season of lists

It’s Halloween, and this morning as I arrived at work I met a witch on the elevator, with a fantastic, cheerful yet goth black and purple outfit. She indicated her broom and rolling suitcase, and explained (in a suitably witchy accent) that she’d have flown on the one but had to bring the other. As she got off on her floor she said “I hope that I have brightened your day at least a little.”

Makes me a feel a bit lazy for just wearing my new [spooky synth music playing] t-shirt and usual green hoodie and jeans. But the one time I dressed up for Halloween at this place — as a ninja pirate, with a black pirate shirt, tabi boots from my taiko days, awful gold jewelry and plastic katana — I just confused people and felt out of place.

Anyway, today being the main event of Spooky Season, we’re moving swiftly into Festive Season, and also the time when people make lists of the best Whatever Of The Year even though there’s still 1/6 of the year left. But instead of doing a “best new gear” post I’ll frame it as new stuff that wasn’t just cool, but really had an impact.

  • The Maurizio Über Basses Miezo is the big highlight and delight of 2022. While sometimes my fingers fumble when playing, that will get better with time; the instrument fits my body and the space where I play, and it sounds and looks and feels great.

The UBass would go on the list too, except that I bought it late in 2021. Certainly picking that up changed things for me. And even though I kind of ignored it in favor of the Miezo on this latest album, I picked it up a couple of days ago and it’s still a joy. The two instruments are not really replacements for each other.

The Ibanez Mikro was really more educational; it showed me I did indeed want something else the UBass didn’t offer, but pointed toward the Miezo’s much more compact form.

  • Make Noise Strega is my favorite new piece of modular hardware… even though it’s more than a module, and even though it doesn’t feel “new.” It’s more like some part of me has always had it. When the thing was released I avoided getting it because it seemed like it would be too much of a perfect fit. Correct assessment, wrong decision at the time. But I’ve made up for lost time.
  • There were a handful of “favorite” and “neat” new modules, but the one I feel has had the most impact has been Xaoc Koszalin, for giving me a whole new way to warp sound.
  • The Line6 FBV Express foot controller was a solid addition. Obviously nice for volume swells and reverb/delay feedback freezes with the bass, but also just fading in parts in general. The footswitches have been useful as well. Ideally I’d have 2-4 expression pedals, but I do have limited space under the desk and it’s sometimes shared with a dog. So I’m good with this one.

    I could count the Launchpad Pro mk3, but that was just sort of an upgrade from last year’s Launchpad X. The added sequencer mode has been a nice occasional bonus but not necessarily a gamechanger.

    I thought subMatrix BeetTweek was going to be an amazing controller, but in practice it’s turned out to be the kind of thing I could use but usually don’t. I’ve decided to put it up for sale.
  • Jam Origin MIDI Bass has been excellent — by far the most reliable pitch conversion I’ve tried, good for doubling voices, using the bass to simply control a synth voice, or processing with a ring modulator or filter or Rings or whatever. And sometimes I just use it as an amp sim without even doing the MIDI conversion. A win! The developer claims he’s made some progress on an even better algorithm, so that might be something we see in the next year or two.

    Bitwig spectral suite, in spite of the brouhaha associated with its release, offers me some tools I’ve been wanting, with plenty of flexibility. I’ve used it for wild and unusual stuff, but also for some cleanup during editing and mastering on this current project. It was certainly worth the price, but I won’t complain about getting the price converted to an extension.

    Two delay plugins have really stood out: Noise Engineering Imitor (which I received as a beta tester) and the Moogerfooger MF-104 Delay plugin. The former is a very powerful multitap delay with an interface that makes sense to me, and some sweet modulation of the taps and feedback path alteration stuff that… just comes together. The MF-104 has loads of character, and makes my earlier purchase of the Hinder BBD-esque delay feel a little bit unfortunate. Plus there are 6 other Moogerfooger plugins that came with it which aren’t bad either.
  • Surprise, a game category: a lot of what I’ve played this year has been old favorites, like Guild Wars 2, Noita, Art of Rally. WRC 10 was new to me this year, and the driving and graphics are generally good even if the career mode stuff is kind of janky. But the fresh one for me is Moonbreaker — there’s something really relaxing about painting miniatures, especially when there’s no mess and an undo button and lots of assists. The game itself may or may not be relaxing (Cargo Run gets pretty tense and challenging) but is also fun.

    Trombone Champ is the other winner in this category. It’s just a ridiculous game, humbling for a musician to play until you just accept the inevitable. You’ll play out of tune and off the rhythm and practice doesn’t seem to help (I bet if there was a slower practice mode that might be different though). But it’s just full of absurd joy, and has been updated very frequently to bring new tunes to suck at and new cosmetic and configuration options.

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