A few days ago I realized I kind of missed finger drumming on the Maschine, even though I don’t really make that kind of music. There’s something to be said for just playing, enjoying the journey without any thought of a destination. For many years that was 100% of my music making.
I’m grateful to have found the flow, to where I can just start making sounds and follow them to a finished recording, which is almost always worth keeping and listening to again. But I think a little bit of less “productive” music will do me good as well.
My thoughts immediately turned to the Elektron Model:Cycles. I very nearly went for one in the past but made other choices. It’s a drum machine, but it’s also an FM synthesizer — and “an ambient powerhouse in disguise” according to some.
I was pretty pleased to get a trade offer: a Cycles and some cash for my DAFM Genesis YM2612 synth (which I haven’t really used since The Sky Above The Port) and the Behringer interface. It arrived extremely quickly, and also extremely wet — the mail carrier left it on the front porch but failed to push it back one more foot where it would have stayed dry in yesterday’s rain. The outer box was soaked and disintegrating, but the inner box was barely damp and the machine itself was just fine.
And fine it is! Lots of fun, mostly not too confusing despite Elektron’s reputation (I haven’t really gone through the whole manual and have a pretty good grasp of things). Great sound too, of course tailored to drums, but it does indeed do the ambient thing, with some limitations. The envelopes are decay-only; if you want a slow attack you need to use the LFO, and there’s only one LFO per voice. It’s not going to take the FM drone prize away from Akemie’s Castle, but it was never meant to and it has its own charms.
My plan is to not integrate this with my other music gear for a while, leaving it as a spontaneous playtime instrument (running off a USB battery pack once the appropriate cable arrives). I can definitely see the possibility of using it “solo” to create tracks or a full album, with minimal external processing… someday. I’d rather get in the habit of just jamming with it though.