…or in Europe, 231231.

There are approximately 8 hours and 19 minutes until it’s not 2023 anymore, in my time zone. Hawaii gets 4 more hours, and the uninhabited Baker Island and Howland Island another 2 beyond that. So that’s how much time remains before the early access release of Sumu is overdue… it’s not looking real likely to come in on time, is it?

2023 was… a year. Was it especially weird? Was it typical? I think the idea of a “normal” year either was always an illusion or it’s been broken.

I can’t really get aboard the “it’s finally over, fuck you 2023” train because it wasn’t all bad. It had some difficulties and some good stuff. There are reasons to be terrified of the future and reasons to be hopeful and no way to know how it balances out. I don’t want to make a list of either good or bad things, though.

Our calendar is arbitrary; January 1 isn’t really synchronized with any particular celestial alignment. Like so much in human life, it’s a thing that has importance because we collectively decided to give it some. But hey, celebrating is fun, and reflecting is useful, and considering the future is also useful. So, do those things, I guess 🙂

gray Christmas

Like I had said, we generally spent our Christmas vacation at home. There have been several days of rain and mist and fog and general grayness, and that’s fine, except I’ve missed any opportunity to go for a nice walk. Yesterday there was a pretty good snow but the air and ground temps were too warm for it to persist. There’s still 4 more days off before I have to go back to work, but it’s going to be snowy tomorrow and still quite cold for the rest.

We made ourselves a feast. Slow cooker turkey with apples & onions, spiced root vegetables with walnuts & goat cheese, roasted brussels sprouts & butternut squash, roasted yellow beets for her (I am not into beets at all), garlic mashed potatoes (skin on of course!), dressing, canned jellied cranberry sauce for me, pumpkin chocolate brownie bars, and apple spice “pie cake” (pie filling with cake mix, normally done in the slow cooker but since that was busy, it was in cupcake form instead). The plan was to eat it for three days. We knew it’d be too much, we just didn’t realize just how too much it was, somewhat exacerbated by the fact we couldn’t get a turkey smaller than 7.1 pounds.

Today, to make up for missing our chance at the Georgia Aquarium, we visited the more humble but still pretty nifty St. Louis Aquarium, followed by lunch at The Fountain On Locust, which is a must-try if you’re ever in the city and like ice cream, booze, or boozy ice cream (and the non-dessert food’s good too).

Since our plans had changed at the last minute, my mom shipped our gifts two days before Christmas. The package got as far as the St. Louis regional post office and have been delayed. But we had the stuff sent by my brother, and by the other side of the family, and each others’.

The musical toys were a pair of Otamatones (probably an Amazon wishlist flub), which are trickier than I would have guessed to play, and the Paper Jamz “Pro Microphone” I had put on my list. This seems like a toylike karaoke machine with autotune, but it has mic and headphone jacks so what I see here is a lo-fi granular pitch shifter that does vibrato, chorus, autotune and harmonizer effects, which can get pretty wild with synth input. It’s even fun just using the included mic and built-in speaker for feedback howls, or applying the chorus effect to a desk fan…

I’ve generally been in a phase of trying things out. Plugins I had never tried before, most notably including the Sinevibes stuff (I wound up getting Whirl), and Madrona Labs Virta. I’m definitely going to have to test the latter on bass, but I was surprised at the things I could get from it with synth patches and will probably pick it up even if it doesn’t track the bass that well. Not sure what stopped me from trying it out before, it’s very cool. I’m spoiled by full modular environments and would like to add a slew limiter to it, but it’s still super neato. I’m hoping that “early access” version of Sumu is released in the next few days as promised, too!

I tried AudioThing’s updated Space Echo emulation, and… it sounds great, sure, and I think it sounds better than Cherry Audio’s take on the same device. But I realized I really don’t need either of them. I’ve got Twangstrom for the spring reverb, and plenty of nice delays.

Arturia gave away a very cool new effect called Refract, which split voices in a “super unison” method of some kind and then optionally filters and processes each a little differently, with a choice of bandpass filter, comb filter, distortion, bitcrusher, or harmonizer, making for a surprisingly cool and versatile plugin that… might actually be my favorite new effect of the year, coming in late as it did.

I may make myself a list of things I want to go back and explore in more depth. I’m feeling like I have a lot of tools that do a lot of things, and most of them deserve a more thorough exploration. Kind of continuing what I did with Synchrodyne, Shapeshifter, and Akemie’s Castle last year but extending it further.

Soulstone Survivors was by far my most-played game of 2023; it more than adequately distracted me from Diablo IV, which is great because I didn’t want to support Activision-Blizzard after the sexual harrassment and union busting stuff (and reviews are not super positive anyway). I think I’m cooling on Art of Rally, and still hesitating to buy the new WRC game even though it’s already discounted. EA apparently laid off most of the Codemasters developers shortly after release, it’s still reportedly got performance bugs to work out, they’re doing that season pass thing in some way and it reportedly has some form of unpleasant DRM.

So lately I picked up New Star GP a bit more, and Guild Wars 2. I never finished the Heart of Thorns expansion stuff because I found it a bit tedious and directionless. I never even started the End of Dragons story, after buying it on discount. But I picked up Secrets of the Obscure — mostly because it offers the Weaponmaster account-wide thing that unlocks more weapon types for each class, as well as a reportedly easier way to get the Skyscale mount. In reality… right now there is an issue preventing characters below 80 from using the Weaponmaster weapons, which is supposed to be fixed in January, and the non-temporary and account-wide Skyscale thing seems to be a tedious collection full of random dumb luck. I went to all of the mapped sites for skyscale eggs and searched them all to find nothing, and even if I’d found an egg I’d be looking at weeks (probably) of collecting stuff. And weeks from now my interest in the game is likely to have tapered off anyway, and I’ll wait for several more months before playing again… so it goes.

reflecting and refracting

We’ve just found out our usual dog sitter needs serious dental surgery and can’t do the thing, so we’re cancelling our Christmas travel that was previously in some doubt for other health reasons. So it’ll be mostly several quiet days at home, not working, with maybe a trip to the St. Louis Aquarium which we haven’t seen since the pandemic.

For the past few years, I’ve made a point of setting goals for the year, sort of a variant on new year resolutions. And then, for the most part, I just end up following whatever path seems right or fun or necessary at the time, or (let’s face it) kind of lazing out a bit. So they don’t always work out, partly because I’m just not that resolute, and partly because I couldn’t see the future. And most things more or less work out okay.

For 2023:

  • I kind of sometimes remembered not to participate in threads where it wasn’t going to lead to any positive result. I also stepped in a few minefields.
  • I did not manage to ride the exercise bike any significant amount. I took a few, but far too few, walks.
  • I really didn’t cut back on snacks.
  • I did work on technique and understanding of my gear, and of theory and practice (especially microtonal and MPE.) I did end up shaking the gear tree anyway, and I have no regrets with how that has worked out.
  • I did not get into any sort of consistent bass practice, or in any way elevate my bass playing. I played bass quite a bit less in 2023 than 2022. This… is okay. I shouldn’t force myself to pick up the instrument if what calls to me for that part is a synth, and it usually will be. Still, this is an area that I can explore more.

So how about 2024? It’s short, and it’s less formal — more just stuff I am keeping in mind than anything I’m especially committing to.

  • I have a ton of excellent options where it comes to reverbs and delays, particularly in software. In recent years, I’ve let myself be tempted by interesting and characterful plugins in these categories, but at this point I probably have too many options. So unless something is REALLY unusual and excellent I’m going to pass.
  • That is probably a good approach for nearly everything, where it comes to music gear.
  • I also don’t really want more stuff that is going to have to take up space, be stored somewhere, collect dust etc.


  • Spectraphon in 2023 was special and worth making an exception for — a real game-changer that also fits extremely well into my setup. Anything like that that comes along in 2024 is certainly fair game.
  • I’m already planning to grab Madrona Labs Sumu and Dawesome Myth when they are released.
  • Some other FX types that I don’t have as thoroughly covered might get in. Sinevibes has both a phaser and chorus that I think sound cooler than anything else in those categories, for instance.
  • A little utility shuffling is likely to happen with the updated Ana, and maybe swapping out Blinds for a Toppobrillo Cluster.
  • I’m leaving myself the strong possibility of getting a Noise Engineering Alia, particularly once Cursus is available. It seems like the wave of the future, and even though the NE oscillators tend to be an occasional thing for me, having all of them on tap in Eurorack form will be nice. The plugin versions are good but in many cases, lead to different inspiration and different results.
  • I had been considering an EHX Attack Decay pedal. I’m doubting this more though; this would specifically be for polyphonically rounding off the attacks of notes on the bass, which I’ve just said above, I’m not getting a lot of use out of. If I didn’t care about the polyphony, a cheaper pedal or software could do it, or I could just keep using Velvet Machine or granular synthesis which is probably the smartest thing to do.

released: Closing Our Eyes…

The new album is out!

I have been describing it as “moody, noisy, droney, dark ambient-adjacent cousin-to-Berlin-School occasionally-shaking-hands-with-industrial, improvisation.” As always it’s free/pay-what-you-want.

The patch notes are here.

As I often do, I went through my notes and tallied up usage of various bits of gear. The distribution came out flatter than usual among both Eurorack modules and effects plugins, with no clear favorites and nothing getting neglected. Blades and Beads were just a little ahead of others, and on the plugin side, Imitor. My Dreadbox Hypnosis as well my Strega/Minibrute 2S pair got a lot of action though. The K.O. II and Zorlon Cannon which really only arrived at the end didn’t have that much of a chance, but I enjoyed incorporating them. I didn’t have that much bass guitar on this one, but the Miezo got a lead part and the uke bass contributed key elements to a couple of tracks. So everything is in balance, pretty much.

busy, cont’d.

Yesterday during work hours while stuff was compiling (sssshhh don’t tell) I set up the album art for the next one. Last night after getting back from Casa Nueva (not our actual nickname for it) I mastered a couple of tracks. Then today while compiling stuff, I did some editing of the tail of the final track, which involved playing it through headphones and resampling it with the K.O. II’s microphone and looping it. Fun and easy 🙂

AT&T sent a “self-install kit” (e.g. just the modem/router) for a fiber connection to the new house. The house isn’t wired for fiber, just cable TV coax. So they’ll be coming by tomorrow to actually wire it up.

One of the things the occupancy inspection required to be fixed was reinstalling the basement stair railing — probably removed to make it possible to remove the old washer and dryer. Well, now we have to remove it again so the Home Depot folks can install the new washer/dryer, and then put it back afterwards. Just more stuff for the to-do list.

New Spectraphon firmware dropped today. I updated it, played with it about 3 minutes, watched the short video during lunch. Noise mode is pretty neat and may be a once-in-a-while thing. Chaos mode is SUPER FREAKING AWESOME and I look forward to diving much deeper into it.

New Bitwig release also dropped today. I installed it, ran it and it crashed immediately, just disappeared. Ran it again and it offered to send a crash log, and then it crashed again. Ran the previous version instead. Tried the new one a while later and it seemed to be OK. The new filters and shapers seem quite nice. I didn’t look at anything else. Will check it out in more detail later.

Waiting on the Christmas gifts I ordered to arrive, then a few of them need to be wrapped and shipped, the rest wrapped and brought with us. We’re also traveling for Christmas in a couple of weeks, so we’ll need to get ready for that as well.

busy busy busy

My parents closed on the house, and I have now been there 5 times in 4 days. The final walkthrough before closing, running over during my lunch break to pick up the hidden keys, going back that same evening to deal with a furniture delivery, and another Saturday and another Sunday. Today is another furniture delivery and the ADT guy. Tomorrow is, probably, another furniture delivery, and we have to put out the trash cans. Saturday the washer and dryer will be delivered and installed.

It’s about a 15-40 minute drive depending on traffic conditions, usually closer to the latter though. That’s still a lot less than 11 hours and I’ve resolved to try not to complain about it too much, but when you’re going every day (on top of a day job, upcoming holidays and regular life stuff) it can add up a bit.

We’ve been cleaning kitchen appliances, replacing light bulbs and the filter, fixing a grille in the wall that the inspector messed up, moving 120-pound boxes of furniture inside, assembling the needlessly complex furniture, figuring out cable TV/internet cabling, etc. There are two more dressers and two bed frames to assemble (one of which is an electric, adjustable bed) plus whatever other surprise furniture Mom hasn’t told me about. We’ll probably have to get a junk removal company to deal with the stuff the previous owner left in the garage and basement. I told Mom that she should probably get someone to look over the generator, make sure it’s working and up to date on maintenance, and tell us how to use it.

So yeah… busy! But it will be worth it to have my folks nearby where we can help them out, see them much more often, and not have to drive so much, and for them to be in a place where there’s a lot of medical care and not just a small regional hospital, and where there are social things they can do.

I believe I’m done with recording for the next album. There’s 58 minutes of stuff, and it seems to be flowing nicely as I listen to the not-yet-mastered version. I’m going to choose a different name for the album than I’d originally planned, but it’s important to me to follow the music as it happens and not try to dictate its course in advance, so that is fine. I’ll need to make myself some time to master it and do the artwork, but should be on track for a 2023 release still.

I picked up one more piece of software — Rolling Sampler by Bird’s. It continuously records audio to a buffer of fixed length, and you can select and drag out of it to save a segment as a .wav file. The interface isn’t completely ideal but it’ll do; it’ll be a handy preroll recorder, a way to record live independent of the transport, and a simple way to sample something, drop it back in and play/manipulate it.

I still want something like the ER-301 Sound Computer’s audio buffers in Bitwig, where you can record to a buffer while also playing back from it with multiple independent playheads. It was nice for delays, loopers, and granular stuff, and I’d say it was the main thing that made the module powerful. Having access to that functionality in a much friendlier and more powerful and flexible DAW would be great.