central substandard time

The time change was yesterday, so imagine that I wrote a rant about what a crock daylight savings is, and I won’t have to actually write it, just grumble vaguely into my coffee. Also, “spring forward” doesn’t feel right when it’s 30 out in the morning and there are sparse snow flurries at noon. Though the grass is starting to be green again, so there’s that. Mumble grumble.

As it turns out, the gain boost offered by Befaco A*B+C isn’t nearly enough to bring the West Pest’s main output up to the level I want. Using a single input, the module can double the incoming voltage… sounds like a big change, right? +6dB. Not enough. Using two inputs you can triple it, for +9.5dB. Nope. Okay, chaining both channels together for 9x gain, +19dB? Still not enough!

I should probably have metered it or put it on the scope in the first place, because it’s really hard to guess at relative volume differences just by ear. But it’s not like the module doesn’t add a bunch of other utility to the BrutePest setup.

After looking at several options, and realizing that the very shallow depth of the Pod60 case is a serious limiting factor, I’m going with a York Modular (“YoMo”) vBST for more gain. And since this means Inertia does have to come out, I also went for their ADSR envelope generator. It’s really basic, but should do fine to supplement the synths’ built-in envelopes.

I also considered moving Inertia back to the main case and selling Synchrodyne instead. They’re both unique modules that haven’t been seeing a lot of action, but this is my second Synchrodyne and they’re no longer being made, so I figured it needed more of a chance. Some things about Synchrodyne I don’t like:

  • I really don’t like the panel design. Those grungy, hard to read fonts, ugh. Controls that are all a little too close together. Really poor placement of the input jack.
  • There is no “right” setting for Track Speed and Damping. If you want it to be relatively stable and smooth, it’s going to react slowly to changes in cutoff frequency. If you set it faster, it bounces around a lot.
  • I’m still not sure what “Influence” does to the PLL.
  • The manual claims the internal VCO is normalled to “Clock in” and can be replaced by some other clock. But very clearly, the VCO rate still affects the PLL and thus the filter even with an external input.
  • Sometimes it’s more squealy and aliased than I would like. That’s just the nature of the thing though. The lower the cutoff frequency, the lower the clock speed and the greater the aliasing — so it’s not suitable for some of the standard ways one uses a filter in synthesis.

But I found what I do like:

  • Its rough sound complements the Ataraxic Iteritas. Especially when using it for highpass filtering, or in some cases bandpass, where you’re not filtering out the high end and then putting an incoherent high end signal right back in. In fact, as a highpass filter I think I like it more overall.
  • I found some compromises with the track speed/damping. I was getting some interesting stuff from it that’s not entirely dissimilar to what I like in Grainity demos, so… hmmmm.
  • I feel like I have more to learn from it, regardless of how long I’ve had one. Like I’ve mostly been struggling to get it do what it’s not suited for, rather than getting to know what it can do for me.

So it’s staying off the chopping block for now — and even if I do decide to set it aside, I’ll probably keep it around because they’re going to be very hard to find in the future, and other switched-capacitor filters are even rarer.

However, the demos for the upcoming Random*Source Serge GTO have been blowing my mind. It’s an updated take on the Serge SSG, Smooth/Stepped Generator. Like a lot of Serge modules, the SSG is a sort of abstract, oddball general purpose module; in a nutshell, the left side acts as a slew or triangle LFO while the right side is a sample&hold and slew. Depending on how it’s patched it can do a wide variety of modulation, generative, and audio duties.

GTO starts from that concept, but was redesigned as a dual oscillator primarily for audio rate use, with faster rates and more precision. The folks at R*S are saying so far, they haven’t found anything SSG can do that GTO can’t, but oh wow does it sound delicious. Really beautiful FM, gnarly but gorgeous sync sounds, analog filtering and downsampling, etc. And since I’m so reluctant to give up any of my current oscillators for it, Synchrodyne seems like the #1 candidate to set aside. (I’d also have to shuffle some stuff to the BrutePest, but there’s room.)

But again, it’s one of those things where I should probably compare my current gear to what I’m hearing in demos. Because I can make very awesome sounds with what I have, and maybe GTO wouldn’t really contribute anything I can’t do already? Hm.

Oddly, this is making me think about Shapeshifter, and its capabilities vs. my usage. My choice of that one was a middle ground between wavetable VCOs like the E352, and a complex oscillator like the Hertz Donut. Most of what I use it for is the CO aspect. I do use the combo modes sometimes, but mostly the ringmod, and I have Ana. The more exotic stuff, less often. This is a dangerous line of thought, but, wow.

I think what I should do is, after the release of the current album, switch gears for a bit. Instead of focusing on recording and releasing music I should take time to do some really deep exploration of the more complex modules — Synchrodyne, Shapeshifter, Beads, Odessa — and probably even some of the simpler ones. And also, to get in that bass practice I said I needed but haven’t really started yet…

Because I compared aspects of The Spear Cuts Through Water to Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series, and then realized I enjoyed those but didn’t remember much aside from a few specific scenes, now I’m rereading those. I’m also looking up words a lot more than before. Much more convenient when you can do that with a phone rather than a dictionary. Wolfe has a way with language, and that way is the road less traveled, and that road is choked with weeds and fallen branches and takes a bit of time to traverse. There’s more than a little humor in it though, besides the grim and creepy and weird.

I found someone claiming Wolfe’s use of “bartizan” was an anachronism because it’s a 19th century word created by mistake for a medieval castle feature. Dude, the Torturers’ Guild tower is the ancient ruins of a former spaceship; we’re waaaaay in the future here and everything is anachronistic.

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