My parents are now under contract on the house. Whew! Now there’s paying the earnest money with the title company that will hold it in escrow (I’ll take care of that since they had to head back home), getting a boundary survey and an inspection, any negotiations that result from that, getting the mortgage and actually closing. I think that’s all the steps? Plus moving of course, which probably isn’t going to happen until spring, getting some new furniture, and selling the old house. But they’re not in a hurry and don’t have to juggle jobs or kids in school either, so there’s that.

I recorded one more track for the next album. I took several different samples from my little “Noise Project” (which I’ve finished with, and just need to whip up a simple web page), crossfaded them with random LFOs in Bitwig Grid and processed them further. On top of that, I played a bass improv, highly processed with both Harmonic Split and the fantastic Melda MUnison among other things (lots of feedback in delays/reverb), sounding more synthlike than stringed. It fits the mood of the Halloween music I’ve been listening to — horror soundtracks and gothy stuff.

But then I decided that the previous track I’d done just doesn’t fit. It’s too beat-oriented and sounds like some of my older work in a lot of ways, even though I didn’t get into odd time signatures or Middle Eastern rhythms or anything. It’s not a bad track really, but there’s something that feels “not right” about it somehow, and it really doesn’t fit the vibe of the album. So it goes.

We’re into proper autumn weather now — actually a little colder than usual, as if to try to make up for reaching 80 in the past week. We get the chill and the gloom and a full moon just before Halloween to set the mood. Thumbs up.

Several week ago, Noise Engineering had to end production of their most popular oscillator modules because the chip they were using is no longer being made. But to no one’s surprise, they just recently released a new platform, Alia, with changeable firmware/faceplates for various oscillators including Basimilus Iteritas and Manis Iteritas, as well as the new Debel Iteritas (4-op FM/additive, and it sounds as gnarly and industrial as you’d expect from Noise Engineering).

It’s a pretty good system for people like me who can be indecisive. I enjoy all of the Noise Engineering oscillators, but they tend to be flavors I don’t necessarily always want to have, so swapping them freely is a good thing. (In fact I just switched my second Versio from Ruina back to Melotus.) It’d be nice to not have to unrack the module to switch, but it sure beats having to trade modules entirely!

So, I suppose I could get it and swap it out for Ataraxic Iteritas, so I’d just have a dedicated slot for “an NE oscillator” though which one would vary. I don’t feel immediately compelled, but the addition of Cursus Iteritas Alia firmware might change my mind — it’s one where I feel like I’d rather have it in Euro than VST. And I’m hoping for a revisited Loquelic, where the main encoder is for A pitch but the ratio of B is on a knob, making it easier to dial in tuning and timbre more separately than the original.

hunt for house, October

My parents have been visiting the St. Louis area a second time looking at real estate. This time has gone better than last — Mom was a little bit more prepared, with some candidates to look at that she found on Zillow, mortgage pre-qualification and whatnot. But she still didn’t talk to any realtors in advance, so it’s a good thing that one of the houses where we scouted the exterior happened to have an open house the next afternoon and they met a buyer’s agent.

After some ups and downs, some doubts and reassurances and comparisons, it’s looking like that first house is going to be the one. Fingers crossed, because I think they really should move here closer to family and put all the associated stress behind them. I think they’re going to like that house — the small things that they want to nitpick are all either easily corrected or the sort of thing where they might grow to like it eventually. (The downsides of the other strong contender were harder/impossible to fix.)

So anyway, my last 6 days have been a lot of driving them around, looking at Zillow and Google Maps and Crimegrade, eating in a lot of restaurants and having way too much sugar (thanks to Culver’s and Crumbl), reminding them that I have less experience buying houses than they do and that I’m not a handyman and that basements are normal, and trying to find a way to get comfortable while waiting around in their Extended Stay room that has two twin beds and a questionable office chair. The mental and physical stress has led to back pain, leg cramps and poor sleep, not to mention our routine is all out of whack. But I think this is going to work out this time.

disband camp

I have another entry for my coffee ratings: New England Coffee Witch’s Potion goes on the S Tier. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, anise and vanilla, in perfect balance (too much anise could easily have ruined it).

I went ahead and grabbed Seqund. Playing with it for just a short time and using it with more percussive sounds yields some great rhythmic bits. If there was an option to use Euclidean sequencing for the gates that’d be even better, but I definitely can’t complain. Also there are a couple of features I didn’t notice originally — each lane has its own direction control (which can be random)

Bandcamp is in crisis. Back in March 2022, Epic Games bought them, which seemed weird. They promised not to break anything and apparently wanted (A) some kind of connection to Fortnite and (B) to use in their legal fight against Apple’s app store. For quite some time, they held up their promise; Bandcamp Daily continued and expanded, Bandcamp Fridays continued and they kept treating artists right.

And in May 2023, the workers of Bandcamp voted to form a union, Bandcamp United. They have been in negotiations…

And then recently Epic laid off 16% of its workforce and (among other things) announced that they were selling Bandcamp to Songtradr, which is a company that arranges music licensing deals. They claimed it’d be a good fit but the culture of Songtradr is very obviously not the same — Bandcamp has always been about musicians and fans, but Songtradr is very much marketing-speak and does business-to-business stuff. This was cause for some concern…

…and then Bandcamp’s workers started hearing “some of you might not survive the transition but that’s a sacrifice we are willing to make” from management. And some of them got locked out of essential functions required to do their job and didn’t get any communication about it. And Songtradr didn’t answer any of Bandcamp United’s requests to talk. And Bandcamp’s executives “vanished” as far at the workers could tell.

And most recently, “50 percent of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr” according to the announcement… but what that really means is 50% got laid off.

It is no coincidence that this 50% includes all 8 members of the Bandcamp United bargaining team. 40 of the 67 union members. 12 out of 13 of the union-eligible support staff. Yet Songtradr claims they “didn’t have access to union membership information.” Suuuuuure they didn’t.

Pitchfork isn’t being too alarmist when they ask Is Bandcamp As We Know It Over?

This is extremely frustrating and disheartening. What am I going to do?

  • I’ve taken Bandcamp gift cards off my holiday wishlist.
  • I already have downloaded everything I’ve bought, so that part isn’t a concern. I highly encourage others to do the same. (Apparently there’s a Chrome plugin to help automate that, but I haven’t looked into it.)
  • I exported my mailing list. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but the option will be there.
  • If Bandcamp Friday does happen for November, I will buy everything left on my wishlist, just in case that’s the last chance.
  • I will buy nothing through Bandcamp except when the service forgoes its cut, at least unless things are satisfactorily resolved.
  • I will buy nothing from Epic Games. This is their fault.
  • I will continue to follow the news about this, updates from Bandcamp United, and about viable alternatives. I will support BU in any action they take.
  • I was planning to release a collection of the tracks that I contributed to Ambient Online compilations. That is now on hold.
  • I’ll delay the release of my next album if things are still in flux at that time.
  • I’ll remove all my content from Bandcamp if necessary. Whether I have to host it on my own site or find another service, we’ll see.
  • I won’t go back to any streaming-only services either as a musician or a listener.

stepped in it

There was an internet thread. People were overreacting to something. I didn’t stay out of it. I should have.

I just wish people would have some basic fucking respect for other human beings. As a former game developer, I got really tired of being called lazy, greedy, stupid, and evil — and getting death threats — because I wasn’t satisfying whatever whim an individual gamer had. Maybe we changed the balance of something. Maybe we expected to be paid for our work, or expected to be able to sleep sometime and not dedicate 100% of our existence to someone else’s entertainment. Maybe we prioritized one project over another one. Maybe we introduced a new feature instead of fixing a bug, or maybe we fixed a bug instead of introducing some new feature. It doesn’t matter, the response was always the same: we were evil lazy greedy scum and they hoped we’d die.

It took a surprisingly long time to go from “not all gamers are terrible” to “I play games, I’ve made games, I grew up with games, I was inspired by games but I will not call myself a ‘gamer’ anymore.”

It’s sad to see the same thing with musicians. Somebody makes a pricing decision you don’t like? Offers something as a subscription rather than a one-time purchase? Releases a piece of software for PC without Mac, Mac without PC, PC and Mac without Linux? Announces a product far in advance? Teases a product? Doesn’t build enough of them fast enough to satisfy the market? You guessed it: lazy, stupid, evil, greedy, deceptive…

It’s tiring.

But I guess I shouldn’t have bothered to speak up, because that just gets the same unreasonable assholes directing their spew in my direction. I’m apparently “smoking something” and “lack comprehension” and am “a company shill” (even if in every post I also said the subscription was a bad idea; I simply dared to call it an unwise choice rather than an intentionally devious one).

I don’t personally know anyone at that company, and I really don’t care about that particular product. But I’m a software developer myself, and I know some music gear makers who are great people. I’m also a human being and understand what compassion and understanding are, and not immediately assuming the absolute worst about people. I just thought those other musicians might also be human beings with feelings beyond just anger and distrust. Sigh.


The SSD I bought arrived a little early, and I got it installed and cloned and booting in less than an hour total. The biggest delay was probably cleaning out accumulated dust and finding the second M2 slot on my motherboard (it was behind a weird psuedo-heatsink thing).

Samsung Magician cloned my drive in less than 30 minutes, and also automatically expanded the partition without even needing to ask for it. Getting it to recognize the new drive as C: and boot from it was just a configuration in the BIOS, no need to switch the chips around. So smooth.

5 songs recorded for the next album. #5 had lots of drum stuff going on — mostly weird stuff with a bit of industrial flavor to it, and a bassline that is, dare I say, a little bit funky. It’s like I’m coming full circle in a way I never expected.

Part of that is coming from experimenting with sequencing options. Over the past few days I have tried:

  • Midinous. Only available on Steam, and that means having to run Steam while it’s in use, which I normally close while working on music. It’s a standalone MIDI sequencer where you drop points on (or off) of a grid, and connect them with paths. The length of the paths determines rhythm, and the points determine the MIDI messages (notes, CC etc.) that are sent. You can have a path that branches to multiple points simultaneously, randomly or in round-robin fashion, and insert logic gates as well. It’s pretty creative, but it also felt kind of fiddly to me and I don’t really seem myself wanting to work in that way.
  • Seqund. This is a monophonic step sequencer with separate lanes for various note parameters — gate, velocity, two pitches (and a probability-based lane to choose between them), octave and note transposition, MIDI CCs etc. Each lane can be a different length, giving it a polyrhtyhmic and somewhat modular feel (in real modular you could also clock every lane independently, although you do have the choice here to clock every other lane either from Gate or the master clock). It’s fun to work with, and well suited to plugins like Basimilus Iteritas where sequencing a few parameters opens up a whole linear drumming experience. I used the demo to record a looped section, and I expect I will buy the full version.
  • Riffer. This is a bit more like a piano roll sequencer, with some random generation abilities. Not super thrilling to me — except that there are four of them simultaneously, which can run at different clock divisions and lengths and can be transposed and muted live (as well as edited live in the plugin itself). The result can be quite nice for Berlin School polyphonic sequences. I’m thinking about picking it up too, especially if it goes on sale.
  • HY-ESG. A free Euclidean trance gate — it uses Euclidean rhythms to fire off envelope gates that are applied to the sound passing through it. This isn’t super exciting for drone parts, but using it for accents on already existing rhythmic sequences, or placed inside Bitwig Split effects it can be pretty fun. Combined with MAGC, which tries to bring the level to match what it was at some previous point in the effects chain, even more so.
  • More techniques that combine Bitwig Grid, Bitwig modulators, and hardware. Step and gate sequences, selectively muting MIDI channels, switches, the Transport module under the LFO section, the Curve modulator, etc. Clocking Eurorack gear or Minibrute 2S with gate sequences. Using drones from hardware but envelope-controlled VCAs in Bitwig Grid to minimize latency.

But it’s not all gear-driven experimentation. I’m curious about these plugins and techniques because I’m more open to playing with sequencing (and percussion/rhythmic parts) now.

I’ve been reading the final “Secret Project” book from Brandon Sanderson — and reading it with a mistaken impression of who the main character actually is in previous Cosmere history — I could have sworn the character was called by that other person’s name. There’s been no small amount of confusion as a result. Some of the character’s thoughts and actions fit with what the other one might have been like after all the time that passed, and some was just confusing. Now that the “Big Reveal For Dummies” part has happened I kind of want to start over from the beginning.

Overall, it’s a bit less YA-ish and light than the other Secret Project books, though it’s still recognizably one of them. It’s a bit more like the rest of the Cosmere: a lot of grim desperation and trauma, a shadowy organization or two, a couple of big moments of glorious triumph.

One thing about Sanderson’s stories is that as the Cosmere progresses, there is more travel (significantly more at the time of this particular novel). Increasingly to know what’s going on you have to remember events, characters and magic systems from several different worlds. I liked it when the connections were looser and there were a very few worldhoppers and we didn’t really know what was going on with them. I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up when every page has a reference I need to go check a wiki for to jog my memory.

updated coffee reviews

S Tier (absolutely will drink again):

  • Cameron’s Highlander Grog
  • New England Coffee Sabro Blend
  • New England Coffee Coconut Almond Candy Bar
  • New England Coffee Witch’s Potion

A (yummy, I’ll probably get them again):

  • New England Coffee Butter Pecan
  • New England Coffee Blueberry Cobbler
  • New England Coffee Swiss Chocolate Almond
  • New England Coffee Chocolate Cappucino (it’s almost S)

B (perfectly respectable):

  • New England Coffee Strawberry Shortcake
  • Christopher Bean coffee in general
  • Cameron’s other flavors that aren’t Highlander Grog

C (it’s fine, I wouldn’t seek it out though):

  • New England Coffee Pistachio Ice Cream
  • New England Coffee Mocha Turtle
  • Entemann’s Chocolate Donut
  • whatever the coffee is at work

D (I’d drink it in a pinch):

  • Bones Coffee, except Electric Unicorn

F (I threw it away):

  • Bones Coffee Electric Unicorn
  • Tortuga Rum Cream

hoodie weather

It’s nice to have cooler temps finally here, after the start of October saw 89 degree weather. Though we are looking at 81 in a couple of days, after that it’s forecast to stay mostly below 70.

And with cooler weather and Halloween decor comes a reminder that the moderation policy on the ModWiggler forum is… not ideal, and “Joe.” is the poster child for destructive interference. Last year he drove Blukač Instruments away from the forum by threatening to ban them for being “political” — because they dared to mention that their production is somewhat hampered by their country being invaded by Russia and their city being actively attacked.

Today there’s a thread locked and an 11-year veteran of the site threatened with a ban because the post “plagiarizes Karl Marx.” It does not, it’s a reference to the “commodity fetishism” angle that Adorno wrote about and which Jonathan Sterne expanded on in reference to music technology in an essay… except the post is more coherent. People were not using the thread to argue about politics at all. It’s just that Joe. has to play his role of ham-fisted petty tyrant, on his transparently hypocritical political crusade to shut down even the barest hints of leftism. I have seen him kill off a couple of total disaster threads that obviously needed it, but I maintain that the site would be better without his hands on it.

A couple hours after he locked the thread, another moderator came along and demonstrated much better leadership by posting some very thoughtful additions to the conversation (which again, wasn’t going in any kind of political direction). If the rest of us were allowed to continue commenting on the thread, that post would have turned things to a more interesting angle and it could have been a fruitful discussion.

But, nope, use one of the words that Marx once used and the thread gets murdered. Okay, whatever.

I suppose while I’m grousing about forum moderation it’s only fair to point out that KvR does not do enough of it, letting a majority of threads fester as they inevitably are hijacked by tiresome shouting matches between a couple of crusty regulars. Any thread over a certain length has probably turned into garbage. Pretty much the only thing that gets immediately shutdown is piracy talk and really blatant racism/bigotry.

And Lines, though I really like the site overall and the results generally work to maintain a pleasant atmosphere, sometimes baffles me with decisions about how threads get merged, moved and categorized, and I still don’t understand some of the decisions about the Releases category.

I’ve got a new SSD on the way now. When I bought this computer in 2019 I picked a budget drive, a 1TB Intel 660P. SSD speed, reliability and capacity have spiraled upwards since then while prices have slid ever downward. There are sales on now but rumor has it Samsung is going to slow production to prop up their prices a bit. With game install sizes ever growing and the new WRC game (by Codemasters, makers of the Dirt Rally series) coming next month, this seemed like a good time to upgrade. So, Samsung 990 Pro, twice as big, twice as fast to read and 5x faster to write, higher reliability/durability scores, highly rated software package.

Public service message: NewEgg’s current price on the 990 Pro is the same as Amazon’s “Prime Exclusive” event price. Also, my order is shipping (free) already, within a couple of hours of ordering it. One of the discounted SSDs at Amazon wasn’t even going to be delivered until mid-November.

off kilter

In some ways the After Later Alan (and expanders) aren’t quite as good as the idealized version of Turing Machine in VCV Rack. Namely, the white noise generator has some issues:

  • Lower level than the knob range on Chance. The effective range of the knob is only about 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock. To be fair, someone tested their MTM Turing Machine mk2 and the range is still only about 9 to 3 on that one.
  • Audible “thunk” sound on the output when flipping the Write switch.
  • Noise level increases by a small amount when the Length bit is high. It’s a small change but enough to hear the difference and to skew the results. The higher noise level makes it more likely to invert the bit, so it favors writing 0 over 1. When Chance is set somewhat low, this gives it a tendency to empty out all of the bits — and sometimes it stays that way for dozens of clock steps. It doesn’t do the opposite and get “stuck” with all bits high. If Chance is closer to 50% the effect is not really noticeable since it all falls within the bell curve. Increasing chance to higher amounts makes it gravitate to an “N bits off, N bits on” cycle.

Having sussed out its behavior, I can work with it. If I want more even distribution, or even deterministic behavior, I can use CV to switch the chance.

But honestly, I’m pretty disappointed with After Later’s quality control and attention to detail, particularly after they admitted that Tilt has design flaws that weren’t caught until after they started selling them. These issues with Alan were not hard to spot, and I thought something was weird about it in the first hour of using mine.

That “variant” industrial beat worked out for me after all and it’ll be on the album. I may also use more drums in the future generally. I had a brief moment of regret about selling my Elektron Model:Cycles — but I think the approach I took with this one works well for me. Each drum part can be individually synthesized (with a combination of hardware and software) and includes its own FX chain, and all of that can be freely modulated. Each part can be sequenced in MIDI and/or Bitwig Grid/Eurorack with various logic applied using manual controls… it’s a good setup.

I also had a really nice patch with the HSO, combined with some pitch shifting and saturation in Beads. I’m just really pleased with how smoothly this album has been going so far (even if I wound up not working on it this weekend).

stuck in sequence

I haven’t mentioned these things in my blog, but posted about them on forums I guess.

I miss the Zorlon Cannon mk2 I used to have. To simplify the technical details, an LFSR is a device that takes a random binary number, rotates the bits, and uses the bits to generate gates and CV in looping patterns, as well as crunchy noise. It’s the same technique older video games such as Defender used, a sound that screams cyber-retro-futurism to me.

I found myself checking out the Music Thing Modular Turing Machine; after videos from DivKid and Mylar Melodies and several hours of joyfully playing with a version in VCV Rack, I bought the After Later Audio version: Alan and the expanders Morcom and Enigma. Turing Machine’s particular take is to give control over the chance of flipping the feedback bit, which effectively determines how random or repetitive the sequence is. (Mutable Instruments Modules took inspiration from that in its design, though the technical details and feature set is very different.) The expanders allow for a second, more tunable CV sequence (but related in “patterny” ways to the first), and triggers that follow the first 7 bits of the number, generating cascading rhythms and also mixing nicely into Zorlon-like noise.

To make the room for these, I’m selling off both FM Aid and jroo Loop.

I spent a little time a couple of weeks ago recording and comparing different flavors of FM from my modular. It was a flawed comparison and I accidentally deleted the recordings (they were in a Bitwig “temporary project” and it’s kind of a crapshoot whether those are allowed to live when you close the software) but I still had some findings.

  • Spectraphon’s FM is much more unstable than I thought; it sounds like there’s pink noise being applied to the FM index. This is completely unnoticeable when modulating the FM index though, and can be masked by other things.
  • Odessa’s FM isn’t as dirty as I once thought, it’s just susceptible to messy modulation signals. It’s got by far the deepest modulation of any of my gear, but I think also it doesn’t have much DC blocking. So, clean signal in, good ratio and a bit of restraint = clean FM out. Anything else = potential dirt and chaos… which of course can be useful!
  • Shapeshifter’s internal FM is ridiculously clean, just not that strong. External FM is relatively weaker still, while the PM is somewhere in between. The DAC specs are good, but noise in the system does have a noticeable effect, and I think I do get some noise when I run stuff through Tallin.
  • Akemie’s Castle is, of course, never clean. All of the operators “leak” when they should be silent, there are only 6-bit registers controlling those levels, and so on. But it sounds like discount 1990 in the best way.
  • Rings in FM mode has a neat “round” character to it that nothing else does, and is worth exploring more.
  • For “FM any two signals” purposes, Koszalin is a lot smoother and cleaner than FM Aid.

FM Aid has that unavoidable spike in its waveshaping, and I just couldn’t find a purpose for it where I didn’t like something else better. So even though it’s my second one and I’ve said in the past I should never let it go… it’s time.

jroo Loop is a neat thing but honestly, I haven’t been using it for its intended purpose, as a performance looper. I’ve occasionally used it as another delay, just because it’s there. For other looping purposes I’ve just continued to capture recordings in Bitwig and then loop them there. So that space can be better used to generate some cyclic mutating patterns.