closing arguments

New album is almost there. I have a little bit of editing to do on one track, then the art and mastering and release. This will be #7 for this year… there’s still time for an eighth!

You can still see how things were slower at the start. There were gaps where I’d recorded something, had major doubts about it, tried to rework it into shape, gave up and rejected it, then reconfigured my mind’s idea generator.

There is a common claim among musicians that “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” gets in the way of being creative. My last round of gear rethinking/trades ran October 7-25, so… not so much. (One of those tracks was recorded on October 7, though its last edit was a bit later.)

the happiest place on earth?

Naturally, scant days after I chose to give up on it and go for the Marble Physics, Inertia is now shipping and has an overview video. But I have no regrets. It can join a very long list of cool modules that I don’t have and I’m fine with accepting that reality. And I fully expect MP will be a lot of fun anyhow.

This sounds awful:

Disney’s Pay-to-Skip-Lines System Launches: 10 Crucial Discoveries from the Reactions

What a way to ruin what should be a fun experience.

I have fond childhood memories of WDW and Epcot Center in Orlando. My family used to go a couple of times a year, thanks to stacked discounts (AAA, Florida resident, special events for families of government employees) — usually day trips but occasionally with a 1-night stay in a nearby motel. And often those discounts happened when crowds were smaller anyway.

There were no phone apps in the 70s to early 90s of course; we just waited in line like everyone else. For wildly popular rides we either waited or skipped ’em, and that was that. (Although there were a few times when we brought my grandma, rented a wheelchair for her because no way was she going to walk a few miles in the Florida sun — and that also got us line-skipping privileges in many cases. On the other hand, this meant having to push a wheelchair up and down the park’s completely artificial hills, and through crowds of people who mainly don’t pay attention to their surroundings.)

I’m trying to imagine spending half an hour fiddling with a buggy phone app in order to pay $15 a person (on top of the already exorbitant Disney ticket prices now) for the privilege of skipping half an hour of waiting in line IF you show up at the scheduled time, instead of just… going around enjoying things.

Ugh, I sound old-fashioned don’t I? Honestly, as much as I’d like to do the new Star Wars stuff, if I had the opportunity to visit a Disney park now I’m not sure I would bother. It’s a lot costlier, I am a lot more cynical than I was back then, have less patience for crowds (even before COVID), and most of the rides are slightly amusing (and air-conditioned) at best. And even back in the day I was dismayed when they would “update” rides to tie them in to more recent properties (or because their sponsor went kaput or the technology just seemed old).

So, uh, favorite Disney rides, from then?

  • Space Mountain. I was too chicken as a younger kid, and that kind of worked to our advantage because the lines were long. But once peer pressure got me on it once, I loved it. Great atmosphere, ironically.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A bit tame for a coaster, but really smooth and still quite fun. For more intense coasters, there was Busch Gardens in Tampa.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean. (Note that I did not ride it post-movie update.)
  • The Haunted Mansion. Obviously.
  • If You Had Wings, which had a catchy song and a sense of humor. After Eastern folded and it became “If You Could Fly” that was a step down; when it became Delta Dreamflight it was just garbage.
  • Mission To Mars, before it got replaced by Alien Encounter which was just super cheesy. I mean, it was always cheesy, but the 70s-era effects did not get better in its 90s update, while the disbelief became too much to suspend.
  • At EPCOT: Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, Maelstrom (Norway). More geeky I suppose, but hey. The interactive art/music toys in Imagination were super fun and the stupid catchy Imagination song still runs through my head sometimes, decades later.


After Later Audio Tilt arrived Saturday, and I gave it my usual treatment, which doesn’t seem weird to me at all: try out the various features, put it on a scope and see how it responds to various things, etc.

On the plus side, the envelope shapes are excellent, with separate rise/fall curvature plus sustain, and easier to dial in than ADSRs on Stages. On the minus side, black knobs on black panel (I will for sure change the knobs) and wonky RISE and FALL gate outputs. I wrote to After Later about that, and I was the first to report it — it’s an issue with the stability of the slew core, and can’t be retrofitted in existing modules. But I can work with this using other modules, so it’s not a big deal.

Speaking of tilting, I’ve decided to sell the Maths, and ordered a used ADDAC Marble Physics. It models the two-dimensional motion of a ball inside of a tilting box, with control over the angle, simulation speed, elasticity, and bumping the box to get it moving. The outputs are the marble’s X and Y coordinates, velocity, and an edge detector. With this and some clever patching, one can create unusual (or not too unusual) envelopes and LFOs, slew and quasi-slew, and some other effects. If it runs at audio rate, maybe even a resonant filter! It should be both lots of fun and very useful. If not… I’ll just resell it, and get Loquelic Iteritas without further thought put into the matter. The little bit of remaining space not reserved for Xaoc Erfurt will be distributed among a few small blank panels. And that’s iteration 6.0 “The Leaning Badger”, done.

cheap turpentine

I’m reaching a point (again) where I want to think in less of a gear-centric way. But I’m still making a few changes first.

I’ve bought a used After Later Tilt, a small but full-featured function generator that is pretty well liked among function generator aficianados. I’m giving it a try to see if I want to replace Maths. Tilt and Inertia was the original idea, but unless there is a very impressive demo video for Inertia in the next few days, my current thinking is may just be Tilt. Or 2x Tilt, or Tilt and Bog (an alternate and seemingly improved version of Wogglebug). If that leaves free space, I’ll probably just grab something cool without putting a lot of thought into it. Loquelic Iteritas, or just whatever is at the intersection of opportunity and whim.

I thought about replacing the Microfreak with a Pittsburgh Microvolt 3900, or perhaps a Make Noise Strega. Microfreak is sometimes very fun, sometimes a weird combination of fun and not-fun; my thought was that a weird analog semi-modular would always be fun. But on further review I’m going to hang onto it — I’m not sure the other options wouldn’t be a bit redundant.

And then, I will stop, at least for a while, taking notes about the gear I use in my recordings. That means I’ll have a lot less to write up for each album release, but that’s fine. It also means when I personally get curious about what I used to make a particular sound, I’ll just have to embrace the mystery. When someone asks about a technique with Drezno that I know I’ve used, I won’t necessarily be able to point them to an exact example. And I won’t be able to track numerically how much I’ve used various modules. And that’s fine! That’s kind of the point.

I may have less to say on this blog, or I might have more interesting and varied things to say.

Writing about music is hard — harder than making it, for me. Writing about gear is all too easy. But not thinking about gear all the time sounds pretty good to me!

On the drive to work this morning, I turned the corner and THERE WAS THE MOON. Right in my face. I mean, quarter million miles away from my face, but still, front and center, just a little above the horizon, a big and full and bright Hunter’s Moon. One of those moments one is oddly thankful for.

A few days ago I found a PDF copy (of indeterminate legitimacy) of an omnibus of a particular epic fantasy, not one of the particularly well known ones, which I’d been looking for. Converted it to MOBI, put it on my Kindle, and… big meh. It opens with maps and several pages of dramatis personae, and I already found myself just not caring. And then an intro which failed to set the hook, failed to clarify the relationships of any of the characters or their factions, or the importance of the events that were happening. Then a confusing scene and a very bloody aftermath. Then a couple of scenes that should have been really cool, airbrushed-on-the-side-of-a-van moments but went awfully low-key about the cool parts. Then another bloody aftermath. Then I just gave up, without feeling like any of the characters were sympathetic or had much interesting about them other than nicknames, but there sure were a lot of them.

So instead, I’m rereading The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. which is much more entertaining.

I do kind of want to get into a well-written epic fantasy though — one that is new to me, or at least something I haven’t read in a while. I want both quality and quantity. Hmm, maybe I’ll try rereading the Mercedes Lackey stuff?

badger tears

It’s another post about my Eurorack gear changes, wheee!

Out: Gozinta, FX Aid XL, CVilization, Pico BBD, Loose Fruit, some minor bits I had in a drawer.

In: Mutable Instruments Ears, Befaco Crush Delay V2, and some exciting new firmware from Noise Engineering which convinced me to grab a second Versio…

Where Gozinta was boring, and not even all that useful very often, Ears is a delight. It’s great for feeding into Rings, sure, but it’s also a controller which encourages patching in ways that normally I might not think of. Injecting a little bit of scratchiness into an FM input, or a dynamic envelope into a timbre control that would usually just kind of sit there. So that’s a win.

Crush Delay can get super noisy super quick, if you set its delay time more than a little bit — like many BBDs or PT2399-based delays. There is a big golden sweet spot though where there’s just a little bit of fizzy effervescence. And there are some handy controls, including CV over the input, the internal feedback, and an external feedback loop. That loop is great for inserting a second delay for multi-tap stereo goodness, or a filter (particularly Katowice) or even something odd like Maths. This module is much more fun to me than either the Pico BBD or the FX Aid (and unlike Pico BBD, it doesn’t need a filter to stop clock whine when you slow it down).

Lacrima Versio is an auto-wah firmware for the Versio platform. Auto-wah is not something that normally gets my attention, since I’m not a 70s funk guitarist. But this one will morph from low to band to highpass, and has a nice-sounding saturation, a sort of self-mod thing that just sort of adds magic, and a Juno-like chorus switch, and it just sounds great overall. More than the sum of its parts.

Melotus Versio is a real stunner of a granular delay. Comparisons with Beads were inevitable, but it works differently and has a different character.

Beads was designed for the Curtis Roads “microsound” style of granular synthesis with very tiny grains of sound that are triggered rapidly and overlap, and it excels at that. It can also use larger “grain” sizes and manual triggering, so it’s quite versatile. It does this with one buffer, which multiple playback pointers can access simultaneously. (It also has a more traditional delay mode, though that mode still offers pitch shifting.)

Melotus is more like a Gatling gun made of delays. As far as I can tell, there are independent buffers for each grain, and it rotates through them on a smooth crossfade. By reversing the grain direction (randomly or always) and/or randomizing the time and panning, varying textures can be achieved. Also, changes in delay time have a much different result than a typical delay line, and either using sparser grain density or changes in delay time writing into the feedback loop, interesting rhythmic patterns can be achieved.

Also, Melotus has a combination filter and octave up/octave down knob (with a slight detune), which can add more gloom or shininess. Normally I am not into “shimmer reverb” and don’t particularly like it on Desmodus Versio, but I think here it really plays well.

Beads can do a wider variety of things, but I feel that Melotus sits comfortably in a role where Beads is often awkward.

Asking myself if I’d rather simultaneously have Melotus and Lacrima available, or Melotus and Loose Fruit, or Lacrima and Loose Fruit, it was pretty clear to me that two Versios was the way to go.

The album is progressing, in a sort of unassuming way — I realized yesterday I have 37 minutes of material now. Some of it might get cut, more will certainly be added, but it’s not languishing and being neglected. 🙂

red light green light

I’m not in full-speed-ahead music recording mode, but I did record something that I definitely want on the next album. Pretty sure I’ve broken the curse. 🙂

People have been talking heavily again recently about materialism and “commodity fetishism” and so forth as it relates to modular. To me, general thoughts about this, and other peoples’ attitudes and issues are less fruitful to consider than an honesty check on my own part.

I could sell off all my Eurorack gear and still make music — at this point, it would even be fairly similar music. There are some specific sounds I wouldn’t achieve, sure, but I’d stick with modular-ish techniques (and hardware controllers) to a large extent, making use of Bitwig Grid and probably integrating some other software modular. The real question is, why would I? The only answers I can supply for that would be desperation, a radical change in living circumstances, or wanting to make a clean break artistically, I suppose.

Short of that, I could certainly reduce to a smaller case, but again, why? I like the case I have, with my spouse’s pyrography on the side, and just the right amount of space to be “a lot” without being overwhelming. Any pressure to reduce comes mainly from other peoples’ discourse about materialism.

With that said, I have been kind of wanting to lock down the gear again, stop thinking about making more changes and dig deep into some of the modules that deserve more exploration. But with a couple of caveats.

I reviewed the modules I have, categorizing some as “expendable” (with no surprises) and some as a sort of borderline, “interesting enough for now” (with a few surprises). In that group there is:

Loose Fruit: lackluster with some material, but very lustrous indeed with other material. A bit nicer than trying to patch the same effect with comparators and a switch. But it may be a bit of a one-trick pony at that. Not going to sell it off now, but it won’t surprise me if I let go of it later.

FM Aid: it’s cool, but I don’t use it a lot. I have a lot of FM capability among my various synths. I could consider it more for alternate waveshaping duties though, where it has some potential.

(Desmodus) Versio: some stunning effects, but there are also stunning effects in VST plugins — and in fact Noise Engineering is releasing some of the same effects that way. However, there’s new firmware on the way and the demo they gave was very much my spooky cup of tea, and there’s still potential for third-party firmware (or my own if I were to dig into it).

CVilization: The thing with this isn’t as much the cheat sheet necessity beyond basic operations, as it is a lot of functionality that I just don’t find myself wanting/needing much. The most common is the matrix mixer, though I am quite far from needing that in every patch either. After some further thought, simpler feedback patching tends to work pretty well; two 2:1 mono mixers can either do mono feedback with separate wet/dry and feedback control, or stereo feedback without the separate control, and that seems adequate to me. As it happens, Blinds can easily be two 2:1 mono mixers (and Shades one more, or other stuff…). So maybe this module, rather than Shades, is what I should sell off next.

FX Aid XL: it’s certainly a good module, with many fine sounding FX and constant updates! But again, VST plugins are my argument against it. I don’t really feel like there are unique and vital things it will do for me better than I can get elsewhere. It’s 6HP, Erfurt is 6HP, so if the Erfurt demos convince me I’ll make that change.

On my “expendable” list was Gozinta. I use it rarely, and can substitute other options when signals need a boost. I’ve decided to swap it out for Mutable Instruments Ears, which can boost a signal, has an internal piezo mic with textured panel and an envelope follower/gate — people love it with Rings and I’ve never tried it, and it seems like it could also inject creepy noises when processed in other ways (Beads, Mimeophon, reverbs) and act as a controller for other purposes.

New Systems Instruments Inertia is supposed to be released tomorrow; there are still no demos. There’s still some chance I may want to replace Maths with it, or it plus Tilt or Contour 1 or something. I really want to see those demos.

Otherwise, I’m on the edge of declaring a freeze again, for no specific duration. And then I may line up some projects to highlight specific modules, like I’ve done with Rings and Akemie’s Castle — the Ensemble Oscillator certainly deserves that treatment.