release day: Memory Palace

The new album, Memory Palace, is now available on Bandcamp (free/pay-what-you-want). Today is Juneteenth and Bandcamp is donating 100% of their cut to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Like I’d said, lots of synth choir stuff on this one. Those sorts of sounds make me think of 70s and 80s music, Isao Tomita and stuff with Mellotrons and whatnot. Of course the context I’m using them in is very different.

I’ve learned a bit more about Spectraphon (which I’ll call “Spoon”) since my last post.

The first thing is, that pitch drift was, oddly, caused by touching the front panel. More of a pressure thing than an electrical thing. Tightening the Knurlies with a driver instead of by hand helped reduce that, and now that I’ve moved it to another spot in the case, it stopped entirely. Weird.

The second is proper tuning of Slide and Focus in SAM mode.

  • Regardless of how the analysis actually works, think of it as a set of bandpass filters and envelope followers. Slide moves the filter frequencies, and its range is about 400Hz at the top, with 100Hz being around 1 o’clock on the knob. Focus sets the filter bandwidths (lower = wider) and follower rates (higher = slower). The filters can be wide enough to overlap, so that any given partial in the input might be detected as multiple partials in the output — combined with setting Slide too low you get the “dirty sines” phenomenon I wrote about before. But also, if you set the bandwidth narrow, you have to tune Slide more carefully to make sure the input doesn’t land between all the filters (and that’s why I thought high Focus meant a quieter signal).
  • Tune Spoon to the same pitch as your input signal by monitoring Spoon’s sine output, not the spectral outputs. Ideally, you want to keep this 400Hz or below; if it’s a piccolo or something you’ll have to adapt.
  • Patch Spoon’s sine output to its own input. Set the input level — I find a little lower than the panel marking for “Euro level” prevents saturation.
  • Start with Partials up fully, Focus at about noon, and Slide at minimum. Turning up Slide should give you a downward harmonic sweep, until it reaches the fundamental, then it’ll go quiet after that. Tune Slide so the fundamental is at its loudest.
  • Adjust Focus as low as you can but where the input isn’t detected as the second harmonic. You can use a spectrum analyzer, or expect silence from the Even output. (This is why we used a sine first.)
  • Now patch the real signal into the input and have fun.

I haven’t mastered the art of array creation yet and it doesn’t look like anyone else has either, so far. But keeping Partials at max seems to be definitely key, to avoid getting stomped by the normalization that happens in the process. I actually wonder if a firmware update is going to change that to make the whole process a bit smoother. Then there’s the question of clocking it — default rate vs. a slower clock vs. manual steps. And once you’re in SAO mode, how best to modulate Slide (coarse array index with a bit more interpolation) and Focus (finer array index)?

Something I noticed is my arrays can have frames where a partial that was in previous frames suddenly disappears for one frame, then reappears in the next. Perhaps the time window for the capture was small enough that it just didn’t pick it up at the time. When modulating Slide in SAO mode, this tends to get smoothed over, often completely unnoticed. But turning Focus by very small amounts can result in a radical timbre change when this happens.

Less easy to rationalize, there are small regions in my array that exhibit a sort of crackling noise — a few dozen inharmonic partials whose amplitudes dance around with apparent randomness, even though Slide and Focus are unchanging and there’s no other modulation. I confirmed it’s not a dirty/scratchy Focus pot causing values to jump around. It only happens on the Even output. It just shouldn’t be possible and I suspect it’s a firmware bug. Kind of a neat one though šŸ˜‰

I’ve found that Spectraphon is not a substitute for Akemie’s Castle, nor for Shapeshifter or anything else. So I started the early stages of planning how I’d split my modules if I picked up a Mantis or similar case for the left side of my desk, and the very thought of it was making me unhappy. I really prefer keeping the modular unified, which is why I got the big case in the first place.

As it turns out, I can fit Sweet Sixteen, Teletype, Just Friends, and the TXb i2c hub that links them, in the Pod60 case. It’s a tight fit with their cables, and TXb is turned sideways under a 4HP blank panel, but hey, it works.

That gave me room to put Akemie’s Castle back in, plus space for a Xaoc Rostock once those arrive in US shops, and another 16HP to spare. Groovy.

West Pest is probably getting sold. It does have a few nice tones but overall just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for my rig.

Strega is now on the stand with the Minibrute 2S, and having jammed with it a bit, I would say that WitchBrute is an ideal pairing. They’re very compatible, playable, versatile, and have no real need to patch to anything else. (The option is there, via my little DIY patchbay, but I feel that cross-patching between the two sides is going to be pretty minimal and uncommon.) I’m very satisfied with how this has all worked out.

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