we interrupt this regularly scheduled program

Why I have no Drone Day recording for this year:

I got a phone call from Mom minutes after I woke up (around 5:30 AM), telling me about a medical emergency Dad was having. It seemed to start with food poisoning a couple of weeks ago, but he wound up going to the ER Monday night, then being transported to a larger hospital 50 miles away, since he had kidney failure and the local hospital has no nephrologist. And naturally, they were already having car trouble…

I told her I’d need to work one day to tie up loose ends — we have an impending version release and I’m the lead developer — but wound up wrapping up ongoing stuff in 45 minutes and taking off the rest of the week. It’s about a 10.5 hour drive each way (plus stops), making it a total of about 31 hours of driving over 6 days (of which 13 was Sunday alone, ouch). My wonderful spouse arranged for her cousin to look after the dogs, and followed on the next day, which helped me to keep it together and which my parents also greatly appreciated.

Without going too much into personal detail, my Dad needed just one dialysis session to clean out the built-up toxins and then his kidney function recovered. It was a 5 day hospital stay though and he was frustrated and ready to bail out on day 3 if not sooner. More follow-up is needed soon to treat what may be the cause of the problem (which is itself somewhat scary), but for now he’s safe and feeling much better.

So that was emotionally and physically difficult for all of us in different ways, but this chapter has, thankfully, ended okay.

glittering in the dark

Vangelis, may he rest in peace, is high on my list of influential electronic musicians. Isao Tomita is at the top for me, for his modular synthesis techniques and classical arrangements (and probably because I listened to a few of his albums over and over at a younger age) — but Vangelis was the more inspiring composer, and a fine multi-instrumentalist, and really had an ear and a talent for many different styles.

Chariots of Fire was everywhere, and the main theme is one of the first melodies I remember learning by ear. The Blade Runner soundtrack is the best thing about the movie (sorry, “tears in rain” monologue, Syd Mead flying cars, “enhance” scene, paper unicorns and Sean Young’s shoulder pads). Music from Albedo 0.39 and Heaven and Hell accompanied our journeys through the cosmos with Carl Sagan — “Alpha” still gives me chills, and Albedo 0.39 also features some killer jazz and rock in places (“Main Sequence” and “Nucleogenesis”).

Vangelis allegedly never learned to read musical notation, and preferred one-take improvisation over “writing” music. That’s pretty gratifying considering that’s how I roll myself 🙂

chill restored

The AC company was able to send someone yesterday at around noon. Apparently they usually have 2 people on duty on weekends, but they had 15 volunteers to work overtime. And yes, it was the run capacitor, it was still under warranty, and replacing it was a very quick job.

Overall the hallway thermostat got as high as 87; it never got below 82 even when it rained and cooled to the mid-60s overnight. Of course the temperature in that particular spot only very loosely correlates to the temperature in the places where we actually spend our time.

The other thing I have cooled off on is the Xaoc Sofia. For most of Superbooth there was no video coverage of Xaoc’s new stuff online, no matter how often I refreshed my searches. 🙂 But this morning two videos appeared, and… eh, I can do without the module really.

But what I’m looking at now is one of Xaoc’s other new things, the Koszalin frequency shifter. I wrote it off originally because a freq shifter — which inharmonically lowers and/or raises the frequency of the incoming signal by some constant Hertz value, as opposed to a pitch shifter which changes incoming frequencies proportionally and keeps them all in tune — struck me as kind of a niche effect. At low ranges, it’s a swirly sound reminiscent of a psychedelic 70s flanger. At higher ranges it sort of sounds like an extra harsh ring modulator.

But as the demos pointed out, one thing you can do with a stereo frequency shifter is to shift up, process the signal with some other effect, and shift back down — causing the effect to act a little differently but staying in tune. That idea inspired me to give the frequency shifters in Bitwig and VCV Rack a try this morning. Okay, cool… but then I want back to watch the original Koszalin announcement video, and that thing really sounds freaking great. The Density control which affects feedback (I think by filling in delayed copies relative to the shift frequency) adds a lot, and it’s also got TZFM which is unique in a frequency shifter. The feedback sits just below self-oscillation, so it can be pinged like a filter, and in some ways it kind of sits the resonator space. So, that’s a strong contender.

To my ears, the other winner of Superbooth is Klavis Grainity — a “granular VCF” which immediately made everyone ask “what is a granular VCF?” It’s an analog multimode filter that has 13 different simultaneous modes, which are sliced and combined under digital control. Something very much like a wavetable oscillator sets the pattern of those slices, and that oscillator automatically tracks the pitch of the input signal, but can be detuned and divided. The upshot is, it adds all kinds of texture and waveshaping and phase modulation along with its filtering, and it sounds pretty amazing. Plus you can just use one of 6 of the filter modes without the fancy granular aspect and mix that in or use it separately.

These would be a total of probably 20-22 HP (the width of Grainity wasn’t announced). I’m still thinking it’d be Manis Iteritas and Ensemble Oscillator that would make way for these — so as of now, they’re both sort of on trial to decide whether or not I can part with one or both.

having a meltdown

Right now it’s only gotten up to 76 degrees F (at 7 AM, in May) but we’re heading for 94 this afternoon (“feels like” 101). And our air conditioner at home failed at some point last night, making a loud buzzing sound for a few seconds and then not starting. Which is what happened exactly 355 days ago, and it cost $300 to have someone come out and replace the run capacitor.

[UPDATE] Apparently the AC company had 2000 calls for service yesterday, and they can’t send someone to look at ours until Monday morning (unless we get very lucky and a spot opens up). I will not be surprised if it passes 100F inside our house before then.

AND it was hot as balls when I got to work this morning. I never use that phrase, but it seemed particularly appropriate. I could practically feel the heat rising up the elevator shaft like a chimney; I could almost see the heat shimmer. It was sweltering on the 8th floor, and if we had working AC at home I’d have bailed out immediately and worked from home. An hour later, it noticeably improved — I could think, and was no longer sweating and sticking to my desk. But two hours later, I still have a fan set on high blowing directly on my head and am not quite comfortable yet.

Superbooth is underway, and in the last week or more there have been a lot of product announcements. I don’t think parts shortages have really been resolved but there’s a lot in the pipeline. Being satisfied with my current rig, there was a lot I could look at and say “oh, that’s kind of neat but I don’t need it” or “I could use that, but I could also just use plugins” or “clever idea, but it’s not my jam.” And a couple that are simply out of my budget. There was one item where the teaser photo made me wonder if it was something really interesting, and it turns out to be something else instead.

There is one new thing that I am keen on learning more about: Xaoc Sofia, a big analog oscillator with what seems to be some unique waveshaping and audio-rate modulation. I wouldn’t buy it based only on the one video that’s been released so far — a mixed bag of some really great sounds, some not very exciting ones, and a bit of ugliness — but it seems like there’s a lot of potential with this one. So I’m eager to hear more sounds, and maybe get a bit of a walkthrough.

Sofia is the same 24HP size as Odessa, but I’m thinking if I got one, it would more likely replace Manis Iteritas and Ensemble Oscillator. Both of those are fine modules that see regular use, but also I feel like I’d be okay replacing them if the new thing was sufficiently interesting.

I now have a phone widget showing me how long it’s been since I put in my Miezo order. Is that sad? It’s been 0 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. My expectations have been set for 3 months, but I would certainly welcome less.

I’ve got one track recorded toward the next thing, and a simple idea to tie the album together. Not too much to say about it yet though.

We saw Steven Universe in the Strange… no wait, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I will avoid spoilers here, but say it was certainly up to the standard for wild visual effects, but there were some disappointing aspects to the story that I think could have been addressed, either with a clever twist or a bit more character focus in a couple of areas. Eh… it wasn’t awful. I do look forward very much to Thor: Love and Thunder though, given what a fun ride Thor: Ragnarok was.


The last book I finished was Iron Widow, very Chinese-flavored future fantasy. Society reverted to the bad old days of feudalistic, deeply racist and even more misogynistic warrior culture complete with foot binding, with alien “spirit metal” beasts held off by giant mecha powered by qi, and controlled by the “spirit pressure” of a male (hero) and a female (usually a sacrificial concubine). The protagonist is an intensely powerful young woman who suffers a lot, gets her vengeance and beats the system, only to find out the system was rigged (against women, and against everyone) on even more levels than anyone suspected.

It wasn’t an easy read.

But the day after I finished it, the news was full of the so-called “Supreme” Court giving its opinion that Roe vs. Wade was a mistake, conveniently ignoring the Ninth Amendment for the sake of Republican culture war fuckery in a way that could easily apply to many other rights that we have taken for granted.

Democrats supposedly “control” the White House and the House of Representatives and the Senate is divided. But somehow this is still a weak position and the curse of Trump lingers. I’m convinced that most Democratic politicians don’t care about the issues or winning, as much as they do about fundraising and personal wealth and power. The ones that do care are stuck in the same broken, corrupt system and can’t build up the momentum to break loose.

Just yesterday morning I was in a rare good mood from the morning commute. Feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction over the new album, some spiritual something where there has been a lot of fog that I hadn’t been looking at… just general good feelings. Until, of course, I opened my browser.

It is difficult, or maybe impossible, not to despair.