I am super tired and need more sleep, which has eluded me. So I’m writing posts and playing with plugins for a bit.

Yesterday I celebrated (?) my 51st birthday by driving us back home from our long road trip. My mother-in-law made me a German chocolate cake and sent us home with a few pieces of it.

The day before that, we visited Shreveport Aquarium, which is not particularly impressive compared to Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, or Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, or Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It’s actually not impressive compared to the humbler St. Louis Aquarium. But their ray touch tank had the biggest pair of leopard rays we’ve seen anywhere, so that was neat even if we didn’t get to actually touch any of them. And our nephew, age 2 and a strong candidate for most adorable and funny human being on Earth, seemed to have a good time. (Maybe not as much fun as bouncing a big rubber ball off of his grandpa on Thanksgiving, or making us throw paper airplanes for his amusement afterward.)

The other thing that everyone except us seemed to want to make a big deal of was, of course, Black Friday — the “holiday” that has eclipsed Thanksgiving in its cultural influence and media presence. I didn’t buy anyone gifts yet, but Black Friday (which as I said, begins in the third week of October and doesn’t really end until January) is a big deal for the music gear industry and there are usually some healthy discounts to be found.

I wound up with:

  • Waldorf Streichfett Plugin. The hardware version is a proven favorite among some people but it’s not one I ever picked up. The introductory price was cheap enough I bought it without even demoing. It’s not particularly impressive or authentic IMHO — sort of uncanny valley impression of being a string machine without sounding exactly like one — but there are interesting sweet spots and it’s the sort of thing where its limits can be a strength and can reveal hidden depths. I’ll have some uses for it on occasion.
  • TC Electronic TC8210-DT… a not very catchy name for a reverb plugin that comes with a dedicated hardware controller. On deep discount to the point where I felt like I could try it out. Haven’t gotten it out of the box yet but that’ll likely be later today.
  • ValhallaDelay and Valhalla Supermassive both got free updates with new algorithms. The Supermassive ones are especially great. Continued, free expansion of products that were cheap or free in the first place is one of the reasons I love ValhallaDSP — the other being, the sound is just fantastic in the first place.
  • Moogerfooger plugins also got updated with a new device, MF-109 Saturator. Which also can add filtered noise and affect its own drive amount with an envelope follower, which can kind of be interesting if you put it after a delay or use it with percussive sounds.
  • Not audio, but Spiderheck and Rush Rally Origins were both on my Steam wishlist waiting for a sale, and it happened so I grabbed them. I tried the RRO demo before, and Spiderheck’s been getting great reviews.

Also, the order was a few weeks ago, but I got a few of the last remaining Mutable Instruments pink and jade knobs through Thonk. While Émilie had switched to all white knobs with newer modules because color-coding them just didn’t make that much sense, here I think it’s a nice touch:

not all who wander…

As I write this, it’s the evening of day 6 of our trip. It’s not all “vacation” because, along with dual Thanksgiving celebrations and birthdays and taking our nephew to visit an aquarium, part of it was to be here to support my dad during his surgery.

And we’re through that. The surgery went very well. He had to spend a couple of nights at the hospital for observation — which is really frustrating for him. I love my dad a lot but he’s very stubborn and very good at spreading that frustration to others. The last three days have been stressful, but hopefully, once he’s had a few days to heal and a follow-up doctor visit, this particular saga of health issues is done with.

The final Mistborn Era 2 novel, The Lost Metal, was released Monday so I’ve had that to fill time spent in waiting rooms and such. It was a humdinger. Actually a little bit overwhelming with how much it’s connected to the rest of the Cosmere. For maximum impact I would recommend that potential readers first read:

  • The first 3 Wax & Wayne (Mistborn Era 2) books, so you know the main characters, several side characters of varying importance, and a major villain.
  • The three Mistborn Era 1 books, and then Mistborn: Secret History, so you know all about the events that spawned two of the religions which are extremely important here, as well as the Metallic Arts.
  • At least the first three Stormlight Archive novels, to get to know one of the factions involved and some Cosmere mechanics. Also alongside that story arc itself, there’s correspondence between some of the entities involved.
  • Perhaps Elantris and The Emperor’s Soul to recognize some of the “not magic.”

That said, you could probably get away with just the previous Era 2 books, but you’d be missing out on a lot of “oh shit it’s So-And-So!” moments. But not to fear — even if you’ve read everything Brando Sando published you’d still be shown some unfamiliar new things here. It’s not all in-jokes and sly nods to dedicated fans.

I’ve literally just come through a reread of Stormlight Archive and all the previous Mistborn novels, and yet… I kind of want to re-reread them already to tie some of the new reveals back to those previous books. But I think I will hold off and just peruse the fan forums and wikis a bit. No doubt Stormlight 5 and other books to be released next year will also have me wanting to reread…

Some gear demos, and announcements of a couple of new things have hit.

Steady State Gate: I’m sure it’s good, but none of the audio demos I’ve heard have convinced me I need it when I already have Natural Gate and Blades. So I’ll just skip this one.

Endless Processor: the latest demo of this one has it reproducing the textures of resynthesized sounds with a startling depth and texture in ways that only a meticulously looped sample might accomplish — it doesn’t blend together into kind of a static motionless sound or a fuzzy/blurry slurry as some other techniques do, and yet it’s not a loop and some elements are indeed kind of averaged over time. I don’t really understand what it’s doing. I’m still trying to decide whether it’s just surprising and cool, or especially useful beyond other tools I have. I may have to indulge my curiosity and go for it, though.

Molten Modular/Befaco Motion MTR: newly announced, this is a bit like Mutable Instruments Shades but with LED rings indicating the level. I think at least for now, I’m going to pass, because I still prefer O’Tool+ for closer monitoring of levels. But it’s a good concept, and I’d probably recommend it to anyone who doesn’t already have Shades.

Bela Gliss: like a classier and enhanced version of Soundmachines’ Lightstrip, it’s a touch-sensitive controller with backlighting. It’s got various kinds of CV recording/playback, a dual channel mode, a 5-key pressure keyboard mode, etc. I’ll be following its progress updates with interest. However, the Lightstrip didn’t get as much use from me as I had expected, and I’m also selling the BeetTweek, so probably I don’t need it. There’s a saturation point with controllers that I think I’ve reached.


It’s only been a week but I feel like I have new stuff to say!

I finally got the colonoscopy done while I’m still L years old in the Roman style, and the results are all good. Whew! I’m supposed to have it done again in V years.

The main lesson learned? Don’t get yourself Diet Sprite and lime jello for the liquid diet when the PEG prep drink is also lemon flavored.

As everyone told me, the prep is the unpleasant part. The procedure itself was a jump cut. One second I’m awkwardly lying on my side watching the anesthesiologist just starting to press the syringe plunger. The next I’m back in the room where I started, feeling very rested and just a little bit euphoric.

There are 7 weeks left in the year, and we’ll be out on vacation for 3 of them. But I’m going to have one more album release for 2022.

In fact, one week after the release of Sinister Topography, I already have 31 minutes recorded. It’s all no-input feedback loops, alternating between hardware and software patches. No synths, no samples, no basses. Some of them have some minimal sequencing, but for the most part, pitches and rhythms are coming from the feedback loops themselves — and I’m not so much in control of it as able to influence it to some degree, maybe not as far as I want to. Like if the pitch of the sustain tone goes any lower it crosses some threshold and the entire sound changes radically. It’s been very edumacashunal!

(The hardware patches do have end-of-chain compression, EQ, and stereo width management. In a couple of cases there was an impulse needed to kickstart the feedback, but usually noise or small DC offsets within the system were enough. And I’m not shying away from editing out boring or ugly parts or occasionally splicing takes.)

For this project I’m returning to patch notes, documenting what’s in these loops. It seems appropriate. Maybe I’ll return to the practice in general for future albums, maybe not. Some of the patches are quite simple — Mimeophon and Peradam. Others have two interacting feedback loops or other complications.

On the software side, Bitwig Spectral Suite has been pretty amazing for this. Loud Split can tone down the loudest bands while boosting the weaker ones, maintaining an overall sustained loop in a different manner from a limiter. Harmonic Split can dampen pure tones to keep resonances under control, or the inharmonics to keep loops cleaner and less noisy.

And in hardware, there are quite a few modules that are tempting to stick into every feedback loop. Rings has been my feedback buddy for a long time, of course. Blades is great since it combines drive and filtering. Mimeophon is a champ at feedback. And Peradam says “pick me! pick me!” maybe because part of its idiom is feedback in the first place.

Peradam is a cool module. Waveshaping is a kind of distortion, yes, but in modular it’s kind of a mindset. I feel Peradam really excels at gentle bending and folding of shapes, warming stuff up and filling it out. But you can push it to do wild and crazy things, going into a stuttering thumping mess or screaming cacophony — and sometimes, those sorts of things can be the prime mover of a feedback patch.

Despite parts shortages and the unfortunate end of some Eurorack brands, there’s still new stuff being made and new companies springing up. Some of them even in the midst of war — the Ukranian brand Blukač has just appeared and announced the Endless Processor, a module with one intriguing demo so far. It captures and resynthesizes moments of audio to act as an infinite sustain effect, and has two channels and multiple layers to work with. I’m looking forward to more demos, but meanwhile their first, limited production run sold out extremely quickly and their second one will also be quite limited, but they plan to go bigger as soon as they can.

Other items of interest to me at the moment are:

  • Klavis Grainity. Working with their third prototype they apparently found an opportunity for an exciting improvement, so this is a module being delayed for the best of reasons. I’m in the “need to hear more demos” stance with this one, particularly because I wound up bouncing off every Klavis module I’ve tried for one reason or another so far. They don’t lack in good ideas, but sometimes it’s been something about the interface, sometimes just that I chose modules that I didn’t really need. This could be the one that wins though.
  • SSF Steady State Gate. It’s got 1- and 2-pole lowpass and bandpass modes as well as saturation/folding and “Qaos”, so it’s a different animal from other LPGs. DivKid has a demo coming soon so that should tell me whether this module is worth getting when I already have Natural Gate, Blades, Peradam, Lacrima Versio etc
  • Forge TME Vhikk 2. The first model is an impressive ambient drone machine that went a little bit under the radar and sold out. The second model adds some new features. I’m somewhat getting Strega vibes from in, in that the fear is this will make it “too easy” and isn’t really necessary when I’ve got other stuff… but after I delayed on the Strega it turned out to be one of my favorite pieces ever, so maybe I should give this a whirl when it’s ready.

As it happens, if I sell off the Afterneath and BeetTweek, I have exactly enough space to pick up all of the above (with some careful shuffling). But I don’t think it’s likely that I will go for all of them.

There’s also the mysterious Intellijel Cascadia. They dropped a hint about “soonish” several weeks ago, but not what the thing actually is; speculation ran rampant. If it’s a successor to Shapeshifter I might have to consider it. The name suggests maybe a successor to Rainmaker instead, in which case, probably not. But nobody outside of Intellijel and maybe some quiet beta testers knows yet.