designed to not break the main storyline even if you kill or betray key NPCs. (So they say… I’m trying to stick with my conscience here.) Overall, while it might not be the exact thing I was looking for — whatever that is — I’m enjoying it.

I am also getting a kick out of Lonely Mountains: Downhill, a game about extreme mountain biking. It’s somewhere between a racing game and a physics game, which I guess given that I like rally racing games, is just about where I like things. The graphics are cute and minimalist, there are shortcuts everywhere (many with increased risk or skill/luck required) as well as places that look like shortcuts and turn out not to be and it’s just a fun little thing.

I was less pleased by Forza Horizon 4. It’s a favorite for many, but to me it’s too arcadey and over-the-top, as well as buggy. I couldn’t get my controller working with it and it’s definitely the sort of game where playing with a keyboard is the last resort. You can drive at top speed through stone walls without damaging your car, as if they’re merely piles of balloons — pretty much the opposite of the experience in Dirt Rally 2.0 and WRC 7 and the like.

I think, aside from rally games, what I want in a racing game is a sim like Project CARS, with all the weird exotic stuff like the Ariel Atom and BAC Mono like it has… but where the AI has to use the same physics the player does, instead of having perfect grip during a rainstorm with racing slicks. And no getting stuck with no way to abort a super annoying racing series with a wonky car that it turns out you hate. I’d still be playing it if not for those two things.


My Particle pedal sold, and I’ve got two things incoming:

  • Mosky MP-51 Spring Reverb Mini: it’s a tiny pink pedal with a barcode — a blatant copy of the Malekko Omicron Spring — for basically lunch money. Someone posted a photo of one with an MXR Carbon Copy delay captioned “instant vibe,” and I had to look into it. I do like spring reverb, particularly in a feedback loop. Anything this tiny isn’t using a real spring tank but a “Belton brick”, but those sound pretty great honestly.
  • Catalinbread Adineko: an emulation of an “oil can” delay. The original Tel-Ray echo used weird science to electrostatically store a charge for a brief period, picking it up with rotating magnetic heads vaguely similar to tape heads, giving a more warbly and murky character that sounds very musical. This one uses clever DSP instead but still gives a nice range of echo, vibrato, and reverb-ish sounds.

a video interlude

One of my favorite PC game genres is rally racing. I find it one of the more interesting and less pointless types of racing in the real world — it’s a test of car design and safety features as well as driver skill, and things like improved tires, anti-lock brakes, and traction control systems are a direct result of these sorts of races. As a video game, it’s got more scenery and more varied challenge than driving around in a circle. It’s not so much about going as fast as possible as it is about not getting slowed down (or completely defeated) by difficult curves and conditions; there’s a saying, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Different types of cars from different eras provide unique challenges — whether it’s slow small front-wheel drive cars that understeer and don’t have much acceleration to make up for minor cornering mistakes, overpowered rear-wheel drive monsters from the 80s that were eventually banned for being unsafe, heavy but powerful 90s 4WD cars or modern RWD GT muscle cars, or nimble high-tech rally cars with all the traction and stability you could want but are likely to lead to overconfidence.

I’m not fantastic at these games, and my use of a general-purpose game controller (the Steam Controller, until mine wears out) rather than a racing wheel with force feedback, marks me as a filthy casual… but when I get into a good groove it’s a lot of fun.

One of the cool things about the genre is that most games model real-world courses. Monte Carlo is one of my favorite rally locations. The lower altitude sections (in games anyway) tend to be clear of ice and snow, and can be tackled at reckless speeds alternating with slower twists. But the more elevated areas are just one curvy, frozen slide that’s a struggle no matter what you’re driving. Especially uphill! So it gives me some joy to watch professional drivers with the best technology 2020 has to offer screwing up, one after another, in pretty much the exact same ways that I do and winding up in the same predicaments.

I feel like they could just keep sending cars along this section until this particular curve is completely blocked with disabled vehicles.

The photographers and fans risking life and limb here are nothing compared to some of the daredevils/idiots I’ve seen in some rally videos. Leaping out in front of a barely-in-control speeding car to snap a photo has, in fact, gotten some people killed and is highly discouraged, but it sure seemed to be the norm in some races of earlier decades.


Next up, a video recently posted by computerloverecords on Instagram: a very 80s TV ad for the CZ-101, one of Casio’s few actually respected synthesizers.

It’s a rocket launcher, apparently. “Easy” was one of the selling points, because its main competition was Yamaha DX series synths which were equally easy to play but were unfamiliar and could be difficult and awkward to program. I owned a DX100 for a while, but never wore a helmet or leather gloves while playing:

Rewind 3 years to Korg, with one of the last budget analog synths before the digital revolution (and the computer invasion and eventual analog resurgence). They played it slightly less goofy but it’s still extremely 80s. One of the bass players in my high school jazz band had one, and the riffs I played on it were, sad to say, not far from what’s here. But once again, not being in tune with synth fashions, I wasn’t wearing yellow leg warmers.

nope.

The Strymon AA.1 arrived yesterday, after an inexplicable FedEx delay. And:

  • Yeah those cables I bought to work with it were too short and super awkward. Letting the pedal lie prone (like they normally do) atop my modular case (like they normally don’t), it barely reached.
  • It doesn’t actually attenuate hot Eurorack-level signals enough to work well with the Particle, even at Particle’s max input level tolerance setting, without another stage of attenuation. Thus, the more important half of the pedal is basically useless.
  • Stereo on the Particle is just a matter of applying the exact same effect to L and R channels individually. So all the random grain density, detuning, reverse etc. is synchronized and thus not nearly as interesting as it could be. (To be fair, Clouds is mostly like that too, except the panning of grains can be randomized or modulated.)
  • As I fought with it, I realized I don’t really love Particle all that much anyway. I switched the patch I was testing over to Clouds instead, and found I could get into a somewhat similar ballpark — and it was more fun to tweak and in some ways sounded better.

So I’m returning the AA.1 (setting a new record for shortest time any module has spent in my rack), and reselling Particle. The pedal is definitely exempt from my “don’t sell stuff yet” rule, and I think a return of something that literally does not do the thing it was made for is a fair play too.

In my rearranging of stuff I wound up pulling out Cold Mac and setting it aside. Sort of a test to see how I feel about selling it later. I can set up the crosspanning stuff and other utilities in Bitwig Grid without too much trouble. When the FM Aid arrives this evening, I expect I will do the same with the DSM03.

(* another nope: effing UPS does not follow the delivery instructions you set for them, so they did not “Leave at Front Door.” I specifically had to phone their customer service about that a few months ago to change it to that, because literally everything they delivered even if it was worth $3 was set to require a signature. But at least this time they’re not trying to charge me $5 to pick it up from one of their locations tomorrow.)

(For the record: I hate dealing with USPS, FedEx, UPS and DHL. Somebody invent that teleporter…)

interim

Between projects. I haven’t felt quite like jumping into the next album’s recordings, just doing some experimentation for the moment. Reading some depressing books while my spouse is on a weekend trip probably was a poor choice. But the books are done and she’s returning tomorrow.

I may have chosen cables for the AA.1 poorly; they’re awfully short. But since I’m not actually using the physical controls on Particle I can probably turn it on its back, so they may still reach. The AA.1 should also arrive tomorrow.

I’ve ordered a Happy Nerding FM Aid from Schneidersladen — sort of the unofficial home store of Eurorack, and the only store in the world that claimed to have them in stock. But I haven’t heard from them yet about shipping, so I hope that was actually true… anyway, their prices without VAT are often low enough that, even with international shipping, they beat some American prices anyway. I had FM Aid a couple of years ago and it was cool, but let go of it when I acquired my first Hertz Donut mk2, thinking I wouldn’t need it anymore. With increased understanding of FM, PM and waveshaping and no “real” wavefolder to work with, I want one again. Some of my experiments in Bitwig Grid with sine shaping have told me that the HD mk2, with this sine shaping method of PM, can sound remarkably like old-school Yamaha OPL FM… which is one reason I like the Akemie’s Castle.

The other reason I like the Castle is its “super doomful” chords. As it turns out, the Sync3 firmware for the Starling Via platform can do moderately doomful chords, and those can be enhanced into super doomfulness by applying phase modulation from another source or giving it more complex input to work with. Sync3 is sort of a digital hyper-PLL, latching perfectly onto a signal and generating other signals at selectable frequency ratios. And that makes it an excellent potential partner for the FM Aid.

So I see a path where I might let go of the big ol’ Castle and its thirst for -12V current, without losing much capability at all. That remains to be seen after I work with it throughout Album Thirteen though. I could potentially drop a 4ms Ensemble Oscillator in there instead — a recently announced hybrid additive/waveshaping oscillator — or something weirder like the Beast-Tek P239 Hyper Fist, or just let the space sit empty and see if anything really pulls at me later.

I’m also wondering, idly at the moment, about how the Xaoc Timiszoara will turn out. From here on out, I will simply call it Tim. It’s based on the Spin FV-1 effects chip, which is commonly used in guitar pedals and has a massive open-source library of DSP code. Unlike other Eurorack implementations of the Spin though, you can load stuff onto it via an SD card and it has a lovely interface with a small LCD screen. I’m considering it as a possible replacement for the Supercell in my post-E520-arrival rack. I’ll see what people think of it once it’s released.


I’ve been listening to some of my moderately older albums — still Starthief stuff, but from 2018 and early ’19 — and surprising myself. A lot of it really does not meet the criteria of what I think of as Starthief music, in terms of structure and flow and the sound palette, and isn’t something I would create or release today. I think getting away from MIDI sequencing on the song level, and having form flow from improvisation, is the biggest part of that.


I’m still kind of hunting a roleplaying game to get into. I briefly tried Secret World: Legends this evening, and while it’s kind of intriguing in terms of story (at least for the chaos faction and perhaps the Illuminati, but not the stodgy Templars) I found the combat to be pretty bleh and disjointed. Sort of like a sloppier and more vague Neverwinter (which I also thought briefly about getting back into).

I saw an announcement today about Torchlight 3. More action game than RPG really, but I had several hours of fun with Fate, Torchlight and Torchlight 2 before getting bored with each of them in turn, and then coming back to them a few months later. I suspect about the same from TL 3, and that’s okay.

I really would like a decent, properly funded, with enough development time and clear design goals, and fully polished and balanced, remake of Hellgate: London. I want to shoot zombies and demons with explosive darts, weird tentacle guns, psycho-cybernetic insect swarms, plasma grenade launchers, a personal squad of drones, and spooky dark spells. An enchanted katana or two would also be nice. And I want more than three different looking streets in all of London. And I don’t want quests that have me gather 7 “things” (literally labeled “thing”), or play capture-the-flag against demons for no explicable reason, or slooooowly burn out all the pus-filled gunk from a section of town with a weak-ass flamethrower, or remotely send orders to a hapless squad of weak, disobedient and poorly armed soldiers. And I don’t want monsters that it takes approximately 17 minutes worth of full-auto fire to the eyeballs to bring down but doesn’t provide any actual challenge aside from the boredom factor. And I don’t want the whole game to be bought by a third party who cares even less, rips out half the game, converts it to multiplayer and shuts it down a year later.

That game wanted to be great and never had a chance. Ah well.


Those depressing books? The first was Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty, which was described as “a Soviet fairy tale” — and despite a little bit of framing that tried to link it to Russian folktales about Ivan, Vasilisa, Koschei the Deathless, the Baba Yaga and so forth – -it was using the term in the derogatory sense of wishful thinking doomed to failure. The basic premise is that some of the mathematicians of Kruschev’s day were convinced that, through the proper application of mathematical models, they could set prices and production targets that would optimize the Soviet economy and, in a short few years, grow far beyond the capitalist pigs on the other side of the world, and successfully spread peace and full Communism across the Earth. And even halfway into the book, I was under the impression this was meant to be an alternate history where something like that actually happened. NOPE. Self-interest, personal politics, dogmatic inertia, corruption, and bureaucracy got in the way. It fouled the mathematicians’ models to some degree, but even more so, ensured that they didn’t get to really apply their theories.

And the overall feeling of Soviet life in this book was kind of… squalid. Stalin’s legacy of disregard for current human life and happiness in order to secure some theoretical future, a whole lot of smoking and drinking, disregard for the environment, the criminal underworld, shabby living conditions and (often willful) ignorance just made the whole culture seem thoroughly unpleasant. Worst fairy tale ever.

It wasn’t without some good bits though. To me the most fascinating thing was the notion that Marxism was based entirely on the idea of a workers’ revolution in a fully developed, industrial, successful capitalist society that was already humming along smoothly and had some idea of what goods were worth. Instead, it happened in a poor backward agrarian feudal one. And it was decided at the highest levels that sacrifices would be made in order to jump-start industrial production to catch up with the capitalists. And that meant millions of people were starved for decades in order to ramp up heavy industry that was obsolete by the time it finally got up to speed, and actually wound up subtracting value from raw materials while polluting the environment and failing to provide for peoples’ needs. It wasn’t “socialism” that caused that suffering, it was central economic planning by iron-fisted ideologues with no heart and too little brain and a completely wrong vision of eventual success.

This book isn’t turning me against socialism, but certainly illustrated the folly of Soviet Communism. I still believe workers should share fairly in the fruits of their labor and in decisions that affect the course of their companies; that inequality matters and that rentier capitalism, inheritance and executive pay need to be severely limited; that collectively we have the means and obligation to feed, clothe, house, educate and keep healthy and safe all of our people and not sacrifice them to enrich the 1%. A market economy can partially self-organize, although it needs some regulation and assistance; one has to remember that (A) the theoretical perfect consumer knowledge and perfect competitive environment don’t exist, and (B) when it comes down to it, people are more important than money.

…the other depressing (sort of) but heartwarming (kind of) and strangely uplifting (a bit), book was Moominvalley in November. Yes, a children’s book. Theoretically. I wound up getting it because of a sort of hot take on a gaming website that floated the Moomin setting as one for some interesting and atypical games. It quoted from the “Rain” chapter of the book, in which Snufkin, an itinerant musician and a very contemplative sort, was listening to the rain and trying to recapture the five perfect bars of music that previously came to him at the wrong time but which would now be perfect. I have fond memories of a couple of the other Moomin books from childhood, so I had to read this one. It was a very wistful sort of book, where each character either longed for something or was anxious or sort of empty. One of them actually starts in on the “Swedish death cleaning” thing (which I recently heard about in an “Ask a Mortician” video my spouse was watching) after a frightening event.

I actually don’t know what a child would have thought of it compared to the other books… but now I wonder just how dark some of the other books were and how I’d interpret them differently now. Comet in Moominland was about the impending destruction of the world, after all.

Now I’m on to Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower, which probably isn’t going to be all fun and games either but I do really like her work. It’s got my attention so far — the narrator is a god who remembers the time before life crawled out of the sea and has to abide by particular rules; the story is told more or less in the second person, with the “you” being a trans man named Eolo. So that’s different…

Pandatastic

I guess I didn’t mention that I had found a discounted Red Panda Particle V2 that was used as a store demo. It arrived a couple of days ago and I put it through its paces.

I’ve heard Particle described as “standalone Clouds” but I don’t think it’s an entirely accurate comparison. Clouds strikes me as a genuinely granular processor, capturing overlapping sound snippets either as an effect or as a means to synthesize new sounds. While Clouds can be choppy and rhythmic if you choose short enough grain size and sparse grain triggering, it can also do smooth (or overdo it into blurry and drowning in its own reverb), or places in between that yield interesting textures. In its original firmware algorithm, Clouds can act as a delay but that doesn’t seem to be its forte or its primary design — although now I find I’m going to want to revisit it and see how well it can pretend to be a delay without using the alternate delay algorithm.

Particle strikes me more as a delay first, with a granular twist. You can get a fairly clean-sounding delay out of it that doesn’t have any granular modulation. From there, you can lower the grain density (by randomly dropping some grains) or reverse grains (with adjustable probability of being reversed) to chop it up a bit, repitch it, randomize the delay amount or pitch for each grain, or traverse the delay buffer with an LFO which sort of “bends” the playback in an indescribable and unintuitive but sometimes interesting way. It can also freeze the buffer, either while one of the switches is held down or when the level falls below a threshold that you set.

Not all of the features are available simultaneously from the pedal’s knobs. There are hidden settings accessible only via MIDI over USB; otherwise the Mode knob determines what the Param and Delay/Pitch knobs will do, and Chop and the Freeze threshold are combined onto one knob. I don’t much like that, to be honest, although I understand that’s all the original version of the pedal allowed. Thankfully working with it through MIDI lets you get at all of those parameters simultaneously, and I can modulate them via Bitwig — for instance, increasing the particle density along with the dynamics.

Right now, I am running Particle with mono input, with Tensor immediately afterward. Particle V2 supports stereo input and output (on TRS jacks, not typical for pedals), but right now I’ve just got the ADDAC 200PI Pedal integrator to get the modular (and computer) talking to pedals, with two mono inputs and outputs. So that I can use Particle in stereo, I’ve ordered a Strymon AA.1 pedal interface and the cables I need to hook it up. (For some reason the AA.1’s “return” input is TRS, but its “send” output is a left/right pair of TS jacks.) Honestly I’m not sure how stereo is implemented with Particle — if it simply does the exact same processing to both channels, or if randomized values affect the left and right sides differently. I’m hoping for the latter, though. Even if stereo turns out to be a little lackluster, the extra pedal interface module will be helpful if/when I decide to add a couple more goodies, like the Freqout or Dweller perhaps.

organic

Here’s a neat thing: Reverberations: an 8-bit approach to J.S. Bach

It struck me that, at least in theory, organ pipes should generate quite primitive sound waves. If so, how come a church organ doesn’t sound like a chip tune, which is also built up from simple waveforms? Well, actually it will, if you remove the church. And if you connect a Commodore 64 home computer to a loudspeaker in a large hall, it will sound like an organ.

Since the 80s, nearly every digital keyboard ever sold has had some kind of half-decent pipe organ preset, if not several — though maybe let down a little bit by faked reverb, which then starts to run into polyphony limitations. It turns out if you use a good convolution reverb, and a human performance rather than on-the-grid sequencing, even the SID chip in the Commodore 64 (or two of them anyway, for 6-note polyphony) can do a convincing job.

This is probably the least chiptunes-sounding music I’ve ever heard from the C64. I’ve often thought that there aren’t really any bad synthesizers, it all comes down to how you use them. (The SID chip was not bad for its time and price, particularly compared to the primitive beeps other computers and video game consoles had then, and is still prized/fetishized by some. It’s just a tall order for it to compete with modern synths, or other analog synths that aren’t crammed onto a single chip with 1981 technology. I’m not really into the sound of its filter compared to many other offerings, for instance. And it’s super buggy and quirky.)