making noise

I’m done recording my second 2023 album. There’s about an hour of music, in two suites split almost evenly down the middle — it could have been a vinyl release but that’s purely coincidental.

As I said, I’m going to change gears once this one is released. I’ll split my music time between intensive gear studies (and some technique perhaps), and bass practice. I don’t know how long I’ll stick with that before starting to work on another album, but probably don’t expect to see 6 or 8 albums from me this year.

The ModWiggler forum thread about Make Noise Mimeophon is 59 pages, and approximately half the discussion is about noise (ironic given the name of the brand, which has been pointed out). There are at least three different noise issues with the module. One in as an acoustic “coil whine” some (but not all) people have noticed which doesn’t find its way into the signal at all but apparently scared one YouTube influencer. There’s a noise that gets louder when you set the mix knob to fully dry. There’s a noise that is sort of gated, which hushes when there’s no input and the transition from quiet to noisy is noticeable.

But in my experience and testing, none of these are at all serious. With some wildly improper gain staging I can amplify the noise enough to hear it. I can measure noise in Voxengo Span, but it’s below reasonable audible levels; it is also extremely easy to filter out if one wants. There’s been a lot of speculation about variation between modules due to hardware tolerances, power supplies and power distribution (often a wild variable in Eurorack), susceptibility to interference, firmware bugs and so on. Frankly if I want mine to be noisy I have to really be trying, and I make some intentionally noisy music because it’s just more interesting than super-clean sounds.

There was a recent firmware update whose description is simply “performance improvements” — and people are convinced it has drastically improved the noise levels. According to my measurements, it’s done nothing — it’s got the same low level of noise it did before. But whether it’s a placebo effect or it corrects something that was a problem for some units but not others, maybe people will now concentrate more on how awesome the module is instead of hunting for imperfections in an imperfect universe.

Speaking of delays and noise, Noise Engineering just announced Yester Versio yesterday, a “simple” 3-tap delay that has chorus/pitch shifting, wavefolding, low/highpass filtering, nice panning options and is just plain fantastic. I was a beta tester, and it very quickly became my favorite Versio firmware. At first I felt like I really wanted the ability to use a single tap, but a lot of the magic of it is in those three taps. With the “chorus” (which disrupts delay times on the three taps) plus some feedback you can get some lovely psuedo-reverb effects that frankly I like better than Valhalla Supermassive and that’s saying a bit.

If Noise Engineering comes up with another one that I like as much as Yester and Lacrima, I might be tempted to get a third Versio module. And where would that go? Yikes.

I’ve been reading Shadow & Claw, and realizing when I used the weirdness comparison in my review of The Spear Cuts Through Water I was greatly underestimating Gene Wolfe in my memory. It is profoundly weird, and not just in its far-future, post-interplanetary space travel, dark age setting. It’s not entirely clear whether everything has some scientific/technological explanation that the characters just don’t have the context to grasp, or if there’s some actual magic (and gods and demons) at work, but several signs point more toward the latter than not.

The story is (after the first part) a journey in which very random (OR ARE THEY?) encounters and tangents happen, and some are quickly glossed over as if the narrator didn’t want to talk about it (even if they of considerable importance) while others are lavished upon. A lot of things are connected, but you don’t really know if each new event is really part of an overarching plot or just something interesting and notable that happened. There’s some confusion about time and memory and identity going on, and when you add that with the setting’s vagaries and the archaic/exotic terminology, it can be really disorienting. And the main character himself… Severian is oddly sort of innocent and naive despite being raised as a torturer’s apprentice, and people (especially women or dashing romantic heroic men) take advantage of that; at the time he writes the account, he is older, presumably wiser, but also stranger, but he lives so deeply in his own memories that you don’t get that perspective from him. Sometimes all of this is frustrating but mostly it works.

I’ve been watching Shadow & Bone on Netflix. It was promoted because the second season was just about to start, and looked interesting. In some ways it is a very typical YA fantasy story — when I was talking about it, my spouse said “is there a love triangle?” and I said “no, not so far” and lo, in the very next episode, there absolutely was a love triangle. But there’s some pretty creative stuff going on with it as well. It is charmingly a bit low-budget-ish like a BBC production but with 2020s CGI, and also seems a bit uneven in character motivations in a way that is also oddly charming. So it’s a good popcorn series and I’m enjoying it, though it’s not exactly a masterpiece.

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