Notes: Unearth

In my last few albums, each improvised session transitions smoothly into the next. This time I went backwards: to the first session I recorded, I assigned the number 7, and worked my way up to 1, matching the end of one session to the beginning of the next. But during the course of things, I got so used to hearing the tracks separately that I decided to preserve some of the gaps.

My thoughts during the project were of the beginning of autumn and spooky things (although to be honest, spooky things are a year-round delight). I was also getting into Elder Scrolls Online. Exploring ancient tombs, sneaking around in the dark, and seeing otherworldly portals open in the sky with a dramatic crash of thunder and an ominous horn blast, anchoring themselves to the earth on massive chains crawling with lightning… moments like these served as much of the inspiration for the sessions here.

As usual, the sessions consisted of patching synths from scratch, including the effects and any simple sequences (programmed or generative), getting a general feel for how each voice works together, and then recording a live improvisation in a single take, with no multitracking or MIDI sequencing.

I used my 516HP Eurorack modular synthesizer system, plus a couple of other synths and controllers, and Bitwig Studio with several software plugins. In the following section I don’t necessarily name all the specific modulation sources, utility modules, EQ/dynamics plugins and so on. Ask if you’re curious. Hardware is in bold, software is in red.


  1. Arturia Minibrute 2S with AudioThing Miniverb and Wavesfactory Echo Cat. This creates a noisy low drone while the Brute Factor turned way up, overwhelming the filter with feedback. When I relax this knob somewhat, the “whale call” comes through as a result of filter modulation.
  2. The supporting drone is Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas through Xaoc Tallin, Happy Nerding FX Aid XL (Spring Reverb program) and u-he Runciter.
  3. The “Resonator” part is Plogue Chipsounds through Mutable Instruments Rings, Noise Engineering Electus Versio, and Mod Sound More, played on a Novation Launchpad X.
  4. The noisier drone is ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle through Valhalla Supermassive, Valhalla Plate, and Plogue Chipcrusher.


  1. Drone: Intellijel Shapeshifter‘s main output through Rabid Elephant Natural Gate and Mutable Instruments Beads.
  2. 4ms Ensemble Oscillator (EnOsc) through Xaoc Katowice and Electus Versio. This provides a chord pad, and later a set of plucked chords when modulated by polyrhythmic envelopes from Mannequins Just Friends.
  3. The noise drone is Shapeshifter‘s pulse/logic output through TipTop Fold Processor modulated by Xaoc Odessa‘s fundamental output, through Wavesfactory Cassette, Goodhertz Lossy, and Phonolyth Velvet Machine.
  4. An additional drone from Odessa through Unfiltered Audio SpecOps, mixed with the Odessa through Xaoc Drezno+Jena; Puremagnetik Parallel and u-he Twangstrom.
  5. The “singing” bass is Minibrute 2S, Noveltech Character, two instances of Valhalla Delay, and (in a narrow band) XLN Audio RC20 Retro Color.
  6. The warbly line at the end is The Harvestman Kermit mk2 ring modulated with Akemie’s Castle, through Make Noise Mimeophon, Cassette, Audio Assault Head Crusher Free, Native Instruments SuperCharger GT, and Bitwig Pitch Shifter.


  1. The ringing drone is Arturia Microfreak through FX Aid (Spring Reverb program)
  2. The chime sequence is Polyend+Dreadbox Medusa, Valhalla Delay, and my own Crumble downsampling/digital distortion plugin.
  3. The choppy bass drone is Manis Iteritas through AudioThing Wires.
  4. The heavier, buzzier drone is Rings and Drezno+Jena in a feedback loop, with the Structure modulated by Make Noise Maths, through PSP Pianoverb.
  5. The chord is EnOsc through Beads, WMD MSCL and Wires.
  6. The crunchy rhythm is Shapeshifter‘s 4 outputs with their mix levels sequenced by Just Friends and shape modulation from Mutable Instruments Marbles, through Erica Pico BBD, and Fold Processor with its two outputs mixed and comb filtered in Btiwg Grid.


  1. The deep rumble is filtered pink noise from Bitwig Grid.
  2. Drone: Mutable Instruments Blades self-modulated, through Wavesfactory Spectre, u-he Runciter, Valhalla Supermassive
  3. Low brass: Akemie’s Castle, MSCL, Softwire Press (as level control), FX Aid (Black Cloud reverb program), Beads, Sound Radix SurferEQ, Wavesfactory Cassette, Valhalla Plate. Intellijel Planar controls Castle op2/op3 levels.
  4. Soft noise and trickling water: Xaoc Odessa through Drezno/Jena, clocked by Kermit; Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder, AudioThing Speakers, u-he Twangstrom.
  5. Bigger horn section: Manis Iteritas & Just Friends, Tallin, Native Instruments Raum. Manually played on Make Noise 0-Ctrl.


  1. The noise/thumps/bass are an LFO from Mutable instruments Stages through Drezno/Jena, with Jena’s waveshape modulated by an LFO from Maths. Processed in Spectre, Valhalla Room, AudioThing Speakers.
  2. The bassline is 0-Ctrl sequencing the FM ratio on Just Friends as well as the levels of its mix and single outputs. Rabid Elephant Natural Gate, Xaoc Tallin for distortion, Noise Engineering Imitor Versio, Noveltech Character, Freakshow Industries Mishby.
  3. Drone from Make Noise Mimeophon resonating, FMd by Kermit, through Beads.
  4. Drone from Kermit through Pico BBD (resonating), Audio Damage Ratshack Reverb.
  5. Drone from Xaoc Odessa, FX Aid XL (Lo-Junky program), Unfiltered Audio SpecOps, Valhalla Supermassive.


  1. The sequence is Medusa through Wavesfactory Cassette and Spectre, and AudioThing Speakers.
  2. Drone from Madrona Labs Aalto
  3. Noisier Drone from Akemie’s Castle through Tallin for saturation, Valhalla Delay. Three LFOs from Stages modulate Castle’s levels and feedback.
  4. Second sequence is Just Friends mixed in Plancks, Xaoc Katowice as a VCA with high-end rolloff, Mimeophon, Noise Engineering Ruina and SpecOps. JF’s Pitch and Intone are sequenced by 0-Ctrl, and the Plancks mix is modulated by Noise Engineering Clep Diaz.
  5. Drone from Manis Iteritas through Beads, SpecOps, Valhalla Room. Saw Mod & Filter modulated by Kermit LFOs and some unsynced triggers from Monome Teletype.


  1. Drone from Shapeshifter A and (folded) B outputs, crossfaded in Plancks, through Mimeophon and Goodhertz Lossy. Kermit LFOs modulate the FM amount and crossfade. The A output is in interleave mode, and there’s cross FM and phase modulation between the two oscillators. Some slight pitch bend controlled with Softwire Press.
  2. Drone from Bitwig Grid: a wavetable oscillator with phase modulation from a triangle oscillator, with the index modulated by an LFO through Sinemod, detuned in stereo. Processed through Supermassive and Speakers.
  3. The “talking” drone is EnOsc through Beads, with LFOs modulating Beads’ feedback and density, and Valhalla Room.
  4. Another drone is from the left output of Beads, processed through Rings, Katowice (with modulated center frequency), SpecOps, Bitwig pitch shifter, and Raum.
  5. The “cello” part is Arturia Microfreak through Tiptop Fold Processor (mixed in on the sides at about 25%), Wavesfactory Cassette, and Velvet Machine.
  6. Sequence from Manis Iteritas, Valhalla Delay, Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator, Valhalla Plate. Sequenced and modulated by Teletype and Clep Diaz.
  7. The “viola+bass with no vibrato” part is Odessa through Natural Gate, played on the 0-Ctrl.