This album was inspired partially by the paradox of using tales of paranormal mystery and horror for relaxation. I’ve been enjoying horror synth music recently, and my spouse has been into podcasts such as Old Gods of Appalachia and The Magnus Archives as well as YouTubers who read accounts of cryptids, aliens, ghosts and murder.
It was also encouraged by reading Harry Sword’s Monolithic Undertow: In Search of Sonic Oblivion, which I recommend if you’re interested in drone music (and if not, I hope you enjoy this album anyway). That led me to put together a 30-minute set as a continuous mix for an upcoming online radio show, and I was so pleased with the result I decided to continue in the same vein. I feel like the longer format allows more time for the music to develop and more space for it to breathe, invites more dynamic variation, and stronger tension and release. Since I personally find album listening superior to shuffling or radio-like streaming of random songs, it’s also a way to encourage more contemplative listening with a longer attention span.
It was also encouraged by receiving some new gear — about half of the album was recorded in the first three days that I owned the Xaoc Odessa additive oscillator, and the rest in the first three days that I owned the Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas and Clep Diaz. Gear alone does not make music, but I was inspired to experiment with spectral processing and using Mutable Instruments Rings in ways that complemented the new gear.
Luminous Phenomena was recorded with a 516HP Eurorack modular synthesizer, plus Arturia Microfreak, Polyend+Dreadbox Medusa, and Bitwig Studio with several plugins, with Tesseract Sweet Sixteen and Make Noise 0-Ctrl for control.
Individual sections of moderate length were patched, improvised (with some planning for transitions) and recorded in single takes without multitracking or MIDI sequencing. The sessions were then edited and mixed to create three continuous tracks.
Editing was done in Sound Forge Pro, and mastering used CraveDSP CraveEQ, DDMF MagicDeathEye, Voxengo TEOTE, and Voxengo Elephant, with Voxengo Span Plus, Voxengo Correlometer and Youlean Loudness Meter for measurement.
(Please note my patch notes below may not include all modulation sources, utility modules and plugins, etc.)
1: Krypton-Argon, Ventilation, Such Lights, Nesting
- The noise is 4ms Ensemble Oscillator and The Harvestman Zorlon Cannon mixed with Intellijel Planar 2, through Happy Nerding FX Aid XL (Delay + Pitch Shift program), with Valhalla Delay and BPB Dirty Filter.
- The main voice is Xaoc Odessa, FMd by The Harvestman Kermit mk2, with density modulation from Maths. Through CraveDSP CraveEQ (with a highpass filter sometimes removing bass frequencies) and Valhalla Plate reverb.
- The second voice is Odessa’s fundamental output through Intellijel Shapeshifter’s analog wavefolder, into Mutable Instruments Rings. With Sound Radix SurferEQ, Native Instruments Supercharger GT and Valhalla Supermassive.
- Odessa and Rings were transposed to selected pitches by Monome Teletype controlled by a fader.
- Noise and desk vibration caused by cooling fans in my 3U studio rack box, recorded with an Olympus LS-P2 and lightly processed. (I got some vibration damping pads afterward.)
Such Lights as These:
- the first voice is Mutable Instruments Rings through Mutable Instruments Beads, with a sequence from Mutable Instruments Marbles.
- drone from Odessa, with FM and bank modulation from Kermit, through my own “Horse” chorus plugin.
- Kermit through a patch in Bitwig Grid with waveshaping, bandpass filter and modulated delay.
- Odessa’s fundamental output, also mixed through the Bitwig Grid patch above.
- Intellijel Shapeshifter through Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder, FX Aid (Flanger Barberpole program), Synthesis Technology E520 (Spectral Delay program), Noveltech Character, and Valhalla Delay. Sequenced by 0-Ctrl.
- A sample from the end of the previous section, looped in Bitwig, through both Make Noise Mimeophon and Valhalla Delay (with a crossfade between them), Bitwig Pitch Shifter and Unfiltered Audio SpecOps.
- Rings into E520 (Spectral Crusher program), Valhalla Delay. Sequenced by Marbles.
- Both oscillators in Kermit through Mystic Circuits Ana (Min and Box outputs), through Bitwig Grid filters.
- Microfreak (manually played), SurferEQ, Wavesfactory Cassette, Wavesfactory Echo Cat, Valhalla Delay.
2: Surrender, Sapphires, River
- drone: Odessa through Rings, FX Aid (Black Cloud reverb). Rings’ FM is modulated by The Harvestman Zorlon Cannon slewed by Mutable Instruments Stages, while Odessa’s density is modulated by Marbles (also slewed by Stages).
- A brief recording of sound from the game “Art of Rally” through small computer speakers and the LS-P2, granulized in Bitwig Grid, through SpecOps and Valhalla Delay.
- aggressive drone: Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas with its filter modulated by Noise Engineering Clep Diaz, through u-he Runciter and Valhalla Supermassive.
- melody: Mutable Instruments Beads (in wavetable mode) sequenced and modulated by the 0-Ctrl, and later played via a fader, quantized to 7TET tuning by Teletype.
- drone: Tone2 Warlock, SpecOps, Sonic Charge Permut8, Voxengo OldSkoolVerb Plus.
- melody: Manis Iteritas through OldSkoolVerb Plus and Inphonik PCM2612, sequenced by Clep Diaz quantized in u-he CVilization, clocked and modulated by Zorlon Cannon.
- Shapeshfiter through Rabid Elephant Natural Gate and AudioThing Wires
- drone: both Kermit oscillators.
- drone: 4ms Ensemble Oscillator, Make Noise Mimeophon, Mutable Instruments Blades, Valhalla Delay
- more drones: Medusa, FX Aid (Lo-Junky program), Arturia Plate-140 reverb
- drone and subtle crackles: Manis Iteritas through SpecOps and Native Instruments Raum reverb.
- noise: Make Noise Phonogene with the same “rally” sample from “Surrender”, through SpecOps and Valhalla Delay.
- drones: ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle, through FX Aid (Clipper program) in a feedback loop, Wavesfactory Cassette and AudioThing FogConvolver.
- melody: Shapeshifter through Natural Gate and Mimeophon, sequenced by 0-Ctrl.
- first part, reversed
3: Identify, Ghostlight
- crackling: a Bitwig Grid patch where white noise feeds Chance modules and a network of state-variable filters, through AudioThing Wires.
- noise: Bitwig Grid pulse oscillator through sample-and-hold, through PCM2612.
- choppy drone: Manis Iteritas through Natural Gate and Echo Cat, with modulation from Zorlon Cannon.
- melody: Mimeophon resonating, through Beads (acting as a “fake” delay effect while in granular mode) and SpecOps. The pitch sequence comes from Clep Diaz.
- 2-part drone from Akemie’s Castle, through MSCL and FX Aid (spring reverb program) and through a Chebyshev wavefolder in Bitwig Grid, both through Plate-140.
- buzzy drone: Blades both FMd and PMd by Angle Grinder, through Valhalla Delay.
- an air traffic controller recording, looped and AMd in Bitwig Grid, processed through FM Aid, Rings, Valhalla Delay and Valhalla Supermassive.
- drone: Odessa through Blades, Valhalla Vintage Verb, and CraveEQ (with animated notch filters)
- drone: Zebralette through Ratshack Reverb
- buzz/zap melody: Shapeshifter through Natural Gate and Valhalla Delay, played via 0-Ctrl
- resonant drone: Manis Iteritas through Rings.